During my time working on this project I came across three Penal Mass Sites. This was a lot for one parish and I belive there are more.

Eugene Murphy took me to Tobernavea in the townsland of Ballingowan. Eugene tells me that this was one of the many sites where mass was practiced during the Penal Times in the locality. In my line of work, I’ve came across Mass Rocks, Mass Holes, Mass Hollows etc, however Eugene said his father used to call this site, The Mass Parlour. 

Once I visited the site, I could see why it was called this. The Mass Parlour is a wonderful name for this site as it is a contained site, with surroundings high banks, secure and with a great vista over the countryside. 

The site is called Tobernavea which would suggest that it was used as a holy well prior to the Penal Times. However, what is surprising about this site is that there is a perfect granite font which was used to hold the water that ran from the well. In most mass rock sites I’ve came across, there was nothing left visible at the sites as it might give away the location to authorities. All I can surmise is that it was a holy well, known by the local community and during these hard times, mass was celebrated there. 

Like many of these penal mass sites, they were never marked on any OSI maps as they would have been secret locations and not spoken about to the authorities for fear of reprisal.

Eugene Murphy took me to meet Johnny Cullen in Ballyconnigar Upper some days later and Johnny took us to the Mass Rock on his land. The Mass Rock is situated in a hollow surrounded by various sized banks and hills. The field in which it lies is called ‘The Hollow Field’ and would have been a quiet secretive location to celebrate mass. Johnny pointed out that people would have been positioned on the high ground to keep an eye out for authorities during mass. 

During our conversion, Johnny casually pointed up to one of the high banks in the distance and says that there are three men from Gorey buried in the corner of one of his fields. He says, they were killed in 1798 and the never ploughed or touched the ground where they were buried. 

Another Mass Rock location can be found in the townsland of Killeagh. That's for another day. Anyone else with other locations?

Penal Mass Sites

Various, Blackwater, Co. Wexford