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Ireland 100 Years Ago.

Mi’. A. M. Sullivan, M.P., in a letter to the London Times, gives the following interesting particulars concerning the history of the little Catholic Chapel of Derrybeg, Donegal, destroyed on August 15, by a mountain flood, which, as he remarks, affords us an instructive glimpse of Ireland 100 years ago :—Between the Pass of Dunlewy and the sea, about two miles from Lord George Hill’s pretty rustic hotel at Gweedore, the traveller reaches the hamlet of Derrybeg. Half-a-mile or more “ up the glen ” stands, or stood, the chapel in question. Even when told that I was within a few perches of the edifice, I looked f®r it in vain on my first visit to the spot some , years ago. After a while I noticed, rising, as it seemed, in the midst of a brake of heather, a stone cross. Drawing nearer, I saw that the cross stood on the pointed gable of a building, the roof of which was below the level of the land ground. I found myself on the brink of a wild ravine, at the narrow bottom of which a noisy mountain river brawled and danced its way from lake to sea. Down below, built across or upon the stream, was the “chapel” of Derrybeg. Its walls on

either hand almost touched the sides of the rocky fissure, on which wild evergreens, and dwarf oak clustered beautifully. I descended, and found as neat and as impressive a little church as ever I entered, albeit everything was simplicity itself. Of course, I asked why so singular a spot had been chosen as the site of the_ building. “It was not all choice,” replied my companion, the pastor of the district; “ not an inch of ground would the neighbouring lords of the soil give us on which to erect a roof ; we are here by proscription ; ” and then he told me the story. For nearly 200 years, or ever since the early part of the reign of Anne,_ this ravine was the secret place of worship for the Catholic peasantry of the neighbouring glens. Sentries were posted on the edge of the cliffs above, while on either bank of the river below the mountaineers knelt, a ledge on the rocks, still pointed out sufficing as an altar. Indeed, the place afforded unusual advantages or facilities for such proscribed devotions, so easily could several hundreds of worshippers be secreted there. About 100 years ago the sentries happily were dispensed with, and a little wooden bo's was fixed on the natural altar ledge, so that the candles were not blown out by the wind. Later on, a permanent wooden hut, open at the end facing down the river, was put up, within which the officiating priest and his attendant had room to stand or kneel. There are old men living near Dunlewy, I believe, who remember this hut, the river gorge, with the sky for a canopy, being the only church or chapel where the people prayed, under summer sun and winter rain, till a comparatively recent period. lam not astonished that, independently of the refusal of the landlords to give a site for a “ Popish chapel,” this spot, hallowed by such memories and associations, should have been clung to by the people. So, 30 or 40 years ago, they, by volunteer labour, blasted away the bottom rocks, bridged over'the stream, and built their “ new chapel ” in the cleft of the ravine I have described.

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Bibliographic details

Ireland 100 Years Ago., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 170, 19 October 1880

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Ireland 100 Years Ago. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 170, 19 October 1880