The Legacy Of Ballyquaid Passed On:
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250 years after the last Mass in Ballquaid, Borris-In-Ossory, people gathered once again recently in honour of a great tradition and to continue a legacy ......
250 years after the last Mass in Ballquaid, Borris-In-Ossory, people gathered once again on Friday last in honour of a great tradition and to continue a legacy that was tarnished with blood over three centuries ago when Irish men and Irish Women during the “Penal Laws” risked the very heads on their shoulders in order to keep the great sacrament of the mass alive across the country.
The famous Mass Pit of Ballyquaid was restored recently and is located in a hollow field known locally as the “six acres” and formally owned by the family of Fr. William Treacy a native of Ballyquaid who has served as a minister in Seattle, Washington, since his ordination in 1944. Fr Treacy is a regular visitor home and has always wished that some day the Mass Pit of Ballquaid would some day be commemorated and resorted. His wishes began to be answered last year when his nephew John Phelan who is now compiling a history of Borris-In-Ossory decided to get involved. John quickly established a working committee to help bring the project to fruition. The voluntary committee consisted of John Phelan, Charlie Bowe, Liam Phelan, Eddie Brennan, Seamus Kavanagh, Joe Fletcher, Shiela Fletcher, Tommy Fitzpatrick and Paddy and Donal Bergin.
The project has seen the mass Pit resotred with an altar erected and enclosed by railings and a wooden gate. Over the altar a canopy has been erected and thatched just as it would have been three centuries ago. The thatching was performed by local man Joe Ward.
Principal celebrant on Friday last was Rev. William Treacy who gave an outstanding sermon about the history of the Mass Pit and the importance of keeping the mass alive in the modern age. Fr Treacy was joined at the altar by the most Rev. Laurence Forestall Bishop Of Ossory, the Very Rev. Jackie Robinson P.P of Borris-In-Ossory, Fr Peter Daly, Fr Bobby Fletcher, Cannon Seamus McEvoy, Fr Paddy Carey, and Fr Pat Guilfoyle. The choirs of Borris-In-Ossory, Killesmeestia and Knockaroo were led by John Kelly.
It is now the intention of the local priests and community to keep alive the tradition of attending mass at Ballyquaid. It is hoped that at least once yearly around the middle of august that people will gather at Ballyquaid for mass as a lasting memory and tribute to all those who would have embarked upon the same crusades in centuries past.
The following poem was written by Mary Williams in honour of the resurrection of the Mass pit at Ballyquaid. The poem was read in public for the first time on Friday evening last and received a tremendous applause from all those gathered for the occasion.
Mass at Ballyquaid
The morning sunbeams light the spot where nighttime shadows cast
Revealing this historic spot from a grim and troubled past
Here the hooded figures gathered and in silence knelt and prayed
For a Sagart who was coming to say Mass in Ballyquaid
They came across the valleys through the laneways from the hill
Where they met in silent greeting their duty to fulfill
Then seen coming in the distance a red coated rider speed
In presuit of his victim with a price upon his head
In the panic and confusion some were wounded some had fled
But lying by the Altar the holy priest lay dead
Then the rider stood and gloated at the victim he had slayed
While a martyr’s blood anointed the Mass pit in Ballyquaid
While we back in modern living and our luxury display
Let us pause just for a moment and recall that distant day
When our kit ‘n’ kin had gathered with great sacrifices made
That our faith would go on living in our land and Ballyquaid