St Johnston and Carrigans Donegal



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By Hugh Doherty - Altar Lee and Station Masses

A Government report in 1731 concerning the Parish of Taughboyne stated:

The Popish inhabitants resort for Mass to the neighbouring Parish of Raphoe but tradition assures us that a Priest went each

Sunday from Priestown (Convoy) and said Mass in the old Scalon in Hillside. (Scalon is another name for a Massrock).

The Penal Laws of the 1700s which also affected the Presbyterian community impacted more so on Catholics. It is known that the distinctive rock known as Alterlee (Altor liath - Grey Altar) on the side of Binion Hill was used as a Mass Rock by the Catholic community and it is said that this rock was also used as a meeting place for the local Presbyterian community prior to the establishment of their own “Meeting House” at Ballylennon. Those were trying times for these two communities who had to revert to out of the way places to preserve their religious allegiances.

Catholics also held “Station Masses” in private houses twice a year (during Lent and October). A household would be considered for a ‘Station’ only if they owned a good horse as the visiting Priest would arrive on a horse loaned to him by the previous Station house and when leaving the present house he required to be on a fresh horse. In this way he would be on a fresh horse at all times. There were few opportunities at that time for the Catholic Church to collect funds so the Priest would collect a Church stipend during the October Stations while a lesser collection would be taken up at the Lenten Stations. Carrying money would be another reason why the Priest needed to be on a fresh horse.