Granaghan Old Chapel & Mass Rock

( By P.J. Lagan, July 2017)

Granaghan Old Chapel

It is hard to give an exact date for the building of Granaghan Old Chapel as various sources give slightly different dates ranging from 1766 to 1770 but it appears to have been in existence by 1770. The man credited with building it is Fr. Matthew McKenna, a native of Maghera. The Ordnance Survey Memoirs written down in the mid-1830s by the surveyors who were mapping the country at that time describe the chapel as a long low thatched building with a clay floor and without seats. The dimensions recorded were 107 and a half feet long, 17 feet wide on the inside, with side walls 8 feet high. The Memoirs also tell us that Granaghan Private, Classical and English School was established in 1835 and was held in the chapel. Six pupils were taught there by Bernard McEldowney. The altar which is still clearly visible is halfway along one side. The chapel remained in use until its roof was blown off by a devastating storm known as “The Big Wind” or “The Big Wine” of January 6th 1839. Apparently, the old Mass Rock up behind the chapel was again brought into use and a few months later on June 24″ 1839 the foundation stone for the present St. John’s Church in Granaghan was laid by another Mckenna priest from Maghera, Fr. John McKenna who is buried inside Glen Chapel.

Granaghan Mass Rock

Fr. Francis Ó Brolchain or Bradley, a native of the townland of Beagh which is just across the river from Granaghan is credited with bringing the Mass from Kearney’s Glen to the Mass Rock in Granaghan Rocks in the early seventeen hundreds during the Penal Laws which came into force in the wake of King William’s victory at the battle of the Boyne. He served as a captain with King James’s army before becoming a priest and was ordained in 1693. In 1704 the authorities in Bellaghy recorded him as being parish priest of “Maghera and Killilagh”, aged 43 and living at Beagh. He was a contemporary and a kinsman of the famous Dominican, Dominic o Brolchain or Bradley from Beagh, known as the Friar Ban, who travelled through County Derry and further afield saying Mass and administering the sacraments in secret during the first half of the eighteenth century.

Sundial Hill

The field towards the road from Granaghan Old Chapel where the phone mast stands are known as Sundial Hill, Patrick Bradley, a nephew of the Friar Ban was a priest who was born in Beagh in 1704. He was educated in Naples and Rome and by 1730 he was Chaplain to the Sardinian Ambassador in London, one of very few priests to be welcome in the capital. He was consecrated Bishop of Derry in 1751 but resigned a year later and returned to his former position. According to tradition, before Granaghan Old Chapel was built he ordained eleven priests at Sundial Hill in 1751 and is said to have been the first bishop in Ireland to carry out ordinations publicly during the Penal Laws.