The Mass Rock at Chapel River, Newcastle is situated south of Newtownmountkennedy, passed Newcastle Hospital (on left) and then passed Gregory’s Garage (on right), just off the old Dublin-Wexford Road. Having passed Gregory’s Garage, take second turn left (Abwood sign), then immediately left again and you are nearly there.
Chapel River was where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated during the Penal Times when the celebration of Mass was prohibited. These places were well hidden away where Mass was celebrated with a big rock to act as altar.
During the Marian Year 1954, Father Masterson of Kilquade erected a statue of Our Lady on top of the rock with a big light which lit up the statue at night. At the time the authorities felt that the light posed a distraction to traffic at night as the Mass Rock is very near the old Dublin-Wexford Road. Most people were of the opinion that it posed no danger whatsoever. Wicklow County Council and local people have done a great job down there in Chapel River. They have cleaned up the whole place, painted the statue, made paths, erected fences and placed flowers at foot of statue, especially at the times of the Annual Mass which takes place every year at 3:00PM on the second Sunday of May.
In times past teachers would take their pupils who were preparing for First Holy Communion/Confirmation for a retreat there. They would sing hymns, say prayers, read from the Sacred Scripture, perhaps even have the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Cardinal O’Fiach, Archbishop of Armagh, celebrated Mass here. The Cardinal was chairperson of Cumman na Sagart – a group of Priests devoted to the promotion of the Irish Language.
The name Chapel River explains the place: Chapel – a place where Mass is celebrated. River – there is a lovely stream flowing just behind the statue on the south side. A babbling brook in the words of the poet Wordsworth.
Every year, when Mass is celebrated at Chapel River, Wicklow County Council and the local people, do a big job in freshening and brightening up the area and also erecting flags and bunting and placing flowers at the statue.
Fr. Masterson was well known for his devotion to Our Lady. He had a May Procession after the 11.30am Mass every Sunday of May. At the conclusion of the procession, he would place a beautiful rose at the foot of the statue of Our Lady. Fr. Masterson also built a new Parish Hall in Newtownmountkennedy – just across from the Church on the other side of the street, it is now a motor garage. Fr. Masterson literally built this hall himself, placing the bricks and preparing the mortar. He had the help of one man, John Faulkner from Co. Louth who became known in the area. He died a short time ago in Co. Louth. Later on, to entice an industry to the village, Metal Spinners, he offered them the Parish Hall and then got working on the present Community Centre. It was a former school where the Kavanaghs, husband and wife, were the teachers. They later resided at Season Park.
Metal Spinners gave great employment for many years in the village.
Canon Seán Smith.
Old Rotary Mounted Bell from the Church
This bell is the bell that was in use on the church from the early 1900’s until 2004 when the refurbishment of the church took place. At that time the engineers recommended, for structural reasons, replacing it with a lighter weight bell.
The Bell was placed in its current location, at the Kilcoole side of the church, on the 1st June 2012 to commemorate the involvement of the people of the parish of Kilquade in preparation for and participation in the 50th International Eucharistic Congress which took place in this Diocese of Dublin between June the 10th and the 17th 2012.
The bell has a mounting patented by M. Byrne in 1887 referred to as the ‘M Byrne patent Rotary Mounting’.
This consists of a cast-iron headstock with a tapered hole through which a tapered boss on the crown of the bell was inserted and bolted in place using the crown staple bolt.
In their 1962 catalogue, The Fountain Head Bell Foundry write about this rotary bell: “we claim that [this] is the best in existence; in fact, it has no rivals … By slacking the nuts, the bell can be rotated … in a few moments, thus presenting a new striking face to the tongue to strike. This increases the life of the Bell beyond measure”.
Inscriptions on the Bell
Top Row: M. Byrne, Bell Foundry, James’s Street, Dublin.
Second Row: St. PATRîUS PTȒN. Gllmus Archpus
Walsh R.D.J. Walshe P.P. 1900
Mounting: M. Byrne’s Patents Rotary Mountings