Gowel Chapel - an Article from the time.

A new Chapel has been built at Gowel, at the cost of fifteen hundred pounds, and is now being brought to completion. The people are, for the most part, exceedingly poor; the land is very unfruitful; the holdings are small; and, to pay their rent, many of the bread-winners are obliged to visit England and Scotland twice a year. Notwithstanding their poverty, the people of this district have at last succeeded in building a Chapel suitable to their wants, and not unworthy of Catholic Ireland.

The old Chapel of Gowel, which occupied the site of the present structure, was, in many respects, historic. It came down to us from the penal times; in its miserable appearance it wore the badge of an afflicted, outraged peasantry, who were driven by Cromwellian bayonets to “Hell or Connaught” and who were only tolerated in those portions of the latter colony that were known to be barren. A forlorn, shapeless barn in its best days, standing on the rugged wayside, without sacristy, or porch, or presbytery, or furniture of any kind, without even a protecting fence; this old Chapel was of late years remarkable for its gaping roof, its flooded mud floor, and its ruined walls and windows. The most cheerless cabin in parish could by times look bright, but, not the Chapel of Gowel.

Yet, desolate as it was, there were associations centred in the old Chapel that made the people still cling to that hallowed spot. The old people recounted the heroic efforts that were made in the cause of education and religion within its sacred precincts. At their firesides they told how, in the days of the hedge school, as many as three different teachers, having different personal interests, set themselves within these walls, and during the same hours of the same day, to the difficult task of educating the youth of the surrounding country. One academy at each end of the venerable pile, and one in the centre, opposite the altar – the altar was situated not at the end of the oblong space, but at the side, at a point that marked the middle of the lowest wall – three rival establishments on the same floor – give us an insight into the local difficulties of a persecuted people. They told how their fathers built that house to God at the peril of their lives and property. Their memories went back with religious pride to the time when that old Chapel was the best in Ireland. There they were baptized, there they were married, and there they worshipped as well as their fathers before them. When, therefore, a beautiful site had been procured for a new chapel on a neighbouring hill, commanding an extensive view, they would not have it. It they were going to knock down these old walls, they should at least preserve the old site, in token of their steadfast adherence to the old Faith that had been kept alive there.

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