The Altar Glen & St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Ackinduff
In the Parish of Killeeshil, in the townland of Ackinduff, is the famous ancient and historical glen where the hunted priests celebrated Mass in times of persecution. This glen, which is large and well hidden, was the people’s only means of hearing Mass in those dreaded times. Every Sunday morning the people of this parish, and from neighbouring parishes, walked many miles to this spot to hear Mass. They carried a piece of turf under their arms to kneel on during Mass. Each Sunday morning two men kept watch along the roadside in case the dreaded Redcoats might come, and to warn the Priest and the congregation in order that they might seek shelter until the danger was passed.
Before the Reformation the faithful attended Mass at a new church they had just built in Killeeshil. After spending many years of toil and hard labour at the church they had at last a church which was at that time one of the most magnificent buildings to be seen anywhere. But when the Reformation came, many Catholics were killed and the Protestants took the church which still is today used by them. This church can be seen from the main Omagh-Dungannon road. Many people are buried there and headstones which date back to the year 1780 are still visible. After the church had been taken from them, Catholics had no place to practise their religion so they made this glen their place of worship and went to Mass there every Sunday.
The Priest had to wear disguise to preserve his life. He moved around to different districts staying in Catholic houses here and there. The word would be passed around to the neighbours that the Priest would hear Confession in a certain house and then give them Holy Communion.
The Altar in the Glen which the priest said Mass on, was built of stone and a little shelter was built round it of sticks and rushes to shelter the priest in bad weather. If the warning was given that the Redcoats were coming, the Priest and people would have to flee and seek refuge in some safe place. But the Altar Glen was never discovered until many years after the Reformation when the Catholics had built a new church at Ackinduff.
All the people who attended Mass at the Altar Glen are dead years ago, but most of the very old people in the parish know of it because their parents went to it and passed the history of it on to them.
Every Corpus Christi there is a procession of the Blessed Sacrament from Ackinduff Chapel to the Altar Glen which is about a distance of a half mile away from the Chapel. The procession is usually led by the altar boys and Killeeshil A.O.H. Pipe Band. The children follow, then the men, then come the women, the choir, and the flower girls, and then the Priest under a canopy carried by four men with the Blessed Sacrament. The people recite the Rosary as they go along.
Address: 65 Tullyallen Road, Dungannon, BT70 3AF
Directions: Past Cabragh Filling Station heading towards Ballygawley, take right after 100 yrds onto White’s Road and drive approx. 1 mile to the end of this road. The church is on the left at the end of Whites’s Road at a T junction. At this junction take left and drive for approx. 120yds and take the first right. The entrance to the Altar Glen is immediately on the left as you come onto this road.
Photos: (Below Left) Gates to the Altar Glen (Middle) Altar Glen (Right) St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Ackinduff