TOMORROW night is the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist but it’s the day before or St John’s Eve is the date that was a special cause of celebration in ancient Christian times.
The tradition of Bonfire night on St John’s Eve is still widespread though the association with our Christian Heritage has long been forgotten in many places.
Glenville is an exception. Yes, the traditional Bonfire is still lit there but the much older practice of going to Doonpeter cemetery and ‘doing the rounds’ at St John’s Well still survives.
Each year people still flock to this ancient site.
No one be certain when a Christian Church was first built at Doonpeter. Probably constructed of sod walls with a thatched roof we know for certain that it was place of worship around a thousand years ago.
The Church of Doonpeter was in use in the late 1500s.
When Red Hugh O' Neill led his Ulster army down south to Kinsale he expected support and provisions from the local Gaelic chieftains and landlords en route. He took a dim view of those who chose not to give him assistance and sustenance.
Such was the case near Glenville and the result was that Doonpeter Church was burnt to the ground. Though the building was gone the place still maintained a strong heritage and legacy of Christian worship which exists to this day. During Penal times and ‘in spite of dungeon, fire and sword’ worshippers still came over fields and glen to Doonpeter.
Within the enclosure a small cemetery exists, still in use today by a few families. Here also is the site of a Famine grave or pit where countless victims of the awful Famine of the 1840’s were buried.
Doonpeter was also used down the centuries as a ‘cillin’ or a place where unbaptised infants were buried. All these events and traditions are commemorated within the enclosure with new memorial plaques erected in recent times. The tradition and Faith lives on and on Thursday evening at 7pm mass will be celebrated a once again at Doonpeter.
The public who wish to attend can drive right in close to the site for ease of access. After the Mass the ‘rounds’ can be made and the water from St John’s Holy Well can be drunk.