Father Hegarty’s Rock
Father Hegarty’s Rock is a rocky promontory along the shores of Lough Swilly, which would have been very remote and inaccessible in the 1700s and is now on the Buncrana Coastal Path between Buncrana and Stragill Beach.
Legend has it that when the Redcoats chopped off his head it bounced eight times along the top of the rock before dropping into the sea.
Father James Hegarty was born in Moville and was the parish priest of Fahan, from 1704 until his death in 1711. During this time he was conducting Catholic masses which were prohibited by the Penal Laws imposed by the British in 1698 and was punishable by death.
During the time, he lived in hiding in a small cave northwest of Buncrana. It is said that his sister would often pay secret visits to him and was the only family member who knew of his whereabouts.
Her husband was rumoured to be a British-sympathiser and when he discovered Father Hegarty’s hiding place after following his wife one day, he turned him into the ‘Redcoats’ for the £5 reward.
When guards ambushed the priest during a mass, Father Hegarty fled and attempted to swim to the other side of the Lough Swilly. The guards tricked him and persuaded him back onshore. Once on land, Father Hegarty was immediately beheaded and buried at the spot now known as Father Hegarty’s Rock. He is believed to have been the last priest to have been massacred under penal laws.
Learn a little more about the penal Laws by clicking here.
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