The Old Hollow Church

The old Hollow Church or ‘wee chapel’, stood in the centre of the land now used as the cemetery, below St. Finlough’s. In 1793, a Catholic Relief Bill was passed through the Irish Parliament and under its provisions, a number of Catholic churches were built in Ireland. However, any complaint or sign of disloyalty could result in these churches being closed at any time. They were allowed to be built in any district where an influential Protestant vouched for the loyalty of the people. A branch of the Beresford family, living at Walworth, Ballykelly, were landlords of the district and gave the necessary guarantee. Thus in 1796, the  old Hollow Church was built.


As the church was built by the subscriptions of the people and money was scarce, the church soon became too small. A porch was added to the northern side and a similar ‘aisle’ was added later to the   southern side. In 1849 the Fishmongers Company again took over management of the estate. By that time the roof of the church was supported by props from the floor and the church was in poor condition. The Company built the present St. Finlough’s and presented it to the people. The old church was demolished and sometimes small bits of bricks and mortar are found when new graves are being dug.


This poem, in honour of the old Hollow Church, was written by the late James Carten of Tartnakilly.


There’s a dear little spot that I fondly revere

And will cherish as long as I live

Though it’s not my birthplace I love it as well

And its history I reverently give.

It’s the place where my ancestors knelt down to pray

With fervent devotion to God.

Through weal and woe they had clung to the faith

When the priest had a price on his head.

When the dark clouds of sorrow began to pale,

In the advent of liberty’s beam,

They could kneel down in peace without fear of the law

In the old Hollow Church by the stream.


It was there that their children inhaled the sweet grace

That from waters of Baptism spring

It was there that their nuptials were solemnised,

It was there that their death dirge was sung.

And it’s there that their souls will rise from the grave

When Gabriel in splendour is seen

May they all rise to glory whoever subscribed

To the old Hollow Church by the stream.


No wonder this spot holds a place in my heart

That trouble can never destroy.

From lips now long silent I learned its dear story

As I stood by her side when a boy.

In fancy’s sweet vision its outline I see

And often indeed in a dream,

For asleep or awake my thoughts fondly turn

To the old Hollow Church by the stream.


But the time’s come creeping up when the summons will come

Before the white throne to appear

If the stamp of God’s image remains on my soul

I’ll be certain of little to fear.

When my limbs become cold and my voice has been stilled

May my children a promise redeem

And lay me to rest in the graveyard where stood

The old Hollow Church by the stream.



(This history, photograph and poem are taken from the Parish Magazine of 1987)


St. Mary's Parish Office, 115 Irish Green Street, Limavady, BT49 9AB

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