By Brian McLaughlin
The Loop Head peninsula in West Clare is home to a unique structure of historical significance when Mass-going was outlawed by the British authorities in the 19th century.
‘The Little Ark’ according to Fr. Dermot Kenny in a booklet on the subject is “a relic of the days when there was no church in the extreme West of the Loop Head peninsula, when no farmer dared allow the priest to say Mass in his home and when only around this poor structure, poor in material and poor in craftsmanship placed on the strand between high and low water marks, was it possible for the Catholics of the Kilbaha area to hear Mass on Sundays during the years 1853 to 57”.
This was a time of oppressive landlordism and the Famine period, but the Parish Priest of Carrigaholt Fr. Michael Meehan, determined to say Mass for his parishioners, gave his last remaining ten pound note to Owen Collins the village carpenter and explained what he wanted.
The Ark was built in two weeks in the year 1852. It was a bit larger than the old style seaside bathing box with windows on each side and an open doorway with a short stepladder leading to it. It was supported on four wheels. The altar was at the farthest end and could be seen through the windows and doorway.