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Hunt is on for thieves who stole Gougane Barra pilgrim altar stone

Locals say there will be no luck following those responsible for removing the spiritual stone.

gougane altar 2 A picture of the pilgrim altar stone at Gougane Barra. Source: Eithne Concannon

GARDAÍ IN CORK have launched an investigation into the disappearance of a pilgrim altar stone in Co Cork which is believed to have been missing since mid-May.

Parish priest at St Finbarr’s Oratory, Fr Martin O’Driscoll, told TheJournal.ie that the 350-year-old stone, which was located behind the church in Gougane Barra, made up part of a round of ten prayers that was still being used by pilgrims up until it was stolen.

A local woman noticed the stone was missing last weekend and a garda investigation has been launched, as well as a wide-scale search by the local community.

“Divers were here on Saturday to dive around the lake but it doesn’t look like it was thrown in,” Fr O’Driscoll said. “I would say at this stage it was taken away completely and we’d ask that somebody hand it back. It has a lot of prayerful significance.”

Neil Lucey owner of the Gougane Barra Hotel, has been working to raise awareness of the mysterious disappearance of the altar stone.

“It’s of no particular value whatsoever to anyone else. The only thing that would create value is that it’s scored across the top in a series of crosses because the pilgrims would run a stone across it and all the crosses join together to create a lattice design. But the real value is to the pilgrims – if it’s in someone’s boot or garden it’s worth nothing.”

Source: Aidan Twomey

Lucey said the locals are surprised that anyone would be so bold as to remove something of such a spiritual nature.

It’s a kind of an old country thing that you don’t take stones from either standing stones or ring forts – it’s not the done thing around here. People believe in a stronger energy and people are saying now “there’ll be no luck following that”.

The hotel-owner said gardaí at Macroom have been very active in their investigation but they have little to go on as there were no witnesses and no CCTV. It is not likely, however, that there is just one culprit involved, as the stone would be extremely heavy and would take at least two people to lift it.

“People here really just want it back. I’m not sure why they would have taken it – I mean we had that with the cross in Carrauntoohill as well – so we don’t know where this notion comes from.”

Read: Video of the Carrauntoohil Cross being cut down sent to journalists>

Read: Whoever cut down the Carrauntoohil cross also stole a commemorative plaque>

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