Today we headed out east on the trail of wells in the Timoleague area. Our first stop was a beautifully kept and still revered Lady’s Well just outside the town.
Tobar Mhuire, Timoleague
This little well can be found right next to the GAA pitch on the road into Timoleague. It is a beautifully maintained site, still much visited and revered. Railings, painted blue and white, surround the site and the the well itself is circular, approached by some steps and surrounded by a stone wall. The water is fresh and clear, little mugs left ready for tastings. It is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) and her benign statue gazes down from a whitewashed niche.
Today she was bedecked in daffodils and cyclamen, a small white dove above her. Below her a plastic container was full of blooms with pots of colourful primulas on each side. A white marble plaque explains that the statue was erected by the Parish Priest in 1928. A small cache of offerings was tucked in next to the statue – rosaries, medallions, cards, a photo of Padre Pio. What a very peaceful spot, right in the heart of the community. Mass is still said here on the 15th August and 8th December.
Wart Well, Timoleague Abbey
The next well was located inside the sacristy of Timoleague Abbey. Not a true well but a ballaun stone and, as has been noted at Lissagriffin, the water that collects in these stones is often appreciated for its therapeutic qualities, especially where warts are concerned. The helpful plaque assures us of its use but no one is entirely certain what ballauns were for or how old they are.
What is certain is that they are portable stones with a man-made depression in the centre and often crop up near religious sites – a large one was placed in the centre of St Abbán’s grave for example, and another on the Mass Rock near Lady’s well near Bantry. Ballauns have many have superstitions associated with them ie their healing properties but there is also a theory that they were originally used for grinding and only later were considered to be holy objects.
Tobar n Súl
The next well was a complete contrast, located a few miles outside Timoleague. We found Burren Bridge, put in the GPS number and searched around the undergrowth. It was a beautiful spot, the bridge ancient, the water of the little river sparkling and the surrounding vegetation lush and green with the first celandines peeping through. I thought I found the signs of a small wellhouse, broken by a fallen tree – a drinking cup was the clue, but the GPS said otherwise. We searched on the other side of the road and were about to give up when a damp area was spotted. We started scrabbling around in the ferns and lo and behold a small stone structure appeared – the well!
The water, once cleared of leaves, was surprisingly fresh, the horseshoe shaped wellhouse neatly stacked with flat stones collecting the water, which then seeped off towards the river. A delightful little well once renowned for its healing qualities for eye ailments. We left it a little tidier than we found it.
Tober na Trinoda
This well is a short distance from the Tober na Súl but was far easier to find – it even had a signpost! Tober na Trinoda, or Trinity Well, is a short distance from the very beautiful Blessed Trinity Church at Rathclaren. A narrow walled boreen leads down to the well. Today the site was completely waterlogged, the area around the well at least three or four inches in water giving the stone built clochán, (beehive shaped structure) a moated air. The entrance doorway is above ground level, so you step up before you step down again into the chamber. The well is a rectangular-shaped basin in the floor but today the whole thing was submerged under water. Three niches have been built into the circular wall, no doubt representing the Blessed Trinity, but only one still contains a statue, that of Jesus. The well is still much revered and the Rosary is said here every Trinity Sunday, the week after Pentecost Sunday, usually in the middle of June.
We also tried to find to find St Brittain’s Well in nearby Kilbrittain. A very pretty village full of colour and friendly people. We found the whale, we admired the buildings and although we inquired and phonecalls were made, no one had any information about St Brittain’s well.
Locations of these wells can be found in the Gazetteer.