It being St Patrick’s Day it seemed appropriate to hunt down a well dedicated to the national saint. I managed to find one listed in the Archaeological Inventory that was fairly close to me and after attending the Parade in Ballydehob set out. The well was not on the map but I had written down instructions how to find it but once I arrived in Castletown Kinneigh nothing seemed to tally. I spotted an elderly farmer sorting out silage bales and asked him if a) I was in the right townland and b) if he knew of a well. I was and he did. Instructions were given: go back up the hill, straight over the cross and head for the palms. Ask at the house.I followed orders and recognised the palms (fir trees) and house straight away – a beautifully kept and colourful farm, but no one was at home.
Sensing I was close I continued up the road until I met a man and his dog. He was suspicious. Why did I want to go to the well? I explained and he soften and it turned out I was very close. He had been himself that morning and many other had come throughout the day. He said it was a special place and he liked to go often. More instructions: There’s a gate, go over it, across the field and find the gap in the trees. Go through the wood and follow the path.
Would I know it when I saw it?
More excellent instructions. A yellow gate, a green field and then some slightly spooky woods – tall, licheny firs, a lot of moss and no sounds. There was a small stony path and muddy footprints confirmed that others had wend their way through the trees before me. A small river appeared and the rather oppressive atmosphere lifted.
What a beautiful spot and I saw the well right away – on the other side of the river!
There was a large rock, and half way up a basin had been scooped out, probably naturally. First I had to get across the river. An overhanging tree and small stepping stones made that perfectly possible.
The man was right, this felt a very special place. The water was clear and very cold and the basin was full – quite how and where from wasn’t clear for there had been no rain for a good week. Crosses had been inscribed in several places, a small stone left for future pilgrims to do the same.
An anonymous letter published in the West Cork Eagle July 18 1868 describes one man’s experience here and gives an insight into rituals and beliefs:
A little farther on the old man directed my attention to a well which he said was called Tobereen Pandrick. As well as I could learn from him he said the water contained in it was filled with all the virtues necessary to cure all human ailments. The well is a hollow in a solid rock–higher than the surrounding place. In this rock there is neither crack nor fissure by which one could perceive that a spring could enter, yet he told me that well, even in the present season of drought, never goes dry.
The water is used to cure sore eyes, sore legs, scurvy and the gout, but the place must be attended on three separate Sunday mornings before sunrise, and the round given each time. How the water comes there and how it obtains its virtue must be a mystery to Hydrography, I hope that some one of that able confraternity will visit the place and explain. It added greatly to the conviction of my mind that after all the cold water cure is the best.
Marsh marigolds and Irish spurge were already out and added to the presence. Something about the secrecy of this well, the effort to find it, its total integration within its surroundings and then the total peace when you got there made it an extraordinary place.
The well is still visited on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March.
The location of St Patrick’s well can be found in the Gazetteer.