Today’s exploration was concentrated mainly around the coast looking out into the delightfully named Roaringwater Bay. All was calm, though, the sun shining and not a hint of roaring.
First stop was a picturesque little well down by the attractive and secluded inlet at Roaringwater Pier. This small well nestles snugly into a large cliff face right down by the water and can be found next to a jauntily painted corrugated iron clad cabin. It has a fancy wrought iron gate, recently entwined with willow boughs. The wellhouse is long and rectangular and the water incredibly cold, clear and fresh. It is not marked on the Archaeological Inventory or on any of the maps, old or new, but we were told that the water is much appreciated by locals who frequently come to collect it and that some sought it out for its healing and health-giving qualities.
This was borne out by the piece of paper held down by a stone to be found on top of the well which contained details of a recent professional analysis of the water and a cheery handwritten note that said good news for water. Holy or not I think it deserves to be recorded. *
It’s an interesting area altogether with the remains of a church, grotto and cilleen (children’s burial place) not far away across the river.
Skeagh Holy Well
The next well is not recorded anywhere either but we were invited to inspect it by Geraldine Harte who’s land it is on. Traditionally the field has always be known as the Holy Well Field and the well is indeed right in the middle of the field, respected and unploughed. It is a most interesting structure: large chunky stones, made into large chunky walls, in a large chunky rectangular shape.
It’s very hard to work out what might be going on as the walls have collapsed and three large fir trees are now growing out from the centre. It looks as though there might have been a semi-circular wellhouse with a channel funnelling the water out into the field.
The area is now dry. The well is in the centre of the field with wonderful views out towards the mountains and the area is rich in other sites including two ringforts, one of which was later used used as a cilleen; and an enormous cairn, now hidden in forestry. Geraldine had no other information about it except it was always treated with respect. She’s making inquiries though.
On to Kilcoe to hunt down Tobarclashnaerina, which translates rather romantically as the Well of the Valley of the Ferns. We had looked for this well before but to no avail but this time, armed with the GPS, we were more hopeful. As with many of these wells, it was situated in magnificent landscape. A muddy track led down through pasture with huge views out to Poulgorm Bay and beyond. The Archaeological Inventory describes the well as a mound of stones with a lot of white quartz present. We immediately found large lumps of white quartz and cursed the fact that we hadn’t yet got a well kit together for the brambles were dense and fierce. No obvious signs of a well but the heap of stones seemed to be there and the area was certainly wet. We thought we had it when my husband shouted out – and there was the real well, now just a small hole in a grassy hillock.
A bit of clearing and a circular wellhouse lined with stones became visible, still containing ferns within. White quartz, some of it very large, lay around. This old well had not been visited for some time by the look of it yet it lay within an interesting area, the ruins of Medieval Kilcoe church a short distance in one direction, and Kilcoe Castle, now the home of Jeremy Irons, in another.
St Connall’s Well, Aghadown
More travelling down tiny windy roads and we parked at the very picturesque ruins of the old Aghadown church, right on the water’s edge. We had made inquiries about this well and although it was known about there was a fear that it may have disappeared. Undeterred, the GPS was turned on and we trudged over an extremely boggy field, thick with brambles and bog grass. The well was there though, identified by the old hawthorn tree still growing above it and below a rough jumble of stones, as described in the Inventory.
The area was very wet and full of primroses and watercress. A few jam jars were embedded in the mud – too remote and difficult a spot for rubbish dumping, I read this as evidence of water collection. The water was muddy and disturbed but the area rather magical, looking out onto the estuary. This well is dedicated to St Connall, who is said to have succeeded St Fachtna as Bishop of Ross sometime in the sixth century.
Interestingly, down on the road, there is a small stone-lined trough in the ditch with water coming into it. This looks as though it might be piped from the well. The water is a rusty orange, presumably from peat or iron, so you could still have access to the water without trudging over the hillside. Apparently the well never dries and it remained abundant during the drought of 1930, when all domestic wells failed.
Lady’s Well, Creagh
Another magnificent, watery spot. We walked down to the old church at Creagh – right at the very edge of the sea, This is a beautiful place, the church ruined, the choughs loud, the daffodils native and everywhere the smell of wild garlic. The well was in the next field, actually now part of the estate of Glebe House. Again the GPS was invaluable for this well was another one almost disappearing into the hillock. A bit of scrabbling and pulling back and lo and behold, a small stone lined wellhouse with a slab over the entrance was revealed, water still underneath. This well was dedicated to Our Lady but looks as though it has been neglected for many years.
The church, built 1810, and churchyard is a tranquil spot for a wander. There is also ruin of an even older church on the site. We were accompanied by two lean, shiny, bouncy setters, delighted with a bit of company.
The graveyard contains the grave of Canon Goodman (1828-1896). He was Professor of Irish at Trinity College but is perhaps best known for his enthusiasm and love of vernacular music. He amassed a manuscript collection of over 2300 traditional tunes. He was an accomplished uilleann piper and it is said that if you listen carefully enough you will hear him playing. The air was certainly full of music.
Lady’s Well, Rathmore
This well has sadly been boxed in by a rather ugly concrete structure, once a cattle trough but now completely enclosed. Old stones, some slabs above and a tangle of pesky brambles hinted at the original structure underneath. It is in an elevated position in the middle of a field with wonderful views out towards Baltimore. It is dedicated to Our Lady. As at St Connall’s well, we discovered that water still seemed to be available for a pipe was coming down into the road with water trickling out- holy water?
There is a large ringfort near by and there once might have been an early monastic settlement in the area.
* Further information on this well – it was once used by miners working the nearby barytes mine.
Locations of these wells can be found in the Gazetteer.
Thanks to Geraldine Harte for showing us the Skeagh well.