This was an unexpected and interesting well, clearly signed from the road and approached down a long, damp trackway complete with horsetail shoots.
The stone wellhouse, a colourful mound in a pool of bogginess, is semi-circular and bedecked with plastic flowers and eclectic offerings, a wooden cross placed atop. A large slab, now submerged, lies in front where pilgrims would kneel to do their devotions. A little bench placed sideways on, now waterlogged and disappearing amongst the bog grass, once offered a place for quiet contemplation.
The water today was scummy and green and flowed out into the boreen but a mug tree, complete with ladle, had been thoughtfully placed nearby should you wish to take the water. Quite hard to get to unless you don’t mind getting your feet wet too.
And the water is remarkably potent having many cures attributed to it. It is said to benefit all ailments but various stories tell of its success with legs in particular. One story recounts how a man crippled after an accident did the rounds on a donkey and was later able to walk home. Another local woman took her disabled son who had never walked, carried him on her back and took him to the well for three mornings running – on the third morning he was able to walk. Another story tells how a local chieftain, Maoilseachlainn Mac Amhlaoibh, fell asleep here and awoke with the gift of prophesy.
The well is dedicated to the Trinity but which Trinity is not entirely clear but the significance of three abounds. Some sources say that it’s dedicated to St Lassar, sister to St Laitiarian and Inghne Bhuidhe – hence the trinity. The rounds however are paid on Trinity Sunday, a date dedicated to the Blessed Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Ideally you should visit on the three Sundays before and the Sunday afterwards as well. You travel around in a clockwise direction, saying five decades of the rosary. You finish off by taking three sips of water from the well, one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. It is also customary to tie a rag on the clootie tree behind the well, a hawthorn adorned with rather faded cloths. A little fish is also said to live in the well, the sighting of which is of course excellent luck.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the horseshoe shape curving around the well – the remains of a fulacht fiadh or burnt mound. Fulachtaí fia are plentiful in the Irish landscape, 4500 have been recorded, but easy to miss as many are eroded or ploughed out. They originally consisted of a mound of stones, a hearth used to heat the stones, and a trough, often lined with wood or stone, which was filled with water and into which the heated stones were placed to warm the water. The most popular theory is that they were used as cooking sites but other possibilities include sweat houses, and sites for dyeing and leather working.They mainly date from the Bronze Age but some continued to be used into the Medieval period. An excellent example of a fulacht fiadh in Cork can be seen at Drombeg.
The distinctive horseshoe-shaped mound made by the discarded stones is unusually clear at Trinity Well as it curves around the well and helps form the path taken during the rounds. The well itself seems to be in the very centre of the fulacht fiadh, perhaps replacing the original pit. This suggests that the origins of this intriguing well are very ancient indeed.
The location of this well can be found in the Gazetteer.