A while ago I spent a couple of days around Youghal, several wells on the agenda. While doing a spot of research I came across reference to some wells en route to Youghal, notably in the Carrigtwohill area:
The five Holy Wells in our parish have gone dry or disused. Their locations are as follows: St. Coleman’s Well at Reinaslough, St. David’s Well at Wyse’s Bridge, the Holy Well of the Vat in the Well Lane, The Easter Well in Woodstock and the Holy Well in Ballinbrittig. Carrigtwohill Community Newsletter
None sounded particularly hopeful but I decided to see if I could find St David’s Well and Easter Well as they seemed to be just north of the village.
Easter Well, Tobar na Casca, near Carrigtwohill
Neither St David’s Well or Easter Well are listed in the Archaeological Inventory so finding their locations was up to intelligent guesswork! I identified Wyse Bridge but no sign of St David, who incidentally is patron saint of this area. I then carried on to the One-Sided Glen/ Woodstock Glen, a very narrow and very pretty wooded glen with the most incredibly treacherous potholes. I explored both sides of the hedgerows and could hear running water. Just off the road was a large pool of fresh and abundant water, a pipe leading from it. Could this be Easter Well?
This extract from the Parish Magazine sheds as a bit more light but this water source was certainly not closed.
Again below in Gleann O’Leith – “The One Sided Glenn”, is Tobar na Casca – “The Easter Well”, to where many came from far and near to the Easter Pattern during the Penal Law Years. However irregular behaviour developed in 1830 due to the consumption of Poitin! The local clergy took immediate action in de-blessing the well and in ordering its closure. In the late 1930’s when the Cork County Council sought to improve the supply of water to the village of Carrigtwohill they added the old Holy Well springs to its then reservoir in the Woodstock Glen. Being now sealed, the well abated into history until the new millennium, when through the memory searching of the older fraternity of the district it was again located and re-closed.
The pattern day sounded rather lively though!
Holy Well, Killeagh
The next quick detour on my way to Youghal was to check out a well that was more or less just off the main road and was marked on the OS map. The Archaeological Inventory recorded it as having been destroyed during field clearances but I thought it worth having a look. I parked near this rather sweet thatched cottage and switched on the GPS.
It lead me along the road then over a gate into a field. The field was newly ploughed and sown but the sides had been left wild and lush. No immediate sign of any well.
The GPS lead me to a nettlely heap which seemed, on reflection, to be an interesting shape.
I tentatively explored and hit stone! There also seemed to be a bit of a drop! I returned to the car for the well kit and came back with gloves and secateurs. It’s always a thrilling moment when you realise that there might be something interesting under there. And there was!
A bit of hacking back and the well was revealed: a stone built wellhouse with a large flat stone slab on top, the whole thing fitting snugly into the bank. There was quite a large area in front, possibly with the remains of walls. The well itself was now damp rather than flowing.
This poor well had not received visitors for a long time and I have been unable to find out anything about it but it was highly satisfying to find it still there, sitting quietly underneath all the foliage.
Fainin Well, Killeagh
Whilst trying to find information for the well above I discovered that I missed another well a mile or so away in the woods – classified as a ballaun stone in the Inventory but also described as a holy well. Note to self: please check all bullaun entries before fieldwork. I have not been there yet but have included a photo and some information, posted on Killeagh Inch Community Council Facebook page, original photo and text by by Jonathan Neville.
The Holy Well located on the rock outcrop north of the Metal Bridge is known as Fainin’s Well. It is a Bullaun stone. Rainwater collects in its hollow and it is known to have curative properties, that being a cure for warts. The Irish for wart is faithne giving us Fainin. The original purpose of these stones is unclear, but they are clearly associated with early ecclesiastical sites, possibly that of Killeagh village or else at Aghadoe itself.
The mass rock located at Fainin’s well is a sub-rectangular stone with a rectangular socket set off centre. There is a kneeling step at the front of the stone and this would suggest that the socket was used to place a wooden cross. Mass rocks were used from the mid seventeenth century in Ireland as a location for Catholic worship during times of persecution. What is interesting is the proximity of the mass rock at Fainin’s Well to Aghadoe House. The local lords, the de Capells, lived at Aghadoe since the twelfth century. Even though they were Protestants at the time of the seventeenth century, their Catholic background possibly allowed them to turn a blind eye to the activities at the mass rock. There is a lot of folklore associated with Aghadoe, Druidic origins, monks, and a large castle which all that remains is a dovecote and sheela na gig, the only in situ one in East Cork.
Next time I’m in East Cork ……
Holy Well, Seafield, Youghal
Back on the road and on to the outskirts of Youghal. I spotted the next well from the roadside and how pretty it looked, nestling among all the yellows and greens, surrounded by hawthorn trees.
Parking the car rather haphazardly on the kerbside I went back to investigate. The well fitted snugly into the bank of the field, some interesting ridges in the land above it.
The rectangular well house has a distinguished conical roof, whitewashed with lichen. It is stone built and looks as though it was once rendered. A low wall, now turfed, curves around protectively and a scattering of stones in the foreground hint at other details. The conical top is interesting – a large cross inscribed by pilgrims conceals most of the details but other carvings are distinguishable: a large winged soul/cherub more commonly seen on gravestones, and above this a cross flanked by two rosettes. The cross and the face of the cherub/soul have also been inscribed with crosses.
There is also lettering below these carvings now hard to decipher which inform: Erected by Thomas Seaward Esq. of Seafield 1833. Thomas Seward or Seaward, spelt in several ways, was the Land Agent for the Duke of Devonshire, in charge of his estates in Cork and Waterford from 1817-1849. He lived at nearby Seafield House, currently being restored.
The red sandstone lintel has also been covered in carved graffiti, some of it old. The well itself was dry, a fine crop of nettles at its entrance. It looked as though the stream, which presumably once fed the well, had been re-directed at some point to flow down the side of the road. This was a lovely place, the perfect day for visiting – the air full of birdsong and bees humming among the abundant wild flowers. Frustratingly I have been unable to find out much else about the well.
St Corán’s Well, Youghal
The final well on my list did not disappoint though it was in the most unexpected place – a housing estate high up on the outskirts of the town. Even better, it was signed!
Impressive entrance pillars with a central pillar topped with a cross led down a long grassy avenue, cordylines and fencing, hawthorns in full bloom. it was such a bright and sunny day that taking photos was difficult as the light was either too bright or there were shadows everywhere.
The stone wellhouse is an interesting shaped building, elegant with attractive details – the main bit is rectangular, but it’s topped with a triangular roof, complete with added decorative flounces and finials. Pilgrims’ crosses are etched here and there. There is a stone slab in front of the well and the interior basin is square, the water fresh, clear and cold.
A large spider’s web across the entrance confirmed that not many visitors had been recently and the empty plastic bottles littering the site had not contained holy water.
An exuberantly flowering hawthorn lent a protective cloak over the well.
To the right of the well lay various memorial stones including a rather nice arched stone bearing the name of the well, Naomh Corán (St Córan) on the front, tobar beannaithe (blessed well) on the back, the lettering and Celtic crosses highlighted in red.
Behind this lay a rather plain concrete cross erected in the holy year 1983/84. A little rusty donation box looked like it hadn’t receive much charity for sometime. Crosses inscribed on several of the stones spoke of numerous pilgrims visiting the well to pay rounds on St Coráns Feast Day, possibly 9th February. I say possibly because St Corán seems a very elusive chap and I have not been able to find out much about him at all.
He probably lived in the mid 6th century, founded a monastery up here and all that remains is this well. It has a neglected but very pleasant air, peaceful and once you walk down the long path, it feels remote and otherworldly. Some stunning views too.
I continued on into Youghal which was looking its best in the brilliant sunshine. I was completely knocked out by the splendour of the Collegiate Church and the richness within (especially Boyle’s tomb) but as I emerged blinking into the sunshine and peered over the graveyard wall in an attempt to see to Walter Raleigh’s house (still inhabited and the inhabitant not delighted by people peering over said wall) something funny happened. Two women approached, smiling, and took me by the arms and hoisted me up onto a nearby chest tomb. This is the best place to get a photo. Make sure you see the oriel window where Walter Raleigh probably sat with his friend Spencer, you know – the Faery Queen.
I dutifully took the photo then they said, come on now time to get back to the bus. I gently explained I was nothing to do with their tour and much hilarity ensued. Who knows where I might have ended up next!
Actually I ended up in the gardens of Ballymaloe Cookery School and was further stunned by the shell house!