The Red Well Tobar Dearg

Having  come down off Mushera Mór of course the sun came out and fuelled by a large bowl of soup we felt able to explore another well. What an unexpected delight this was.

The Red Well, Tobar Dearg

Rather intriguingly, it sounded as though the Red Well, Tobar Dearg, was on two sides of the road:

There is a holy well in this locality ‘An Tobar Dearg’. It is situated in the townland of Derryroe about two miles from Rusheen Catholic Church, and there is a portion of it on either side of the public road, on the northern side and the southern side.

We wend our way down tiny country roads, a tractor the only other vehicle passed. We parked in a layby near what we hoped was the well site and sure enough there was a small copse with two little metal gates topped with crosses, on each side of the road.

The well site is on both sides of the road

We explored the southern side first ( on the left) having glimpsed a statue of the BVM, blue amongst the trees.

The current site of the well

This is a wonderful tranquil spot encircled by mature trees and beautifully maintained. The stone built well lies in the centre, just below ground level and approached by two steps, a rather wonky metal rail to the left affording some assistance when attempting to get to the water.

The Red Well

The first step or slab has a cross deeply inscribed onto it. A plank above the well holds a pristine glass cup, ready for pilgrims. The water remains fresh, clear and abundant.

Nearby a large stone niche holds a statue of the BVM, adorned with offerings and rosaries and some rather jolly lanterns.

In front of the niche is another cross-covered slab, a small stone for the inscribing still in place.

It seems we had come to the wrong side of the road first for to pay rounds a pilgrim should start at the northern section of the site for this is where the well originated. It is a North Cork well after all and they are very fond of moving.

Many years ago a drunken man was coming home from a fair in Macroom, at a very late hour. When passing the well, he disrespected it and the following day it was found inside the fence on the opposite side, but the rounds are paid where the well was first.

Another account from the Schools’ Folklore Collection describes a man putting dirt into the well and causing it to move. And yet another puts the wells removal down to an English soldier upsetting it. All accounts are quite clear that rounds have to be paid first on the northern site where the well was originally, and then they continue on to the southern side where the well is now.

Site of the original well. Rounds are first paid here.

The northern side is also nicely kept, walled and gated and inside are many shrubs and trees.  There are few offerings, just a small crucifix hidden amongst the foliage.

Rounds were generally paid on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Palm Sunday but could also be paid on two successive Sundays and the intervening Friday. Rounds were as follows:

There are three stations and each person goes around three times and says the I believe in God, and then they say Our Fathers, seven Hail Marys and seven Glory Be to the Fathers at each station. Then they go to the other side of the road and say the rosary beside the well. Then they drink some of the water and some people take it home to drink, or to rub on any affected part.

The water was considered especially effective for the cure of rheumatism:

Some years ago an old man lived near Moanflugh Cross. He was troubled by the rheumatism. He was advised to pay a round at the Red Well in the parish of Aghina. One night he dreamed he was on the road to the holy well and seeing a little spring on the roadside he knelt down and prayed and was cured. He told his dreams to his neighbours. On the following Sunday he went to pray at the Red Well. On the road he saw the spot of his dream. He cleaned away the soil in the form of a well. He performed a round at this little well and was cured. This well is to be seen yet at the roadside.  (The man was named Richard Butler, I knew him later when he lived at Massytown, Macroom. He does not appear to have any rheumatism).

A rather confusing account, is this another explanation for the well moving for there seems to have already been a well in existence? We did have an explore to see if there was any sign of a well on this side of the road, and just outsider the wall was a definite wet area – was this where the spring originated?

The water was also considered useful for curing toothache, and of course the water would never boil.

It is said that this water was once used for boiling potatoes by a servant girl who was a stranger to the district but the water never boiled. The woman of the houses asked her where she got the water, and she said at the well. Then she ordered her to put it back again, and the girl did so.

A cure was considered more likely if a pilgrim heard thunder, or encounteredthe guardian spirit – a frog. Sadly all was quiet during our visit.

The name of the well is said to have been derived either from the colour of the surrounding soil or the tinge of the water. I can’t say that either looked particularly red on our visit.

Across the field lies an imposing standing stone (CO060-106002) once one of  pair, and a ring barrow ( CO060-106001) , though that wasn’t obvious. From the standing stone you can look back and see what a special side the Red Well occupies.

On the other side of road there is a fulacht fia (CO060-108) – another example of a common pairing of well and fulachta fia in North Cork.

The location of this well can be found in the Gazetteer.

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