St Dominic’s Holy Well, Glanworth

St Dominic’s Well, Tubbernacruinahur, Glanworth

This well was visited at the very end of an intense day of exploration. The light was fading and weariness setting in but there was just time for one more well – one I really wanted to visit for I had seen an enticing photograph and hoped against hope that the well and its rather wonderful and eccentric resting place for pilgrims might still be in situ. Colonel Grove Wright collected information from various sources and wrote vividly about the site and included a photograph:

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Photo: Grove White, 1906, with Canon JF Lynch by the well

DOMINICK’S HOLY WELL.
Smith (pub. 1750) states: Near Glanworth Abbey, on the verge of the Funcheon river, is a fine spring, bubbling out of the limestone rock, of limpid water, held in great esteem as a holy well by the superstitious Irish; it is dedicated to St. Dominick, and visited on his festival. Over the well is a large old tree, on the boughs of which an infinite number of rags of all colours are tied, as memorials of their devotion to this water, which, they affirm, has performed several miraculous cures (i. 317). Windele, writing in 1849, gives this account of the Holy Well: There is a famous holy well at Glanworth, the water of which has this virtue, that anyone drinking will ever after have a longing desire to return to Glanworth. Somewhat of a similar virtue has the moat of Kilfinnan. Anyone once standing on it will wish to return to Kilfinnan again. I stood on it, but my yearnings do not justify this. (Journal for 1897, p. 379.) The Field Book of 1840 gives:Tubbernacruinahur Holy Well, ‘St. Dominick’s Well,’ or perhaps ‘the well of the priest,’ is situated in the south part of the townland of Boherash (about one chain west of the river Funcheon). There were patrons held in it formerly, but it is now done away with. (Ord. Sur. Off., Dub.) Colonel Grove White: Historical & Topographical Notes, Vol I

I left my travelling companions looking at the nearby friary and pondered on how to get to the well which I knew was down by the river, a good few fields below the car park. The first sign that I was on the right track was an elaborate stile – always a good indicator that something interesting lies beyond.

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Interesting stile, always a hopeful sign

A bit of over-field-under-barbed-wire-fence-tramping is required to skirt around a steep, brambly ridge in order to get down to river level below. The going then gets tough – very boggy and treacherous underfoot for this is part of the floodplain of the River Funcheon. The river is wide and elegant at this point: little natural weirs and small islets, flanked by green pastures.

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River Funcheon

At first I could see nothing, the whole area an entanglement of briars, bracken and bog grass, but then I spotted a little hummock glinting with what looked like white quartz. I slashed at the undergrowth but it was very hard to get close due to the wetness and difficult to make out exactly what I was looking at but the shape looked similar to the one in the old photograph. I thought I could just discern a flat plinth underneath the structure.

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Limestone hump: the well

It seems as though the spring bubbles out from underneath the well structure – I could see a small stream leading from it out towards the river. No sign of the clootie tree though.

I was, however, thrilled to see that the pilgrims’ tower remained, now seriously overgrown and consumed with greenery like Sleeping Beauty’s palace, with just hints of its former splendour.

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Remains of tower, a shelter for pilgrims

Frustratingly, I couldn’t get close but I suspect underneath all those briars it’s in fairly good condition. It was built by a local eccentric named Jack Sheahan. Mr James Byrne JP visited in 1908 and described the scene to Colonel Grove White:

…  I was at Glanworth yesterday (15 April, 1908) and went to see the place. One of the structures is in the form of a tower; its height is about 18 or 20 feet, square in form and tapering to a point. Several crosses are built into the work, and at one time it was surmounted by an iron cross. There is an arched chamber at the base. It was erected about 70 or 80 years ago by a labourer named Sheahan. I knew him. On Sundays he used to decorate his head with a wicker cap made into the form of a tiara. The idea of building the tower was to form a chamber into which the devotees coming to the well could retire in case of bad weather. There were stone seats in it. Still closer to the Holy Well is another smaller structure, on which is fixed a little wooden case containing statues. The well was surrounded lately by a wooden paling, but I noticed some of it was thrown down as if by cattle. Grove White Vol 1

I love the sound of that wicker tiara!

Whilst doing research I came across another very beautiful old postcard which clearly shows what an impressive site it was in its heyday. This photo dates from 1906, before the cattle did their work!

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Photo: by J Valentine, 1906. Source: The Historical Picture Archive

The tower, described here as a hermitage, is magnificent with its tiered roof, reminiscent of the Tower of Babel, the little seats just glimpsed inside. The shape of the well, whitewashed and sturdy, can easily be seen – still neatly fenced. Next to the tower is another smaller building, presumably the one that contained the statues. The two women and their two children are smartly dressed and in the background the impressive ruins of the friary can clearly be seen. I was pleased to discover that there are intentions to restore this site and found a short description of a fund raising event reported in the The Avondhu local paper, published in July last year.

….All proceeds (of the fund raising) will be given to the local clergy to restore St Dominic’s Well in Glanworth. The well has not functioned for 100 years, and legend has it that trout from the well hold curative powers.

Not much seems to have happened yet and I hope it’s not left too late for this site surely deserves to be restored.

Although the well seems to have been dedicated to St Dominic and was visited on his feast day, 8th August and on September 15th, it is also known as Cronee’s Well – Cronee being described variously as a local virgin or a possible brother of St Fanahan. A report from the Schools’ Folklore Collection has more interesting information, especially concerning how to use the water:

Near the ruins of Roches Castle in the village is a blessed well known as Cronee which gets its name from the saint who traditions says was the brother of St Fanahan . Patrons used to be held here in days gone by on August the 15th, the Rosary being said at certain points and cures were attributed to the intercession of the saint. From the well runs a small stream from which people with facial disfigurements, sore eyes etc used to bathe and get some relief.

This water gives great relief to sick people but there is a tradition about its use. The person bringing it must say some rounds at the well then go direct to the bed of the sick persons who must have the first sip – otherwise there would be no cure.

Should the carrier of the water stand to talk to those he meets the power of the cure would leave the water.

Alongside the well there used to be a bush upon which pieces of ribbons, sticks etc were put in thanksgiving for favours received.

A few paces from the blessed well is what is called Jack Sheahan’s Castle built by an eccentric as a shelter for pilgrims at the well. Local tradition has it that if the water of the well were boiled it would turn into blood. (0373:120/121)

It seems that three rounds had to be made to the well, the eyes bathed in water, the water drunk and a rag left on the clootie tree when the rounds were completed. I didn’t drink of the water but I certainly have a longing to return to Glanworth, it would be rude not to for not only is this a fascinating and quite magical site but points of interest in the immediate area include Roches Castle (CO027-042001), wonderfully silhouetted in the nearby fields, and the Dominican Friary (CO027-040) also within view.

And just out of town is the impressive Labbacallee wedge tomb (CO027-086). The restoration of St Dominic’s Well would surely be yet another jewel in Glanworth’s already rather glamorous crown, or should that be tiara.

Labbacalee Wedge Tomb

Labbacallee wedge tomb; photo by Finola Finaly

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

In search of St Mologa

Today we were in search of St Mologa, two wells on the agenda both within a few miles of each other: one in Templemologa (church of Mologa) and the other at Labbamologa (bed of Mologa) – the area between the two seemingly being the Tearmon or sacred space, where Mologa offered protection and sanctuary. The Kildorrery Community Development website explains:

Saint Molaga’s ‘Betha’ (Life-story) was written in a church called ‘Tullagh Mien’ about 400 years after his death.  That church is believed now to have been near where Sraherla Church is today.  One such fact was the description of Molaga’s Thermon or Sanctuary which is bordered to the north by Labbamolaga Church where the Saint is said to be buried, and to the south by the river Funcheon where the ruin of the other church associated with the saint stands in Aghacross.

 St Mologa’s Holy Well, Tobar Mologa, Aghacross

img_3080-edit-tifFirst stop was Templemologa at Aghacross  – Ath na Crois – ford of the cross. It was here that an interesting meeting occurred between two saints and an elderly couple. This is the story as recorded by the late local historian Paddy Daly in 1929: In the early years of the faith in Ireland, it happened that St Cummin the Tall and St Cuman Mac de Chearda were passing by a place called Aghacross, midway between Mitchelstown and Kildorrey and in a field by the highway, they saw an old couple sowing flax. St Cummin wondered at an old couple doing the work unaided and he asked them what brought about that state of things. The man said ‘We are married more than thirty years and it was the will of God not to give us any children. As soon as we understood in our own minds that this was the will of God we thought also that it was his will that we should spend our lives in perfect chastity. We did so and with the help of God we will finish our time in this world in the same way.’Dubhlaigh and Mionchulla were the names respectively of this man and woman. The Saint spoke: ‘It is true that you will have spent your lives according to the will of God and that which lie did not bestow on you hitherto, he will do so now. God will give you a son and he will have great and holy virtues, and he shall give good example to all’ … Soon after their interview with the saints, a wonderful change came over the old people. The decrepitude of old age left them and the beauty and bloom of youth returned … In due time, Mionchulla gave birth to a son and that child was Molaga.

Some time later, as the happy parents prepared for the child’s christening, another miraculous event happened:

….. when the child (St Mologa) was being taken to be baptised the party met by the stranger.A well sprung up at this point and the stranger used the water to baptise the child. This well is at Mologa about two and a half miles north east of Kildorrery. This story was told to me by  a neighbour. Schools’ Folklore Collection.

Another entry from the Schools’ Folklore Collection describes exactly how to find it:

There is a holy well in the grounds of St Mologga’s Monastery. The well is called st Mologga’s Well and is about twenty yards in a southerly direction from the back wall of the ruined abbey. It is fifty yards from the river Funcheon and two ash trees grow one on each side of the well. The depth of the well is about 50 yards (?) and it is lined all round with a facing of stone. (0376:001)

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St Mologa’s Well

It is still there, a stone built rectangular basin, three slippery steps leading down to the water. It’s very overgrown, colonised by ferns, mosses and wallpennywort. The water is scummy and full of algae – 50 yards deep seems a bit hopeful. No sign of the two ash trees.

The young collector gives further information:

The annual pilgrimage to the well is held on Easter Sunday and people who have some disease still frequent it. The pilgrims make three or four rounds of the well reciting the Rosary and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin as they do so. Many visit this well for headaches and in this case wash their heads in water outside the well. The water of the well has never been used for domestic purposes and it is said that if anyone attempted to boil it the water would not boil. Money is never offered at the well but the cups and glasses used by the patients are left on a shelf and the pieces of cloth used to  in applying water to the sore parts are hung in the two trees. A trout lives in the well and the diseased people look out for it because they think their rituals more effective in the trout’s presence. In olden time sports were held at Mologga on the patron day. (0376: 001/002)

Colonel Grove White collected this story in 1905 which explains more about the trout:

Close to Temple Molaga is a copious spring well, which was always held sacred by the people and should be used only for drinking and curative purposes; but on one occasion, the lady of the manor, an unbeliever, would insist on cooking her husband’s dinner in the water of the sacred spring. When the water had time to boil, the cook remarked it was icy cold; more logs were placed on the fire, still to no effect. The logs were still being piled on, the fire blazed, but when the dinner hour arrived, the water was still as cold as ever. The lord waxed hungry, and, like other mortals, became angry; he rushed into the kitchen to ascertain for himself the cause of the delay, had the cover lifted off the huge pot, and, although the fire was crackling and blazing high about it, he felt the water was quite cold; but what astonished him more was to behold a beautiful trout swimming about in it, without apparently suffering the least inconvenience. He became wonder-stricken, and had his advisers called in. They told him to take the water back to the well without delay and pour it in. This being done, the trout again became invisible, and is since rarely seen, except by certain votaries. In the district it is a common saying when water is slow to boil: ‘perhaps the Molaga trout is in it’. (Historical and Topographical Notes Vol 1)

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Photo by Colonel Grove White, 1905, showing the array of cups at the well

The water from the well was once considered highly efficacious and attracted many pilgrims on the saint’s Feast Days, 20th January and 3rd October, and on Easter Sunday. A different entry from the Schools’ Folklore Collection has more to say:

Close to the ruin (of the church) is a holy well called Mologga’s Well. It is below ground level about four feet and is reached by three stone steps. On the feast day of the saint- 20th January – in years gone by great crowds used to visit the well and honour the saint. There were no special rounds for these visits. People simply went to the well said ten Paters, Aves and Glorias  and after each set of prayers they took a drink of water from the well…. Visits to the well are unheard of today. The only time the existence of the holy well is brought to mind is on the occasion of funerals in the adjacent graveyard. On such occasions people (not many) pray at the well and drink the water.The Well water was said to be good for curing internal complaints and also for external injuries. For the former it was drunk and for the later it was rubbed over the injured parts. Some years ago a bottle of the water was to be found in most houses in the district but today the custom has died out and people do not even know the feast day of the saint. (0375:419/420)

Another entry describes very precisely how the rounds were performed:

Rounds must be performed at least three days in succession – Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday  are the best days for these Rounds. A person can expect to be cured if they see a trout in the water on the third day. The Pattern Day in olden times was Easter Sunday. Rounds are made as follows:

1. Entering the churchyard and facing the well say Holy St Mologga cure (name ailment)

2. Kneel at the right hand side of the well and say the Lords Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father seven times in honour of St Mologga

3. A part of the Rosary is said at the same place

4. Kneeling centre way, another part of the Rosary is said.

5. The Round is finished at the left hand side of the well

6. Still in the same place, the Lord’s Prayer, Hail, Mary and Glory Be to the Father are recited five times in honour of the five wounds of Our Lord. if any person wants to bathe any part of their body in the water of the well they must do so outside the churchyard. (0375: 022/25)

 

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St Mologa’s Church, Aghacross

There is nothing remaining of the original monastery here at Aghacross, the ruins of the church (CO019—2004) are of mixed dates: the west is twelfth century sandstone, while the east is fifteenth century limestone. A ballaun stone can be found inside the building and on one of the exterior walls is a very worn sculpture of a head. Some interesting gravestones can be found surrounding the church.

It’s an ancient and peaceful site. The name Aghacross – ford of the cross – may  refer to the wooden high cross that Mologa is said to have erected – either to mark the ford or to mark the extent of the Tearmon. A stile near the well leads to where the original ford may have been.

Labbamologa

Five miles north east of Templemologa is LabbaMologa, site of another monastery founded by Mologa and said to be his final resting place and possible site of another holy well.

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The impressive blocky entrance to the oratory

It is an extraordinary site: a walled ecclesiastical complex including two ancient churches (cO010-003004/3003), numerous cross slabs, the saint’s bed, a well, and in the field outside four standing stones (CO010-003007). More from the Schools’ Folklore Collection:

At Labbamologa are the ruins of two churches which stand side by side, in an old graveyard adjacent to the public road. The more important and ancient of these it the Leaba of the saint. This is an early Oratory with the chief characteristics of that type of structure, square headed doorway, inkling jambs and prolongation of the side walls. The doorway in the west gable still stands and is a perfect example of its kind. It is four feet ten high and two foot three wide at the top while it is three inches wider than that at the bottom. Within this little building is the reputed grave of St Mologga. The second church was built later and is larger than the Oratory. It is situated north of the Oratory. It is very dilapidated and it’s built of sandstone ashlar which suggests a pre-invasion date. This is known locally as the Eidhnean or ivy covered church of Mologga. It is thirty five feet by eighteen feet internally though unfortunately neither door nor window remain to give a guide as to its period …. In a field adjoining the cemetery on the south side is a monument of general Bronze Age. This consists of four massive pillars of stone arranged in the form of a rectangle and suggest the corner supports of  a house. The largest pillar stone is about six feet tall and two and a half feet broad. The origins of these stones is unknown but it is thought they were connected with pagan ceremonials in ancient times. (0375:418)

The little oratory may date from the seventh Century. Inside is the saint’s Leaba, or bed, his burial place:

… within it there is a kind of cist, consisting of a large flagstone, resting on low side stones and leaving an open space beneath, said to have been Mologa’s bed… Formerly a well of clear water was here and a brown stone cross , which rested on the covering stone of the leaba. (Colonel Grove White, Volume I)

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St Mologa’s leaba or bed

The large flagstone remains, bearing a curious carving described as being a volute. This seems to mean a spiral – now well worn at the top of the carving. Could the whole thing represent a crozier? Traditionally pilgrims would rest on the bed or crawl underneath it, this being seen as a special cure for rheumatism. This wouldn’t be possible today but the interior of this little church still contains a quiet and sacred air. The reference to the well inside the church is also interesting – was this the holy well? Apparently it vanished when a woman washed her dirty laundry in it. Irish Megaliths suggests the well is somewhere else and describes how it is now hidden in a tangle and was once part of the the turas or rounds and was visited on Easter Sunday – the same date as the rounds at Templemologa. I wondered if the site was just over the stile in the north wall of the enclosure, to the right where there was a jumble of hedge/ rubbish etc and definite signs of bogginess.

There are also meant to be cursing stones associated with the site; a skull that reappears in the walls no matter how often it is buried and then in the fields the four standing stones – possibly originally eight. Folklore explains them away as being four thieves who robbed the monastery. On their way out one dropped a chalice, went to retrieve it and was turned to stone – his partners in crime presumably suffering the same fate.

There is also reference to another odd relic:

…. There is another relic of Mologga in the locality and great faith is placed in its healing and protective powers. The relic is of sandstone and about the size and shape of a goose egg and it is said that the mother who has it in her possession on the occasion of childbirth will be protected from dangers attendant to that occasion.

Could this have been the origin of one of the cursing stones? There seems to be a childbirth theme throughout Mologa’s story – first his exceptional birth, then later he was supposed to have brought a recently dead mother back to life:

The saint was supposed to possess wonderful and even miraculous powers. He cured the sick, saved people from epidemics and even raised the dead. On one occasion he visited the dun of Cathal, king of Munster. Cathal’s wife had just died in childbirth and he was so touched at the grief of the king that he prayed over the dead woman and brought her back to life. (Grove White)

And finally the reference to the odd stone.

One last thing connected with the increasingly fascinating and enigmatic Mologa (I’ve got a bit sidetracked!) is his connection with bees. After his auspicious beginning, it was recognised that Mologa was destined for a spiritual life. As a young man he went on a missionary journey to Scotland and Wales, including spending some years with St David. On his return to Ireland he may have brought with him the first domesticated bees though this story gets quite confused with another saint St Modomnoc/Molochomog – also variously described as St Colman or St Dominic!

My jar of very good honey attributes full honours to St Mologa!

For more information about St Mologa visit this interesting account at Roaringwaterjournal. Voices of the Dawn also has some fascinating information about the site at Labbamologa.

The location of these wells can be found in the Gazetteer.

Fionnchú: The White Hound

Arriving in Mitchelstown in the late afternoon the light was fading and a thin mizzle had set in but we thought we could manage a trip to two wells dedicated to the town saint, St Fanahan, or, as he is known as Gaeilge, St Fionnchú: the white hound.

St Fanahans’s Well, Tobar Naomh Fionnchú

img_2996St Fanahan’s Well is found off a small housing estate on the edge of Mitchelstown and is clearly signed from the road. There is a helpful information board and an attractive plaque that informs that the old pilgrimage route is now part of the Siúlbhealaigh Stairiúil, or Historic Walking Trail. The instantly impressive pathway leading down to the well is 700m long, a raised causeway through fields, planted with now mature beeches on each side. We met a local man who told us that the causeway was raised during Famine times on the instruction of the local priest but other information suggests that the path could be at least 1000 years old.

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Raised causeway leading to the well

Whatever, it is an imposing and rather wonderful avenue, an original Mass path, recently fitted with electric lights which are only illuminated for nine days before and nine days after St Fanahan’s Feast Day on the 25th November. I was saddened to see what I thought was a dead pheasant at the edge of the trees – it gave us a shock as it took to the wing with a squawk and flew off! The causeway ends in an attractive little footbridge going across the Sruth na nÉglise, stream of the church. A small plaque explained:

This bridge was built in 1870 by the County Grand Jury. Half its cost was paid by Edmund Murray, Jeremiah Casey (father of ‘the Galtee Boy’) and Michael Cusack of 19 Lower Cork Street. Casey and Cusack did so in thanksgiving respectively, for the safe return of his son from Australia, and Cusack of his brother, William Cusack, a Union Officer who fought in the American Civil War.

Look out for the carved head on the right hand side. St Fanahan himself ? The Archaeological Inventory reckons it came from the Catholic church in St Thomas’ Street, Mitchelstown.

The bridge leads onto a small island, surrounded by three different streams – viewed as a special sign, reminiscent of the Holy Trinity. The area is enclosed by earthen banks, mature trees giving it an ancient feel as a path winds around the perimeter, here and there interspersed with Stations of the Cross. Occasional breaks in the bank allow a Mass path from across the fields to enter the site, stepping stones across the stream preventing wet feet. A tranquil spot apart from hum of the M8 not so far across the fields, and the occasional gunfire from the nearby Army shooting ranges!

It is the well that is the focal point though. A photograph of the original well can be found in an entry in the Schools’ Folklore Collection – a much simpler affair with kneeling stones arranged around the well basin. Interesting to see the shrines and statues hanging in the trees.

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photograph in the School’s Folklore Collection (0376:071)

The current well was restored in 1989 and is apse-shaped with cut stone blocks around it, surrounded by low level seating. The water is abundant and clear with a sprinkling of beech leaves. It is considered good for curing flesh wounds, lameness, blindness and warts. Walking sticks and crutches once adorned the original well, evidence of the power of the cure.

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Apse-shaped well basin

Watching over it is a large stone cross carved with the figure of St Fanahan and an eel on the facing side, and on the other side a sickle and a bell. It’s beautifully done, the work of well known Cork sculptor Ken Thompson. St Fanahan looks a benign figure, holding one hand in blessing, his crozier in the other, his dainty slippered feet peeping out from under his robe. Only the large sword at his belts hints at other things. For St Fanahan was not your usual saint – he was a warrior saint admired for: ‘… the greatness of his nature and the nobility of his race, and the greatness of his fury and his virtue. (Book of Lismore)

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St Flanahan: warrior saint

The Book of Lismore, written in the fifteenth century (translated in 1890 by Whitely Stokes), is invaluable in describing St Fanahan’s life in all its colourful and fascinating detail. Finola from Roaringwaterjournal has written an excellent entry about him so I shall just keep it brief. He seems to have been remarkable even before he was born and could speak through his mother’s womb! Aged seven, he was sent to be educated at the Abbey of Bangor. His fiery temper proved too much and he was expelled, taking with him a bell which would ring when he arrived at his destiny. The bell rang as he neared Mitchelstown and here he built a monastery. Many extraordinary tales are associated with him including one where the king of Déisi came to see him and asked if he could guarantee him a place in Heaven by swopping his good soul for his bad one. Fanahan agreed and offered the king his own place, already guaranteed. To re-earn his place in Heaven, he commissioned seven smiths to make seven sickles. He then spent the next seven years hanging from them in penance. He rewarded the smiths by calling the place Brigown – Bri Goghann, the Smiths’ Hill. He did descend once though for he was called upon to help the children of Niall of the Nine Hostages against foreign attackers. Later, once released from the sickles, he seems to have been often called upon to lend his weight in battles. He led from the front, literally breathing fire – sparks bursting from his teeth which caused the shafts of his enemies’ spears to burn! His weapon of choice was his crozier, Cennachathach – head battler, reputedly later kept as a relic in the round tower until this fell down in the 18th century! Eventually he went on a pilgrimage to Rome to do penance, dying around 660AD. The meaning of the sickle, the bell and the eel now becomes clear.

The eel incidentally is meant to be visible in the water of the well and is considered to be the embodiment of the saint himself. Whoever sees it will have great fortune.

There is another sculpture of St Fanahan outside the Garda Station in town and this seems to capture his strength and charisma. Sculpted by Cliodna Cussen in 1981, this saint is a suitably beefy and muscular figure sitting solidly upon a rock, head battler in his hand, a rather enigmatic expression on his face. On one side is an eel and on the other a curled up hound, referring to his name.

St Fanahan’s Feast Day is the 25th November and an annual pilgrimage is still made to the well. The pattern lasts for nine days preceding the 25th when pilgrims are expected to visit the well, say private prayers to the saint walking three time clockwise around the pathway behind the well, and recite a Decade of the Rosary.

img_3012-edit-tifOnce a stall provided glasses of water from the well, for sale to the pilgrims for a small gift, now you just help yourself. Donations are still appreciated though.

As we left a local man stopped for a chat and told us about the Mass path and the eel, and the annual Mass. He also explained that St Fanahan was patron saint of blow-ins which made us smile. It seems there is truth in this too for when the saint arrived in Mitchelstown, the locals were not immediately friendly. He vowed to curse the locals and support strangers. Not a very saintly attitude but I think the locals have forgiven him by now.

 

St Fionnchú’s Church, Brigown

We thought we had time to visit Brigown, site of the St Fanahan’s monastery, 880 metres to the south west. A fascinating place, although there is little remaining of the monastery or the round tower that was later built there in the 10th Century. There are some fine examples of early graves though and in the remains of the old church building (CO019-030004), the base of a Medieval cross has been inserted over the doorway.

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Base of cross above doorway

St Fionnchú’s Well, Brigown

It seems that the original well dedicated to St Fanahan was much closer to the monastery. The story goes that a woman washed her clothes in the well, causing much disrespect. The next morning the monks found the well had dried up and reappeared in its current position! I asked at the farmhouse if they had a holy well on their land and they didn’t think so, but looking over the wall from the graveyard I suspect the original well was somewhere near that little hollow or possibly in the trees.

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Possible site of St Fionnchú’s original well

A very special place and a remarkable saint.

St Fanahan’s well is easily accessible. Locations of both wells are given in the Gazetteer.

En route to Mitchelstown

coole upperWell hunting is always an enjoyable experience especially when you devote a few days to it. Wells in North Cork beckoned. We stayed for a few days in Mitchelstown in the very comfortable Ballinwillin House, complete with free range deers and boars. A welcome break on the M8 on the way up saw a diversion to Coole Upper in search of St Dalbach’s Holy Well.

St Dalbach’s Well, Coole Upper

The well was clearly signed from the road and accessed over a neatly made stile – helpful information boards lining the wall. What a delightful place: lightly wooded, close to two old churches, surrounded by green pasture, a stream emerging from under an old stone bridge complete with footbridge further down. It felt tranquil and pleasantly isolated.

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St Dalbach’s Well, complete with offering and cross-inscribed kneeling stone

The well itself is nicely made: a barrel-roofed wellhouse made from stone, with a neatly flagged surrounding area, two stone seats near the entrance, all festooned with ferns. A slab in front bears an engraved cross and around it seven kneeling stones are placed, visited as as part of the rounds.

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Back of the well showing the kneeling stones

An assortment of offerings adorn the top of the well: statues, crucifixes, rosaries, bows, coins, medals etc. all with a coppery blanket of crisp beech leaves.

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Offerings on top of the well

Three steps lead down to the water which was fresh and abundant but clogged with leaves – said to be good for curing sore eyes and warts. An entry in the Schools’ Folklore Collection refers to another cure:

…there is a boy living in Coolagou… and his name is Kevin Lyons. A few years ago he had a very sor eear. One day his mother took him to the holy well at Coole and performed the rounds, After a few days his ear was all right because his mother had faith enough in the holly (sic) well. (049:0377)

The runoff from the well continues down a stone channel, eventually joining the stream.

The rules for pilgrimage are clearly outlined on a board outside the sanctuary. You should approach from the north, walk deisal (clockwise), keeping to the right and in single file. Collect nine small stones as counters and each time you have accomplished a round (a walk around the well, praying at each of the seven kneeling stones and reciting Our Fathers etc) throw one pebble away. When you have none left your turas (pilgrimage) is achieved. Finally make an offering and drink the water three times (using your palms if there is no cup), then hang a cloth in the bushes.

There is a story as to how the well originated:

Long ago the blessed well at Coole was just a spring. A female inhabitant of Coole Abbey House was reputed ot have seen a monk praying at this spring and she ordered an oratory to be built over it. The well is dedicated to St Deviet or which is an anglicised version of St Dalbach …  It is reputed ot have a cure for warts and sore eyes by visiting and praying at each of the seven kneeling stones exposed around the outside of the well chamber.

The well may have originated as part of the Coole Abbey complex, founded in the sixth century by St Abbán. Nothing remains of the original abbey but the two churches nearby confirm the site’s long and interesting history. The tiny ruined church (CO036-019002) standing alone in the fields dates from twelfth century and still contains its stone altar  which may have been used in Penal Times (go back on the road and look for the stile to access it).

This was later replaced by a newer church (CO036-019004) closer to the well, which was once the parish church.  We met a man repairing one of the old walls which was sagging alarmingly. He had numbered every stone and was working to a hand drawn map tacked up on another wall. It seemed lonely work and he was glad to have a chat with interested visitors. The graveyard contains some old and unusual graves and on one of the walls of the church is carved a rather beautiful rosette or rose.

It seems the graveyard isn’t as tranquil as it looks:

There is a graveyard in the village of Coole which is near Fermoy. As one approaches the  graveyard at night one is supposed to hear moaning, groaning and clapping. When one turns the corner a hearse is to be seen with a figure dressed in white driving it. If one looks into the graveyard, ghosts of the dead people who were buried there walk on their tombs. (159:0378)

Schools’ Folklore Collection

St Dalbach though is a bit of a shadowy figure. He seems to have been associated with an anchorite movement known as the Céili Dé (Companions of God) which flourished between 750-850AD, though a spot of googling shows the movement is still in existence. Anchorites chose to withdraw from secular life in order to devote themselves to an ascetic existence based on prayer. They had to take a vow of stability of place and often lived in a cell attached to a church where they could be consulted on spiritual matters via a squint (small opening in the wall). Some anchorites were literally walled in, relying on others for food and other bodily needs.

Was the monk spotted praying at the spring St Dalbach? The Martyrology of Donegal  has this to say about him:

…. (he) was a great performer of penance and .. he never touched his hand to his side as long as he lived.

His feast day is 23rd October.

As you leave the site admire the very large and very still cow in the garden of the modern house opposite!

Next stop, Fermoy for a spot of lunch and a wander down the Blackwater river in search of St Bernard’s Well.

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River Blackwater in Fermoy

St Bernard’s Well, Fermoy

img_2974The Blackwater was full, still and impressive and the footpath, named after the saint, St Barnane Walk, is an attractive spot to wander down, in fact it is now part of an official town walk. The well is about 500metres along, passing some interesting Victorian buildings behind walls and vegetation. We were followed by some hopeful ducks looking glossy in their spring plummage.

The well is clearly signed by a wall plaque and is accessed along a whitewashed passage way, somewhat mouldy and licheny at the moment.

There are actually two well basins, both connected underground, the water eventually flowing out to the river.

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The well to the south is sort of foot-shaped, partially lined with concrete and has three steps leading down to the circular(ish) basin. The whole thing is surrounded by concrete slabs.

The well to the north, which receives water from its companion, is more rectangular in shape, also with three steps down to it.

Water in both wells was clear and plentiful, but choked with coppery leaves, little water beetles skimming on the surface. It’s an odd space: claustrophobic and damp, a small spindly tree with a large metal protective grill and a wall set cast iron drinking fountain – presumably the water was once piped to this for around the edge it warns rather sternly: keep the pavement dry!

Lizzie O Grady gives a very detailed account of St Bernard’s Well well in the Schools’ Folklore Collection, worth transcribing in full:

Around the district of Fermoy there are many holy wells. In Barnane Walk south of the river Blackwater there is a well called St Bernard’s which is situated about 100 yards from a Picture House built on the site of an old abbey. As Fermoy is a beauty spot many sight -seers visit it and they make sure in viewing the course of the Blackwater and in rambling up Barnane they visit the well.

About fifteen yards south on the right bank of the river Blackwater and a quarter of a mile west of the Fermoy bridge the exact position of the well is to be found.

The well is on level ground protected by a wall on the east, south and west but open on  the north to admit visitors. On the south side to which is attached an enamel cup, an ash tree grows near whose branches over-spread the well. Beech trees grow to the …  and the west. A gravel path leads to the well which is divided into two parts, the part near the entrance is square shaped, three steps must be descended to reach this well the waters of which are applied to affected parts. About a yard from this is a round shaped part of the well which is also three steps below the level of the ground.The water of this is drunk and sometimes taken away in bottles. Both parts are connected by an underground stream, the waters of the round part feeding the square part and flowing thence to the river Blackwater.

Saint Bernard lived sometime during the eleventh century. On one occasion when he visited Fermoy a poor bind man came to him and begged him to restore to him his sight. St Bernard blessed the ground on which they were standing and immediately a fountain of fresh water sprung up. The saint told the man to bathe his eyes with water and no sooner had he done so than his sight was restored. The news of the miracle spread rapidly throughout the country and many blind people came to the spot and washed their eyes with water from the well and were restored their sight.

Many strange sights have been seen in the neighbourhood of the well and it is supposed to be haunted

I have gathered this information from some of the old people in Fermoy. (041-043:0378)

St Bernard (1090-1153) was actually French, one of the leading lights behind the Cistercian movement and a gifted spiritual leader and writer. He founded the great abbey of Clairvaux in Burgandy, with himself as the Abbot. Quite what he was doing in Fermoy, I’m not sure, but his feast day is the 20th August.

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Towards the wells

The location of these wells can be found in the Gazetteer. Both are public.

One year in ….

This is the first anniversary of my attempt to visit and record all the Holy Wells of County Cork.  So far I have visited 149 wells: of these 131 can be classified as definite holy wells, four are a bit iffy and 14 couldn’t be found.

I have discovered a few things:

  • Wells are everywhere! They are in towns (Lady’s Well just outside Macroom); in fields (St Laitiarian’s Well, Cullen); in woods (St Paul’s Well, Ballygarvan); under trees ( Well of the Alder Tree, near Bandon); near graveyards (Trinity Well, Kinsale); at the edge of the sea (St Fachtna’s Well, Rossbrin); at the side of roads (St John’s Well, Kilcorney); near rivers (St Patrick’s Well, Kinneigh ); on mountains (St Finnian’s Well, Castletownbere) in fulacht fiadh (Trinity Well, Newcastle), and under cover ( Lady’s Well, Lissanisky).
  • Some wells are enormous:  We were told on good authority (the keeper of the well) that Tubrid Well, Millstreet claims to be the second largest well in Ireland and Britain (which the first is I’m not sure, St Patrick’s well Clonmel looks pretty huge, maybe contender for pole position), while some wells are tiny : St Abbán’s well near Ballyvourney is usually hidden under a tea tray and layer of leaf mould, but lift this off and the well beneath is small but perfectly formed.

Some wells are flamboyant: St John’s Well, Mushera is enclosed in a large well house complete with niches and statuary, has a vast area for the Stations of the Cross and ample parking;  and some wells are exceptionally modest: a small cement circle marks an almost forgotten holy well near Mitchelstown.

  • Some wells are much revered: Ladys’ Well in Kealkil is beautifully kept, much visited and an annual Mass is still held here; others are completely forgotten: Lady’s Well in Bandon had literally completely disappeared under a mound of vegetation but has since been cleared, thanks to a concerned citizen reading this Blog.
  • Some wells are easy to access: St Mary’s Well in Tullylease is beautifully kept with neat paths and landscaping; some are fiendishly difficult: All Saint’s Well near Three Castle Head is literally on the edge of a cliff, nerves of steel required for this one (enlarge to see the small speck that is me).
  • Many wells are dedicated to saints: some are well known figures (the most popular so far is the BVM with 17 wells dedicated to her; St Bridget has 10 and St John is currently in third position with 7); some are a little more obscure – who’s heard of the warrior saint Flanahan, big in Mitchelstown?
  • Some saints have even appeared at wells. The BVM was seen at Ballycurrany and St Patrick visited the well here at Castle Blackwater. The BVM even led a late night visitor to Abbey Well in Kinsale safely to his home, reprimanding him for being out too late.
  • Some saints leave their mark – St Bridget left her kneeprints at the tiny well dedicated to her near Lough Hyne. St Olán left his footprints in a stone near his well at Aghabulloge in North Cork.
  • Most wells are of course renowned for the quality of their water and for their healing properties. If you’re lucky the water comes freshly bottled as at St Mary’s Well, Tullylease.
  • The most popular cure so far is for sore eyes with 17 wells claiming this healing. These well even have a special name: Tobar na súl. The next most popular cure is for warts with 10 wells offering this cure. Interesting most of these wells seem to be in ballaun stones. Other wells claim to help with ague, women’s problems, men’s problems, headaches, consumption and insanity. Some water is said to never boil, never dry and always remain fresh.
  • Some wells still attract big Pattern Days. Pilgrims flock to Gougane Barra on St Finbarr’s Feast Day, 25th September; while on the 11th February crowds gather in Ballyvourney to honour St Gobnait. St John’s Eve, 23rd June, is another popular day for pilgrimage, the crowd being piped down to St John’s Well in Carrigaline where an evening Mass is held.
  • Others attract a smaller but nonetheless devoted crowd: an annual Mass is held at Lady’s Well on the Sheep’s Head on the 15th August, when the whole hillside is decorated with flowers; some wells look hopeful with chairs in readiness, such as the rather fine well dedicated to St Bartholomew near Rathcormac; and some attract no one – the attractively named Well of the Ferns near Kilcoe, hadn’t received pilgrims for quite some time.
  • Some wells are adorned with offerings: St Gobnait’s Well, Ballyvourney is covered with a huge variety of offerings; while some are bare: this poor little well dedicated to St Cummin in Rosscarbery  is much overlooked.
  • Some wells have statues, siles, clootie trees and standing stones enhancing them. Lady’s Well, Titeskin has a very fine stone carved with a figure of Christ crucified, dating from the eighteenth century; St Bridget’s Well, Castlemagner has two carved figures, the one on the left considered to be a sile na gig; the delightful walled well dedicated to Inghne Bhuide at Dromtarriff North Cork has an evocative clootie tree; and a magnificent standing stone, complete with later Ogham inscription, marks St Olán’s Well, Aghabullogue.
  • Some wells contain blessed eels or trouts. The well dedicated to the warrior saint Fanahan in Mitchelstown is meant to be an embodiment of the saint himself. The now forgotten well dedicated to St Peter and St Paul near Skibbereen once contained two blessed eels that were fed by pilgrims. To see an eel is considered very good luck.
  • Some wells have completely vanished but some are being restored. At Trinity Well near Castleventry we found Seán hard at work restoring the old well, a renewed source of pride in the community. At Corkbeg in East Cork there was no sign of the holy well, just rubbish; and poor St Finbarr’s Well near Dunmanway was almost obscured by a mouldering bag of stinking nappies.

All holy wells have their own fascination and an historical and spiritual place in their community. I have just over 200 still to visit!

Today is St Bridget’s Day, Lá Fhéile Bríde, the start of Imbolc and the first day of Spring. It’s currently lashing but the daffs are out. Hopefully this well near Buttevant recieve some visitors.

Là Fhèill Brìghde sona dhuibh uile!

St Patrick’s Holy Well, Castle Blackwater

Below the castle and near the margin of the river, is a holy well, dedicated to St. Patrick, on whose anniversary a patron is held here: the water is remarkably pure, and is much esteemed by the peasantry for its supposed virtues

Extract from Samuel Lewis’:  Cork, A Topographical Dictionary of the Parishes, Towns and villages of Cork City and County, 1837.

Sometime ago I was invited to visit St Patrick’s holy well at Blackwater Castle, Castletownroche, and only recently was able to take Sheila up on her kind offer. I had no idea what delights lay in store.

We travelled to North Cork for a few days, holy wells and stained glass on the agenda. We arranged to meet with Sheila in the morning at Blackwater Castle and three hours later we emerged impressed and awed by everything we had seen. The castle site has been inhabited for literally thousands of years, possibly as far back as the Mesolithic, and no wonder for it is in an incredible position – perched high over the Awbeg River with commanding views up and down and across.

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Blackwater Castle, high above the Awbeg River

First we wandered down the long and imposing entrance avenue then headed down towards the river and the floodplain. It was like a rainforest: old man’s beard, ferns, laurel, palms all jostling for space at the edge of the fast flowing, wide river. The well was almost obscured by a dense canopy of old man’s beard but we hacked it back to reveal the structure.

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The well under its canopy of old man’s beard

The well is cut into a small ridge, circular in shape with a jumble of stones around it. The water is fresh, clear and copious and overspills the basin, making its way down to the river.

Sheila confirmed that the water was exceptionally good and they piped it up to the castle for their own use, having first had it professionally tested. Another odd circular stone well can be found nearby, built in the 1980s by the then rather eccentric owner.

The well is dedicated to the national saint, Patrick. Rounds were once paid here on the saint’s feast day, 17th March. This practice hasn’t been celebrated for many years for it was eventually forbidden by a previous owner of the castle. This entry from the Schools’ Folklore Collection gives a little more information:

There is a well within Castlewidenham Demesne, a few hundred yards from the school. It is a well dedicated to St Patrick. Patterns used to be held here at the well in former years. One old lady remembers them.

There was a stone on the well in which a curious figure was carved. The stone was removed by somebody some years ago (I think). The figure on the stone was called ‘Sile ní Gig’.

The well is much neglected and swamp water in the vicinity was allowed to enter it. I was told by an old woman Mrs Guerin who is now over a hundred years old that she remembers when rounds were paid at it especially on St Patrick’s Day. The town band went down to the place and crowds of people paid rounds and left ribbons and pieces of rags on the bushes. The people were prevented from going there by a Mrs Grant who lived at the castle, and since then the pattern has ceased, Mrs Grant died suddenly when opening her own door shortly after the rounds ceased. St Patrick is supposed to have visited Castletownroche and blessed the well. (0372:001)

What is especially interesting is the reference to the figure once to be found near the well, also mentioned nearly 100 years earlier in a Survey Office Field Book, dated 1839:-

St. Patrick’s Well. It is situated near the S.E. boundary of the townland of Castlewidenham. It is considered to be a Holy Well, and it is near the edge of the river.  It is covered with water in the winter season. At this well lies a large stone, on which is cut an image, said to be that of St. Patrick. This stone lies flat at present, and it is also covered with water in winter.

The reference to St Patrick seems a bit coy for she is plainly all female and by 1937 the child recording information for the Folklore Project knew the proper name for such a figure:  sile na gig.  This one has had quite a chequered history.

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Sile na gig

We met up with her later on in the tour and very impressive she is. She is carved in relief on a cut block of stone. She is fairly typical in that she represents a naked female figure displaying her genitals. She is unusual in that she also sports  what looks like either an intricate hairstyle or a headdress of some kind. It seems likely that she once graced one of the buildings of the Medieval castle, possibly the keep, for the stone she is on is dressed and cut. There is anecdotal evidence that she was thrown into the river to purge a misdoing by one of the family and lay abandoned and waterlogged for many years until being rescued and placed near the well.  Colonel Grove White visited the well in 1906 and remarked:

The stone was lying in the backwater of the river Awbeg under the castle for many years, and was nearly forgotten; but in the early part of 1906 the Very Rev. Canon M. Higgins, P.P., Castletownroche, rescued it from its watery grave, and it now lies on terra firma near the Holy Well. I hear that this Holy Well is not so much frequented as in former times.

Historical and Topographical Notes, Etc. on Buttevant: Castletownroche, Doneraile, Mallow, and Places in Their Vicinity Vol 2 : 145/146

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The sile in situ at the well. Photo by Colonel Grove White

She remained by the well until 1934 when she was taken up to the castle. By the 1980s she was to be found in the public dining room of the castle. It seems locals found this display of the sile inappropriate and she is now kept for safe keeping in the castle, only viewable on request. The current owners hope to reinstall her on a wall at sometime in the near future.

img_3125Siles are mysterious and intriguing – carved female figures revealing their explicit genitalia. There is much debate as to how old they are, what they are and what they represent. The current thinking is that they date from the Norman period ie 12/13 Centuries. Most are to be found on or near a castle or a church and are generally believed to ward off evil. Some scholars will argue that they are pre-Christian and refer to the hag/mother goddess and are fertility figures. As siles go, this one is fairly unalarming, others are much more explicit and fierce looking. Siles are not especially unusual sights at holy wells. At Castlemagner an enigmatic carved figure is to be found on the side of the wellhouse and is considered to be a sile, though she is rather modest compared to some of her sisters. There are parallels with the Castleblackwater sile for she too came from a nearby castle and was placed at the well in the late 18th Century. I have my doubts about her though, for when visiting another well, Lady’s Well near Cloyne in East Cork, I was struck by how similar the figure was to the carved stone found there. This is clearly a depiction of Christ crucified but look at the arms and general pose. Could this sile have been Christ – the lines round the pudenda actually a loincloth?

Another sile found near a holy well is at Ballyvourney, an ancient site dedicated to St Gobnait. This little figure is found above the entrance to the old church and is still included as part of the rounds. It is traditional to rub her. The siles at Castlemagner and Blackwater castle both have evidence of rubbing and incising. It was customary too to collect the grains of stone that were dislodge when incising with a stone and to mix it with the holy water and drink it. The water at Castlemagner is said to help with infertility and local tradition also suggests that women preparing for their wedding made a pilgrimage to the Blackwater sile in order to obtain a fertility blessing.

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Sile na gig, Ballyvourney

Some believe the carving at Ballyvourney is a figure of St Gobnait, and the sile at Castlemagner is often referred to as St Bridget. Is this a case of Christian saints taking over a much older tradition? All three siles are associated with healing, good fortune and fertility.

A digression and connection. Fascinating. I would welcome any thoughts.

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The magnificent Castle Blackwater

We were also very fortunate in being shown around the castle itself. So much still remains: curtain walls, lookout posts and the tower house itself is in a wonderful state of preservation. Adjoining it the substantial Medieval buildings were snazzied up in the 1820s in a flamboyant early Gothic style.

Sheila and her husband Patrick now rent out the castle for weddings, stag dos, private gatherings and corporate team building affairs. It is a shining example of how an ancient estate complete with unique historical buildings can thrive and prosper well into the 21Century. A huge amount of work but they seem to have got it just right.

Unravelling the Enigma by Barbara Freitag offers a detailed analysis of Sile na Gigs
Blackwater Castle has an excellent website including historical information.
Huge thanks to Sheila O Keefe who so kindly gave us an extensive and highly enjoyable tour of the well, the sile and the castle.
The location of this well can be found in the Gazeteer. The well is on private land and permission must be sought. Permission must also be obtained to see the sile.

St Peter & St Paul’s Holy Well, near Skibbereen

Browsing the Schools’ Folklore Collection as you do (if you haven’t you should – it’s a mine of information: duchás.ie)  I came across a hitherto unknown well just outside Skibbereen. It wasn’t listed in the Archaeological Inventory and I could find no reference to it anywhere else. It sounded fascinating though. This is what Seóirse O Donnabháin discovered about it in 1937:

St Peter and St Paul’s Holy Well

It is said that in Skibbereen and district are many blessed wells. There is a well in Castlelands out of which if you took water it would keep fresh a long while. People visit the well on the twenty ninth of June. Two holy eels are in the well and if you touch these eels you commit a bad act….. (0297:145/146)

Before Christmas, I sent an email to Terri Kearney at the Skibbereen Heritage Centre wondering if she had any information. No reply and I forgot about it until out of the blue came a phonecall. Not only had she found someone who remembered the well but he was prepared to take me there. I was advised that wellies would be essential.

An afternoon was arranged to meet Pat and off we went. Never in a million years would I have found this well.

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Dense undergrowth

We parked on a wide and newly made track then set off across boggy pasture, nipped under barbed wire, skidded down ditches, crept under mossy boughs, slipped and scrambled until we came to a halt in a little copse and there was the well.

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The well, a natural spring

Now it was just a large, muddy pool, a circular bank giving it some shape, with evidence of recent slippage in the banks. Apparently there had never been a wellhouse. The water was abundant and the ground very muddy, dense with with willows and a whitethorn above. Once this well had been the site of a large annual pilgrimage. Pat’s father used to recall how hundreds of people had visited in his day; and Pat himself could remember how at least thirty or forty people would gather when he was a boy. He was brought by his family every year on the feast day, and also most Sundays. The well is dedicated to St Peter and St Paul and the feast day is the 29th June, but Pat thought they visited on the 23rd June, St John’s Eve.

There was once a path, with steps cut into the land, but this has long since disappeared. People would bring bread with them for in the well resided two blessed eels. The bread given by the pilgrims was supposed to last the fish for the whole year. Should you see one of these eels it was of course exceptionally fortunate. Rounds were made around the well, the Rosary recited and clooties tied into the whitethorn. I was delighted to see one mossy ribbon still fluttering in the branches above the well.

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A mossy clootie still remained

Pat’s mother had once placed a statue of Our Lady here, now vanished in the undergrowth. Cures were attributed to the water and it was obviously a place once much revered as shown by Caoimhín O hEadhra’s entry in the Folklore Collection:

In Mr Carey’s land, about a mile and a quarter from Skibbereen, there is a Blessed Well. Pilgrims visit it annually on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, 29th June. Prayers are said during the rounds. In it there is a blessed eel and the pilgrims throw bread to him.  Hundreds of people go to this well on the 29th June every year. The people take a piece of bread or cloth with them usually. There are two blessed eels in this well; it is said that long ago a blind woman and a lame man were cured there. It is said you must see one of the eels before you can be cured. People take a piece of cloth with them to tie to the whitethorn bush which is growing up over the well. I have heard that six unbaptised children were buried in a mound of earth a couple of yards from the well. May the Lord have mercy on their souls. The water that flows from this well drops from a rock that is over the well; if a person looked up he could see the drops falling down. Why people take a piece of bread with them is because they say the eels will live on that much food in the year.( 0297: 143/144)

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The spirit of the well at work in this image

The well does seem to be marked on the early OS maps and is called Gortnaclohy Well, if I have located it correctly. Gortnaclohy means gort na cloiche, field of the stone building and the townland is named after it. Pat reckoned no one had been here for 20 years until a couple of years ago when Louise Nugent of Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland also tracked down the well – and Pat! He was much amused that I too should now be following in her footsteps. He thought only half a dozen of the older members of the community would even remember this place. Astonishing that such a potent spot could be so quickly forgotten.

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View from the copse

Pat also gave me a little more information about another well nearby – also known as an eel well. This turned out to be the well at Roaringwater Pier which I think can now officially be designated as holy!

Sincere thanks to Pat O Donovan for showing me this very special place. Thanks also to Terri Kearney  of Skibbereen Heritage Centre for introducing me to him.
The location of this well can be found in the Gazeteer. The well is on private land and permission must be sought.