The Rag Well Clonmel

The Rag Well  is a small well located in the townland of Knocklucas, on the southern outskirts of the town of Clonmel.  The well gives its name to the surrounding area which is generally referred to as the ‘ragwell’.  This is not a holy well   it is more of a wishing well  and there is a long tradition of people coming here and  tying rags to a white thorn tree beside the well  to make a wish .

Location map of the rag well taken from Bing Maps

Location map of the rag well taken from Bing Maps

While writing my last post on St Patricks well at Marlfield I came across some old photos of the Rag Well  in the National Library of Ireland online photographic database.  I became very curious about the well, its history,  if it had changed  or had been refurbished.

So last weekend I paid a visit to the site with my uncle Eddie who grew up in the  Old Bridge area of Clonmel town  and as a child visited the site.

 

The landscape of the site  at the end of the 19th- early 20th century

In 1841 John O’Donovan records that  the well  as being  known as Tobar na Gréine / the well of the sun.  Although he refers to it as a holy well, he makes no mention of pilgrimage or an association with a saint.  By the early 20th century the well was known as the Rag Well and  continues to be  known by this name  to this day.

The well is an underground stream which flows into a stone lined channel.  At the time the photo below was taken in the early 1900′s  the well was surrounded by a  low circular wall.  The enclosing wall was in poor condition and it looks like only the footings of the wall were visible when the photo was taken.

French, R., & Lawrence, W. (. M.. (18651914). Holy Well, Ragwell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000319096

French, R., & Lawrence, W. M.. (18651914). Holy Well, Ragwell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary (Taken from http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000319096

In the  photo the white thorn tree  beside the well is covered in rags.  The well looks directly across  at Slievenamon mountain and the mountain  is  was clearly visible in the photo above.  The modern tree coverage  is alot more  dense and the view is not as clear  but its still pretty  impressive.

French, R., & Lawrence, W. (. M.. (18651914). Slievenamon from Roguell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000331355

French, R., & Lawrence, W. (. M.. (18651914). Slievenamon from Roguell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000331355

A later photo,  of unknown date,  shows that the wall around the well had been rebuilt and the well  has remained unchanged to this day.

rag_well clonmel

The Rag Well photo taken some time in the 20th century ( image taken http://www.igp-web.com/tipperary/photos/oldphotos/index.htm)

The Rag well today

To get to the  Rag Well you head out of Clonmel along  the mountain road  and at  the first  junction,  on a sharp bend you take the  smaller road (see map above).   A short distance up this road you will see a small green gate that opens on to an old grassy laneway.

1-DSCF6615

Gateway leading to the path to the Rag Well

Go through the gate and the path to the well is on the right hand side  above the lane.  It is easy to miss the path  and you have to climb up to it.  The path consist of stone steps which are now  covered in leaves and dirt.  The steps  are  very slippy  so do take care climbing and if you are anyway unsteady on your feet id  give it a miss, I stumbled a few times on the way up and down.

1-DSCF6600

Stone steps leading to the Rag Well

The path is a little bit over grown in places but it will lead you to the well.  Like the path the well is neglected and  over grown.  In the older photos the well was surrounded by pasture but today the field  is covered in bracken and gorse.

1-DSCF6545

The Rag Well surrounded by bracken

The well is still surrounded by  the circular stone wall.  The wall is in a reasonable state of preservation but there are patches  in need of repair.  The well can be entered through a small opening in the south.  The interior is now very over grown,  although it is clear the interior hasn’t change since  French  photographed the well in the 1900′s see photo below. The water flows out from the ground into the stone channel which in turn flows out of the enclosure and heads down hill.

French, R., & Lawrence, W. (. M.. (18651914). Holy Well, Ragwell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000319095

French, R., & Lawrence, W. (. M.. (18651914). Holy Well, Ragwell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000319095

The rag tree which is a white thorn tree  is  covered in  ivy.   It looks like the ivy is choking the tree which is really sad given its history.  There  are still some rags on the tree which suggests some adventurous people still come here.

1-DSCF6570

The Rag Tree which gives the Rag Well its name.

As I said before this is not a not a holy well but a wishing well.   O’Connell in 1956  noted

There  until recently the young ladies used to tie  a bit of a rag around a branch of a tree, perhaps adding a prayer like ” Dear St Anne, send me a man….”

 

As a child my uncle was told the well was associated with the fairies and  he and his friends would tie rags to the tree to make wishes before heading off to the near by reservoir to go for a swim.

ragwell 2 Id love to hear from anyone who has any memories of the rag well  and I hope this post will encourage people to visit it so this magical place does not become forgotten.

1-DSCF6549

View of Slievenamon from the well today

References

French, R., & Lawrence, W. M.. (18651914). Holy Well, Ragwell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary . http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000319096

French, R., & Lawrence, W. (. M.. (18651914). Slievenamon from Roguell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000331355

French, R., & Lawrence, W. (. M.. (18651914). Holy Well, Ragwell Glen, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000319095

O’Connell, P 1956. ‘St Patrick’s well Clonmel, Co. Tipperary: an early Christian sanctuary of the decies. Phamplet . Clonmel: St Patrick’s Day Society.

O’ Flanagan, Rev. M. (Complier) 1929. Letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the county of Waterford collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1841. Bray: Typescript.

 

About these ads

2 comments on “The Rag Well Clonmel

  1. Brian C Phelan says:

    I visited the Rag Well many times c. 1950. Sad to see it so overgrown. My grandmother lived near by and drew water from the well. From your photos it looks very much changed from my recollection. I remember a very steep open field with the walled well in the centre and beside it the bush with the rags attached. My father said the old people had a phiseog about the fairies and getting a wish if you tied a piece of cloth to the bush. A souvenir program for the Irish Technical Congress, Clonmel, 1922 says, “The Ragwell is situated on the slopes of the hills to the south of the town towards the eastern extremity. Here, too, may be seen the relics of offerings made by devout believers in the miraculous waters”
    Ask your uncle Eddie, did he ever stand under the “Spout”.
    “in the vicinity of Old Bridge is situated the “Spout”, from which gushes a supply of ice-cold water even in the middle of summer. The Corporation has provided accommodation for those who wish to indulge in a refreshing bath” ibid

    • Brian its really the same the only difference is the vegetation growth which is very thick the field is very steep but the bracken lessens the effect, id say if a few sheep were in the field it would be back to pasture in no time. Thanks so much for the info thats brilliant it all helps flesh out what we know about it. i wonder given its location and view of Slievenaman was there some prehistoric activity here too. I will definitely ask my uncle about the spout is that the public baths? if so we plan to see if we can find them have some old photos too and the old spa well too in the coming weeks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s