St Sourney (Sairnait in Irish), is the patron saint of the holy well and medieval church at Drumacoo, Co Galway (Gwynn and Hadcock 1970, 34). Sourney was a holy woman who lived in Ireland during the sixth century, little is known about her life. She is also the patron of the small early medieval church of Teampall Asurnaí (St Sourney’s Church) at the village of Eochaill on Inismore. Tradition holds she also founded a monastery at Drumcoo during lifetime. Her feast day was celebrated on the 3rd May.
Saint Surney sent one of her servants to Island Eddy for a coal, the servant went and she got the coal from the woman of the house who put it into her pinafore and as she was coming home the coal burned ahole in her pinafore. The saint was vexed when she saw the hole and she cursed Island Eddy and she said that anyone would come from island Eddy to Arran with a dry feet and the sea came between Island Eddy and Arran and the people never come out without a boat. Saint Surney was a very holy woman and she never cursed until she cursed Island Eddy. A little girl always stayed with the saint till after her death. The saint used to pray for hours every day and every one knew she was a saint because she used to pray very often.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0033B, Page 03_004
The modern visitor to Drumcoo will find a multi-period church surrounded by a later historic graveyard.
The oldest part of Drumcoo church can be seen in the north wall and the west gable. The style of masonry and the flat lintel doorway (trabeate doorway) suggest the presence of a simple pre-Romanesque style stone church that was later modified.
The southern wall is later and dates to around the mid thirteenth century. This wall has a very fine pointed doorway with intricately carved features including the heads of a number of cats. The door is the work of a very skilled crafts person.
The beautiful S. door is one of the minor masterpieces of the Connacht Transitional style and seems, like the E. windows, to be the work of the Boyle-Cong-Knockmoy-Corcomroe school of masons.
(Killanin & Duigan 1967, 318).
The east gable of the church has two fine carved single-light windows, one of which was blocked up. On either side of the windows are finely carved pointed aumbry.
The holy well is located a short distance to the southwest of the medieval church. The well is enclosed by a circular stone wall.
A gap in the wall provided access into a circular area covered by gravel. The holy well sits at the centre, below ground level. Stone steps provide access to the stone lined interior of the well. When I visited the well it was dry.
Its was said that the wells water was an effective cure for a pain in the head. In the 1930’s those in search of healing would visit the holy well and devotions performed on two consecutive Mondays and the intervening Thursday.
If a person is subject to a constant headache he goes to this well for a cure. He goes to the well three times, on Monday,Thursday and the following Monday. Every time he visits the well he should leave something, if only a button, on a bank of earth which is raised beside the well. He says certain prayers at the well, then he brings a bottle of water from the well and washes his forehead with it every day.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0033B, Page 01_047
Fahey, J.A. 1893 (Reprint 1986) The history and antiquities of the diocese of Kilmacduagh. Galway. Kenny Gallery.
I just wanted to let you all know about the really interesting symposium on pilgrimage called ‘Spirituality, Resilience and Regeneration’ Pilgrimage routes of Europe and Japan thats taking place on Thu 19 & Fri 20 May, 2022. This free event can be attended online and tickets can be obtained from https://prilgrimage-routes-europe-japan.peatix.com/
All paper will be translated in to English, Japanese, Spanish (with simultaneous interpretation) so its a great chance to learn more about pilgrimage in other countries.
I will be presenting a paper on Day 1 of the symposium on Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland and the Tóchar Phádraig.
Symposium Day 1 will provide a historical overview and philosophical perspectives of Pilgrim routes in EU and Japan. Speakers will present and discuss routes in Japan (Shikoku Henro, Kumano Wakayama) and EU (Camino de Santiago, Spain, Famita Route Portugal, Tóchar Phadraig and Croagh Patrick, Ireland and more).
Symposium Day 2 Looks at sustainable long term relations between local communities and visitors along Pilgrimage Routes in Europe and Japan. Speakers from each country will present projects related to art, tourism, health, participatory politics, etc.
The symposium is organised by: Instituto Cervantes Tokio, Embassy of Ireland in Japan, Embassy of Portugal in Japan – Camões I.P. In Collaboration with Wakayama Prefecture, NPO InVisible, Turismo de Portugal, Akogi Village of Hidden Christians, Centro Nacional de Cultura, NPO Network for Shikoku Henro Pilgrimage and Hospitality, Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau.
Doon holy well is one of the most popular wells in Co Donegal. The well
…..was established by a Lector O’Friel who is reputed to have lived in the Fahans area and had remarkable curative powers. When the locals asked him what they would do once he was gone from them, his answer was the creation of Doon Well. According to tradition, he was supposed to have fasted for 18 days and on each of these days he walked from Fahans to Doon a distance of some four miles. On the 18th day he blessed the well promising that if the people believed in the holy water then they would receive the same cures and blessings that he had imparted to them. According to local tradition it was a Fr. Gallagher in the 1880’s who blessed the well and he is still prayed for as part of the turas.
The schools collection record a similar origin story in the 1930s.
The well was founded by Father O’Friel about thirty years ago, and it was blessed by Father Gallagher. When any person goes to Doon well, they have to say one our father and one hail Mary for the intentions of these priests. It was people named Gallagher’s who put the shelter around it. When we go to Doon well, we have to go to the people that are in charge of it and get a penny ticket from which to say the prayers.
Doon well is situated in the front yard of a farm house. The holy well is covered by a small stone walled rectangular structure, with a large flat flagstone roof. The area around the well is paved and a series of steps provide access to the interior of the well. The well and its surrounding are very well maintained.
There are two small rag trees beside the well. The trees are covered in a wide variety of offerings left by pilgrims. The offerings include religious medal, hair ties, rosary beads, religious statues and scapula. The volume of offerings show how popular the spot is still with pilgrims.
Doon holy well it is a living landscapes ever evolving. Its current vista was created in the early 2000s. This photo essay uses images of Doon holy well from the photographic collections in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) and the National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) to show how the well has changed over time and to provide a glimpse of how pilgrims experienced Doon well over a 100 years ago.
At the turn of the twentieth century the well was located in an open marshy landscape.
Doon well is situated in the parish of Kilmacrenan. It is situated in a green field by the roadside. It is a hilly rocky place, and there are a lot of hills and rocks around it. There is white and purple heather growing on the rocks, and people when they go to the well, go in search of the White heather, as it is very scarce around our district.
The well was originally an open natural spring. It was covered with stones to keep the waters clean some time in the 1800’s.
It is a long time since the well was first sheltered by stones which are built around it to keep the water clean and a large flat stone known as a flag was placed on top.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1083, Page 036
A photo of two women praying at the well from circa 1870-1890 shows the well covered by a collection of large stones stacked on top of each other.
Another early image of the well also in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) collections shows the well in a similar state. The photo show an elderly woman crouch in prayer beside the well. The woman’s expression is incredibly soulful and haunting.
In later images the well has a more formal covering, with a large flat flag stone used as a roof. A photo was taken by Robert French in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century and shows the well surrounded by low wall on three sides covered with a large flat flag stone. The walls are made up by irregular shaped stones of different sizes. The area surrounding the well is without grass pointing to continuous traffic of pilgrims, who made “rounds” of the well.
A photo in the NMNI collections, from the 1930s shows additional changes to the well superstructure. In the photo the superstructure has been extended and a second flat stone used as part of the roofing of the well.
Modern visitors may be surprised that the rag tree beside the well are a more recent addition to the landscape. In times past the well was surrounded by crutches and sticks covered in bandages and cloths. Rags were also tied to bushes close to the well.
In the past it was common for pilgrims who believed they had been healed to leave behind their crutches and bandages and rags at the the well. Interestingly when I visited Doon well in 2016 there were 2 crutches left at the rag trees.
A boy from the Ross’as was cured at Doon well. He was lying for seven years before that. It was his aunt that took him to Doon well at first. The first thing that a person notices at Doon well are the two new crutches that he left behind him when he was cured.
Lots of people were cured at that well. Crippled people used to come with crutches to the well and walk home without them, cured.
Along with reciting set prayers, pilgrims in search of healing washed their limbs in the wells waters.
The people drink it and wash the affected parts with it. They also take bottles of water home with them. You have to wash your feet in moss water and lift the water while still on the bare feet.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1085, Page 126-7.
The tradition of leaving behind offerings at the well is a long standing tradition. In the 1930s pilgrims left handkerchiefs and strips of cloth along with religious medals (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1085, Page 126 (Woodland, Co. Donegal).
It is the custom always to leave something behind you at the well, some leave a hanky, others leave little things belonging to themselves. People take the water home with them from Doon Well.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1076, Page 431
Doon holy well is visited throughout the year. Two main vigils are held here, one on New Year’s Eve and the other on May Eve.
People go to Doon well on St Swithin’s day, St Patricks day, and Easter Sunday. They very often go on any week day, but usually on a Saturday or a Sunday.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1084, Page 036
A plaque at the well details the prayers made by modern pilgrims. Modern pilgrims say five Our Father and Hail Mary and the Apostles Creed for their intention. These prayers are repeated if the pilgrim decides to take water from the well. Pilgrims also say an Our Father and Hail Mary for Father O’Friel and also an Our Father and Hail Mary for Father Gallagher who blessed the well. An additional Our Father and Hail Mary is recited for the person who put the shelter around the well. Pilgrims throughout the decades have made their prayers in their barefeet while walking in circles around the well.
There are many photos from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with pilgrims making their prayer and barefoot at the well.
In the 1930s the pilgrim rituals are described as follows
To make a pilgrimage correctly one has to fasting and when he comes in sight of the well their shoes must be taken off as it is believed the ground is blessed. He washes his feet in the water, which is to be got all around. Then the prayers are proceeded with Five Our Fathers, Give Hail Mary’s, and Five Glorias in honour of Father O Gallagher and Father O Friel, and the same for the person who sheltered the Holy Well. Also a creed for every bottle of Holy water lifted.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 1083, Page 036
I hope this post inspires some of you to visit Doon well, its such an interesting place. Its also located close to Doon Rock the former inauguration site of the O’Donnells. The Voices from the Dawn blog has a very interesting blog post on the Rock of Doon.
Its been a while since I added to my series of blog post on the Irish saints and their miraculous animals. This post tells the tale of St Sourney.
St Sourney (Sairnait in Irish), is the patron saint of the holy well and medieval church at Drumacoo, Co Galway. Sourney was a holy woman who lived in Ireland during the sixth century, little is known about her life. She is also the patron of the small early medieval church of Teampall Asurnaí (St Sourney’s Church) at the village of Eochaill on Inismore. Tradition recalls she also founded a monastery at Drumcoo during lifetime. Her feast day was celebrated on the 3rd May.
Folklore recorded in the 1930’s in the schools essays from Ballinderreen Co Galway tells the following tale relating to St Sourney and a pig. The tale showcases the saint’s ability to miraculously bring an animal in this case a pig back to life after the animal had been eaten. Regeneration of special animals, even after they had been butchered and eaten, through the prayers of a saint, is a common theme in the folklore connected to the Irish saints. In this case the saint hoped to collect all the bones from a pig that had been eaten and to put it back together again. The saint’s plan for the pig was foiled by a dog who ate one of the bones from the animal. In anger the saint cursed the people of Drumcoo so that pig or a hound would never live together in Drumacoo.
It seemed Saint Surney ran short of meat one day and she told the girl to kill a pig and so she did. When they had the pig eaten she told the girl to collect all the bones so that she would put the pig together again, she kept a hound and hound ate one of the joints of the tail and the people say that is why every pig has a curl in his tail. Saint Surney was vexed then and she said that a pig or a hound would never live together in Drumacoo and they say for a fact they would not live together either in Drumacoo.
Many years ago I came across an intriguing antiquarian account of a miraculous stone from Co Clare, known as the Tomfinlough Plague Stone.
The plague stone is located at the ruins of Fenloe/Tomfinlough church (townland of Finlough/Tuaim Fhionnlocha) and historic graveyard in east Co Clare, n a scenic location overlooking Fenloe lake. Folklore records the lake was once home to a mermaid.
Long ago the mermaid used to be seen in Fenloe Lake and she combing her hair with a golden comb. In summer time. All the people used to see her.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0599, Page 244
Fenloe church is located at the site of an early medieval monastery which was founded in the sixth century by St. Luchtighern. The Dictionary of Irish Saints tells us the saint belonged to the Tradraighe tribe, whose lands ‘were almost co-extensive with the barony of Bunratty’. The saint’s feast was traditionally commemorated on the 28th April.
Eugene Curry who visited Fenloe in 1839, noted there was no patron saint within the parish but Luchtighern’s memory seems to have been revived at a later date and by the 1930s the saint was mentioned by name in the schools essay.
Little is known of the history of the early medieval monastery, except for a handful of entries that are to be found in the Irish annals from the late tenth and eleventh century. For example, the Annals of the Four Masters recorded the death of the abbot of Fenloe monastery in A.D 944:
By the twelfth century Tomfinlough had become a parish church. Apart from some masonry in the present church, no trace of the early monastery can be seen above ground today.
The current church is a multi-period building with
evidence of building and refurbishment over three separate phases. Large blocks of masonry around the door area represent the earliest phase, and may date to between the tenth and the twelfth century. During the Anglo-Norman occupation of this area in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, the church was restored and some fine cut sandstone windows were inserted into the south wall and east gable….Finally, in the fifteenth century, the triple light east window was blocked up and a double light trefoil-pointed limestone window was inserted. The doorway was also inserted in the fifteenth century. A buttress has been erected against the southeast corner to support the leaning east gable.
Rian na Manach p 49
Today the church is in poor conditions. The walls are covered in thick ivy that obscures much of the surviving windows and other features. The north wall of the church fell in 1907 and the east gable was blown down by strong winds in January 2007.
The church is surrounded by a rectangular graveyard. The north and west walls are quite tall and were formerly boundaries to gardens connected with nearby Fenloe house. Curry, when he visited here in 1839 noted the remains of a second church built into the garden wall.
About sixty yards south from the east angle of the Church and included in a kitchen garden wall, is a pieces of a wall nine feet high and twelve feet three inches long, finished at the extremities with large cut stones, like the angles of the gable of a house, and having a quadrangular doorway in the centre measuring four feet ten in height from the present level of the ground, one foot nine and a half inches in breadth at top and two feet two inches at bottom, covered by a lintel stone five feet long and ten inches thick, but what the condition or appearance of this piece of wall may be on the other side I was not able to ascertain as it forms part of the wall of a gentleman’s kitchen garden, to which I could not at the time gain access.
O’Donovan & Curry p 201
Curry recorded and illustrated three carved head sitting over the lintel in the door described in the wall.
Over the doorway are placed three heads (human), sculptured in stone…
O’Donovan & Curry p 201
Westropp in 1910-13 provides a second account and drawing of the door and heads.
During my visit I didn’t see any further indications of the ancient building. The medieval heads described by Curry are still present but no longer sit over the lintel door, suggesting the wall must have been rebuilt since Westropp’s visit.
The three carved heads are be found in the south-east corner of the graveyard, built in a line into the upper course of the wall. All three heads are medieval in date. The central head is the best preserved and is carved from limestone; two weathered sandstone heads sit on either side of it.
The Plague Stone
A carved stone as the ‘plague stone’ is located on the exterior of the west wall of the graveyard and is accessed by a stile in the wall. The stile incorporates a coffin rest. Clare historian Michael Houlihan defines these interesting features as follows
These rests are sections of the cemetery wall that are slightly lower than the parapet, with a reasonably wide and level section about a metre in length, fashioned to allow a coffin to rest without disturbance. These remaining rests usually have one or two stiles or stepping stones on either side to allow the bearers to enter with the coffin.
The plague stone is a little difficult to find. When you climb over the stile, head south towards the holy well and the road, and you will see the stone set in the lower course of the graveyard wall. It comprises a large block of stone that is slightly lighter in colour then the rest of the wall. Two circular projections are to be found at the top of the stone: the southern-most example was depicted in the early 1900’s as having a simple Latin cross carved in its centre (Westropp 2003, 93).
Folklore connected with Fenloe tells of a mysterious plague which was ravaging the country. The abbot of Fenloe cured the first local person who contracted the disease and banished the plague into a large stone, which became known thereafter as the plague stone. Variations of this tale are found in the schools collection and there was a reference to people visiting the stone to obtain healing. The oldest known account of it is to be found in the Ordnance Survey Letters of 1839 outlined below
Long ago a great plague raged all over Ireland and the people were dying in thousands from it every day. It made its appearance in large lumps or boils on the head and no medieval or surgical skill was found to prevail against it. It first broke out in the north of Ireland and soon extended its ravages to the other parts of the Island. When the old Priests of Toomfenlough had heard of its near approach to that part of the Country, he called his flock together, exhorted them to make their souls and requested that the first person in his Parish who should be afflicted with the disease would come to him without a moment’s delay.
In a day or two afterwards as he with two other ecclesiastics of his establishment were making lay in the little meadow near the Church, he had caught the plague and begging of him to come near her. He ran forward the plague then was; she pointed at once to two large lumps and dashed them against the stone, upon which one of them broke and its contents escaped, while the other one remained unbroken. (The broken on is represented on the stone by the figure of the inverted saucer, and the unbroken one by the other figure). The woman was cured immediately of her distemper and after returning many thanks and prayers to the good old Priest set off about her business
O’Donovan & Curry , p203.
The schools essay from Ballycar, Co. Clare note that the stone was visited by people suffering from swollen joints, who would rub the effected limb against the stone making the sign of the Cross.
There are two round prints on the stone. When the people go to visit Fenloe well on the 28th of April, they go to this stone and rub their legs against it three times, blessing themselves at the same time. There was a stone near the well in Fenloe called the Cholera stone and if any person had a sore leg and rubbed it to the stone the person would be cured.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0598, Page 463
The school essays for Newmarket records similar healing properties for the stone.
There is a large partly oval stone forming the corner stone of the boundary wall of Fenloe Burial ground Newmarket-on-Fergus Co Clare. There are marks on the stone – one is a misshapen cross, and the shape of a large circle can be traced on the margin of the stone. People that do the pilgrimage to The Blessed Well of St Lutigern quite convenient, never neglect visiting the stone, and rub their legs to the stone making the Sign of the Cross with them whilst doing so. It is said that when St Lutigern lived, the cholera was very brief in Newmarket and surrounding districts. People came to the Saint to be cured. There were so many people afflicted by the disease, and St Lutigern was so occupied ministering to them, that he blessed this large stone and ordered all people afflicted with the cholera to rub their legs to the stone, making the sign of the Cross on it with them, whilst doing so. People possessed of the proper Faith were always effectually cured. At the present day people affected with swollen joints believe that by rubbing them to the stone and making the sign of the Cross with the injured joint that the swelling will disappear. Some people attach a symbolic meaning to the markings on the stone. They say that the circle indicates eternity and that the Cross signifies Salvation.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0599, Page 213
The schools essays for Stonehall Co Clare tell a different story.
Here also is a ‘plague-stone’. Sufferers from the Cholera touched this stone and were cured. One day a cholera victim was digging his grave in the churchyard. A stranger came in and questioned him. The man told the stranger he was digging his own grave as he expected to die from the disease. The stranger pounced upon him and removed two pieces of his flesh which he threw against a stone in the wall. He then told the man to touch the stone. He did so and was cured.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0599, Page 316-317
Folklore relating to the three medieval stone heads
The medieval heads mentioned above also have a rich folklore connected to them.
Near the south-east corner of the graveyard there are three stone heads on the boundary wall and their story is connected with that of the plague stone. The story goes that there were three on lookers at the incident of the miraculous cure and one of them was very sceptical. The abbot had three heads carved and mounted over the church door. He placed the head representing the unbeliever in the middle, saying it would gradually yield to the elements while the other two heads would forever remain unaffected by weather
Another story from the schools essays from Ballycar
There is a story told about the images of three priests which are to be seen on the boundary wall opposite to that of the cholera stone. The three images are side by side. he centre image represents a martyr of the faith. The image on the right is a repentant martyr and the other one is a traitor which is effaced.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0599, Page 294-295
Fenloe holy well
Another interesting feature at the site is a holy well at the roadside near the edge of the graveyard. The well sits within a small rectangular area enclosed by a low stone wall and it is covered by well-house which incorporate statue niche and gravestone. A series of steps lead down to a water-filled rectangular recess.
The well house was restored and rebuilt in 1959 by Michael McInerney and Ala Conlon.
A medieval stone mortar, which has been incorrectly described as a bullaun stone, sits on the wall above the well. recess. Mortars were used with a pestle for grinding food and herbs for cooking or medicines. A similar mortar dated to the 13th century is part of Museum of London catalogue.
Rounds were performed at the well in the 1930s on St Luchtigern’s feast day and offerings left at the well to this day show it is still visited by pilgrims.
pilgrimage is made on April 28th. Five decades of the Rosary are recited. Pictures, medals, crucifixes are left at the shrine, and rags and pieces of cord [?] are attached to a bush nearby. The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0599, Page 316
The waters from St Luchtigern’s well was said to have curative power and was especially favoured for a cure for sore eyes (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0598, Page 463)
The second saint is St Modomnoc a hermit who founded a monastery here in the sixth century. The former monastery is said to be located at the ruins of the medieval church of Tybroughney.
Tybroughney church is located close to the site of a medieval castle and the main Waterford-Clonmel railway line. You have to cross a field to get to the church and graveyard. A fine stone gateway into the field has a plaque on commemorating St Modomoc,
Tybroughney Graveyard and Church in Ruin. 6th century monastery of St Modomnoc who brought the first bees to Ireland.
Like St Gobnait,St Modomnochas a strong connection with bee keeping and bees.
The patron saint of Tybroughney is St Modhomhnoc. He is said to have been the first to introduce bees into Ireland. During his sojourn with St David, in Menevia, he had charge of the bees of the monastery, and attended them with the greatest care, so much that they were fruitful of honey in his hands. When he was returning thence to Ireland, and had biddin farewell to the holy abbot and monks, and had entered the coracle, to set sail, the bees, forming a large swarm came and settled in the boat along with him. Modhomhnoc, unwilling to the monastery of this treasure, brought them back to their hive. A second time, however, as he again entered the boat, they followed him, and, when he again brought them back, they repeated the same a third time. St David hearing this told him to bring the bees with him to Erin
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0843, Page 345
The church is found beside railway gates. It is difficult to examine the church and surrounding graveyard as it is very overgrown. The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map dating to the 1840s, shows the church as a rectangular building while the later 25″map shows it as a nave and chancel church.
The Ordnance Survey Letters of Kilkenny 1839 described the church
The ruins of the church of Tiobtrait Fachtna (Note added: Tybroughney) stand in the Townland of that name and consist of Nave and Choir, the former 50 feet 8 inches by 30 feet 10 inches, the Choir 28 feet 9 inches by 18 feet 10 inches. The northern half of the west gable remains to about the height of 20 feet and half the north wall attached to it about 14 feet high, south wall and middle gable level with the ground…..The walls of the Nave are built of middle sized limestown and mortar, 2 1/2 feet think and not older I should think the 16th century, but the wall of the Choir are built of very large well formed, tho irregularly laid blocks of granite, and 3 feet 2 inches thick, very much resembling the wall of the Church of Kilcroney near Bray, in the County Wicklow.
(Herity 2003, 155).
Manning (2012, 154) describes the church as a medium-sized with antae. The west gable is still upstanding but it is very hard to say much else about the church.
Part of the graveyard that surrounds the church was destroyed in 1851 when the by railway line was built. This event was clearly remember decades later locally. The Schools Collection for Piltown School,
The railway line now runs through this old graveyard. It was constructed in 1851. When it was being made the workmen came upon a large number of human skeletons. The skeletons lay along under the surface in single file and were so close together that there were no coffins used in their interment. This shows there was an ancient monastery here or if not it was the resting place of warriors slain in some local battle.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0842, Page 288
The holy well which gives its name to the townland is located on the other side of the railroad tracks in scrub. I didn’t have time to search for the well on my visit here but will hopefull get back there soon. In the early nineteenth century a pattern day was held here on the13th February (Herity 2003, 157).
The Tybroughney pillar stone sits beside the church ruins, on a small patch of ground defined by low curbing. This area also contains a plain undercoated stone with an oval shaped hollow and seems to be font. There is also a rectangular stone covered in moss.
The pillar stone is decorated on all four sides with very elaborate and unusual carvings. The top of the stone appear to have been damaged in antiquity. Unfortunately my photos don’t do justice to the carving on the pillars but at different times of the day the light does brings out many of its details.
The east face face of the pillar decorated with an elaborate pattern of spirals. The pattern brings to mind spiral designs on one of the carpet pages in the beautiful Book of Durrow.
Similar spiral patterns also appear on the nearby early medieval high crosses at Ahenny Co Tipperary and Kilkieran Co Kilkenny.
The pillar was drawn in 1908 by Henry Crawford for his article ‘Description of a Carved Stone at Tybroughney, Co. Kilkenny.’ The pillar was also photographed by Helen Role for the book The High Crosses of Western Ossory.
The west face of the Tybroughney pillar has a large creature possible a centaur – a half man and half horse- holding an axe in both its hands. A centaur ‘ by his dual nature was held to symbolise the conflict between Good and Evil’ ( Roe 1962, 33).
Two smaller creatures stand above the main figure, one is a lion and the other is whippet like creature.
The southern side of the pillar closest to the railway tracks, his two mythical creatures. The lower figure is a manticora – the body of a lion and the head of a man- above the manticore is a ‘whippet-like creature’ ( Roe 1962, 33).
This may possibly be the Hyaena of the Bestiary, which scavenges in burial places and consequently was taken as a symbol of the Devil who battens the flesh of sinners.
(Roe 1962, 33)
The north face of the pillar has two figures, a stag and a lion. The stag ‘has various association, chief of which is as a symbol of Christ and his victory over Satan’ (Roe 1962, 33).
I really think this pillar would be a great candidate for photogrammetry. I hope to pay another visit here again soon to see the holy well so will keep you posted.
Crawford, H. (1908). Description of a Carved Stone at Tybroughney, Co. Kilkenny. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland,38(3), fifth series, 270-277.
The medieval parish church and graveyard at Tullaghmelan is one of my favorite places to visit in south Tipperary. The name Tullaghmelan means the hillock of Maolán. Tradition holds that Maolán was a saint who had founded a church here in the early medieval period.
There is no visible early medieval features sat the site although a pronounced curve in the road that borders the graveyard may perhaps preserve an earlier enclosure.
The church is listed in a dispute between the Archbishop of Cashel and the Bishop of Lismore in 1260. In 1302-1306 it is recorded in the ecclesiastical taxation records of the diocese of Lismore (CPL; CDI).
At first glance Tullaghmelan is a typical medieval parish church a with rectangular plan, surrounded by a historic graveyard.
This lovely place is anything but ordinary. The graveyard is filled with some extraordinary eighteenth and early nineteenth century gravestones.
The east gable has largely collapsed and a number of mature trees are growing out of the wall. The west gable is still standing and still retains a central ogee-headed window, now in very poor condition. I’m not sure how much longer the window will survive as the surrounding wall is very damaged.
The church fabric is built of roughly coursed limestone and sandstone rubble (Farrelly 2014). It is hard to examine the fabric of the church as it is covered with think ivy. The church is entered by two opposing doorways in the north and south walls. Opposing doorways are also found at the nearby medieval parish church at Newcastle and are a common feature in medieval churches.
Unfortunately much of the northern doorway had collapsed but the lower section of the door still preserves carved stones hidden under the ivy.
The door in the southern wall is in a much better state of preservation. The doorway is finely carved pointed doorway, with hood-moulding. Hood-moulding dates to between the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries and is a common architectural feature of later medieval buildings.
Sitting above the doorway is a carving of a medieval bishop’s head.
The head is elongated with a pointed chin and small lug ears. It is held up be a long narrow neck. On top of the head is a type of head dress/hat worn by a bishop called a mitre.
The bishops face is badly weathered. It is still possible to see the almond-shaped eyes of the face. In the right light you can still just about make out the nose and mouth. The mitre has a conical in shape, with three vertical ridges running to the point at the top. There is a thick band with a herring-bone pattern, running around the base of the hat.
The head was recorded by Gary Dempsey of Digital Heritage Age. Gary produced a in a 3D photogrammetery model which can be view on sketchfab with the Tipperary3D page.
Portrait heads like the Tullaghmealan bishop are found at other ecclesiastical sites in Ireland. The parish church of St. Molleran in Carrick-on-Suir was built in the nineteenth century on the site of a Franciscan Friary. The building, incorporates the tower, part of the north wall and west doorway of the original friary church. The west gable retains fourteenth century pointed doorway. The head of a bishop wearing a conical mitre is carved in the column on the north side of the door.
Two carved heads of bishop’s heads are found in at medieval ecclesiastical site at Kilfenora Co Clare. One of the heads, a stern looking figure, sits above a pointed door way in the west end of the southern wall of what was the nave of the cathedral church. The door leads into a porch where there are three effigial tombstones also depicting bishops and clerics.
The second carved head is found in the north wall of the cathedral chancel. The head sits above a sedilia with a very elaborate tracery design.
Another medieval carved head of a bishop is found at the cathedral church of Kilmacduagh, Co Galway. The carving is very similar to the head over the sedila at Kilfenora, perhaps the two stones were carved by the same mason. The Kilmacduagh head sits over a finely carved pointed doorway in the south wall of nave of the cathedral church.
A large effigy of a bishop is found in the wall of the presbytery in the church at Corcomroe Cistercian monastery, Co Clare. The figure is built in the wall above the tomb of Conor na Siudaine O’Brien, King of Munster (d. 1267).
At Ennis Friary, Co Clare, a finely carved head of bishop forms a corbel/supports of the central tower in the church. According to the Monastic Ireland website
Images of bishops, abbots and archbishops in this location are often intended to depict the prelate who presided over building works. The presence of flanking angels suggests that the individual in question was deceased at the time of carving.
A carved head of a bishop also graces one of the corbels on the wall of the church at Holycross Abbey in Co Tipperary.
Its very interesting that all of the examples of portrait carvings of bishops listed above are found at monastic and cathedral churches. Tullaghmealan was not a particularly wealthy parish church. Perhaps it enjoyed a wealthy patron at the time the carved stone and doorway were made.
The Tullaghmelan bishop was drawing by George Du Noyer in the 1800s. He wrote the following about the stone
This drawing is offered as a characteristic example of the doorways of most of our old churches, which are so plentifully scattered over the eastern and south-eastern portions of Ireland. It is taken from the old church of Tullaghmelan, near Knocklofty, Co. Tipperary; the arch is of the depressed pointed form, the drip-moulding very prominent and broad; the entire door-head consists of only six stones, viz., two for the principal arch, and four for the drip moulding surmounting it. At the apex of the arch is a somewhat rude representation of the head of a bishop, crowned with a mitre of an exceedingly old form, and which was most generally in use during the twelfth century. The mitre looks as if formed of an external framework of metal, the ribs of which stood prominently out, and within which was the cap or head covering. The helmets most commonly in use in England, as well as on the Continent, during the thirteenth century, as we find in Stoddart’s “Vetusta Monumenta,” and from the Painted Chamber at Westminster, were constructed on this principle; the framework is mostly coloured yellow, as if to re present brass or metal, the intervening spaces being red or purple, as if to indicate the inner cap, called by the Romans “cudo” or ” galerus,” of dyed leather, cloth, or felt. I should not be surprised if on research we found that many of the mitres of our medieval ecclesiastics were constructed on precisely this principle.
Du Noyer 1857, 312-313;
The carving is also mentioned in the Ordnance Survey Letters where it is noted that the head is ‘supposed to represent ‘Maolan, Eapscop. [Bishop] 25 Dec‘ (O’Flanagan 1930, vol.1, 26).
I am by no means an expert of medieval building or architecture but I find it odd that the Tullaghmelan bishop is carved onto a flat stone (the back of the stone is visible in the interior wall). I would have expected the stone should have more of a wedge shaped if designed to be as an architectural feature. This makes me wonder if it could be a recycled fragment of a sepulchral effigy. I am struct by the similarity between this carving and one of the graveslabs at St. Fachtna’s Cathedral, at Kilfenora. The top of the stone also looks broken. I wonder if the carving could be a recycled graveslab? I really think this bishop requires further study.
Unfortunately the church building and the door have deteriorated structurally since my last visit and I worry that without some sort of intervention, the door and other parts of the church will collapse in the coming years. At the moment the ivy is holding the structure together. Sadly this is a common problem for medieval building across the country. I hate the thought of the bishop over the door not being there greet visitors to the graveyard into the future.
Du Noyer, George V. “Description of Drawings of Irish Antiquities Presented by Him (Continued).” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (1836-1869), vol. 7, 1857, pp. 302–316. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20489878. Accessed 3 May 2021.
Hunt, J. 1974 Irish medieval figure sculpture 1200-1600, 2 vols. Dublin. Irish University Press.
Nugent, L. ‘A note on medieval figure sculpture at the medieval parish church of Tullaghmelan, Co Tipperary’ Decies 68, 17-23.
O’ Flanagan, Rev. M. (Compiler) 1930. Letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the county of Tipperary collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1840. Bray.
I have always had a great interest in folklore and folk customs, so I was delighted to get a copy of the newly published Irish Customs and Rituals published by Orpen Press for my Christmas reading.
This is a wonderful book that details the rituals and customs carried out by past generations living in Ireland. Its a perfect book to dip in and out of or read cover to cover as I did with a pot of tea in front of the fire. I’m delighted that the book’s author Marion McGarry has agreed to share her knowledge relating to Irish Christmas traditions and has kindly answered a series of questions about how our ancestors in past generations celebrated Christmas. I hope you find this interview as interesting and informative as I do.
Marion, many congratulations on this wonderful book. How did you first become interested in Irish customs and traditions?
Thanks Louise. I grew up with some of these customs and rituals, and was aware of many more of them. But I became really interested in them when I was writing the book The Irish Cottage: History, Culture and Design. In parts of that book I discussed the house as a space to be safeguarded from supernatural activity and where rituals were performed at specific times of the year. The research for Irish Customs and Rituals really expands that and looks at common calendar customs, rituals of daily life and beliefs of important life occasions such as births, marriages and deaths, all from the 19th to mid twentieth century.
What also drove me on was the realisation that many people are not aware of these customs, but there is a huge interest there. And I thought that a well-researched but readable book would inform and entertain people.
As Christmas is almost upon can you tell us what a typical Irish Christmas was like? How did people in the past prepared for and celebrate Christmas?
Advent was a time of great preparation for Christmas in Ireland. First of all, people would go and do a massive spring clean of their house, and any outhouses, barns and so on. Inside and out would be pulled apart, tidied and given a fresh coat of whitewash. WE see this big spring clean is a feature of many Irish festivals, people cleaned their homes in advance of St Brigid’s day, and Halloween, too. Fuel was stockpiled. Decorations of holly and ivy were foraged and brought back home and used to decorate the house (and even the animals barns). This was the children’s’ job, and supplemented with their own handmade decorations. The Christmas tree usually comprised of a branch from a Christmas tree potted up, so that it was considerably smaller than what were used to today. This approach to decorating is much more sustainable, too. So was the approach to food – most things on the Christmas dinner menu in rural Ireland was grown or raised by the person eating it, and if not it came from the local community, goose, bacon, potatoes, winter vegetables.
Like all Irish festivals the big celebration started on sunset on the eve of the festival day, so on Christmas Eve in Ireland past candles were lit in windows (in a ritual manner, either by the youngest child or the mother of the house). This was to be a sign to show the Holy Family they were welcome to the house, as they sought an inn. Also, on Christmas Eve night, the door was left unlocked so the dead could return to the household, this custom was practised by many on Halloween for example. Greenery was placed on graves, too, over Christmas to remember the dead.
What are the main changes in how we celebrate Christmas today from how out grandparents would have celebrated it?
When I was growing up, I would hear my grandparents and people of their generation saying ‘sure its Christmas every day now’ as if to say that people had it good all the time. Christmas was a time for a bit of indulgence for people who had otherwise frugal lives. Decent food, sweet cake, a bottle or two of porter, a respite from work and a chance to wear the good clothes were all welcome diversions of a festival celebrated at a dark and cold time of the year. Today we can do these things any evening of the week. To people of my grandparent’s generation, luxuries, even small ones, were a huge novelty and you can imagine that Christmas was keenly anticipated. And they had a much humbler Christmas than we do today.
Nollaig na mBan or women’s Christmas is a very Irish tradition that has been embraced by Irish women in recent years, can you tell me us more about this tradition?
Occurring on 6th January (the Epiphany), there is an old tradition in certain parts of the country (mainly Munster) that it’s a day off for women. Roles are meant to be reversed, so the men have to do the housework while the women get a chance to socialise with their female friends, usually to have tea and cake. Death divination customs were practised on this day, where candles are lit and named for family members – the idea is that the candles burning out indicated the order in which death will occur.
Many people in modern Ireland will travel to ancient sites aligned with the winter sun for the solstice such as Knockroe and Newgrange passage tombs. Have you come across any customs relating to the winter solstice in the course of your research?
Not specifically. As most Irish calendar customs were appropriated by the Christian religion (a good example is Imbolc which became St Brigid’s day) one can imagine that whatever midwinter celebrations on 21st that occurred migrated across to December 25th. What’s interesting is that there are older non Christian (perhaps even ancient) customssurviving in there, the celebrations starting on the eve before, the spring clean, the death divination rituals, the appearance of wren boys on Stephen’s Day, the remembrance of the dead.
Marion this is a wonderful read and would make a great Christmas gift for anyone interested in Irish folklore and traditions.
Delighted you liked it Louise, it would make a great birthday gift too! The e-book is coming out soon which will make it even more accessible for readers and researchers.
Both The Irish Cottage: History, Culture and Design and The Irish Cottage: History, Culture and Design can both be purchased from Orpen Press and Irish bookshops
Over the last few years, I’ve visited alot of holy wells all over around Ireland. St Ailbe’s holy well in the village of Emly Co Tipperary is one of the most interesting.
The village of Emly can trace its origins back to a monastery founded by the Pre-Patrican saint known as Ailbe. The saint’s death is recorded for the year 528 in the Irish annals.
Repose of Ailbe of Imlech Ibuir
The Annals of Ulster 528
His monastery known as Imleach Iubhair ‘the lakeside at a yew tree’ went on to become one of the most important ecclesiastical sites in Munster and in later centuries Emly became a Diocesan centre.
The ecclesiastical site was located at the modern Catholic church and graveyard. Unfortunately little of the early or medieval ecclesiastical remains have survived.
The annals provide some insight into what Emly would have looked like. In 1058 the great stone church (daimhliag) and the round tower (cloictheach) were burnt.
Imleach-Ibhair was totally burned, both Daimhliag and Cloictheach.
Annals of the Four Masters 1058
A circular enclosure surrounded the main ecclesiastical buildings. The outline of the enclosure is still preserved in the modern road and field pattern surrounding the catholic church (Farrelly 2014).
Further traces of the medieval past survive in architectural fragments incorporated into the modern graveyard wall. A stone plaque close to the main entrance to the graveyard and church which bears the inscription
LOCVS IN QVEM INTRAS TERRA SANCTA EST 1641 R. IONES PCENT
The inscription roughly translates as ‘The place wherein you enter is holy ground’ (Farrelly 2014 after pers. comm. Gerard Crotty).
A medieval stoup, ‘consisting of bowl, shaft and base, composed of a conglomeration of sandstone, granite and quartz’ sits at the east door to the modern church (Farrelly 2014).
The wall to the right of the entrance to the east end of the church incorporates two carved heads from the former medieval cathedral, along with the base of a medieval graveslab. All date to the 13th/14th-century (Farrelly 2014).
St Ailbe’s holy well can be found in the north-eastern corner of the graveyard. It was probably used as a water source for the religious community. In 1898 the well supplied the surrounding village with water.
St Ailbe’s well is a very deep spring found at the base of 5m deep circular dry-stone lined shaft (internal diameter of 1.2m). The Ordnance Survey Letter for County Tipperary written in the 1840’s suggests the well was 7m deep. The upper section of the shaft was replaced in the nineteenth century by a cut limestone surround. Accounts from the late 1890s recall that a railing surrounded the well.
During the twentieth century the top of the well was covered by low concrete capping, incorporating a metal door/hatch. Today hatch provides a view into the interior of the well.
Due to the depth of the well a torch is required to see the interior in any detail . At the base of the well you can still see the water.
According to folklore the well was formed when
St. Ailbe jumped from the top of the hill of Knockcarron to where the well stands now and that is what caused the well to be there.
Archival Reference The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0580, Page 013
The well is still visited by local people throughout the year but rounds are no longer performed.
I have not come across any medieval references to pilgrimage at the well. Rounds were performed by pilgrims up to the middle of the twentieth century. Local folk memory recalls that a pattern day was held at the well on the 12th of September, the feast of St Ailbe.
Local memory and historical sources suggest that in the past the pilgrimage rituals were focused on the holy well and an early medieval cross, known as St Ailbe’s Cross. The cross is located a short distance from the well.
Tradition held that the cross marked the saints grave (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0580, Page 011). The cross is made of sandstone and has an imperforate ringed cross. A small stone sits on top of the cross.
In the past pilgrims traditionally visited the holy well on the feast day of St Ailbe or within the Octave of his feast day.
In the 1930’s, pilgrims began their prayers by saying five Our Fathers and Hail Marys at the holy well. They then recited three rosaries while walking around the graveyard. If the pilgrim visited on a day other than the feast they carried out the same prayers at the holy well but recited nine rosaries while walking clockwise around the graveyard. Other accounts recall pilgrims walking around the well nine times and every three times they circle the well they say the rosary. They then made five rounds around the graveyard reciting the rosary on each round.
Pilgrims also visited St Ailbe’s cross. Its was tradition for all who passed the cross to make Sign of the Cross.
The Sign of the Cross is made by the people on it with three stones which are laid on top of it. Long ago the people used swear by the Holy Stone of Emly. Every time people respect it as they pass it by carving a cross on it with stones.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0580, Page 016
The cross was also said to cure back pain when the back was pressed against the cross and a prayer to the saint uttered. People without back pain performed the same ritual to strengthen their backs.
When a person has a pain in his back he would get it cured by putting his back against the stone and praying to St Ailbe. When a person has no pain in his back and to do the same it would strengthen his back.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0580, Page 016
The waters of the well are said to be a cure for rheumatism and also to repeal birds from damaging crops.
People take the water from the well to drink. When St Ailbe was young he was sent into a garden to keep birds off of it and since that people go to the well, and take water from it and sprinkle it on the corn to keep the birds away.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0580, Page 013
Although there are no records relating to pilgrimage during medieval times, Emly would surely have possessed relics of the saint and attracted pilgrims. Perhaps the tradition of devotion to the holy well and cross may be much older then the nineteenth century.
Long, R. H. 1998. ‘Cashel and Emly Diocese. With a pedigree of Cellachan, king of Cashel, and an account of some other kings of Munster’ Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 1898, Vol. 4, No. 39, 170-185.
O’Dwyer, M. and O’Dwyer, L. 1987. The parish of Emly: its history and heritage.
O’Flanagan, Rev. M. (Compiler) 1930 Letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the county of Tipperary collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1840. Bray.
St Leonard (St Léonard-de-Noblat) was a sixth century Frankish hermit. He went on to become a very popular medieval saint. The saint’s primary shrine was found at Noblat in France. Over the centuries vast numbers of people from all over Europe made pilgrimage here. Devotion to the saint was enhanced by his shrine’s location on the Via Vézelay – a well trodden pilgrimage route- to the St James in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
St Leonard was the patron saint of imprisoned people and women in labour. Medieval descriptions of his shrine recall that it was adorned with offerings of iron chains and shackles left by pilgrims who believed they were released them from their captivity due to the saint’s intercession (Gerson et al 1998, 47).
St Leonards cult also came to Ireland but never achieve a widespread popularity. A holy well dedicated to St Leonard can be still be found in the village of Dunnamaggin Co Kilkenny.
I have come across only two other dedications to the saint. The first, St. Leonard’s Priory, a monastery of Fratres Cruciferi or Crutched Friars, was established in the medieval town of Dundalk in the twelfth century. The priory was, founded by Bertram or Nicholas de Verdun and was situated in the grounds of the present county library. The second dedication was located in the medieval town of Waterford where a chapel dedicated to St Leonard was located in the Benedictine priory. The saint’s feast day was also recorded in The Book of Obits and Martyrology of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin where the last entry for November 6th reads
Et sancti Leonardi abbatis et confesson
Crosswaith 1844, 71
St Leonard’s cult probably arrived in Dunnamaggin area with the Anglo-Normans. The holy well is located a short distance from the ruins of the medieval parish church of Dunnamaggin, also dedicated to St Leonard.
The 1st edition ordnance survey 6 inch map for the area tentatively point to another cult associated with the well. The well is clearly marked as St Rynagh’s well on the map.
Rynagh is the anglicisation of Ríoghnach. The saint may be the early medieval female saint, Rioghnach of Kilrainy in Co Kildare. Interestingly the contemporary Ordnance Survey Letters of Kilkenny written in 1839 only associated the well with St Leonard and makes no mention of St Rioghnach at all. She is not mentioned in Carrigan’s The history and antiquities of the diocese of Ossory either or in any local folklore sources.
The well is located in a field beside the main road through Dunnamaggin village. The field can be easily accessed through a style in the boundary wall.
The well is enclosed by a circular hedge and a small metal gate provides access to the interior. The hedge respects the line of an earlier circular enclosure, which was ‘ almost levelled’ by the 1900’s (Carrigan 1905, 38).
The holy well is a natural spring. Its waters fill a circular stone lined hollow set flush to the ground. On one side there is a over flow which takes the water into a stone drain.
The well is over looked by a modern statue niche now filled by a metal cross bearing the saint’s name and a number of mature trees.
Some years ago the well was restored by the current land owner and a local committee. It is very clear that the well and surrounding area are maintained on a regularly basis, the day I visited the grass had been recently cut.
The schools collections, local folklore and antiquarian sources record a number of traditions associated with the well. Like many other Irish wells it was said the water would never boil.
Another tradition held that St Leonard provided protection to local people from lightening.
St. Leonard prayed that no one within three mile of Dunnamaggin would be struck by lightning. His prayer was granted.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0853, Page 069
The well was once the focus of great devotion but was in decline by the mid-19th century. According the Ordnance Survey Letters 1839
There was a patron held here formerly, on Saint Leonard’s day, but what day that was nobody now remembers.
Ordnance Survey Letters [92-93]
It is not entirely true that the saints feast day was forgotten the schools collection for Dunamaggin school from the 1930s mention that
until recent years a pattern used be held there annually on the 6th November.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0853, Page 068
The 6th of November is the feast day of the saint. The schools essays for Newtown, Kells also note
The well was visited by people on the second or third Sunday in November and there are prayers said there by the people who visit it.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0858B, Page 02
Pilgrimages were also made in the summer months
Kilmaggany people visited it (St Leonard’s Well) during the month of July and took a drink of the water & washed their feet in the stream which flows from the well. It was believed to cure pains in the limbs.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0852, Page 294
Other cures are associated with the well’s waters include a cure for sore eyes.
The water would cure sore eyes when washed three times on different days. There is a big flag-stone at the side of the well.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0852, Page 295
The pilgrim landscape extends beyond the well and includes a tree called St. Leonard’s Tree. I didn’t have time on my visit to find the tree. In times gone by pilgrims visited the tree as part of their pilgrimage rounds. Carrigan noted that mass used to be celebrated beneath it. Like a number of other holy trees it was believed to have protective properties
Until recent years natives of the place would never think of emigrating without bearing away with them a sprig or chip cut from Crownsanleeanarth [name for the tree], as a preservative against shipwreck on their voyage to foreign lands.
Carrigan 1905, 38
During the cholera epidemic of 1832
people carried about with them little scraps from the bush to save themselves from the prevailing epidemic.
Carrigan 1905, 38
In the past people often turned to holy wells in times of crisis and outbreaks of disease. The well house at Abbeys well, in the parish of Kilshannig in North Cork was built in the 1870’s to give thanks for the saint expelling disease from the parish. Over the door is a stone plaque that reads “St, Abigal Expelling The Plague A.D. 1872,”
Carrigan in 1905 notes the order of the former rounds undertaken by pilgrims.
The pilgrimage used to begin within the enclosure, at the well ; was continued thence to the road ; and then along the road, to the present chapel, where it ended.
Carrigan 1905, 38
This is confirmed by the schools collections.
Rounds were made there long ago – people used go from the Well to the Church.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0852, Page 293
An alabaster statue of the saint was discovered at well in the 1800s and was then given to the care of St. Kieran’s College but is now in possession of the current owner of well.
In 1800, Brennans found a stone statue, which they kept in Dunnamaggan, in the well. It is about one foot high & represents a bishop dressed in sacred vestments & holding a staff in his left hand. The head was broken off & lost. The statue is the same as that on the foot of the Dunamaggan Cross. In 1875, Mr James Brennan handed it over to St Kieran’s College Museum where it is still to be seen
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0852, Page 293
Carrigan noted that after the statues discovered before it was given to St Kierans College it was used to swear upon. There are many medieval references to medieval statues and relics being used in oath taking.
… in cases of dispute among the neighbours, the contending parties were accustomed to make declarations with hand placed upon this statue, believing that testimony thus given had all the binding force of an oath.
Carrigan 1905, 38
The radio station KCLR has a made a lovely radio documentary about the well which is worth taking a listen to.
Carrigan, W. 1905. The history and antiquities of the diocese of Ossory. Dublin : Sealy, Bryers & Walker.
Crosswaite, J. 1844. The Book of Obits and Martyrology of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity: Commonly Called Christ Church. Dublin. For the Irish Archaeology Society.
Curran, A. 1971.“The Priory of St. Leonard, Dundalk.” Journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society, vol. 17, no. 3, 131–140.
Gearson, P., Krochalis, J., Shaver-Crandell, A. and Stones, A. 1998. The Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago de Compostela: A Critical Edition. London: Harvey Miller.
Hennig, J. 1944. “St. Leonard in Ireland.” Journal of the County Louth Archaeological Society, vol. 10, no. 4, 297–301.
Herity, M. (ed) 2003, Ordnance Survey Letters Kilkenny. Dublin: Four Masters Press.