St Bartholmew’s well, Garrynataggart Co. Cork

The first post of 2014 is about St Bartholomew’s well  in the townland of Garryantaggart Co. Cork. By coincidence the first post of 2013 was also about a holy well of the same name at Kinsalebeg Co. Waterford.

St Bartholomew’s well is  located close to a junction with the R639, the old road linking the towns of Fermoy and Midelton. The well is easy to find and there is  a signpost at the Ballinwillin Bridge junction.

St Barth

Location map of St Bartholomew’s well Garrynataggart taken from Bing maps

According to Power writing in 1923 the townland name Garrynataggart or Garraidh an tSagairt in Irish means ‘the priest’s garden’.  The well is dedicated to St  Bartholomew who was  one of the 12 apostles.  Following the ascension of Christ he  engaged in missionary work and is believed to have brought Christianity to Armenia, where he was later martyred. Tradition holds he was flayed alive and crucified. In the Western church his feast is commemorated in the 24th of August.

Power  (1923, 172)  noted that devotions were held here at the Garrynataggart well on St Bartholomew’s feast day in the early 1920’s

Around hang, or are deposited, votives of the usual kind, and devotions are paid on August 24th.

The well is on private land but  the site is very accessible.  A small lay-by at the side of the road  provides parking for visitors to the well.  To approach the well one must  enter a the field via some concrete steps and  then continue a short distance across the field to a small river.

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River beside St Bartholomew’s holy well at Garrynataggart.

The river is  bridged by a timber bridge with a gate.

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Bridge leading to holy well

The well is located on the other side of the bridge  on a south-facing  slope.  The area is very neat and tidy and there is a bench above the well, implying the  site is still cared for by local people.

The well is a natural spring it is surrounded by a tear shaped stone wall with a rounded top.

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St Bartholomew’s well Garrynataggart is surrounded by a modern enclosing wall.

The well is entered at the south  through a door with a gable faced facade.  At the top of the gable is an iron cross and a plaque stating the dedication of the well.

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Entrance to St Bartholomew’s well Garrynataggart.

A number of  ceramic mugs are found inside the well structure  on the left is a small recess.

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Cups in small recess of the interior of the well structure at St Bartholomew’s well Garrynataggart.

The well is still in use  and visited, as evident from the neatness of the surrounding area and a small number of coins left in the water.

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The water of St Bartholomew’s well Garrynataggart comes from a spring and is crystal clear.

As I mentioned above devotions were being carried out at the well on the 24th of August on the saints feast day. Power (1923, 172) also mentions people leaving offerings at the well.

  Around hang, or are deposited, votives of the usual kind…..

  Today apart from the coins in the water of the well there is an image of the saint hanging from the well structure.

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Image of St Bartholomew at St Bartholomew’s well Garrynataggart.

Id love to find out more about modern traditions at the well so if anyone has any information  please get in touch either by commenting on this post or emailing pilgrimagemedievalireland@gmail.com.

(C) Louise Nugent

Reference

Power, P. 1923. ‘Place-Names and Antiquites of S.E. County Cork. Barony of Barrymore. Part III.’ PRIA Vol. 36, 164-205.

3 comments on “St Bartholmew’s well, Garrynataggart Co. Cork

  1. Mixed Messages says:

    Your original blog post provided the knowledge and impetus. This evening, I travelled from Cork for my first ever visit to Bartlemy and to St. Bartholomew’s Well.

    It was wet – both overhead and underfoot. When I first arrived, there were only four and I was told that one drank from the well but one should take the water from the flow of water over the rocks having left the well enclosure as it is there that the blind man is reputed to have stumbled and wiped his eyes with the water and regained his sight.

    By seven, there were 25 – 30 present. Most appeared to know many present so I expect that the majority were local. The five joyful mysteries were recited followed by a man from the locality thanking all for attending and giving some history of the well.

    The weather did not permit note taking so please forgive the missing bits but:

    The well is located on private lands (Mr John Arnold who campaigned against the post office closure and regularly writes in the Evening Echo). The bridge was constructed about twenty years previously. Prior to that those visiting the well travelled down an old mass path from the main road up by the adjoining cross. The mass path would have been used historically by locals to attend the local church but would have fallen into disuse with the construction of the roads. One man present, who was resident in the locality for 40 years, recalled clearing the overgrowth from the path to access the well on the pattern day.

    There was some thought as to whether the celebration at the well was carried out on seven (or maybe nine) days as a ‘rogation’.

    There is a poem/song which includes reference in the first verse to the blind man who gained sight at the well.

    The well is understood to come from a deep spring as the height and temperature of water tends not to vary much with the seasons. The well enclosure was constructed in around 1900 upon the direction of Fr. Barry – a priest who is buried in the grounds of the local church and is apparently well known for his deeds. A mason’s name is on a plaque at a nearby well (I cannot recall the mason’s name but it may have been Greaney or similar) and it is assumed that he also constructed the enclosure.

    There is no known explanation as to why the well is called after St Bartholomew – he being one of the apostles, then known as Nathaniel. He headed east to Armenia where he was burned alive and so martyred. He is the patron saint of butchers and so his image generally has a butcher’s knife.
    The date of celebration of St. Bartholomew was 4th September but was brought back to 24th August with the Gregorian Calendar.

    I was unsure as to which came first – whether the well was named in honour of St. Bartholomew after the name of the village or whether the village (and associated horse fair) were named after the saint.

    The well is located in a glen. It is thought to possibly have pre-christian origins as many such traditions were encouraged, adopted and Christianised by the church.

    It was an evening where I learnt much but also realised that there is very much more to learn.

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