Review of Book The Holy Wells of County Clare

I recently got a copy of The Holy Wells of County  Clare written by Michael Houlihan.  This is a great read and a must have for anyone interested in holy wells or the history of County Clare.

Clare  has 240 known holy wells, the highest concentration of  holy wells of any county in Ireland, while there has been some research carried out on individual  holy wells or wells within a select geographical area such as the parish, this is the first comprehensive countywide study.


Tobar Colman Oughtmama

The book  begins by exploring the origins and antiquity of holy wells.  The author then discusses the  Clare group of wells against the social and historical landscape of the county during 19th century,  charting the rise and fall of the popularity of devotion at wells, their significance to the community  and the slow decline to modern times.


St Inghean Bhaoith’s holy well at Anneville, Killinboy Co Clare

Houlihan points out that many of the Clare wells are associated with healing for example St  Cravan’s well near Ennistymon  was known to heal sore eyes. He discusses the wells role as a place of healing for the community in pre and post famine period, along with health care  practices  and the health of the population in the 19th century.


St Anastasia’s holy well is located on farm land in the townland of Tullygarvan West a few miles from Lahinch in Co Clare.

Chapter five provides a great account of  the origins and function of the  pattern celebrations associated with  holy wells and  details some of Clares most popular pattern days at sites such as  Inis Carthaigh (Scattery Island), Killone and Inis  Cealtra (Holy Island).  Chapter six  discusses the decline of the pattern with official efforts by church and government to suppress such celebrations due unsavory aspect of the pattern such as heavy drinking and faction fighting.

Burren 136

St Fachtna’s well the Burren

The book concludes by discussion holy wells in modern Clare and a provides detailed accounts of  a selection of wells from different geographical areas of the county.  This book is a great resource for those interested in the study of holy well and a great read for those interested in the local history of Clare.

If your interested in getting a copy of this book it is on sale  from the author  just drop him a line at

or from the following bookshops


Ennis Bookshop, 13 Abbey Street, Ennis

Easons, Bank Pl, Ennis

Sceal Eile, 16 Lower Market Street, Ennis

Bookshops around the county


Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, The Corn Store, Middle Street, Galway City


O’Mahony’s bookshop 120 O’Connell St, Limerick

One comment on “Review of Book The Holy Wells of County Clare

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