Carnavane/Crann a Bhán (white tree) holy well, is located near the village of Kildavin in Co Carlow a short distance from the Wexford/Carlow border.
The well has no patron but it was likely at one time dedicated to St Finian who was born at nearby Myshall. A stone beside the lower holy well is said to bear the foot print of the saint. Local tradition also holds that the ruins of a nearby medieval church at Barragh mark the site of a monastery was founded by St Finian.
Barragh church lies some 400 metres to the west of the holy well and is located beside an circular enclosed historic graveyard.
Only the north and east walls of the church survives to any great height.
Cranavane Holy Well (s)
There are two well at Carnavane. The larger of the two is covered by a rectangular shaped dry-stone well house.
A large stone lined a coffin-shaped trough is located in front of the entrance to the lower holy well. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was a custom of bath sick or weak children in waters of the trough. There was also a tradition of dipping coffins in the trough before taking for them for burial in Barragh graveyard.
The 1839 1st OS 6-inch’ map shows a building, farm-yard and gardens located beside the wells. The footprints of the building and associated garden walls and lane way still remain. The second holy well is located a few meters behind the lower well it is also covered with a dry stone well house of a simpler construction.
O’Donovan in the Ordnance Survey Letters records that a ‘patron’ or pattern day was held here until the year 1798 , on the 3rd of May when it was then banned by the authorities (OSL 1839, 119). He noted that pilgrims continued to visit the well for cures of sore eyes and limbs in 1839. There seems to have been a revival of pattern in the early 1800’s but the event was banned again in the 1870’s by the parish priest due to faction fighting.
Pilgrimage continued at a local level to the well but over time the traditional prayers and rounds were forgotten. Up until the twentieth century many people from the townland would visit the well each Sunday during the month of May and the rosary was usually recited.
By the late 1990s the holy wells had become over grown and the local community cleaned away the scrub and landscaped the site. The wells were kept as they were and a stone cairn which may have been a pilgrim station, was rebuilt. In the early 2000’s a community mass began to be held at the well during the month of May. The mass is often held on the 3rd of May but this is date is not strictly adhered to.
People from the area surrounding the well still visit here during the month of May and it is also a popular tourist attraction throughout the rest of the year.
Cranavane is a great place to visit for anyone seeking peace and tranquillity and it is also on the Carlow trail of the saints.