St Ailbe’s Holy Well, Emly Co Tipperary

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.

St Ailbe’s Catholic Church Emly

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).

Aerial view of the village of Emly Bing Maps

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).

Plaque with inscription LOCVS IN QVEM INTRAS TERRA SANCTA EST 1641 R. IONES PCENT’ located close to the entrance to Emly church and graveyard.

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).

Medieval Stoup at eastern doorway at St Ailbe’s church Emly

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.

Image of St Ailbe’s holy well 1898 from Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 1898, Vol. 4, No. 39 page 174.

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.

St Ailbe’s holy well Emly

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.

St Ailbe’s holy 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.

View into St Ailbe’s holy well

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.

St Ailbe’s Cross Emly

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.

Bibliography

Farrelly, J. 2014. TS065-013 (Emly) https://maps.archaeology.ie/HistoricEnvironment/

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.

Irish Tourist Association, ‘Emly Irish Tourist Association Report,’ Tipperary Archive, accessed November 8, 2020, http://www.tippstudiesdigital.ie/items/show/1147.

Websites

Schools Collections https://www.duchas.ie

https://www.logainm.ie

St Leonard’s Holy Well at Dunnamaggin Co Kilkenny

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.

Pilgrim badge from the shrine of St Leonard at Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat, France dating to the 13th-14th century (https://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/online/object/28996.html)

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.

St Leonard’s Holy well Dunnamaggin Co Kilkenny surrounded by a circular hedge

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.

Medieval parish church of Dunnamaggin

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.

1st edition 6inch maps showing St Leonard’s holy well marked as St Rynagh holy well OSI 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.

St Leonard’s Holy well Dunnamaggin Co Kilkenny is surrounded by circular hedge

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.

ISt Leonard’s holy well Dunnamaggin

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.

Statue niche at St Leonard’s holy well.

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.

St Leonard’s holy well

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.

Biography

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.

Website

Schools Collections https://www.duchas.ie

https://kclr96fm.com/documentary/episode-7-st-leonards-well/embed/#?secret=uFn1FTo1Sl

https://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/online/object/28996.html

St David’s Holy Well, Woodhouse, Co. Waterford

St David’s holy well -Tobar Chinnín Dháithí – is one of my favourite holy wells in the whole country. This isnt a statement I make likely.

The main thing I love about the well is that it is very fortunate to have escaped the over use of cement that many Irish holy wells experienced in the 1950’s or some of the bad “restoration” work of the 1980’s-2000’s – the holy well at Brulee, Co Limerick immediately springs to mind. The charm of St David’s holy well is its simplicity. When you stand at the waters edge there is a real connection with the past and you can imagine your experience is very similar to pilgrims 100 or 200 years ago. The trees, flowers and bush that surround the well also help to connect the visitor to the natural world of which holy well are very much rooted.

Grove of trees surrounding St David’s Holy Well at Woodhouse

St David’s well is situated in an out of the way grove of trees on private land. In appearance it is very like the holy well at St Berriherts Kyle but more compact.

St David’s Holy Well in early March 2016

The well itself is a large spring that fills a circular pool defined by a low stone wall, set flush with the ground. The water bubbles up through white sands on the base, before escaping into an over flow channel that takes it the water from the pool into a nearby stream.

It is said “The well never dried even in the warmest summer” (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0643, Page 155).

The bubbling waters are magical and I have sat for long stretches of time here just watching the water and listening to the rustle of leaves and chatter of birds. The wells beauty is enhanced by a large oak tree that cast shadows over the water. When I last visited here in March 2016, it was surrounded by a thick carpet of yellow daffodils.

It is a round well and there are trees growing all around it. The people hang the tokens on the trees. The statue of St David is erected there. There is a lovely sand bubbling up out of the well. It is so clear you would imagine it was silver.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0643, Page 167

Large oak tree growing beside St David’s holy well at Woodhouse

Unusually the well is dedicated to St David the patron saint of Wales whose feast day is the 1st of March. The south-east of Ireland has long established connections with Wales. St David and his monastery (at St Davids in Wales) are mentioned in several Lives of Irish saints. St Finbarr of Cork is said to have visited St David on his return from Rome, while SS Aidan of Ferns, Finnian of Clonard, along with Scothin and Senanus, are all said to have studied at the monastic school at St David’s.

St David’s holy well at Woodhouse is located in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. The patron of the diocese is St Declan of Ardmore who also spent time in Wales in the company of St David.

On one of these occasions Declan paid a visit to the holy bishop of the Britons whose name was David at the church which is called Killmuine where the bishop dwelt beside the shore of the sea which divides Ireland from Britain. The bishop received Declan with honour and he remained there forty days, in affection and joy, and they sang Mass each day and they entered into a bond of charity which continued between themselves and their successors for ever afterwards. On the expiration of the forty days Declan took leave of David giving him a kiss in token of peace and set out himself and his followers to the shore of the sea to take ship for Ireland.

Power, Rev. P. 1914. Life of St. Declan of Ardmore, 25

A  large statue of a very serious St David, dressed as a bishop, sits a plinth of concrete overlooking the holy well.  The date 1923 is carved into the base.

Statue of St David at St David’s Holy Well Woodhouse

This statue was a gift, donated by Br Benigus Tracy in this year having experieneced a cure (NFSC, An Eaglais, Ceapach Chuinn (roll number 1395).

The wells waters are said to have healing properties. The waters are especially beneficial to those suffering from headaches or migraines. The connection with healing of complaints the head is reflected in the Irish name for the well, “Tobar Chinnín Dháithí” translates roughly as the ‘Well of David’s Little Head’.

078
St David’s Holy Well Woodhouse

According to the Schools essays to obtain relief from sickness pilgrims had to walked three times around the well saying whatever prayer they wished (An Eaglais, Ceapach Chuinn (roll number 1395). Other accounts tell us that the pilgrim were to drink water from the well and rub it to their forehead to obtain the cure.

three sups of the water is taken. People leave a medal or a bead or string, there as a token of getting cured.

Mount Stewart, Ceapach Chuinn (roll number 0643)

In the past the well was visited throughout the year but a special pilgrimage was made on the 1st of March the feast day of St David. Pilgrims in the 19th century were said to ‘hang tokens on the trees’ around the well ( Mount Stewart, Ceapach Chuinn (roll number 0643). The tradition of leaving offerings has died out some local people still visit the well on the 1st of March.

Like many other Irish holy wells, folklore relating to St David’s well suggests it is now in a secondary location.

People say that the well was further up the field. One day Major Fitzgeralds washed his face in the well, and from that second onwards it started, to dry until it was dry as the field. Then it sprang up in the field further down, and it is there to this day.

An Eaglais, Ceapach Chuinn (roll number 1395)

This is not the only holy well dedicated to St David in the south-east. Another more well known well one can be found at St David’s holy well at Olygate in Wexford. These two wells are reminders of the long established l links between the south-east of Ireland and Wales and the spread of the cult of medieval saints.

Thanks to Dr Ann Buckley for translating Irish language material in Schools Folklore Essays relating to the well.

Bibliography

An Eaglais, Ceapach Chuinn (roll number 1395) http://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4428119

Mount Stewart, Ceapach Chuinn (roll number 0643) http://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4428120

Moore M. 1999. Archaeological Inventory of County Waterford. Dublin: Stationery Office, 203.
ITA. (Irish Tourist Authority Survey )[1941-45] Topographical and General Survey, 122.
Power, Rev P. 1907. ‘Place-Names of the Decies’, JWSEIAS Vol. 10, 193.
Power, Rev P. 1914. Life of St. Declan of Ardmore, and Life of St. Mochuda of Lismore, (edited from ms. in Library of Royal Irish Academy). London : Irish Texts Society.

http://irelandsholywells.blogspot.com/2013/03/saint-davids-holy-well-tinakilly-county.html

Save

Pilgrimage to St Declan’s Holy Well at Ardmore, 1910

Pilgrimage in honour of St Declan at Ardmore, Co Waterford, can be traced back to the early medieval period.  During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Ardmore was one of the most important pilgrim sites in the southeast of Ireland, attracting 1000’s of pilgrims for the annual pattern day celebrations.

Pilgrim rituals during this period have been extensively discussed by Dr Stiofán Ó Cadhla’s  in his excellent book The Holy Well Tradition. The Pattern of St Declan, Ardmore County Waterford, 1800-2000.

BooksTheHolyWellTradition

Although the numbers of pilgrims have fallen over the years, the saint and the celebration of his feast day (24th of July) are still a very important part of village life in Ardmore.

The nineteenth century pilgrim landscape was quiet extensive and included St Declan’s grave (at the eary medieval monastery),  St Declan’s stone and St Declan’s holy well (see map on below).

Capture

Image taken Google Earth showing location of the St Declan’s grave,  St Declan’s stone and St Declan’s Holy Well, nodal points in pilgrim landscape at Ardmore.

Today modern devotions are almost exclusively focused on St Declan’s holy well. They   include a prayer vigil on St Declan’s eve at the well, along with the traditional rounds on the feast day.

During the course of my research I came across a wonderful film on the Ardmore  pattern day, which I want to share with you. This short film was created by Horgan Brothers’ films in 1910. The Horgan’s began their careers as photographers and later worked with film, opening a cinema in their home town of Youghal, Co. Cork. It was here they screened their newsreel style short films, which they named the Youghal Gazette many of which can be seen on the Irish Film Institute Website.

It is most unusual for an Irish pilgrimage of this period to have been filmed, let alone  available to a wide audience today (through the Irish Film Institute).  I am very grateful to the Horgan Brothers for their efforts as their work provides a wonderful window into devotional activity in Waterford in the 1900’s.

 

The film opens at  St Declan’s holy well  the last station in the early modern pilgrimage.  There are many accounts which allow us to reconstruct the early modern pilgrimage at Ardmore but to see real pilgrims moving through the landscape is truly fascinating.

The photo below shows the location where the Hogan brothers set up their camera. They choose a position that over looked the well and church and also the approach route from the village.

Capture2

Image of St Declan’s Holy Well showing the site where the Horgans filmed the pilgrimage image from Waterford Co Museum Photographic Collection

 

As the film opens, directly in front of cameras are a group of six people, engaged, in what can only be described as people watching. Closest to the camera is  gentleman in straw boater hat.  He watches as people walk along the path to the well and is caught in the embarrassing act of picking his nose. Next to the man, is a lady dressed in a light coloured dress with a parasol.  It seems to have been a warm sunny day as many of the ladies present have parasols. The young woman relaxes on the grass after fixing her parasol behind her head to provide some shade. Again her position allows her to  comfortably view all who approach and leave. The remaining people in the vicinity of the camera are four ladies standing beside a wall adjacent to the entrance. They are watching the pilgrims complete their rounds and prayers with great interest.

At the time pilgrims began their prayers  in front of the well. They then walked clockwise around the church and well while reciting three decades of the rosary. They would then knee before the well, finishing  the rosary before moving to the well to say more prayers and take the water.

The film shows  people in different stages of their  pilgrimage. A cluster of people  are in front of St Declan’s Holy Well, they must have completed their rounds, while the stream of men and women, make a clockwise circuit of the holy well and  its adjacent church saying the rosary are only half way through theirs. It’s interesting to note the majority of men have removed their hats during the pilgrimage as a sign of respect for the place and the saint.

The landscape of the well has changed little since 1910. Below is a contemporary photo of the front of St Declan’s holy well which is obscured from view in the film.  The structure of well has changed little  over the years with the exception of the theft of the smallest of three medieval carved crucifix (on the left side of the photo) incorporated into the top of well superstructure.

 

Photo of three women at St Declan’s Holy Well  taken 1910 from Waterford Co Museum Photographic Archive

Part of the pilgrim rituals at the holy well involved  pilgrims carving crosses into the wall of the church and parts of the well superstructure. These actions are also caught by the camera. This practice is not unique to Ardmore but here as at the other sites,  it is unlikely to have begun earlier then the nineteenth century.

066 3

Crosses carved by pilgrims into the walls of the church at St Declan’s Holy Well

From the well  the film then cuts to St Declans’ Stone,  an erratic boulder located at the southern end of the strand some 500m to the east of the holy well. According to tradition  the stone carried St Declan’s bell and vestments, floating across the sea from Wales to Ardmore. The stone was used as a penitential station by past pilgrims.

DSCF2376 3

View of St Declan’s Stone as the tide comes in

In the film we see a woman wearing a Kinsale clock,  a traditional  garment worn up until the early twentieth century,  standing beside the stone. A man wearing a long trench coat can be seem crawling out from under the stone. Traditional devotions at the stone involved the pilgrim saying set prayers before crawling under the rock. Given its located on the shore devotions could only take place when the tide was out. Outside of the pattern day the stone was also visited for healing and was thought to be particularly beneficial for those with backache or rheumatism. The stone was a central part of the pattern day devotions until the mid-twentieth century but  pilgrimage has now ceased here.

The film then ends abruptly as the woman kneels in prayer and we do not get to see her crawled under the stone but she surely did.

climbing out of the srtone

Pilgrims performing rounds at St Declan’s stone (still from Horgan Brothers Film)

 

I plan to write a more detailed post about the post medieval and medieval pilgrimage rituals at Ardmore in the new year. I will also be discussing the site at an upcoming lecture for the Waterford Historical and Archaeological Society in February of 2019 so please come along if you want to find out more.

If you find this film interesting you may also want to check out some of the other films by the Horgan Brother that are on the Irish Film Institute website  at https://ifiplayer.ie/category/horgan/

References

https://ifiplayer.ie/the-horgan-brothers-collection-declans-well/

 

Barrigone Holy Well and the Crimean War: An unlikely Connection

This post  is a shortened version of an article that I wrote,  ‘Barrigone Holy Well and the Crimean War: An unlikely Connection’,   published back in 2016  in the North Munster Antiquarian Journal .

The article details a little known the story of the mother of a young man from West Limerick. who went to fight in the Crimean war and the rituals she carried out  at Barrigone Holy Well, in the townland of Craggs,  to petition God for his protection.

Image result for irish in the crimean war

The 8th Hussars, the ‘King’s Royal Irish’, circa 1855, during the Crimean War. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Crimean war took place between 1854-6  and was fought on the Crimean peninsula. It was fought  between Russia and an alliance of Britain, France and the Ottoman Turkish empire. Irish soldiers made up around 30–35 per cent of the British army in 1854, and it is estimated that over 30,000 Irish soldiers served in the Crimea War. Approximately 7,000 Irish men died  during the war. David Murphy has a very readable and interesting book called Ireland and the Crimean War which details the war and Irish involvement.

In 1855, at the height the Crimean war,  a letter entitled ‘The Way to Save Lives in the Crimea’ was sent to The Catholic Layman Magazine.  The letter was written by one Humphrey O’Leary  who recounts his interaction with the mother of the soldier fighting in Crimea mentioned above. The woman, who was illiterate,  wished Leary to write down her words in a letter to her son. She also wanted to provide instruction for the use of a small number of stones taken from the holy well at Barrigone, that were to be sent with   the letter. Unfortunately the names of the mother or son  are not mentioned and this was most likely deliberately done as Leary is sharing their stories in a very public venue. Its clear from his writing that Leary was a middle class Catholic and had advantages not available to the soldier woman including an education who is of a lower social standing.  Apart from detailing the story of the woman and her son, the letter also provides an insight in life in nineteenth century Ireland, changing attitudes to pilgrimage within the Catholic population and the poor levels of literary.

Leary tells us the woman’s son  was ‘fighting with the Rooshins in Sebastable [Sevastapol]’. He was part of the British forces who, along with their allies, laid siege to the main Russian naval base in the Black Sea at Sebastopol.  Its clear the man’s mother was concerned for his safety and anxious to keep him safe.

Fig.1 View of Barrigone Holy Well

Barrigone Holy Well

 

Leary agreeded to help the woman and he writes that he wanted to write the letter ‘as well as ever I could; for I thought it would look mighty disgraceful entirely to send a bad letter as far way’. When he had filled the first page he told the woman ‘I am going to put your name to it now’: To which she replied ‘Oh Humphrey, avourneen for the love of all the saints keep a little corner of it empty a while, for I am sending him something, and I want you to explain it to him.’

The woman then asked Leary to fill a second piece of paper containing instructions ‘for I want to send him a thing that will save his life.’ To Leary’s surprise the woman pulled out a small red silk purse ‘that was for all the world as big as a tailors thimble’ filled with some tiny stones. The woman went on to say:

I am sending him the blessed stones of Barrigowen [Barrigone] well inside this purse, and tell him, that if he’ll receive them, and wear them in this purse round his neck with the same faith that his own mother is sending him, please God; that he will come home safe and sound again; for any one that ever wore them blessed stones about his neck could not be harmed.

Leary was not too impressed by the woman’s plan and thought it ‘very quare entirely that a small little bit like that could save one’s life.’ He pressed her on the matter, asking ‘is it in earnest you are, or do you think them stones will save him?’ The woman was staunch in her beliefs as she replied ‘Oh I am sure if they overtake him alive that there will be no fear of him’. To persuade the woman to abandon what he thought was a superstitious act, Leary answered ‘I’ll bet my life, Father Mick won’t let you send the stones, nor go to the well at all at all’ to which the woman replied ‘deed then, Father Mick knows that I gave rounds at the well for him, and I sent him the lining of the well in a letter, and he did not say “ill you did itto me when I told him’. Determined to make the woman see the folly of this task Leary persisted:

I am thinking it might be better for you to pray to God to spare your son to you than to go sending these little stones; and perhaps, you or your son may lose your life by provoking him against you.

Fig. 2 Pilgrims performing the rounds at Barrigone holy well 15th August 2015

Modern pilgrims at Barrigone Holy Well West Limerick

Leary response is typical of a move away from, and change of attitude within, the Catholic Church from favouring devotion at holy wells to it becoming perceived as backward and superstitious. The soldier’s mother was certainly not of this opinion and according to Leary became cross and replied ‘I will send the stones at any rate, for I am sure they will do him good’. Leary, realising his arguments fell on deaf ears, and accepting her sincere conviction they would save her son ‘from Rosshen [Russian] bullets’, continued transcribing the woman’s instructions about the stones. Leary ends his letter to the Catholic Layman by noting that after sending the letter with the stones the woman also had a Mass said for her son. He seems to have more faith in the benefits of the  latter. We don’t know if this poor woman ever saw her son again but I like to think these stone at least provided some comfort for him.

This account provides  a unique insight into folk tradition, beliefs and devotional practice in the mid-nineteenth century Ireland. It also highlights the changing attitudes of the middle classes who following the famine and renewed efforts to implementation of Tridentine values in the church, came to see holy wells and their ritual practices as superstitious. The full article which includes a discussion of the wells history and similar practices of taking stone can be found in the North Munster Antiquarian Journal

Nugent, L. 2016. ‘Barrigone Holy Well and the Crimean War: An unlikely Connection’,   North Munster Antiquarian Journal Vol. 56,

St Flannan’s Holy Well, Errislannan Co Galway

Just before Christmas I  spent some time at St Flannan’s Holy Well at Errislannan in the company of archaeologist Will Anderson.
Errislannan is a small peninsula, on the west coast of Co Galway, in the Connemara region, a few miles from the town of Clifden.  Errislannan or Iorras Fhlannáin in Irish, means “Flannan’s Peninsula”. The area gets its name from the seventh century St Flannan who according to local folklore spent some time in the area before settling in Killaloe. The saint is also the patron of a ruined the medieval church and  holy well.
The church and holy well are located on the shores of Lough Nakilla in the townland of Kill. Today the church  and surrounding graveyard are overgrown with briars and dense vegetation. We managed to get into the interior of the church which appears to be a rectangular structure, without any  internal division. It was impossible to examine the fabric of the building in any detail but a  number of gravestones were visible at the eastern end of the church.

20171218_105532

View of the interior of the St Flannan’s church at Errislannan.

 The Archaeological Inventory of County Galway Vol. I – West Galway, describes the church as follows
Small poorly preserved medieval church (E-W; L 10.3m, Wth 4.5m) dedicated to St Flannan of Killaloe. The only surviving features are a plain doorway in N wall and the Morris family tomb in interior. The oldest part of graveyard, oval in plan, surrounds the church. To S of church is a leacht consisting of a drystone wall (L 2.5m, H 0.5m) with a niche, set into the natural slope. A natural boulder, known as St Flannan’s Bed, lies c. 100m E of the graveyard and there is a holy well (GA035-048003-) to E.
According to the  seventheenth century Chorographical description of West or H-Iar Connaught by O’Flaherty, Roderic, 1629-1718,the church has no burials within the walls‘ due to a belief that the body would not stay buried and would be found on the ground the next say.  During the ensuing centuries this belief changed and today there are a number of grave markers in the interior of the church including the Morris family tomb. The heavy growth of vegetation made it impossible to examine these stones. The Morris family were landed gentry who had inherited part of the estate of the Frenchs of Errislannan and they had a house in Ballinaboy.  The surrounding graveyard was also very overgrown and I couldn’t find the leacht.

20171218_104545

Terrain on the southern side of St Flannan’s church Errislannan

On the west side of the medieval church and historic graveyard, is a modern walled cemetery filled predominantly with modern marble and granite gravestones.  St Flannan’s holy well is located close to the gate leading into the modern burial ground.

20171218_103943

Modern burial ground attached to St Flannan’s Medieval parish church Errislannan

The holy well  was once a place of pilgrimage on the 18th of December and we came here on this day to see if people from the area still visit.  Unfortunately I didn’t see anyone  here but some pilgrims could have visited before or after my visits.  It was a very wet day which could have been a factor in the lack of activity but I was told by some people in Clifden that the tradition of visiting the well on the feast day has all but died out here.

20171218_103507.jpg

St Flannan’s Holy Well

The well itself is  a rectangular stone lined  feature with steps down into the interior. It is in turn surrounded by a low dry stone wall.

20171218_103422

The well has the most charming appearance which is enhanced by its lakeside location. Evidence of  recent visits by pilgrims to the holy well are represented by a broken saddle quern on the external wall of the well, filled with votive offerings of coins (mostly euro currency) and the odd religious medals.

 

I must come back here again during the summer or on a nice sunny day as the location of the well is stunning and there is a real sence of peace and calm.

20171218_103615

View of the Lough Nakilla from the holy well

 

Participants needed for Ireland’s Holy Wells County-by-County Project

Ireland’s Holy Wells County-by-County  is a very exciting project set up and run by Dr. Celeste Ray  Professor of Anthropology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  Celeste has been carrying out research on Irish holy wells since 2000 and has spent a lot of time researching Ireland wells.  The project came about thanks to National Geographic Funding  and Celeste is currently in Ireland carrying out  fieldwork and research and promoting the National Database to be given to the National Folklore Collection.

L3

Holy well at Ahadagh Co Cork photo by Amanda Clarke

 

What is Ireland’s Holy Wells County-by-County  Project?

Ireland’s Holy Wells County-by-County  is a community-sourced survey of Ireland’s holy wells and their associated traditions. This citizen-research initiative encourages young people to interview their older neighbors and relatives and add their knowledge of well lore to a national database that will be given to the National Folklore Collection.
This freely-accessible and searchable resource will be an invaluable document of holy well sites, beliefs, and stories for generations to come.

Capture

Brochure of Ireland’s Holy Wells County-by-County

Holy Wells County-by-County Project Flyer 2017

What can you do to participate in the project?

As this is a is a community-sourced project so volunteers are need to populate the site with information about holy wells from their locality or region in Ireland.

So how can you help?

Do you know of a holy well which should be included in this project?  Then go to the project website at  http://ihwcbc.omeka.net

 

website

The website allows you to easily  uploads information on holy well(s) such as location,  accounts of traditional prayers or rounds, folklore about the well, along with photographs and video.  I uploaded  information on a holy well and its very straight forward process.  If you find the holy well you want to up load is already populated but you have additional information, stories or  photos  you can contact the project directly and they can up date the entry.

To learn more about the County-by-County survey, contact Dr. Celeste Ray at cray@sewanee.edu  or 087 091 7817 (Irish number valid through November 5th) or have a read Holy Wells County-by-County Project Flyer 2017

Celeste Ray is also  author of a wonderful book on the origins and history of holy wells called The Origins of Ireland’s Holy Wells. 

hW book

 

Holy Cows. The Miraculous Animals of the Irish Saints: Part 8, St Patrick and his Goat

I cant believe that I have reached number eight  in my series of blog posts on the Irish saints and their animals. St Patick has previously featured with his miraculous cow  and he makes an appearance again on account of his association with a magical goat.  I’m very grateful to Christy Cunnliff the Galway Archaeological  Field Officer for telling me about this story. Christy also writes the Galway Community Archaeology Blog.

homepic.jpg

Group of wild Irish Goats Image taken from http://www.oldirishgoatsociety.com/

As far as I know the story of St Patrick and his goat occurs in folklore in only two areas of Ireland,  Co Galway and Co Dublin. If anyone has come across this story or variation of it elsewhere in the country  Id be delighted to hear from you.

The story of St Patrick and His Goat from Co Galway

St Patrick and his goat appear in the folklore of east Co Galway in the parish of Abbert/Monivea. The saint is  associated with a small holy well-known as  Tobar Padraig (St Patrick’s holy well) located in Monivea parish graveyard.

Tobar Phadraig Monieva Co Galway

According to tradition  St Patrick rested at the well and baptised the local people, indeed a rock at the side of the well with a slight depression is  said to have been created by the saint when he knelt beside  the well (Cunniffe 2016, 3). The holy well was once a place of pilgrimage and a large pattern day took place on the feast of the saint.  The wall surrounding the well has a plaque dating to 1688 that depicts the saint standing on a serpent. Over time  devotions  waned but the well is still visited by a small number of people.

 

In another tale from the area when St Patrick arrived to the area he was accompanied by a goat. The Schools Collections recorded in the late 1930’s  mentions two versions of  this tales. In both tales milk is stolen from the goat and the saint places a curse on the area.

The Schools Collections for the parish of Crumlin  records that

Patrick’s Well is a mile east of this school. There is a graveyard there and a blessed/holy well in it. Next to the well there is a stone/flagstone which has old writing on it. The people believe that St Patrick spent the night there on his journey to Cill Benín. It is said that someone milked a goat that St Patrick had with him that night and he cursed the people of the area. People would travel there long ago on St Patrick’s Day. There would be fighting and the priest put an end to these travels/pilgrimage. This happened about 80 years ago ( Crumlin School,  The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0082, Page 186 translated from Irish by Paul Devane).

 

Tobar Phádraig

Crumlin School,  The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0082, Page 186

A second version of the tale was also recorded in the Schools Collection  at Kiltullagh

When St. Patrick was in Ireland long ago. One day he was travelling through Monivea and he had a Goat with him. He went into the church to pray, and whilst he was inside somebody in Monivea milked the Goat. St. Patrick was vexed, and when he was leaving Monivea he looked back and said that he hoped Monivea would be neither better or worse. So Monivea stands the very same way ever since and it is not better or worse (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0034, Page 0475  Kiltullagh, Co. Galway).

St Patrick and His Goat in Co Dublin

A variant of the tale is found on the east coast of Ireland in North Co Dublin at Skerries.

According to legend St Patick spent time in Skerries Co Dublin, and his presence in the area is remembered by a hollow in rock on the seashore which is called St Patrick’s footprint.  According to local legend

When St. Patrick was expelled from Wicklow by the pagan natives he sailed northwards and landed on a small island off Skerries, which is now known as St. Patrick’s Island in his honour. When the saint arrived on this island he had with him a goat, which was his companion and source of milk.

From this island St. Patrick came to the mainland to convert the local people. While St. Patrick was ashore on one of these visits some people from Skerries went out to the island and stole his goat. They killed the goat, cooked it and feasted on it. When St. Patrick went to the island he found his goat missing.

This made him very angry and in two giant strides he reached the mainland. The first step took him to the back of Colt Island and the second to Red Island, where he confronted the people of Skerries.

When they tried to deny interfering with his goat they found they could only bleat. When they were prepared to tell the saint the truth their voices returned. Where St. Patrick stepped onto Red island his footprint is to be seen in the rock to this day. Since then the nickname Skerries Goats is given to the people of the town to remind them of this deed (http://www.skerriesparish.ie/history).

skerries

St. Patrick’s footprint can be seen on the rocks near the Springboards, the tidal bathing place on Red Island image taken (https://m0.herfamily.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/13140617/print.org

The Schools  Collections for Holmpatrick notes

In Skerries there is a bathing place called the “Spring Board”
In one of the rocks there is a hole in the shape of a man’s foot-print .
The people of skerries say it is the foot-print of St, Patrick; that when he was on one of the Island he stepped over to the mainland , where the “Spring Board” are now
This story is told by all the inhabitants of Skerries.  (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0784, Page 91 Holmpatrick (roll number 14180)

Bronze Plaque to St Patrick’s Goat at Skerries Church image taken http://irishheraldry.blogspot.ie/2015/05/heraldry-at-skerries-holmpatrick.html

 

Earlier Origins for the tale of St Patrick and his goat
Both of these tales  seem to have evolved from a much older story earlier.  In earlier versions of the  story, the goat is eaten after being stolen and its bleating alerts the saint that it is in the stomach of the thief.
 The Life of St Patrick by Jocelyn written in the twelfth century  (published in The Most Ancient Lives of Saint Patrick, edited by James O’Leary)  in a chapter entitled  Chapter CXLVIII: A Goat bleateth in the Stomach of a Thief)  recalls the theft and eating of the saints goat. Once Patrick recovered the goat he cursed the thief to be marked with beard of a goat.
The blessed Patrick has a goat, which carried water for his service; and to this the animal was taught, not any article but rather by a miracle. And a certain theif stole the goat, and eat, and swallowed it. And the author or instigator or the theft is  enquired: and one who by evident tokens had incurred suspicion, is accused; but not only denieth he the fact, but adding perjury unto theft, endeavoreth he to acquit himself by an oath. Wondrous was the event to be told, yet more wonderful to come to pass. The goat which was swallowed in the stomach of the thief bleated loudly forth, and proclaimed the merit of Saint Patrick. And to the increase of this miracle it happened, that at the command, nay rather at the sentence of the Saint, all the posterity of this man were marked with the beard of a goat (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18482/18482-h/18482-h.htm#chap6148).
A more paired down version of the  story is found in the  text the Tripartite Life of Patrick (Three Middle-Irish Homilies on the Lives of Saints Patrick, Brigit and Columba).  This is the earliest example of a saint’s Life written in the Irish language. It was begun in the ninth century and modified in the twelfth century.
In this version of the tale we are told that members of the  Uí Meith Mendait Tire ( whose territory was near Tara) stole and ate St Patrick’s goat and following their denial of the act the goat bleated  from in their stomachs altering the saint to their treacherous deed.

And Patrick blessed the Assembly of Telltown, so that no one should ever be killed there at, and that only one should be killed at Rath Airthir, and he left his altar a Domnach Patraic. And Patrick went from thence into the territory of Ui Meith in Mendait Tire, and he tarried not in Armagh at that season, and he left holy elders of his people at Tech-talai. Then three of Ui Meith Mendait Tire stole (and ate) one of the two goats that used to carry water for Patrick, and came to swear a lie. It bleated from the bellies of the three. ‘My debroth’ said Patrick, ‘the goat himself hides not the stead wherein he is.’He afterwards went to the men of Bregia and mightily preached the word of God unto them, and baptized and blessed them.

It’s fascinating to see how the story of St Patrick and his goat has survived  and adapted through the centuries before becoming established in the folklore of East Galway and North Co Dublin.

As an aside while looking into the story I came across the Old Irish Goat Society

The main aim of the Society is to preserve and promote the Old Irish goat, the original and only landrace breed of goat in Ireland. The society was formed in October 2006, by a small group of enthusiasts who realized that the breed was rapidly heading towards extinction, but that its gene pool could be preserved if assertive action were taken.

6860e7ab-ff67-4142-b3d6-2e2fadb1c91b

To find out more about the old Irish Goat and conservation efforts check out the society website.

References

Cunniffe, C. 2016. Tobar Padraig Holy Well , A Significant Local Pilgrimage Site. Galway Community Archaeology Advisory Project   Heritage Week August Unpublished Report.

O’Leary, J. 1874. The Most Ancient Lives of Saint Patrick: including the Life by Jocelin, Hitherto Unpublished in America, and His Extant Writings. Illustrated with the Most Ancient Engravings of Our Great National Saint; With a Preface and Chronological Table. New York: P. J. Kenedy, No. 5 Barclay Street.

Schools’ Collection, Volume 0784, Page 91Holmpatrick, Co Dublin (https://www.duchas.ie)

Schools’ Collection, Volume 0034, Page 0475  Kiltullagh, Co. Galway(https://www.duchas.ie)

Schools’ Collection, Volume 0082, Page 86 Crumlin School, Co Galway(https://www.duchas.ie)

Stokes, W. (ed).  1877. Three Middle-Irish Homilies on the Lives of Saints Patrick, Brigit and Columba. Calcutta : [s.n.].http://celt.ucc.ie/published/T201009/index.html.

http://irishheraldry.blogspot.ie/2015/05/heraldry-at-skerries-holmpatrick.html

http://www.skerriesparish.ie/history.htm

http://oldskerries.ie/the-legend-of-st-patricks-footprint/

Save

Pilgrimage at Clonmore Co Carlow

Clonmore, Co Carlow is located 3½ miles south of Hacketstown and 9 miles east of Tullow in the north-east corner of the county, close to the Wicklow border. The modern village developed around the site of an early medieval ecclesiastical settlement.

20130205_125721

View of St Johns Church of Ireland Church Clonmore and road that runs through the monastic site.

Clonmore was founded some time in the sixth century, by St Maodhóg also known as ‘Mogue’. The saint was a member of the Ua Dúnlaing tribe who were the  ancestors of the Uí Dhúnlainge Kings of Leinster. He is not the same as St Maodhóg of Ferns and the two are often confused because they had the same name.  Maodhóg of Clonmore was mentioned with other Leinster saints in poem attributed to St Moling as the ‘golden vessel’ (Ó’Riain, 2011 431). His feast day seems to 11th of April (ibid , 432).

Little is know about the early history of Clonmore. The deaths of abbots of Clonmore are recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters in the years  771, 877, 886, 919, 920 and 972 . The annals also record that the monastery was burned in 774, attacked by the  Vikings in 834 and 835 and in 1040 by Diarmait mac Mael-na-mBó.

The site appears to have been a place of pilgrimage during the early medieval period. An early medieval poem written by Brocán  Cráibhtheach tells that Clonmore housed a vast collection of relics of the saints of Ireland. The collection included the little finger of St Maodhóg cut from  the saint while alive at the request of Onchú a saintly relic collector who amassed a vast collection of relics of Irish saints. St Maodhóg agreed to part with his finger  on the condition Onchú’s collection of relics remained at Clonmore. Onchú was also said to have been buried here at Clonmore. His feast day was recorded as the 8th of February. Interestingly local tradition identifies the area where Onchú was supposed to be buried in Clonmore graveyard. Clonmore was also associated with St Fíonán Lobhar.

The site of Maodhóg’s monastery  is  believed to be located  on the west side of the village beside a small stream. A  modern road runs through the centre.  A historic graveyard containing a large collection of early medieval crosses is found on the south site of the road. St John’s Church of Ireland  church and  churchyard is located on the north side of the road. There are no surviving  traces of the monastic enclousre or  buildings.

St John’s church was built  c. 1812 it  is surrounded by a triangular shaped graveyard. To the west of the church is a large solid ringed granite high cross known as ‘St. Mogue’s Cross’.

 

Killanin & Dugnan (1967, 304) mention an ‘ancient stone tough’ in the vicinity of the cross but I on  my visit I could not find it and  I hope it has not been stolen.

The historic graveyard on the south side of the road  is a rectangular area enclosed by a wall and it  contains a large number of early medieval cross slabs.  Some of the crossslabs are set in lines among rows of 18th and 19th century gravestones.  According to Harbison (1991, 179),  in 1975 all the loose stones crosses and cross slabs were gathered up by a local work party under the supervision of the then County Engineer, Michael O’Malley, and set upright in neat rows within a small paved area enclosed by kerbing at the north-western corner of the graveyard.

376

Paved area containing early medieval cross slabs at the north-western corner of Clonmore graveyard.

The head of second high cross is found in this paved area and the shaft and base are located a few meters to the northeast. According to Ryan in the History and Antiquities of the County of Carlow local people in the 19th century believed the cross had been destroyed by Cromwell.

 

 

Harbison (1991) has identified  24 early medieval  cross slabs in the graveyard. The crosses  include Greek crosses with expanded terminals incised or sunk into the surface, Latin crosses incised and carved in relief (by far in the majority) and  4 ringed crosses.

 

 

An ogham stone is also found in the graveyard Harbison believes it to be located in its original position  and noted that

Eddie McDonald has pointed out to me that local tradition places the tomb of St Onchuo between it and the South Cross less than 2m away from it (Harbison 1991, 177).

CW009-028021- E face

Clonmore Ogham Stone/CW009-028021 image taken from http://webgis.archaeology.ie/historicenvironment/  (White 2016).

The stone has been analysised by the wonderful Oghan in 3D project who state that

Faint traces of Ogham lettering on the SE angle … much worn and clogged with lichen’. ‘[The first two strokes of] R are lost by the fracture, and the I is broken and hard to recognise’ (Macalister 1945, 18). With the naked eye alone it is difficult to be certain that any inscription survives today. On the 3D model it is possible to make out faint traces of ogham. The 3D data was analysed by Dr Thierry Daubos of the Protecting the Inscribed Stones of Ireland project in Galway in an attempt to clarify the text (3D Analysis). Unfortunately, the scores and notches are too worn for any certainty except to confirm the presence of an ogham inscription. Macalister’s E is possible but the N may be an S and his final I looks more like a consonant, possibly C, with scores to the left of the stemline. Nevertheless, Macalister’s reading is given below as certainty is no longer achievable and it is possible that the inscription was less worn when he read it.

During the 18th and early 19th century St Mogue’s (Maodhóg) holy well  was the focus of pilgrimage. The well is located a few meters from the high cross beside St Johns Church ,on the north side of the road the bisects the monastic site, Today the holy well  sits within a landscaped community prayer garden. In times past the well was the site of a pattern on the 31st of January/1st February, the same day as the feast of the saints name sake St Maodhóg of Ferns, during the 18th century.  The Ordnance Survey Name books  for Carlow written in 1839, describe the well as

a small well with a stream running therefrom. A patron used to be  held here on Saint Mogue’s day, the 1st  of February but has been discontinued  30 years past.

 

The Antiquities and History of Cluain-Mor-Maedhoc published in 1862

it was until recently resorted to by peasantry for miles around for the cure of many diseases, it is now nearly unknown and neglected, and suffered to choke up with grass and weeds.

The Schools Collections  in 1939 stated that

The well is resorted to at the present time for the cure of sore eyes, warts or any skin growths -even for cancer (Clonmore School The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0909, Page 165).

For cures to be affective, water was taken from the well and applied to the hurt

This has to be done on three successive Fridays according to some; others say that it may be done on any day (Clonmore School The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0909, Page 165).

The earlier descriptions of the well make no mention of a well house and a photo in the Schools Collections from the 1939  shows the well as being open and enclosed by a low stone wall with the bullaun stone known as the wart stone sitting on the side of the wall surrounding the well.

PageProxy.aspx

St Mogue’s well  taken The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0909, Page 166

Today the  well is covered by a well house and the small bullaun stone/wart stone is found within the  house ( built post 1930).  To cure warts it was said the pilgrim needed to take  from the well and pour it into the hallow of the stone and then apply to  the afflicted area (O’Toole 1933, 114; Clonmore School The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0909, Page 111).

Directly opposite the well and prayer garden in the field on the south side of the road is a large four basin bullaun stone. The stone was once located at the centre of the field but was moved  to the easten edge during land improvements and now  sits at side of stream known as Church Brook.

 

 

The stone is a large granite boulder  about 2m in lenght with three deep depression about 30cm in diameter , the fourth is  a shallow depression.

According to folklore the stone was originally located at the monastic site but following raids by the Danes( Vikings) it jumped three times.  In the first jump it landed at the site of the St Mogue’s holy well and causes the well spring up,  the stone then jumped to the castles and from here to its former location in the field.

At that time all the land around there was poor and wet but when it lighted there it said:-
“Here I will stay till the destruction of the world and I vow that his farm will turn into fertile land, the most fertile in the parish of Clonmore and no one will interfere with me, and no grass will grow over me and I will be here till the end of time”. (Clonmore School The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0909, Page 111)

Apart from the early medieval remains Clonmore also has a large Anglo-Norman Motte and a stunning 13th century castle.

363

Clonmore castle located a short distance from  the site of  Clonmore  monastery

References

Brindley, A.L. and Kilfeather, A. 1993 Archaeological Inventory of County Carlow. Dublin. Stationery Office.

McCall, J. 1862. The Antiquities and History of Cluain-Mor-Maedhoc. Dublin : O’Toole

DEPARTMENT OF FOLKLORE, U.C.D Schoolbook vol 0909, Clonmore (1939)

Harbison, P. 1991. ‘Early Christian Antiquities at Clonmore, Co. Carlow’ Proceeding of the Royal Irish Academy Vol.91 C, 177-200.

Killanin, M. & Duignan, M. 1967. The Shell guide to Ireland. London: Ebury Press.

Macalister, R.A.S. 1945 Corpus inscriptionum insularum celticarum. Dublin. Stationery Office.

O’Toole, E. 1933. ‘The Holy Wells of County ‘, Béaloideas, Iml. 4, Uimh 2 pp. 107-133.

Ordnance Survey Letters for Co Carlow. http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/digital-book-collection/digital-books-by-subject/ordnance-survey-of-irelan/

Ryan, J. 1833. The history and antiquities of the county of Carlow. Dublin: Richard Moore Tims.

White, N. 2016.  ‘CW009-028021 , Ogham Stone Clonmore’ http://webgis.archaeology.ie/historicenvironment/( accessed 24/01/2018).

 

 

 

Killamery High Cross Co Kilkenny

The Killamery  high cross is  a wonderful hidden gem,   just off the main Clonmel to Kilkenny Road, about 5 miles south of Callan. The  cross is located at the site of the early medieval monastery of Killamery. Today  the site is dominated by a Firsts Fruits church, dedicated to St Nicholas. The church was  built in the year 1815 with a gift of £900 from the Board of First Fruits and was in use until the early 1900’s. During the 19th century it was a rectory, in the diocese of Ossory and it  formed the corps of the prebend of Killamery, in the gift of the Bishop; the tithes amount to £280.

dscf6738

St Nicholas First Fruits Church at Killamery

Killamery or Chill Lamraí  in Irish translates as the Church of Lamraighe and it gives its name to the townland and the civil parish where the site is located.

The patron saint the early medieval monastery was St Gobán. The Martyrology of Óengus  records the saints feast day as the 6th of December. In later centuries the site became associated with another saint, St Nicholas of Myra whose feast day is also on the 6th of December. Little is know about the early history of the site  and it is not until the 11th century  that it appears in the historical records. The Annals of Four Masters in 1004  record the death of Domhnall son of Niall the abbot of Cill-Laimhraighe. During the later medieval period site appears to a have had a parochial status. An Anglo-Norman Motte is located c.100m to the southwest of the site.Mottes were earth and timber castles composed of a large artificial pudding bowl shaped earthen mound with a wooden palisade around the summit, enclosing a timber tower known as a bretasche (Farrelly & O’Brien 2006, 289).

According to Grey (2016, 278)

The townland of Killamery appears to have been See lands from an early date, until the bishop exchanged the townland with William Marshal for the townland of Stonycarthy, between 1192 and 1231. Marshal granted the townland to de Albin (Tobin) and it remained in the hands of the Tobins (Brooks 1950, 252-61), until it was forfeited in Cromwellian times by James Tobin. The church of Killamery became the prebendary of the diocese of Ossory on the establishment of the chapter and continued to form the corps of the diocesan chancellor until at least the fifteenth century (Carrigan 1905, iv, 311-20).

Today little remains of the earlier church settlement. During the 19th century much of the remains relating to the early medieval and medieval of Killamery  was destroyed. The Ordnance Survey Letters of Kilkenny (1839, 120) state

The foundation, between three and four feet high, remains on the south-east side of the churchyard or burying ground, measuring 23 feet by 18, walls 2 feet nine inches thick; this part would appear to have been the Quire of the Church, as vestiges of  some more extensive building may be traces, projecting to the west from it. There is a yew three within the area of the choir five feet in circumference , and two white thorns of good growth near it (Herity 2003, 120).

In 1853 the Kilkenny Archaeological Journal recorded a visit by  Mr Dunne who described

A portion of the ancient chancel wall which enclosed the tombs of the family of Lee had been destroyed only the week before he visited it, and the stones had been used for a wall near the police barrack. The body of this ancient place of worship, with its ivy-covered arch, had been taken down in the year 1815 to serve for material for the present parish church, and the moss-covered stones that were uprooted on this occasion were thrown into a common shore (Stokes & Westropp, 1896/1901, 572).

A small number of early medieval features are found in the graveyard beside the First Fruits church. They include an early medieval, cross slab, a bullaun stone, high cross and a holy well.

006

Historic graveyard at Killamery containing  high cross, cross slab and bullaun stone.

The cross slab a large rectangular slab of stone with a large  latin cross set within a frame above the cross is the inscription  OR AR THUATHA. The  slab is set on its side against a large block of stone.

dscf6755

The high cross dates to the ninth century it is elaborately decorated and sits on a stone plinth.

dscf6745

East face of the cross at Killamery

A panel on the base of the western face seems to contain an inscription which MacAlister  transcribed as OR DO  MAELSECHLAILL. “OR DO”  means pray for and he identified Maelsechnaill as high king of Ireland who reigned  AD 846 to 862 (Harbison 1994, 78).

016.JPG

West face of high cross at Killamery

Above the whorl at the centre of the head of the west face is a panel showing one figure holding a child as another approaches from the right-perhaps Adam and Eve at Labour. Beneath the whorl is a figure flanked by angels, possibly God creating the Seventh  Day…The hunting scenes on the arms of the cross (Harbison 1994, 79).

The eastern face of the  high cross depicts interlaced animals.

The sides of the cross are also highly decorated. The ends of the arms  have scenes from the bible the southern arm  Noah in the Ark and the northern arm a scenes from  the life of St John the Baptist.

dscf6769

Northern side of the high cross at Killamery

According to the Ordnance Survey Letters (1839) stations were performed  there on Good Friday during the mid 19th century. It was

frequently visited by persons afflicted with head ache, on which occasion the mitre, which is loose is taken off the cross and put three times on the patient’s head, at the time reciting some prayers, after which a cure may be expected to follow (Herity 2003, 120)

 

021

The ‘mitre’ cap stone on top of the high cross was used to cure headaches in the 19th century.

A large bullaun stone  is located close to the high cross. Its base is worn through . Megalithic Ireland blog makes note of a second bullaun stone at the site which I did not see. I really hope I missed it and it has not disappeared from the site.

 

dscf6749

Stokes & Westropp (1896/1900, 378) recounted the presence of a third bullaun stone at the site and that it marked the grave of St Gobban.

There is a tradition that a bullaun, i.e. a cup-marked stone, probably
a rude font, lay at the side of the grave of Saint Goban at one time, but
that it was broken in pieces by the Palatines of New Birmingham, in the
County Tipperary.
A small and very unusual holy well is found on the north side of the graveyard.
The well is marked by a large granite boulder. One side of the  stone has been shaped in to  gable shape over a recess.

dscf6773

St Nicholas holy well Killamery 2014

When I visited the site in the summer of 2016 the well  was dry and a rectangular recess normally filled with water from the well was visible at the base.  The well was dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra. In the past a pattern or patron day was held here on December 6th  the feast day of the saint. The tradition of pilgrimage here has long died out. Evidence of the saints importance to the area is illustrated by dedications of the nearby church and school at Winegap to the saint. Interestingly the feast day of the founder St Gobán, coincided with that of Saint Nicholas of Myra. St Nicholas was a very popular Norman saint and it is possible that his association  with the site was linked to the establishment of the Anglo-Norman  settlement of Killamery and  was used to replace the earlier cult of St Gobán.

Although not directly related to the early medieval monastery. In 1850’s a sliver pin brooch was found  by a labourer digging in a field within the parish of Killamery. It was said the man accidental broke the pin with a blow from the spade.The broach dates to the ninth century and was made in Ireland but the design was influenced by Viking design (Whitfield & Oskasha 1991).  The pin shows evidence of Viking-style stamped ornament on the pin. The broach  has an inscription  on the back which probably reads: CIAROD[UI]RMC[.R]. According to  Whitfield & Oskasha (1991, 59) ‘text contains a male personal name, probably CIAROD[UI]R MAC [.R]. It can be interpreted as ‘[the possession] of Ciarodur son of [-]’ It is likely Ciarodur was the owner of the broach (ibid, 60).

c_brooch_killamery_2

Killamery Broach from  The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory http://rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlkik/pics/index.htm

Reference

Crawford, H. 1913. A Descriptive List of Early Cross-Slabs and Pillars (Continued). The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 3(3), sixth series, 261-265.

Farrelly, J. & O’Brien, C. 2002.  Archaeological inventory of County Tipperary.  Vol. I, North Tipperary.  Dublin: The stationary office.

Grey, R. 2016.Settlement clusters at parish churches in Ireland, c. 1200-1600 AD. Thesis NUI Galway.https://aran.library.nuigalway.ie/handle/10379/6061

Harbison, P. 1994. Irish High Crosses.Drogheda: The Boyne Valley Honey Company.

Herity, M. 2003. Ordnance Survey Letters of Kilkenny. Vol.1 & 2. Dublin: Fourmasters Press.

Whitfield, N., & Okasha, E. (1991). The Killamery Brooch: Its Stamped Ornament and Inscription. The Journal of Irish Archaeology, 6, 55-60.

Lewis,  1837 Topographical Dictionary of Ireland Vol. 1, 123.

Stokes, M. & Westropp, T. J/ 1896/1901.’Notes on the High Crosses of Moone, Drumcliff, Termonfechin, and Killamery. (Plates XXVIII. to LI.)The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy , Vol. 31 (1896/1901), pp. 541-578.