Political rallies at Irish Holy wells 1917-1918

Holy wells were often and some continue to be the focus of  large  gatherings  of pilgrims, especially on special days of devotion such as the saints feast day/pattern day.  In the 19th century and early 20th century some holy wells could attract hundreds even thousands of pilgrims, large gatherings  could provide politicians/political groups with a captive audience and occasionally political meetings  and  rallies were organised to coincide with pilgrimages.

In the aftermath of the 1916 rebellion a number of pilgrimages at holy wells coincided with political meetings and anti-conscription rallies. In August 1917  the Irish Times ( 7th Aug 1917) tells  that the Meath Sinn Fein Clubs held a public meeting on the pattern day of  St Ciaran’s Holy Well (on the 1st Sunday of August), Caranross, Kells. Co Meath.  Its was said  upward of 8000 people were present and following prayers at the oratory beside the holy well, the  Sinn Fein meeting was held in a field close by.  The meeting was addressed by Countess Markievicz  and Seam Milroy  and  ‘a large number of priests were present on the platform’.

Paddy Healy in his book   Knocklyon Past and Present noted that at St Colmcille’s holy well at Knocklyon, Co Dublin  was also the scene of a political rally,  with a special pilgrimage organised to beg the saint’s intercession to avert conscription in Ireland.

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Anti Conscription Rally at Ballaghadreen Co Roscommon Image taken http://www.irishhistorian.com/Selections/September_2013_Selection.html

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St Colmcille’s Holy Well Knocklyon

In August 1918 the Derry Journal (19th August 1918) recorded the arrests of a number of Sinn Féin  member’s for speaking at holy wells.

Thomas Murphy the Secretary of the Bray Sinn Fein Club was arrested in connection to speeches allegedly delivered at St Patrick’s Holy Well, Ballina, Co Mayo.  John Moylett President of the the North Mayo Sinn Fein and Patrick Melvin of Ballina were also arrested in connection with this event.

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St Patrick’s Holy Well Ballina. The well has been landscaped in recent years so would not have looked like this at the time of the rally. Image taken from Google Street View ( https://www.google.ie/maps/@54.121087,-9.162681,3a,75y,66.71h,75.83t)/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1seNpn-Nibz9EjA_oxQ5TvIA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

 

The same paper also noted that

A large number of police had been drafted into Ballina in anticipation of a meeting but political speeches were delivered at the Holy Well to which a procession, said to be a pilgrimage, took place.

This statement indicates Sinn Fein either  instigated a pilgrimage to the well or took advantage of an already organised religious gathering, to continue with the planned meeting.

The same article also mentions that John Curran secretary of the Letterkenny  Sinn Fein club was arrested due to the reading of the Sinn Fein  Executive proclamation at a meeting held at  Conwal Holy Well a few miles outside of Letterkenny. The well is dedicated to St Catherine and was an active pilgrim site at the time of the meeting.

This is a topic I will return to again  it is very interesting see these places of prayer becoming places where  political  messages could be communicated to a large audience and the act of pilgrimage used to mask a political agenda. I am sure there are  other examples of this type of activity from elsewhere in the country and  from earlier times , so I will keep you all posted on what I find out.

St Laserian at Lorum Co Carlow

I was hoping to have this post ready for the feast day of St Laserian  on the 18th of April   but better late then never.  St Laserian has strong associations with Co Carlow and I have discussed  the modern pilgrimage to St Laserian  at Old Leighlin Co Carlow in previous posts. The saint is also  associated with a place called Lorum  in Co Carlow.

According to folklore  when St Laserian returned to Ireland from Rome he set out in search of a location to build a monastery.  When he came  Lorum  (a few miles south-east of Muinebheag (Bagenalstown)) he stopped on top of a large hill . The saint was so impressed by the area that he decided to build a monastery here. God however had other plans for him, and while he knelt in prayer an angel  proclaimed ‘ Go where you shall see the first shinning, and there shall your religious house be established’ ( O’Toole 1933, 17).  Taking heed of the angel the saint  set off again on his search which ended when he arrived  Old Leighlin  which became the site of his  monastery.

Lorum (Leamdhroim in Irish) appears to have been the site of a religious foundation. Gwynn and Hadcock (1970, 397) recorded that Lorum was an early medieval monastery dedicated to  St. Laserian . Brindley notes in 1204 the Bishop of Leighlin was confirmed of his possession of lands including ‘Lenidruim’ (Lorum) (Cal. papal letters, 18). The church  at Lorum was valued at 3 marks in the 1302-06 ecclesiastical taxation of Ireland (Cal. doc. Ire., 250) and by the late 16th century it was in ruins.  The Ordnance Survey Letters for Carlow recorded Steward, writing in 1795, noted that the 18th of April, the feast of Laserian was celebrated at Lorum and  until  the  1830s a  pattern day was held here.

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Loram Church of Ireland Church

All trace of this monastery and medieval church have long disappeared.  Today Lorum  consists a stunning Church of Ireland Church  built circa 1830 with a historic graveyard  on its western side . The  curve in the road on the east side of this church may tentatively reflex the line of an earlier medieval enclosure.

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View of Lorum Hill showing the curve in the road on the east side of the church (taken http://map.geohive.ie/mapviewer.html)

Within the historic graveyard are the ruins of  a post medieval church. The structure is  in poor condition  and with the exception  of the west gable only the foot prints of the other walls survive.  The upstanding gable appears to incorporated  stones from an earlier church.

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Ruins of  post medieval church at Lorum.

The remains of an 18th century porch with red brick  in the fabric is  attached to the  exterior of west gable of the church.

 

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Porch attached to west gable of Lorum Church

In 1837 Lorum church was described as ‘an old building, containing two modern tombs of the Rudkin family, has been recently repaired’ (Lewis 1837, 312).  The Ordnance Survey Letters  for Carlow (1837-40) recorded that at ‘

Lorum, there was, it is said, an old Church before the present Parish one, which is now falling to ruin, was erected. The spot where it stood is shown in a field, a few perches to the northeast corner of the Parish Church  and a few yards to southwest corner of a Church (C of I church) which is now in progress of being built (O’Flanagan 1934, 311).

The ITA Survey of 1945 identifys the ruined church as the remains of an 18th century Church of Ireland Church and the medieval church as being located as a low-rise of ground inside the graveyard. Both churches were replaced by a  seven-bay Gothic Revival Church with buttresses and parapet built c. 1838 and designed  by Frederick Darley.

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Church of Ireland Church at Lorum built 1838

Close to the church are the ruins of a small post medieval house which shows signs of rebuilding and alterations.

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Post medieval building at Lorum

A plain granite base of a high cross provides the only physical evidence of early medieval  activity at the site.

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Base of high cross at Lorum

The remains of a second  early medieval cross are found 200m to the west of Lorum graveyard. The  cross is located on the north side of  east-west running bohereen.

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Bohereen leading to Lorum cross and cairn

The monument consists of  a medieval cross shaft set in a cross base  sitting on top of a cairn of stones and earth.

 

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Lorum is associated with two holy wells. According to ITA Survey (1945),  a well dedicated to St Laserian was located to the north  the old graveyard. The well was not recorded on the 1st ed OS 6-inch map for the area but the files state it was covered by well house  and located northnorthwest of the  church.  The farmer who owns the land the well was located on told me there was no longer a well here and he had not heard of a holy well in this location before.

A holy well dedicated to St Molaise ( the Irish for Laserian) is located to the east of the old church.  The 1st ed OS 6-inch  marked the well as St Molappoge’s well. The well which is now dry is  stone-lined  and rectangular in shape. It is  covered by  a  large lintel stone. The well is in reasonable condition but is no longer visited by pilgrims.

 

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St Molappoge’s  holy well

 

St Laserian is no longer  venerated in the area and all focus of the saint has moved to Old Leighlin.  This is a lovely place to visit and you can see why St Laserian wanted to settle here.

References

Brindley, A. 1993. Archaeological Inventory of County Carlow. Dublin: Stationery Office.

Gwynn, A. & Hadcock, R. N. 1970. Medieval Religious Houses in Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press

ITA Survey of Carlow 1945

Lewis, S. A. 1995. A topographical dictionary of Ireland:London : S. Lewis & Co

http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=CW&regno=10301911

O’Flanagan, Rev. M. (Compiler) 1934 Letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the County of Carlow collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1839. Bray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stroll along the shores of Lough Derg, Co Donegal

This is Pilgrim Paths week which reminded me of a recent visit to the shores of Lough Derg, Co Donegal.  Lough Derg lake is home to St Patrick’s Purgatory (located on Station Island) one of Ireland’s oldest and most popular pilgrim sites. Each year large numbers of pilgrims travel to the Island during pilgrim season that runs from May to September  to partake in an arduous penitential pilgrimage which can last up to three days.

A modern walk skirts along the shores of the lake and is open all year round.  This walk is a part of the Pilgrim Paths network of walking routes.  The network of routes known as pilgrim paths are a group of modern Irish walking routes that in many cases incorporate sections of or follow closely the route of older pilgrim routes some of which may be of medieval date. In 2014 National Pilgrim’s Paths Day was held to promote these routes by hosting a series of organised walks. The event proved very successful and  was repeated in 2015. As interest in the pilgrim paths has steadily grown in popularity the organisers will this year  host a series of walks that will extend from the 22nd March to  29th March.

The Lough Derg pilgrim path runs for 12km (7 miles) along the edge of the lake.

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Guidebook for the Lough Derg Pilgrim Path

A  few weeks back on a flying visit to Lough Derg, I walked a short section of this path. The pilgrim path beings in the car park of the visitor centre.  Its worth taking the time to stand and look out at Station Island.

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View of St Patrick’s Purgatory on Station Island in Lough Derg from visitor car park.

From the car park the path runs along a modern forestry tracks that hugs the lake edge  until it reaches  a point opposite Saints Island. In in medieval times this island was the site of an Augustinian monastery and acted as a gateway for pilgrims  who wanted to make pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory.

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View of Lough Derg Pilgrim Path.

I am working on a post about the medieval pilgrimage at Lough Derg, so I wont go into too much detail.   St Patrick’s Purgatory, the focus of the  medieval pilgrimage was a deep  artificial cave or pit into which pilgrims entered for a set period of time in the belief they would experience the torments of purgatory.  The cave has since been destroyed but the tradition of  making pilgrimage here survived and evolved to its current form.

The walk is not a very challenging one but every now and then you are rewarded with views of the lake and its islands.  There are also a number of interesting spots along the way. After walking for about 1.15km,  I came to a sign for  St Brigid’s chair. At this point I  left the main the track and follow a path down to the lakes edge.  The fencing along the path and the lakes edge is in poor state of repair so care is needed.  The chair is a large  rock at the water’s edge.

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I then return to the track  and after walking a few hundred meters or so I came to  another sign for St Daveoc’s/Dabheog’s Chair.

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Signpost for St Daveoc’s/Dabheog’s chair

I followed the track  leading into the forest until I came to a fence at the edge of the forestry, the chair is located on a height above this point. As I didn’t have enough time to explore properly I had to returned to the path without locating the chair. According to Harbison & Lynam St Daveoc’s/Dabheog’s chair  is   ‘partially natural, but it seems to have had one or two large blocks added to it, hinting that it may once have been a Bronze Age burial place’.   I am very grateful to Keith Corcoran who writes the Journey in Wonder blog for permission to use his image of St Daveoc’s/Dabheog’s chair.  As you can see from his photo its worth making the effort to find this site.

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View of Lough Derg from St Daveoc’s/Dabheog’s chair taken by Keith Corcoran.

St Daveoc’s chair is located close to the point where an older pilgrimage route marked as ‘ancient road’ on the first edition OS 6-inch maps  and traced back to Templecairn,  merges with the modern path.

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View of Station Island from circa 1km along the path

Back on the track I continued  walking until I came to St Brigid’s holy well. The well is located just off the forest track at the edge of the lake.

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St Brigid’s well Lough Derg

St Brigid’s well is marked by a modern metal cross  now covered in rags, socks, ribbons, religious medals and beads. It is enclosed by a circle of sandstone stonework which also has a modern appearance.

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I went no further than this point but the  track continues from here along the edge of the lake  until it reaches a point opposite Saints Island. According to my guide-book the remains of the stones that formed part of bridge that would have brought medieval pilgrims across to Station Island, are still to be seen.

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Map of Lough Derg Pilgrim Path from (Harbison & Lynam 2004)

From Saints Island the path continues swinging around in a loop before joining back with the original track.  I really enjoyed my walk  and  I looking forward to  returning and walking the  path in its entirety in the future.

References

http://www.pilgrimpath.ie/

Walking the Pilgrims Path

Harbison, P. & Lynam, J. 2004. ‘Lough Derg. The Shore by Saints Island, Co Donegal. Medieval Irish Pilgrim Paths No. 3. Heritage Council.

 

Ardpatrick Co Limerick

St Patrick is associated with many wonderful sites around Ireland,  Ardpatrick Co Limerick is one of my favourite. Located on the edge of a village of the same name, the site is about six miles south of Kilmallock on R512, on the road to Kildorrery in the county of Cork. Sitting on top of a large hill  the site consists of  the ruins of an early medieval  ecclesiastical settlement,  consisting of a ruined church surrounded by a modern rectangular graveyard and the stump of a round tower.  The site is held to date to early medieval period and the partial remains of  large  enclosure that once surrounded the site is still visible. Within the enclosure are earthworks of possible buildings, fields banks, enclosures and a road.

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View of Ardpatrick from the air ( Bing maps)

The name Ardpatrick comes from the Irish ‘Ard Phádraig’  which means the ‘Height or Hill of Patrick’.  According to local tradition St Patrick founded a monastery here in the 5th century.

A story in the late 9th century work Bethu Phátric, The Tripartite Life of St Patrick, tells us that when Patrick sought a site for the church on Ardpatrick, Derbhall, the local leader, opposed him. He told him that he would believe only if St Patrick removed part of the mountain wall to the south so that he could see Loch Long in the land of Fir Muí Féinne. St Patrick prayed and the mountain melted forming a gap, Bealach Leáite, the Pass of the Melting (Dowd 1896, 49; Limerick Diocesan Heritage).

In the ensuing centuries the  Ardpatrick was ruled by abbots drawn from the Déisí, the ruling Sept of An Déis Bheag, the territory in which the monastery was situated. The church became a very important and powerful site. It had strong links with Armagh and collected Munster contributions to Armagh. Torlogh O’Connor plundered the church at Ardpatrick in 1127AD and in 1129 Cellach, bishop of Armagh, died at Ardpatrick  on Monday 1 April.  The O’Langans were hereditary coarbs of Ardpatrick and the lands here remained in their possession and a group  known as the ‘Clerks of Ardpatrick’,  up to the 16th century (Fleming 2009 ,6).

Ardpatrick Archaeological remains

As the name suggest the ruins  at Ardpatrick sit at the top of a large hill to get to the summit you follow  a small track from the edge of the  village.

The hill is steep but when you reach the top of the hill you will be rewarded with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.

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Today the all that remains of this once great site are the ruins of multi period church  which is covered in a thick growth of ivy which makes it difficult to examine in detail.  According to Ó Carrigáin (2010 131)

‘ apart perhaps from the north end of the west wall, none of its fabric seems to be medieval. It does incorporate large blocks that probably come from a per-Romanesque church.

 

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View of the ruins of the church at Ardpatrick

A number of carved stones from windows etc are found scattered around  the site and the interior of the church is filled with historic graves.

The church and graveyard are surrounded by a rectangular walled  enclosure.  Ó Carrigáin (2010, 131-132) points out that one of the stones in the stile at the  west end of this enclosure  incorporates an upside down door lintel which was part of an earlier pre-Romanesque church.

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Upside down door lintel reused in stile. This stone likely came from a pre-Romanesque church that once stood at the site (Ó Carrigáin 2010, 306).

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In the past a holy well stood to the southwest of the church.

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1st ed. OS 6 inch map of Ardpatrick

The well is now filled in but was once circa 40 feet deep, faced with stone, and had steps leading to it.  According to legend, cattle are said to have been cured by its water. People visited the well seeking cures for lameness, rickets and rheumatism also used it.

According to the Folklore Collection Schools Manuscript of 1937

There is a holy well now nearly filled up on the hill here. The water lay about 15ft from surface, people said that if on looking down you did not see your reflection in the water you would die before the current year ran out.

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Carved detail of a window embrasure in the church fabric

Outside the graveyard  wall are the stump of a 11th-12th century round tower  built of dressed stone. Given its location it must have dominated the landscape when built. The tower collapsed in a storm in 1824 and local legend tells of a peal of 7 silver bells which once hung in the tower.

 

 

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According to the Schools Manuscripts (1937) folklore about the tower said that the tower was destroyed

When Murrough the Burner was coming from Cashel his soldiers burned Ardpatrick village which my informant says stretched west by south from the old tower. A party of soldiers on guard in the tower were playing cards. They played on top of a powder keg. One of them ‘hit the keg a welt of his fist’ upsetting a candle into the powder. The resulting explosion damaged the tower which was still further damaged by lightning.

It was also said that a subterranean passage supposed to exist between the round tower & the old abbey.

Another interesting feature that survives at the site are the traces of an ancient road way.

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Aerial view of site (Bing Maps) showing the line of the Rian Bó Phádraig

The old road known locally as the Rian Bó Phádraig has discussed this road in a previous post of St Patrick to find out more follow the links.

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The remains of the old road known as the Rian Bó Phádraig.

 

 

References

Fleming, J. 2009.  The formation of the church in Limerick’. In Limerick History and Society, 1-15.

https://pilgrimagemedievalireland.com/2016/02/03/holy-cow-the-miraculous-animals-of-the-irish-saints-part-three-st-patricks-cow-and-the-rian-bo-phadraig/

http://www.limerickdioceseheritage.org/Ardpatrick/textArdpatrick.htm

Irish Folklore Collection Schools Manuscripts Ardpatrick Co Limerick http://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4922041

ÓCarrigáin, T. 2010. Churches in Early Medieval Ireland. London: Yale University Press.

Ó Danachair, C. (1955). The holy wells of Co. Limerick. JRSAI Vol. LXXXV, pt. II, pp. 193-217.

 

A Cure at St Patrick’s Holy Well Clonmel in 1913

St Patrick’s well at Marlfield, Clonmel  is one of my favorite places and  I have discussed the history and modern pilgrimage tradtions of the holy well in previous posts. This post details a cure that occurred in 1914 at the well which made the national newspapers at the time.
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St Patrick’s Holy well Marlfield

During the early 1900’s the well underwent somewhat of a revival and became a very popular place of pilgrimage.  Like many other wells its waters are said to have curative powers and the story of one cure was recounted in The Irish Independent and Irish Examiner  newspaper in  April, 1914. The newspaper articles tells the story of a boy called John Sullivan from West Douglas Cork.  In 1914 John was aged 13 years old.  The article states he had hurt his leg some years previously  and was in great pain which resulted in surgery. Following  the second operation on his leg, John’s mother brought him to St Patrick’s well. The child visited the well three times first in August 1912, then a year later August 1913 and finally on St Patrick’s Day 1914. On each visit the mother and son recited ‘Five decades of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin’ followed by seven Hail Marys, in honour of St Patrick. They also visited the ruined church beside the well  where‘ fervent prayers were said before the site of the altar’ (Anon b 1914). A week  after his last visit he has discarded his crutches and was walking with a stick  and soon afterwards was walking unaided. Many people visited wells in search of healing because they knew someone who had been healed or had heard stories of people being healed.
The Examiner tells us  that John was brought to Clonmel, as his mother a native of Tipperary town had 30 years previous herself been cured from the wells waters.  As a child her finger was in danger of being amputated. Her aunt sent her a jar of water from St Patrick’s well and following use of the water and prayers to St Patrick her finger was cured. Hence her confidence the well would be of benefit to her son.

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References

Anon a. ‘ Clonmel Holy Well Cure’, Irish Indepenent Thursday, April 23, 1914

Anon b. ‘Clonmel Holy Well. Cork Boy Remarkable Cure’. Irish Examiner Wednesday, April 22 1914, 5

 

St Sylvester’s Holy Well at Malahide

Today the 31st of December is the feast of St Sylvester who was the chosen pope in succession to Pope Miltiades (311-314) and his pontificate also coincided with the reign of the first Christian emperor, Constantine.

In the town of  Malahide in North County Dublin there is a holy well along with the modern  Catholic Church dedicated to St Sylvester.  The church built-in the 1800’s takes its dedication from the holy well. Antiquarian sources relating to the well  provide some debate as to the patron of the well.  Some feel its St Sylvester whose feast is on the  31st of December and his cult was introduced by the Normans, others argue its a Bishop Silvester, a holy man associated with the fifth-century Christian mission to Ireland. I will have to look into the patronage of the well some more when time allows.

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St Sylvester’s well and church (image taken http://www.malahideheritage.com/#!sylvesters-well/cidb)

 

The well was also known as Sunday’s Well and Lady’s Well, the later  being derive from devotions at the well on the 15th of August. The site of the well was marked on John Rocque’s map of 1756 unfortunately the  dedication of the well was not recorded.

Pilgrimage to the well has now died out  but in the past the traditional day of pilgrimage was the 15th August when a pattern day was held at the well. The Malahide Heritage website notes that

The Malahide well, like many others, became associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a patron or pattern was held there regularly on the 15th August. On this date the well was decorated and the statue of the Blessed Virgin was decked with ribbons. There is a theory that the statue used was Our Lady of Malahide, associated with the Oak panel carving of the Assumption in Malahide Castle. During the patterns, the well was circled seven times, while reciting a special prayer or rann. At these 15th August patterns, worshippers gathered from many miles distant. The tradition of reciting prayers whilst circling the well on 15th August was revived in recent times.

 

Fr. Scantlebury was the organiser of the cycling club and was also an excellent photographer. Photo gifted by Leonard Little, son of Dr. Geo.A. Little

Photo of St Sylvester’s holy well circa 1948 (image taken http://www.malahideheritage.com/#!sylvesters-well/cidb.

The waters of this well were held to have curative powers and up to the close of the 1890’s, an eel was inserted into the waters of the well to purify it. Many wells around Ireland are said to be inhabited by a sacred fish or eel. In most cases the tradition is that if one sees the fish/eel in the well ones prayers will be granted or cures received. St Sylvester’s well  is the only well I have come across where an eel was regularly placed in the waters, all in accounts of wells and eels from other wells the eel seems to be in residence within the well.

I am intrigued by this well so will investigate further in the coming months and see if I can find out anymore historical information about the well. In the mean time for further  information see the list of references below.

References

Branigan, G. 2012. Ancient & Holy Wells of Dublin. Dublin: History Press.

O’Reilly, P. J. 1910. ‘The Dedications of the Well and Church at Malahide’ JRSAI Vol. 40, no.3,  147-165.

http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/St.+Sylvester’s+Day

http://malahideparish.ie/blog/the-history-of-st-sylvesters/

http://www.malahideheritage.com/#!sylvesters-well/cidb

http://www.enjoymalahide.com/home/all-about-malahide/malahide-a-brief-history/

 

St Colmán’s holy well at Oughtmama Co Clare

St Colmán’s well/ Tobar Cholmáin  is part of the monastic landscape of Oughtmama a small  but significant monastic site located  in a valley above Turlough Hill in the Burren in Co Clare.

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View of Oughtmama churches from pathway leading to Tobar Cholmán.

Oughtmama was associated with three different St Colmán’s one of which was  St Colmán Mac Duagh the patron saint of the dioceses of Kilmacduagh and it is this Colmán who is the patron of the nearby holy well. According to folklore it was said the saint came to the site in his  retirement seeking a life of solitude.  He later died here and was brought back to Kilmacduagh for burial.

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St Colmán’s well/ Tobar Cholmáin at Oughtmama

The well is located on a steep northeastern slope of the valley above the monastic site. It consists of a rectangular stone walled enclosure with steps leading down to the  water in the well.

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A tree  growing out of a loose pile of stones and a leacht (a small stone built cairn of stones), are found on either side of the well.

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According the Ordnance Survey Letters of 1839 the well had

migrated from its original position and broke out a short distance lower on the slope of the hill, where it is now known by the new name of Sruthan na Naomh, the Rivulet of the Saints; but its original locality which is still called Tobar Cholmain has a square enclosure of stones, in the centre of which grows a small, stunted, white thorn bush, exhibiting votive rags of various colours.

Like many other Irish holy wells it was held to have curative powers and was  especially good for the eyes. It was said that the water could cure cataracts. The Ordnance Survey Letters ( 1839) state

This well is inbued with extraordinary naturally medicinal, or supernaturally miraculous virtues, for people have often washed their eyes in it, which were veiled with thick pearls, and ere they had completed the third washing these pearls (films) fell off leaving the eyes perfectly bright and clear-sighted .

In the late 1830s  when he Ordnance Survey Letters were written  a pattern was still held here annually on the 15th November in honor of St. Colmán feast day. Elsewhere St Colmán’s feast was celebrated on the 29th of October especially in the diocese of Kilmacduagh but at Oughtmama the feast was celebrated on the 15th of November.

The pattern day, was a day when people came together to perform pilgrimage at a holy well or saints grave, usually on the saints feast day. Such gatherings were very popular during the  17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  Secular celebration such as dancing,  drinking and stalls selling food and trinkets more often than not  took place along side religious devotion during this period.  Alcohol seems to have been a key component in  secular aspect of the celebrations on the day and pattern day could be rowdy affairs and a large number became the  scene of faction fighting and violence and disorderly behavior (Nugent & Scriven 2015, 18).   The unsocial behavior lead to much disapproval from the state and  both the established  Church as well as the  Catholic church and  attempts,  many of which were successful, were undertaken to suppress the pattern day celebrations.  By the end of the 19th century many had died out.  It is not clear  when exactly the pattern day at Oughtmama died out but it is no longer part of of the modern pilgrim traditions.

*** Local Caption *** Lawrence Collection

Image of pilgrims from the Lawrence Collection entitled ‘View of two men at St Coleman’s Well in Oughtmama, known as Tobercolman.’ from Clare County Library collection.

 

Today the well is visited by  tourists and  pilgrims although the numbers of the latter have steadily declined. The votive offerings and rags tied to the tree beside the well show the continuation of   pilgrims to the well.

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Piece of cord tied to tree at St Colmán well Oughtmama.

 

Many thanks to Pius Murray of  Coisceim Anama walks  for taking me to see this holy well.   For information on Pius’s guided walks see www.coisceimanama.ie / www.pilgrimpath.ie

References

Nugent, L. & Scriven, R. 2015. Wells, Graves & Statues. Exploring the heritage & culture of pilgrimage in medieval & modern Cork city. Cork City Council: Cork.

O’Donovan, J.  and Curry E. 1839. ‘The Ordnance Survey Letters of Co Clare’, http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/osl/oughtmama3_masduachs_well.htm.