Graveyard recording at Tubrid and St Ciaráns well

I was so impressed by last weeks visit to  Shanrahan graveyard   that I decided to head along to Tubrid/Tubbrid graveyard today and have a go at some graveyard recording for myself.

19th century Church of Ireland at Tubrid

Tubrid is another interesting place, thats well worth a visit. Today it consists of  the ruins of a 19th century church of Ireland surrounded by a graveyard.

Mortuary chapel

The graveyard contains a small 17th century mortuary chapel which is   the burial-place of Geoffrey Keating the author of  The Foras Feasa ( the history of  Ireland). Keating was born nearby at Burgess townland.  Over the door of the mortuary chapel is a latin plaque.

Latin plaque that commemorates Keating

Power (1937)  recorded the Latin inscription as ,

ORAte Pro Aiabs P. Eugenu: Duhy Vic de Tybrud: et D: Doct Galf: Keating huis Sacelli Fundatoru: necno et pro oibs alusta sacerd. quam laicis quoru corpa in eod: jacet sa A Dom 1644

Pray for the souls of Father Eugenius Duhy, Vicar of Tybrud, and of Geoffrey Keating, D.D., Founders of this Chapel ; and also for all others, both Priests and Laics whose bodies lie in the same chapel. In the year of our Lord 1644.

The graveyard is filled with really beautiful 18th and 19th century gravestones which I recorded with the help of other volunteers like Patsy McGrath, Michael Fennessy and Deirdre Walsh and training by Historic Graves (

The oldest stone  I came across dated to 1680. Some of the stones were difficult to read but John Tierney of Historic graves had a few trick using artificial lights that made the recording process easier.

Mark Ryland recording a grave inscription.

One of the earliest inscriptions I came across

Here Lies the body, of Anno Neil alias McGrath, who departed Life this 22 Day of Feb 1795 Aged 48.

Gravestone dating to 1795

Many of the gravestones are decorated with beautiful imagery, below is one of my favourite decorated gravestones.

St Ciarain’s well at Tubrid

I also visited   the nearby holy well of  St Ciarán, which is  a few 100 yards down the road  on the banks of   the Thonoge River.  This is not Ciarán of Clonmacnoise but Ciarán of Tubrid/ Ciarán son of Eachaid of the Decies.   Power (1914) noted the nearby graveyard and  church  was called Cillín Ciarán or Ciarán’s little church.  Ciarán is mentioned in the Irish and Latin Lives of St Declan. The Irish Life tells how Declan baptised Ciarán at the near by holy well when he was an infant (Power 1914).

And it was this child, Ciaran Mac Eochaid, who founded in after years a famous monastery (from which he migrated to heaven) and another place (monastery) beside. He worked many miracles and holy signs and this is the name of his monastery Tiprut (Power 1914, 59).

O’Riain (’2011, 174) notes  he is also mentioned in the Life of Tighearnach of Clones, whom he accompanied to Tours( the shrine of St Martin) in France. Shortly before the trip he resuscitated a daughter of the king of Munster named Eithne ‘ possibly the eponym of Temple-etney, near Tubrid’ (ibid).

The saints feast day was the 10th of November and the well was visited on this day within memory. Power in 1914 gives  the following description of the well

‘The Holy Well of Tubrid, a large circular basin at which stations were formerly made, has recently been enclosed by a wall.  A public pump too has been erected in connection with it’ (1914, 175).

St Ciarán’s well

Today the well is a rectangular  shaped  trough built into a retaining wall at the edge of a  hillside.  The top  of the wall is   covered with concrete. At the back of the well recess is , a stone spout which carries water draining off the hillside which fills the trough.

A local lady from Ballylooby told me that within memory  school kids at Ballylooby were given the day off on the saints feast day and people would visit the well .  Mass was said here until about 10-15 years ago but the tradition of stations had died as Power noted in the 1900’s .


Ó Riain, P. 2011. A Dictionary of Irish Saints. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Power, Rev. P. 1914. The Life of St Declan. London: Irish Text Societies.

Power, Rev. P. 1937. Waterford & Lismore. A Compendious History of the United Dioceses. Cork. Cork University Press.

Pilgrimage at St Declan’s Well, Toor, Co. Waterford

St Declan’s Well at Toor in Co. Waterford, has a special significance for me as my grandmother, who was originally from the area, visited the well throughout her life (even when living in another county).

St Declan’s Well

According to folklore St Declan  stopped here while en route to Cashel to quenched his thirst and it was this act that blessed the waters (Komen no date). I was unable to find any references to the well prior to the twentieth century, but the dedication to St Declan a pre-patrician saint suggests it is of some antiquity and  it may have originally attracted pilgrims only from the local area.

Statue of St Declan at Toor

Changing landscape of the Well

The modern landscape of the well is relatively recent. The statues, the structure where mass is said, the outdoor pulpit, are all additions dating to the 1950’s -1960’s. The coniferous plantation which surrounds the well is also modern. Thanks to the permission of Waterford County Museum I have included a number of photos of what the site was like in the 1950’s which show these changes.

Pilgrims praying at St Declan’s Well in the 1950’s (Waterford County Museum Image Archives)

The photo below (Waterford County Museum Archive) shows the well as a deep  depression. The   large cross covered in rosary beads with flowers at the base is still present at the site.

Kate McGrath (nee_Corcoran), at St Declan’s well Toor in the 1950’s (Waterford County Museum Image Archive)

In the early 1950’s Josephine Fitzgerald the wife of Jerry Fitzgerald a cycle shop owner from Main Street, Dungarvan was cured at the well. In the subsequent years the couple were involved with others in the up keep and the addition of  the statues, new buildings  etc. at the site. There are two plaques dedicated to  their work at the site.

Jerry Fitzgerald, a cycle shop owner from Main Street, Dungarvan at Saint Declan’s Well in Toor. Mr. Fitzgerald was the caretaker of the well for many years.

By the 1960’s all the features that are visible at the site today were in place.

St Declan's well Toor 1966 ( Waterford County Museum Image Archive)

St Declan’s well, Toor in 1966, note the white rags tied to the fence ( Waterford County Museum Image Archive)

Today the site is enclosed but the older images suggest that prior to the planting of the modern forest, the site was open.  A really interesting feature at the site is the addition of a rag tree/bush following the enclosing.  Today  pilgrims tie cloths, kitchen towels and rosary beads to the hedge which surrounds the site.

Rags tied to hedge of enclosure around St Declan’s Well.

The Well and Healing

Like many other wells the water here is renowned for its healing powers. Its reputation is such that people travel here from all over Waterford and neighbouring counties such as Cork, Tipperary and Wexford to pray and to avail of the healing waters. The water is especially beneficial for diseases of the eyes and the skin.

St Declan's Well, Toor

St Declan’s Well, Toor

In 1945, The Irish Tourism Association  survey for Co Waterford recorded for the well that

 Cure for skin diseases, ringworm especially, is attributed to it. Seán Dower, an old man who lives near the well told me he saw many people come here and bath their lombs etc. which were afflicted with ringworm and exzema in the water, and he afterwards saw them quite cured. I got like information from other sources (I. T. A 1945, 122).

Pilgrimages take place here throughout the year. Individuals come to the well, drink the water, do the rounds while reciting the rosary. Many will then wash limbs in a small rectangular trough, located a short distance from the well.

Rectangular trough where pilgrims wash their limbs

For a cure or prayer to be successful it is a requirement to visit the well three times.

Annual Pilgrimage Mass

The well is also the site of two annual masses in July and on the 15th of August when, large number of people come to the well for the blessing of the waters and the celebration of mass and the feast of St Declan. This year I attended the July pilgrimage which is held here on the Thursday closest the feast day of St Declan on the 24th of July.

Mass at St Declan’s Well on the 26th of July

The tradition of mass is relatively new having begun in 1951. While attendance at other wells is in decline,  the pilgrimage here is very strong as evident from the large number of numbers of pilgrims young and old who arrived by car and bus. There was a very strong local presence with many people from the neighbouring parishes of Aglish and Clashmore attending. There  were many people who had travelled long distances to be here from Waterford City, Wexford and Clonmel.

The mass is an important event and  11 priests assisted   Fr.  Gerry O’Connor  the parish priest of , who said the mass.  The ceremony began with blessing of the waters of the well and those present, next a box containing  petitions to the saint, from those in attendance was carried to the well.

Pilgrims writing petitions to St Declan

This is a new  addition to the ceremony at the request of  pilgrims the previous year. Following mass pilgrims went to the well to drink the water and some when to wash their feet at the trough underneath the structure where mass was said.

Pilgrims drinking the water of St Declan’s well after the annual mass

There is also a real social aspect to the occasion, it’s a chance for people to catch up and talk, afterwards  in the field generously provided by the local farmer for parking, many people had picnics out of the booth of their cars.

I would like to thank Fr Ger MacCarthy and Fr Pat Butler  for information on the well  and Waterford County Museum for permission to reproduce their photos.


I.T.A. Topographical and General Survey of County Waterford. Ireland, 1945. [on line] [accessed 4/08/2012]

Komen, J. no date. ‘St. Declan’s Pattern.’ [on line] [accessed 3/08/2012]