Meath Holy Wells
A holy well is a source of water where there is a tradition of veneration or has a religious dedication. They are sacred sites. There are many holy wells in Meath, a good number of them still having a regular pattern or pilgrimage. This book records over one hundred and thirty holy wells and sacred places in the county. Many wells are located in secluded and beautiful areas, well away from the madding crowds of modern life.
Wells had both material and spiritual importance to our ancestors. Water is a basic necessity and while today water is on tap it was not so for our ancestors. My mother had to obtain water from a well for the first five years of her marriage until electricity arrived. Our ancestors made sources of good clean water holy and these wells had to be respected. If something untoward was done to the well it might move.
Holy wells acquire their spiritual importance not only from current and recent worship but also from the pilgrimages made to the wells year after year by generation after generation of ordinary people. These wells have a strong connection to our Faith. Pilgrimages, patterns and holy well are an important part of our heritage.
Holy wells are visited at special times of the year usually on the patron’s day but also on days connected to the major Celtic festivals, in particular the Lughnasa festival in August. This suggests the pre-Christian origin of many of these wells. With the arrival of Christianity the wells were re-dedicated and their water used for baptism and for curing people’s ills. Many Meath wells are dedicated to St. Patrick but many are also dedicated to the other two great Irish saints, Brigid and Colmcille. Many parochial saints had wells dedicated to their honour.
The holy wells were believed to be places of cures, with different wells having unique healing properties. Drinking from one well would restore sight to the blind or cure a headache or bathing in the stream of another would cure ague. In almost all cases, rituals were required in order for the healing to occur.
Visitors to the wells said certain prayers and followed a defined route at the well. The rounds were always made to the right, in a clockwise direction. Patterns involved saying the Stations at the well but there was also a social side of the celebrations and in many cases these non-religious aspects led to the festivities being prohibited by the Church. In the light of opposition by the government, the established church, the Catholic Church, it is somewhat surprising that so many wells have survived and are treasured by their adherents. Holy wells have endured because they were regarded as sacred places by the community.
The wells do not exist alone; they are often associated with a tree and or a stone. The most common trees are hawthorn, ash or oak. The tree may represent the timber of the Cross and the Crucifixion and trees were also worshipped by the Celts. The trees are usually festooned by offerings of rags or ribbons. Leaving votive offerings such as cloth or pins was a common custom and still survives at many of the wells today. This tradition is associated with wells in other countries throughout Europe and western Asia.
The stones at the wells often bear the mark of the patron saint’s knees, fingers, thumb or some other bodily part. Many wells are said to contain a sacred trout.
Many holy wells have slipped into obscurity, having been ploughed over, clogged with rubble, overgrown, or fallen victim to natural erosion. They continue to be lost to farming, drainage work, development or neglect.
The Meath Archaeological Survey does not mention holy wells. There are only three wells protected in the County Development Plan: St. Colmcille’s, Kells, St. Brigid’s, Ardsallagh and Tober Rua, Moymet. In recent years there has been a revival of interest in holy wells and a number have been restored.
The earliest reference to a holy well in Meath is that of St. Patrick’s nephew, Loman, baptising a chieftain’s son at Trim in the fifth century but the well tradition stretches further back to the story of the origin of the Boyne River at Trinity Well. The wells recorded in this book are usually holy wells or have cures associated with them. There are other holy wells and wells with cures in the county which have not been included in this book.
The major sources used for this book are the Schools Folklore Collection, which was carried out in the 1930s by local Primary School children who recorded the folklore of their parish, the Ordnance Survey Letters and Name books which date from the 1830s written primarily by John O’Donovan and which provide topographical information in relation to each townland and parish in preparation for the first Ordnance Survey maps and Dean Cogan’s history of the diocese dating from the 1860s. Other sources used for this book were the many local and parish histories of the county and I would like to acknowledge all the local and parish historians for their work. I would like to thank Meath County Library and their Local Studies section for allowing me access such a repository and for their help, in particular Tom French. Thank you to Meath Heritage Officer, Loreto Guinan, for information in relation to wells.
My thanks to Sean Fay, Paddy Keely and Mick Kenny who took me to see various wells. Thank you to Regina Donoghue, Thomas Austin, Gerard Weldon, Siobhán Rheinisch, Arlene Coogan, Kieran Campbell, Catherine Reilly, Michael Fox, Hugh Mc Nelis, Val Dillon, Tony Raleigh, Una Ward, the parish priests of the county, Paddy Woods, Gearóid ÓBranagáin, Joan Mullen, Meath Field Names Project and Patrick Reilly (U.S.A.).
If I have missed a well or you have further information please feel free to contact me.
St Kieran’s Well, Carnaross. 1849.
Sources and Further Research
Brangan, P. ‘Kilskyre and District’ in Riocht na Midhe, (1970), pp 62-74.
Carney, Anne. Three Holy Wells (Trim, 2002)
Cogan, Anthony. The Diocese of Meath. Ancient and Modern. (Dublin, 1862)
Connolly, Susan and Moroney, Anne-Marie. Stone and Tree Sheltering Water. An exploration of sacred and secular wells in County Louth (Drogheda, 1998)
Conway, Margaret. Articles in the Meath Chronicle.
Coogan, Oliver. A History of Dunshaughlin, Culmullen & Knockmark (Dunshaughlin, 1989)
Cusack, Danny. Kilmainham of the Woody Hollow (Kilmainhamwood, 1998)
Dair Rioga Local History Group. All in good Faith – A history of Christianity in Enfield, Rathmolyon, Rathcore and Associated Areas. (Enfield, 2005)
Duleek Heritage. Wells of the Locality (Duleek, 2004)
Fitzsimons, Jack. The Parish of Kilbeg (Kells, 1974)
Healy, Elizabeth. In search of Ireland’s Holy Wells (Dublin, 2001)
Julianstown I.C.A. A History of Julianstown (Julianstown, 1982)
Keely, Patrick. A History of Dunderry (Dunderry, 2005)
Kenny, Dennis (ed.) Dunboyne, Kilbride and Clonee. A picture of the past (Dunboyne, 1993)
Logan, Patrick. The Holy Wells of Ireland (Buckinghamshire, 1980)
McKenna, Pat. (ed.) A history of Kiltale (Kiltale, 2000)
Mac Neill, Máire. The Festival of Lughnasa (Oxford, 1962)
Matthews, Brendan. A history of Stamullen (Stamullen, 2003)
Meehan, Robert. The Making of Meath. The County’s Natural Landscape History (Navan, 2012)
O’Connell, Philip. ‘Castle Kieran’ in Riocht na Midhe, (1957), pp 17-33.
O’Donovan, John, O’Connor, T. Field Name Books
O’Donovan, John. O’Connor, T. Ordnance Survey Letters (1836)
Ordnance Survey Letters Meath 1836 (ed.) Michael Herity (Dublin 2001)
Ordnance Survey Maps 1836 and 1909
Rackard, Anna, and O’Callaghan, Liam. Fish, stone, water, holy wells of Ireland (Cork, 2001)
Riocht na Midhe
Schools Folklore Collection
Thunder, John M. ‘The Holy Wells of Meath’ in JRSAI (1886), pp 655-58.
Wilde, William R. The Beauties of the Boyne and its Tributary the Blackwater (Dublin, 1849)
St. Patrick’s Wells
St. Colmcille Wells
St. Brigid Wells
St. Kieran’s Wells
St. Finian Wells
Our Lady’s Wells
St. Anne’s Well
St. John’s Wells
St. Ultan’s Well
St. Sechnaill Wells
St. Odran’s Wells
St. Dympna’s Well
St. Lucy’s Well
St. Patrick’s Well
There are many wells dedicated to St. Patrick in Meath. The saint’s journey from the sea to Slane, from Slane to Tara and onto Trim may be traced through the occurrence of major and smaller wells. There are also wells dedicated to the saint dotted throughout the rest of the county, each recalling a similar story of how Patrick and his followers became thirsty and the saint struck a rock and fresh cool spring came forth. Many of the wells also have stones marked by the saint’s knees, fingers or handprint.
In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded a well in the townland of Ardmulchan named Tobar Patraic. The well was located about 300 perches west of the church ruins. The pattern day for the parish was the first Sunday in August.
In the 1930s a school child recorded a St. Patrick’s Well near a bog, about a mile from Athboy. It was said that St. Patrick rested at this well. It was very deep and surrounded by stones with a thorn bush at one end. People used to make offerings at the well. They tied bits of handkerchiefs on the thorn bush. The school child recorded that some people had been cured at the well. People rubbed the water on their foreheads as it was a cure for headaches.
St. Patrick’s Well, Carlanstown.
St. Patrick’s Well is located on the Green at Carlanstown, opposite the National School. The well is recorded on the OS maps from the 1830s. The well is covered by chiselled blocks of granite, forming a dome, and the stones placed so as to form a cross at the centre. Cogan noted the well in the 1860s.
St. Patrick blessed the well at Carlanstown on his journey from Meath to Cavan. The water is cold in winter and in summer. There was a red coloured flagstone in the well and it is said that St. Patrick cut his foot on a stone and this is where the red colour comes from. On another stone there are two tiny holes, one is where the holy man stuck his thumb and the other is where he put his big toe.
There was a story relating to the well recorded in Jack Fitzsimon’s ‘The parish of Kilbeg.’ A Tipperary jobber attended Carlanstown fair, regularly buying and selling cattle. He missed the fairs for a year and was asked why when he returned. He explained he had lost a large amount of money at the previous fair. Having sold cattle he had the sum of 20 sovereigns and placed them on the wall near the well and forgot about them. When he tried to locate his money he could not. Not having the necessary finances to continue to trade he had to leave the profession for a year to raise funds. The jobber showed his audience where he had placed the money at the well. To his and their surprise there were the twenty sovereigns on the wall exactly where he had left them a year earlier.
Many people visited the well on St. Patrick’s Day to pray and bring home tin-cans of water for their tea. If a person had some disease of the eyes he would be cured if he washed them in the well and then said six ‘Hail Marys’ but the person must have the intention of being cured. If the water is used for cooking purposes the person will never suffer any bad disease or illness.
In the 1830s Tobar Padruig was described as springs lying in the field to the southwest of the old church ruins. In the 1860s Cogan noted that the church at Castletown–Kilpatrick was dedicated to St. Patrick and that there was a holy well convenient which was formerly much frequented on the vigil of St. Patrick’s feast. According to tradition St. Patrick visited this well. There is a track of his knees in the stone on which he knelt. The well is marked on the OS maps to the west of the graveyard and ruined church. This holy well was in a field owned by Mr. McKeever in the 1930s. Across the road was Drakestown Rectory. In the 1930s it was recorded that a former Protestant Minister named Longfield washed his dogs in the well, immediately it dried up and sprang up in a different place. Robert Longfield was rector of Drakestown from 1813 until 1835, and the story was recalled one hundred years later.
St. Patrick’s Well, at Dowth is in the same field as the passage grave. People used to take water to obtain cures. An old house stood near to the site of the well and when the people decided to construct a new house they felt that the nearest well was too far away and so this new well sprang up. This well was named St. Shanaghan’s Well by some people. A woman washed tripe or clothes in the well and it disappeared. Another person said that the well could be seen moving down to the Boyne at midnight surrounded by twelve candles. In the 1930s a National School teacher called it Shanaghan’s Well although it was marked on the OS map as St. Brendan’s Well. In 1836 O’Donovan wrote that four perches from the church at Dowth was a well called Tobar Seannachainn in which he said a woman was said to have washed some dirty clothes, after which pollution the well removed a distance of three quarters of a mile south of the church. It together with some trees which overshadowed it in its former situation, were pointed out at place called ‘Meshes under Fernhill’, near the river Boyne.
There was a holy well known as Tobar Padraig in a field owned by Michael Fox of Balrath. When St. Patrick was on his journey from Slane to the High King at Tara he grew thirsty on the way and took a drink from this well. In the 1930s every St. Patrick’s day, Jane Murphy of Sicily, visited Tobar Padraig to recite the Rosary. She said that some years before a neighbour was cutting a bush that grew at the well. When he had it nearly cut through, the bush gave a groan, so he refused to saw it again. The bush was never disturbed afterwards and it continued to grow at the well. A giant ash tree and bushes grew around the well.
St. Patrick’s Cascade, Kilmainhmawood
The well at Shancor, Kilmainhamwood, has a number of names and dedications. The well is also known as Kilfannin Well. The well is situated in a beautiful valley on the side of a glen. In 1836 John O’Donovan wrote that the holy well was not named after any saint but called Tobar Alt an Easa, the well of the precipice of the waterfall from its location. A tiny waterfall runs near the well and is marked ‘St. Patrick’s Cascade’ on the OS maps. The well is also called the Blessed Well, Tobar an Casa, Killfanin Well and St. Patrick’s Well. About one mile along the Glen Road on the Bailieborough road from Kilmainhamwood, the well was the scene of a pilgrimage and pattern each year on the first Sunday of August. There was an altar erected near the well. There were four little crosses round the well and pilgrims knelt at each cross and said prayers. Some people threw in a pin, needle, medal or coin into the well. Whenever the men went to clean it out, the pins and the rest of the items thrown into the well could not be found. To be cured a wart a pilgrim would stick a needle in the wart and throw it into the well. To cure a toothache a pilgrim lifted a small needle out of the well, stick it in the tooth and then throw it back into the well with the top pointing down. In the 1830s water from the well was said to have cured cattle of a swelling in the head, a disease which was then very prevalent in the country.
St. Patrick said Mass at the rock near the well. This was also described as a Mass Rock from the Penal Days. There was a prophecy “that the wagons of war would pass by within a pistol shot of the holy well.” This prophecy was deemed fulfilled when lorries of Black and Tans travelled on the nearby road night and day during the Troubles.
The main pattern day was the first Sunday in August but pilgrims gathered on the first Sunday of each quarter. A pontoon bridge was erected across the stream on the Glen Road to allow easy access. The well was reputed to have the cure for diseases of cattle with cattle being driven from many parts of Cavan to be cured of their diseases. The pattern died out in the 1870s or 1880s and is said to have been suppressed by the clergy as a result of some misdemeanour. The pattern was revived in the 1920s by Fr. Small P.P. The pilgrimage had declined due to the attraction of St. Kieran’s Well at Carnaross where ceremonies took place on the same day. An aeriocht took place following the pilgrimage, usually in a field across the road. In the 1930s the well and its little glen were the property of William Shankey-Smith of Shancor, The pattern then died out again in the 1940s only to be revived in 1983 for a few years.
Knockerk, Yellow Furze
There was a well at a place called Knockerk, near Yellow Furze. St. Patrick was travelling from Slane to Tara when his followers became thirsty. St. Patrick struck a great rock and the well sprang forth. Close to the well was an enormous stone with the marks of St. Patrick’s fingers. In the 1930s it is said that the stone had originally been thrown from the summit of the Hill of Tara but by the 1930s had been removed from the well. A long lane was the only entrance from the road. The water was perfectly pure and it was not used for domestic purposes. The schoolchild recorded that long ago people used to come and offer up prayers at the well but this custom was no longer practised. It was said that very early on the morning of the 17 March gold fish are supposed to appear in the well.
At Mosney there is a well dedicated to St. Patrick, one kilometre north of Ben Head. A natural spring, St. Patrick’s Well, is just east of the railway embankment about one hundred metres south of Mosney railway station and on the foreshore of the sea.
In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded that Julianstown had its pattern day each year on 8 September. The procession began at Moorechurch, passing through Keenogue Cross, Moymurthy and Sarsfield Cross to St. Patrick’s Well. The pattern was last held in 1912.
When St. Patrick was travelling from the mouth of the Delvin River to Tara he dispatched his boats by sea from the Delvin to the Boyne and he himself travelled overland. Between Laytown and Gormanston the saint met a young man named Benignus. The young man fell at the saint’s feet and begged Patrick for permission to be allowed to follow him. St. Patrick baptised Benignus at the well now known as St. Patrick’s Well. Ben Head between Laytown and Gormanston is said to be named after St. Benignus. St. Benignus was the son of the High King of Ireland and later became Archbishop of Armagh and Archbishop of all Ireland. St. Patrick is the patron saint of the parish of Stamullen. The railway bridge near the well is called Peterswell Bridge but there is no record of a well dedicated to St. Peter. St. Peter’s Chapel was in the nearby townland of Irishtown.
Moynalty and surrounding area
In the townland of Aghnanean or Hermitage, Moynalty there was a well dedicated to St. Patrick. The holy well was in a field called “The Rocks.” According to tradition St. Patrick resided at Ardemagh. One day while out walking in the field he struck a rock with his rod and immediately water came forth which he used to baptise a lot of people that day. St. Patrick went to the well every day after that and bent on one knee to lift a can of water out of the well. The mark of his knee is still to be seen in the rock where he knelt.
A man visited St. Patrick’s Well at the Hermitage about 1947 on St. Patrick’s Day and there were three elderly women there saying the Rosary. He said that in the early part of the century there were large crowds there. A special parade to the well took place until the 1970s.
There was another St. Patrick’s Well at Maio Cross, Moynalty. Tradition stated that St. Patrick stopped here on his way to Moybologue. The well was said never to run dry although it was a shallow hole in the rock. In the 1930s the well was in a field belonging to the Sheckleton family. The well was under a big hill and surrounded by a stone wall. A stone arch and a big tree stood over the well. The well was visited on the seventeenth of March. This well was recorded on the early twentieth century OS maps in the townland of Golashane but it is not recorded as holy well. It is still known locally as a holy well. There was a chalybeate well in the nearby townland of Cornaville North.
In the Navan area there are a number of wells connected to St. Patrick. Lug Padraig was a well situated in the Fitzherbert Estate near the river and alongside the remains of the old road that crossed the river at this point. There was a lone bush beside it with steps going down to the water. St. Patrick’s Well at Knockharley, Navan, has been removed but there was a large stone with the mark of a hand carved on it. There was a St. Patrick’s Well, Tobar Padraic, at Donaghmore. According to John O’Donovan St. Patrick was the patron saint of Donaghmore parish where he founded a church for his disciple, St. Cassanus. The well there had been stopped up in 1835 but was noted by Cogan in the 1860s. There was a St. Patrick’s Well at Kilcarn which was not noted by either Wilde or Cogan.
1665 map by William Petty showing Well – Tubber Patrick.
Oldcastle and surrounding area
Although the parish of Oldcastle is dedicated to St. Brigid, the main holy well in the parish is devoted to St. Patrick. The well is recorded as far back as the 1830s and was still being visited in the 1960s. St. Patrick’s Well is situated in a secluded valley in the townland of Boolies. A nearby house is named Patrickswell House and is marked on the Ordnance Survey maps. The field in which the well is to be found is called the ‘Door field’. The adjoining field was called Church field and there was a local tradition that there was a church there but no traces remain. Sir William Petty’s map of Meath in the 1660s shows the townland of Boolies and the neighbouring area is labelled Tibber Patrick with the well indicated. An ancient roadway from Breifne to Sliabh na Caillighe passed close to St. Patrick’s Well. On St. Patrick’s Day people visit the well and recite the Rosary kneeling in the one position.
It is said that one night Patrick slept close to this well. While he was sleeping a man came and stole his shoes. The man had no luck during the rest of his life. Another story provided by the School’s Folklore collection said that the day St. Patrick was passing this well on his horse, the horse got thirsty so Patrick brought him over to the well, and the horse knelt down on one of the stones to take a drink. The track of the horse’s knees is still to be seen in the stone. A toothache might be cured by rubbing the stone against your face. People suffering from stomach trouble or morning sickness drink water from St. Patrick’s Well and are cured. People still visit the well.
There was another Tobar Padraig in the townland of Raheever, to the west of Castlecor.
In Kilskyre there was a well named Tobar Padraig located in a field belonging to Patrick Rooney, which was recorded in the School’s Folklore Collection in the 1930s. In Seymourstown, outside Kells, there was a well called Tobair Padraig recorded in the 1930s.
St. Patrick’s Well, Slane.
The Hill of Slane is the traditional site for the lighting of the Pascal fire by St. Patrick. In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded the presence of St. Patrick’s Well midway between the ruins of the seminary and the ruined church. This well had stonework as high as the surface of the ground and was called Tobar Patrick. Its waters ran dry every summer. The two holes on the stones were supposedly created by St. Patrick’s knees. In the 1860s Cogan said the well was encompassed by a circular stone wall, down which was a flight of steps. Stations were made there on St. Patrick’s Day within the last few years of writing, wrote Cogan. In the 1930s the well was dry. In the 1930s a Drogheda student recorded a cure associated with the well. “In Slane there is a famous well, one which St. Patrick was very much connected with. Every year a pilgrimage goes there to honour St. Patrick and bring home some water which is said to have healing powers. One year there was in the pilgrimage a woman who could not leave the bed. She begged her friends to get her some of the water. Her friends forgot to bring it to her so they obtained some water from a near well and gave it to her. She drank it and got better because she thought she had the true water.”
On the Slane-Navan Road, opposite the lodge to Stackallen House there is a St. Patrick’s Well, recorded by Wilde in 1849 as neglected and disused. Wilde wrote that there was a patron held near Stackallen where the people swam their cattle across the river as a charm against the fairies and disease. He wondered if this was associated with St. Sinchea’s Well, Tober t-sinne, which is said to be in the neighbourhood but questioned could this well be the one marked Tobar Patrick on the OS map. On the borders of Cruicetown and Stackallen townlands, the well was recorded by the schoolchildren in the 1930s. St. Patrick on his journey to Tara stopped at this well and blessed it. The marks of his knees and hand were to be seen on a nearby stone. At the time the well was not visited by any strangers except by the neighbours for water. There is still a spring there today and a pump house has been erected over the well. A stone stile in the roadside wall provides access to the site of the well.
St. Patrick’s Well, Tara.
A stone covered well stands by the roadside on the eastern slopes of Hill of Tara. This well is one of the sources for the Gabhra stream. The well recently named St. Patrick’s Well was originally a pagan well. Conor Newman, the noted archaeologist, suggests that it may have originally been called Liaig. There were a number of wells on the Hill of Tara, most of which retained their pre-Christian names. According to a plaque at the site the well is described in the Dindsenchas as the Caprach of Cormac, eastward from the Rath of Kings. It was also known as the Well of the Numbering of the Clans. Dark Eye, The Healer, the Well of the White Cow. It was later called King Cormac’s Well and then St. Patrick’s Well. In 2002 the landowner, Dinny Donnelly, gave permission to a local group to restore the well.
In the parish of Tierworker there is an old graveyard called Moybologue. In it stand the ruins of St. Patrick’s church. St. Patrick blessed a well where people were cured of sore eyes. The saint left the mark of his knee on a stone at the well. A young girl lived close by named Maura Gargan. St. Patrick caught her eating blackberries going to Holy Communion. For this sin of eating before Communion she disappeared in three parts. One part went up in the air; one went underground and the third into a lake nearby called Clugga Lake. The part that went underground was to appear on earth again St. Patrick said when ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine people by the Gargan name would cross the spot where she disappeared. For years and years anyone named Gargan would cross the field rather than pass the place lest Maura Gargan might rise again. By 1930s most people had forgotten about it and there were nobody by the surname Gargan living in the vicinity. The present church at Tierworker is dedicated to St. Patrick.
At Trevet, between Skryne and Dunshaughlin, there is a ruined church dedicated to St. Patrick. In the 1830s the Ordnance Survey Letters recorded the presence of a well nearby, St. Patrick’s Well. The patron day for Trevet parish was 17 March.
Pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Well, Trim.
One of the earliest recorded wells in Meath is the one used by St. Loman to baptise Foirtchern at the Ford of Trim in the fifth century. According to the Book of Armagh, which was completed in the ninth century, a well opened in Trim so that St. Loman could baptise Foirtchern. This well was named after Loman’s uncle, St. Patrick.
Here is the translation of the Latin as given by the Canon Athey in Ríocht na Mídhe in 1955: ‘He (Loman) arrived in his boat against the flow of the river, as far as the Ford of Trim, at the door of the house of Feidhlimidh, the son of Laoire, the High King. And when it was morning, Foirtchern, son of Feidhlimidh, found him reciting the Gospel, and wondering at the Gospel and its doctrine, immediately believed; and there being an open fountain at that place, he was baptised in Christ by Loman.’
Today there is a well dedicated to St. Patrick on the banks of the river Boyne upstream from the town of Trim. It is said that the well was originally in the middle of the large field on the Kildalkey Road but that soldier’s wives washed clothes in the waters and the well disappeared only to spring forth near the river. The well had the cure of the headache and pilgrims left behind a piece of cloth on the thorn bush over the well. Sr. Assumpta revived the pilgrimage to the well in 1995 and since that year an annual ecumenical pilgrimage takes place at 12 noon on St. Patrick’s Day.
Margaret Conway identified the well on Loman Street as St. Patrick’s Well. This well has recently been restored as part of street works.
In Monktown parish John O’Donovan recorded a well called St. Patrick’s Well, Tobar Patraig. There was a flag stone, bearing the impression of his knees and crosier, which could be seen in a drain in O’Donovan’s time. The patron day of the parish was 15 August. This well appears on later OS maps but in different locations in the townland. Christopher Macken, who lived near the chapel of Walterstown, used to own the field in which the well was located. It is said that Christopher, brought home the stone that was at the well and put it into the hearth at the fireplace. From that day on, he never had a day’s luck. Another story has it that the stone was used by the local landlords, the Wilkinsons, in a farm building. In the 1930s the lands were owned by the Caffrey family. It is said that St. Patrick knelt at this well on his journey from Slane to Tara and left the mark of his knees on the stone. St. Patrick drank out of this well using a cup shaped like a bell, similar to a sheep bell. There were three streams running from this well. One runs into the Baushla and the other one runs into Danestown. Mrs. McCabe of Realthogue told the story that the mark of St. Patrick’s knee could be seen in the stone beside the well where he knelt down to take a drink. This well never ran dry and even in the sultry summer weather the water was as cold and as fresh as ice. People did not use the water for household purposes, nor did they disturb the well in any way.
Matthews (2003) recorded that there is a St. Patrick’s Well in the townland of Whiteleas, in a field known as Paddy’s field.
St. Colmcille’s Well
There was a well in Ministown, near Bettystown dedicated to St. Colmcille. A well at Ministown is mentioned in a deed from about 1290 in the Gormanston Register. It is not marked on the 1837 map but is marked on maps from about 1909. The story is told that this well was originally situated in another field some distance away, whence it mysteriously removed itself to its present position on having its waters defiled by a young lady of doubtful character washing her clothes therein. An ash or oak tree stood over the well. If anyone took timber from the tree for their fire the chimney would go on fire. A stone wall and a concrete canopy was erected at the well by the owner, Mr. Brannigan. People used to visit the well on the second Sunday of August. The well was said to have the cure of the ague. In the early twentieth century a man named Barney Smith was cured of the disease at the well. The people went around the well saying a decade of the Rosary as they went. The infected person drank water from the well. The well was also said to have the cure of toothache. The people would pray at the well and tie a rag on one of the nearby bushes. A pump house was erected over the well prior to 1987 and a farm building erected almost on top of the well. The well is now capped. The nearby G.A.A. club is called St. Colmcilles but this is named after the well at Shallon.
Pattern day at St. Colmcille’s Well, Collon
St. Columcille’s Well was situated in the parish of Collon, about two miles south of Collon and a quarter of a mile from the Slane-Collon Road. In Glasallen townland St. Colmcille’s Well was situated in a beautiful valley and is marked as a spring on the OS maps. It is said that Colmcille was travelling from Kells to Monasterboice when he became thirsty. He drank from the spring, rested and then blessed the well.
The well was a deep spring well about five feet in diameter. The well was surrounded by white-thorn trees and stood a little way away from a field boundary. Strings and pieces of cloth were attached to the trees by visiting pilgrims. A mug was supplied at the well for drinking after completing the rounds. According to Anne-Marie Moroney, pilgrims used one of three paths to reach the well. The well was covered by a large flagstone and flags formed steps down into the well.
Rounds were made at the well on the 9 June. The well was also visited on the eight days after the saint’s day, making it a nine day pattern. Usually the Rosary was said as the people went around the well and knelt for each decade. There were five bushes around the well and each of these was a station and a decade of the Rosary was recited at each station. After the first round pilgrims took three drinks of water from the well. It was a usual custom among old people in the parish to go to the well barefoot and not eat anything until they returned.
People washed in the stream running from the well and it was supposed to be a cure for sore feet and sore eyes. The well was said to have the cure of backache and eye disorders. A bottle of water from the well protected a house particularly during thunderstorms.
Isaac Butler visited the well in 1774 and said that thousands of country people assembled there. He wrote that after a solemn service performed by several priests the attendance ate, drank and made merry. Football was played and sometimes great quarrels arose with several people going home with broken and sore limbs.
In 1916 Fr. James Dolan C.C. Collon revived the custom of the rounds. A school child in the 1930s said there was ‘no authentic’ cure mentioned in connection with the well. Another school child recorded that abuses had crept in and mostly young people went there for amusement. The last pattern was held in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The land was sold and reclaimed. The well was filled in and the bushes surrounding it were removed in 1965 but memories of the well and pattern survived. Celebration of the pattern has been revived by the Broomfield & District Resident Association in recent years.
At a distance of a mile from Drumconrath village, on the road leading to Carrickmacross, was a well named Tobar Columcille. There was a pattern held at the well in the nineteenth century. There was an old church in Drumbride townland called Teampull Chuilmcille. Just to the north of the old church there was a flag stone, called Leac na nglun, the flagstone of the knees. It had hollows in its surface, which were said to have been made by St. Colmcille’s knees as he knelt in prayer. Stations were formerly made from Colmcille’s Well to the old church. Pilgrims were obliged to go on their knees from this well to Drumbride Church, such a long distance that only one person ever managed to complete the route. A well appears in the townland of Newstone on the OS maps from about 1909. The well was recorded by a schoolchild in the 1930s but no one visited the well at that time.
St. Colmcille’s Well, Kells
St. Colmcille’s Well at Kells is located on the road to Oldcastle, just north of the town of Kells. A narrow lane leads down to the well. The field beside St. Colmcille’s Well is called Curragh Murragh, meaning the flat swamp. This wetland area may have been a lake originally which was then drained. The Book of Kells was discovered near this spot when it was recovered after being stolen in 1007. The well adjoins the site of St. Mary’s Abbey, re-founded by Hugh de Lacy in the twelfth century. The monks at the nearby abbey may have taken their water from this well.
The well is named after the patron saint of the parish. According to tradition St. Colmcille founded the monastery of Kells in 550 A.D. and the community at Iona moved to the settlement in the early years of the ninth century.
In the early part of the twentieth century large crowds assembled on the eve of St. Colmcille’s day and recited the Holy Rosary in honour of the saint. Townspeople assembled there and decorated the well with flowers and candles. People visited the well to pray and brought home water to drink. During the evening the local band played popular tunes. Sometimes a Dublin band also played at the well. After the merriment had ended the Rosary was recited and people went home. According to local tradition five fish appeared in the well on a certain night of the year, possibly on the eve of St. Colmcille’s day. The well was said to have the cure of a pain in the head. Sore legs and toothache were also cured there. In 1938 a school child recorded that the previous year Mrs Reilly of Carrick Street was suffering from toothache and her face was badly swollen. She went to the well, blessed herself with the water and immediately the swelling went down and the pain ceased. According to tradition the well will never run dry. The annual pattern day is now celebrated on the ninth of June, the anniversary of Columcille’s death in 597 A.D.
St. Colmcille’s Well, Shallon
In east Meath St. Colmcille’s Well at Shallon is located on the old road between Duleek and Julianstown. St. Colmcille is supposed to have discovered the well on a journey to a friend. He was so thirsty and the water was so cool he blessed the spring. Stations were made by people going round the well on their knees. In the townland of Calliaghstown townland the well is supposed to cure warts and sores.
A ‘remarkable well’ called ‘St. Come’s Well’ is recorded in the Down Survey of the 1650s in the parish of Kilsharvan. It is said that a local person who had a bleachery diverted the water for their own use. The well became full of redworms and therefore unsuitable for any use. There was a law case about the diversion of the water and it was decreed that the spring be allowed to flow as it had always. A piper used to come from Drogheda on Sunday evenings and young and old people collected and danced at the well. A wall was erected around the well to keep out cattle. There is a small statue of an abbot or monk surmounting the well but is unlikely to be St. Colmcille as it was carved in the fourteenth century from oolite stone imported from England. The statue originally faced the road but was damaged by a passers-by throwing stones at it. It was placed in its present position about 1925. The well is said never to run dry even in the hottest of summers.
Skryne, named after the Shrine of St. Colmcille’s relics, was an early Christian monastery and it has a well dedicated to the saint. St. Colmcille’s Well, to the north of the old church on the hill, was the centre of an annual pilgrimage. According to a local tradition when Colmcille was building his church at Skryne, he was in the need of a water supply, the absence of which occasioned much loss of working time. At length he went on his knees and stayed there until, by sheer dint of praying, a fountain of crystal clear water appeared on the spot. As a token of gratitude for the miracle he drove some iron nails into a flagstone which is still to be seen at the well having small protuberances about the size of nail heads. In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded that attempts were made to remove the protuberances with a chisel and they were found to be of metal. Tradition has it that the two grooves on the flagstone which now forms part of the canopy over the well were worn into the stone by the saint’s knees. In the twentieth century the well was surrounded by a wall and a gate erected.
St. Brigid’s Wells
St. Brigid’s Well, Ardsallagh
St. Brigid’s Well at Ardsallagh, Navan, is located to the south of the house, not far from the River Boyne. The parish is dedicated to St. Brigid and the pattern day in the first of February.
St. Finian of Clonard established a monastery at Ardsallagh and he is said to have been visited by his old teacher, St. Brigid. According to another tradition St. Brigid was a dairymaid for the local landowner and she is said to have kept butter cool in the well. She allowed poor people to come to the well and take any butter they needed. The landowner was annoyed at this practise and he went to the well to examine how much butter he had lost but discovered, to his surprise, that the firkin was still full to the brim.
Sir William Wilde writing of St. Brigid’s Well in 1849 said ‘Although a modern cut stone pointed arch has by some tasteless architect been thrown over it, still the thorns and elders that overhang its pure waters, the mullen, the ground ivy and the wild geranium that droop and festoon the adjoining bank and the old carved head of St. Brigid, with its plaited hair and prim formal features – the very impression of a mother abbess – all combine to render this once celebrated spot a pleasing picture.’ A statue of Our Lady was added, probably by Mrs. McCann of Ardsallagh House, in the early part of twentieth century. This statue was damaged in recent years by a falling tree and is being restored. The well and grotto are still well kept and St. Brigid’s Well is a protected structure under the County Development Plan.Bernadette Murray has written a detailed account of Ardsallagh townland.
St. Brigid’s Well was recorded in the townland of Chapelbride, near Balrathbury, Kells in the 1930s. The well was in centre of tillage field. This fine big well was on lands belonging to Patrick Brady. People took water from the well for curative purposes.
Bohermeen – Neilstown
St. Brigid’s Well was located in the townland of Neillstown, Bohermeen. St. Brigid is said to have visited the well on her way from Tara to Teltown. In the 1930’s the well was situated in a marshy field at the back of Patrick Bennett’s house. The well was surrounded by a group of medium sized boulders; on the largest of these could be seen knee prints and the prints of the lower part of the palm. These are the imprints of St. Brigid’s knees and hand as she knelt to get a drink.
Water taken from this well is said to have the cure of vomiting, sick stomach and headache. In the 1930s people of the area kept a bottle of the water in their homes for such illnesses. A local tradition was that no one should take water from the well on Hallow Eve.
There was a story told that a young maid from a nearby house came to draw water from the well. On returning from the well she slipped, fell and spilled the water. She returned to the well to get more water and when she arrived home she fell dead at the door of the house.
There was no pilgrimage to the well in the 1930s. The well was in good condition and the water was used for domestic purposes. From a side of the well a small stream flowed watering the surrounding lands.
Croboy and Killyon
There was a holy well in Croboy which is called St. Brigid’s Well, recorded by a school child in the 1930s. It was said to have the cure of warts. The person who had the warts had to put a straight pin into the well for every wart they had. The pins were then left in the well and the warts would disappear. No pilgrimages took place to this well.
St. Brigid’s Stone was uncovered opposite Killyon School in 1994. Tradition states that St. Brigid met St. Brendan at this spot in Clondalee. Brigid allowed Brendan’s sheep drink from her well under the stone. One of the sheep tried to get away and Brigid intervened. She slipped and the marks from her fall are to be seen on the stone. St. Brigid is also associated with St. Finian of nearby Clonard. Finian studied under Brigid at Kildare before founding his monastery and school at Clonard.
Dollardstown – Navan
Between Dollardstown townland and the parish of Ardmulchan there is a bridge called Brideswell Bridge, the name being taken from a well dedicated to St. Brigid. The well is about ten yards from Brideswell Bridge and is called Tobar Bríghde or Bridget’s Well. A swing gate allowed access to the well. In recent years as part of a parish pilgrimage Fr. Farrelly said the Rosary near the well.
Drumbride – Drumconrath
About a mile north of Drumconrath are the remains of Drumbride church and cemetery. A stone at the church is connected to St. Brigid and was associated with an arduous pilgrimage with penitents having to negotiate a long distance on their knees. This pilgrimage is more associated with St. Colmcille and his well.
St. Brigid’s Well, Johnstown, Enfield
There is a St. Brigid’s Well, St. Bride’s Well, at Johnstown House, Enfield. There was a Brigidine convent nearby in the early medieval times. The well is located in a small copse about 200 yards south of the house and not far from the Blackwater river. In 1930s a description said it was a fine deep well containing the purest of spring water. It is partially covered over by a large flat stone. The flagstone was shattered in the 1950s when a tree fell on it. In 1969 a pump house was erected over the well and the water was used for domestic purposes. The well provided water for the construction of the new hotel. The water is supposed to have the cure of sore feet and sore eyes. A school child in the 1930s recalled that an old resident said that she was often sent by her mother to the well for the soft white sand to scour stools, chairs and other wooden furniture. There is supposed to be a curse attached to the Johnstown House, namely that the owner never lives to see his eldest son come of age. There was a pattern day to the well on St. Brigid’s Day.
The schoolchildren of Grangegeeth National School recorded St. Brigid’s Well, three miles north of the school in the 1930’s Folklore Collection. The well was then located on Skelly’s lands. The feast day was 2 February. Four trees stood around the well which was covered by a flagstone. The pilgrimage consisted of four stations and four rounds. Pilgrims took three drinks at the end of each round. People washed their feet and faces in the stream from the well.
Stone at St. Brigid’s Well, Iskaroon
Iskaroon – Dunderry
St. Brigid’s Well at Iskaroon, Dunderry, is located near the site of the church and graveyard of St. Brigid. The well had a stone plaque which bears the following inscription: “Pray for the soule of Robert, Lord Baron of Trimlestowne 1687.” The well is associated with the well at Tullaghanogue which bears a similar plaque. In the 1830s the land was the property of Christopher Barnewall, a member of the Trimlestown family. A pilgrimage was held annually to the well. The walls of the church had fallen down by the 1860s and the graveyard had fallen out of use decades earlier. St. Brigid’s Well, a short distance west of the church, was shaded by an elm tree in the 1860s. In the 1930s a local school girl said that headaches were cured at the well. There had been four walls surrounding the well but the front one had disappeared. The schoolgirl recorded that there was about three or four inches of water in the well. A glass had been put in the well to partake of the water but this too had disappeared. A bush grew over the well. In 1942 the well was located on the lands of Mr. H. Kirwan, Tullyard. The well had almost fallen out of memory. Today the well is still being used as a source of water. It is now covered with a few corrugated iron sheets but the water is still clear and fresh. The Trimlestown stone sits beside a lone tree on the site of the nearby church and graveyard. The name of the townland, Iskaroon, Eiscir or Uisce Ruadhain, may be related to Tobar Rua in nearby Kilbride. There is a church dedicated to St. Brigid at nearby Kilbride.
St. Brigid’s Well, Kilbride
The church at Kilbride, Dunboyne, is dedicated to the Sacred Heart and St. Brigid. There is a tradition in the parish that St. Brigid founded a church here. A well, near the gate of the graveyard at Baytown, is called St. Brigid’s Well. This well was recorded as Tobar Bhrighde or Bridewell in the 1830s. St. Brigid’s day was a holiday in the parish in the early 1800s. The old church was erected in 1789 and the new church opened in 1930. St. Brigid’s Well was restored in 1993 by the local ICA and blessed. The patron day of Kilbride is St. Brigid’s Day.
Crutch left at St. Brigid’s Well, Kilcoon
St. Brigid’s Well, Kilcloon parish, about two miles from Kilcock, is located in an area named Brideswell. The people in the neighbourhood believe that St. Brigid rested at a mound here while on her journey from Faughart to Kildare, and it was at that time that the well sprang up. In the 1860s and the 1930s descriptions of the well say that it was situated on the side of this mound and overlooked by an aged ash tree. In 1886 the diameter of the well was twelve feet four inches. A stream ran from the well and was called Bride’s Stream, giving its name to a nearby house. The name Brigid occurred more frequently in this parish than in any other in the county. The mound was removed in the twentieth century along with the ash tree and the well is now located in the middle of a field. The well attracted large crowds in the nineteenth century on St. Brigid’s Day. In the Jubilee year of 2000 locals, with the generosity of the landowner, restored the well and once again pilgrims attend on 1 February and also in August.
The well is one of the hot wells which occur in south Meath. The water is cool in the summer and can be as warm as 16 degrees Celsius in the winter. The well provided a cure for deafness and ear troubles. The Hotwell at nearby Hotwell House was said by some to have been dedicated to St. Brigid but is more generally called St. Gorman’s Well.
St. Brigid’s Well, Martry
St. Brigid’s Well is located near the old church at Martry. In the 1860s Cogan wrote that a station used to be held at the well on St. Brigid’s Day but during the penal days had taken place in a neighbouring farmer’s house. In 1886 the well was described as being enclosed by a circular wall of dry masonry and overshadowed by an aged ash tree. The well is dedicated to St. Brigid and is reputed to be curative especially for asthma and many rags were hung from the tree above it. A pattern was held on the first of February. It was suggested that after the Teltown Games were prohibited the people used to assemble in the neighbourhood of Martry instead and carried on their sports of boxing, wrestling and other athletic exercises. An account from 1886 stated that ‘the men of Meath used to boast that they far excelled their neighbours of other counties in physical strength and dexterity.’
John O’Donovan recorded St. Bridget’s Well in Kilbride townland in Nobber parish. In a small field in the south east of the townland human bones had been dug up in 1835. There was a tradition that there was a church and graveyard on the site but no one remembered having seen any remains of them. The church may have been near the remains of Kilbride ringfort. In the early nineteenth century a pattern was held on the first Sunday in August but this has been discontinued in the 1830s due to interference by the magistrate. O’Donovan recalled that it was customary on that day to swim horses in a part of the nearby River Dee called Log-na-gCapall, the hollow of the horses. The well does not appear on any of the OS maps.
About half a mile to the west of Oldcastle is the holy well dedicated to St. Brigid. In the area of Rudagh the well is marked on the OS maps as a holy well but without a dedication. The Schools Folklore Collection records that the well was very seldom visited in the 1930s but previously was visited by pilgrims. Around St. Brigid’s Well there were fourteen stones which represent the fourteen Stations of the Cross. There was a story told of a certain man who tried to drain the well on a number of occasions but he was unsuccessful and he remained ever after an unlucky man.
The townland of Tubbrid, meaning the well of Brigid, to the west of Oldcastle on the border with Westmeath, has no trace of a holy well on the OS maps. The nearby townland of Castlecor is part of Kilbride parish. The parish of Kilbride is to the north of Oldcastle and is partly in Meath and partly in Cavan.
The parish of Oldcastle is dedicated to St. Brigid and both churches in the town are dedicated to her. An archaeological excavation in 2003 uncovered a large well on Castle Street, Oldcastle within the vicinity of St. Bride’s Church. The well was keyhole-shaped and constructed of stone, red brick and timber. The archaeologist suggested that the well might be linked to the church and constructed at a similar time period, c.1816 but there was no documentary evidence for the construction of the well or its dedication.
Other St Brigid Wells in Co. Meath
In 1836 O’Donovan wrote that in Lobinstown Lower there was a well called Tobar Brighde. According to Dean Butler Trim had a St. Brigid’s Well but its location is unknown. O’Donovan said that there was a well called Tobar Brighde near the old church in Kilbeg but no well appears on the 1836 map while the 1909 map shows a number of unnamed wells.
St. Kieran’s Well
Aine French at St. Kieran’s Well, Carnaross
About three miles from Kells, near Carnaross, there is a holy well dedicated to St. Kieran. The spelling of Ciaran is also recorded for the saint’s name.
St. Kieran’s Well is situated by the roadside in a little valley. According to Dr. Robert Meehan this is an interesting geological area of carcified limestone in a district of shale. The limestone pavement is similar to that in the Burren.
There is one large well in the rock with two steps down to the well. A drinking cup was attached to a wooden post. This water cannot be boiled. There is a smaller well a short distance away which can be used for household purposes. Further away is a smaller well with an opening on either side of a rock. Water from one side is supposed to cure headache while water on the other side cures toothache. A very narrow stream flows through the rocks, this water is said to have the cure of warts. Before pilgrims leave they can wash their feet in a stream.
Anyone with a headache dips their head in the well and says three ‘Our Fathers’ and three ‘Glory be to the Fathers’. Anyone cured at the well leaves an offering; money, pins, buttons, matches or an item of cloth. Next to the spring is a chair like rock which is said to cure backache.
In Celtic times worship may have taken place at the well as a precursor to the Fair of Teltown. In 1836 O’Donovan wrote that an annual pattern was held on the south bank of the river Blackwater opposite the fort of Teltown on the first Sunday in August each year up to 30 years previous. The clergy and magistrates had abolished the sports due to the influence of poteen. According to O’Donovan the pattern and sports were not in honour of any saint.
The dedication of the well was changed by the Christians but the date remained unaltered. The pilgrimage takes place on the first Sunday of the harvest or autumn, and not on St. Kieran’s Day, 14 June. Young men were said to ride naked on horse-back at midnight to the well.
In 1849 William Wilde described St. Kieran’s Well as one of the most beautiful holy wells in Ireland and shaded by a hoary old ash tree of surpassing size and beauty. About 1840 a report was spread that the tree that shaded St. Kieran’s Well was bleeding, immediately the people from miles around flocked to the well and collected the fluid in bottles, hoping to use it as a cure.
According to Cogan Castlekeeran was founded by St. Kieran or Ciaran at a place called Bealach-duin meaning the pass or road of the fort and was re-named Disert-Kieran and subsequently anglicized as Castlekeeran. St. Kieran wrote a life of St. Patrick and his death was recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters on 14 June 770. Cogan said that for upwards of 1000 years his festival has been kept in this parish on 14 of June and the parish chapel was still under his patronage.
In the 1890s restoration and improvements were carried out by the Farrelly family of Castlekeeran. A protective railing was erected around the well, seats provided and a footbridge constructed over the stream by the roadside. When the Oldcastle railway line was operating many people from Kells would walk out to the well by the railway route.
The stone roofed oratory was erected when Fr. Peter O’Farrell was parish priest of Carnaross 1911-19. In 1914 when the new oratory was opened three thousand people attended the pattern. Four hundred Irish Volunteers marched out from Kells. In 1915 a movie was made of the pattern and shown in Kells and Oldcastle cinemas and also a cinema in New York.
Approximately ten thousand people attended the St. Kieran’s pattern in 1917 to hear Countess Markeivicz speak on the Easter Rising and the policies of Sinn Fein. There was also a football contest between Meath and Cavan.
In the 1930s a local schoolchild recorded the story of a Protestant gentleman said to be Mr. Rowley, who had a very bad toothache. The pain was so severe and lasted so long that he began to lose his mind and could not get a wink of sleep at night. A friend suggested that he try the waters from Kieran Well. When Mr Rowley drank some water from the well and rubbed it to his gums the pain left immediately. In gratitude he had a railing erected round the well. According to one school child the drinking cup was blessed by a bishop so anyone with a disease who took water did not leave the disease for the next person.
Five Stations of the Cross were said at five markers near the well on the eve of the pilgrimage. Prayers were said at each cross and then the pilgrim had to go around this three times to make one station and then had to take a drink three times after every round. There were often large gatherings of people from far and near to the well on the evening before the pilgrimage.
The well was believed to contain several trout, each about a pound and a half in weight. The people looked on the fish with great devotion and when it was necessary to remove them in order to clean the well, they were treated with scrupulous care. According to local lore on the night before the pattern three fishes come to the top of the water and they were called Faith, Hope and Charity. These names were said to be inscribed on the back of the three fish. A man was fishing in the well caught the three fish. When he began to fry them one of the fish jumped out of the pan and said ‘Leave us back where you got us’. So the man returned them to the well. According to a story in the Meath Chronicle in 2006 visitors glimpsed three fish in the well on the eve of the pilgrimage.
There was a holy well dedicated to St. Kieran in Loughcrew. In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded the well near the church, not far from the residence of Mr. Napper. The Church of Ireland church at Loughcrew, erected about 1843, was dedicated to St. Kieran.
St. Finian’s Well
St. Finian’s Well, Clonard
Born in the latter half of the fifth century in Myshall, Co. Carlow Finian studied under St. Foirtchern of Trim before travelling to Wales for further studies. Led by an angel to Clonard Finian founded a monastery and school of learning beside the river Boyne at Cluain-Eraird, Erard’s lawn or meadow. St. Finian became known as a great teacher and students flocked to Clonard, at one point three thousand students were attending the school including twelve who were to become the apostles of Ireland. Ciarán of Clonmacnoise, two Brendans, Canice and Colmcille of Iona are among the many students to have trained under Finian. St. Finian had a cow and no matter how big a vessel was the cow could fill it with milk. One day a man arrived and said he had a vessel that the cow could not fill and produced a strainer or a sieve. The cow was milked and the milk miraculously filled the vessel. St. Finian of Clonard died from yellow fever about 548 and his feast day today is 12 December. Clonard went on to become the seat of the bishop of Meath and today Finian is patron saint of the diocese.
One of St. Finian’s main considerations when selecting the site for his monastery at Clonard was access to a clean water supply. Wells provided clean water and could be used as a source of holy water and even utilized for baptising new converts. An angel warned Finian to move the well from the spot he had selected and leave that ground as the cemetery and that is what Finian did. Leaving Ard na Reilig, the height of the cemetery, Finian founded his monastery nearby and dug a new well. St. Finian moved his monastery to the hill called Church Hill and the well on the eastern side is now the holy well.
Cures were attributed to the waters of St. Finian’s Well. St. Finian is said to have bestowed a blessing on the people of Clonard whereby nobody from the area would ever be killed by lightning.
In the 1930s the well was described as about three feet in diameter and about three feet wide and was neglected. No pattern was held there at the time. In recent years a wall was erected around the well and steps allowing access to the water were constructed. The well features on the Clonard Heritage Trail. For the Clonard pilgrimage in 2011 a new entrance was created to the well to facilitate pilgrims.
There was a well dedicated to St. Finian in an old church near Longwood. It had the cure of stomach trouble.
There was a Tobar Finian in Yellow Furze parish. The well was located at a swampy hollow at the end of a field in the townland of Smithstown. There was no trace of the well in the 1930s but it had a reputation as being a very reliable source of water even in the dry summer months.
There are a number of holy wells in Meath which are devoted to Mary, the Blessed Virgin. Many of these have pattern days on August 15 which is the feast of the Assumption commemorating the Virgin Mary having completed her earthly life, being assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
John O’Donovan wrote in the 1830s that Ardcath parish was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the patron day of the parish was 8 September, feast of Our Lady’s Nativity. He was not sure of the presence of a holy well but was informed not by good authority that there was a holy well named Tobar Muire near the old church.
Our Lady’s Well, Ballyboggan
Although the well is not it county Meath it is just across the Boyne River from Ballyboggan Abbey and in County Kildare. The well is dedicated to Our Lady. The well is shaded by a sycamore tree to which votive offerings were tied. A fair and a pattern were held at the well at harvest time.
In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded a well named Tobar Muire, thirty perches north of the ruined church at Follistown. In the 1860s Dean Cogan mentioned a Ladywell at Follistown where the patron day was 8 September, feast of Our Lady’s Nativity.
There is a well called Lady Well on the Headfort Road outside Kells. This well is said to have its name derived from a lady being thrown from a horse and being killed there. It was said that a ghost of the lady appeared at the well.
Plaque at Tobar Muire, Killeen
Near Killeen Castle there is a well named Tobar Muire, recorded by John O’Donovan in the 1830s. It was also known as Lady Well and the stations were performed at the well. In medieval times there was a confraternity at Killeen dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. In the 1930s there was a big stone with carved heads of saints at the well. The water has the cure of warts. To be cured you had to say five ‘Our Fathers’, five ‘Hail Mary’s’ and five ‘Glory be to the Fathers’ to each of the stone heads. Today the well is located on an island in the middle of a lake, just beside the driveway to the Club House at Killeen.
Our Lady’s Well, Killyon
In Killyon Manor grounds Lady Well is situated at the side of the avenue to the house, near the graveyard. Near the site of the well is a pre-historic tumulus and the site may have been the site of a chieftain’s residence. A local tradition stated that at the time of St. Patrick the residence was donated to Liadhán, who founded a church here. The first bishops of Clonard/Meath had their residence at Killyon. Legend says that one August morning a priest was about to say Mass in the little church at Killyon when he discovered there was no water. The nearest well was some distance away but when he went outside the church the priest discovered that a well had sprung up no more than ten yards away from the gable of the building.
In the 1830s John O’Donovan noted the holy well in the churchyard at Killyon. He described the well at the gable of the old church and stated that it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. According to O’Donovan St. Kieran of Ossory founded the church of Killyon for his mother, Liadain.
In the 1930s pilgrims visited the Killyon well on 15 August and did the rounds. While reciting the Rosary pilgrims walked in a circle on the five flat stones which surround the well, saying fifteen Hail Mary’s, three at each of the five steps. Pilgrims then blessed themselves with the water. Large crowds attended the well in the 1930s, many taking water in the hope of a cure of toothache or some other pain. The level of the water in the well is dependent on the level of water in the nearby Deel river. The water in the well was very low until it rises up on the 15 August.
In the 1940s a pattern was held every August when the parishioners marched in procession from Killyon Church. Having reached the well the Parish Priest recited the Rosary. Afterwards a sports meeting was held in the G.A.A. grounds not far from the well. In the Marian Year of 1954 Fr. Matthew Clavin P.P. erected as statue of Our Lady and reconstructed the stonework around the well. The well was again restored in 1999. The well is visited on its pattern day, when ceremonies take place at 3 o’clock and also on the days prior and after the day.
According to O’Donovan there was a well near the ruins of the old church called Tobar Muire. The patron day for the parish was 15 August.
Our Lady’s Well, Slane
At Slane the Lady Well is situated in the Castle Demesne along the banks of the river Boyne. In the 1830s the Ordnance Survey letters noted Lady Well, Tobar Muire, about a quarter of a mile north west of the Hermitage of Erc. There were many stories recorded by school children in the 1930s in relation to Lady Well. The water in the well is said to rise up at midnight on the night before the 15 August. The children wrote that previous landowners tried to close the well and prevent pilgrims coming to worship. The well sprang up nearby and when it was closed again it moved for a second time. Another story is that the gates of the demesne were closed to prevent entry by the pilgrims but the water in the well rose up and flooded the grounds of the castle. Orders were given to open the gates and immediately the water receded. From that time onwards the gates of the demesne were always open on 15 August 15.
Pilgrims usually accessed the grounds by the Gothic Gates. In the 1930s crowds visited the well and the Rosary was said at 3 o’clock by one of the priests of the parish. The water of the well had the cure of a sore throat, toothache and if sore eyes were bathed with the water from the well they were cured. A man named Tom Neill visited the well about 1920 when he was almost blind. Having bathed his eyes with water from the well and prayed to the Blessed Virgin, his sight was almost fully restored. A disabled child collecting sticks was supposed to have been cured at the well.
Some of the pilgrims visited the nearby Hermitage of Erc and viewed the Apostle’s Stone which displayed figures of the twelve disciples. Slane prepared for the months before Lady Day and a sports day and fair evolved from the pilgrimage. Thousands of pilgrims descended on the village from all the surrounding area and further afield. The hungry crowds were fed in local houses and the pubs did a great trade. The Lady Well festivities were revived in 2008.
According to the Ordnance Survey letters there was a well at Harmonstown called Tobar Muire, about a quarter of a mile southwest of the old church.
In Woodtown townland, north of the village, there was a well named St. Biorrain’s Well. It was recorded as Ladywell on the OS Name Books.
St. Anne’s Well
St. Anne’s Well, Randalstown
There is a well dedicated to St. Anne at Randalstown, three miles north of Navan, near the tailing pond of Tara Mines. The well is located just outside the fence protecting the tailing pond.
The well is located seventy five metres southwest of the remains of St. Anne’s Chapel. The well and chapel were excavated in 1975-6 prior to the construction of the tailing pond. St. Anne’s Well is a natural spring with stone steps leading down to it. When it was examined by the archaeologists during the dig at Randalstown three rags hung from a blackthorn bush beside it and their condition indicated that they had been there for some time. In local folk tradition the water from this well was used as a cure for toothache, headache and sore eyes. The well also had the cure for many diseases such as Wildfire, Ringworm and Thrush. At the chapel an imported Roman fibula of the first century A.D. was uncovered as was imported sub-Roman pottery dating to between fifth and eighth century A.D. Outside the door of the chapel there was a stone on which the print of two knees can be seen. It is said that it was here St. Anne stopped to pray. The well and chapel were located within a large enclosure, possibly an Iron Age settlement. The presence of the first century Roman fibula and the proximity of the chapel suggest the existence of pre-Christian activity on the site. It has been suggested that St. Anne’s Well was originally the centre of a pagan cult, perhaps associated with Anu, the mother of the Irish gods. In the 1930s the well was described as being situated beside Yellow River in Everard’s land, about 3 fields from Randlestown House.
There was supposed to have been a tunnel between the chapel and Randalstown House. In 1986 a souterrain was uncovered in the townland. A well, known as the Meara Well, was also investigated by archaeologists at that time. This well was a stone-built structure possibly of late medieval date with a modern facing of concrete.
In Staleen townland, Donore parish John O’Donovan recorded a well called Tobar an Manna, which English speaking people called St. Anne’s Well. Some people told O’Donovan that the patron day for the parish was St. Mainne’s day, 5 July but others told him the 9 October but could not tell him the patron saint’s name. According to a school child in the 1930s St. Anne was in the wood and the devil appeared to her. The saint climbed a tree and the devil chased after her. The saint jumped down and her hand came to rest on a big stone. A well sprung up where she landed on the ground and it was named St. Anne’s Well. The marks of her four fingers and thumb were still to be seen on the stone beside the well. There are a number of wells and spring marked in Staleen townland on the early twentieth century O.S. map but none are named.
Other Wells dedicated to St. Anne
In 1836 John O’Donovan noted a well near the church of Loughan. Cogan stated that there was a holy well dedicated to St. Anne at Loughan, Carnaross. Loughan parish was dedicated to St. Anna. The well was being visited up to recent times. It is said to have lost its curative powers after someone bathed their sick greyhound in the well.
The roadside well at Glenhania, Killallon is known as the Warty Well. It is said that there was a monastery there and a holy well dedicated to St. Anne.
There was a well dedicated to St. Anne in Galboystown townland, Killallon parish.
St. John’s Well
St. John’s Well, in the townland of Ballintillen in Ughtyneill was the site of a pattern in the 1930s. Pilgrims visited the well on St. John’s Eve and on the 28 June. Stations were made at the well and pieces of cloth or a ribbon were tied to the bushes near the well. People were cured of toothache at the well according to a school child in the 1930s. The pilgrim started the station with their back to the well and finished with their back to the well. The piece of cloth they left behind as a token was a sign that the disease was left behind. The well which was near Ardemagh Bridge is marked on a map about 1909 but not on the first O.S. map in 1837.
In the 1930s some school children recorded it as the ‘Blessed Well’. To obtain the cure for warts the person washed the affected area in the well and tied a piece of cloth on the bush beside it. As soon as the cloth would be withered away the wart would be gone. The well was built of stone with a flag stone covering part of it. The well was square and the people prayed at each corner. Some people said that St. Patrick discovered the well when he was in the district.
Situated on the roadside just before Ardemagh Bridge Beryl Moore recorded the well in the 1970s as having the name “the Blessed Well”. When Dr. Moore visited the well she met a couple of people who said it was dedicated to St. John. There was no memory of a pattern there though a Pattern Green was situated nearby. Robertstown being a St. Brigid dedication suggests that the area was an important pagan site in pre-Christian days, said Moore.
Tobarseon or John’s Well was recorded in Longwood in the nineteenth century.
St. John’s Well, Mornington
St. John’s Well, Mornington, is located in the Glen. The well is situated in the woodlands near Glen House. In the 1940s the lands on which the well was situated was held by William Tuite. St. John’s Well was once the centre of an annual pilgrimage. Pilgrims used to leave items behind at the well tied to the branches of the overhanging trees. Rags, handkerchiefs and pieces of cloth were left as tokens of gratitude – or more often expectancy. By 1942 this custom and the pilgrimage itself had long since died out. Today the well is dry but the stone surrounds are still preserved in a steep sided bank.
St. John’s Well, Warrenstown
The feast of St. John the Baptist is 24 June, six months before Christmas and the birth of Our Lord. In Ireland the feast is usually celebrated on the eve of the day which is also very close to the summer solstice. The feast is often observed in Ireland with the burning of bonfires, particularly in potato fields to keep the crops safe from disease.
St. John’s Well at Warrentown was the centre of a large pilgrimage on the eve of St. John’s day since the seventeenth century at least. The well is situated in a small wood on the lands of the former Warrenstown Horticultural College. A cure for cancer has been attributed to its waters.
The legend of St. John’s Well at Warrenstown, recounts that John the Baptist was passing a rock in the Holy Land when he struck it with his staff, the point of which came out at Warrenstown, accompanied by a spring. A similar story recalls that the original owners of Warrentstown were the Johnsons. One of the family was visiting the Holy Land and his stick fell into the river Jordan. Some years later he noticed one of his cows licking a large stone in one of his fields. To satisfy his curiosity he got the stone removed. Immediately water gushed forth and up came his walking stick.
In the year 1708 the Irish House of Commons enacted legislation to prohibit pilgrimages to St. John’s Well because it was alleged the assembly of pilgrims in that place compromised the public peace and safety of the kingdom. If any poor person dared to visit and pray at this well, they were ordered to be fined, imprisoned and whipped. In 1710 the Lord Lieutenant issued this proclamation, ‘Whereas 10,000 papists riotously assemble at a place commonly called St. John’s Well under the pretence of worship … they are a great terror to Her Majesty’s Protestant subjects and so endanger the peace of her kingdom, the High Sheriff will suppress such insolent practices with a posse and apprehend the principal actors in the said riot and have them prosecuted with the utmost rigours of the law’.
The Church too opposed the activities at the well. In 1781 the Roman Catholic bishops of the Province of Armagh met at Drogheda and banned all pilgrimages in their dioceses and it was resolved that ‘the pilgrimage to St. John’s Well in county Meath is attended with such scandalous enormities as to require immediate redress.’ The Catholic bishop of Meath at the turn of the nineteenth century, Dr Plunkett, did what he could to suppress the tradition of meeting there. Itinerant clergy officiated at the well as diocesan clergy were prohibited. The fair, traditionally associated with the well, was moved to Culmullen in 1809.
In 1810 Edward Wakefield visited the area and wrote that the well remained ‘an annual scene of confusion, drunkenness and debauchery, bearing a greater resemblance to a fair than an assembly for the purpose of devotion.’
In the 1830s St. John’s Well was the site of a pilgrimage at ‘at which some hundreds of the Roman Catholics of the surrounding country meet on the eve of St. John and perform Stations, greatly to the annoyance of Mr. Johnson. Some affirm that the blind, lame and those afflicted with pains get cured at this well; whilst other assert that the belief is all nonsense and based on superstition. At this well the fairs at Warrenstown were formerly held, but in consequence of the annoyance they caused Mr. Johnson, they were moved about 26 years ago to their present site.’
In the 1860s Dean Cogan wrote “St. John’s Well is situated in the demesne of Warrenstown, parish of Knockmark. This well has been frequented from time immemorial, and is perhaps the most remarkable of all the ‘holy wells’ in Meath. It has, in past years, been held in wonderful veneration, and even still, on the eve of St. John’s festival in June numbers crowd here, to perform their stations and to be supernaturally cured of their maladies, not only from Meath, but from many of the neighbouring counties. The external appearance of this well is very remarkable. It is covered by an arch; a front wall conceals it from view; a stone conducts out the water; under the spout is a stone flag four feet in length, by one foot six inches in breadth. On the front wall there are two images, now all but defaced, representing, probably St. Mary and St. John. Many of the people who visit this well on St. John’s Eve remain until 12 o’clock at night, making the Stations. A popular belief is that the water – which is highly impregnated with iron – comes from the Jordan. Many years ago, a girl having been killed in a faction fight, the people were advised not to assemble at the well, and from that time the pilgrimage was discouraged. There is a field quite near, where Masses used to be offered on St. John’s Day.”
St. John Well was described as the most famous holy well in Meath in 1886. Pilgrims from far and wide assembled there on the vigil of St. John, 23 June.
People also visited the well on 29 June, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and these saints may be represented by the two heads. On one occasion when an old man with a malady of the feet was standing by the bank where the water could wash over his feet the water stopped flowing. A group of young people were acting in an irreverent manner. The old man chased the young people and returned to his spot and the water began to flow again.
People were cured of many ailments and in the 1930s crutches and sticks were left by people who were cured. The water is said to gush forth at midnight with great force on the eve of the festival and people making the pilgrimage often endeavoured to be at the well to witness that event.
In 1923 the Salesian Fathers founded an agricultural college at Warrenstown and they erected a railing around the well. The remains of a number of huts were discovered in the vicinity of the well. A fete was held at Warrenstown on 1st July 1934 marking the canonisation of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Order. Most Rev. Thomas Mulvaney presided at the Solemn High Mass celebrated at a special outdoor altar at the College. A procession took place to the well where there was a second altar and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament took place. The well surround was reconstructed in 1944.
A bust of Fr. Francis McDonagh, SDB, 1911-1977, was erected by the travelling community at the well and members of that community also assemble at the well on the pattern day.
Today the pattern is held on the Sunday after St. John’s Day. A number of whitethorn trees near the well are adorned with pieces of cloth left behind by pilgrims. In 2009 approximately 300 people attended ceremonies at the well.
St. Ultan’s Well
St. Ultan’s Well, Ardbraccan
St. Ultan’s Well stands just outside the churchyard wall, within the demesne of Ardbraccan House. One of the scared trees of Ireland, the Bile Torthain, was said to have stood over the well in pagan times. St. Ultan succeeded St. Breccan as abbot of Ardbraccan. He collected material for a biography of St. Brigid, said to be his aunt. St. Ultan fed, clothed and educated 500 children orphaned by a yellow plague which carried off their parents. The Annals of Clonmacnoise placed St. Ultan’s death in the year 653. In 1210 King John visited Tiobraid Ultain on his progression through Ireland.
The well is quite large, more than nine feet in diameter. Stations were held on the eve of St. Ultan’s Day, 4 September, until 1850. In the 1920s there was a revival of the pilgrimages to the well and in the 1950s there was a regular ceremony at the well. The pattern day was the first of September each year.
In the 1930s there was a pilgrimage to St. Ultan’s Well every year on the first Sunday in September and the Rosary was recited in Irish at the well. St. Ultan’s Well has cures for toothache and eye complaints. To be cured of a toothache a pilgrim took a drink of the water. For a sore eye a cloth was dipped in the water and then rubbed to the eye. To cure sore feet they were washed in the water of the well. Today the well is dry.
St. Ultan was the inspiration for St. Ultan’s Hospital for Infants in Dublin. St. Ultan’s Hospital was founded in 1919 by Dr. Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench Mullen. Every year the hospital organised a pilgrimage to St. Ultan’s Well. At the outset only women staffed the hospital. Dr. Lynn pioneered the use of the BCG vaccination over ten years before it came into general use in Ireland. In 1929 Dr. Lynn and St. Ultan’s founded the world famous Irish Sweepstakes along with three other voluntary hospitals. St. Ultan’s Hospital closed in 1975 due to difficulties in obtaining funding and it is now a private clinic. Margaret Ó hÓgartaigh wrote an article on St. Ultan Hospital and its connections to Ardbraccan in the 2003 issue of Ríocht na Midhe.
In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded a Tober Ultain, in Irishtown/ Tubberulton in Burry parish, two miles southwest of Kells. The Kells –Athboy road passes along its eastern extremity. O’Donovan wrote that the parish of Burry was dedicated to St. Ultan. The well had disappeared as a drain had been constructed and the water had been diverted.
There was a Tobar Ultan in Piercetown townland in Balrathboyne parish. The owner of the field sank a ditch and the well disappeared only to re-appear on the opposite side of the road.
The patron saint of Rathcore parish is St. Ultan. About 150 yards from the Protestant church is the site of St. Ultan’s Well. John O’Donovan recorded that the saint’s name was then anglicised as Hoult, and his blessed well called Tobar Ultain was located in the townland of Ballynaskea. The well was reputed to have cures. The well was closed up with mud and sedge by 1837. The well may have been closed by a local tenant to prevent the pattern on his lands. Ballinakill was the last home of the Kindelans, the O Ciondealbháin, former kings of Laoghire and patrons of St. Ultan’s monastery at Ardbraccan. It is natural that they should have dedicated the well at Rathcore to the same patron. In the 1930s the well was described as partly closed in and no pattern or religious ceremonies took place at the site.
St. Sechnaill’s Well
St. Shaughlin’s Well is marked in a field in the townland of Grangend at Dunshaughlin. In the 1830s there was access to the well from the Ratoath Road by a pathway, although the well is nearer the Trevet Road. This path had become disused by 1900. In the 1980s Oliver Coogan described the well as down in the fields off the Bog Road and almost obscured by bushes and grass. The masonry and brickwork was still visible but the well itself had almost gone dry. Nearby is the source of the Broadmeadow River. In the 1930s the well was described as being about a quarter of a mile north of the village in a field known locally as ‘Boylan’s Garden.’ A whitethorn bush grew at the edge of the well. The water was said to have the cure of swellings of any part of the body. A paste could be made of water from the well and clay from an adjacent stream and then applied to the affected part for nine days. The water if used for domestic purposes will not boil.
St. Sechnaill was said to be a nephew of St. Patrick and the church and town are named in his honour. St. Sechnaill composed a praise poem dedicated to St. Patrick and was said to have been the first bishop who died in Ireland. St. Patrick and St. Sechnaill were on their way to Trevet and paused to drink at this pool. St. Sechnaill blessed the pool.
In 1740 Isaac Butler noted the well dedicated to St. Sechnaill and said the well was said to be purgative containing sulphur. At that time the well was covered by a number of large trees. In 1836 O’Donovan noted the well, Tobar Naomh Seachnaill, where stations had been performed formerly. The custom was revived and by the 1920s large numbers were attending on the saint’s feast day in November.
A pilgrimage was made to the well on the Sunday following the saint’s feast day of 27 November. By the 1930s the pilgrimage had faded out but people still visited the well over nine consecutive days and say a Pater, Ave and Gloria each time. No offerings were made at the well.
St. Odran’s Well
There are three wells in county Meath dedicated to St. Patrick’s charioteer, St. Odran. Odran is said to have been the first Christian martyr in Ireland and there are two stories of how this occurred. On the borders of Kildare and Offaly lived a chieftain who resented the introduction of Christianity and plotted to kill Patrick who was visiting the area. The chieftain made arrangements with assassins to kill Patrick as he set out on his journey. He informed the killers that Patrick would be leaving in the morning and he would be the man sitting at the back of the chariot. Odran overheard the plot and as the couple set out the following morning asked Patrick to change places with him. They had not gone very far when a lance killed the charioteer. Odran had sacrificed himself for his master.
Another story recalls that the High King Laoighre wanted to see if the Christian St. Patrick would forgive murder and so offered a reward to anyone who would kill one of Patrick’s followers. The king’s nephew, a convicted criminal, agreed to take up the task and was released from captivity. Odran was killed with the young man’s lance. Patrick asked that the murderer be tried by the laws of Ireland and asked that the Chief Ollam or judge adjudicate in the case. The young man was tried and executed. St. Odran’s feast-day is celebrated on 19 February. An alternative translation of the name, Tubberorum, is the well of the prayers.
There is a well dedicated to St. Odran, in county Meath, on the borders of Kildare and Offaly where his murder is traditionally said to have taken place. In the parish of Castlejordan John O’Donovan recorded the holy well, Tobar Ódhráin. The well lay near the edge of the bog of Brackagh in the townland of Clonmore near the old church of Kilkeerin.
Mick Kenny at St. Odran’s Well, Dunshaughlin
A well dedicated to St. Odran is also to be found in Dunshaughlin. It is said that St. Odran watered his horses here while St. Patrick visited St. Sechnaill.
Tubberorum, off Ludlow Street in Navan, is said to be dedicated to St. Odran, who crossed the nearby river in his chariot. One tradition states that St. Patrick and his charioteer stopped here to take a drink from this spring to refresh themselves and their horses. John O’Donovan suggested that the well’s name may be derived from ‘uaran’, meaning cold.
In the nineteenth century Collier, the highwayman, lived at Tubberorum Lane, next door to the courthouse. Collier had a fondness for drink but would occasionally abstain from alcohol and his friends would say “Collier is off the poteen, he is on the Tubberorum.”
A well house was constructed over the well in 1858 by Navan Town Commissioners. A flight of six limestone steps lead down to a partially underground vaulted chamber. The inscribed plaque reads ‘Thubberorum rebuilt A.D. 1858 by Navan T.C.’ Navan Urban Council used the well in the early part of the twentieth century to fill its horse drawn watering cart. Today the well is dry.
St. Dympna’s Well
Pattern at St. Dympna’s Well, Kildalkey
St. Dympna’s Well at Kildalkey was recorded as dried up on many occasions over the last two hundred years and in the 1930s a school child wrote that ‘as years roll on this holy well will probably be forgotten altogether.’ However the well and its traditions survived and a large group assemble there each year to commemorate the saint’s day on 15 May.
St. Dympna’s Well, Tobar Damhnata, is located in a field beside the old churchyard about half a mile north of Kildalkey village on the road to Athboy. The remains of the church is sometimes called St. Dympna’s Abbey but the dedication of the abbey which existed at Kildalkey in the eighth and ninth century is unclear.
Folklore states that the well has healing powers. It was said that when a person dips a ribbon in the well and ties it around their head it will cure headache. In order to cure toothache the person must drink some water from the well. The well is said to keep serious illness away from the area.
St. Dympna is said to have fled from her father to Kildalkey where she took refuge near the old Abbey. She was so sad with her situation that she began to sob and cried so much that a well sprang up at her feet. The well does not appear on any of the early Ordnance Survey maps. John O’Donovan recorded that St. Dympna, the virgin, was the patron of Kildalkey parish and was commemorated each year on 15 May. The well near the churchyard was much visited by people to obtain cures and on the feast day of the saint. A great procession and sports were held annually and each person knelt and prayed at the well. In the 1860s and 1880s St. Dympna’s Well was recorded as having dried up.
There was an effort made in the early twentieth century to revive the pattern at Kildalkey but it failed. By the 1930s the well was neglected and rarely visited. Cattle used to drink from the well, eroding the sides of the well causing it to close up.
In 1999 Kildalkey Active Retirement Association re-opened the well as one of their millennium projects. A wall was erected to protect the well and the restored well was blessed by Fr. Colm Murtagh on 1 October 2000. Kildalkey man, Frank Kelly, penned a poem to commemorate the restoration of the well and his poem and the story of St. Dympna is recorded on a commemorative plaque. Since the restoration local people have gathered at the well on the saint’s day.
St. Dympna is the patron saint of Kildalkey and the church, school and graveyard are dedicated to her memory. In the 1930s there were a number of ladies in the parish of Kildalkey named after St. Dympna including Dympna Harte, Dympna Murray and Dympna Corrigan.
In the seventh century Dympna, Damhnait in Irish, was the daughter of an Irish chieftain. Some stories state that her father was a pagan and her mother was a Christian. Her mother died when Dympna was young and the little girl was raised by a nurse. Dympna grew up to be a beautiful girl and a rich chieftain sought her hand in marriage. Her father favoured the advantageous match. Dympna refused the offer of marriage as she wanted to dedicate her life to the service of God and so fled her home. Accompanied by her teacher, St. Gerebernus, Dympna and her little band came to Kildalkey before fleeing to the continent. At Gheel, in what is now Belgium, they set up an altar to worship God and began to work with the sick and the poor. Her father followed the group to the continent and searched until he had found them. St. Gerebernus was seized and instantly beheaded. The king tried to persuade his daughter to come back to Ireland but she refused and so was beheaded by her own father as his soldiers refused to carry out the deed. Beside the altar a well sprang up and was dedicated to the memory of St. Dympna. A holy shrine was erected at Gheel to St. Dympna and St. Gerebernus. The legend of Dympna was first written down about 1250. About this date the bones of an unknown man and woman were discovered at Gheel and the name ‘Dympna’ was discovered on a brick in one of the marble coffins.
St. Dympna is the patroness of the nervous, emotionally disturbed and the mentally ill. She is portrayed in stained glass windows in St. Patrick’s Church, Trim and St. Mary’s, Drogheda.
St. Nicholas’s Well
Pumphouse at St. Nicholas’s Well, Culmullen
The well of St. Nicholas is located on the lane leading to the old church and graveyard of Culmullen. In 1836 the well was described as circular and measured eight feet in diameter. Cogan describing the well in the 1860s wrote that it was situated some distance from the roadway and was accessed via a stile on which there was the figure of a cross and the inscription ‘St. Nicholas’s Well’. In 1911 the well was described as large open well. The level of the water in the well did not fall one inch during the unusually dry summer of 1911 when many other wells had ran completely dry. The cross cut into the stile mentioned by Cogan had disappeared by 1911.
In the 1930s the well was described as having big stone flags fixed all around and surrounded by paling. There was no record of a pattern ever being held at the well. The water was said to cure headaches and there was a superstition that if a girl drank water from the well just before midnight she was sure to be married.
The well was piped to the roadside about 1915 and later a pump house was erected. The well never runs dry and the water is very cold. Today the water is used for domestic purposes.
St. Nicholas’s Well, Tullaghanogue
Tullaghanogue church, located between Trim and Athboy, was dedicated to St. Nicholas. To the east of the church is a well called Tobernuaglas which was dedicated to St. Nicholas. John O’Donovan translated the name as the new green well.
Cogan said the well was being visited in the 1860s. Stations were performed at the start of the harvest on the first Sunday in August. The stonework at the well bears the inscription: “Pray for the soule of Robert Lord Baron of Trimlestowne 1687.” Lower down is another inscription “Pray for ye soul of Mrs Alice Griffin; her husband Mr. J. Griffin. Erected by her family – 1764” A schoolchild writing in the 1930s said that the well was dedicated to St. Nicholas and the waters were said to have a miraculous power of curing nervous diseases. The well was also said to have the cure of headaches and vomiting. This well appears to be located at the centre of a circular earthwork feature and is located off the farmyard entrance to Tullaghanogue House, formerly called Shamrock Hill.
The parish of Castlerickard is dedicated to St. Nicholas and the National School in Longwood is named after St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was the patron saint of Dunsany and of Greenogue parish. Near the castle at Dunsany stands the church of St. Nicholas. The feast of St. Nicholas falls on 6 December. The first Anglo-Norman church at Skryne was dedicated to St. Nicholas. The remains of the saint, who inspired the legend of Santa Claus, is said to have been buried in Newtown Jerpoint in Kilkenny in medieval times.
Trinity Well, Carbury, Co. Kildare.
Carbury, Co. Kildare
Trinity Well, at the foot of the hill of Carbury, is the source of the river Boyne. In the grounds of Newberry Hall the well is in county Kildare, seven miles south east of Enfield and four from Edenderry.
According to legend this well was the secret preserve of the king of Leinster, Nechtain, and his three cup-bearers. The well was called Tobar Segais, meaning the Well of Wisdom or the Well of Knowledge. No woman was allowed to know anything about the well but the king’s wife, Boann, heard mention of it. Curiosity got the better of her and she decided to pay the well a visit. She found the well but did not realise that anyone other than the select four would be blinded if they approached the well. Worshipping at the well she travelled around the well to the left. In Celtic times worshippers travelled to the right, following the passage of the sun. Having completed three rounds the waters in the well rose up and three enormous waves crashed over Boann, blinding her. She fled trying to outrun and outsmart the torrent behind her. The water followed her this way and that way, laying down the present course of the river Boyne. When Boann reached the sea she was drowned and today she and her pet dog are represented by two rocks near the mouth of the Boyne. Boann’s name is preserved in the name of the river itself and she was worshipped as a goddess and her river, the Boyne, regarded as a holy river.
The well was re-dedicated in Christian times to the Holy Trinity. The Anglo-Norman De Berminghams, who took possession of the district, erecting a castle on the hill of Carbury. Pilgrimages were held to the well. On Trinity Sunday 1305 Sir Piers de Bermingham of Carrigoris, invited the O Connors of Offaly to dinner and killed twenty six of their number. This castle was later associated with Colley family, from whom the Duke of Wellington was descended.
A regular pilgrimage takes place to the well each Trinity Sunday and a pattern day held.
The Tourism Survey of 1942 recorded a Trinity Well near the site of the old Mass House dating from the 1760s. In previous times pilgrimages had taken place to the well. The well had dried up and the area was known as the ‘Stepping Stones’.
Lion’s Head at Kentstown
In Danestown parish there is a well near the ruined church called Tobar na Trionoide. It supplies the water for the lion’s mouth drinking fountain on the roadside near Kentstown. The inscription on the fountain reads: ‘Erected by the Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. M. Somerville, Bart 1855.’ According to local folklore St. Patrick drank from this well on his way from Slane to Tara. The patron day of the parish was Trinity Sunday. There was also a pattern at the well on the first of November according to another source.
Near the centre of the townland of Painstown in Castletown parish, was a well called Trinity Well, at which crowds of people gathered on Trinity Sunday to perform a station.
St. Lucy’s Well
St. Lucy’s Well, Killua
St. Lucy’s Well is located in the grounds of Killua Castle, Co. Westmeath, just to the east of Clonmellon village and almost on the Meath border.
St. Lucy’s Well is supposed to cure eye ailments and pilgrimages to the well are made on her feastday, 13 December. John Gavin of Killua has taken an active role in encouraging the renewal of worship and pilgrimage at St. Lucy’s Well. The pilgrimage was revived in 2004. In 2009 there were about twenty people there on a cold winter’s afternoon. There are regular visitors to the well throughout the year.
The National Architectural Inventory dated the stonework at St. Lucy Well to about 1800 when Sir Benjamin Chapman laid out the walled gardens and pleasure grounds to the east of his home, Killua Castle. The original St. Lucy’s Well was said to have been covered when the pleasure grounds were being laid out and this new well subsequently sprang up in its present location. The well may have been associated with Killua Church, the ruins of which are to the south. John Gavin says that there are two wells closer to the church than the one now named St. Lucy’s.
St. Lucy’s Well consists of an earthen and rubble mound into which is built a stone chamber, the well, covered with a limestone corbelled roof. Over the arch is a stone plaque with the inscription ‘St. Lucy’. There are two steps down into the well.
Devotion to St. Lucy in Ireland was recorded as early as the fourteenth century when a deed from the Gormanstown collection was dated at Drogheda on Tuesday after the feast of St. Lucy the virgin, 1311. Captain Benjamin Chapman was granted the lands at Killua, Westmeath following the Cromwellian plantation and is recorded at Killua in 1659. The Chapman home at Killua was named ‘St. Lucy’ and is recorded as such on maps in the eighteenth century. It was called Killua Castle in later periods. In 1836 John O’Donovan suggested that the St. Lucy name may be derived from St. Lua as in Killua, the church of Lua. The Chapmans may have corrupted the name Lua to a more acceptable English word, Lucy.
However there is tiny island in the Caribbean named Saint Lucia. As early as 1511 King Ferdinand of Spain named the island Sancta Lucia. A parish on the nearby island of Barbados is called St. Lucy. On Barbados a large mansion named Sunbury Plantation House was erected about 1660 by Matthew Chapman, an Irish/English planter, who was one of the early settlers on the island. On the first map of Barbados in 1638, Sunbury Plantation was first called Chapman’s Plantation. It has not been possible to ascertain if St. Lucy parish was connected to the Chapman family or indeed if this Chapman family is related to the one at Killua but is it possible that the name St. Lucy was brought across the Atlantic to be used by the Chapmans at Killua for the name of their house and the nearby well?
About 1800 Sir Benjamin Chapman constructed a tower which contained a well at the west entrance to Killua Castle, near Clonmellon village. It was named ‘Isaac’s Well’ after Isaac White, a blacksmith, who lived nearby at the time of its construction.
St. Lucy was a virgin and martyr born in Syracuse, Sicily in the late third century and died in 304 AD. Lucy became a Christian but the Church was subjected to persecution by the Roman Empire. She dedicated her virginity to God and refused to marry a pagan. Her rejected fiancée denounced her to the magistrate of the city and she was ordered to be burned in honour of the Emperor. When the guards came to take her away they found her so filled with the Holy Spirit that she was stiff and heavy as a mountain; they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Unable to burn Lucy the guards gouged out her eyes with forks before executing her. In art her eyes sometimes appear on a golden plate which she is holding. Another story attributes the loss of her eyes to a suitor who admired her beautiful eyes. Lucy cut them out and sent them to him, asking to be left in peace to continue her worship of God.
Her name is derived from lux or light and this played a part in her being named saint for those with eye problems. St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind, those with eye-trouble, martyrs, salesmen and throat infections.
St. Lucy is unusual as she is one of the very few saints which are celebrated by the Lutheran church particularly in Scandinavia. Her feast day which occurs on the 13 December was the longest day in the year according to the old calendar. In traditional celebrations St. Lucy arrives as a young woman with a crown of candles or lights and sweets. The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take St. Lucia’s life when she was sentenced to be burned. From Sweden the celebration of St. Lucy spread to Finland around 1900 and to Denmark and Norway in the 1940s. St. Lucy is also popular among children in some regions of north-eastern Italy, bringing gifts to good children and coal to bad ones.
Tober Rua, Moymet.
Tober Rua, located north of Trim in the parish of Moymet, is near a field boundary, next to the old railway line. There is a reddish tinge on the surface of the mud around the well, possibly from the iron content of the water. The well appears to be a natural feature with no stone work surrounds or channelling. Paddy Keely wrote that the water appears to emerge from under a large rock. The rock appears to consist of a conglomeration of smaller stones. This well is reputed never to have gone dry. Locals did not use the well and there has never been a pilgrimage to the well. There are no cures associated with the well. The well is not marked on the OS maps.
Until 2007 Tober Rua was the only well listed as a protected structure in the Meath County Development Plan. It is suggested that the well has a connection to St. Ruadháin but the name may be derived from the iron in the water which gives rise to the red colour, rua in Irish. St. Ruadháin studied under St. Finian at Clonard. Founder of the monastery at Lorrha in Tipperary, St. Ruadháin cursed Tara in 566 saying that no further high kings would reside there. In the 1830s John O’Donovan described the very curious well in Moymet or Kilbride parish called Uisce Ruadháin. He said that the locals believed this name came from the reddish colour but O’Donovan believed it was from St. Ruadháin. Another name attributed to the well is Tobar Rus.
There are a number of other iron wells in the county including St. Kieran’s Well, St. James Well and another Tober Rua at Donaghmore. Margaret Conway wrote that there are several wells in the county bearing the same name, perhaps from a reddish colour in the water, and to many of them the cure for the red swelling known as the Rose was attributed.
Dr. Beryl Moore contended that Tober Rua was a pre-Christian well and was likely to have been of considerable importance in Iron Age times not only for the curative properties of its waters but also as a source of iron for tools and weapons.
Water containing ferrous iron is clear and colourless because the iron is completely dissolved. When exposed to air the water turns cloudy and a reddish brown substance begins to form. Essential for good health, iron helps transport oxygen in the blood. When iron exists along with certain kinds of bacteria, these bacteria utilize the iron, leaving behind a reddish brown or yellow slime.
Near Donaghmore there was a Tobar Rua recorded in the nineteenth century.
St. Andrew’s Well – Castletown
In the 1930s a school child recorded that there was a well dedicated to St. Andrew in Beggy’s field, Castletown. In previous times people came to visit the well for cure of headaches. By the 1930s the well had disappeared.
St. Baoithin’s Well – Cortown
Tobar Baoithin, St. Baoitin’s Well, is located in Cortown townland. St. Baoithin and St. Colmcille left Ireland in 563 with Colmcille settling on the island of Iona. Baoithin became abbot of the abbey at Tiree on a neighbouring island. When Colmcille died Baoithin succeeded him as abbot of Iona. Baothin lived for four further years until his death on 9 June 601 aged 65. According to John O’Donovan the ruins of an ancient church which was dedicated to St. Baoithin stood in Cortown townland and his well was about 100 perches southwest of it. North of the well is the hill called Cnockan Baoithin where the saint is said to have preached and baptised the pagan natives.
St. Bartholomew’s Well – Killallon
There was a well dedicated to St. Bartholomew at Killallon.
St. Cianan’s Well – Duleek
St. Cianan’s Well is located in Keenogue townland. Locally the well is believed to date back to pre-Christian times. St. Cianan lived at Keenogue and one day he went out into the fields to visit his mother at work. She was thirsty and asked him for a drink. There being no well nearby St. Cianan made a ring in the grass with a stick and the well appeared. Another story recorded that the saint’s mother was ill and he brought forth water from a new spring and gave it to his mother who was instantly cured. There was a mound nearby which was where St. Cianan is said to have preached. There was a stone now lost with two indentations on it marking the site where St. Cianan knelt to pray. A whitethorn bush grew over the well and rags were tied to the bush to remember the cures which had taken place. In the 1930s a schoolchild recorded that a girl had taken a green ribbon from the bush and brought it home. A few hours later she had a severe fall. People visited the well on the saint’s feast day of 24 November. Local people claimed to be cured of eye problems by praying to St. Cianan and by bathing their eyes with water from the well. The well has never been known to run dry.
St. Fiach’s Well – Ballymacad
St. Fiach’s well, Toberfiach, is located in the townland of Ballynagranshy, Oldcastle on the lands of Michael Donoghue. The parish name of Killeagh is derived from the church of Fiach whose feast day was celebrated on the first of November, Samhain. The well was mentioned in the OS Letters in the 1830s. Colgan also noted the well in the 1860s.
The well has the cure of stomach ailments. Local tradition records that when the bell from the church in Killeagh was removed and taken to Ballymachugh during the Reformation, the parishioners went to reclaim it. At that time, the field was used to grow potatoes so it was an easy place to conceal the bell. While digging the hole to hide the bell, a spring was discovered. When the authorities came looking for the bell, the parishoners told them how they had seen the bell come flying through the air, calling Killeagh, Killeagh, Killeagh, but it missed the church and landed in the field and started the spring. The bell was returned to Killeagh church, subsequently it was sent to Nigeria when the church was demolished. The cost of sending the bell to Nigeria was gathered by fundraising by students of the second level school in Oldcastle.
When taking water from the well, a man must lift water for a woman and vice versa. The well has been used by generations of people who firmly believe in the healing properties of the water and there are still regular visitors to the well.
St. George’s Well – Trim
St. George’s Well stood on the south side of the river Boyne, upstream from the town of Trim. The well is recorded on the OS maps of the early twentieth century. St. Patrick’s Well was directly opposite on the northern bank.
St. Gorman’s Well – Enfield
St. Gorman’s Well or Hotwell is located three miles west of Enfield, on the Ballinakill to Longwood Road in the grounds of Hotwell House. The well is about ten metres across and is quite shallow. St. Gorman was a Welsh hermit, who was said to have studied under Finian at Clonard. It is said that St. Gorman visited the well and the marks of his knees where he prayed can be seen in a large stone nearby. The well is supposed to have arisen in a burst of steam when the saint was being attacked while he prayed. In the 1940s an elm tree stood over the well and pins were stuck in the tree as an offering for cures. Pilgrimages were made to the well on the first Sunday in May. Pilgrims bathed the afflicted part of the body, placed a piece of clothing on the elm tree and when the piece of clothing has rotted away the cure will have taken effect.
The well is seasonal drying up in the late Summer/Autumn. In cold mid-winter the water is quite hot and there is a cloud of steam constantly over it. In the summer it is quite cool. At certain times the well overflows and the discharge could be over one million litres a day. The Geological Survey of Ireland has identified seventeen hot wells in Ireland, at least four in Co. Meath: Hotwell House, Ardenew Spring, Longwood, Kemmin’s Mills Spring and the Clone spring which was discovered in 1980. Dr. Robert Meehan said the temperature of Hotwell varies between 12 and 25 degrees Celsius which is warmer than any of the other hot wells in the area.
St. James’s Well – Athboy
St. James’s Well is located south of the Church of Ireland church, on the boundary of the townlands of Glebe and Town Parks. The well was said to have been opened during a time of plague and its waters were found to be of great efficacy in relieving the stricken people. Some say that the well arose in 1575 when the Annals of the Four Masters recorded a drought, in which no rain fell ‘from Bealtaine to Lammas’, which resulted in disease and plague. The church of Athboy is dedicated to St. James as are the parishes of Athlumney and Cruicetown. The saint’s feast day is 25 July. People went to the well on the saint’s day to obtain water. If the water was rubbed on sore limbs the pains went away.
St. Kevin’s Well, Clonabreany
St. Kevin’s Well – Clonabreany
On the roadside opposite Clonabreany graveyard there is a well dedicated to St. Kevin. Clonabreany was the site of an early Christian monastery with remains including cup marked stones and graveslabs. Tobar Caomhain is dedicated to St. Kevin Breac, who died in 614. Breac means spotted because the saint had contracted small pox and was pock-marked. St. Kevin founded a monastery at Clonabreany and baptised his first converts in this well. He was also abbot of Roseach or Russagh monastery which was located near Edgeworthstown, in Westmeath. The festival day of Clonabreany is St. Kevin’s day, 14 September. According to the Schools Folklore collection English soldiers killed a baby on the flagstone of this well after murdering the landowner, George Plunkett.
The well was recorded by Cogan in the 1860s. In 1971 rags hung from the overhanging ash tree but the tree fell later that year. Bottles of water from Tobar Caomhain were taken to America by local people. There are five steps leading down to the well which was covered by a corbelled roof. Eventually the roots of the nearby tree destroyed the roof of the well and in 1990 the well was restored by FAS workers who also gave it a stone wall surround.
The well has the cure for warts, toothache and headache. Anyone wishing to be cured of toothache should take three drinks of water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Many people said they got instant relief. People must not attempt to test the healing powers of the well but believe that they will be cured.
St. Killian’s Well – Clongill
In the 1830s O’Donovan wrote that there was a well in Clongill parish dedicated to St. Killian, Tobar Chillin. St. Killian of Mullagh is one of the most famous of the holy men who set off as missionaries from Ireland in the Dark Ages. In the year 689 he was beheaded and became a martyr for his faith in the German town of Wurzburg. Killian is the patron saint of the Wurzburg diocese, and his feast is celebrated on 8 July. The village of Mullagh in County Cavan has a holy well bearing his name, a school dedicated to his memory and, in former days a pattern was held in his honour. Mullagh was the centre of official Irish celebrations in 1989 for the 1,300th anniversary of his martyrdom.
St. Michael’s Well, Dunboyne
St. Michael’s Well – Dunboyne
St. Michael’s Well is located in the centre of Loughsallagh graveyard, on the Dublin road out of Dunboyne. The well was a little to the west of the church and was about 54 inches deep and 46 inches wide and surrounded by stonework. The water entered from the northside. The well was said to be warm between October and June with the warmest period in December-January. Dean Cogan recorded the well in the 1860s and stated that stations had been held at the well up until the early nineteenth century. Water from the well cured toothache and headache. Each time a person visited the well they threw a pin into the water to obtain a cure. In olden days coffins were covered with a sheet. The pins holding the sheet in place were also thrown into the well. The well went dry when a man washed his stockings in the well following which he got the falling sickness and died.
St. Lawrence’s Well, Rathmore
St. Lawrence’s Well – Rathmore
According to Dean Cogan St. Lawrence’s Well, Rathmore, was still being frequented on the saint’s vigil in the 1860s. In the 1930s people visited the well on St. Lawrence’s Day each year. They drank from the well and said one ‘Our Father’ and ten ‘Hail Marys’. The water was said to cure toothache. The holy well at Rathmore is situated in the narrow strip of wood behind the ruined church. By 1974 the well was little more than a muddy hole. Rathmore is dedicated to St. Lawrence of the Gridiron whose feast day is 10 August. Not far away is St. Lawrence’s stone, a large stone having two natural holes in it. According to tradition St. Lawrence lay on the stone and anyone suffering from pains in the back will be relieved by lying down on it and saying prayers whilst so prostrate.
St. Paul’s Well – Castletown
Margaret Conway recorded a well dedicated to St. Paul at the back of Owney Reilly’s cottage in Clooney, Castletown.
St. Peter’s Well – Trim
St. Peter’s Well is located on the south side of the Boyne at Newtown and its dedication may have arisen from the nearby Cathedral and priory which was dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul. The bridge nearby is named St. Peter’s or Newtown Bridge and the name St. Peter’s Bridge is recorded as early as the sixteenth century. Dean Butler said the well supplied the water to the priory and many yards of lead piping from the well were uncovered in the early nineteenth century. This well was cleaned and fenced in recent decades but the wooden fencing seems to have decayed away and the well is now hidden.
St. Roed’s Well – Girley
St. Roed’s Well was frequented until the mid-twentieth century for nine days before Christmas. The well was on the banks of a stream near the motte. St. Roed or Rodaighe’s day was 16 December. St. Roed provided his crozier as sureties and guarantees in a charter in the Book of Kells. In this charter the saint is called Réot, his crozier Bachall Roédaide and an official of the parishwas called Erchennech Grellege.
St. Scire’s Well, Kilskyre.
St. Scire’s Well – Kilskyre
St. Scire’s Well is located just off on Kilskyre-Clonmellon road just outside Kilskyre. It has been recently restored by the local community.
In the 1830s there were three holy wells in Kilskyre, one dedicated to St. Scire, one ‘the Well of the Miracles’ and the third ‘the Heavenly Stone Well’. The well of St. Scire was to the south of the graveyard and another well, Tobar na hFeact, the well of the churchyard, to the north of the old church. All three wells were said to have cures for diseases.
About 1836 John O’Donovan wrote that Scire’s Well lay about five perches south of the old grave-yard in the townland of Kilskyre. St. Scire flourished in latter half of the sixth century and met with St. Colmcille in the year 580. Her festival according to tradition, was celebrated on the 28 of September, but this does not agree with the Calendar of Cashel and other ancient Festilogies which place her festival on 24 March. In the Irish calendar under 24 March she is mentioned as Scire, Virgin, of Cill Scire in Meath.
According to Dr. P. Brangan writing in Riocht na Midhe in 1970 there were a number of wells in the area which were considered to be Skeer’s Well. One at Milltown Road right opposite the old monastery had the strongest claim. Another well on the lands of Mr. Tom Murphy was also called St. Scire’s Well but it had disappeared prior to 1970. It was said that someone washed their dirty clothes in the well and it disappeared overnight to spring up again at Boltown. According to Brangan another claimant for the saint’s well was at Clonabraney which is opposite the graveyard there but this is better known as St. Kevin’s Well.
St. Seanachan’s Well – Dowth
St. Seanachan’s Well, St. Shanaghan’s Well, Tobar Seanachain, was located near the Boyne about three quarters of a mile from the old church of Dowth. It had originally been situated within three perches of the church and there were three trees which then stood over it. According to the Schools Folklore collection the well moved because a woman washed tripe in it. On the following midnight the well was seen moving down to the Boyne surrounded by twelve candles. St. Seanachan’s patron day is the 17 December, 8 days before Christmas. The well is named as ‘St. Brendan’s Well’ on the OS maps.
St. Sinche’s Well – Kilshine
A holy virgin, named Sinche or Sineach, founded a convent of nuns at Kilshine, Teach-Sinche. There was a holy well there called Tobar-shinia, anglicised Jenny’s Well, at which stations were formerly held on her festival. The Four Masters record the death of St. Sinche, Virgin, on 9 November 596. In the 1830s John O’Donovan wrote that St. Sinche was mentioned in the life of St. Abban. The Life of St. Abban recorded that Sinche erected a monastery in Meath called Ceall-Ailbhe in which the holy Virgin Segnich under the care of the holy father Abban nurtured holy virgins for God. Colgan wrote that there were five virgins of the name Signich, Sinecha or Sinche and the one of Kilshine sprung from the race of Maine, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. This saint was recalled on her pattern day of 4 December in the Church of Teagh-Sinche in Meath.
In the 1830s the natives of the parish styled her Jenny as Sinche was no longer recognised as a woman’s name amongst them. The site of her church was then occupied by the Protestant church but there was a well about forty perches to the south-east of the church which retained her name, Tobar Jenny. Kilshine church closed in 1958.
Toberberry Well – Lobinstown
In 1836 O’Donovan wrote that in Woodtown Upper, one mile north of the village of Syddan, was a well called Tobar Biorráin or St. Biorrain’s Well. In the Name Books and on the OS maps it was recorded as Lady Well but O’Donovan said he had met no one who called it by such a name. Tradition says that a cripple was carried to it on a litter, in order that he might perform a Station there, he was able to walk back and left the litter behind him at the well; it struck root and grew into a large tree.
In 1942 Toberberry Well, on the lands of Mr. Peter Gray, Woodtown, was the scene of an annual pilgrimage on the first Sunday in August. The well was supposed to overflow at midnight on the first of August. The well was in a rather inaccessible spot, entailing a quarter mile walk south though fields from Gray’s house.
The pattern was still occurring in 1949. The well was also said to be associated with Bernard, which may have been the name of the cripple who left his litter at the well and was cured. St. Bernard was associated with nearby Mellifont. It was believed that the well was dry throughout the year until midnight on the eve of the first Sunday in August when the water in the well sprang up and a few days later the water dried up again. Water taken from the well was said to stay fresh for a complete twelve months. The big tree was decayed and a suggestion was made that the tree had died as a result of pins being driven into it by pilgrims.
Tom Austin at Tubberbarry, The Moy, Summerhill
Tubberbarry, Moy, Summerhill
There was a well just outside the east wall of the Moy cemetery, at a spot where there is now a hawthorn tree and a depression in the ground. There is a traditional account of a crippled saint who was carried around in a litter. The saint lost his life through an accident at the Moy and where he died a well sprang up. On the 4 August each year pilgrimages were made to the well. The well had curative powers and a number of people were said to have been cured by drinking water from the well. The well was referred to as St. Barry’s Well or St. Bearach’s well. The well is mentioned in O’Hanlon’s Lives of the Irish Saints and is said to date from the seventh century. The well was completely overgrown and closed in until 1956 when the two Austin brothers, Tom and Paddy, uncovered the well and cleaned it out. They discovered that the well was stone lined and had a number of stone steps down to the water level. They also unearthed a ladle with a long handle. There was a story that women washed themselves in the well and the water refused to rise afterwards. The well is also said to have moved down near Summerhill village after the landlords prevented access to the well. The new well which rose is called ‘The Blessed Well.’
Tobar Breena – Coole, Summerhill.
Tobar Breena or Tobar Bruighne was located just outside the fence of the cemetery at Coole, Summerhill. The well’s name is translated as ‘the well of the fairy palace.’ There was a high rock from which water dropped to the well. The water was said to be a cure for headaches. A young crippled boy was brought to the well on a handcart. He drank from the well, bathed his limbs and was cured. Nearby was a Mass Rock.
Tober Cummin – Killallon
In Galboystown townland the well shared its dedication with the nearby church at Glennahania. Dean Cogan writing in the 1860s said that pilgrimages were made to Tobar Cummain and ‘De Profundis’ was still intoned when funerals were passing by in the 1860s.
Tober Doney – Bellewstown, Rataine, Navan
Tober Doney consists of a rectangular structure built of drystone on the lands of the Clarke family. A ringed pin, a fragment of cast bronze and a half-penny from William and Mary dated to 1694 was discovered close to the well about 1981. The archaeologist who investigated the site, Eamonn P. Kelly, wrote in Riocht na Midhe in 1985/6 that the well’s name may have derived from Tobar Domnaigh meaning the well of the church and suggesting that it may have been associated with some ecclesiastical structure or enclosure. The well has a concrete roof and the word ‘Toberdoney’ inscribed on a strip of concrete.
Toberdoney – Donaghpatrick
In Tatestown townland the well was visited in the early nineteenth century as a holy well. O’Donovan provided the derivation as the well of the church.
Tober Domhnaig – Tankardstown, Slane
According to the Schools Folklore collection there was a holy well in Tankardstown, Slane. People used to visit the well and say the Stations. The well was located in a wood in the shape of a horseshoe. The wood was called Horse Shoe Wood or Tobar Domhnaigh Wood. There were cures associated with the well.
Tober Domhnaigh – Lismullen
According to John O’Donovan there was a well called Sunday Well, Tobar Domnaigh, about 40 perches east of the site of the old monastery, near to Lismullen House. There is a well at Rath Lugh which may be the well in question. The woods at Rath Lugh were once known as Sunday Woods.
Tobar Istigh – Galtrim
In Galtrim townland there is a well called Tobar Istigh and was much favoured by tinkers. This well was enclosed in 1913 by Rev. J.D. D’Arcy, E.J. French and J.G.H. Fox. Edward John French was educated at Trinity College and married the youngest daughter of James George Hubert Fox, The Fox, of Galtrim House. He later lived at St. Anne’s Donnybrook, Co. Dublin. This may be a warm or hot well as during the severe winter of 1980/81 all the wells in the area froze with the exception of this one. There is a short path off the road to the well.
Tobar Lacknive – Crossakiel
Tobar Lacknive or Tober lic nimhe means the well of the heavenly flagstone. A quarter of a mile northwest of Crossakiel village the well was celebrated as a holy well and frequented by pilgrims seeking cures until the early nineteenth century. By 1835 the well was almost closed up and was situated in a marshy corner of a pasture field. A very clear stream flowed from the well.
Tobar Leamhna – Oldcastle
The 1942 Irish Tourist Survey recorded a well about two miles from Oldcastle in the townland of Ballinvally. The well was known as Tober Leamhna, the well of the milk. It was said to cure warts and it contained pins and pieces of metal left by people who sought the cure. There are two stories as to how the well got its name. One is that it was originally the well of the milk which turned to water because the people of the area quarrelled about the sharing of the milk. Another is that the water of the well turned to milk by some saint who found a scarcity of milk in the district.
Tobar Mollish – Duleek
Tobar Mollish is in the townland of Little Garballagh. In the nineteenth century a station took place at it on the first Sunday of August. People believed that the water had the cure of ‘ague’. The well was five feet square. Ribbons were left hanging on the bushes beside the well. At night strange lights were observed at the well and cattle refused to cool their feet in the water even at the height of the summer. The trees which surrounded the well were special. One man attempted to cut down a tree and when he had almost finished went home for a meal. When he returned there was no sign of the cut of the saw and the tree trunk had increased in size. A school child in the 1930s wrote that the well received its name from a St. Molsha who celebrated Mass at the well during Penal Times. In the 1930s four smooth stones miraculously appeared to surround the well. In more recent times the trees were felled and the land drained. The land is now tilled and the well has disappeared.
Tobar na Croiche Naomh – Ballyboggan.
Stations were held in the early nineteenth century at Tobar na Croiche Naomh, the well of the Holy Cross, in Harristown townland. By 1850 it was described as neglected although it was once highly venerated. Its water runs into the Boyne. The parish of Ballyboggan was dedicated to the Holy Cross.
Tobar na bhFeart – Kilskyre
In the 1830s John O’Donovan recorded a well north of the ruins of the church. The well was called Tobar na bhFeart, the well of the graves.
Toberrnacally – Carnaross
Tubber na Cailighe the well of the hag, was situated on the east boundary of Feegat townland and was celebrated as a holy well in the early nineteenth century. The word calliagh was also used for nun so there may have been some religious connection.
Tobar na Gloire – Balrathboyne parish.
The name of the well means the bright or glorious well. Stations were performed at Tobar na Glóire up until the nineteenth century. Fr. Peter O’Reilly became parish priest of Kells in 1795 and in 1798 he had a new church erected at Kells. The opening of the church clashed with the annual procession held in Balrathboyne parish which went from the chapel to Tobar na Gloire. The procession was cancelled to allow people attend the Kells ceremony and the procession was never held again. Nearby was the stone which killed the man. A man, who was carrying a load of turf on his back, rested the basket on the stone but the load slipped and the rope choked him. It is said that the stone or the well’s name had to be mentioned at least once a year in Trim courthouse.
Tobar Naomh Vinog –Summerhill and Castletown
At Basketstown, Summerhill there was a holy well named Tobar Naomh Vinog. The well was known by a number of names: Tobernaveenog, Havana Well, Basketstown Well, Tobarna Brinog and Tobar Naoimh Ana. The name of the saint associated with the well is not clear. Fr. Mulvaney suggested that it was the Blessings Well, Tobar Beannuighthe.
Described as a good spring well in the 1830s it was located in the south of the townland and was enclosed by a stone house. Above the entrance was a stone with the inscription in Latin – ‘Richard Wesley enclosed this fountain which is not undeservedly call Blessed by the inhabitants on account of the salubrity and continual copiousness of its waters for their use. A.D. 1738’. John O’Donovan said the name of the well was derived from St. Winnoe, Vineo or Finoe. There is a parish church in Kilkenny called Cill Veenoge after this saint. The well was located on top of Galtrim esker, 250 metres south of Summerhill road on the dividing line between a farm and the landfill site. The well may have been on the top of an esker which allowed travellers to get water without getting into the wooded lands below the roadway on the esker summit.
In Stephenstown townland, Castletown parish, a well named Tobernaveenoy was recorded in the south of the townland. In the 1830s a great number of people visited this holy well on the first Sunday in August to perform the stations. A local suggested that the well might be Tobar na bhFionóg, the well of the ravens.
Tober na Piascra – Heronstown, Slane
In the Schools Folklore Collection from the 1930s a well is recorded in Heronstown townland. The well was inhabited by a serpent which would attack, kill and eat visitors to the well. St. Patrick blessed the well and the serpent was never seen again. The well was said to have the cure of eye diseases.
Tobernasool – Killallon
Tobernasool, in Keenaghan townland, had special powers for curing eye diseases and was recorded by John O’Donovan in the mid 1830s. Stations were performed at it on the three first Sundays in August, the people going round the well on their knees, saying prayers. The townland is said to have derived its name from St. Keenan who lived in a monastery here according to the Schools Folklore collection of the 1930s. Stones from the monastery were turned up when the land was ploughed. Close to the site of the old monastery was the holy well which supplied the monks. An old whitethorn bush overhung the well. A big spoon or scoop was suspended on the whitethorn bush which grew over the well. Rags and clothes were placed on the bush in thanksgiving for cures to be received. Patterns were held there until the late nineteenth century. The water flowed through a large stone into the well and the surplus water flowed into the Stoneyford river. Visits were still being made to the well in recent times with a piece of rag being hung on a nearby bush now the only real marker of the site of the well.
Tobernasool – Stamullen
The Schools Folklore Collection recorded a well at Stamullen, south of the Bridgefoot, where people bathed their eyes and were cured.
Tobar Scartha – Painstown
In Thurstianstown townland O’Donovan recorded the presence of a well called Tobar Scartha, eighty perches to the south of Thurstianstown House in the 1830s. A school child in the 1930s wrote that the water was said to cure all sorts of diseases in past times. A man who had a blind horse brought it to the well to be cured. The horse drank the water and regained his sight but the man lost his. Instead of the man leading the horse home it was the horse which led the man home. A pattern was held there on the first Sunday of August. The patron day for Painstown parish was 15 August.
Tobar Sratha Bainne – Monknewtown church,
Tobar Sratha Bainne was located twenty perches south of Monknewtown church according to the Ordnance Survey Name Books. At the time the well was frequented on the first Sunday of harvest until a mill was erected convenient to it, after which period the people ceased to perform Stations at the well. Some people said that the name was derived from St. Banan but O’Donovan thought that the name derived from the low land or lay field where the well was situated. The saint’s name may have been St. Baran or Barrind who was said to have been a friend of St. Brendan. The patron day for the parish is Lady Day 15 August.
Tubberweeg – Kells.
Toberboyoga, Tubberweega, Tobar Buidheóige, the well of jaundice was located in Drumbaragh townland. Boyoga is a phonetic spelling of the Irish buíoige, a name derived from buí, meaning yellow. The water was a cure for jaundice. John O’Donovan said it had formerly been celebrated as a holy well but stations were no longer performed at it in the 1830s. The path to the well was opposite the entrance gates to Sylvan Park House.
Tullog Well, Stamullen
There is a well in the old burial ground of Tullog in Stamullen. A stone head from the old church is erected into the stonework of the well.
Warty Well – Clonmellon
The Warty Well is situated on the side of the road between Clonmellon and Killallon. People dip their hands into a stone container and must say three ‘Paters’, three ‘Aves’ and three ‘Glories’ each night for three nights and on the third morning the warts will be gone. It is said that the stone was a holy water font from a nearby church.
Blessed Well – Ardemagh
There was a well called the ‘Blessed Well’, situated on the roadside just before Ardemagh Bridge, Kilmainhamwood. In the 1940s there were many offerings left surrounding the well including medals, rosaries, pins, rags, shoe laces and old pipes. The dedication of the well was unknown in the 1970s but a number of visitors who met Dr. Beryl Moore at the well suggested that it was dedicated to St. John. The well may have some connection to St. Brigid as the nearby parish of Robertstown is dedicated to her and a pattern green was located nearby.
Blessed Well, Moy, Summerhill
On the Enfield road out of Summerhill before the Moy cemetery on the right hand side there is a well which is said to have curative powers. It is supposed to cure headache, earache and toothache. These cures are obtained by dropping a pin into the well and saying a prayer. Small coins such as pennies were also thrown into the well in the hope of the cure of toothache. This well was also known as Guggerty’s well after a family who lived nearby. This well was supposed to have opened when access to the well near the Moy cemetery was restricted by the landlord.
Fr. McGrane Well – Dunshaughlin
Roland Cooke was a priest hunter and returned after death as a ghost. Water from Fr. McGrane’s Well in Readsland was used to banish the ghost. The well has now been covered over by a sewerage works.
Fr. Sheridan’s Well – Painstown
In the 1930s a well was recorded in Skerrymount townland. Fr. Sheridan blessed the well and visited it each day where he said his office. The well had originally been in Ballinlough but the owner refused to allow people to visit the well. The owner covered the well with flagstones and the next day the well arose again in an adjoining field in Skerrymount. After this Fr. Sheridan foretold that the well would never run dry. Fr. James Sheridan was parish priest of Beauparc/Yellow Furze from 1815 to 1853, memories of his priesthood survived for eighty years after his death.
Although there must have been a well dedicated to Tynan in the locality today there is no trace of such a well. There is a pilgrimage to a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes in the townland. Fr. Charles Houben, a Passionist, became a regular correspondent with the McEvoy family of Tobertynan House. In thanksgiving for the birth of their daughter Edward and Eliza McEvoy erected a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes at a Scots Pine tree in the woods at Tobertyrnan in 1868, ten years after the apparitions at Lourdes. Fr. Houeben, who was beatified in 1988, blessed this shrine. Edward died in 1899 and Eliza died in 1904. Their daughter, Pauline, married George, fourth Duke de Stacpoole and their son, George, restored the shrine in 1939. The fourth Duke died in 1929 and Pauline died in 1944. In the 1980s a pilgrimage began to the shrine on the first Sunday in May.
Hilltown Grotto – Bellewstown
Hilltown House was located near Bellewstown in east Meath. Bence-Jones described Hilltown as a well proportioned house of two storeys erected by Nicholas Boylan about 1810 although another source dated a house at Hilltown to 1760. Opposite the gates to Hilltown House is the entrance to the well and grotto which was erected by the Boylans after the apparitions at Lourdes in 1858. Busloads of holiday makers from the Red Island holiday camp at Skerries regularly visited the well during their summer vacations in the 1950s and 60s. The Boylans left Hilltown in the 1980s and the house was demolished and replaced.