St. John’s Well, adjacent to the ruins of Killone Abbey, sits on the bank of Killone Lake. The well seems to have been linked to eye cures, being originally attributed to giving sight to a blind man. The main pattern day was 24th June; this would make sense as it is near the feast of St John (and the summer solstice). A old route from Ennis to the well, called the Rocky Road or the Pilgrim’s Road, was used by devotees – sections of it still remain.
Approaching the well from the ruined monastery, It is nestled between the northern end of the lake and a wooded incline. You only notice the site when you are very close.
Numerous features have been added to the site, including the statue of saint John over the well and the shrine for votives on the right. A statue of Our Lady adorns the old altar, to which a new altar has been added. A large crucifix is clearly dominant, as well. The site is very well tended to.
The well with the votives shrine and some offerings. The distinct limestone of the region can be seen in the structure encasing the well.
The interior of the well; the water level seem to be rather high.
A guide to the rounds of the well are located in the shrine.
One of the sections of the Rocky Road leading form the outskirts of Ennis.
‘The City’, or Cathair Crobh Dearg, is a local pilgrimage site in Shrone, Rathmore, Kerry, on the northern slopes of the Paps. The name ‘The City’ refers to the locations role as a cathair (ringfort). The surviving walls and features of the antiquity serve as setting for the pattern that is performed there. It is believed that this has been a place of continual devotion and worship over several millennia.
Both the location and possibly a pagan deity were Christianised with the space being associated with St. Craobh Dearg ( a sister of St Gobnait of Ballyvourney). In a further pagan/Celtic connection, the pattern is performed on May Day, that is the feast of Bealtaine and it is linked with ensuring the health of cattle, or sometimes agriculture more generally.
The Well is located on western side of the City. It is the last station on the pattern. It is enclosed by a stone wall with a small amount of votive offerings present.
Some work was done in the recent past with the well being located within concrete piping, with surrounding steps which facilitate access.
At the western station of the pattern, there is a statue of Our Lady with the Infant Jesus and a number of cross slabs. Devotees make the shape of the corss as part of the pattern. The deep groves speak to the age of this practice.
The Well from the road, with a woman doing the rounds and a man at the well.
A woman doing the rounds, circling the outside of the City. The flow of people that day has created a ‘path’ in the grass.
The water is taken away on sprinkled on cattle or the land. It is also kept to give to sick cattle. Some people take several bottles of water, collecting it for their neighbours and friends.
A recording of me collecting some water from the well.
A video of me walking around the outside of the City, along the pattern route. The flow of earlier pilgrims has left a clear on the route.
The Stations of the Cross are a feature found at different pilgrimage sites. They are a Christian devotional practice that allows participants to retrace the events surrounding the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday through prayers at 14 (15 in contemporary Catholicism) ‘stations’. At different holy wells and sites I’ve visited, the actual ‘Stations’ (plaques, crosses, icons) seem to be relatively recent additions.
The inclusion of the Stations in these spaces, which in some cases pre-date the popularisation of the practice in the medieval period, may have numerous functions. They can provide a focus for those who are unsure of other devotions associated with a site or for spaces that have no clear traditions; however, it could be suggested that they also represent attempts to bring the performances into more orthodox realms.
Regardless, the Stations serve as the basis for individual and communal worship and prayer at these sites. The are an optional devotion for pilgrims/visitors; while also being the main activity in some places, such as feast days at Máméan, Connemara.
St Olan’s Well, Aghabullogue, Cork: the Stations can be seen in the background circling the side and rear of the site.
St Fanahan’s Well, Mitchelstown, Cork: the Stations, a series of small crosses, are on the inner side of the oval path behind the well.
Máméan, Connemara: Pilgrims, led by the cross, complete the Stations on the traditional August pilgrimage day.
Ireland’s Holy Wells Blog‘s post on St Patrick’s Well, Clonmel offers some thoughts on the Stations of the Cross at that site.
Lady’s Well is one of the few wells within Cork city. It is located north of the city centre, on the eastern slope of the small valley that leads out to Blackpool. It gave Lady’s Well Brewery, just below the well, its name, while what is now Leitrim Street was formerly called Lady’s Well Street.
The well has had a varied modern history. There seems to have been no record of religious activity on the site and by the 1980s no surface trace of the well existed, although the shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary was on the site, which was demolished in the later 1990s. A City Council sponsored excavation in 2000 revealed a cast-iron basin surrounding by sandstone flags as being the likely earliest flooring at the well. At that time, the well and grotto were consolidated.
I visited the site on 26th Feb 2012 and again on 24th Feb 2013. When I intended to blog about the site recently, I returned to get more recent photos. On my initial visit I found the site to be untidy and generally a bit run down – in particular, drinks cans allover the site and in the well. This poor state was one of the main motivations for revisiting the site, as it didn’t want to misrepresent its current condition. However, the site was in an even poorer state on my second visit. Messiness and evidence of drinking was compounded by neglect and vandalism. The photos below which compare the site over the two visits clearly illustrate the change, especially in terms of the well itself, which is now inaccessible as the basin is completely filled in with bits of broken paving.
Although, the well is an acknowledged heritage feature and was renovated with community support, it seems to have slowly deteriorated. Its location on a secluded section of the hillside above the brewery but out of site of the houses above means its an ideal location for ‘anti-social’ behaviour, with evidence of drinking, vandalism and fire-lighting.
I am slightly conflicted over what the visits have revealed. Firstly, it is a shame that one of the few examples of a holy well in the city is in this condition; and, as a result, I have contacted one of my local councilors about the issue, who will raise it at the City Council. However, this also presents a study in the decline of a holy well. Many hundreds of the 3,000 holy wells that were believed to have existed across Ireland can no longer be found or have deteriorated beyond recognition. Although, intentional actions are involved here, the site is a metaphor for what has happened to so many sites. Wells which are no longer the focus of devotional activity can fall into disrepair and become unattractive, furthering their demise. It would seem the central reason for the survival of so many wells is the role of devoted people who frequent and upkeep them.
While the physical structures and role of Lady’s Well in the nomenclature of the city ensure the site will remain in the future, what exact form this will take is uncertain. I shall return to the site and the topic.
Two views, one from each visit, looking south at the site: it resembles a mini-amphitheatre, with a curved shape on one side and it is spread over three levels – a back support level with the ground behind it, a middle level with an empty grotto at the far end and the lower level which has the well at its centre.
The well’s poor condition, marked by litter mainly, in Feb 2012 is replaced by one of complete disrepair in Feb 2013, presumably through intentional vandalism.
The view of the site in Feb 2012 from the laneway between Richmond Hill and Leitrim Street.
Part of research, in fact a large part, involves activities that are unsuccessful or at least not what you had hoped for. A trip to archives only turned up a book that was not what the title suggested, or an important interview is cut short or an event is cancelled. This is a necessary part of research The adventure and curiosity that drives research centres on the fact that you don’t know what you are going to get. But we can, of course, learn from these instances.
The map and areial photo detail from the archaeological record: CO074-018 (Archaeological Survey of Ireland, Record Details) on http://www.archaeology.ie. Posted: 14 Jan 2009
This morning, a cool but sunny spring Sunday, I went in search of Toberbarry, a holy well, in Kilbarry just north of Cork city. The well, a spring in a depression, was linked with St Fin Barre’s first Church in Cork. Working off archaeological records, maps and google maps, I knew fairly accurately (within a few square metres) where the well was. However, the site does not appear to be in use and it is located in overgrown rough land. Even with precise directions it was going to be a challenge.
I was unsuccessful in finding the well. The search was challenging in that the area I needed to get to was beyond a large patch of brambles, which I had to work my way through, over and across with the assistance of a stick. The small area in which I estimated the well was located was less overgrown but it was still very difficult to make out surface features. I did come across a hollow or pit, which may potentially have been the well, but there was no sign of water. Despite not achieving my main objective I did photograph the site and record some thoughts, as well as being reminded that research involves interesting experiences in which you never know that you’ll find, or not find!
Any future attempts to locate the well, or its remains, will be based on local knowledge. Timing didn’t allow knocking on a few doors, but maybe next time I can ask a few residents if they could offer assistance on the quest.
The rough land I had to get through to the well site.
The rough location of the well.
A depression in the ground, a potential holy well.
Audio recording of some thoughts I had on-site:
CO074-018 (Archaeological Survey of Ireland, Record Details) on http://www.archaeology.ie. Posted: 14 Jan 2009
A photo of the short path leading down to the well, which has briars and different plants growing into it. The path is barely noticeable from the road.
A photo showing the holy well at the end of the path. The well, on the right, is set into the hillside and is surrounding by a simple stone structure with a stone drain channel, capped by a slab at the well, running directly out from it. On either side of the well two rocks, which are part of the setting, each have a cross ingrained in them from pilgrims using stones.
The well, referred to as ‘Sunday Well‘ in maps, is small and pleasant, although it looks like it is rarely used. The archaeological record refers to rounds which were performed their in the past. The site is clean and tidy, but the path down is slightly overgrown and unless you were looking for it, it is unlikely that you would see it. It seems as though it may be visited by a small number of people, presumably locals.
The well occupies a space between sites of devotion and activity and ones which have been abandoned. In this, there is a something nice and intimate about visiting the site, although there is the risk that it may fall into disuse and poor repair.
ArchaeologicalSurvey ofIreland Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) Number: CO087-017
CO087-017 (Archaeological Survey of Ireland, Record Details) on http://www.archaeology.ie. Posted: 14 Jan 2009
St Gobnait, who is venerated at different sites in the south of Ireland, has her feast day on 11th February. St Gobnait’s house and holy well in Ballyvourney, Cork, is one of the main sites of devotion associated with the saint. On the feast day or pattern day, people come to do the rounds and visit the well. The site located just outside the village is very well maintained an attracts visitors throughout the year.
Pilgrims praying in the rain at the statue of St Gobnait
The grave of St Gobnait which is a focus of devotional activity. It is a station on the rounds and people frequently leave votive offerings here.
Looking down on the pilgrimage site from beside the statue. One of the wells is in the foreground, with the grave in the middle ground to the right and the old church, which is also part of the rounds, is in the background.
St Gobnait’s Well which is adjacent to the graveyard; it is the final station on the rounds
A recording at St Gobnait’s Holy Well Ballyvourney Cork on 11th Feb 2013, the feast day of the saint. The recording captures the lifting a cup form above the well, taking up some water, drinking some, returning the water, the ambient sound in the well structure and returning the cup.
A selection of photographs and an audio recording taken today (St Brigid’s Day, 2013) at St Brigd’s Well, Liscannor Clare. There was a steady flow of people visiting the well. A mass was due to be held there at noon, weather permitting; however, it was said in the parish church instead. Most of the visitors took away a bottle of the water, while some engaged some in prayer patterns. A number of votive offerings were left in the well and rags tied to the trees adjacent to the well and pattern route.
St Brigid’s Well, Liscannor, Clare. The well is located at the rear of an artificial grotto or passage way, which is filled with votive offerings.
A group doing their ’rounds’ at the statue.
Crowds gathering by the well, the queue to the well can be seen coming out of the archway.
A woman doing the ’rounds’
An hay arch (hay wrapped over a metal frame) covers the entrance to the well, it is adorned with St Brigid’s Crosses
Collecting the holy water
The visit to the well frequently involves a lighting of a candle. This little alcove is adjacent to the well, it’s a lovely micro-space.
A central part of the tradition surrounding holy wells is the consumption of the water. This photo shows three cups on top of the low wall surrounding Our Lady’s Well, Timoleague, Co. Cork, which is sunken into the ground. On the outside of the wall, the gravel of a path surrounding the well can be seen, while on the inside the wall leads down to the still water. The three cups – a simple metal handle-less one, an old porcelain one with faded writing and a plastic mug from Lough Derg – rest, casting shadows in the mid-winter morning, awaiting use in personal and communal acts of devotion and reflection. The objects embody beliefs, vernacular traditions and absent rituals. The presence of the Lough Derg cup is a nice link between this local spot and the national pilgrimage location.
The photo is focused on one of the railings by St Olan’s Well, Aghbullogue, Cork. The well is located next to a bend on the road, on the outside, where a railing, made up of a number of metal posts and two chains running parallel, separates the well-space from the road. The railings, which are each topped by a cross, and the chains are painted black, and the crosses white – which creates a nice feature. Although, the wearing of the chains as left many of the links with rusty patches. Blurred in the backround is the well’s beehive-structure and the Whitethorn tree that is growing out of it, and, to the right, a statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart.
The railings and similar features may not initially seem to be that significant; however, these components all contribute to the place and its character. Places can be considered to be assemblages of different elements, including natural features, representations, practices and objects. In this context, the St Olan’s well-space is the combined result of the well, the structure, the location, the performances of devotions, the railings and much more. As well as being an aesthetically pleasant focus, this photo literally foregrounds the role of elements such as the railings, which may otherwise be considered incidental.