Colmcille’s Well

Colmcilles Well

This place really brings back memories, as a kid I remember spending many summer days up at the Hell Fire Club up on Montpellier hill. It was a good hour and a half of a hike and we would spend the best part of the day there exploring the ruin and running around the forest. We would pack our bags with sweets crisps and drinks and off we would go. Now the trouble is that half way up we would have finished all our drinks. So we would always stop of at Colmcille’s well to fill up our bottles. Located just off the Old Ballycullen Road lies the Well and a very ‘well’ kept shrine, excuse the pun. The shrine which now stands over the well was added in the early part of the 20th century due to the efforts of two local Augustinian Priests. The story goes that a Fr. Doyle noticed that the local postman had a habit of disappearing into a field close by whilst on his rounds. Subsequently the priest learned that there was a well situated in this field which was venerated locally in the name of St. Columcille. It was discovered that the local postman Pat Murray, never passed the place without dropping in to say a prayer at the well and to take a drink from its waters, doing what his father and grandfather had done before him, and in doing so following the same local custom of the area. According to local history, St Columcille rested here after a long walk from the monastery in Glasnevin. It was believed that he quenched his thirst from the sparkling spring and left a blessing on it and all who might come to drink from it thereafter.

ColmcillesWell 1

A tree guarded gateway admits the pilgrim who must walk along a pathway leading across a small footbridge over a stream, will bring you to this ancient well nestled in the trees. Above the well there is what looks to be a very well-worn baullaun stone, and then the statue of Colmcille himself bearing the traditional staff and satchel. The well has a Celtic design memorial cross to the left and there is another modern cross located in a nearby field, but I could find no mention of this anywhere. Most of the Holy Wells that you will find across the country were once sacred places for our ancestors long before the arrival of Christianity to these shores. An interesting tradition which has survived from these ancient times is that of the Rag Tree. Most wells were believed to contain special healing powers for certain ailments.

Colmcilles Well 2

The practise was to dip a rag in the water and bathe the affected area. Once done the rag would be tied to a nearby tree, usually an Ash or Whitethorn. This was seen as an offering to the spirit of the well. Not only were these sites sacred to our ancestors but they were also a dependable source of fresh Water. In its attempts to convert the people of Ireland to the new religion they incorporated many of the old beliefs and traditions and eventually make them their own.St. Colmcille (Columba) was born in Gartan in 521 A.D. to Fedlimid and Eithne of the O Donnell house. On his father’s side, he was a great-great-grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish high king of the 5th Century. He was a pupil of St. Finian in Cluain Ioraird (Clonard), Co. Meath and he continued his studies with St. Mobhi in Glas Naion (Glasnevin). According to tradition he is reputed to have founded a monastery in Daru (Durrow). He also founded monasteries in his native Ulster.

Colmcilles Well 3

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Diary of a Ruinhunter, Historical, Landscape, Legends, Nature, People, Photography, Places of Interest, Sacred Well and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Colmcille’s Well

  1. The Rider says:

    Oh Ed, I love your photos! That first one with the tree is such a memorable one! Thanks!


  2. noelgreene says:

    Ed, yet again you open the memory floodgates .. I know Colmcilles Well very well (pun) Like you a hike to the Hellfire Club was the ultimate day out when I was young .. and of course the Hellfire Club was THE Scariest place for young impressionable minds. Then across the road to Massey’s forest for adventures and wild dreams .. thanks for sharing ..


    • Ah Masseys, we used to actually camp up there over night. I was up there about two weeks ago looking for the Bronze age wedge tomb but I could not locate it on the day. Hope it hasnt been removed 😦


  3. LB says:

    I enjoyed this story, your personal story and the historical one. What a tradition … and lovely photography!


  4. suej says:

    Like your story Ed..and not knowing your neck of the woods, what was the ruin you used to explore? Something you’ve already posted about?


  5. I visited a well during my travels, though I am not sure which one it was. The rag tree was filled with different colored strings and cloth; it was pretty amazing.


  6. Angi says:

    Love your blog. The tree looks like it would fit in on Halloween. Spooky !!


  7. Red Hen says:

    Lovely post. Colmcille sure got around. I wonder how many wells are called after him in Ireland?


  8. Inky Vampire says:

    It’s a shame that they have to fence the statue of Colmcille in to keep it safe. And I love those old trees.

    I don’t get out of the house a quarter as much as I’d like, I find myself looking forward to your posts. Great work again.


  9. Jo Woolf says:

    I love the fact that the ‘Hellfire Club’ replenished their bottles in St Columba’s holy well! 🙂 I also love the story about the postman and his father and grandfather. A fascinating post – St Columba certainly left his mark and his presence on so much of Ireland and Scotland and these sacred wells have such stories to tell. I find the statue (especially behind the grille) slightly disturbing though, for some reason!


    • Thanks Jo, but it was me filling my bottle at the well, the lads in the Hell Fire Club would have been accustomed to something a bit stronger.

      Its actually scary when you realised how many of these places exist. I have already found six wells associated with Brigid.

      Now that you mention it, it does have a creepy vibe to it. I think that it is more to do with the statue than the protective bars.


  10. Pingback: Blast from the Past…………………… | Ed Mooney Photography

  11. Donna says:

    Great post. Memories of the annual walk with my children from St. Colmcille’s School in Knocklyon up to the well. Never knew whether the children or the parents enjoyed the walk best and there was always time to buy ice cream to help us on our jouney before we could reach that lovely fresh water in the well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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