Heritage: Yesterday's gift to today; today's gift to tomorrow.

Two Holy Wells of Sligo: Dromard and Templeboy.

St. Patrick's Holy Well, Dromard, Co. Sligo

Not so many go to worship at Holy Wells anymore but in remote places hidden to the casual visitor we may still witness vestiges of the ancient faiths. Visits to such places offer an opportunity to experience sacred sites and rituals that have continued since prehistoric times, rituals that were well established even before the early Christian religion took over. That the Pagan Irish worshipped the elements there is no doubt.  Water, air, fire, were all objects of veneration and in the old books the worship of wells as gods was often mentioned.

With the coming of Christianity many of the pagan wells were blessed and consecrated to Christian use by the early saints of Ireland. When Saint Patrick himself came to preach the Gospel in Ireland there were no churches or no baptistry fonts so on his missionary journeys he found it necessary to baptize his converts in wayside wells and streams many of which were already sacred places.

Mass at the Holy Well

The Turas at St. Patrick's Well
Such a sacred site is St. Patrick's Well in Dromard, Co. Sligo where devotions are held and Mass said once a year on the 29th of June, feast of St. Peter and Paul, once a Holyday of Obligation. The station at Dromard Holy Well can be done any time and goes like this:
Boots and shoes are removed.
At the round well say 5 Paters, 5 Aves and the Creed. Turn to the left and go around and out the gate. Turn right, go to the back of the altar and say 5 Paters, 5 Aves and the Creed. This repeated 3 times.
Come and say 7 Paters, 5 Aves and the Creed at St. Bridgits flag.

Pilgrims at St. Patrick's Holy Well

Go to the altar and say 15 decades of the Rosary. When finished go and wash your feet in the stream outside the gate. Then come in and step into the round well while saying one Pater, one Ave and one Gloria going around three times in the well.
Go and say any prayers you wish at the altar. After this go to the small well and take 3 sips of water saying: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen
To complete the Station the penitent should perform the Stations of the Cross in nearby Dromard Church.



Tobar Cathail Bocht (Poor Charlies Well)

In the parish of Templeboy, Co. Sligo, in the townland of Ballygrehan, there was another blessed well called Tobar Cathail. It is said that long ago a holy man named Cathal lived somewhere around the district. He was both blind and lame and was brought from house to house in a wheelbarrow.
            One night he dreamt that his sight and the use of his limbs would be restored if he was brought to a place where rushes grew. He dreamt of it three nights in succession and he believed it would be a success. He got some of his neighbors to wheel him to the place shown in the dream. When he arrived at the place he pulled a rush out of which gushed a water spout which went into his eyes and fell upon his feet and formed a beautiful well.
            He was instantly cured and as he had no further need for the wheelbarrow he left it behind and walked home. It is said that two large ash trees grew where the barrow was left. When Cathal was cured he saw a fine large trout in the well. A man named Black who lived in Ardagelly was out fishing one day and on his return home he caught the trout in the well and took him home. He put it on the fire to cook and when it was half roasted it jumped off the pan up the chimney and returned to the well. Those who have been cured at the place have seen the fish with one side burned and the other side as bright as silver.

The Curse of Captain King
People came often to the well to pray. One day Captain King, a notorious landlord in the district, saw the crowds of people at the well and asked his servant what were they doing there. The servant explained that they were there doing penance. On hearing this, he became angry and ordered the well to be filled in. At this time Captain King had a number of mares on his farm near the mountain exactly opposite this well. On the following spring after the destruction of the well each of his mares had a foal and each foal was blind. The well is still closed but the spring moved and is still to be seen and at the back of the present parish priest’s house. This is the Captain King who was later shot outside the Courthouse in Sligo town.

(I am grateful to Paul Burns who transcribed the story of Tobar Cathail Bocht from the records of the Dept. of Irish Folklore Collection (1937). Originally collected from Johnny McDonagh, Campcuill, Dromore West, 90 years old and from Mrs. Toolan, Kilrusheighter, aged 84 years. The above photos were taken by SligoHeritage on June 29th 2007)

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