Saint Brecan's Well,Tobar Briocáin, Toomullin

Saint Brecan's Well,Tobar Briocáin, Toomullin
Tony Kirby

Townland: Toomullin, Killilagh Parish

Toomullin, from the Irish ‘Tuaim Molinne’. Tuaim means tumulus or  burial mound.

Description of Holy Well and Landscape Setting

This holy well was once part of the ecclesiastical complex of Saint Brecan. This complex comprised of a 15th century church, holy well, graveyard and the tomb of Conor Mac Clancy. The holy well was about 90 metres north-east of the church. The graveyard, tomb and well were destroyed through ploughing in 1982. Luckily the church with a later section called the Priest’s Room, survived.

The exact location and description of well house survive in historical records. An entry in the National Folklore Collection offers a description of the holy well, stating that there were flagstones lying down around the well and a low sod at the back. The well water measured 15 litres.

The site is located in farmland on the northern banks of the river Aille, about 2 kilometres upstream from Doolin. It is in a sheltered valley on the Clare Shales.

Saint and Feast Day Associated with Holy Well

This holy well is dedicated to Saint Brecan, a very early Irish saint who lived during the 5th century. Averil Swinfon writes that he was a disciple of Saint Patrick. He is credited with bringing Christianity to the area from his monastery on Inis Mór. Lidsoonvarna GAA club is named after this saint.

The well was known for curing or relieving eye complaints. Two visits on successive Mondays and one on a Thursday were required.

Rounds at the well began on the side of a hill about 20 metres north-east of well. Pilgrims would make their way along the river bank to a point opposite the well, and then on to the well. One round would be performed each time the well was visited. On the first visit, some moss would be taken away and this would be rubbed on the eyes at home. The moss was to be left back at the well on completion of third visit.

Offerings left at the well were said to include money or statues. If the pilgrims did not have money or statues, they should pull green rushes and lay them at well as offerings.

Natural Heritage around the Holy Well

The site where the well once stood is on improved grassland and has little biodiversity value. There is a large furze bush growing at north-west of the well site.

Heritage Attractions Nearby

Doolin is 2 kilometres to the south-west of the holy well. The other ecclesiastical site in Doolin, Killiagh, is 1.5 kilometres north of Toomullin.

Discover More…

Clare County Library

Ordnance Survey Letters, Royal Irish Academy

Ordnance Survey Letters, Ask About Ireland

National Folklore Collection, Schools’ Collection 1930s 


Record of Monuments and Places Number

RMP CL 015 -081

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