Saint Macreehy's Well, previously Tobarmacreagh, Carran
Carran, from ‘An Carn’, which translates as The Cairn.
Description of Holy Well and Landscape Setting
This well site is located within a small hawthorn grove in the middle of a field of improved grassland. The area is in fertile farmland. There are cliffs 100 metres south of the site and above them there is the classic Burren landscape of limestone pavement.
The well was filled in as a safety measure following two fatal accidents and there is no evidence of it today. The well at Tobercollure Well in Tulla, Kilkeedy, CL 007-002 was also filled in in this manner.
Saint Macreehy’s Well was almost certainly part of the monastic site of Carran. The church in its current form dates from the 15th century. The church is more than 1 kilometre north-west of the holy well and fronts on to the modern R480 road.
Saint and Feast Day Associated with Holy Well
This holy well is now known as Saint Macreehy’s Well, but it was once called Tobarmacreagh. Both are anglicisations of ‘Tobar Mac Creiche’, meaning the well of ‘The Well of the Son of Plunder’.
Máire McNeill offers the following accounts of Saint Macreehy in her book ‘The Festival of Lughnasa’:
‘….a shadowy personage. Legendarily, he is most interesting.’
‘…plague-averting, dragon-slaying, cattle-saving, island-dwelling, sea-buried Mac Creiche’.
There is an ancient church, holy well and saint’s bed dedicated to Saint Mac Creiche at Kilmacreehy, Liscannor. The saint’s feast day was observed there on 2nd August. Pádraig Ó Riain writes that this feast day seems to have later merged with the pre-Christian Lughnasa celebrations at Saint Brigid’s well, a couple of kilometres north of Kilmacreehy. It is not clear if the August pattern day was also celebrated at Saint Macreehy’s Well in Carran.
In her book ‘Forgotten Stones: Ancient Church Sites of the Burren’, Averil Swinfen, records the rounds that were carried out at the holy well:
.”..the old people used to make rounds at the well, grave and church..” of the saint at Kilmacreehy (Mac Neill). However, the only documentary evidence of ritual at Poulaccarran is the rounding of a cairn beside the church. It was done with coffins prior to burials.
Lelia Doolan writes that the well was said to hold a cure for eye ailments.
Natural Heritage around the Holy Well
The holy well site is located in the centre of a field of improved grasslands, with minimal biodiversity value. However, the grove where the well lies is made up of hawthorns and is a species rich habitat. Limestone pavement is located beyond the cliffs, 100 metres south of well site.
Heritage Attractions Nearby
Travelling further north on the R480 will take the visitor to Caherconnell Stone Fort, which is 2 kilometres from the holy well site, as well as Poulnabrone Neolithic portal tomb, also 2 kilometres. Ballyvaughan Village is 13 kilometres from the holy well site.
Doolan, L 2001, in O’Connell, J.W, Broad, R and Korff, A (Eds.), The Book of the Burren, Tír Eolas, Kinvara
McNeill, 2008, The Festival of Lughnasa,. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Swinfin, A 1992, Forgotten Stones: Ancient Church Sites of the Burren, The Lilliput Press, Dublin
Record of Monument and Places Number
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