Saint Martin's Well, Tobar Mhártaín, Leamaneh

Saint Martin's Well, Tobar Mhártaín, Leamaneh
Tony Kirby

Townland: Leamaneh North, Killinaboy

The townland Leamaneh takes its name either from ‘Léim an Eich’, ‘The Horse’s Leap’, or ‘Léim an Fheidh’, ‘The Deer’s Leap

Description of Holy Well and Landscape Setting

This well is a small natural spring. It is located close to the very top of the limestone strata, i.e. the youngest limestone, where it is overlain by the younger Namarian shales. Groundwater flowing south in the limestone is forced to the surface in this area. The spring outlet has been converted into a well by excavating a hollow of about 60 cm deep. This hollow acts as water storage and suggests that the well was once an important source of water. The castle lies just 100 metres west of the holy well. It is a twin-structure consisting of a tower house, constructed c1500 A.D., and a British-style gentleman’s mansion built in the first half of the 17th century.

Local historian, Michael Mc Mahon, has pointed out that the other Saint Martin’s wells in County Clare were situated in Kilchreest (Ballynacally), Kildysert and Moyarta. These are three Augustinian parishes. Máire Rua O’Brien (c1615-1686) would have been very familiar with the Saint Martin tradition in her native Clonderlaw in South-West Clare and Michael suspects she transferred that devotion to the well beside her new home at Leamaneh.

Saint and Feast Day Associated with Holy Well

St Martin’s feast day is 11th November. Traditionally, no wheel work would be carried out on this day. The feast day coincides with an important agricultural event which takes places each year called reverse transhumance in the Burren. This is the transfer of the cattle from the Burren lowlands to the Burren uplands. This pattern day is still celebrated in South-West Clare at St Martin’s Holy Well, Clarefield.

At a certain point during the O’Brien medieval period, the holy well was re-invented as a source of domestic water and thus lost its religious character.
The well at Leamaneh was reported as ‘lost’ as far back as 1939 :
‘I discovered some time ago that a very fine well beside the castle of Lemaneigh – Leim and Eith – was known to the very old people as Tobar Martan. The present generation including the old have lost knowledge of it. This is accounted from the fact that the land at Lemeneigh coming into the possession of the O’Briens and becoming a residential quarter by them in 1480 and afterwards is one of their great Tudor houses with deer park were out of bounds to the “mere Irish” and their superstitious practices. Also the well became the water supply for the Castle and has never run dry. Through the great drought of summer and autumn it supplied the families with excellent spring water’.
-National Folklore Collection, Schools’ Collection, Mr Kelleher, Príomh Oide, Killnaboy N.S

Heritage Attractions Nearby

The well is about a hundred metres east of Leamaneh Castle The castle is, along with Corcomroe Abbey,  one of the most spectacular ruins in the region. The site is about 6 kilometres east of Kilfenora.

Discover More…

Clare County Library

National Folklore Collection, Schools’ Collection 1930s

Gosling, P 2001, ‘The Burren in Medieval Times’, in O’Connell, J.W, Broad, R and Korff, A (Eds.), The Book of the Burren, Tír Eolas, Kinvara

Record of Monuments and Places Number

RMP CL016-03204

Comments about this page

  • Hi Sean, thank you so much for your observation – you are correct and this post has now been updated. We very much value your input. Congella, Editor

    By Lorna Elms (08/11/2022)
  • Referral of transhumance practice as being “the transfer of the cattle from the outdoors into the byre” is incorrect as it is the transfer of cattle from the summer lowland pastures to the Burren winterages.

    Very interesting and informative history of a historical well, thank you.

    By Sean Hegarty (09/04/2022)

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