Saint Patrick's Well, Tobar Phádraig, Rosalia

Saint Patrick's Well, Tobar Phádraig, Rosalia
Tony Kirby

Townland: Rosalia

Description of Holy Well and Landscape Setting

This well takes the form of a naturally occurring spring which emerges from a cliff face onto a terrace on the slopes of Abbey Hill. The hill is a mosaic of limestone pavement and thin soil and is used for winter grazing of cattle. The well house is a circular drystone structure. There are lavish sea views of Galway Bay stretching out from the site.

There is a memorial altar about ten metres down the slope north-west of well. It is inscribed ‘John Cornym’ and ‘Mary M Nemara’ which would read today as John Comyn and Mary McNamara. The date of the inscription would appear to be 1765. A decorated stone can be seen beside the lettering. It consists of a moon face.

A hawthorn tree festooned with ribbons lies about twenty metres down slope north-east of the well. Most of the ribbons are likely to be ‘contrived tradition’ – casual depositions in an area of high footfall rather than conscious depositions, characteristic of the tradition around these trees in the past.
Other examples of festooned trees at holy wells in high footfall areas of the Burren include Saint Cronan’s Well, Termon, Carran and Saint Colmán Mac Duagh’s well at his hermitage at Keelhilla, Carran.

Down the slope from the holy well is a green road, which is much used for amenity. Less than one kilometre to the east of the well, this green road links up with an ancient North Clare routeway, the Corker Pass.

Saint and Feast Day Associated with Holy Well

The National Folklore Collection, Schools’ Collection includes the following records on the holy well:
St. Patrick approached a woman and asked her why she was crying. The woman explained her dehydration. St. Patrick prayed to God that a well would spring up. It duly did. St. Patrick then blessed the well.
-Irish Folklore Collection, 1937, 0049, 0169
People who were suffering from pain in their limbs visited the well for the cure. They washed the affected part with the holy water’.
-Irish Folklore Collection, 1937, 0049, 0170

The feast day celebrated at the holy well is 17th March, Saint Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick’s patron day falls on this date as it is reputed to be his date of death.

Offerings at the well were recorded in the 1840s by Thomas L. Cooke as: ‘rags, pins, and other worthless offerings of devotees’.
These were deposited in a niche within the well house.  Also noted on site by Cooke were ‘large, but rudely shaped stones, ranged apparently in religious order’
By the 20th century, the votive offerings included ‘turnips, prayer books, beads, medals and stones’.
-Irish Folklore Collection,  0049, 0170.

Today, a small number of offerings and a photograph of a person can be seen in the niche within well house. A figurine of Saint Patrick is also present in the niche in cliff just above well. This would suggest that some individuals still visit the site.

Natural Heritage around the Holy Well

A number of whitethorn trees grow in the area around the well. The well is located within the Burren, and the landscape around consists of limestone pavement, very rich and diverse in wild plants in blooming season.
Some of the water at the site is piped down to the valley below for agricultural use via a modern piece of infrastructure. Water was also traditionally drawn from this well in the past.

Heritage Attractions Nearby

Hazel Mountain Chocolate Shop and Café is not far from the holy well site.

Additional Information

There is some interesting graffiti inside the walls of the well house

Discover More…

Clare County Library

Etching Memories at a Holy Well, Heart of Burren Walks

National Folklore Collection, Schools’ Collection 1930s

Cooke, T.L 1842, ‘Autumnal Rambles about New Quay, County Clare’ in Galway Vindicator Newspaper

Record of Monuments and Places Number

RMP CL003-021001



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