Toberdane, Tobar Déine, Kilfenora

Toberdane, Tobar Déine, Kilfenora
Tony Kirby

Townland: Kilfenora

T.J. Westropp writes that Kilfenora, Cill Fionn Abhrach, probably means ‘The Church of the White Ridge or Meadow’

Description of Holy Well and Landscape Setting

The site of this holy well is in a short lane or cul-de-sac about 200 metres north of the cathedral at Kilfenora and about half a kilometre north of the village itself. The site is also less than 50 metres south of Toberfaughtna, a holy well dedicated to Saint Fachtna, the 6th century patron saint of Kilfenora. Toberfaughtna is located at the very end of the lane and this lane was almost certainly a path which linked village and well.
Kilfenora is an ecclesiastical site of early date according to John Sheehan, archaeologist. Averil Sinfen writes that the site is said to have been founded by Saint Fachtna. Carleton Jones writes that the curved main street of Kilfenora Village today almost cerntainly follows the original line of the southern boundary of the early ecclesiastical site. If this is the case, then Toberdean almost certainly stood within the monastic grounds.

The ‘Déine’ in the name of this well may be the possessive case of ‘dian’ which means severity or hardship. This well might have been known as ‘The Hardship Well’. There is no trace of the well surviving today.

Saint and Feast Day Associated with Holy Well

Toberdean is marked as ‘disused’ on the Ordnance Survey Ireland Cassini map, whilst the neighbouring well at Toberfaughtna had a stone cover placed over it in 1687 by a Donald Mc Donagh.

Jack Flanagan writes in ‘Kilfenora, A History’, that:
‘On the left named Toberdane, so named in the ordnance survey map. Up to the 1930s 3 side walls about 4 feet high of this well were still standing with the opening facing the east’

There is no memory locally of the rounds or cures associated with this holy well.

Additional Information

The site is marked on Tim Robinson’s map of the Burren.

Natural Heritage around the Holy Well

The area around the holy well site is grasslands with some scrub on the verges.

Heritage Attractions Nearby

The Burren Centre at Kilfenora features a permanent exhibition on the history of the Burren.

Kilfenora Cathedral is very close to the holy well site – the main structure of this cathedral consists of a late 12th or early 13th chancel and north wing. There is also an important complex of high crosses in the environs of cathedral. Averil Sinfen writes that: ‘The main glories of Kilfenora are its crosses’.

Additional Information

The site is marked on Tim Robinson’s map of the Burren.

Discover More…

Clare County Library

Flanagan, J 1995, Kilfenora A History, published by Author, Kilfenora, Clare

Jones, C 2004, The Burren and the Aran Islands: Exploring the Archaeology, The Collins Press, Cork.

Robinson, T 1999, The Burren: A Two-Inch Map of the Uplands of North-West Clare, Folding Landscapes, Galway

Sheehan, J 1982, ‘The early historic church-sites of North Clare’ in North Munster Antiquarian Journal, vol. 24, pp. 29-47

Swinfin, A 1992, Forgotten Stones: Ancient Church Sites of the Burren, The Lilliput Press, Dublin

Westropp, T.J. 1912, A Folklore Survey of County Clare, edited by Maureen Comber 2000, CLASP Press, Ennis.

Westropp, T.J 1900, ‘The Churches of County Clare, and the Origin of the Ecclesiastical Divisions in that County’ Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 6, pp. 100-180.

TJ Westropp, List of the Founders and Patrons of the Churches of County Clare 

Record of Monuments and Places Number

CL 016 – 015009

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