Holy wells were used to celebrate saints, seek cures and give thanks. There were some 3,000 wells across the country. The Irish Folklore Commission (IFC) collected oral information from people about holy wells in the 1930s, and completed a survey of holy wells in 1934. Geraldine Lynch has summarised the results of this survey for County Wicklow, along with notes from the Ordnance Survey Letters, written 1838/9 (OSL). The wells in the parish of Powerscourt are listed below. In cases where the National Monument Service (NMS) have information on a well, I have included this (click link to see the NMS’s fantastic map-search facility).
- Well at Annacrivey: Frequented by the devout on 25th March and 15th August (OSL). Occasionally visited, the old people remember seeing the bushes covered with votive offerings (IFC).
- The White Well, Ballylerane: Water of the well had curative properties. Water collected using different methods had different cures. Not used for household purposes (IFC).
- St Michael’s Well, Cookstown: On May morning the water from this well was added to the domestic wells of the area (IFC).
- Well of the Church, Killegar: As the late Fr O’Dwyer got this well cleared out occasionally it got the name of Father O’Dwyer’s well (IFC). Description: Situated on a marked east-facing slope overlooking the very steep west side of the Scalp. The OS Letters (O’Flanagan 1928, 2) state that there was a local memory of a pattern at the well, and that there was an ‘ancient thorn’ growing over it. No visible remains (NMS) [Site marked on NMS map] Prof Stokes wrote about this well: ” It is a rare spot for a picnic combined with an archaeological excursion, and there is a stream of the coolest water flowing from the ancient Church well, as it is called on the Ordnance map, which stream archaeologists are sure to appreciate at its true value.“
- Well at Monastery: An old well, nearly choked up. The well some forty years ago was frequented for the cure of headaches, etc (OSL). It used to be visited seventy or eighty years ago for the cure of headaches. It is scarcely ever visited now (IFC). To the south of the monastery site, a small spring now enclosed in a brick and cement trough, may be the well marked on the map. The OS Letters (O’Flanagan 1928, 3) mention that the well was visited for headache cures (NMS). [Site marked on NMS map]
- Tobar Melin, Powerscourt Demesne: Situated in a wet area at the SE foot of a steep hillock. Circular shaft (dims. 0.85m x 0.8m; D 1.3m) with a lining of small granite stones. There appears to be a stone base to the shaft. A circular cut slab with one flat and one domed face has been wedged into the shaft near the base (NMS). [Site marked on NMS map] This is also known as St Moling’s Well – see here for details.
Geraldine Lynch, The Holy Wells of County Wicklow: Traditions and Legends, in Wicklow: History and Society, pp. 625 – 648.