Beltane Well, Kenmore, Perthshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 7867 4725

Also Known as:

  1. An Tobar
  2. Holy Well of Inchadney

Getting Here

An Tobar, or Beltane Well, on the 1867 map

An Tobar, or Beltane Well, on the 1867 map

From Kenmore village on the north-side of the river, over the bridge, take the small road on your right towards Dull.  After a very short distance the road runs alongside the woodland for nearly 1½ miles until, on your left, you’ll reach Drummond Cottage.  Across from here a dirt-track takes you into the trees.  Barely 100 yards along, watch for the overgrown path that runs down the slope on your left.  At the bottom a small stream has several feeds – one of which is surrounded by a ring of bright quartz stones.

Archaeology & History

Shown on the early Ordnance Survey maps as An Tobar (meaing simply “a well”), this somewhat nondescript title betrays a much more colourful folk history, albeit dissolved by those common culprits of Church and disrespectful incomers (which shows little sign of diminishing).

Lara by the Well

Lara by the Well

Close-up of quartz surround

Close-up of quartz surround

In the field immediately south, back up the slope above the well and through the trees, was once an ancient church whose existence has all but vanished.  Hereby was held an ancient fair known as Feill nam Bann Naohm, or the Fair of the Holy Women, named after a group of nuns whose lived here, who William Gillies (1938) and others proclaim were the legendary Nine Maidens, whose dedications at wells, trees and other sites scatter Scotland. But the fair was ended in 1575 and moved to Kenmore; then, several years later in 1579, the church also moved onto Eilean nam Ban Naomh (NN 7664 4536) on Loch Tay.

The old well however, after being left by the descendants of the Holy Women or Nine Maidens, continued to be frequented by local people.  Gillies (1938) wrote:

“The Holy Well of Inchadney is situated at the foot of the terrace, about five hundred yards to the north of the churchyard… Up to the middle of last century the well used to be visited by great numbers of people on the morning of Bealtuinn, the first day of May.”

In Ruth & Frank Morris’ survey (1981) they told how the site had become much overgrown and,

“The well was cleaned out in 1914 and among articles found was a stone 21 inches by 16 inches, with a rude St Andrew’s cross scratched on it, a George III farthing among other copper coins, a rudely made stone cup 2½ inches high and 7 inches in diameter, three metal buttons, a glass bead and six pins.”

No such offerings seemed in evidence when we visited a few weeks ago; but we were told that people are still seen visiting the well.

Looking down into the pure waters

Looking into the pure waters

A small stone-laid footpath runs towards the adjacent burn from the circular well, which is almost completely surrounded by large quartz rocks.  In the well itself was a small fish, showing how clean the waters are—or as would be deemed in times of olde: a ‘guardian’ of the waters.

We must also make note of the fact that, just two fields away to the north, according to the antiquarian Fred Coles (1910), a stone circle was once in evidence.  This old well sat neatly between the sites of megalithic ring and church.

Folklore

In the field in front of the well, Hilary Wheather (1982) told that there once lived a legendary water bull, but she lamented on his passing.  With the coming of the modern-folks and their unnatural ways,

“and having great timber lorries rumbling past your home every day is no fun for a peace-loving waterbull living in Poll Tairbh, the Bull’s Pool opposite the Holy Well.  Gone are the days when he was the revered Spirit of the Meadow, passed with trembling and fear by all the young maids of the Parish lest he should jump out and carry them off to his watery lair. Half the calves of the area were sired by him and it was always easily seen which cow had the attentions of the Great Waterbull.  Her calf was always the biggest and the best.  But he hasn’t been seen by his pool for many a year…”

The waters are cited by Geoff Holder (2006) to be good for toothache.

References:

  1. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire (Aberfeldy District),” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 44, 1910.
  2. Gillies, William A., In Famed Breadalbane, Munro Press: Perth 1938.
  3. Holder, Geoff, The Guide to Mysterious Perthshire, History Press 2006.
  4. McHardy, Stuart, The Quest for the Nine Maidens, Luath Press: Edinburgh 2003.
  5. Miller, Joyce, Magic and Witchcraft in Scotland, Goblinshead: Musselburgh 2010.
  6. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  7. Wheater, Hilary, Kenmore and Loch Tay, Appin Publications: Aberfeldy 1982.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to the bunch who got us here:  to Paul Hornby, Nina Harris, Aisha Domleo & Lara Domleo (ooh – and Leo too!).

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.601379, -3.977933 Beltane Well

Our Lady’s Well, Straiton, Loanhead, Midlothian

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 2728 6669

Archaeology & History

Our Ladys ‘Well’ on 1855 map

This is another all-but-forgotten holy well once dedicated to the Virgin Mary, close to the south-side of Edinburgh’s outer ring-road.  It would seem to have been one in a cluster of sacred wells not far from each other (with the two Jacob’s Wells and St. Margaret’s Well at nearby Pentland), whose traditional stories have fallen prey to the incredulity of ‘progress’.  I can find very little about the site, other than the note given it in George Good’s (1893) Liberton survey where, in stepping south towards the old hamlets of Broomhill and Straiton, he told:

“A little to the west of the hamlet, and near what was called Straiton Green, is an old draw-well dedicated to the Virgin, and known by the name of Our Lady’s Well. There may possibly have been a cell or chapel near this well, but no tradition or history regarding it is extant.”

We can only presume that the ‘Well’ which is highlighted on the first OS-map in 1855, maybe 20-30 yards west of the old road on what looks like a small park or ‘Green’, would be the ‘Lady Well’ in question. (another ‘Well’ is shown at Broomhill Cottage, which is unlikely to be the contender)

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Edinburgh, TNA 2017.
  2. Good, George, Liberton in Ancient and Modern Times, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1893.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.887767, -3.164313 Our Lady\'s Well

Tobair na h-oige, St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Sacred Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NA 100 000

Also Known as:

  1. Well of Eternal Youth

Folklore

An old story told in previous centuries by the indigenous folk of Hirta (St. Kilda) described a long-lost well that was thought to be an abode of the little people, known as the Well of Eternal Youth.  Not to be confused with the Well of Virtues near the Amazon’s House less than a mile west, the rough whereabouts of this site is cited by J. Sands (1878) in the folklore section of his otherwise historical account on these faraway Atlantic islands.  He wrote:

“Once on a time an old fellow, in going up Connagher with a sheep on his back, observed a Well which he had never seen or heard of before.  The water looked like cream, and was so tempting, that he knelt down and took a hearty drink.  To his surprise all the infirmities of age immediately left him, and all the vigour and activity of youth returned. He laid down the sheep to mark the spot, and ran down the hill to tell his neighbours. But when he came up again neither sheep nor well were to be found, nor has any one been able to find the Tobair na h-oige to this day.  Some say that if he had left a small bit of iron at the well—a brog with a tacket in it would have done quite well—the fairies would have been unable to take back their gift.”

Explorations of old maps and texts has failed to show with certainty where this legendary well may have been (the grid-ref is an approximation), but it was reported in Mrs Banks’ Scottish Calendar Customs (1937) to have been “issuing out of the face of a rock on the north-side of the east bay…only accesible by the inhabitants, no stranger daring to climb the steep rock.” Some of us would try!

References:

  1. Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folklore Society: London 1937.
  2. Sands, J., Out of the World; or Life in St. Kilda, Maclachlan & Stewart: Edinburgh 1878.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.819254, -8.571844 Tobair na h-oige

Bogle’s Well, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 597 650

Archaeology & History

Of all the ancient wells in the city of Glasgow, this has to be one of the most intriguing! Descriptions of it are few and far between, but it is the name of the site which is of interest, to folklorists and occult historians alike.  For the word ‘Bogle’ is another term for a ‘boggart’ or goblin of some sort!  The well is mentioned in Andy MacGeorge’s (1880) excellent study in his description of ancient wells in the city. Citing notes from the 17th century, amidst many sites,

“Another was Bogle’s Well, in regard to which there is a minute of the town council “that Bogillis Well should be assayed for bringing and convoying the water of the same to the Hie street according to the right the town hes thereof,” and the magistrates are recommended to arrange for having this done “by conduits of led.””

…Obviously in the days when they were clueless about lead-poisoning!  The word ‘bogillis’ is the early plural form of the bogle, or bogill (Grant 1941:201).  But where exactly was this old well?  Are there any other records hiding away to help us locate its original position?  It seems to have been one in a cluster of legendary and holy wells in a very small area scattered between Glasgow’s cathedral, down the High Street and to the northern banks of the River Clyde… (the grid-reference given for this site is an approximation)  In a less esoteric fashion, the occult historian Jan Silver suggested that the name of the Well may relate to the family name, ‘Bogle’.

Folklore

Traditionally ascribed in the lower counties of England to be an evil malicious sprite, in more northern counties and in Scotland the creature was said by Katherine Briggs (1979) to be a more “virtuous creature”, akin to the helpful brownies or urisks of country lore.  This was said to be the case in William Henderson’s (1868) Folklore of the Northern Counties. Whether this well was haunted or the home of a bogle, we do not know as the folklore of this site appears to be lost; so I appeal to any students who might be able to enlighten us further on the place.  The Forteans amongst you might have a cluster of ‘hauntings’ hereby, perhaps….

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  2. Briggs, Katharine, A Dictionary of Fairies, Penguin: Harmondsworth 1979.
  3. Grant, William (ed.), The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 2, SNDA: Edinburgh 1941.
  4. Henderson, William, Notes on the Folklore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders, W. Satchell: London 1879.
  5. MacGeorge, Andrew, Old Glasgow, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1880.
  6. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  7. Steele, Joyce, Seeking Patterns of Lordship, Justice and Worship in the Scottish Landscape, Glasgow University 2014.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.857998, -4.242440 Bogle’s Well

St. Patrick’s Well, Heysham, Lancashire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SD 4109 6159

Getting Here

From Heysham village centre by the little roundabout, go down the gorgeous olde-worlde Main Street for about 150 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the little track up to the tree-lined church of St. Peter.  Just before going up the path to the church, set back at the roadside, you’ll see an old pump in an arch in the walling.  That’s St. Patrick’s Well!

St.Patrick’s Well, Heysham

Archaeology & History

Not to be confused with another St. Patrick’s Well a few miles north of here, little has been said of this old holy well in literary tomes (even Henry Taylor’s (1906) magnum opus missed it!)  Sadly the waters here have long since been diverted (which violates religious tradition, quite frankly), and all we see today is an old iron water-pump set inside a stone arch, beneath which – I presume – the waters once ran.  An old plaque on the site of this ancient well tells:

“This is one of two holy wells in Heysham village (the other, Sainty Well, is on private property and covered over), whose dedications are long since lost.  Latterly the water from this well was used for utilitarian gardening purposes within the confines of the old rectory.

“Previously the well had fallen into disuse, suffered from surface contamination and became rubble-filled when the bank above gave way in the mid-1800s.  In the early 1900s, the well-head was again rebuilt and the well itself was cleaned and made safe by capping with concrete.  Recently (May 2002) the well-head has been refurbished and water artificially introduced, thus turning a derelict area into a feature of the village.”

It would be good if local people could complain to the regional water authority and make them redirect the waters beneath the well, back to the surface, to allow devotees — both Christian and otherwise — to partake of the holy blood sanctified by St. Patrick many centuries ago.  And without fluoride or other unholy chemical compounds that desecrate our waters.  Just the sacred waters of God’s Earth please!

Folklore

This is one of the many places in the British Isles where St. Patrick was said to have landed after he’d converted all the Irish into the christian cult!  One of the traditions was that St. Patrick said the well would never run dry — which was shown to be untrue when the waters were filled in with rubble in the 19th century.  The same saint also used the waters from the well to baptise and convert the peasants of his time.

References:

  1. Quick, R.C., Morecambe and Heysham, Past and Present, Morecambe Times 1962.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

St Patrick's Well

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St Patrick\'s Well 54.046929, -2.901158 St Patrick\'s Well