St. Patrick’s Well, Dunruchan, Muthill, Perthshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NN 77905 17365

Getting Here

St Patricks Well on 1863 map

Take the B827 road between Comrie and Braco. If you’re coming via Comrie, going uphill for 3.1 miles (5.1km); but if from Braco Roman Camp go along and eventually downhill for 6.6 miles (10.6km), watching out for the track to Middleton Farm by the roadside.  Walk along for 125 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the boggy ground below on your left. You’re there!

Archaeology & History

Immediately east of the prodigious megalithic complex of Dunruchan, bubbling up amidst the usual Juncus conglomeratus reeds, are the boggy remnants of St. Patrick’s Well—one of two such sacred wells dedicated to the early Irish saint in Muthill parish. We’re at a loss as to why this Irish dood has such sites in his name in this area.  No doubt some transitional shamanic character was doing the rounds in this glorious landscape, muttering words of some neo-christian animism, eventually settling a mile from the great megalithic complex, perhaps hoping—and failing—to convert our healthy heathen populace into ways unwise.

The site of St Patricks Well

The shallow boggy waters

Whatever he may have been up to, a small stone chapel was built hereby and, it was said, even a christian graveyard, to tempt folk away from the ancient plain of cairns whence our ancestors had long since buried their dead.  But the christian’s chapel and graveyard has long since gone; and when historians before me had visited the place, St Patrick’s Well had also fallen back to Earth in the drier summers, taking the blood of the Earth back into Her body.  The heathen megaliths still remain however, standing proud on the moorland plain in clear sight from these once healing waters, whose mythic history, on the whole, has long since been disregarded….

Folklore

St Partick’s day on March 17—”a date very near the Spring Equinox,” as Mrs Banks (1939) reminded us—may have been the dates when the waters here were deemed particularly efficacious, although we have nothing in written accounts to tell us for sure. But in the 19th century Statistical Account we find that the site was “much frequented once, as effectual in curing the hooping cough.”  E.J. Guthrie (1885) told of an ancient rite regarding the drinking of the waters for effect of the cure, saying:

“In the course of this century a family came from Edinburgh, a distance of nearly sixty miles, to have the benefit of the well. The water must be drunk before sunrise or immediately after it sets and that out of a “quick cow’s horn”, or a horn taken from a live cow, and probably dedicated to this saint.”

Also in Muthill parish, Guthrie told, St Patrick’s memory was held in such veneration that farmers and millers did not work on his day.

References:

  1. Banks, M. MacLeod, British Calendar Customs: Scotland – volume 2, Folk-lore Society: Glasgow 1939.
  2. Booth, C. Gordon, “St Patrick’s Well (Muthill Parish),” in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, New Series volume 1, 2000.
  3. Guthrie, E.J., Old Scottish Customs, Thomas D. Morison: Glasgow 1885.
  4. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  5. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Patricks Well

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St Patricks Well 56.332868, -3.976376 St Patricks Well

St. Patrick’s Well, Portpatrick, Wigtownshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NX 0010 5412

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 60610

Archaeology & History

St Patricks Well on 1849 map

This long-lost  holy well was located on the southeast side of the town.  It was highlighted on the first OS-map in 1849, but its waters were disrupted shortly after this. Daniel Conway (1882) told that,

“It flowed where there was a quarry used for the harbour works. The writer of this notice heard from two men, John Mulholland and Owen Graham, dwelling at Portpatrick in 1860, that they had seen on the rock beside the well what tradition said was the impression of the knees and left hand of St. Patrick.”

When the holy wells writer E.M.H. M’Kerlie (1916) came to visit this site, it was “no longer to be seen.”  He wrote:

“The water which issued from a rock on the south side of the village is now diverted by means of pipes into another course.”

References:

  1. Agnew, Andrew, The Agnews of Lochnaw: The History of the Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway, A. & C. Black: Edinburgh 1864.
  2. Agnew, Andrew, The Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway – volume 1, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1893.
  3. Conway, Daniel, “Holy wells in Wigtonshire,” in Archaeological & Historical Collections Relating to Ayr & Wigton, volume 3, 1882.
  4. Harper, Malcolm MacLachan, Rambles in Galloway, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1876.
  5. M’Kerlie, E.M.H., Pilgrim Spots in Galloway, Sands: Edinburgh 1916.
  6. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  7. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  8. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in Galloway – County of Wigtown, HMSO: Edinburgh 1912.
  9. Walker, J. Russel, “‘Holy Wells’ in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol.17 (New Series, volume 5), 1883.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  54.841853, -5.114569 St. Patrick’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

St. Patrick’s Well, Carrowreagh, Donegal

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – C 367 196

Folklore

To be found somewhere between the two outer embankments on the southern side of the legendary Grianan of Aileach, this — one of many St. Patrick’s Wells in Ireland — is typically attributed with healing properties.  It was described in Henry Morris’ (1938) survey (amongst others) as being the place where, in the 5th century when St. Patrick came here, Prince Eoghan was baptised and thereafter turned his back on the heathen gods of his ancestors for this new christian cult which was just growing at that time. (‘Eoghan,’ pronounced owen)  Thereafter other people were baptised by the waters from here, which in ancient days would have been the water supplies for those at the Grianan.

Henry Swan (1938) told that in previous times there once grew a legendary tree by this well, into which pilgrims inserted pins and other artefacts as offerings and to make wishes to the spirit of the waters. A similar thing (with the same underlying mythic structure) occurred at the tree and holy well of Loch Maree.

Up until quite recently, the well was very overgrown and in a condition that Rear Admiral Pascual o’ Dogherty called “disgusting.”  He called for renovation work and action to bring this ancient site back into good health, and thankfully, as a result of the man’s proclamations, St. Patrick’s Well here has been brought back into a good state of life.  Excellent stuff good sir!

References:

  1. Lacy, Brian, Archaeological Survey of County Donegal, DCC: Lifford 1983.
  2. Morris, Henry, ‘The Holy Wells of Inishowen,’ in H.P. Swan’s Book of Inishowen, Buncrana 1938.
  3. o’ Muirgheasa, Enri, ‘The Holy Wells of Donegal,’ in Béaloideas 6:2, 1936.
  4. Swan, Harry Percival, The Book of Inishowen, William Doherty: Buncrana 1938.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

St Patrick's Well

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St Patrick\'s Well 55.022672, -7.426893 St Patrick\'s Well

Grianan of Aileach, Carrowreagh, Donegal

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – C 36686 19721

Also Known as:

  1. Grianan Ailighe
  2. Grianan of Ailech
  3. National Monument 140

Archaeology & History

Attributed by Michael Dames (1996) and others before him as the abode of the Dagda and the house of the sun, this huge monument was recorded in the Irish Annals as being destroyed in 1101 AD following a great battle.  A site of mythic importance to the very early Irish Kings and Queens, and used by the shamans of the tribes, The Grianan is a place of of legendary importance to folklorists, historians and archaeologists alike and has been widely described over the last 150 years.  Although the site you see today was hugely reconstructed between the years 1874 and 1878, it’s still impressive and, wrote George Petrie (1840), commands,

“one of the most extensive and beautifully varied panoramic prospects to be found in Ireland”!

Used over very long periods of time, the archaeologist Brian Lacy (1983) described the Grianan, on the whole, as,

“a restored ‘cashel’*, centrally placed within a series of three enclosing earthen banks; the site of an approaching ‘ancient road’; and a holy well.”

Grianan of Ailech
Early ground-plan of the Grianon

Lacy’s description in the Donegal Inventory is considerable and culls from the various surveys and reports done in the past.  First surveyed by George Petrie in 1835, the internal body of the stone-built site is roughly circular and measures around 25 yards across, with a singular entrance on its eastern (sunrise) side. A stone ‘seat’ is at the end of the internal passage.  At the centre of the huge ‘room’, Petrie recorded traces of a rectangular stone structure that he thought might have been the remnants of some old chapel built sometime in the 18th century.

More than 25 yards outside of the primary stone building is another surrounding embankment, oval in shape, low to the ground and with another singular entrance to the east — though this entrance is not in line with that of the main structure.  At a further distance out from this embankment are the remains of another two oval ‘enclosures’, though the the remains of the outermost one is considerably more fragmented.

Although the replenished ‘fort’ dates from the Iron Age, early remains here are thought to have been of Bronze Age origin.  A ‘tumulus’, now gone, being one such find here.

Folklore

There is much legend here.  The creation myth narrated by Scott (1938) tells that it was,

“built originally by the Daghda, the celebrated king of the Tuatha de Danann, who planned and fought the battle of the second or northern Magh Tuireadh against the Formorians. The fort was erected around the grave of his son Aeah (or Hugh) who had been killed through jealousy by Corgenn, a Connacht chieftain.”

From similar legendary sources, it is told that,

“the time to which the first building of Aileach may be referred, according to the chronology of the Four Masters, would be about seventeen hundred years before the christian era.  There are strong grounds for believing that the Grianan as a ‘royal’ seat was known to Ptolemy, the Greek geographer, who wrote in AD 120.  In his map of Ireland he marks a place, Regia…which corresponds fairly well with its situation.”

By the outer banking on the south-side of the fortress is the remains of a much-denuded spring of water, the old water supply for this place.  It gained the reputation of being a holy well, dedicated to St. Patrick.

…the be continued…

References:

  1. Dames, Michael, Mythic Ireland, Thames & Hudson: London 1996.
  2. Harbison, Peter, Guide to the National Monuments in the Republic of Ireland, Gill & MacMillan: Dublin 1982.
  3. Lacy, Brian, Archaeological Survey of County Donegal, DCC: Lifford 1983.
  4. Petrie, George, ‘The Castle of Donegal,’ in Irish Penny Journal, 1,  1840.
  5. Scott, Samuel, ‘Grianan of Aileach,’ in H.P. Swan’s Book of Inishowen, Buncrana 1938.
  6. Swan, Harry Percival, The Book of Inishowen, William Doherty: Buncrana 1938.

Links:

  1. Guarding the Grianan – the WordPress Word
  2. Grianan of Aileagh – Stone House of the Sun

* Cashels are “monuments similar in type to earthen ringforts, but enclosed by walls of drystone construction.”

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Grianan of Aileach

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Grianan of Aileach 55.024026, -7.428281 Grianan of Aileach