As part of this year’s National Heritage Week (21st – 28th August), IRD Duhallow have organised a tour of some of the most historic holy wells in the area.
On Sunday 21st August, five Holy Wells – St. John’s Well in Aubane, Tubrid Well in Millstreet, The City in Shrone, St. Laithrain’s Well in Cullen and St. Inon Buí Well in Dromtariffe will be visited. On Sunday 28th August, three Holy Wells – St. Abbeyswell in Lombardstown, St. Beirechert Well in Tullylease and Trinity Well in Newmarket.
The tours will commence each day at 2.00pm departing from the James O’Keeffe Institute by bus. All events are free of charge. For further information, please contact Cllr. John Paul O’ Shea on 086 8903154 and to book a place on the tours please contact Helen O’Sullivan at 029-60633.
History of Abbeyswell is as follows:
St. Abbey, Abigail, Gobnait was born in the Aran Island of Inisheer. Her father was a chieftain named O’ Conaire Mór.
In the sixth century – we are not sure of the exact date she left Inisheer and travelled ‘deiseal’ (southwards) or clockwise to Munster. She rested at several places on her way where she saw white deer grazing at wells, One such place is Abbeyswell, in the parish of Kilshannig in North Cork where the traditional rounds are still made on February 11th, which is her feast day.
Many of these places associated with her have Gobnait in their placenames, for example, Kilgobnet or Kilgobban. The most famous of these is Ballyvourney where she finally settled and founded a convent. She is also buried in Ballyvourney where her grave is easily identified today.
There are many stories and legends associated with her such as expelling plagues and putting curses on robbers. She was also highly regarded by farmers for curing diseases in animals such as ringworm, lameness, infertility and other such diseases. People always retained water from Abbeyswell in their houses after the pattern day.
A graveyard ‘evolved’ around the holy well as people wanted to be buried in this holy ground. Abbeyswell or Kilgobnet graveyard is one of the oldest in the country and contains some of the most decorative headstones as well as the traditional stone slabs of earlier times. Many of these are now legible, thanks to the voluntary work done by the members of the Laharn Community Association LTD.
The well was covered with a beehive like masonry construction in 1874 by a local pious man, John O’ Callaghan of Lackandarra who was better known as “Johnny The Prayers”. He did this in thanksgiving to St. Abbey for expelling the plague. Over the well is a carving in stone of St. Abigail expelling the plague which reads:
“Johnny The Prayers” is buried near the well.
At the left inside the gate is an uneven mound of earth “The Famine Mound”. During the famine of 1845, ’46 & ’47, victims of the famine were buried without a coffin and corpses were covered with earth.
In olden times, the “Well Day” as it is locally known was a three day event comprising of porter tents and hawker’s stalls which lined the roads around the well. Pedlars, beggars, cake women and music makers came to the celebrate the feast day which was also regarded as a local holiday for the local Laharn School.
The prayer to St. Abbey/Gobnait/Abigail:
“Go mbeannaí Dia dhuit, a Ghobnait naofa,
Go mbeannaí a Mhuire duit, is beannaim feín duit
Is chughat a thánag ag gearán mo scéala
Is ag iarraidh leighis ar son Dé ort”.