All Saints Well

Brian Gabriel

All Saints Well is located in the townland of Killeens and situated on a private working farm located near the western end of where the Lower Killeens Road exits to Killard and it is regarded as a holy place by many. As well as locals, many people regularly visit the site from the northern side of the city. The well and its surrounds have been kept in a very good condition by a number of different people over the years and great credit is due to them for their efforts. It is a well of clear spring water about 0.61 metres deep and 0.61 metres across. It is covered by a stone, dome-shaped building about 2 metres square inside, and the exterior height is about 2.3 metres. The opening is on the western side and is 1.3 metres high by about 0.76 metres wide. The lintel of the doorway consists of a smooth block of limestone, 1.22 metres wide and 0.61 metres high. On it is carved a raised figure of the Crucifixion, with two figures standing, one at each side of the cross. Under these figures and across the stone from left to right is the inscription, “All Saints Well A.D. 1761”. The building is surmounted by a concrete cross.

Even though numbers are declining, “Rounds” are still paid here by pilgrims on All Saints Day, November 1st, and on the following Sunday, weather permitting. The pilgrimage generally begins with the group reciting five decades of the Rosary, then walking three times around the Holy Well, all the while praying, drinking the water and blessing themselves with it. Inside the building there are many votive offerings such as toys, clothes, holy pictures, statues, rosaries, many kinds of personal items and even money left by the pilgrims inside the beehive covering of All Saint’s Well in the belief that their disease or ailment is left behind with the offering. Likewise, bits of clothing or rags and other personal items would often be hung on the branches of the nearby hawthorn bushes as votive offerings. The wooden gate posts erected at the entrance to the Holy Well enclosure have many coins hammered into them and it is said that if anyone was to remove these coins for their own use or interfere unduly with the other offerings, the disease or malady which had been left behind by the original pilgrims would be transferred to the person who is interfering with them. Therefore, it might be best to leave them undisturbed.

A prayer which is recited at All Saint’s Well is as follows:
May the Cross of Christ protect us.
May the Virtue of Mary attend us.
May the Wisdom of The Holy Ghost be upon us.
May we always be able to speak of the Wonderful Works of God.

The Holy Wells, in days gone by, were regarded as a very important feature of the rural landscape. The ordinary spring well was often the only source of drinking water for miles and if it was believed to have been visited by a Saint, it was therefore declared a “Holy Well” because Holy Wells were thought to carry valuable cures. Any water taken from the shrine was regarded as “Blessed” and could only be used primarily as a cure for an ailment. Containers of water would be carefully carried home to be used as a ‘stand-by’ in case of a medical emergency. It could also be used for sprinkling around the house to keep away evil spirits but the water was not to be used for domestic purposes such as washing clothes or table ware. Desecration of the well waters was a sure way to incur the wrath of the Saint and wells have been reported to have moved into a neighbouring parish as a result. St. Laichtin’s Well is a case in point when the well removed itself from the parish of Donoughmore to the nearby townland of Garryadeen, in the parish of Grenagh, reputedly as a result of a young woman committing ‘an unclean act’, offensive to the Saint, by washing her clothes in the well water. A story is also told of a group of youths, one of whom urinated into the water at All Saint’s Well and immediately he began to behave like a dog, down on all fours, barking and howling, eating grass and foaming at the mouth and terrifying his friends who had a hard time trying to subdue him. This unsavoury spectacle is said to have been watched in fear by a family visiting the well.

The well waters were also used to baptise people by a visiting priest during the ‘Rounds’. There are scores of reported cures of various ailments from many such wells around the country-side. There are many vague and possible exaggerated stories, believable or not, of miraculous cures for all kinds of ailments at All Saint’s Well and one concerns a Swedish woman on a visit to Blarney. She had a leg problem which prevented her from walking without great pain but after a number of visits to the Holy Well, she was reputed to be able to walk pain free, again. This particular story was verified by a number of local people who had seen the woman both before and after her visits to the well. Nowadays, people are more inclined to take their aches and pains to the local doctor or hospital rather than to the Holy Well.
Trees such as whitethorn, yew, oak, holly or hazel are often found near wells and many of these are said to be immortal, having been planted by the Saint or they may have rooted from his walking stick after he had left it stuck in the ground at the site. One such tree at All Saint’s Well was cut down by a local man in 1974 and had to towed to one side and left to rot naturally after it failed him to burn the wood by any manner of means.
Sometimes there are stones near Holy Wells which are believed to have special powers. There is often a curing or healing stone, or a cursing or swearing stone, such as the stone close to All Saint’s Well, on which pilgrims would scratch a cross, intoning, and invoking a favour of some kind, possibly to protect an individual or livestock against diseases, to prevent or cure mental illness, calm inclement weather or to protect people from painful death. If the stones, like the trees, were insulted or wronged, bad luck was sure to follow the vandals.

Two different legends of how the Well came into being are spoken of and are as follows:
1. During Penal Times, a priest who was being hunted, became so exhausted and weak from thirst that he prayed to all the Saints in Heaven to come to his aid. He fell into a deep sleep and, on awakening, he felt compelled to dig with his heel into the ground. He did so and fresh water filled the indentation from which he drank his fill. He was saved and the Well has never run dry since.

2. During Penal Times, a priest was coming from Cork to say Mass at the thatched church at Coolowen, when he was met by a messenger at Lower Killeens to advise that the church had been burned to the ground and that there was no need for him to come any further. It seems two locals had a fight near the church and one killed the other. The victor was then overcome by remorse for what he had done and for some mysterious reason, he set fire to the thatched roof of the church, burning it to the ground. The priest then decided to say Mass where he was instead of going on to Coolowen, but on being reminded by his assistant that there was no water with which to wash his hands, he stuck his walking stick into the ground and fresh water appeared and is there ever since.

Contact: Mr. Brian Gabriel Email: Tel: 087-2153216