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Sacred Well

Fieldnotes

Holy or sacred wells don't do well on TMA - they usually get the 'of disputed antiquity' tag - so when on reading in Gary Branigan's book, The Ancient & Holy Wells of Dublin, that St.Mobhi's Well near Skerries had a "number of cup marks present on some of the boulders, pointing to possible Neolithic origin" I had to pay a visit.
The site is marked on OS sheet 43 at the right-hand side of a track in Milverton Demesne. The entrance to this contains a stile, and indeed 20 yards to its right there is a hand-written sign that says "Please use the stile" attached to some barbed wire. This barbed wire blocks off the old pathway to the well. After traversing the stile you need to turn right immediately and follow the old path, not the seductive track that we were fooled into taking, thus having to climb a thorn-covered wall and cross the stream that flows beside the well.
The old well is impressively, even megalithically, constructed. The huge boulder at the back of the well-house rests on some stones like a portal tomb. This is the only boulder that we could find that had anything resembling cup marks. To quote the book again: "These cup marks are said to be the finger impressions of the mythical Fionn MacCumhaill when he threw these boulders from nearby Lusk." Most of the rest of the other stones were covered in ivy so we didn't find any more that had cup marks, but the ones that were most visible looked like solution pits, though it's hard for me to be categoric about that.
The stairs down into the well are are well-worked flagstones. As you descend, there is a bullaun in a recess on the right-hand side. This is a craggy old, shallow-basined example but is said to contain the cure (for warts, toothache, headache and disorders of the throat).
As we arrived at the well a robin fluttered out from the main chamber of the well-house. This well-house is quite crudely (in the most gentle sense) constructed. The walls are of boulders and support a large, flat capstone/flagstone. This has then been covered over with larger boulders giving the well-house a conical shape. The water had leaf and other detritus so I didn't fancy a taste.
This is a site well worth visiting, with relatively easy access and parking by the burial ground nearby. My instinct says that the construction around the spring of the well is not ancient in the TMA sense. However, there are two christian crosses here, carved into two separate stones and looking like a sly attempt to christianise the site. How will we ever find out its provenance? I guess the only way is through excavation, but the attendant folklore about Fionn, the supposed cup marks, and some of the methods of construction here leave one thinking of pre-christian possibilities.
ryaner Posted by ryaner
15th March 2013ce

Comments (2)

It sounds superbly atmospheric. And those lush ferns and all that mossiness. And rocky folklore too, and a bullaun... Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th March 2013ce
Indeed - it has a bit of everything. The path/track that leads to it is well-worn so it seems to be a popular spot. ryaner Posted by ryaner
16th March 2013ce
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