Notes on Stones used as a Cure at Killerry, near Dromahair, and on certain Bullauns.
The ancient graveyard of Killerry is situated on the borders of Sligo and Leitrim, about two miles to the west of Dromahair. In it may be seen a rough horizontal slab, on which are set out seven smooth, rounded stones, ranging from 6 to 10 inches in diameter; at one side of the slab a small peg-shaped stone is fixed upright in the ground. The caretaker of the place, in pointing out the stones, stated that there was a spring of good water under the slab. As the latter lies on the ground, there is no sign of water, nor from its position is it likely to have much under it. The mention of water, however, is not without interest, as in many cases where collections of round stones occur they are placed in hollows or rock-basins, and these retain water to which useful properties are ascribed. In this instance there are no basins, and the assertion that there is water under the stone may be due to a general idea that water in some form should be associated with monuments of the kind.
The people of the surrounding district frequently resort to these stones for the cure of strained sinews. The procedure is as follows:-
A friend of the sufferer goes to Killerry and brings a piece of thread, which should in strictness be of unbleached linen, though this condition is not always adhered to. On arrival at the place, the thread is wrapped round the peg-like stone mentioned above; the round stones are then turned separately while a prayer is said; afterwards a thread left by some former visitor is taken up, brought to the patient, and wound round the affected part; the cure soon follows. This process is called "Lifting a strain thread"; it is equally effective for the cure of horses or cattle.
A resident in the neighbourhood informed me that in his case the thread had been entirely successful; it was applied at night, and next morning he was quite well and able to go to work as usual.
The story told locally to account for this custom is that St. Patrick when travelling through the district was refused a passage at the ford of Sligo, and had to proceed round Lough Gill. In the rough ground about Killerry his horse strained a sinew, and the Saint then arranged these stones so as to cure the animal and avoid delay to his journey. When departing he blessed the stones, and left them ready to cure strains in men and animals for ever. These stones may be compared with the better-known "St. Brigid's Stone," situated about twenty miles further east, near the old church of Killinagh, at Blacklion, in the County Cavan.
From Henry S Crawford's article in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland v3 no.3, 1913.