St. Kevin allegedly died on June the 3rd. His feast day used to be a good excuse for feasting and partying at Glendalough (the place where he founded a monastic settlement). Apparently it all got more and more out of hand - and the festival was banned in the 1890s, according to Kevin Patton's jocular website here http://www.lionden.com/st.htm
- which calls for St. Kevin's day to be celebrated once again.
Johann Kohl's 1844 'Travels in Ireland' reports that:
The chief wonder in these cliffs is St. Kevin's bed, a little hollow, which is seen some forty feet above the water, and is approached by narrow steps cut in the rock. It appears to have been hollowed out by the hand of man, and is so small that one person only can conveniently stretch himself out in it. It is also said by the people to possess the same virtues in regard to the fruitfulness of women which are ascribed to the cross I have already mentioned... [Their guide, an old woman, proclaimed] that it was her privilege to show a stranger the position of a woman in Kevin's bed. She accordingly crouched herself in it like a bird in its nest, or the image of a saint in its niche, and as seen from the lake, presented a very comical appearance.
But why, you may ask, would a saint be associated with women's fertility? That's because Kevin was popular with the girls, until he decided he was going to be a Saint. But his poor girlfriend Kathleen still loved him. And when he went off to find somewhere quiet so he could try to forget her - his Cave - she insisted on following him. When he woke up one morning, there she was looking at him - he leapt up and shoved her backwards. Unfortunately she fell down the rocks and into the lake, where she drowned. He felt a bit sorry then and prayed for her soul, and that no-one should ever drown in the lake again. Which they haven't of course.
The river flowing from the Upper Lake divides St. Kevin's Kitchen from the Rhefeart church: near the bank of the rivulet, a stone is shown, called the deer-stone. The origin of this denomination is derived from the following circumstance:
-- The wife of a peasant having expired in the pains of child-birth, the surviving infant was left destitute of its natural mode of nurture, nor could any equivalent substitute be procured. The disconsolate father applied to the revered spirit of St Kevin for relief, and was directed to attend at a certain hour every morning, near the Rhefeart church, at a stone having a little circular indenture in the top, into which a deer would regularly shed her milk, and leave it for the infant's use: the little destitute is said to have been nourished by the milk procured at this stone, which is hence called the deer stone.
And there's a little more stoney folklore nearby:
On the way to the Rhefeart church, another of the miracles wrought by the sainted Kevin is exhibited: - A number of large stones, extremely like loaves of bread, and possessing marks analogous to those made by the adhesion of loaves to each other in the oven, are scattered on the ground.
It is related that St. Kevin, having met a female bearing five loaves in a sack, and inquiring the contents of the sack, she answered that they were stones; for it being a time of scarcity, she feared to tell the truth; upon which the saint replied, "If they be not so already, I pray that for your perfidy they may become so;" when instantly five stones rolled out of the sack. These clumsy relics were preserved for many years in the Rhefeart church, but now lie at some distance from it down the valley.
From p127 of 'A guide to the county of Wicklow', by George Newenham Wright (1827) - you can read it at Google Books.
These 2 bullaun stones are recorded by Price and he gives them separate letters in his recording system. They're about 60 metres up-river from the caretaker's house. You can't really miss the larger one of the 2 which is in the middle of the river (actually, if you're like me, you might). Why the stone is in the river is a great puzzle to me. My companion today seemed less confounded. The stone screams 'Christian' to me and, theorising only, might have had some sort of baptismal function and probably once stood with its bowl on the topside. The bullaun on the bank is much smaller and is more typical of the single basin bullauns that are found in abundance in Wicklow.
In the base of the wall about 10 metres from the gate of Glendalough Cottage, I'd been here before and totally missed this one. As stated, it's a bit away from the gate and that's how I didn't see it (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). Price records another one just inside the gate but we didn't find it. It could be that it's covered up or has been removed up to the house.