Sunday, 14 July 2013


We visited Castlemagner a very small village to try and see the Well of St Brigid, on seeing a lady painting a fence we asked directions to the Castlemagner Castle and we believed the well to be across the river from the castle. She kindly directed us down the road a little further where we could park the car and then go through the farmers gate and walk along the path she advised. As we parked the car and were deciding on which farmers gate to look through a car pulled up behind us. This was the lady's husband who had driven down to ensure that we found the castle. He was concerned being tourists we may not think we would be allowed on the farm or perhaps would be put off by the cows. So we soon made a lovely friend as we talked and he gave us a guided tour of the castle and all the history connected with it.

Without James guiding us we would never have found the well as it was down the road and into another farm through the paddock in which he mentioned there is sometimes a bull and as we had been guided all day it was only housing cows as we walked through.

Castlemagner is steeped in history with the remains of Castlemagner Castle still able to be seen today a round tower is mostly all that remains. One of the deadliest battles of the English Civil War took place in the townland of Knocknanuss in the Castlemagner Parish, where it was said that around 4500 people were killed. 

St. Brigid's Well is located across the river from the ruins of Castle-magner castle. It is a druidic well adopted into Christian ritual. It was originally the well of Brede (the druidic goddess of agriculture) and later, in the Christian era, became the well of St. Brigid of Kildare. When the parish of Castlemagner became a Protestant parish in 1591, Roman Catholic mass was celebrated there on Sundays, and it hence became known as a Sunday's well. This practice was stopped in 1658 when Captain Roger Bretridge became landlord of this area as a result of the Cromwellian confiscations. However, the practice resumed periodically after Catholic Emancipation in 1829. Between 1658 and 1704, rounds of the well was one of the few Catholic rituals allowed in the parish. The well was refurbished and covered over in 1771 by Mr. Eoin Egan of Subulter, a cripple who was miraculously cured at the well. It is a beehive shaped covering with an opening to the well at the eastern side. On the left of the opening is the best preserved effigy in the world of Shíla-Ní-Gig, a druidic symbol of the supreme goddess of fertility. This was brought by Mr. Egan from the ruins of an 8th century church in Subulter. On the right of the opening is an effigy of the Archangel Michael. This was the centre keystone on the arch of the main entrance to Magner's castle and dates from approximately 1200...

From 800 until 1461, the Shíla-Ní-Gig at Castlemagner Holy Well was attached to the inside of the wall of Subulter church, which explains its well-preserved state. The Holy Well in Castlemagner was the scene for a series of lectures, 18th October 1998, on the place of the Holy Well in Irish Mythology and in early Christianity. Until the dedication of the new church and parish of Castlemagner to Saint Mary in 1867, the parish and the Holy Well were anciently dedicated to St Brigid in the Catholic and Church of Ireland persuasions.

An interesting quote dating back over one hundred years ago comes from the work of Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde, in her book “Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland,” 1887: “the last-named well is the Bride's Well, Tober Breda (the holy well of St. Bridget). There is a stone oratory here of fabulous antiquity, with a doorway fashioned after the Egyptian model, sloping towards the top; also an ancient white-thorn covered with votive offerings, amongst which one may see many a long lock of the splendid dark hair of the Irish southern women, who adopt this antique traditional symbol of self-sacrifice to show their gratitude to the patron saint.”

A significant historical is Kanturk Castle, a fortified house built in 1601 for MacDonagh McCarthy as a defence against English settlers. It was a limestone rubble Tudor mansion four storey's high, 28 metres in length and 11 metres wide, with four towers of five storey's high and a height of 29 metres. According to legend, the castle was never completed as word of its construction reached the Privy Council in England. They ordered MacDonagh to stop building works, as they feared it would be used as a base to attack English settlers. Macdonogh was allegedly so furious at this news that he smashed all the blue ceramic tiles for the roof and threw them into a nearby stream. The stream then became known as the Bluepool Stream because of the reflection of the tiles in the water. Due to its architectural and historic importance, it is owned by An Taisce (National Trust for Ireland).

We spent the evening in Clonmel where they were celebrating the Gathering and had this tightrope walker crossing the river with marching girls and bands. He sat down half way across the 75 metre rope and fried and ate an egg then stood up to complete his crossing of the river. An unexpected bonus of our walk home from dinner.

PS by KD: James also told us he was born in the 60's. They did not have running water when he was young and he remembers his Mum and the other the ladies of the village would get together in the afternoon and walk down to the spring which had sweeter water than they got from the village pump. (This was in the late 60's!).

James also pointed out the singer Donovan's home just up the road from the castle above.

They will ask us to leave and take out hot dry weather with us - 11 days without rain (most rain free days since 2006). (We quietly leave Ireland on Tuesday morning very early!).

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