Monday, 1 July 2013


Today we drove to Roscommon on the next leg of our journey. Our home for the night is the Abbey Hotel.

A spring well called Tobar Faithleach is to be found one mile west of Ballyleague, known as St Faithleach's Well. For over 14 centuries this well has had the name of the Saint who first blessed it and one of the brothers who founded Cloontuskert Abbey. It has provided a never- failing supply of fresh water for the people of the locality. The well is situated along the shore of Lough Ree on the Shannon River.

A local tradition states that the present position of the well is not the original one, which was situated 50 yards west of it. It also tells us that a woman threw a diseased dog into the old well which dried up immediately and re-appeared in its present position. The local people maintain that water taken from this well before sunrise is a certain cure for an upset stomach or a severe headache. 

View of the Lake from the Well

We drove to Tarmonbarry where the bridge crosses the River Shannon, and watched it open for a houseboat to pass through. We were shocked to see that it raises up in the air on a worm drive - very unusual.

Just upstream a little way was a lock system for the boats to pass through, which was amazingly busy this is quite a holiday area of Ireland. Around from the lock was a new marina they have built with housing around it.

From the window of our hotel we can see the Roscommon Abbey, founded by St. Comman in the eigth century. That monastery survived as a house of Augustinian Canons into the fifteenth century but nothing of it survives today. The Dominican Friary was founded by Fedhlim O'Conchobhair, King of Connacht, in 1253 on a new site. The Annals of Loch Ce record in 1257 that “The monastery of Mary, in Ros-Comain, was consecrated by (Bishop) Tomaltach O'Conchobhair for the Friars Preachers.” The church consisted of a single long aisle with nave and choir, the northern transept was added in the fifteenth century. The church had a central tower which, along with the cloister, has been removed. The original lancet windows in the east and west walls were replaced with traceried windows in the fifteenth century. The Friary was dissolved at the end of the sixteenth century during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

On his death in 1265 Fedhlim O'Conchobhair was interred in the abbey and his tomb was covered by an effigial slab which can still be seen in a niche in the north-east corner of the church. The effigy was carved between 1290 and 1300 and is one of only two Irish royal effigies surviving from this period. The effigy is now supported by a later fifteenth century tomb carved with the figures of 8 soldiers in mail armour with swords and a gallowglass axe.

View of the thirteenth century tomb effigy of Fedhlim O'Conchobhair, King of Connacht.

Another of the Irish Myths is The Salmon of Knowledge

The Salmon of Knowledge (in Irish An Bradan Feasa) is a creature from the Fenian Cycle of Irish Mythology. It features in the narrative The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, which recounts the early adventures of the legendary Irish hero Fionn MacCumhaill.

According to Irish mythology the first thing to ever come into creation was a hazel tree, and in its branches was contained all the knowledge of the universe. This hazel tree flourished over the Well of Wisdom (Tobar Segais) within which lived a great speckled salmon. The story goes that the salmon ate the hazel nuts which on occassion fell into the well, thus acquiring all the wisdom of the universe. It was foretold that the first person to catch and eat the salmon would gain this knowledge and that a man by the name of Fionn would be the one to do so. Nonetheless, many tried and failed, until a poet named Finnegas having spent seven years fishing the Boyne caught it. He is believed to have caught the salmon at Fec's Pool (Linn Feic), known as the "Pool of the Boyne", near Slane Co Meath.

Finnegas instructed his apprentice, a young boy name Deimne Maol, to prepare it for him. Deimne burned his thumb bursting a blister on the cooking salmon. Instrinctively he put his thumb into his mouth to ease the pain and in an instant he acquired all its knowledge. When Deimne brought the cooked meal to Finnegas, his master saw something in the boy's eyes that had not been there before.  When asked by Finnegas, Deimne denied that he had eaten of the fish. When pressed, he admitted his accidental taste. What the old poet hadn't known was that Deimne had another name, given to him by his mother Fionn meaning her fair-haired one. It was this incredible knowledge and wisdom gained from the Salmon of Knowledge that allowed Fionn MacCumhaill to become the leader of the Fianna, the famed heroes of Irish myth. He was killed at Ath Brea or "Ford of Brea" on the Boyne.

No comments: