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Holy Wells

St Molua's Well
© St Molua's Well

The only Holy Wells in the parish that we came across was St Molua's Well. St Molua was a Limerick saint, said to have died in 623AD. In the earliest traditions the well is supposed to be over the grave of the pagan warrior Lugaid. But Molua, Mo Lua, My Lua, is in fact a pet form of the name Lugaid.

According to Danaher, this well was, at the time of writing, in the parish of Emlygrennan. It is situated in the townland of Balline and is about 200 yards east of the church ruins in Emlygrennan. The old name for this area was the Red Bog and the land is still quite wet and boggy. To visit the well you have to walk through two fields from the roadside.

The feastday of St Molua is on the 3rd and 4th of August and in the past a large pattern was held in the area. The rounds were made at both the well and the churchyard. Three visits were usually made on different days and at each visit six rounds were made at the well and three rounds in the graveyard. Water was drunk after the completion of each round. Rags were left at the well as offerings.

According to legend the well moved when clothes were washed in it. It is also believed that the water will not boil and that those who are to be cured of their ailments see a trout in the well. Another story claims that heavenly music was heard at the well, and also that a woman who took water from the well for misuse saw a human hand in the well. It is claimed that the water from the well can cure sore eyes, skin disease and ague (a fever).

Danaher also mentions three other wells that are in the parish. In the old parish of Kilbreedy Major there was a well in the townland of Fantstown called Lady's well. This well was near the ruin of Fantstown church and a pattern used to be held on the 15th of August. The site of this well is now lost. One night, on his way home from the well, Fr Mulqueen, P.P., of the parish was shot and killed by the Whiteboys in November 1819 when he intervened in a row between the Whiteboys and a farmer by the name of Clifford. His successor James Walsh abolished the tradition of the pattern.

Also in the old parish of Kilbreedy Major, Danaher tells us that there was a well in Kilbreedy east called Toberbreedy. This well was reputed to be behind the church ruin in Kilbreedy but we could find no trace of it.

There was also a Holy Well in the old parish of Athneasy, in the townland of Ballinvana, called Lady's well. This well was done up in the mid-1950s when a statue was erected at the well. The pattern was usually held on the 25th of March and it was claimed that the water from the well could cure sore eyes.

Danaher also gives details of three Holy Wells that he rates as 'doubtful'. In Ballinvreena, there was a well called Tobar Cinn Mhóir, which was mentioned in the siege of Knocklong. There were also wells in the parish of Emlygrennan (now part of the parish of Bulgaden/Martinstown) in the townlands of Balline and Cush, called Boragh well and Tubermalaragh (Molara's well) respectively.

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