By John Fitzgerald
One of the county’s almost forgotten heritage treasures has been rediscovered.
To honour St. Brigid in the month of the first national holiday in her name, pilgrims converged last week on a remote site in the countryside in Ballycallan parish where an ancient but little known holy well named after the saint is located.
They set off, aptly, from the Church of Saint Brigid at Gorteen, Ballycallan to the well, which is situated on a 35 acre stretch of land known locally as Moore’s Bog.
To reach it I accompanied dozens of pilgrims on the mile-and-half walk, which culminated in a maze of fields, to find this Little Piece of Heaven.
Some of the people present were familiar with the well, having quietly called to it in past years. But now, with Brigid and her inspirational life story receiving national prominence, interest has grown exponentially in the Ballycallan spring.
Enclosed by a tastefully maintained stone casing, tended to by dedicated locals for decades, the age of the well is unknown though its origin is believed to at least pre-date the Norman Invasion and may even have been around since the sixth century when the future national saint and beloved patroness of Ireland still walked the earth.
Regardless of its age or origin, the well is renowned for its healing properties, which correspond to those traditionally attributed to the saint, such as alleviation for sore throats, earache, and relief for women in childbirth. Apart from these, many other cures are associated with the well, whether backed by evidence or rooted in folklore or a deep faith in the supernatural.
Upon the group’s arrival at the well last week, a woman placed two Brigid’s crosses, ornately woven from rushes, on either side of a small lighted candle. Pilgrims took turns reciting prayers and words of homage honouring Brigid.
Then a long queue formed to drink the water that, I discovered, tastes far better than anything you’d get from a tap or a supermarket shelf. Miraculous or not, it’s invigorating and you just can’t get enough of it!
Every age group was represented on the walk, and all agreed that the visit had been worth the journey. A general feeling of wellbeing prevailed. This was Brigid’s scene, an oasis of tranquility and healing. Her welcome embraces everybody.
One woman felt she’d entered a divine space.
“I’ll definitely be back next year”, she enthused.