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Fifty Holy Wells, #7
St Fachtnan’s Well, Carran, County Clare
Last week’s well - St Bridget’s near Liscannor - was perhaps one of the most ritually and literally complex that I’ve come across. So for contrast, this week offers one of the simplest. If ever there were a monument in stone to West of Ireland Folk Christianity, I’d say this is it.
The well of St Fachtnan - or Fachtna, depending on who you listen to - is not easy to find. Out in the wilds of the Burren, near Carran, you have to know where to look if you’re to spot it. Pay attention while wandering down the right lane, and you’ll eventually see a handpainted sign on a telegraph pole, pointing you across a low stone wall and through some brown furze:
The well itself is a thing of crude beauty. A very ancient wellhouse constructed of limestone slabs, with a roof made up of a drystone cairn topped with a cross. The cross is two hazel rods bound together with tape:
By the well, as you’ll see in the photo above, is a little hawthorn rag tree, which is still used. As for the well itself - it’s not a spring this week, but a simple hollow in a limestone rock, which fills up with rainwater:
This is another eye well, and people would come here from miles around for a cure for their sore or even blinded eyes. Perhaps this is why St Fachtnan is the well’s patron. Facthnan (or Fachtna) was a sixth century saint who was said to have cured his own eye disease by bathing his eyes in the milk of the mother of another saint, Mochoemoc.1
Where the saint got this idea nobody knows, but apparently it worked. If it seems a bit of leap for your own eye ailment, then his well awaits out on the limestone karst, to receive your visit and your prayers.
You can follow my ‘Fifty Holy Wells’ series as it develops by clicking on the Holy Wells link on the homepage menu.
According to the always reliable Wikipedia, anyway. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fachtna_of_Rosscarbery#cite_note-FOOTNOTEStephenLee189489-4