'St. Patrick's Chair & Well' : Bullaun Stone

TownlandAltadaven
CountyTyrone
Grid RefH 597 496
Longitude7° 4' 51.08" W
Latitude54° 23' 29.14" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownClogher (6.1 Km)
OS Sheets18, 28A
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 8th June 2003

St. Patrick's Chair is a rock cut throne that sits on top of a ridge above the 'well'. With the collection of other seat shaped rocks it looks more like "St. Patrick's Three Piece Suite".

The 'well' is actually the bullaun stone , which is said "never to run dry" - this is not surprising as the site is like a mini rain forest! The little grove has loads of ferns and every rock drips with water. It is a single bullaun cut into the top corner of a large rock outcrop. Between it and the chair above are two Rag Trees, where people have left many offerings.

The sign at the car park calls it an ancient druidic centre. This certainly wouldn't surprise me, but I'd like to know on what grounds they say this, beyond tourism. What ancient references do they have?

Not surprisingly for a bullaun stone, the site was originally dedicated to St. Brigit and probably the goddess Brigid before that. The water from the bullaun is credited with all sorts of cures, but like most it is mainly a wart removal machine.

To actually find the chair and well from the car park follow the track to the gate and then take the path down to the right and then go straight on up the steps and along the ridge. Once again, this site is very badly signposted until you get there.

The original purpose of bullan stones is not really known, but they have an undisputable association with water and Brigid worship. A 'bullaun' is a deep hemispherical cup hollowed out of a rock. Bullaun Stone refers to the rock itself, which can have many bullauns in it, although many are single.

It is generally thought that they date from the Bronze Age, but I personally believe there is a much old provenance to them and that there is a relationship to prehistoric rock art, for a good example of this see Glassamucky Mountain (County Dublin).

Ritual use of some bullaun stones has continued well into the Christian period and many are found in association with early churches (The Deer Stone (Glendalough D) (County Wicklow) is just one of many at Glendalough (County Wicklow)) and holy wells. Their presence at so many early Christian sites, to me, places them as being of massive importance to the pre-Christian inhabitants of Ireland and something the church was very eager to assimilate.

The beautiful example at St Brigit's Stone (County Cavan) still has its 'cure' or 'curse' stones. These would be used to by a visitor turning them whilst praying for (or cursing) someboby.

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About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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