'St. Cuan's Well' : Holy Well

Grid RefM 790 406
GPSM 79030 40600 (9m)
Longitude8° 18' 55.48" W
Latitude53° 24' 54.42" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownRoscommon (24.9 Km)
OS Sheet47
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 29th August 2004

This was the second place I went to today simply because I saw the sign. Again I was hoping for a bullaun stone , but there wasn't one. Nevertheless this is a wonderful place ... and a very old one.

Walking across the field I could see the low stone wall that surrounds the well and as I got closer it became evident that the well is inside a small enclosure. This round and defined by a ditch surrounding a raised platform with a lip around the edge. It actually looks like a barrow at first sight. The lip is studded with stones and was presumably a wall at some point and the are other areas of stones that indicate there may have been some small structures inside the wall too.

Next to the wall around the well is a graveslab with a crucifixion carved on it.

The well is about 1.5m deep and was dry when I visited. I assumed that this was because of a deep drainage ditch running through the field about 50m away, but I was soon to learn that this was not the case. As I was taking some photographs and enjoying the serenity of this location a local man, who has been coming to this spot for 60 years, approached. I let him say his prayers and struck up a conversation, asking if the well was always dry. Apparently it does have water in the winter and a pattern is held here in mid-October.

He told me all sorts of local tales, but the most interesting one involved the drain. The locals used to use it as a footpath during the penal times if there was snow on the ground so that they wouldn't leave footprints across the fields. When he was a child there was a ragtree on the edge of the platform, but that fell a long time ago. There is another thorn tree now, but the custom has not been taken up with this one.

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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