Concern as holy well runs dry ahead of pilgrimage


RESIDENTS IN Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, have expressed concern that a holy well has suddenly dried up, days ahead of a traditional pilgrimage to the site this week.

St Patrick's Well in Ballyshannon, south Donegal, will become the hub for religious pilgrims on August 15th, but the well has dried up for the first time in centuries, according to locals.

"All the residents are concerned. This is the first time ever the well has run dry," said the chairman of the Abbeybay Residents' Association, Peter Daly.

"But we have acted accordingly and there will be holy water here this coming August 15th, so we would ask all pilgrims to attend as they normally would."

The holy water will be provided from a plastic barrel.

The well, located near the Erne estuary, is a holy place for many people, but it is not recognised by the church. Visitors flock to Ballyshannon all year round to visit the well.

"It's a tragedy that after all these years the well has run dry. It seems that it has been caused by contractors who were laying the sewerage lines in the area," the chairman of Ballyshannon Town Council, PJ Bramley said.

"Unfortunately, water will not be in the well for August 15th but we do hope that water will be restored to the well for the future. I would say we will be able to get a fresh supply of water back to the well soon enough.

"We would believe that the whole event has occurred due to an accident. People that were out on the job were just not aware of the history of the area," he added.

The well is also known as the Abbey Well or "Tobar na Bachaille" - the well of the staff or crozier.

"For years, people have been coming here. Minibuses will be lining the side of the road on the 15th, the feast of the Assumption," Mr Daly said. "The well is associated with St Patrick and St Colmcille, who helped his cousin, St Barron, found Kilbarron church. Pilgrims carry out the stations of the cross at the well, during which they drink from the well. A Hawthorn tree with rags tied to it by pilgrims stands metres from the well."

Rodney Irwin, resident engineer on the Ballyshannon sewerage scheme for Donegal County Council, commented on the recent construction work as a possible cause for the well running dry.

"The sewerage works were carried out a year ago.The well had been running after that time and a month ago it came to my attention that the well had run dry.

"We have not established whether there is a connection but we are looking into it."