St Moling's Holy Well

At the beginning of the seventh century St. Moling founded a monastery at the place now called St. Mullins in south County Carlow. The first reference to a Holy Well at St. Mullins is to be found in the Annals of Friar Clyn which dates from the year A.D. 1348. In those times, the plague was rife and pilgrims made their visitations to the Holy Well in St. Mullins out of fear of the plague. In 1833, John Ryan the County Carlow historian referred to this well where 'the deluded peasantry do penance on the eve of the fair days'.

In more recent times, the Archaeological Inventory of County Carlow published in 1993 describes this Holy Well as being "now dry". For hundreds of years in between the Holy Well at St. Mullins was a revered place of pilgrimage. Canon O'Hanlon the famous author of 'Lives of the Irish Saints' whose account dates from the late 1800's tells of the crowd assembling there on the 17th of June and on the 25th of July each year. They drank the water and brought some home for those unable to visit. The pilgrims made the rounds (a prescribed walk) three times and waded barefoot through the stream. They also recited prayers at each of the ruined churches where they prayed round an old stone slab there nine times saying a Pater (Our Father) and an Ave (Hail Mary) each time. A stone was then placed on the slab. Then they entered the inner building and prayed under the east window, where the altar once stood, placed a leaf in this window and kissed the stone underneath it. The pilgrims then returned outside, sat on a grave, put on their shoes and distributed alms to the assembled poor.

The Ordnance Survey Letters of 1839 describe the St. Moling's Well as a "large spring about 10 or 12 feet in diameter, planted round with ash trees". It is described as being on 'rising ground and faced with a mason work enclosure without a roof, 10 feet long by 5 feet wide'. It continues by stating that 'through the wall of the enclosure there are two openings through which the water falls into a recess, from which a strong stream flows to the little river'.

St. Moling's Well and its traditions featured frequently in the recording of local folklore for the survey of Irish Folklore gathered by Irish schoolchildren in the late 1930's. In these excerpts it is stated that June 17th is St. Moling's Day. The same child states that 'it was the custom long ago to visit the well but very few people visit it on that day now'. Another young person records that many people "were cursed from toothaches" at the St. Moling's Well. In another excerpt, St. Moling's Well is described as 'one of the nicest and largest wells in the country' and that there is 'a pattern to it each year and 'pilgrims drink some of the water and wash their faces in it'

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