Navan & Slane

By the end of the 1950s few of the old natives knew the name of Toberorum, or Toberoran as some people used to call it. The latter form suggests the well of the prayers, an appropriate name for any holy well.

Many, however, knew of St. Brigid's Well at Ardsallagh. Legend has it that St. Brigid walked across the Boyne near this well. Sir William Wilde, writing more than a hundred and fifty years ago, does not mention this tradition, but he was impressed by the beauty of the surroundings, in spite of the cut-stone arch which had "by some tasteless architect been thrown over it." Wilde called the carved head of St. Brigid "the very impersonation of a mother abbess."

There is a St. Patrick's well at Kilcairn which is not noted by either Wilde or Dean Cogan. The former mentions a Tobar Padraig in the neighbourhood of Stackallen, on the Slane-Navan road, on the north­ern bank of the Boyne, but he says it was neglected and disused in his time. It would be interesting if anyone living there now could point out the site.

Near Donaghmore there is a Tobar Rua. Several wells in the county bear the same name, perhaps from a reddish colour in the water, and to many of them the cure for the red swelling known as the Rose is attributed. This colour con­nection is interesting. Yellow water is a cure for jaundice, and Dr. Joyce gives the example of Toberboyoga, the well of the jaundice, near Kells. Boyoga is a phonetic rendering of the Irish buíoige, a name derived from buí (yellow). The English word jaundice is derived from French jaune (yellow). The yellow blossoms of furze were also considered a cure for jaundice.

There is another Tobar Padraig at Slane within the enclosure of the burial ground to the north of the Abbey. It is said to rise and fall with the floods of the Boyne, and sometimes even to have bits of bulrushes floating on it. There is another St. Patrick's Well at Kilmessan, and a St. Brigid's well at Bohermeen in which there is a cure.

Lady Well at Slane is well recorded and is reputed to have changed location when attempts were made to seal it. Usually it is said that when the well was desecrated by someone washing dogs in it, or when it was closed up by a Protestant landowner to pre­vent pilgrimages, it would spring up in another location nearby.

The rational explanation may be that under­ground watercourses change for natural reasons, and that super­natural causes were resorted to to account for what appeared incomprehensible. Dean Cogan mentions another Ladywell at Follistown where the patron date was September 8th, the Feast of Our Lady's Nativity.

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