Tara & Skryne

The Tobar Finn at Tara is named either for the bright colour of the water or after the legendary Finn Mac Cool.

One would naturally expect to find pagan wells at Tara, and the most ancient of them all is the Well of Newnagh (Niamhrach) near the road. (De Bhaldraithe gives the meaning of 'niamhrach' as 'bright, lustrous, shining').

Apart from these wells which cannot, with any certainty, be called holy wells, there are many wells near Navan which are dedicated to either St. Patrick or St. Brigid.

The next most popular saint is St. Ultan who is associated with the well at Ardbraccan, and with a number of other wells, some called by their Irish name Tobarultan.

Columcille has given his name to numerous holy wells in Meath. Saint Columcille's Well is near the old ruins of a monastery on the Hill of Skryne. Most of the people living in the area up to the early 1960s drew water from it.

The story goes that relics of the saint were brought to the monastery in Skryne on their way to Armagh, and that they reposed in a shrine in the old monastery here.

Although the story may not be historically accurate, it preserves the essential connection between Columcille and the monastery of Skryne. The Irish word scrín is from the Latin scrinium, an ornamental box or casket in which the relics of a saint were preserved. The English form is shrine.

These shrines were common in Ireland, and some still preserved in the National Museum are of the most beauti­ful design and workmanship in gold, silver and coloured enamels. The church which housed a famous shrine would be named after it.

The Church of the Shrine of Adamnan gives its name to the parish of Skreen in Sligo, and Skryne in Meath is named for the church once called Scrín Cholumcille.

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