The Hill of Carrick & North Meath

One of the first places to attract Sir William Wilde's attention in his The Beauties of the Boyne and its tributary the Blackwater was the Hill of Carrick. The legend of The Witch's Stone on the Hill of Carrick is that it was thrown by a witch from the neighbouring Hill of Croghan at some early saint, a legend which attaches to almost every great stone in Ireland. The Old Hag of Loughcrew is reputed to have used her apron to catapult stones, and the curious verse in Irish attributed to her, is still remembered in a rhymed translation:

"Many wonders have I seen;
I've seen Carn Bán a lake,
But now a valley green."

A hundred years ago there were some remains on the Hill of Carrick which Wilde believed to be the remains of a hermit's cell, such as are found near many monastic settlements.

In Fore, according to Father John Coyle's The Life of Saint Fechin of Fore, "there is a modern building called the Anchorite's Cell, now the tomb of the Greville-Nugent family of Delvin. In this spot there was kept up a succession of hermits down to the seventeenth century, the last being Patrick Beglin, whose residence there is commemorated in a Latin inscription inside the oaken door of the Tomb, dated AD 1616."

The hermits of Carrick Hill, and the religious house which once stood there, are nameless now. The Witch's Stone was blasted years ago. There remain two sets of holes on the hillside, called The Mule's Leap, associated, like the stone, with the legend of a nameless saint.

In this area of county Meath there are the six holy wells which "baptise the infant Boyne." One of them was known in Sir William Wilde's time as Tobar Aluinn, the beautiful well; another, Tobar na Cille, the well of the Church, and a third Tobercro, which Wilde says is Tobar Croiche, the well of the Cross. These were all once places of pilgrimage and some had the cure of a particular disease - headaches, eye trouble, warts, lameness and other afflictions.

In some there was a special form of visit, certain prayers and 'rounds' to be made. In most there was a particular date, probably the feast day of the saint associated with the well, but only remembered as a 'Pattern' (Patron) Day. The date often survives as an annual fair day when its origin has been forgotten.

previousPrevious - The Holy Wells of Meath: Folklore & History
Next - Oldcastlenext