St David’s holy well – Tobar Chinnín Dháithí – is located in Woodhouse, Co. Waterford. In honour of his feast day, let’s make a visit with Dr Louise Nugent.
St David’s holy well in Woodhouse, Co. Waterford is one of my favourite holy wells in the whole country. This isn’t a statement I make lightly.
The main thing I love about the well is that it is very fortunate to have escaped the over use of cement that many Irish holy wells experienced in the 1950’s or some of the bad “restoration” work of the 1980’s-2000’s. The charm of St David’s holy well is its simplicity. When you stand at the water’s edge, there is a real connection with the past and you can imagine your experience is very similar to pilgrims 200 years ago. The trees, flowers and bush that surround the well also help to connect the visitor to the natural world in which holy wells are very much rooted.
St David’s well is situated in an out of the way grove of trees on private land. The well itself is a large spring that fills a circular pool defined by a low stone wall, set flush with the ground. The water bubbles up through white sands on the base, before escaping into an over flow channel that takes it the water from the pool into a nearby stream.
The bubbling waters are magical and I have sat for long stretches of time here just watching the water and listening to the rustle of leaves and chatter of birds. The wells beauty is enhanced by a large oak tree that cast shadows over the water. When I last visited here in March 2016, it was surrounded by a thick carpet of yellow daffodils.
Unusually, the well is dedicated to St David the patron saint of Wales whose feast day is the 1st of March. The south-east of Ireland has long established connections with Wales. St David and his monastery (at St Davids in Wales) are mentioned in several Lives of Irish saints. St Finbarr of Cork is said to have visited St David on his return from Rome, while SS Aidan of Ferns, Finnian of Clonard, along with Scothin and Senanus, are all said to have studied at the monastic school at St David’s.
A large statue of a very serious St David, dressed as a bishop, sits a plinth of concrete overlooking the holy well. The date 1923 is carved into the base. This statue was a gift, donated by Br Benigus Tracy in this year having experienced a cure (NFSC, An Eaglais, Ceapach Chuinn, roll number 1395).
The wells waters are said to have healing properties. The waters are especially beneficial to those suffering from headaches or migraines. The connection with healing of complaints the head is reflected in the Irish name for the well, ‘Tobar Chinnín Dháithí’ which translates roughly as the ‘Well of David’s Little Head’.
According to The Schools’ Folklore Essay Collection, to obtain relief from sickness pilgrims had to walk three times around the well saying whatever prayer they wished (An Eaglais, Ceapach Chuinn, roll number 1395). Other accounts tell us that the pilgrims were to drink water from the well and rub it to their forehead to obtain the cure.
This is not the only holy well dedicated to St David in the south-east. Another more well known well one can be found at Olygate in Wexford. These two wells are reminders of the long established l links between the south-east of Ireland and Wales and the spread of the cult of medieval saints.
Read the original article on www.pilgrimagemedievalireland.com
Dr Louise Nugent has released a book with Columba Books in 2020 titled Journeys of Faith: Stories of Pilgrimage from Medieval Ireland that makes for excellent reading for those interested in medieval Ireland or archaeology.