Lady's Well

To Catch A Priest

By Johnny Crowley, Local Historian, Dromloc House B&B, Bantry

“Lady’s Well, a little hollowed glen, was used as a Mass Rock in Penal times. In the Bantry area during these times the priest wasn’t hunted, provided he kept out of the way, certainly of the Landlord, and didn’t make a big scene about the religious practices.

At the Penal time then, there was a story that there was a change of command of the soldiers at their headquarters in Donemark Mills.

Somebody took the advantage of notifying the new captain in charge that there would be Mass in the morning at Holy Well and the new captain could capture a priest for himself. And that somebody no doubt got some money for his information.

And seemingly they did send soldiers out to the Mass at the Well, and the story was that when they appeared on the high ground in front, the priest decided to take his chalice and host and hide it and began to run, but the people watching saw what they thought was a Lady with the light blue cloak
on the rock behind the altar where the Statue is now. The Lady slipped the cloak down over the whole thing and blocked off the scene of the altar and the Mass from the soldiers. And when the soldiers saw this, they turned away and left.

Now in practice probably what happened was that being a foggy morning, which would be of the type of morning they would use for having Mass, not a clear morning. If soldiers did start coming there, no doubt some of the ones who would be keeping the lookout would inform Lord Bantry. And
more than likely he was the one who called the soldiers back off, rather thanit being a total miracle.

I’m just going from the mystical to the practical, between the two things. For every story that has a mystical side, there is a practical side which can work as well, you know, which works more for the rational thinker.

But Lady’s Well is one of the holy wells that really stood out, and because the Mass Rock happened to be at the site, held on to it. ‘Tis a very devout place, and there have been quite a few healings attached to it. The rounds is done there on every 15th of August. The rounds then consists of 15
decades of the Rosary, going up one side of the path by the altar and down and around the other. The tradition was to take 15 small pebbles and as you pass the Well you dropped one in. You know you had the 15 decades finished when you dropped the last pebble in the Well. When you threw in the 15th stone and said your Hail Holy Queen, if an eel that was in the Well jumped up in the water the main part of your wish would be granted, something would be given.

Denny Collins, who I just remember, used to tell the story that when he was a young lad, which would be sort of 1870-80, he helped to get a young girl from the Drimoleague side who was paralysed on the chair - they had to borrow a chair from that farm to the east, and she was brought over between
two men, and he was sent along just to keep an eye on the chair to make sure they brought it back, I think! And anyway they did the rounds, and as soon as the rounds was finished, the girl said, “Look at the eel”, and she stood up to catch the eel, and on the strength of that they made her take the
chair home herself.

In 1952 my mother with many other people was involved in putting up the statue there, and they put it on “The Southern Star”, and Dan McCarthy use to post the “Star” out to a lot of immigrants in America, and after the first month my mother got a letter from the woman sending $ 20 for the shrine
in Beach in memory of her grandmother who was cured there as a child. Somebody should be able to remember a story that she had to take the chair back to the home she borrowed it from.”

The walk then comes onto the county council road, and where it meets the Goats Path Road TURNS LEFT. It then takes the FIRST RIGHT up a winding the hill, locally known as Bawn’s Road, to the top of the hill at Boolteenagh (“place of little booles or cattle enclosures”). Along this Road there are spectacular views of Whiddy Island, the inner harbour of Bantry, and you should be able to see three ring forts: two to the east and west of you atopdrumlins, and one in the centre right on the coast.
(This should not be taken that there is a right of way to these ring forts.)

Ringforts are usually associated with early Christian times - from AD 400 onwards. They were not forts in the military sense of the word, but were used as farmsteads and as protection against cattle raiding neighbours and wolves. They were also home to a variety of craft industries, and are usually sited on a hill so as to afford a commanding view of the countryside. There are dozens of ringforts, usually in an overgrown state, on the Sheep’s Head peninsula, and are distinguished by their circular shape and concentric fosse, or ditch, on their outside.

The Walk then leaves the road and goes along the top of the ridge to Glenlough. One of the features you will first notice are the stone cairns left behind by the Ordnance Survey when they came here in the 1830’s to make the first detailed maps of the area; these maps were subsequently published
in 1842. This nation-wide “translating” the Gaelic townland-, village-, rivernames etc. into English provides the storyline for the play “Translations” by Brian Friel.

Here, Yolland, the British Army Ordnance Survey officer is talking to Owen, the son of the local hedge schoolmaster and who is acting as “translator” to the survey.

YOLLAND: He knows what’s happening.
OWEN: What is happening?
YOLLAND: I’m not sure. But I’m concerned about my part in it. It’s an
eviction of sorts.
OWEN: We’re making a six-inch map of the country. Is there something
sinister in that?
YOLLAND: Not in...
OWEN: And we’re taking place-names that are riddled with confusion
YOLLAND: Who is confused? Are the people confused?
OWEN: ...and we are standardising those names as accurately and as
sensitively as we can.
YOLLAND: Something is being eroded.

The poet John Montague also puts it well:
The whole landscape a manuscript
We had lost the skill to read,
A part of our past disinherited;
But fumbled, like a blind man,
Along the fingertips of instinct