Lasair’s Well

It usually happens so subtly for me that moments of synchronicity or providence often go unappreciated. Today, however, while out and about working on Pride Festival material I found myself in many places of nostalgia today. We were working on reviewing places in terms of accessibility which is something no one can take for granted in venues and places not even in 21st Century Ireland. It was all going well as we started on some venues for events and moved to accommodation which we have a deal with some of the student villages in Sligo. They went well too which is great, I even found myself reviewing one of my former course-mate’s rooms and finding the shower chair still unreliable. After reviewing some of the beaches around Strandhill, Cullenamore being one from my teens I had so much fun remembering camping trips with friends and just having those connections. It reminded me why the Pride Festival

is important to people in general.

Following the trend of wrong turns that we’d been following throughout the day we managed to find ourselves driving past St. Lasair’s Well near Keadew. Don’t ask me how that happened, just roll with it! Anyway this is the image of the well itself. While there I took some water and a drink and left a votive offering. I went underneath the Altar with it’s flagstone resting atop. I rested and found myself closer to the ground than I’d been in a long time.

The Parish: Christianity in the Parish owes its origin, according to tradition, to St Ronan who with his daughter Lasair came from Monaghan in Northern Ireland sometime in the early sixth century. Ronan MacNinneadha, to give him his full name, and his daughter, it is said, travelled much of Ireland searching for a place of peace and solitude where they could establish a quiet prayerful retreat. After some years they came to the shores of Loch Maothla, now Lough Meelagh, beside Keadue in Kilronan Parish. Pleased with that lovely scene and fertile district they erected their “House of Prayer and Solitude” on Inis Mor Maothla the largest island on Lough Meelagh. Lasair persuaded her father to build a church on the shoresof the lake.
They did so, and Lasair called this church “Cill Ronain” “till judgement day” or Church of Ronan. This, as far as can be ascertained, was the earliest mention of Kilronan.

When Ronan found his end approaching he went back to his island place of prayer where he said he would “Meet God Face to Face”. Ronan died on his island which is now known as “Orchard Island ” on Lough Meelagh. His cult grew quickly and Ronan became, by public acclaim, the patron saint of the area. After some years some monks came up the Shannon from the famous monastery of Clonmacnois. They had heard of “Cill Ronain ” and came to visit the place and established Cill Ronain Abbey as a suffragan abbey of Clonmacnois. This is why Kilronan Parish is in the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois – one of only two parishes in the diocese which are West of The Shannon. After her father’s death Lasair remained a long time mourning him on Insh – na – Naomh which the island on Lough Meelagh came to be called.

St Lasair’s Holy Well: is on the side of the road from Keadue to Ballyfarnon less than half a mile from Keadue and on the shore of Lough Meelagh. There is a major “pattern” or “patron day” each year on the last Sunday of August where some thousands of people gather from all the parishes of the region to pay homage to St Ronan and his daughter Lasair and to pray for the dead in the cemetery around the old abbey. Beside St Lasair’s well is a large flag-stone supported by four stone pillars known as ” Leac Ronain” or St Ronan’s Altar.

It is on this flag-stone that the “Holy Patron Mass” is celebrated each year.
It is believed that backache can be cured if the sufferer were to crawl under the flag-stone three times . Big numbers of people continue to crawl under the stone each year in the week before and after patron day and make the old traditional stations. ( A local doctor says ” if you are able to crawl under the stone your back wasn’t very bad in the first place” ). The traditional stations consisted of three Hail Marys said at the edge of the well; to the East of the well a decade of the rosary and The Apostle’s Creed. The rosary is continued while walking around the well three times with the well always on the right
ie. walking in a clockwise or sunwise direction. Three drinks of water from the well are taken and the remains in the container must be thrown towards the lake and fresh water taken up. More simplified stations are “done” on patron day but the old stations still live on. Also, pilgrims often used to hammer coins into the tree above the well , so much so, that the practice eventually made the tree dangerous and it had to be cut down.

According to tradition, St. Lasair’s Well was originally situated on the top of the hill above and to the left of the old abbey. It is said that the well was desecrated by Oliver Cromwell’s army who tried to block
it off. But it burst out in its present location. This place is now known as “St. Lasair’s Grave” or” St Lasair’s and Ronan’s Grave”. This site was marked by a stone cross and was railed off. A local bull broke the rail and cross because he needed a scratching pole. People still come to take away some clay from the grave which is reputed to have the cure for some eye diseases. Also, emigrants brought some of the clay when they were emigrating, especially to America, which would be put into their graves. Even if they were buried in foreign ground they were still interred in their native soil.

History of the Parish: Kilronan Archives

Personally I collected some water and left a votive offering to the Well. I also spent some time underneath the flagstone. The water can be used in some potions I’m sure and had I collected some of the mud healing ointments could be experimented with (under guidance from friends who are more skilled than I). The flagstone is interesting because while it’s deasail (sunwise) it prevails as a curing stone or blessing but turning it tuathail (anti-sunwise or widdershins) it becomes a cursing stone. I’m sure there’s a thesis in there for someone as to why sites of positive Christian also often have a negative aspect too! Lasair’s Well also possesses an interesting deisgn feature that exists on other wells but not always so visibly, that is a spiral shape from it’s source. Just opposite Lasair’s Well is the site of the old church which has connections to Carolan the Harpist who is said to have “wrote Sliabh Mór and Sliabh Beag” which are located near my maternal great-grandmother’s place.


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