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Ireland's Holy Wells County-by-County

Wells of County Antrim

St. Olcan's, Cranfield, Co. Antrim

St Olcan's Well in Cranfield

St Olcan's Well, Cranfield

St Olcan's Well is located at Churchtown Point in Cranfield on the shores of Lough Neagh, by 13th Century church ruins, St. Olcan's "well" is more of a pond encircled by a low stone wall impoundment with steps for access.

Well water was thought efficacious for safe delivery from childbirth, as were the gypsum crystals called "amber pebbles" that could be found in the well. These pebbles were placed in beverages to affect various cures and were reputed to have been swallowed by emigrants to protect themselves from drowning on ocean journeys. Both well water and the amber pebbles were thought to also protect homes from burning.

After completing the rounds, well water cures were often obtained by dipping a rag into the well, rubbing the rag on the affected part of the body and then tying the rag to a nearby tree. The belief, common to holy wells in Ireland and elsewhere in the world, is that as the rag decayed, a cure would be received. Rounds were to be completed on three consecutive days at any point between May Eve and the 29th of June (St. Olcan's Day).

The main season for visiting the well was between May Eve and St. Olcan's Day, the 29th of June. Mass is celebrated on the Sunday closest to that date.

Rags, rosaries and other votives are tied to overhanging trees.

The rounds entailed prayers first at the door of the ruined church, then seven circumambulations of the church ruin (counted with small stones dropped on each round), and seven circumambulations of the well (also counted with small stones).

St. Olcan was supposed to be a contemporary of St. Patrick and is associated with the Dál Riata. By legend, he was buried near the site.

Gloonan Stone

Gloonan Stone, a well honoring St Patrick in Cushenden

Gloonan Stone

Gloonan Stone in Cushenden is a bullaun stone on the opposite side of Glendun Rroad from the Roman Catholic church of St. Patrick. the stone is neatly fenced with wooden railings. The stone has two indentations that retain water, the largest in a perfectly circular bowl shape.  The well honors St Patrick.

The waters are believed to cure warts and other skin diseases.

Its pattern day is 17 March, St Patrick's Day

Rosemary Garrett (1956) noted that the name of the stone Gloonan derives from "gluin" for knee. As near many holy wells, this knee stone's depressions were once explained as having been worn into the rock by St. Patrick kneeling to pray there. Another story relates that the traveling saint stopped to drink water from the larger indentation and, in kneeling to do so, created the second. Formerly people used to align their knees on such stones before praying beside their local well and this seems to have been such a site.

You may learn more about this well here.

Garrett, Rosemary. 1956. Cushendun, and the Glens of Antrim. Ballycastle, Northern Ireland:, J.S. Scarlett & Sons.

Wells of County Antrim