St Ultan's Well

Dublin Core


St Ultan's Well

Description of Well Item Type Metadata

1 Name of well and saint

St Ultan’s Well

2 Townland, County, GPS

Ardbraccan, Meath

3 Physical description of well and its surroundings

In 1886, Thunder notes that “his well is situated within the Bishop’s Demesne at Ardbraccan” (Thunder 1886: 656). Additionally, “a drain was sunk in the boggy field in which is sprang, and thus diverted the sacred waters from the spot… which had been a place of devotion for many hundreds of years” (Thunder 1886: 656).

In 2012, French writes that “St Ultan’s Well stands just outside the churchyard wall, within the demesne of Ardbraccan House. One of the sacred trees of Ireland, the Bile Torthain,, was said to have stood over the well in pagan times” (French 2012: 60). Additionally, French notes that “the well is quite large, more than nine feet in diameter…today the well is dry” (French 2012: 61). Explosives used in zinc mining nearby have disrupted local acquifers.

4 Cure

Toothache and “eye complaints” (French 2012: 61). "To be cured of a toothache a pilgrim took a drink of the water. For a sore eye a cloth was dipped in the water and then rubbed to the eye. To cure sore feet they were washed in the water of the well” (French 2012: 61).

5 Pattern day

“Stations were held on the eve of St Ultan’s Day, 4 September, until 1850. In the 1920’s there was a revival of the pilgrimages to the well and in the 1950’s there was a regular ceremony at the well. The pattern day was the first of September each year. In the 1930’s there was a pilgrimage to St Ultan’s Well every year on the first Sunday in September and the Rosary was recited in Irish at the well” (French 2012: 61).
Well-attended annual gatherings still take place in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

8 Stories

“St Ultan succeeded St Breccan as abbot of Ardbraccan. He collected material for a biography of St Brigid, said to be his aunt. St Ultan fed, clothed, and educated 500 children orphaned by a yellow plague which carried off their parents. The Annals of Clonmacnoise placed St Ultan’s death in the year 653. The Annals of Clonmacnoise placed St Ultan’s death in the year 653. In 1210 King John visited Tiobraid Ultain on his progression through Ireland” (French 2012: 60).

9 Publications

Thunder, John M. “The Holy Wells of Meath.” The Journal of the Royal Historical and
Archaeological Association of Ireland. Oct 1886-Jan 1887, pp 655-658.

French, Noel. 2012. Meath Holy Wells. Trim: Meath Heritage Centre.

10 More

“St Ultan was the inspiration for St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants in Dublin. St Ultan’s Hospital was founded 1919 by Dr. Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench Mullen. Every year the hospital organized a pilgrimage to St Ultan’s Well. At the outset only women staffed the hospital. Dr. Lynn pioneered the use of the BCG vaccination over ten years before it came into general use in Ireland. In 1929 Dr. Lynn and St Ultan’s founded the world Irish Sweepstakes along with three other voluntary hospitals. St Ultan’a Hospital closed in 1975 due to the difficulties in obtaining dunding and it is now a private clinic. Margaret Ó hÓgartaigh wrote an article on St Ultan Hospital and its connections to Ardbraccan in the 2003 issue of Ríocht na Midhe.