Surfeit Well, Rathdrought, Cork

Dublin Core


Surfeit Well, Rathdrought, Cork

Description of Well Item Type Metadata

1 Name of well and saint

Surfeit Well, Tobereenedenaght, Tobairin a’Dinigh ( Little Well of the Medicinal Draught)

2 Townland, County, GPS

Rathdrought (Rathrout), County Cork

3 Physical description of well and its surroundings

The well sits close to Rathdrought township (also spelled Rathrout). According to Amanda Clarke in 2018, the land holding the spring belongs to a Mr. George Teape, the same owner mentioned in the 1985 paper, “ley lines & holy wells” by Conan Kennedy. The site used to host a stone pillar acting as a marker, but now only a lone ash tree stands over the well (Clarke, 2018). The ground is strewn with the remnants of the toppled stone pillar.

4 Cure

The well earned its name because of its potent cure for surfeit, especially after holidays, as recounted by Michael Sheehan in the Schools’ Collection of folklore: “The water is said to cure surfeit. ‘After Christmas and Easter long ago’ said Mr. Sheehan, ‘people visited the well in numbers; especially after Easter, when eating a dozen eggs was no great feat!’”(0314, 003). The other cure is explained by Kevin O' Mahony in the Schools’ Collection of folklore, “Many cures are got from the waters of the well. Farmers from far away come for the water if they have sick animals. If three drops of this water are taken by a person or by an animal, a cure takes place in a very short time,”(0313, 308A). The well does not appear to require rounds from the believer in order to dispense its cure.

5 Pattern day

I found no evidence of a designated pattern day, but the well is most visited the days after Easter and Christmas.

6 Offerings

The Surfeit well previously featured a pillar marking its location which was left as a sort of votive offering to the site. People who came to use the well also left gifts in thanks for the healing its granted. Kevin O’Mahoney discusses the votives in his entry to the School’s folkore collection:
Not very long ago the owner of the land in which the well is situated closed the passage that was leading to the well and broke up the well. But that year every one of his cattle died. Then he learned that he had done wrong; so he reopened the well and the passage leading to it. He also built a stone pillar near it to show the travellers where the well was. Around the well are lots of beads, buttons, metals, rosary beads and numbers of other articles which were left there by the people who came for the water. (0314:003)

8 Stories

A paper from 1985 by Conan Kennedy recounts the history of the site going back several centuries:
The story in Bandon has it that this one, known as The Surfeit Well, is an ancient well closed up hundreds of years ago. It was rediscovered about two hundred years ago and the tale of its rediscovery goes thus...A local young man was in the British Army in India. Taken ill, he was more or less at death's door when he dreamed of his home place, Rathrout. The dream told him that there was a particular well beside his house and, if he could just get back there and drink the waters he would recover. They got him back and, on his instructions, people dug at the spot and found the well. The soldier drank, and recovered! The well thus got its reputation, particularly for ailments of the stomach, since that had been the soldier's problem. And, right up to twenty-five years ago people would come regularly, leaving behind pieces of rag and suchlike tied to the pillar by the well as was the custom. There were no rags or any-thing like that on our recent visit, but when the young woman came out of the rain to collect water for, as she told us, a sick was clear enough that little else had changed. According to George Teape, owner of the land, three or four people still come every week to collect water from the well. He himself had had the stuff analysed out of curiosity and learned that it contained magnesium and cobalt and suchlike. (Interestingly enough, magnesium is one of the minerals that activates enzymes necessary for digestion). There was general agreement among people in the know that the water could not be boiled, (Kennedy 1985, 3).

9 Publications

Clarke, Amanda. 2018. “Three Gentlemen, a Yeti & a Medicinal Draught”, November 4.
Kennedy, Conan. 1985. “Ley Lines and Holy Wells”, accessed April 1, 2021.
The Schools' Collection of folklore, Volume 0314: page 003
The Schools' Collection of folklore, Volume 0313: page 308A