Eachtra Journal

ISSN 2009-2237

Wells, Holy Wells and Fulachta Fiadh

May, 2009 · Written by: John Tierney Print This Page This entry is part 17 of 34 in the Issue 02

Agnes Kerrigan’s recent excavation of a fulacht fiadh at Ballyglass West, Co. Galway, as part of the N18 Oranmore to Gort road project, is currently being prepared for final report submission. The fulacht fiadh was situated at the base of a slope on a spring line. The same spring line also attracted a post-medieval well.

Jerry O’Sullivan and Tomas O’Carragain (2008) in their book on the ecclesiastical sites on Innishmurray island discuss the origins and longevity of folk beliefs at holy wells. They reference E.P. Kellys paper on Irish holy wells in Archaeology Ireland 2002 which cites Iron Age finds from a number of holy wells.

Water, fuel and food are resources which have an influence on the distribution of archaeological sites. Longevity in groundwater and drainage systems can result in repeated, albeit interrupted, settlement of areas with reliable water supply, be it flowing in a stream, standing in a pond, or bubbling from a spring. (Cross reference with Ballinamona fulacht fiadh on the N8FM). As an afterthought it should be possible to test the hypothesis that holy wells could be colocated with fulachta fiadh by conducting geophysical surveys on a representative sample of holy wells.

Also bear in mind a paper Andy Bleasdale gave on the vegetation found on spring flushes in upland Connemara at an ecology conference in the early 90s.

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