The members of the Lady Well Group are happy to report another successful year. Thanks to them the grounds were kept in beautiful condition. Members worked tirelessly all through the Spring and Summer.

The highlight of the year was of course Lady Day, with concelebrated Mass at the Well. Thankfully the rain held off. The occasion was made even more memorable by the presence of some of the priests and other religious, from the parish who returned home, from all over the world, for the reunion. We wish them well whenever they may be.

The group purchased an adjoining piece of land, for an extension to the car park, to accommodate the ever increasing number of cars coming to the Well especially on the 15th of August. Thanks to the FÁS group, work on the boundary wall of this land is well ahead and hopefully by next Lady Day the site will be developed and ready for use.

Sincere good wishes to Paddy Mitchell for a full return to good health, also all the best to John Delaney, who has been indisposed, but thankfully is well again.

Lady Well Committee 1996, Fr. Tony King, Parochial House; Tommy Quinn, Ballydavid; Jimmy Somers, Gurteen Acra; Monsie Kennedy, Swangate; Paddy Mitchell, Ballydavid; Joe Keating, Court View; Johnny Delaney, Caheroyan Rd.; Eddie Somers, Northgate St.; Ned Waldron, Newline; Paddy Ryan, Cross St.; Redmond Carr, Newline; Willie Doherty, Caheroyan Drive; Jim Ruane, Boyhill; Willie Burke, Old Church St.; Joe and Ellen Kelly, The Square; Lol Ryan, Park Rd.; Michael Mannion, Árd Aoibhinn; Owen Baxter, Kingsland; Mary Clarke, Abbey Row; Kathleen Gardner, Old Church Street; Ann Cullinane, Raheen; Owen Keating, Rahard; Matt Toole, Blaine; Mick Scully, Caheroyan Crescent; John McCann Northgate St.; Brendan Sullivan, Caheroyan Drive; Martin Brady, Boyhill.

Le gach dea mhéin

The AGM of the Lady’s Well Group was held recently in the Canton Hall. The year 1994-1995 was considered to be very successful.

Lady Day was the highlight of the year with thousands of people attending the open air Celebration Mass. Great credit is due to the group who give so much of their time voluntarily caretaking the grounds and planting flowers and shrubs.

The group has acquired approximately one acre of adjoining land which, when developed, will relieve the pressure for space in the car park, especially on Lady Day. It is also envisaged to set aside part of the new park for wheelchairs only.

There is undoubtedly an immense amount of work to be done over the next few years D.V.

New members are always very welcome. To Mick Scully, who is indisposed at present, we send sincere good wishes for a speedy return to good health.

The history of this holy Well dates to medieval times. The exact origin of devotion at the Well is unclear but the date for the Marian Apparitions at Lady’s Well is generally given as the 15th of August 1249.We do not have any formal written documentation to substantiate this claim but what we do have is, firstly, the very ancient tradition that the miraculous event took place on the 15th, after the battle of Athenry and secondly, an account in the Annals of Iar-Connacht that a major battle took place in Athenry on the 15th August 1249.

The Annals record that the Normans within the town pleaded with the attacking Irish not to dishonour the Feast by attacking on that day. The Irish did attack and were defeated. Tradition preserves for us the legend that Our Lady appeared to some of the defeated soldiers as they were retreating from the battle. We can be quite certain that the promotion of Marian Devotion would have been an important priority for the new Dominican Order, whose priory had just been built in the town (1214), since their founder, St. Dominic, was the great apostle of the Rosary. Given these facts, there seems little reason to doubt the authenticity of the tradition of the Apparition.

Devotion to the well has been strong and consistent ever since, People came from all over the country and even further afield to pray at the Shrine especially on Lady Day, August l5th. This is the Feast of the Assumption and Athenry celebrates this Feast in a special way each year, with a beautiful concelebrated Mass at the Well. Priests, native to the parish, who minister all over the world, try to get home to assist at this very special Mass on this very special occasion.

The late Monsignor Mooney took a  very keen interest in the Well and its surroundings and was instrumental in establishing a Lady’s Well Group who, with the help of FÁS, carried out many improvements including a new approach road, car park and Stations of the Cross Constant maintenance is carried out by the Voluntary Group, lawns must be kept trimmed and flowers and shrubs adorn the place.

We are also very lucky that our new Parish Priest Fr. T. King is as keenly interested in Lady Well as was Monsignor Mooney and we thank him sincerely for his support and generosity.

According to the late Mrs. Aggie Qualter, a station to the Well is never complete without taking three sips of well water and reciting an old prayer from the past:

“By the Word of God,
By the Cross of Calvary,
By the Operation of the Holy Ghost,
And the Intercession of the Mother of God,
And the Power of this water; I believe”

Holy Wells have been a feature of the Religion of the Irish people for longer than records have existed and, while pilgrimages to them are not as common as it was last century, many wells are still visited, particularly on the Saints’ and Pattern Days.

St. Dominics Well, out in Esker, is very well known.  Here on the 6th. of January every year, the water is Blessed, farmers and their families come for the blessing and take away bottles of the water, which is said to cure illness in animals.

Another well not far from Athenry is St. Kerrill’s Well, near Gurteen; the custom there is to take water home and keep it safe, as a protection against thunder and lightning.

On the 20th of August each year in Abbeyknockmoy, the water is blessed in St. Bernard’s Well during an open air Mass.  This water is believed to cure all sorts of foot complaints.

The water in the Athenry Well is blessed every 14th. of August and while there are no cures attributed to it, people certainly believe there is a cure in the headache stone – a square stone with a hallow centre, situated beside the well.

There are holy wells all over Ireland; some on top of mountains, others on islands.  All with a history attached to them.

Looking forward to the end of this century it seems likely that the popularity of some of these pilgrimages will diminish, but at present they are something which people need and enjoy.

Apart from the Prayers and the ritual, the pattern is treated as a rural holiday and enjoyed as such.  In 1975 Msgr.  Michael Higgins from Castle Lambert, now administering in San Diego, had the idea of getting all the native nuns and priests home for a reunion, and on the 16th August 1981 his dream was realised.  They came from all parts of world and had a wonderful time.

Another reunion is planned for 1996. In the meantime, as many as possible come home for Lady’s Day to concelebrate Mass at the Well.

The Pilgrimage to Lady’s Well of 15th. August is really the highlight of the Festival of Athenry.  It is holiday time, the emigrants are home, all looking forward to having a great time an enjoying the festival.  Mary Murphy Kingsland, recalls as far back as 1935 when her father and brothers would ‘white-wash’ the walls of the well and surroundings, in preparation for Lady’ Day.  They would cut the grass with scythe and sometimes, if the well was dry , they would draw water up from town in barrels by pony and cart and bucket it into the well.  Later it would be blessed, usually on Lady’s Eve when pilgrims would come, from Connemara mostly, for the all night vigil.  Refreshments were available from a tent erected in the grounds, by people named Callanan from Loughrea, who came every year and supplied teas, etc. to the people who were there praying all night.

Pride of place in Mary’s kitchen is the first statue ever placed at Lady’s Well.  It was not a fixture there – her father carried it on his shoulders every year for the vigil on Lady’s Eve and for Lady’s Day, and then carried it home again when the last of the pilgrims left.  However, a permanent statue was eventually placed there and, in approximately 1932, the late Canon Conroy presented the original statue to the Murphy family and there it has remained since.

Mary also tells us that the late Canon Gibbons said the first Mass at the Well in 1972, and the custom of open air Mass there has continued ever since.  Long may it continue.

My grateful thanks to Mary Murphy for a very interesting and informative evening.  Go raibh míle maith agat Mary!

Lady Well Plan

The date for the Marian apparition at Lady Well Athenry is generally given as 15th August 1249.  We do not have any formal written documentation to substantiate this claim.  What we have is this.  Firstly the very ancient tradition that the miraculous event took place on the 15th August after “The Battle of Athenry” and secondly, an ancient account in the Annals of Iar Connacht that a major battle took place in Athenry on 15th August 1249.  This battle is not to be confused with the later and more famous battle of Athenry which was fought on 10th August 1316.  The Annals record that the Normans, within the town, beseeched the attacking Irish not to dishonour the feast by attacking on that day.  The Irish did attack and were defeated.  Tradition preserves for us the legend that Our Lady appeared to some of the defeated soldiers as they were retreating from the battle.  We can be quite certain that the promotion of Marian devotion would have been a very important priority for the New Dominican order whose Priory had just been built in the town (1241) since their founder St. Dominic (1170 1221), was a great apostle of the Rosary.  Given these facts, there seems little reason to doubt the authenticity of the tradition of the apparition.

Lady WellAt least two monuments at the well date from medieval times.  While we cannot be certain that the well was the original location for either of these, the fact that they have been located at the well for at least three centuries shows a continuity of the tradition honouring this location as a place of prayer. The Celtic Pieta which at present is set in the outer wall of the well dates from the 14th century. Until the recent renovations it was placed in the inner corner where the statue now stands. It is quite unlike the continental pieta in style as the mother holds the body of the dead Christ not cradled in her arms but in an almost upright position and tradition suggests that it was defaced by soldiers during the Cromwellian Wars.

The “Headache Stone”, or the large rectangular stone with the cavity in the centre was a socket for a medieval cross. There is a very strong tradition of personal healing associated with this stone.

The Well has been a major centre of pilgrimage for generations. In the last century it was a place of pilgrimage for people from all over South Connemara, Who came in thousands on 15th August.  While devotion to the place weaned somewhat in the 1950’s and 1960’s it was always a place of prayer for the people of Athenry and in recent years is again growing greatly in popularity.

It is a place of private prayer for the people of the district throughout the year an especially around the time of Lady Day. In recent years that practise of having public prayers at the Well on a specific day each month has grown. Public Prayers are recited at the Well on the following days to correspond with the feasts of Our Lady.

August 7th – 15th
Nine Day Novena

September 8th
Feast of Our Lady’s Birthday

October 7th
Feast of Our  lady of the Rosary

November 21st
Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin

December 8th
Feast of the Immaculate Conception

January 1st
Feast of Mary Mother of God

February 2nd
Feast of the Presentation

March 25th
Feast of the Annunciation

April 30th
Feast of Our Lady of Africa

May 31st
Feast of the Visitation

June 8th
Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

July 8th
Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

The public prayers are either on the eve of the feast, or on the Feast Day.  The Parish Newsletter of the Previous week gives the time each month. Normally during the summer the time is 9:00pm and an earlier time during the winter.