Our Lady of the Fuchsia!
Lough Ine (or Hyne) is a marine lake in West Cork around five kilometers from the town of Skibereen. Being rather shallow and yet highly oxygenated it sustains an unusually high level of plant and animal life, many of which are not found anywhere else in Ireland. It is a beautiful and a bit of trap for tourists and Sunday afternoon drivers. If the sun is shining be prepared to meet a minor traffic jam!
Lough Ine (Hyne)
Above the lake is a steep hill (Knockomagh Hill) with paths winding around the bottom and all the way to the top. If you attempt the climb to the top of the hill, even though it isn’t a particularly large hill, the climb is nonetheless somewhat strenuous, but worth the views when you reach the top. From this vantage point you can get a glimpse of both the ruins of the castle on Castle Island (once associated with the O’Driscoll clan) in the centre of the lake and the ruins of Saint Brigid’s church on the opposite shore.
The two holy wells in the area are known as Skour Well and Tobarín Súl. Saint Brigid’s well is also beside the church ruins of the same dedication and Saint Brigid is said to have spent some time in the area. Legend has it that when she knelt to pray at a rock near the holy well, she left the impressions of her knees! Following the path around the base of the hill you will cross a small trickle of a stream and land on a path that begins a slow climb uphill. On the right the first well that you will see is the Eye well, or Tobarín Súl. This well is renowned throughout the area as being a very powerful well to heal any complaints regarding eyesight or the eyes. Many offerings of various kinds have been left by the well which is surrounded by a mound of stones and various trinkets and offerings. A three trunked tree grows up out of the back of the well and stands like a sentry. I couldn’t help but recall the moment in the Gospel when Jesus begins to heal a blind man who says he can see people like walking trees, and after Jesus lays hands on him a second time he can see perfectly. Of this holy well’s past history I was unable to find anything out.
Tokens left at the holy well
The next well is known as Skour well and is located just a short stretch up the hill. It appears that this well’s dedication has either been forgotten or it has never had a dedication. The word Skour probably comes from the Irish ‘sceabhar’ meaning ‘slope’ or ‘slant’, indicating its position on the side of the hill. In the past, on May eve, pilgrims would come and make traditional rounds at the well and drop a white stone. Today the well is surrounded by these white stones, but the May eve pattern is a mass said by the local priest and the well appears today to be thoroughly dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Crude ‘icons’ of Our Lady litter the site and the traditional hawthorn bush above the well holds the rags of passing pilgrims. A large stone structure surrounds the well, much of which looks thoroughly modern.
In many ways this well is in grave danger of being over-worked. Many wells throughout Ireland have disappeared precisely because people have messed with the natural flow of watercourses and built large, heavy structures around the wells. In some cases they have planted numerous trees and the well has simply dried up. In this case, the well has almost been swallowed up by the stone surround and the stones placed so carefully and neatly around the base of the well. Despite this, there is something rather appealing about this well which I think, for me, lies in the many white stones brought by groups of pilgrims in the past and the naive 'icons'.
The well surround
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of in I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley, Thy water in my well.
A Child of Prague at the Eye well
How to find it:
From Lough Ine, take the path into the woods at the foot of Knockomagh Hill. Follow the path around the foot of the hill, crossing a small stream. The path then veers up to the left and up a slight slope. On the left are the two wells; firstly Tobarín Súl and then a little farther up is Skour well.
A Madonna and Child at the Skour Well