We have just recorded our second folk art carving in Co Limerick. The carving in question is a limestone plaque located at a holy well located in the village of Patrickswell Co Limerick.
The well is located just off main street beside a busy filling station. The well was restored by Patrickswell Community Council in 2002. It consists of a rectangular area enclosed by a stone well. The interior is paved with slabs and the site of the well is now covered with a concrete slab and a pump. The limestone plaque is located in the fabric of the back wall.
The carving is likely of 18th or early 19th century date. It is a square block of limestone with an incised image of St Patrick wearing a mitre, standing on a snake. He holds a book in his left hand and a triple cross in his right hand. His feet are turned out. According to historical sources on the left side of the stone, is the inscription “Erected by Thomas McNamara & S. Breay”. The lettering is very difficult to decipher today. The plaque was broken in two prior to its incorporation into the wall.
According to Lewis, Topographical Dictionary, (Vol. ii, 459 )
a well dedicated to St. Patrick, and still held in great veneration by the peasantry, over which has recently been placed a figure of the tutelar saint, rudely carved in stone.
While folklore suggest an earlier date. It was told that the wives of troops who were stationed in Patrickswell desecrated the holy well in 1798. It was said the commanding officer broke the stone which was at the well.
The water was said to cure sores, toothache and was also said to be of benefit to animals. When devotion was carried out at the well people would with the water sprinkled on crops and milk churns. According to Danachair (1955) devotions ceased around 1890 when a pump was erected over the well. Prior to this
The well was open formerly, with a great elm tree standing beside it. Formerly much visited, especially on 17th March. The water cured sores, toothache and other pains, also cattle. It was sprinkled on crops and churns. Rags, medals and drinking cups hung on the tree.
The people in the area used the well until the 1940s when an epidemic of typhoid fever occurred in the area. Locals feared that the well was the source of contamination and stopped taking water from the well. Following the 1940’s the pump was removed only to be reinstated in recent times by the well committee.
We will be doing further research into the iconography of the carving and will keep you posted on the results.