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Dabhach Phádraig

To view the programme for the 2009 Pilgrimage click here.

For the organiser's contact details click here.

St Patrick’s Holy Well, Belcoo, County Fermanagh by Mairéad O'Dolan

This holy well is situated about a mile from Belcoo on the Garrison road. It lies near the road side and is clearly marked. It measures about forty feet by twenty feet and flows off in two rivers. The estimated yield of water is 600 gallons per minute. It was known in tradition as Dabhach Phádraig. Dabhach, from the Irish can mean a vat, a pool, a tub, or a holy well.

Dabhach Phadraig.jpg 

The Pilgrimage

A pilgrimage known as 'The Stations' takes place here every year at Lughnasa from the last Sunday in July to 15th August. For details of this year's Stations, please refer to the heritage events section of this website.

Running water.jpg

Tradition tells us St Patrick brought the faith here. Peace and tranquillity can be found at the holy well at all times. To listen and to see the water cascading over the stones and down to the water fall is a prayer in itself. My family have lived at Rushín for generations and are the herenachs of Temple Rushín. Herenach or airchinneach, from the Irish means hereditary steward of church lands.

I learned to make the stations at an early age, following the way set out. The word stations denote stopping places, the same as lough Derg. I have examined the rituals followed in the light of current research into pre-Christian rituals of well, stone, and sun worship.

References were taken from Traces of the Elder Faith of Ireland by W.G Wood-Martin and Irish Folk Ways by E. Estyn Evans. It was found that all three are retained as the pilgrim moves through the stations in bare feet. Wood-Martin tells us that the early preachers were willing to allow the people whatever was harmless in their pagan customs. For Sun worship, the pilgrim moves clockwise around the well this is known as following the ‘Deiseal’ – from the Irish word deis = right, he must move from east to west, 'in imitation of the diurnal motion of the sun'. The set prayers are said at each station. Water worship may be seen as the pilgrim wades the second river for 50 yards or so to reach the bullaun stone at the old mill. Here the stones in the river are very sharp, so it is an added penance, and the water is said to be the coldest in Ireland.



Stone Worship

The pilgrim makes the sign of the cross on certain stones and may turn the body round the stone too.

Temple Rushín

The Stations are also linked with this old church. It may be 10th century ( Fr. J. Mc Kenna), 13th century (Lady Lowry Corry) or 6th century (Fr. Gus Leaden).

It has a bullaun stone, that is a stone with a deep hollow. There is another at the old mill. In 2000 Fr. J.J. Ó Ríordáin CSSR compiled a pilgrims' manual which may be used by any denomination.

There are ruins of four other churches within a radius of 4-5 miles. They are:

  • Killinagh
  • Templenaffrin
  • Temple Maol
  • Killesher

There are about 24 ancient stones and monuments within a 10 mile radius. Example Crom Cruach standing stone, the cursing stones, stone circles and giants' graves (or dolmens). One might speculate that the area was strong in pre-Christian worship.

A curative well

Claims have been made that a cure for stomach ailments and nervous depression has been wrought.


About Lughnasa

Máire Mac Neill tells us it was one of the quarterly feasts of the old Irish year. The others were:

  • Samhain (Nov 1)
  • Bealtaine (May 1)
  • Imbolc (Feb 1)

Lughnasa celebrates the beginning of the harvesting of the crops, corn in earlier times and later potatoes. Lughnasa took place at a traditional site – a height; a waterside; a lake, a river or a well. 78 Lughnasa assemblies take place at holy well sites. Another feature of Lughnasa by Máire Mac Neill is that of the ancient assemblies. They are covered extensively and are most interesting.

Mac Neill tells us that ancient assemblies were known as Oenachs. They were held at centres of provincial kingdoms, and were 'a unitive religious, political and social assembly'. Oenach Tailten was the most famous of Lughnasa assemblies (Telltown, Co. Meath). There was Carmen in Leinster, Cruachan in Connaught and Emain Macha near Armagh. 'These Oenachs of Lughnasa had become before the political downfall of the culture which had produced them the highest politico-social expression of that culture.'

For further information on Dabhach Phádraig please contact:

    Mairéad O'Dolan
    The Station House, Belcoo
    County Fermanagh
    phone (028) 66 386 284


A Pilgrimage

‘The Stations at the Holy Well’



SUNDAY 29th JULY at 5.PM Leaders Present. ROSARY at 5.30 PM. Brief History.

SUNDAY 5th AUGUST ROSARY at 5. PM. Leaders present. ROSARY AT 5.30 PM. Brief History.

TUESDAY 7th AUGUST at 7.30 PM. LED BY LEGION of MARY. ROSARY at 8.PM. Brief History.

SUNDAY 12th AUGUST at 5PM. Leaders Present. ROSARY at 5.30 PM. Brief History.

WEDNESDAY 15th AUGUST at 6.PM. Leaders Present. ROSARY at 6.30.PM.




Sponsored climb of Croagh Patrick in aid of Holy Well Chapel, Belcoo, 2010

In order to raise funds for the restoration of Holy Well Chapel, Belcoo, County Fermanagh, about 50 parishioners will do a sponsored climb of Croagh Patrick on 29th August 2010. We would like to reach out to emigrants and others who would kindly sponsor the climbers. Many of our exiles or their previous generations would have been baptized, made their First Communion and were confirmed there. Maybe some of their dear departed are laid to rest in the churchyard nearby. The making of a modest subscription to the fund would be a tribute to the memory of their dear ones. It is hoped that some time in the future it will be possible to relay news and events from home.

Cheques payable to Cleenish parish, Mrs Margaret Maguire, Cleenish Restoration Fund, Parish Centre, 2 Railway Road, Belcoo BT93 5FG, County Fermanagh. For further information phone Mairead O Dolain, 028 66 386 284.

Holywell Chapel.jpg

This project has been funded by a grant from the Heritage Council of Ireland. It has also received funding from Cavan-Monaghan Rural Development Co-op under the National Rural Development Programme. Funded by the Irish Government and part-financed by the European Union under the National Development Plan 2000-2006.