St. Michael’s Well, Dungegan, Ballinskelligs
St Michael is very important in Ballinskelligs. Skellig Michael, the Abbey, the school and the church are all named after him, as is another very special, spiritual place, St Michael’s Well, which can be found down a lane opposite the Community Hall in Dungegan village, off the R566 road.
The water of the well was thought to have miraculous powers in the mid 18th century.
St. Michael’s feast day is on the 29th September. It is called the Pattern or Pattern day.
When the holy day took place, huge crowds would attend and the pilgrims stayed for two days. There is a ritual connected with the well:
One walks around the well three times, six times or nine times while saying the rosary. When you start you should take ten stones and throw the tenth stone away.
When you have made a round, you should a stone on the stone heap until you have made nine rounds. The right hand should be to the Well while marking the Pilgrimage.
A pin, penny or button, or a piece of cloth is left at the Well, or somewhere among the stones, when you leave.
(from Sean O Conaill’s Book by Seamus O Duilearga 1981)
When the rounds were done at the well people rushed to join the celebrating. There was plenty of eating and drinking and courting (and fighting!) in the village. In the old days there were booths for the sale of drink and sweets. The card man would be there, and also a man selling toys. The day would be spent with sport and pastimes. Many people used to drink during the day, and would sing (and quarrel!) at night.
The pattern was not approved of by the clergy in the old days because of the drinking and fighting, so it was not celebrated for many years. In recent years it has been revived and last year (2013) we had a Pattern Festival for three days.