James Hardiman, in his history of Galway, lists seven holy wells in Galway, St Bride’s in the eastern suburbs; St Anne’s towards the west of the town near the strand (on Whitestrand Avenue ); another further along the shore (St Enda’s Barna? ); St Bridget’s at the bottom of Red Earl’s Lane on Flood Street; St John the Baptist’s on Lough Athalia; one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin on Lough Athalia; and one dedicated to St Augustine on Lough Athalia. The last three were all above the high water mark, and on his 1818 map, Logan attributes all three to St Augustine. O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey Letters refers to a stone with a cross cut out on each of these three wells.
The surviving well dedicated to Augustine is marked on the 1651 map. According to Hardiman: “It is asserted that the water (of this well ) has affected several cures, particularly that of restoring sight.” There was apparently a supernatural cure there on June 11 1673 when a Patrick Lynche made an extraordinary recovery. “Adged fourtine yeares he was visited with the most grievous, desperate and dangerous disease and given over by all the doctors to be incurable, and could not eat one bite since Ester last, and what little sustenance of milk hee coulde hee would take, hee presently vometted the same, soe all things were prepared for his death.” He was brought to the well, dipped in it, was brought up and wrapped in woollens, then fell asleep. When awoken, he announced he had seen a vision and was told to visit the well three times a day for nine days and drink the water. He did this and was cured. There was a sworn enquiry into the case which bears witness to the veneration the people of the time had for the well. It was known as Tobar San Aibhistín. People would come and say the Rosary on the last Sunday of July and Stations were held there on that day when it was known as Domhnach Chruim Duibh, which Hardiman translated as ‘Garland Sunday’ but which seemed to be known locally as ‘Garlic Sunday’. People used to walk around the well in their bare feet saying prayers.
In a major article by Peadar O’Dowd on holy wells in Galway published in the Galway Archeological and Historical Society’s journal, he lists a number of experiences some locals had, or had heard about, regarding the well. These include a young girl who had lost her sight and was brought here as a last resort, they washed her eyes for nine days running in the water from the well and she was cured; a man with a very bad back who had the water applied to his back three times, then wore some red flannel on it and was cured; occasionally crutches or walking sticks left behind by people cured were found there; one often saw many carts and side cars lined up there, mostly belonging to country people coming to pray there.
Our photograph shows John McDonagh of Shantalla at the well. You can see the new houses of Renmore in the background.