Sunday 28 February 2021

The Well Of The White Cow Co Meath


                                           Above Image: Roadside entrance gate

                                       Above & Below Images: The Well entrance

                                                 Above Image: The Well water

                                                   Above Image: The Rag tree


Holy wells...the mere name suggests a sense of something old and unusual and while I would not normally seek them out I have come across a few on our travels and they have somehow weaved their way into my circle of interest so I will always divert to take a look at one if possible.
This particular well is one of maybe half a dozen recorded in the area surrounding Tara in Co Meath. Most but not all are now non-extant having been covered over or absorbed into the local drainage system but The Well of the White Cow has been saved from ruination and restored for public access. 
The name given to it is one of several monikers including "Cormac's Well", The Well of the Dark Eye","The Physicians Well" among others and more recently "Saint Patrick's Well". I much prefer the White Cow title myself.
The well has been a local feature for many centuries and at one time was a supplier of water for the nearby village. It's origin date is unknown but many wells can stretch back far beyond early medieval times. St. Patrick whose name is also given to the well lit the paschal fire on nearby Slane in 433AD and as it is also named after him maybe it was in existence at that time. What is commonly known is that it's period of use ended sometime around 1800 and that in the early part of the 21st century was situated within the bounds of private farmland.
In 2002 according to a signpost at the site, the then landowner Mr Dinny Donnelly permitted a local group called The Friends of Tara and also "Slaine" the society for well restoration to restore the well with the aid of a council grant and a public fundraiser. Public access was granted and a roadside gate and pathway were installed after completion.
The well sits now within a small subterranean chamber surrounded by stonework and a metal entrance gate giving it the look of the entrance to a small Neolithic burial chamber. It has frequent visitors evident by the little tokens people leave behind and also by the rag tree to which people attach ribbons and such.
This a very peaceful and bucolic site and indeed Tara itself is well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.
To find the well take the M3 motorway and exit at junction 7. Take the R147 South from the roundabout signposted for Skryne. Drive for approx 1KM until you see a right hand turn for the L6200 for Tara. Turn right here and drive the length of the road until you reach a T-junction with the Tara car park opposite. Turn left and continue for approx 180m past Maguire's Cafe which is on your right hand side and you will find the well entrance. I would suggest parking at the car park at Maguire's and take the short walk down to the well gate which is also on your right hand side as the road is a little narrow for parking outside..
Don't forget to try the tea and cream scones at the cafe!

Monday 1 February 2021

Old Rodanstown Church & Rath Co Meath

                                              Above Image: The entrance gate

                                              Above Image: The church doorway

                                      Above Image: The inner apse in the East wall

                                       Above Image: Belfry & inner West doorway

                                       Above Image: Remnants outside the church

                           Above Image: Plaster remaining on inner curve of doorway

                                         Above Image: The outer walls of apse.

                                                Above Image: The nearby Rath.

We came across this old church while travelling through the backroads of County Meath. It is positioned within an old graveyard at a quiet road junction. This was the summer of 2020 and the country had just relaxed covid lockdown so inter-county travel was possible again albeit for a short time.
The existing ruin is of an 18th century structure and is still fairly solid though roofless, its windows blocked up and sills removed. It was built on the site of the ancient medieval church of St. Rodan which was suppressed in 1540 when the then townland name was Balradan. It was part of the holdings of St Peter's Abbey in Newtown Trim. The older church became ruinous and is now non-extant. Some of its stone may have been incorporated into the later structure. A font from the older church was salvaged and is now located at Milltown near Kells.
The present ruins are rectangular in shape and at its East end form an apse. This a convex shaped wall which I myself have only come across once before in Rathkenny Church (see previous post here). There is  a round headed doorway in the West wall with yew trees forming an arboreal archway toward it. Some of the original plaster work can be seen on the inner curve of the door. At some point the walls were raised by about 3 feet to round-head the windows and include a belfry in the West gable.
The headstones date from the mid eighteenth century to the early twentieth century with a small scattering of more recent stones from approx 40 to 50 tears ago.
We walked around these peaceful grounds which I felt was soaked with atmosphere. It was the the perfect embodiment of a country churchyard that would no doubt have pleased Thomas Gray. We encountered only a groundskeeper on our visit pottering about the gravestones.  
Strewn about the outer base of the ruins were what may be remnants from the medieval church.
About 550m NE of the church ruins you can clearly see an ancient Rath or Ringfort which is a large flat topped grass mound stepped up from ditches and was designed as an early form of defensive structure. This one is located in fairly level surroundings and so is quite prominent. It is now topped with some trees. The Rath probably dates from the period 400-1100AD although there is discussion that some Raths may date back as far as the Iron age. A rather overgrown field gate can be found along the roadside but the Rath looks to be on private land.
To find the ruins take the R125 heading from Kilcock (road opposite Macari takeaway in the village) and drive for approx 320m until you reach a crossroads. Continue straight on through and follow the sign for the L6219 to Dunboyne. Approx 2KM along you will come to a sharp right hand bend. You will see the Rath on your left. Continue on around the bend and drive approx 400m and you will spot the ruins on your right. You can park at the roadside outside the church gate.