Lady Well, Killyon Ceremonies – Boyne Valley, Co Meath

The site of Lady Well in Killyon is typical of the sites of holy wells in the Boyne valley. There is a tumulus nearby which shows that the place was of importance in pagan times. The site of Lady Well in Killyon had probably been an important chief’s residence at the time of St Patrick, and was donated to Liadhán, a young kinswoman of the chief, who founded a convent there and built a church. When the Normans came they built their own monastery on the Celtic site. (If it wasn’t derelict by that time, they would have simply driven the monks out). The Normans maintained a succession of dwellings, castles and other strong houses there during the Middle Ages.

In Cromwellian times power passed from the Ricards to new settlers who enclosed the demesne and built the manor house. A church of the new religion took the place of an ancient church beside the pagan tumulus, and the successors to the Norman monks crept back to a secluded spot where they hoped to escape the vigour of the Penal Laws. They ministered in secret until the Catholic Church was able to reorganise its parishes in the late eighteenth century. Then the Dominicans of Donore became the first pastors to minister in the thatched chapels of Longwood, Killyon and Ballivor.

There are ruins of an old monas­tery and graveyard at Lady Well where the annual ceremonies take place on 15 August.

Lady Well at Slane is well recorded and is reputed to have changed location when attempts were made to seal it. Usually it is said that when the well was desecrated by someone washing dogs in it, or when it was closed up by a Protestant landowner to pre­vent pilgrimages, it would spring up in another location nearby.

The rational explanation may be that under­ground watercourses change for natural reasons, and that super­natural causes were resorted to account for what appeared incomprehensible.

Image: The womblike approach to the Lady Well with the Boyne river to the right.

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