Celebrating Ulster's Townlands

 

 

Signpost: Townlands

  21. Legends of Church Sites

Struel Wells, Downpatrick, Co. Down: EHS

Struel Wells, Downpatrick, Co. Down: EHS

 

Slawin graveyard, Whealt Co. Fermanagh: Keiran Clendinning

Slawin graveyard, Whealt Co. Fermanagh: Keiran Clendinning

The fairly common name Templemoyle (townlands in the parishes of Bovevagh and Banagher) means "bare/roofless church". This was probably the result of decay, but there is often a picturesque story that what was built of the church by day was mysteriously torn down by night, persuading the builders to give up and move the church to a different site.

Many church sites have holy wells, associated with penitence and healing. At Struel Wells in Co. Down bathhouses had been built to allow men and women to wash in privacy. Pilgrims might place rag offerings on the trees beside a well, as at Cranfield Co. Antrim. The holy well at Dungiven Co. Derry is the water that collects in the moss-grown bullaun stone. 

Logo: Townlands

 

The hollows in bullaun stones are often attributed to the knees of saints who knelt on them to pray, like St Patrick at La Loo in Co. Antrim.

The holy well of St Conall in Co. Donegal has a knee stone and an elbow-stone bullaun, and the local townland is Derryleconnell “oakwood of Conalls’ flagstone”. The bullaun near Antrim round tower is now called the Witch’s Stane. In this case the story is that a witch jumped from the tower and her knees sank into the stone.  

  The holy well of Tobar Shorcha in Co. Donegal was named from the old woman who lived beside it and taught people what prayers to say. It is believed to cure skin diseases, but has recently been “improved” by the council, to the horror of local people. They fear the well may move, as it did once before when mistreated. However the two offerings of socks show it is still visited.  

Mills

There were certainly mills in early Ireland, and townland names contain the Irish term muileann (Latin molina), usually anglicised mullen.  However, to illustrate the link between place-names and more recent industrial heritage, the map shows the 108 place-names in Northern Ireland that contain the English element mill. Many of the mill buildings have now disappeared.  

 

Tobar Shorcha, Doochary Co. Donegal: KM

Tobar Shorcha, Doochary Co. Donegal: KM

 

  Darkley Mill, Co. Armagh: Kieran Clendinning

Darkley Mill, Co. Armagh: Kieran Clendinning 

Cranfield holy well and rag trees, Co. Antrim: Brian McElherron

Cranfield holy well and rag trees, Co. Antrim: Brian McElherron

Rag tree at Dungiven Priory, Co. Derry: Brian McElherron 

Rag tree at Dungiven Priory, Co. Derry: Brian McElherron 

 

Distribution map of Mill place-names in N. Ireland. Helen Murphy

Distribution map of Mill place-names in N. Ireland. Helen Murphy

 

Moss-grown bullaun at Dungiven Priory, Co. Derry: Brian McElherron   

Moss-grown bullaun at Dungiven Priory, Co. Derry: Brian McElherron  

 

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