Geopark Poetry Map Prompts 6

Hello Earth Lovers and Poetry Writers! We are in Fermanagh today for the Poetry Prompts to spark geoheritage themed poems on sites ranging around Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. The closing date for submitting your poem for this digital Geopark Poetry Map is 15th June 2021. Email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for full guidelines and some background research that Geopark staff have prepared to help ground your poem in the geoheritage of each site.

Yesterday’s prompts looked at some of the ecclesistical sites that are dotted around the Geopark. Today I want to look at Holywell in Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh. The limestone geology of the region creates many springs across the region. From Holywell itself you can probably track a local holy well about every mile and a half . Many have been forgotten or fallen into disrepair, but many are still the focus of personal spirituality.

Here is what Martina O’Neill of Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark writes about this site.

Located just outside the village of Belcoo, St Patrick’s Holywell is one of many locate throughout the Geopark. The predominant limestone bedrock in the area dissolves in weakly acidic water allowing channels to be eroded both on top of and within the rocks. Much of the water in this regions flows through limestone rocks and where it reappears at the surface it is called a spring. It has not yet been confirmed where the water that flows into the well has it’s origins, although it is widely believed that it originates within the nearby Ballintempo uplands. Many of these springs have been termed ‘holywells’ and the example here is said to have been blessed by St Patrick himself. St Patrick’s Holywell is unusual as it flows in two directions and is also said to be the coldest in Ireland. Many such springs are said to have healing powers and as a result St Patrick’s Holywell is a place of pilgrimage for many local people who perform the Stations of the Cross during the Festival of Lughnasa at the end of July.

Martina O’Neil MACGeopark Development Officer, Partnerships & Engagement
Holywell, Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh

This water flowing in two directions is not unique to this locality. As you climb to the village of Boho, about five miles above Belcoo, you can look down at the Sillees River at a point behaving in just the same way! What’s that all about?!

Here is a short video clip of the thundering of the stream into the wellhead that I took a few years ago.

Video made by Irish Blessings Tours

This video made by Fermanagh TV tells much more of the folklore that is part and parcel of this holywell that has been sacred since the cult of Crom Cruich. St. Patrick came to bless the well with the coming of Christianity (also probably to discourage backsliders). Much is said of how cold the water is and I can confirm that it is extremely cold even in high summer. Many holy wells have ‘cures’ associated with them. Traditionally, Holy Well is associated with helping to relieve nervous conditions. The film is ten years old but ‘keeping the pattern’ has faithfully been performed until Covid disrupted everything.

In the film Mairead O’Dolan mentions the ash trees around Holywell. Ash does very well in this region. While in other parts of Ireland hawthorn trees are associated with holywells, here in the Geopark it is the ash that stands straight and tall beside many of our holy wells. My own local well just up the lane has a miniature wet ash woodland beside it, like a pocket sized Claddagh Glen. ( See Day 2 of these Poetry Prompts for more about that site. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/05/17/geopark-poetry-map-prompt-2/

I hope you get some inspiration to spark a poem on this MACGeopark site. But if this doesn’t speak to you, fear not, there will be another poetry prompt on the morrow!