|Organisation :||Waterford County Museum|
|Article Title :||The Ardmore Journal|
|Page Title :||Fr. O'Donnell's Well|
|Page Number :||6|
|Publication Date :||08 February 2011|
|Expiry Date :||Never Expires|
Fr. O'Donnell's Well is known to locals and visitors alike, situated as it is in Dysert, at the termination of the section of cliff path which has been improved by the Co. Council. It is in a little hollow on the cliffs of the Culam, the Cup and Saucer Rock to the eastern side of the little bay and the "Castle" (Coastguards' Watch Tower) on the headland above.
The present edifice surmounting the well dates from 1928 when a Mr. J. P. Rahilly from Limerick spent some time in Ardmore and decided to make it the Irish Lourdes. Prior to that the well had been lined by stones (not the present ones), and a very low wall surrounded it with a semi-circular flat stone on top; this still remains.
Nobody knows now for certain who the Fr. O'Donnell was. Michael and Tommie Maloney of Main St. Ardmore discussed the subject with Patsy Burke who was a very old man when he died in 1969, and their general conclusion was, that he was a silenced priest who came and read his office there. Jack Crowley concurs with this story. However, no-one can be sure of that now. A Fr. John O'Donnell was Parish Priest in Ardmore from 1911 to 1914, but he had no association with the well.
Great curative properties were attributed to the waters specially in the case of eye ailments. There was never any tradition of pilgrimage, rounds or prayers; as often as not someone was sent out to Fr. O'Donnell's Well to bring the water home. A number of instances were cited to me of improvements or cures, after using the water. In at least one case where this occurred it was to the amazement of the local GP Dr. Foley who had forecast probable loss of vision.
My sister Eileen remembers him in the kitchen at Tigaluinn speaking to my mother of his project, reciting his poem, "From the Cliffs of Ardmore . . . " and telling of how he had carried up the white round stones in his pocket from the beach, away out the cliffs to the well. He had probably been paying a visit arranging with my father, Martin Hurley, about the transport of building materials by lorry from Youghal. Pony and cart would have been necessary to convey these out to the well.
William Harris of Ardmore Hotel owned the land around the well and J.P. got ready permission from him to go ahead with the work; he too of course was a Limerick man. J.P. did all the actual work himself, deepening the channel leading from the well, lining it and the well with white rounded stones and the building of the edifice now surmounting the well. He had ready local helpers in quarrying out the stones nearby. Among them were Johnny Fitzgerald, Jack Hurley, Jimmie Flynn of Dysert, Jack O'Brien, Jimmy & Tommie Moloney, Main Street. He planted rose trees all around and planned to have the whole surmounted by a Star of the Sea. He was to get an axle of a cart wheel from Tommie Moloney in the local forge, embed it in the wall and the wheel would revolve and be lighted at night. Tommie Moloney has memories of J.P. working away at his project, humming to himself all the time.
The story is told that one day the members of the work force were partaking of refreshments some of which were alcoholic in content when a "nosy" neighbour passed by and went and reported to Fr. Galvin the parish priest, who promptly withdrew his approval and the whole project came to an end. This may or may not be one hundred percent true, but I gather his interest was rather lukewarm in any case, and that he thought one well, St. Declans, was quite enough for all.
The finished building over the well, still stands strong, as a child it always reminded me of a Red Indian Chief. A breast high stonewall surrounds it and there is an overflow from the well, to a lower small trough, where animals can come for water, to facilitate the landowner no doubt. The rambler roses and other plants set around survived in this unlikely environment for quite a few years.
Fr. O'Donnell's Well
J.P. (James Patrick) Rahilly was born about 1870. He married Annie Hartigan about 1894 and they had ten children. J.P. was an interesting character, a committed Redmondite and strong in his belief in the rights of small nations, and on this basis, was a recruiting sergeant for the British Army in World War One, in which his brother and two of his sons fought. On one occasion, at a recruiting meeting, when asked about the relationship between the Kaiser and the King, J.P. replied "We'll leave family matters out of this". He had a public house in Ballysheedy outside Limerick and his wife owned one, a few miles away, the "One Horn". The one in Ballysheedy is gone completely, the building of the "One Horn" still stands but not in a very good condition J.P.'s beliefs were not popular in the very early twenties and he was being harassed by the newer generation of freedom fighters, so quite suddenly he closed the public house of his own accord, to spare the others the trouble.
He seems to have been a most talented man, a gifted sign-writer and artist, he painted and decorated the local church at Raheen, decorated the altars for big events, and when the PP died lined his grave with moss and flowers. He cycled to Lisdoonvarna every year for his holidays and was kept in the guesthouse free of charge after the time allotted, because of his gifts as a Pianist. He also wrote poetry and contributed articles to the Limerick Leader.
Acknowledgement: Sincere thanks are offered to Mr. Kevin Hannon, Consultant Editor of the Limerick Journal and to Mrs Maureen Gormally, granddaughter of J.P. Rahilly for their assistance in researching this article.
St. Declans's Home, Ardmore
J.P. Rahilly - Ballysheedy, Limerick, 7/10/28.
Scanned by: Kathleen Paton