A Holy Well

On the north side of Lough Neagh there is still a holy well of great power and sanctity. Three ancient white-thorn trees overshadow it, and about a mile distant is the fragmentary ruin of a wooden cross, erected in the olden time to mark the limit of the sacred ground.

It was the custom up to a recent date for the pilgrims to go round this well thirteen times barefoot on the 27th of June, drink of the water, wash in it, and then, holding themselves freed from all past sin, return to the old worldly life, and begin again after the usual fashion the old routine of business or pleasure, or reckless folly, conscious that they could come once more the following year and clear off all the accumulated stains of an ill life by a lavation in the holy well.

A number of yellow crystals are found near, which the people say grow in the rocks in one night upon Midsummer Eve. And these crystals have power to avert all evil and bring luck and blessing to a house and family, and certain words are said while gathering them, known only to the adepts. The crystals are, however, very plentiful, and are found scattered for a space of two miles round the well, and in the crannies of the rocks. When burned in a crucible they become pure lime in one hour, and the powder ferments with spirits of vitriol; yet the waters of the well when analyzed present no appearance of lime.

At one time an effort was made to change the name of Lough Neagh to Lough Chichester, in honour of the Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, but the Irish would not accept the new baptism, and the old name still remains unchanged.