Saturday 7 December 2019

All set to mark the Feast Day of Saint Fanahan

On Monday next, November 25, the local Feast Day will be celebrated.

It is the Feast Day of St Fanahan.

Over the nine days prior to the Feast Day, many people make their way to the Well in Mulberry, where the Rosary is celebrated. There is a lot of history attached to the well. Legend has it that the Well was originally in Brigown but is supposed to have moved after a woman washed clothes in the Well.

In olden days the Well used to attract hundreds of pilgrims, some of whom used to spend an all-night vigil at the shrine.

The name Brigown - or Spre (Little Red Sod) and Gúna (gown) - has an intimate association with St Fanahan. When the saint first arrived he visited a local household, where he obtained a re hotsod of turf (spre) to kindle his fire, and he carried it in a fold of his gown (gúna) back to the place where he founded his monastery.

The Well is approached along a beautiful tree-lined pathway through the fields and is several hundred yards in length. These trees are of several varieties and it is said they have never grown larger in living memory.

Surrounding the Well is a circular path that the pilgrims walk around three times as they say the rosary - having first dipped their beads in the waters.

There is also an imposing stone monument erected beside the Well, dedicated to the living and the dead.

The older people of the countryside held St Fanahan in very high regard and observed his Feast Day in a most strict manner. No unnecessary outdoor work was done, and even indoor occupations such as baking or knitting were taboo. In fact the Ever of St Fanahan was a day of abstinence, and many local people still abstain from meat on November 24.

A bottle containing water from St Fanahan's Well was a regular feature on the bedside table, especially for the dying.

One of the best-known legends about the Well deals with the eel which is said to be at the bottom of it.

If you see him dart out from the side and move in the sign of the cross, your prayers will be heard - if your faith is strong enough.

Other legends maintain that the eel is frequently seen at night as he is attracted by a beam of light directed into the depths of the water.

The Well is also supposed to contain a trout, and it is considered a great privilege to see him. The Well itself contains spring water, which is not the usual home of either the eel or trout.

To many, the eel represents St Fanahan and the trout represents the Blessed Virgin.

The origin of St Fanahan's Stone is shrouded in mystery.

Unlike the Well it has remained in Brigown and can be seen today lying in the bed of the stream beside the local bridge.

It is circular in shape and is approximately four feet in diameter, with a small hole in the centre.

It is common still for children on their way to school to stop here and dip their hands into the water in the hole in the stone as a cure for warts and other skin ailments.

Legend has it that the builders tried on three occasions to fit the stone into the bridge, but each time it fell out.

Although St Fanahan's name does not appear in the calender of Saints, the people of Mitchelstown and district make no secret of their love and affection for him.

And on November 25, when all have duly honoured him at his shrine, the young will enjoy themselves at the fun fair and old friends will meet to talk of yesteryear.

It is a time of re-renewing old friendships and making new ones.

The Well path and surrounds are now electrically lit from 4pm to 12 midnight each day.

There will be Rosary on Sunday, November 24, at 3pm.

The Rosary will also be recited on St Fanahan's Day at 3pm.