This holy well is the focus for a celebration on 9 June – Colmcille’s feast day. A procession comes down the hill from the Long Tower Church and the well is blessed – the priest asking for protection for the followers of St Columba who ‘walk where he walked, and pray where he prayed’. People fill bottles with the water to take home. The water is said to cure disease – particularly of the eyes.
According to Manus O’Donnell’s Life, a child was brought to Colmcille to be baptised but there was no water nearby so the saint made the sign of the cross over the stone and water came out of it.
The origin of the name Derry is the Irish word doire meaning oak grove. On June 9th the well is decorated with oak leaves and pilgrims wear an oak leaf on their clothes.
In medieval times there were three wells here dedicated to St Colmcille, St Adhamhnán (a successor to Colmcille as Abbot of Iona and his biographer), and St Martin of Tours. A bullaun stone which once stood here can be seen at the Long Tower Church.
The decorative pump dates from 1897. At the time it was the main water supply for the houses which once lay on this slope under the city walls.
The well is among a row of single-storey houses called St Columb’s Wells. It can be reached via a long flight of steps at the side of Áras Cholmcille. Visitors can also go to the well via Fahan Street through Butchers’ Gate on Magazine Street. You can also go back via Fahan street and the Butchers’ Gate to St Columb’s Cathedral or to return to the starting point of the trail.
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