4.5 St Columb’s Well

st Columbas well Alan Sproull

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.

 

getting there

As you head back towards the city walls from the Long Tower Church, take a left turn off Bishops Street Without - just before the walls - on to Nailor Street.

Either follow Nailors’ Row to the bottom of the hill and turn right along Leckey Road or walk across the ‘bankings’ - the grassy area below the city walls - towards a row of white houses on the near side of the main road.

The well is among these houses, on the row called St Columb’s Wells.


 
   
  • Guild Hall, Derry, Port na Long.
     

    4.1 Guild Hall Square, Port na Long.

    In the medieval city, Guild Hall Square was ‘Port na Long - ‘the port of the ships’ on the banks of the Foyle. This is was a main approach to medieval city.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs
     

    4.2 St Augustine's Church

    St Augustines may well be the site of Derry’s Columban monastery founded in the late 6th century.

  • Áras Cholmcille
     

    4.3 Áras Cholmcille

    Áras Cholmcille – the St Columba Heritage Centre – is in the grounds of the Long Tower church. It is an ideal place to get an overview of the stories of Colmcille, patron of the city.

  • Long Tower Church
     

    4.4 Long Tower Church

    This Catholic church was built near two important Christian landmarks in Derry. The round tower of Derry’s monastery was near here until the 17th century and gives the Long Tower Church its name.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs
     

    4.5 St Columb’s Well

    This holy well is the focus for a celebration on 9 June - Colmcille’s feast day.

  • Kilmory Knap Chapel carved graveslabs
     

    4.6 St Columb’s Cathedral

    St Columb’s Church of Ireland cathedral was built between 1628 and 1633. Despite the long history of settlement here, this is Derry’s oldest surviving building.