The hill of Faughart stands to the north of Dundalk in county Louth. It was here, according to “The Tain Bo Cuailgne”, that Cu Chuchulainn (The Hound of Culann) single handed defended Ulster against the forces of Queen Meabh of Connacht. Strong tradition tells us that St. Brighid was born in this beautiful historic place, the illegitimate daughter of a Pagan chief, Dubthach (the Dark One) and a Christian bondswoman, Broicsech. Here she spent her early years helping out in the dairy and beginning to give away her father's property to the poor.
The penitential stations have been performed by St. Brighid's Stream for generations. The present shrine (J050127) follows the flow of the stream and dates from the 1930's. It now boasts a modern chapel. Ancient practices such as the veneration of stones, trees, the drinking of water and the leaving of votive offerings are very evident. The shrine has stones that are said to heal ailments of the back, head and knees and another stone which is always wet with water that is used to bless the eyes. At the foot of the stream is a fence and gorse bush festooned with clouties, prayers, rosaries, children's toys... There is a magic about the place and even on a cold weekday in April people were coming to collect the water and leave offerings.
Walking up the hill beyond the shrine and turning right one comes to Faughart Cemetery (J059126) with stunning views of Dundalk Bay. The cemetery is ancient and contains the grave of Edward Bruce (the brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland) who proclaimed himself King of Ireland but died in battle at Faughart in 1318 ce.
The cemetery encloses the ruins of St. Brighid's Chapel and at the foot of the hill lies St. Brighid's Well. It is said that Brighid, herself, drew water here. The well house is well maintained and there are steps down to the well itself and a scoop to draw water. Clouties and votive offerings hang from the trees.
It is this liminal well that for me makes Faughart special. Brighid is here, her presence palpable as I gaze into the waters. It has been well worth the 150 kilometre drive from Kildare.
Kildare Imbolc 2008 Album