St Michael’s Holy Well or Tobar Mhichil is named after the island’s patron saint, Saint Michael. Local folklore recounts that a blind sailor had his sight restored at the well. Legend recalls that the sailor, who had lost his sight at sea dreamed that he would regain it when his ship reached land again. The ship arrived in Berehaven and when the sailor described the place he had seen in his dream, locals led him to the well on the Bere Island. On washing his eyes in its water his sight was restored. The well is still associated with helping those with sight problems.
Devotions or a pattern were held there annually on the nearest Sunday to his feast day, September 29th. This day was known locally as ‘Mountain Day’ and was an occasion of feasting, dancing and celebration. However, it was stopped by a Fr Sheehy who was concerned the event was becoming a rowdy affair. Islanders still visit the well on September 29th.
Schools Folklore Commission
In the Schools’ Folklore commission of 1937, islander Mary C Sullivan wrote:
“There is a holy well situated on the north side of Ballinakilla Hill and called St Michael’s well. The people who still visit the well do certain rounds and at the same time say certain prayers. There are white pebbles to be found in front of the well and those people who visit the well take ten of these pebbles and at every round drop a pebble. The prayers they saw are the one decade of the rosary at every round. The people do not drink that water or use it otherwise. There is a small bush beside the well and the visitors leave some relic beside it.”
The well can be accessed via the Holy Year Cross Loop walk, and is sign posted. Call into the Bere Island Heritage Centre for directions.