When the pilgrims came to Oylegate

By Dan Walsh

Many years ago I picked up a booklet called Through the Garden of Ireland for the 1915 season and it described itself as “the official handbook of the Dublin and South-Eastern Railway” and I came across an amazing description of miraculous events occurring at St. David’s Well at Ballinaslaney, Oylegate. Earlier today I visited St David’s Well which is still splendidly maintained although the pilgrims no longer arrive in huge numbers, but the few that believe in what was once described as The Lourdes of Ireland.

The link with the railway is interesting. Soon after the reopening of the Well in August 1908 daily excursions from different parts of Ireland were a regular occurrence. I assume they alighted at Edermine Station and walked the rest of the way. No mention of ending the excursion at Macmine Junction and taking them across the River Slaney by boat, but I could imagine the skilled boatmen from the local fishery would be enterprising in this regard!

At this time a local committee was formed, a piece of ground was fenced and a wash house was erected. A local man called O’Leary presented a statue of St. David that is keeping watch there today.

News of miracles at Oylegate began to spread. The records are there. The first noteworthy cure was a young girl suffering from “some sot of ingrowth in the head”. An operation was suggested, but the parents declined and took her to the Well instead! After several visits she recovered her health.

ST. DAVID’S WELL near Oylegate. A place of pilgrimage for generations and still revered by many today.

A man with rheumatism got well. A woman from the Wexford Union who could not walk for 30 years and had to be carried to the Well regained her composure and carried on in her stride.

A young Dublin woman with a deformed foot and compelled to wear a 4-inch surgical to make up the shortage of her limb visited the Well several times and was enabled to dispense with the boot altogether.

The scene around St. David’s Well was once surrounded by abandoned crutches and walking sticks, a token of cures, surgical steel boots etc.! Stories about the restoration of sight after the medical profession had given up are long associated with the Well.

Today, the scene is tranquil. The grass is neatly mown and seating is provided. It is a place of quiet reflection in the footsteps of generations of belief and prayer that brought so much comfort and no doubt there are many who quietly asked St. David to save us all from the battle with Covid-19.    

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