History Holy Wells Home

Children’s burial ground remembered at Tobarmacduagh Holy Well

The refurbishment of Tobermacduagh Holy Well in Drum, near Claremorris, was an opportunity for the local community to remember the unbaptised babies buried there pre-1900 with a plaque alongside the Marian Shrine at the well.

Tobermacduagh Holy Well is situated in Killeen townland in the parish of Drum.

The name is ascribed to Colman-Mac-Duac, who lived at the beginning of the 7th century. Another sister well is located in Kinvara, County Galway and is closely associated with Colman, who gave the name Kilmacduach to the diocese. He was closely related to Guaire, King of Connaught.

Buried at night

Stations of the Cross were performed annually on Good Friday. Pilgrims came and erected tents in this area. Over 100 years ago this tradition ceased and the well fell into disrepair.

In the townland of Killeen was the site of an old Church and burial ground for the unbaptised babies.

It was said that little coffins were brought in the night and the only sign that a burial had taken place was a newly-made grave. This practice stopped around 1900 and cattle were let graze in the area but it was never tilled.

The phrase “Children’s burial ground” refers to an unconsecrated place used primarily, though not exclusively, for the burial of unbaptised children.

When the well was being refurbished it was thought to be appropriate to recognise those who lay here and erect a small memorial to them.

Pictured above is the Marian Shrine at Tobermacduagh Holy Well in Drum. Map: Brian Hoban

Tobermacduagh Holy Well map.
Tobermacduagh Holy Well map.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.