The Old Man of the Holy Well

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Where: Sligo, Ireland

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When: Unknown

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If ever there was a photograph of a man taking his ease in beautiful surroundings this must be it. A holy well in Sligo from the Eason collection.

Well done to B-59 for identifying the location just ahead of Niall McAuley , this is the Tobernalt holy well near to Sligo, Co Sligo.

The derivation and meaning of the word "Tobernalt" is uncertain and is open to interpretation. It is an Anglicisation of an Irish phrase, but the uncertainty stems from which actual Irish phrase the name derives from.

Eamonn Boylan holds that the name is more likely to mean the "Well in the Cliff" (Tobar san Aill). This would make sense as the stream comes down through a cleft in the mountain immediately behind the well. This can be clearly seen in the photos section.

However, others believe that the name may mean "Well of the Insane" (Tobar na nGealt). This interpretation may be given some credence as the Cistercians used the nearby Cottage Island as an asylum for the lepers and insane in medieval times. It's almost certain that these people would have rowed the short distance across the lake to visit the Holy Well in search of a cure.

Above details from

Photographer: Unknown

Collection: Eason Photographic Collection

Date: between ca. 1900-1939

NLI Ref: EAS_3396

You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at


Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 28871
eason easonson easoncollection easonphotographiccollection glassnegative nationallibraryofireland well holywell ligdoscíth countysligo tobernalt carraroe connaught wellinthecliff tobarsanaill welloftheinsane tobarnangealt cistercians cottageisland asylum lepers insane eamonnboylan locationidentified 20thcentury

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