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TITLE
Healing Wells and Springs in the Highlands & Islands (1 of 3)
EXTERNAL ID
PC_DONALD_CLOOTIEWELL_A
PLACENAME
Munlochy
DISTRICT
Avoch
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Knockbain
SOURCE
Janine Donald
ASSET ID
22340
KEYWORDS
wells
wishing wells
rituals
rites
trees
folklore
Healing Wells and Springs in the Highlands & Islands (1 of 3)

Below is a list of some of the springs, lochs and wells in the Highlands and Islands which were, and for some still are, believed to have the power to heal. (The image is of the 'Clootie Well' in Munlochy on the Black Isle.)

There are many more wells which have local superstitions attached to them. "The Records of the Meeting of the Exercise of Alford" (New Spalding Club, 1847 p. 415) mentions six hundred wells in Scotland. Many were not "holy" or healing wells. Some were thought to control the weather and some were even "cursing" wells.

Well worship goes back to the time of the earl Celts but the Scottish Church was very much against it, so much so, that it was prohibited by the Kirk Session in the seventeenth century. It was ordained that "Whosoever shall be found guiltie of the premises that they mak ther publick repent-ance in sack cloth befor the congregaône" (Northern Notes and Queries vol IV 1890 pp. 27-8)


CAITHNESS

LOCH CALDER is situated five miles south west of Thurso. A spring at the north-west end of the loch has a reputation for curing many diseases. There are a number of springs, some of which are chalybeate, which means rich in iron, and it is not clear which one it is:
Achlibster Well
Bannerman's Well
Tobhar an Loin

DUNNET - Halie Loch. The custom at this loch was for the patient to throw a coin in the water and to walk or be carried anti-clockwise round it. If the patient was not cured it was blamed on lack of faith. If health improved credit was given to the healing power of the loch.

DUNNET - Loch Heilen (loch of healing). Situated south of Dunnet, this loch had a reputation for miraculous cures until the mid nineteenth century. The ritual was to bathe in the loch before sunrise and throw in a silver coin.

DUNNET - St John's Loch. At this loch, north of Dunnet, the ritual was similar to Loch Heilan. The healing power of the water was attributed to the saint whose chapel was at the far end of the loch. The Rev. Thomas Jolly in his account of the parish in the New Statistical Account was of the opinion that "Hypochondriacs and nervous people may sometimes feel better for this: but those seriously ill are of course worse for it and die occasionally on the road." He concludes, "I do not think it does much good to the people of the parish; it seem most efficacious to those at a distance."


INVERNESS-SHIRE

ABRIACHAN - Holed, or Font Stone. This well consisted of a flat boulder with a deep hole in the centre which is always filled with water. St. Columba is supposed to have a baptised King Brude here. The water is said to be good for pregnant women.

ARDERSIER - Cambelltown. The well is on the shore, covered by high tide, and said to cure whooping cough

ARDNAMURCHAN - Swordle (in NSA Suerdal Charrach). A shallow cavity in a cave, on the north shore of Ardnamurchan, fills itself when emptied. Visited by sick people for the recovery of health. The visitor would drink the water and leave an offering of little value -a coin, a pin, a button.

BUNCHREW - Fuaran a'Chladaich (well on the beach). The well is on the shore, three miles west of Inverness. It bubbles even when covered by the tide and was once enclosed by a causeway to allow access. The water was thought to keep cholera away.

CLACHNAHARRY - Fuaran Allt an Ionnaid (well of the washing burn).This well is situated just to the west of Inverness. It was especially purported to cure skin diseases. The patient was supposed to wash in the nearby burn then drink from the well but it lost this power when a woman immersed her child, which had scurvy, in the well upsetting the associated deity. It was also known to cure gout and rheumatism. In 1650 the Marquis of Montrose, captured at the battle of Carbisdale was allowed to drink from the well on his way to execution in Edinburgh.

FUARAN PRISEAG - (precious spring) Situated over the railway bridge at Clachnaharry on the left side of the road, this well was supposed to have been blessed by St. Kessog and to have the power to cure sore and weak eyes. If a silver coin was put in the well before drinking the water it gave protection from the evil eye. A daily drink kept demons away.

CULLODEN - St Mary's Well. Also known as the Tobhar Ghorm (blue well), Tobar na h'oige (well of youth) and Culloden Wishing Well, this famous well is situated four miles east of Inverness in Culloden Woods. It once had a roofed building, seats and a caretaker com priestess but now only the circular walls remain. Thousands of people right up until the sixties used to make their way to the well on the first Sunday in May to throw in a coin and make a wish. It also has a reputation as a healing well. The ceremony should be carried out before sunrise. The well is circled three times, a coin is thrown in, the patient drinks the water and a piece of cloth is torn from the patient's clothing, dipped in the water and then tied it to a nearby branch, hence the name "clootie" well. The cloth must be of natural fibre so that it will rot away taking the ailment with it. Anyone who removes the cloth transfers the ailment to himself.

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Healing Wells and Springs in the Highlands & Islands (1 of 3)

ROSS: Knockbain

wells; wishing wells; rituals; rites; trees; folklore

Janine Donald

Below is a list of some of the springs, lochs and wells in the Highlands and Islands which were, and for some still are, believed to have the power to heal. (The image is of the 'Clootie Well' in Munlochy on the Black Isle.)<br /> <br /> There are many more wells which have local superstitions attached to them. "The Records of the Meeting of the Exercise of Alford" (New Spalding Club, 1847 p. 415) mentions six hundred wells in Scotland. Many were not "holy" or healing wells. Some were thought to control the weather and some were even "cursing" wells. <br /> <br /> Well worship goes back to the time of the earl Celts but the Scottish Church was very much against it, so much so, that it was prohibited by the Kirk Session in the seventeenth century. It was ordained that "Whosoever shall be found guiltie of the premises that they mak ther publick repent-ance in sack cloth befor the congregaône" (Northern Notes and Queries vol IV 1890 pp. 27-8)<br /> <br /> <br /> CAITHNESS<br /> <br /> LOCH CALDER is situated five miles south west of Thurso. A spring at the north-west end of the loch has a reputation for curing many diseases. There are a number of springs, some of which are chalybeate, which means rich in iron, and it is not clear which one it is:<br /> Achlibster Well<br /> Bannerman's Well<br /> Tobhar an Loin<br /> <br /> DUNNET - Halie Loch. The custom at this loch was for the patient to throw a coin in the water and to walk or be carried anti-clockwise round it. If the patient was not cured it was blamed on lack of faith. If health improved credit was given to the healing power of the loch.<br /> <br /> DUNNET - Loch Heilen (loch of healing). Situated south of Dunnet, this loch had a reputation for miraculous cures until the mid nineteenth century. The ritual was to bathe in the loch before sunrise and throw in a silver coin.<br /> <br /> DUNNET - St John's Loch. At this loch, north of Dunnet, the ritual was similar to Loch Heilan. The healing power of the water was attributed to the saint whose chapel was at the far end of the loch. The Rev. Thomas Jolly in his account of the parish in the New Statistical Account was of the opinion that "Hypochondriacs and nervous people may sometimes feel better for this: but those seriously ill are of course worse for it and die occasionally on the road." He concludes, "I do not think it does much good to the people of the parish; it seem most efficacious to those at a distance."<br /> <br /> <br /> INVERNESS-SHIRE<br /> <br /> ABRIACHAN - Holed, or Font Stone. This well consisted of a flat boulder with a deep hole in the centre which is always filled with water. St. Columba is supposed to have a baptised King Brude here. The water is said to be good for pregnant women.<br /> <br /> ARDERSIER - Cambelltown. The well is on the shore, covered by high tide, and said to cure whooping cough<br /> <br /> ARDNAMURCHAN - Swordle (in NSA Suerdal Charrach). A shallow cavity in a cave, on the north shore of Ardnamurchan, fills itself when emptied. Visited by sick people for the recovery of health. The visitor would drink the water and leave an offering of little value -a coin, a pin, a button.<br /> <br /> BUNCHREW - Fuaran a'Chladaich (well on the beach). The well is on the shore, three miles west of Inverness. It bubbles even when covered by the tide and was once enclosed by a causeway to allow access. The water was thought to keep cholera away.<br /> <br /> CLACHNAHARRY - Fuaran Allt an Ionnaid (well of the washing burn).This well is situated just to the west of Inverness. It was especially purported to cure skin diseases. The patient was supposed to wash in the nearby burn then drink from the well but it lost this power when a woman immersed her child, which had scurvy, in the well upsetting the associated deity. It was also known to cure gout and rheumatism. In 1650 the Marquis of Montrose, captured at the battle of Carbisdale was allowed to drink from the well on his way to execution in Edinburgh.<br /> <br /> FUARAN PRISEAG - (precious spring) Situated over the railway bridge at Clachnaharry on the left side of the road, this well was supposed to have been blessed by St. Kessog and to have the power to cure sore and weak eyes. If a silver coin was put in the well before drinking the water it gave protection from the evil eye. A daily drink kept demons away.<br /> <br /> CULLODEN - St Mary's Well. Also known as the Tobhar Ghorm (blue well), Tobar na h'oige (well of youth) and Culloden Wishing Well, this famous well is situated four miles east of Inverness in Culloden Woods. It once had a roofed building, seats and a caretaker com priestess but now only the circular walls remain. Thousands of people right up until the sixties used to make their way to the well on the first Sunday in May to throw in a coin and make a wish. It also has a reputation as a healing well. The ceremony should be carried out before sunrise. The well is circled three times, a coin is thrown in, the patient drinks the water and a piece of cloth is torn from the patient's clothing, dipped in the water and then tied it to a nearby branch, hence the name "clootie" well. The cloth must be of natural fibre so that it will rot away taking the ailment with it. Anyone who removes the cloth transfers the ailment to himself.