Cnoc An Tobair - The Hill Of The Well
Many believe that this place was the location of a pagan earth fertility rite site. This was a view held by the late Professor Brian O’Kelly of UCC. Such rites were considered very important in pre-Christian times. The hilltop location and orientation of the monuments help to support this theory. With the coming of Christianity the site was Christianised.
Cnoc an Tobair is 590 feet above sea level, overlooking Lissarda. As the name suggests, it literally means Hill of the Well. In the townland of Ballymichael, the well itself is located on the north west of the hill, in an area of scrubland, thin soil and rocky outcrops. The immediate surrounding landscape is of fertile agricultural land and Cnoc an Tobair is unique within this landscape as a small area of virtually unspoilt nature reserve. Tobair Muire translates as Mary’s Well and is therefore associated with the Blessed Virgin. The well’s construction is a corbelled dome which covers a natural spring in a sandstone outcrop. The dome of the well is constructed with large sandstones and intermingled with these slabs are small quartz like stones and pebbles which are regularly found at ancient sacred sites. A large quartz like boulder is used as the boulder on a burial site just south-west of where we now stand in the same townland of Ballymichael. Another Boulder Burial and radial stones are sited to south of us in the townland of Clomacow. The traditional feast day associated with this holy well is the 8th September, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin. In previous decades, this day was marked by a constant stream of pilgrims from morning until late evening, making their way from several directions through the surrounding fields to do the ’rounds’. Many people travelled long distances, many arriving by train at Crookstown and Duniskey stations, to pray the rounds on Cnoc an Tobair.
These Christian “rounds” have been performed on this hill since early times. Its Pattern days were September 8th and the following Sunday. The site has been held as being very important and sacred by generations of people from the surrounding districts and beyond. Tradition tells us that Saint Finbarr was baptised there, brought here from his birth place at Garranes in nearby Templemartin. Considering St. Finbarr was born c. 550, we are talking about a site already in existence 1500 years ago.