Keeper of Tubrid Well & Shrine

James O’Sullivan keeper of Tubrid Well Shrine near Millstreet, Co Cork

I caretake it. I inherited a responsibility, an obligation from my father, who inherited it from his father, and I will pass it along to my son Matthew as well. I come from farming stock, and we always take our responsibilities seriously. We didn’t have a whole lot, but what we did we looked after. And I see this as my duty – to look after this well the same way my father did.

Around the well there are rosary beads, and then there’s a crucifix at the end of that. So people come down and they do the rounds. The usual thing is to go around three times. There are people down there, I am not joking you, every hour of every day. The month of May being the month of Mary, that’s when people go there in their droves. And I mean at any one time on a Sunday afternoon, there could be 300 people, 400 people there. You might think maybe it was only the elderly people that go there, and sure enough they do go there. But there are younger people as well. I see a lot of people in their 20s.

And I have found out that as we go deeper and deeper into the recession, there are more and more people coming. People come there for the solace, and the quietness. People are coming there for peace of mind. People find some strength down there. If they come with worries maybe their worries are lessened; they see things differently. If I was to say it in a nutshell, people are looking for hope. And I think they get it down there. We all go back to our roots eventually.

Money worries I think can lead on to other worries within a house. It can show cracks in a relationship. When I was growing up we had very, very little. But we were very, very happy. People now have a hundred times more than what I had, and people are deeply unhappy. Bitterly unhappy. People are finding out that happiness does not come with material things. It’s nice to have a big screen TV and things like that, but if one hasn’t, it’s not the end of the world, you know?

If you go down there, you’ll see there are walking sticks. They’re left there by people who credit Tubrid Holy Well with cures. People who had walking sticks, who needed walking sticks. I’ve taken sticks away from it and I have them here because they were getting weather-beaten over the years. So I just left two. I’m not saying that there have been cures there, but I do know people believe there have. That’s the belief that people have.

The above is part of an article in the Sunday Tribune about the caretakers of Shrines and Grottos around the countryside.

5 thoughts on “Keeper of Tubrid Well & Shrine”

  1. I was very touched by James’ account of Tubrid well. I always found a place of unique quiet and peace, a treasure for any community. As it is it is greatly treasured within and far beyond the local community.
    We all owe a very special debt of appreciation and thanks to James and his caring family. What a lovely tradition for any family.
    God bless you and your family.
    Email: Br Vincent

  2. When speaking with James (O’Sullivan) I discovered that the “Sunday Tribune” photographer who took the very fine image of Tubrid Holy Well which includes James and members of the Tubrid Well Committee (Bina, Joan and Liam), was the national award winning superb Photographer of the Year, Mark Condren who originally took many wonderful pictures in the Millstreet area when he worked for “The Corkman”. One may recall seeing Mark on the “Late Late Show” some months ago with his amazing Flood in the West of Ireland picture which showed a gentleman wading in the water near his flooded home. More information on Mark on

  3. This photo brings back fond memories of my youth, when every year in the month of May we would journey the three miles to Tubber to “Make the rounds,” and to pray at the adjacent shrine of the Virgin Mary. We used to go there in the donkey and car; my mother would pile us all in, big and small, for the three mile journey to Millstreet Usually, when we got there, we would untackle the donkey, and then retie him to the wheel of the cart with a length of rope, giving him ample range to munch on the rich grass that grew nearby. Then we would be free to do our rounds of the holy well which always ended with a cup of its healing waters. Afterwards, we would often lie on a blanket in the soft grass, while my mother portioned out the hot tea and the fine fresh curny scones. All too soon it would be time to tackle up the donkey and head for home.

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