The Rock of Doon

In County Donegal, north of Letterkenny and just a few miles from Kilmacrennan on the road from Letterkenny to Creeslough stands the celebrated Rock of Doon, the only national assembly place for miles around.

Here, for many centuries, the clansmen of Tyrconnell assembled when an O’Donnell was to be crowned chief.   The last of the O’Donnells to be inaugurated here was Nial Garvh O’Donnell in 1603 – He was a cousin of the more famous Red Hugh.

Tobar an Duin

At the foot of this rocky hillock is Tobar an Duin or Doon Well, with its extraordinary collection of pieces of cloth, bandages, rosary beads, medals, crutches and sticks. All in evidence of the healing power of this holy spring with its iron flavoured water.

Down the dusty centuries, pilgrims have continued to kneel and pray here and perform the traditional stations – some travelling from afar.   In olden times, it was generally believed by the native Irish, that Heaven could only be gained by prayer and penance. No matter what religion you are, one cannot be moved at the faith of these simple but sincere people.   How many people have been healed here?  One will never know, but I have been told personally of the great peace of mind and comfort, a  visit to this holy well brings to them.

In the days when the county had a railway network, trainloads of pilgrims from all over the north-west used to go to Doon Well every Sunday, right through the summer months.

As to be expected there are no special pilgrimages to the well these days but it is still very popular on New Year’s Eve.

Blessed Well

Pilgrims would pour the well water onto their body to cure them of their ailments

Its early history is also shrouded in mist, all we know that this well was blessed many centuries ago by a 15th-century wandering friar named Lector O’Friel.

The word ‘lector’ is an old term for professor. Elusive as the facts are about his life, he had wonderful properties as a healer and these powers continue to be passed on through the water. Tradition has it that shortly before he died, he said, ‘When I die my powers will live after me.’ And they appear to have done just that. Locals will tell you that the water from Doon Well that there nothing it cannot cure.

Bottles of Doon’s well holy water have found their way to many Donegal immigrants all over the world.  The history of most of our holy wells go back to the dawn of Christianity but Doon Well doesn’t go back that far but it is by far the most frequented Holy Well in the entire county.

 

J.J.Tohill

Photos © Chris Gunns (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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