A very successful walk took place to St Dympna’s Well, Tydavnet, on Sunday 12th May, in advance of her feast day on 15th May. The walk was a leisurely stroll from Killylough to the well site, and the weather was very favourable for the trek. This year there were visitors to the well from Counties Monaghan, Down, Tyrone, Cavan and Louth, many making the pilgrimage for the first time, and it was especially lovely to see so many children enjoying the walk. There was no religious ceremony at the well, just the opportunity for people to lose themselves in their thoughts, and to experience the peace and beauty of the rural heritage site with sacred, religious, archaeological and biodiversity significance. Thanks to the landowners, the Williams and Bennett families, and to Xavier Murray and Martin Murphy for facilitating parking for the event. For anyone who missed the walk, water from the well is usually available in Tydavnet Chapel, in a blue barrel under the gallery steps.
It is believed that Saint Dympna was born in Clogher, Co Tyrone, during the 7th Century. Her life was first recorded in the thirteen century and was based on a longstanding oral history. While Dympna’s mother was a devout Christian her father, Damon, who was a king, in the area of Oriel (what is now Louth, Armagh and Monaghan) was a pagan. Dymphna became a Christian. Apparently her mother was extraordinarily beautiful and died when Dympna was only 14 years old. Her father loved her mother so much that after she died his mental health deteriorated rapidly. He eventually decided to remarry and wished to marry a woman that resembled his wife, but could not find such a woman. Because his daughter resembled her mother so much Damon developed a desire to marry her. On finding out about this, Dympna fled Ireland along with her confessor Father Gerbernus and two servants. They travelled to what is now North East Belgium and took refuge in the town of Gheel beside the chapel of Saint Martin. Her hiding place was eventually discovered by Damon who travelled to the town to entice her to return to Oriel. She refused to return, so he had Father Gerbernus killed and he cut Dympna’s head off. She was 15 years old at the time. Their bodies were entombed in a cave and when found later the remains of St Dympna was buried in the church in Gheel while the remains of St. Gerebernus were transferred to Xanten in North West Germany. Numerous accounts of cures associated with her in the early 17th Century have been recorded. Her feast day is celebrated on the 15th of May. She has been invoked as patroness against anxiety, depression and mental illness.