Toberara Holy Well & Graveyard

Graves at Tubberrarra Graveyard in Kildare, Ireland

Tubberarra (Toberara, Tuberara, Tobbera or Toberrara)

Toberara Well is located on the banks of the river Barrow, just north of Athy in Co. Kildare. St. John is the patron saint and his feast day is 24h June on which a pattern used to take place. Its name in Irish is Tobar-Bhearbha, or ‘Well on the Barrow’. The well is off the beaten track, in a rectangle of old walls. There is an ancient graveyard on the site, with still tended graves. There is also the remains of a monastery. This sacred site has remained a spiritual space through the centuries manifesting in different ways.

Sara Rowan’s account in Duchas explains that a person would visit the well three times to ask for their petition. Then on the last time they left a ribbon or other offering. People often did this for two reasons. The first being to leave a gift for the spirits or saint to intercede on their behalf. And the second being in the hope that by doing so, you leave your ailment/worry with the offering and the tree or well absorbs it. Sara Rowan in her account describes an ‘ancient ash tree’, and there is still one there to this day, sitting over the well. Ash and Hawthorn trees are the most common trees found at holy wells and the surrounds of Toberara are no different. I often travel up to Tobbera by boat and pay the well and graveyard a visit. If you ever fancy a trip up the Barrow by boat, just get in contact and I’ll try arrange (Preferably winter months). However, you can also visit the site on foot. Start at Bert Bridge, on the eastern back of the Barrow and step over the wall on the southern side (Downstream side). You are stepping into a farmers field so please be mindful of this and show due respect. However, there is an ancient right of way here that is maintained yearly by a walk to the site on June 24th. So you are perfectly ok to head down to the graveyard and well (A little over 500 meters) at any stage of the year. Keep the river Barrow on your righthand side. It can be difficult to find first time but keep an eye out for the Yew trees of the Grave Yard, which stand out from all other trees around, especially in winter. That should help. Failing that, here is the approximate location on Google Maps (Tuberara)

I hope you enjoy your trip to this lovely peaceful spot. Below is a local song about the well and I’ve only ever heard sung twice. I stuck it down here in the hope of helping to ensure its not lost.

 

Toberara

How oft have I stood on the bridge of Athy
And gazed ont those waters, that flow gently by
Oh! how sweetly, how neatly, how gently they go
And its into the Barrow Toberara’s well flows

How oft have I drank out of Toberara’s well
They say in its water there is a great spell
Where the sick and afflicted can cure all their woe
And it’s into the Barrow Toberara’s well flows

How oft have I swam in the Barrow sweet tide
And walked with my thoughts down by Lords Island side
And gazed at the waters so easy and slow
And it’s into the Barrow Toberara’s well flows

So here’s to my home and my exquisite joy
Once again will I stand on the bridge of Athy
And gaze at those waters so gentle below
And it’s into the Barrow Toberara’s well flows

For my heart’s in old Ireland across the blue wave
My heart’s in old Ireland the home of the brave
Tis the home of the brave where the wild shamrock’s grow
And it’s into the Barrow Toberara’s well flows

 

Here is another little blog post of a fishing trip up to Tobbera Grave Yard & Well

Toberara Graveyard & Well on Google Maps

When heading to Tuberara, leave your car at Bert Bridge and head downstream following the river Barrow on your righthand side for a little over 500 meters. This is the path of the old right of way. While the path is not always visible, you can cross the farmers field from the stile at the field gate to the river Barrow itself. Then follow the Barrow downstream till you see the Yew trees of the graveyard. Enjoy!

24th June 2022

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Clifford Reid

Written by Clifford Reid

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