ROE Valley residents are convinced of the healing properties of the ‘wart-well’ on the path to the Priory in Dungiven.
Last month, the Sentinel ran a special feature on the traditions and superstitions surrounding the well and how those afflicted with warts and other skin conditions frequently travel to the well for a cure.
A regular Sentinel reader, Josie Logue from Ballykelly felt moved to speak out in support of the healing properties of the well – and to give his account of how quickly his own skin condition cleared up after a visit around thirty years ago.
“I wouldn’t be a believer in that sort of thing myself”, he said, “but around 30 years ago somebody told me about it. I had a whole load of wee small warts on my hand, and they had turned hard as steel because of spade work.
“They were serious enough for me to go to the doctor about it a few times – real wee tough ones. Somebody told me to go up to the wart well, and reluctantly and with no expectation that it was going to work, up I went.
“I rubbed it with a bit of the water and I tied the rag to the branch – there weren’t many other ones like there were in the photograph in the paper – it wasn’t very popular in them days.
“The next thing you knew, very quickly, they were gone altogether. It was in the space of about four or five days. I would have been expecting there to be scars where they were on my hand, but nothing at all. No warts ever came back. My hands are as clear as crystal.
“There was another girl I remember from Ballykelly. She had a lot of them all over the top of her hands – wee small ones. She didn’t like them, being a girl, and you would have always seen her with the sleeves pulled down. I never seen so many small ones all over. I told her to go up, and then the next time I seen her the things where gone altogether.”
In the original article about the wart well last month, the Sentinel questioned the wisdom of using rags made from nylon to carry out the healing process. The local belief is that the afflicted should wash their skin using a rag soaked in water from the wart well, as Mr Logue explained he had done. This piece of cloth is then tied and hung on the trees surrounding the well and, as the rag rots and disintegrates, so too does the wart, verruca or other affliction of the skin.
A problem with the superstitious custom, which is thought to pre-date the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, seems to have arisen in recent years with the widespread use of synthetic fibres.
Synthetic fibres can sometimes be expected to last anywhere up to one thousand years before decomposing naturally. The Sentinel posed the question last month – does this mean that the numerous people seeking the curative powers of the well will be disappointed as they await the decomposition of their nylon rag?
There were no such problems for Josie Logue, however, who was sure not to use a piece of synthetic cloth. He is adamant the wart well works: “It was unbelievable and a great help to me. It was uncomfortable for me doing spade work with them wee hard black warts. I didn’t believe in it at all. It worked fantastic – it is beyond belief and really true. I’ve been telling people this and I am sure most of them didn’t believe me – but it works.”
Other advocates of the wart well’s healing powers include Fionnuala O’Kane from Dungiven, who told the Sentinel: “It definitely does work - my mammy has been to the wart well and so has wee Cora and it definitely does heal the warts. They used a hanky though and the wart went away quite quickly!”