Wells on the Isle of Man

Wells on the Isle of Man

Every parish in the Isle of Man had its wells, wells that in the distant past played an important part in the lives of the community. Many of them were sacred and many of them are credited with curative properties.

In Glen Auldyn there is a well called Chibbyr Brott, meaning ‘the broth-well.’ It is said that the people got water there in summer to make their broth, it being much cleaner than the water from the river. Then in the Glione-ny-Killey, the glen above Lezayre Church, is a well called Chibbyr Queg, the ‘well-of-the-five-wishes’, queg being the Manx for five.

On upper Glentrammon is a well called the Chibbyr Bainey, the ‘milk-well’. The people round about came to get the water from this well for churning as it was icy cold, so it made the churning of butter much easier, especially in summer.

On Dreem Ghyll is a well by the road called Chibbyr Varnagh, the ‘well-of-the-gap’, the source of the Narradale stream. As the people went up the Skyhill road from the lowlands to cut turf, this was the last and only spring of clean water on the way so was much used and valued.

Then in a field between the Rullic Road and the Narradale Road was a sacred well called Chibbyr Sliant, the ‘well of health’. The field itself was an ancient burial-ground so this well belonged to the keeil or church. Now the last well called Chibbyr Lanch is the most interesting. In Manx it means ‘a good many’, so we can take it that its water was looked upon as a cure for many complaints, but especially sore eyes.

This well is situated in the west of the parish, near to the boundary of Ballaugh, south of Gob-y-Volley plantation, above Ballacuberagh, roughly a mile from Old Sulby. It consisted of three pools surrounded by large quartz boulders. When this well was in its hey-day most of the houses in the countryside were of the crofter type, low down and thatched with a fire on the hearth, and as the people burned mostly peat, which gave off acrid fumes that inflamed the tear ducts, sore eyes were the order of the day and the women who spent most time in the house were the worst sufferers.

The pilgrimage to this well was made on a Sunday morning as the church bells were rung. This was because this was the only time of the week when people had any leisure. They were for the most part deeply religous and kept the Sabbath holy. They prepared the food for the stock on the Saturday, the cow-houses and stables were left uncleaned until Monday. They only did necessary work like milking and feeding the calves, which could not be avoided. The Sunday dinner was cooked on Saturday and the boots and shoes cleaned ready for chapel or church; and it may be of interest to know that Sunday’s milk was delivered to the towns on Saturday night right up to the beginning of the 20th century. There are even houses in Lezayre parish where the reading of newspapers was forbidden on Sunday, and this as lately as 1919.

The path to this well was at the back of Old Sulby, opposite the woollen mills. The first part was pretty steep, but it became a little easier farther on. When the people got to the well they dipped pieces of cloth in the water and bathed their eyes, walking three times round the pool saying in Manx, “Ayns enymn yn Arr as y Vac as Y Spyrrd Noo.” (In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.) Then they hung their bits of cloth on the bushes that surrounded the well and threw in some coins as a thank-offering.

The coins must have accumulated during the year: two Sulby men decided to rob the well, which they did, and both men became blind before the end of the year. An old man recounted recently that his mother knew both these men; one was a crofter and the other a quarryman. The quarryman was led to the quarry for two years where he sat on the rock, turning the jumper for the blast-holes. Neither man ever recovered his sight. To the people of that time it was retribution for an act of sacrilege so the well would become more sacred than ever.

 


(source: from Legends of a Lifetime (1973) by George E Quayle; photograph is by Sam Hudson and may be Chibbyr Lansh or Chibbyr Geayee)

Bernadette Weyde

Bernadette Weyde

I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.


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  1. Heather R
    Heather R 11 March, 2017, 05:14

    I love your articles! I’m a writer who visited the isle in 2015 for research & can’t wait to go back.
    Thanks for these tidbits, just lovely!

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