A Patron Day. Sketch taken at Ronogue's Well near Cork

Artist(s) : Daniel Maclise (Draughtsman), Daniel Maclise (Engraver)

A view of St. Ronogue's, Renogue's, Rinogue's or Ranogue's well, also known today as St. John's Well, a place of pilgrimage on St. John's Eve. A pool of water in the foreground is approached by various figures, some carrying containers. A man balanced on one leg and a crutch, with two infants in a sling around his neck, is about to dip his other bare leg in the water. Another lame man is drinking from a tankard, while a dog is lapping the water. Behind these figures, whose faces suggest ill-health and poor nutrition, others are kneeling with their backs to the viewer. They are facing a beehive-shaped structure at the entrance to the well, in the middle distance. Beside it is a tree to which strips of cloth have been tied, while in front of it are three figures in ecclesiastical garb. A fight appears to have broken out between two women. On the left, the road winding off into the distance is crowded with further figures coming to the well, some waving sticks and possibly dancing. On the right, on sloping ground a little way off, several tents have been erected.

Inscribed in Image

  • Signature – Drawn & Etched by Daniel Maclise A.R.A.
  • Caption outside of boundaries of image – A Patron Day. Sketch taken at Ronogue's Well near Cork.

Image Details

Genre Genre painting
Technique Etchings
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Manners and customs, Rural life
Geographical Location
  • St Ronogue's Well, Ballinrea, near Carrigaline - Named locality - This well, located in Ballinrea, Carrigaline, is generally known today as St John's Well.
  • Carrigaline - Town or city
  • Cork - County
  • Munster - Province
Keywords(s) Buildings, Children, Crowds, Dance, Doors & Doorways, Folklore, Men, People, Prayer, Shawls, Trees, Wells, Women
Colour Monochrome
Published / created 1836

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account A Tour round Ireland [Barrow]
Note This well is located in Ballinrea, in the townland of Carrigaline West.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has a pen and ink sketch by Maclise, 'said to represent Ronogue's Well near Cork' (F.88:297), which is undoubtedly an image of the well depicted here, but with different, less dramatic figures. Lewis, 1837: under the heading of Carrigaline: 'At Ballinrea there is a mineral spring, which is considered to be of the same kind as that of Tunbridge Wells, and has been found efficacious in cases of debility; and near it is a holy well, dedicated to St. Renogue, which is resorted to by the country people on the 24th of June.'
Maclise has captured the mixed motives and behaviour of this particular 'pattern' day, as described by William Shaw Mason in A statistical account, or parochial survey of Ireland: drawn up from the Communications of the Clergy (London, 1816), speaking of Carrigaline parish: 'The lower orders, generally speaking, do not appear to be as superstitious, as the same class of persons are said to be in other parts of the country; but even here there is a holy well (St. Renogue's), at which a vast number of persons assemble every 24th of June; some no doubt with a superstitious view to the recovery of health through the means of the Saint; but the far greater part evidently for the sole purpose of amusement' (p. 132).
Maclise was later to provide an illustration of 'The Pattern Tent' for Anna Maria Hall's Sketches of Irish Character (1845, p. 318). See Doras, the National Gallery of Ireland's online image gallery, for a 'View of the well of St. Ronogue, Co. Cork, p. 281. Woodcut by Edmund Evans (1826-1905) after Henry John Noblett (b. 1812). Published in: Ireland : its scenery, character, &c. by Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Hall, Vol. I [185-?].'
For a description of the structure, see the Archaeological Inventory of County Cork. Volume 2: East and South Cork. Dublin: Stationery Office, 1994. Photographs of the well, still a place of pilgrimage today, can be viewed at http://pilgrimagemedievalireland.com/2013/06/26/pilgrimage-to-st-johns-well-carrigaline-co-cork/
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy opposite p. 350
Source copy National Library of Ireland Ir 9141 b 3

Related text from travel account

It might be supposed that the celebration of the day of a patron saint would be the least likely to promote these riotous proceedings, especially when the assemblage takes place, as it usually does, at some holy well, to which are brought, as to another Bethesda, "a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, and withered," under a conviction that, by the influence of the patron saint, after washing in the water or drinking it, their several diseases will be healed. But not only crowd to these wells the sick for cure, but also the sinful for expiation; "and their priests, deluded or deluding, enjoin those pilgrimages as penance, or applaud them, when volun-[image: A Patron Day] [p. 351] tary, as piety." Yet, even on such occasions, the potency of whiskey prevails, and the parties rarely separate without affray, so desperate sometimes that the military is called in, when it is almost certain that both will unite, and, with the women and children, hurl stones and other missiles at the soldiery. I believe a very general and just idea of one of those patron meetings may be collected from the clever etching of Mr. Maclise, which he sketched from an actual scene on a Patron day near Cork. [p. 350-351]
A Patron Day. Sketch taken at Ronogue's Well near Cork