Connollys Well

I love Colm Sand’s song “Going down to the well with Maggie”. It brings
me back to my own childhood and the many adventures we had collecting
water. Like Colm Sands we also had a Maggie Connolly who lived next door
and we shared the well with the family. In those times everyone had a well close
by and if you did not have one of your own then your neighbour shared it. We
carried the water in a big white enamel bucket and it was saved for drinking,
making tea and cooking. This spring water was also used for washing out the
creamery can and strainer for straining the cow’s milk. The milking utensils had
to be scrupulously clean or the milk would not pass the creamery test. The
creamery can when milking was complete was set into a bigger container that
was filled with cold water and this enabled the fresh milk to cool faster.
All other water we used came from a big barrel where my mother harvested
the rain water. This was used for washing clothes, bathing and especially
washing one’s hair, to which it gave a lustrous shine. We also had a big tank of
water on our street but my mother was quite happy when it became faulty and
started leaking. A tank full of water was a great danger to inquisitive children.
After midnight mass at Easter my father collected water from Connolly’s well
and each of us had a little drink. The fresh Easter water had special properties
and was a cure for all ills. I have memories of been woken from my sleep to
partake in this ancient custom.
Sometimes we fell out with the Connolly children and they would not let us
pass on our journey to the well. Then Maggie would come out and intervene.
She always made sure that we got our supply. Late August saw more frequent
trips, as there was an apple tree with lovely juicy apples overhanging it and with
a little bit of persuasion they could be encouraged to fall into our buckets. We
might even carry two buckets on these excursions and then we made our way
back hoping no one would see us. The apples were beautiful, small, soft and red
and we ate them with gusto. Felix Connolly took good care of the well, cleaning
it out as required and brushing the inside stonework with lime. It would then
take a day or so to refill so we had to make sure we had an adequate supply
before the cleaning process began. I can still see the scrupulously clean well
with its fresh sparkling spring water and as I dipped my bucket in could admire
my reflection in its deep pools. This frightened my mother when she became
aware of it as wells were dangerous places for small children and she made sure
I was accompanied on my expeditions for water after this.
Recently I was passing Connolly’s and decided to take a stroll down memory
lane. The entrance was secured with a wire fence and grass grew high. No
matter, I soldiered on and on approaching the well noticed that it was now all
filled in with muck and grime. The apple tree was no longer there and all that
remained of my childhood memory were a few stepping stones at the entrance.
Maybe it’s better to remember it as it was. Let it remain locked forever in my
childhood memory, that vision of circular water swirling around, covered with
luscious red apples ripe for the picking.