The village of Tobar once existed between the towns of Blacklion and Dowra, situated beside a Holy Well called ‘Tobar Muire’. The village is gone, but the well still exists. This is an account of both from the National Folklore Collection.
This is a description of Tobar village, which is situated between Blacklion and Dowra. There was a weaver in the east side of the village. He used to weave linen, flannel, frieze for men’s wear, and “drogged” red and blue for women’s wear. The “drogged” is a mixture of woolen thread and flaxen thread.
Next door was a man who bought bull-calves and killed them, and sold them for veal in quarters. On the west side of the street was a draper shop and a public house, and further up the street was a wheel-wright and a mill-wright. Next to that, was Tobar National School.
A corn mill and kiln were a few perches up the street. There was a long-thatched house which was used as a court-house, and in it the priest celebrated mass. This was before 1841, before the first chapel was built in the parish.
Next was a nailier, who use to make nails for men’s boots and women’s, too. Next was a shoe maker, who used to make shoes for all the people around. Next was a blacksmith, who used to make “taidhes” (?) and shoe horses and asses and make blades for scythes.
In this little village the first home help was got during the famine. There was a large pot – it would hold 40 gallons of water – for making gruel; and all around according to his family would get a can full of it. This was the first Indian meal ever came into this district. The big pot was made in a factory and it came to the district in the year of 1846, that was the year of the famine.
This pot is still to be had in Tobar and the man that has it is called Pat McGovern.
Tobar Muire is a holy well, which is situated in Tobar village. There are various stories told as to its origin. This is one:- A woman in the district had been praying to the Blessed Virgin to cure her daughter of a fatal disease. One night, she dreamt, that if she would pray at this well, her daughter would be cured. Accordingly, she went out the next day and did as she was told. When she was praying, a lady appeared and blessed the water. From that day forth, it has healing powers. This is another of the stories:- There was an old woman in Tobar and her son was very bad with a disease which is called the “blessed sickness”. She promised that if her son would be cured, she would make the station while she would live. The son was cured, but the old woman got old and blind and she could not go to the well to make the station and the well sprang up in kitchen of the house beside her.
Here is another story:- It tells how the well was dirtied.
The well was dirtied by an orange-man, and when the people went out next morning the well had sprung up in another place, over a little piece from where it was, and there was a wall round it. When the people looked, they saw the Blessed Virgin’s foot track on a little stone beside the well.
There are stations made at this well, every year on the 15th August and this is how they are made. The people kneel at the door of the well, each on his turn and say any prayer he wishes in honour of the Blessed Virgin.
They go round the well five times, and every time they go round, they say the Rosary, but you say any prayer you wish. When they are done, they leave a little piece of a rag on the bushes, that are growing round the well.
Here is a little piece of poetry which was made about the beauty of Tobar:-
“The poet’s name to mention,
I think it should be fit,
He was a shoemaker by profession
And his name was Peter Smith
This ancient village by the foot
In ruins now decays.
In times of old as I am told
Was the pride of Moneen braes”.
Author: Mr Michael McLoughlin, Gubaveeney
Photos (c) Dean Markey 2021