The association of trees and wells is celebrated in various ways. Pieces of material – sometimes a small garment, like a glove, or a bandage from an injury – may be attached to a rag tree beside a well in a prayer for healing. The trees are always secondary in importance to the well, and may be small bushes or branches.
Holy wells have their own special atmosphere, nowhere more than at this site in the empty country south of the Clogher Valley. The well and ‘chair’, big rectangular blocks of sandstone, are tucked away in a deep double valley among forest planting.
The rags are not hung on the forest trees, but on nearby smaller trees of native species, the kind that would have been there long before the modern planting. Holly, rowan, even bilberry bushes, bear their rags hanging limply in the sheltered silence of the valley.
There are other more accessible wells and rag trees, for example by the castle at Dromore, Co. Tyrone, and at Dungiven Priory in Co Derry.