Each year, the Caher Island Pilgrimage in Clew Bay takes place on the 15th of August, the Feast of the Assumption. The ceremonies are attended by many people from the neighbouring islands of Inishturk and Clare Island, as well as many visitors from home and abroad.
Caher Island, or Oilean Na Naomh, is situated about five miles out to sea from Roonagh Point and it was once a hermitage site. On the island there are remains of buildings and monuments ranging in date from the 7th or 8th centuries up to medieval times; it is a veritable open-air museum.
On the pilgrimage day Mass is celebrated in the ruins of Teampull Padraigh the c.12th church, and a holy well, high up in the hills on the island is also visited for prayer.
In olden days the fishermen doffed their caps and dipped their sails in reverence as they passed the island and said a prayer in Irish: Umhluimid do Dhia mhor na huile chomhachta agus do Phadraig miorbhuilteach, (We make reverence to the great all-powerful God and to Patrick the miracle worker).
A cursing stone, Leac na Naomh, which was much feared by the local people, now sits on the altar in the ruined church. Close-by, a slab known a Leabaidh Phadraig is credited with curative powers; it is said that anyone afflicted with epilepsy will be cured of it if the supplicant sleeps on the slab for a short time. No rodent can survive on the island, and clay brought from the island and spread around a property on the mainland is claimed to be fatal to rats and mice.
The area surrounding the church has many fascinating monuments including a 7th century hammer-head cross. Caher Island is indeed a special holy place in Co. Mayo and it should be jealously guarded and protected.
Suggested further reading;
‘Antiquities of West Mayo’
Christiaan Corlett, Wordwell Ltd, 2001.
The Antiquities of Caher Island,
Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1947.
By Francoise Henry.
The Holy Wells Of Ireland.
Publ. Colin Smythe, 1980.
|Pilgrims arriving at Caher Island.|
|Mass being celebrated in the church ruin.|
|A beautiful Leacht on the island.|
|Leaba Phadraig, said to have curative powers.|
|A cross-inscribed stone on the altar.|