The boreen leading to Tullycrine Holy Well and the Children's Fort.

Although it was a grey, rather dreary looking day in Kilkee, the weather was mild and calm with no rain to speak of. The mild weather, along with it being a weekend in late July, had Kilkee doing a great impression of the Wisconsin Dells. Rows of cars crept through O’Curry Street, filled with families geared up for their holiday in this summertime resort town. For me, it was a good time to leave in search of quieter surroundings.

With no place in particular in mind we made a journey to Killimer, a town on the Shannon River, so that Eoin could watch the Shannon Ferries carry people and their cars back and forth across the wide river between County Clare and County Kerry.

Like many loosely planned journeys, this one presented an interesting side trip. Taking the long route to Killimer and driving through the townland of Tullycrine in Kilmurry-McMahon, I spotted a brown sign pointing the way to a holy well and “children’s burial ground”. This piqued my interest so I made a quick right turn and ventured down along a quiet, narrow country road, eventually locating our unplanned destination.

Tullycrine Holy Well

The sign at the gate indicated that we had arrived at what appeared to be two sites in one, the Tullycrine Blessed Well and Lios na Leanaí, the Children’s Fort/Burial Ground. The area was deserted and very quiet, except for the sound of cows in a nearby field. After opening the gate we made our way up an incline walking along a gravel boreen to the holy well. This particular well came complete with holy statues and even a couple of kneelers.

Ignore the reflection of my Converse All Stars at the bottom of the sign!

There was no sign explaining the significance of the Tullycrine Holy Well. However,  like most holy wells, this was likely once a sacred pagan well, eventually acquired and renamed by the Christians as they tried to replace the old ways with the “new”.

Beyond the well, there was another gate and a walk further up the hill where we found the signs, topped by a large marble Celtic Cross, indicating the Children’s Burial Ground. As I suspected, this was a place where, for centuries and up until the late 1950’s, unbaptized babies were buried, along with a few adults who, for one reason or another, were not buried on Church holy ground. Venturing past the signs and the gate, I was quite surprised to see that, if I am not mistaken, the burial ground lies within what appeared to me to be one of the many ancient ring forts found around Ireland.

Gate and path to the top of the mound surrounding the Children's Burial Ground.

After climbing up the side of the mound and looking within, it was startling to see the bleak and very rough sight of dozens of oddly shaped stones that at first appeared to be randomly laying about. However, upon closer inspection I realized that most of the stones were actually stacked very thoughtfully, to form tiny graves. This poignant sight brought a heavy wave of sadness and regret over me and touched Eoin as well. It was heart-rending to ponder the parents who so tenderly arranged these rocks around the graves of their children in such a lonely place.

Below are photos of the site and just a few of the tiny graves.

At first it appeared to be stones just laying randomly about.

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