THERE ARE MANY HOLY WELLS IN EUROPE, especially in Ireland. These holy wells were the places, where, down through the centuries, pagans were baptized by the saints who converted them. Eventually, some holy wells were ascribed certain healing powers.

Newfoundland has its own holy well. It is found on the Salmonier Line and has been an important part of Holyrood's history over the years. Father Duffy's well is really not a well at all, but a spring of fresh water flowing out of the ground. Nowadays the spring has been harnessed into a metal pipe which makes the water brackish to the taste, not fresh and tingly as the name spring suggests.

The area where Fr. Duffy's well is found is off a small roadway on the Salmonier Line about ten miles from Holyrood. There are a few picnic tables there now and there is a sign saying "Father Duffy's Well Provincial Park." These things somewhat distract from the ambience of the well and its surroundings, and if you go there now, you might be disappointed - unless you know about Father Duffy that is.

On the Salmonier line route 90 there is Father Duffy's Well
Father Duffy's Well

newfoundland pictures


Father Duffy came to Newfoundland as a newly ordained priest from Ireland. That was in September, 1833. He was recruited to Newfoundland by Bishop Fleming. He first served as curate in Ferryland parish which went all the way from La Manche to St. Mary's. The zeal and enthusiasm with which Fr. Duffy approached his work was noticed by the Bishop. After two years he appointed Father Duffy first parish priest of St. Mary's.

In St. Mary's, Father Duffy was loved and respected by the people of his parish, because he involved himself, not merely in their spiritual lives, but in all matters connected with their well being. He was involved in agriculture and in matters connected with the fishery. He worked to try and break the pattern of the fishermen's perpetual debt to the local merchants.

The church in St. Mary's was far from the community and it was a hardship for the people to get to it. It was also in need of repair. Fr. Duffy decided that the best thing to do would be to build a new one on the beach where it would be nice and handy for all the parishioners. But the site he chose didn't suit the manager of the Slade Elson's store and fishing premises on the beach. John Hill Martin was not only the store manager, but also the magistrate and local MHA as well. He had a great deal more power than Fr. Duffy and threatened to stop construction of the church. While the argument over the church was going on, the house was called in session and Martin had to go to St. John's. While he was away, Fr. Duffy had the church built. When Martin came back and saw the church standing right where he said not to put it, he was furious. He went so far as to take Fr. Duffy to court.

Trail leading to the well
Walking Trail to Well

newfoundland pictures


Fr. Duffy had to appear in court in St. John's. On several occasions he walked the whole distance to St. John's only to be told that his case had been postponed. This happened to him many times and he simply had to walk all the way back to St. Mary's again. Finally, one day Fr. Duffy's case, did go ahead. Fr. Duffy was acquitted of the charge.

On his many travels to appear in court in St. John's Fr. Duffy used to stop off and rest in a little clearing where there was a steady spring of fresh drinking water. The clearing was small, surrounded by trees and bushes and not far enough off the road to take him too far out of his way. Fr. Duffy could have a long drink of cold water and lie down on a grassy spot and rest his tired feet. The area was just secluded enough and very peaceful. He could listen to the birds in the trees as he rested and hear the tiny babble of the spring water on the rocks.

Other people soon learned about the spot and stopped off there on their way back and forth the Salmonier Line. The spring always supplied cold, fresh drinking water. Some people actually ascribed healing powers to the well and the popularity of the spot grew and grew.

Soon it became the spot to visit and even to stay and picnic. People who never knew Fr. Duffy began to stop there. They know that this was Fr. Duffy's Well. News of Fr. Duffy's well became so widespread that it became an historic landmark. The provincial government eventually designated it a provincial park.

Fr. Duffy played a large part in the life of the St. Mary's area but he left his mark on the Holyrood area the very first day that he stopped and rested and drank at what was to be known ever after as Father Duffy’s Well.

Background information from History of St. Mary's By Michael McCarthy and Paul O'Neill in an article in The Monitor 1980. Source p.11-12, Come Ashore To Holyrood By Mary Veitch