One very rarely indeed sees anything written about holy wells being buttressed by the usual historical apparatus of statistics and maps, but Mr Houlihan provides some as well as a fantastic collection of sixty or so photographs. The two things that strike me most from these are the lovely shots of Irish people who proudly care for their local holy well (St Anastasia's Well, Ennistymon, and St Flannan's Well, Inagh, for instance); and the eye-watering garishness of some of the well-structures, dispelling any notion you might have had that all Irish holy wells are unchanged relics of an immemorial Celtic past. The blazing red and white slap of The Well of the Creator of the World, Killard, is astonishing; Our Lady's Well, Kilmacduane, sits on a slope in blue-and-white splendour like a bit of Samarkand dumped in a field; and the Gothic candlelit concrete sideboard that is St Martin's Well, Ballynacally, sporting not one but two statues of the Infant of Prague, is a revelation. However the selection of ten sites examined and photographed in detail reveals the diversity of Clare wells, not surprisingly, I suppose, when there are so many around.
The concluding chapter is a deft account of the way well-devotion has changed, and the possible conflict between Christian and pagan forms of reverence at these sites, as well as the potential damage that can be done by tourism along with the advantages it brings. In short this is a model well book and could only have been made even more enjoyable by the addition of more wells!