| Musicians, a
fanfare please! At last, the first issue of Living Spring
Journal is available for consumption. It has taken over a year
for the initial seed of an idea to blossom into the resource which now stretches before
you. Needless to say, it has been long, hard work, and there have been times when one or
even both of us have thought about forgetting the idea. But we didn't - and what has kept
us going is the enthusiasm of all of the people that we have been fortunate enough to make
contact with over the intervening months. To you all, we both extend our warmest
gratitude, and hope to meet you (again) soon.
In 1997, the author Phil Quinn, in his review of The Living Stream for the journal 3rd Stone, wrote 'holy wells aren't exactly 'sexy' however they're packaged'. Well, LSJ hopes to change that attitude from now on. We have embraced modern information technology, twisted the arms of some leading writers and scholars, and cast aside all notions of ever having any free time again, all in the cause of devising the best, most up-to-date and - we hope - sexiest way to indulge your watery passions.
Quinn concludes his review by emphasising the need for 'holy' well research to move from 'intuition and emotion' towards factual study if it is to be taken seriously as a discipline. LSJ hopes to facilitate this process by providing a forum for all voices. Our aim is to publish academic studies alongside more personal responses to well sites through the concept of 'streams'. We wish to encourage everybody who has something to say to contribute to the discussion about wells, holy or otherwise.
In this first issue Jeremy Harte begins the Well Researched stream with an excellent study on placename etymology. He considers the concept of 'holiness' in the landscape, and examines how it is reflected in place-names. This article has been reviewed by two referees and sets the standard for the scholarship we hope to continue featuring in this section of the publication. Alongside it, in other streams, we present a range of articles including a look at an Edinburgh well, an examination of the folklore surrounding a Wiltshire spring/spa, a look at the wells around Trellech, and a county gazetteer for Monmouthshire. This is already a pretty good cross-section of the types of articles we hope to feature in future issues.
At the time of writing, we still have in preparation for this issue a lengthy article by the former editor of Source, Tristan Gray Hulse, who critically re-examines some of the work by Francis Jones originally published in The holy wells of Wales in 1953. This situation highlights one of the many advantages of web publishing: even though we have released the first issue, it is possible to add to it as new material arrives. This of course is where the readership can get involved and send us news items, comments, notes, queries, answers to other people's questions, suggestions for improvement, or even positive criticism. LSJ is intended to be an interactive forum for everybody interested in the subject.
Once again an editorial must turn to the sad state of decay into which so many of the wells we know and love have fallen. In this first issue, we carry a review of a book by Henry Taylor who collated information about the 'holy wells' of Lancashire in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century. Unfortunately, the modern revised edition of a portion of Taylor's work shows that around half of the well sites he identified have now been lost. As the editor of this revision states in his introduction, 'the present state of the wells in both parts of the hundred is one of lost numbers and deterioration. Most of the survivors are now neglected watering places for livestock.' A large proportion of readers must surely be aware of other wells which have been lost or are neglected.
In order to attempt a reversal of this situation, we are pleased to be able to present two items in the Well Restored stream. The first is a preliminary report on the restoration of a little-known Wiltshire well, and the second highlights the excellent conservation work of the Wellsprings Fellowship: two superb initiatives that LSJ is pleased to promote.
Maybe, just maybe, by facilitating the publication of scholarly writing, recording the wells we have or have lost, highlighting conservation work, and by encouraging people to record their own thoughts and research, it will be possible to raise the profile of well and waterlore research so that these sites receive the respect they deserve once more.
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Created May 1, MM