In the pre-history period, Downings was an area of considerable importance and it is likely that there were pre-Christian religious activity associated with a spring. Rising water from a spring was very important to the druidic religion. In order to evangelise an area where such a practice existed the early Christian missionaries would take over these springs, bless the water and give it a Christian meaning. They would also incorporate some of the ancient activities into Christian religious practices. The spring then became a holy well which was usually named after the missionary who blessed the well and converted the people in the area. Close to Downings graveyard is the site of St. Farnan’s Holy Well. It is not known what period St. Farnan lived but it is likely to have been in the sixth or seventh century. When he began his mission in the Downings area, he ended the Drudic religious activity at the spring and it then became a holy well. He also built the first Christian church in the area. The site of this church is now identified as within the ruins of the church in Downings graveyard. These early churches were usually referred to as a ‘Cell’ and were built of timber in low-land areas of the country.
Very little is known of St. Farnan and there are conflicting dates regarding his feast day. Some antiquarians suggest that St. Farannan whose feast day occurs on the 15thof February may have been associated with Downings. However, this is unlikely as his connections are mainly with the West of Ireland. Another missionary with a similar name to Farnan was St. Forannan, Abbot of Clonard and later Abbot of Kildare. He died on the 12th of February 740. A clue as to the real St. Farnan survives in local tradition which was recorded in the 19th century. The Ordnance Survey letters from 1837 record that a pattern used to be held at St. Farnans Well annually on the 12th of June. A pattern is a festival that survives from the early Christian period. It consists of a religious element followed by feasting, singing and dancing, at a holy well on the feast day of the patron saint. Pattern festivals came to an end in many areas in the late 1700s or early 1800s. It is almost certain that the 12th of June is the feast day of St. Farnan of Downings.
According to Canon Hanlon writing in 1875,