Crowds still flock to ‘moving statue’ site at Ballinspittle, three decades on

By Eddie Cassidy on the Irish Examiner (on 22nd July 2015)

It is 30 years since the first statue appeared to move in Ballinspittle, but it was to become a summer of such phenomena, writes Eddie Cassidy.

BallinspittleMovingStatues_large

Academics named it the ‘Ballinspittle Phenomenon’, the late bishop of Cork urged “prudence and caution” but, 30 years later, many locals who witnessed the ‘moving statue’ still have strong devotion to the woman at the centre of it all — Our Lady.

Up to 100,000 people had descended on the Co Cork village in late July and August in 1985, to witness the ‘miracle’ of the roadside statue.

By that autumn, the phenomena had not been confined to Ballinspittle, a market village a short distance from Kinsale.

By the end of a wet summer, Marian apparitions had been reported in many other locations extending from Sligo to Kerry and eastwards to Kilkenny and Waterford.

In effect, 1985 was to become known as the Year of the Moving Statues.

In Ballinspittle, however, locals believe it was a year when many people rediscovered their faith and their veneration to Our Lady continues. Although thousands of people had gathered out of curiosity or to gaze in wonder, most had come to pray.

The garda sergeant in the village at the time was John Murray. In the print and broadcast media, his story has been re-told.

Now retired, he had admitted at the time, like many others, to being sceptical.

His wife had alerted him to villagers talking about the ‘moving statue’ and, within days, what had been dozens of people walking along the road to the local shrine had turned into hundreds.

The Daly and O’Mahony families, living nearby, had reported seeing the statue ‘floating’.

Mr Murray, a few nights later, was at the site when he witnessed the phenomenon.

“The following morning I went up there and checked out that statue. I felt like someone was playing tricks on me and I was amazed to find no wires or trickery there at all.

“I was so convinced this was a hoax I had searched behind the statue and also tried to move it,” he said.

“It wouldn’t budge.”

People had very different experiences, Mr Murray acknowledged.

“But in July 1985, I saw something physically impossible at that grotto. I saw the concrete statue of Our Lady floating in mid-air.

“Not rocking to and fro, but floating.” A mother of nine, Cathy O’Mahony said she too, at the time, had suffered ridicule because of her visions.

But she says she was confident of what she saw.

“You meet many sceptics and they don’t believe it, but as far as I am concerned it is there for everyone to see.” And on August 15 that year, the Feast of the Assumption, a reported 20,000 people arrived into the small village.

However, the then Bishop of Cork and Ross, Michael Murphy was somewhat unmoved and declared it an illusion.

He issued a statement informing people that “direct supernatural intervention is a very rare happening in life”.

He said: “So, common sense would demand that we approach the claims made concerning the grotto at Ballinspittle with prudence and caution.

“Before a definite pronouncement could be made by the Church, all natural explanations would have to be examined and exhausted over a lengthy period of time.”

Throughout that year, 31 incidents had been recorded.

Staff at the Department of Applied Psychology in University College Cork came to the conclusion Ballinspittle had been an optical illusion.

“People sway when standing still for a period of time and what they are looking at appears to move.”

The UCC staff named it the ‘Ballinspittle Phenomenon’. They claimed it was an issue of light, as “the statue appeared to move only when it is dark”.

The spontaneous movement of statues was reported shortly afterward in Mount Melleray, Co Waterford, and at a further 30 other locations around the country.

But they were not all Marian apparitions and some involved other divine figures, or saints, who appeared in stains on church walls.

Five years ago, broadcaster Terry Wogan included Ballinspittle in what had been a new travel series for the BBC.

At the time, he spoke to Patricia Bowen, one of the local committee who cared for the grotto.

She recalled she had seen the face of Jesus appear over that of Our Lady’s on several occasions.

“People say that the light causes the statue to appear moving, but the light couldn’t make the face change to that of Our Lord,” she said.

Former garda sergeant Mr Murray, who also had been interviewed on the programme, had said: “Terry feels the same as myself that faith is very important in a lot of situations, especially when somebody is sick.

“He didn’t ridicule what we had to say. He treated it very respectfully.”

People still visit the shrine to this day.

Some to see if the statue will move for them, but most come here just to pray.

Mr Murray sums it up: “In 1985, there was a mingling of two worlds, our world and the mystical world, and something amazing, it got people praying.”

***

COMMENT: We make no judgement on the phenomena reported in this article, but one thing is plainly obvious: the events at Ballinspittle demonstrate a hunger for God, His Blessed Mother, and the Eternal in the depths of the Irish soul. Nothing, not even the recent national betrayal, voting in sodomy laws (with many voters being ill-advised ‘Catholics’) can eradicate this longing for the Faith. The Irish know they can always have recourse to Our Lady; as Mother she cares for her children who have wandered away from God and are lost in sin. Our Lady is constantly calling her lost children back, desiring to shelter them beneath her protective mantle, and to save their souls.

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20 Responses to Crowds still flock to ‘moving statue’ site at Ballinspittle, three decades on

  1. toadspittle says:

    “….the events at Ballinspittle demonstrate a hunger for God, His Blessed Mother, and the Eternal in the depths of the Irish soul.”
    Is it the suggestion here, then, that the Irish are more credulous than other races? I personally rather resent that, if so.
    Or can this kind of thing be the reason Catholicism is near-extinct in Ireland these days?

    Interesting comment on the sound track: “…Rare is the local person who would dare to admit the manifestation has passed them by..” Be like admitting you were too sinful to see it, maybe?

    Anyway, if the Catholic Church is desirous of becoming utterly obsolete in the Western world, it should forcefully propagate more material of this nature – and there appears to be a considerable amount of it around.

    “Five years ago, broadcaster Terry Wogan included Ballinspittle in what had been a new travel series for the BBC.” Well, that proves it’s all true, then.

  2. kathleen says:

    Why are you so indignant about this article, Toad? It was reported in the ‘Irish Examiner’ as an interesting piece of news, and so it was retold here – nothing more. Whether the statues truly moved or not is not the main point.

    “Is it the suggestion here, then, that the Irish are more credulous than other races?”

    No, Toad. The comment at the bottom of the article makes it quite clear that it is the Irish people’s great love and hunger for God and Our Lady that inspires the heart towards heavenly things. Only a sensitive soul lacking in pride and self-sufficiency can discover God’s burning love for them.
    So no need to be “resentful”, you old leprechaun.😉

  3. toadspittle says:

    I’m neither even mildly indignant nor resentful, Kathleen. Amused, certainly. The Irish are not the hangdog crew they once were, it seems – and their statues apparently stand still these days, even though hardly anybody is looking at them.

    “…It was reported in the ‘Irish Examiner’as an interesting piece of news, and so it was retold here – nothing more. Whether the statues truly moved or not is not the main point.”
    True. The “main point,” I suggest, is that thousands of people apparently eye-witnessed the statues “truly move.” Remarkable.

  4. Robert says:

    Rwanda spring to mind, heaven preparing that nation for what was to come! Ireland can’t say it wasn’t warned! In England The Maid of Kent who personally warned Henry VIII. Heaven speaks through the Prophets and why should this surprise this Faithless generation!
    Ireland has been proven to have been living a lukewarm Faith. England was like this when its day of trial came 1534.

  5. GC says:

    It’s a very nice story, kathleen. Toads shouldn’t bother writhing in such mental pain over it. If it never happened what’s to worry about? If it did, so what for toads?

    I see Ballinspittle means “Hospitaltown”, more or less. “Spittle” is an approximation of “ospideal”, hospital, but hospitals/hostels/hospices weren’t then what they are these days. (All very like Spitalfields in London, where there was a priory and hospital before the Tudors got their hot little hands on them.)

    Toad keeps believing that Catholicism is at an end in Ireland. Recent figures show that 40% of Catholics regularly attend Mass in the republic, one of the highest figures in Europe.

    I think Toad must dwell in a small queer corner of the universe to say the things he does, probably of his own making.

  6. toadspittle says:

    “I think Toad must dwell in a small queer corner of the universe…”
    Indeed he does, GC. And he enjoys his small queer corner hugely. Wouldn’t swap it for the hole of the Golden Whatnot.
    And, no, no mental pain. Sorry. And, yes, it’s a nice story. With a happy ending.
    The lump of plaster moved! Apparently winked at someone.
    But if it pleases you to imagine me writhing in mental pain, (and I suspect it does) go right ahead. No harm will be done.

  7. toadspittle says:

    “Toad keeps believing that Catholicism is at an end in Ireland. “
    Oh, no he doesn’t! Where do you get these fanciful ideas, GC? Ireland without Catholicism would be like Laurel without Hardy, liver without onions, or a moustache without salt. Unthinkable.
    No matter what the sceptics say – there will always be simple, faithful, folk in The Land Of Blarney prepared to crawl on their knees through broken glass to gape at a jigging statue. And who can blame them? Toad would do so himself, most likely – except that, in his small queer corner of the universe, statues seem mundanely down to earth and motionless – and frustratingly content to stay that way.
    So far, at least. But we must live in hope, mustn’t we?

  8. Robert says:

    Toad the SUN danced at Fatima. The SUN danced at Fatima. This can never be repeated enough because that miracle was announced months ahead and was witnessed by a crowd of 70,000.
    Your opinions, for this is what they are, over a statue that moved. Those snide references to the Blarney Stone.
    He who can cause the SUN to dance, who moved the stone before his tomb, can cause a statute to move.
    The lives of the Saints including St Pio are replete with miracles, biolocution, reading of consciences, raising the dead. Its called Faith and Faith moves mountains.
    The authority of the Papacy itself was a Privately recorded conversation between the Ressurrected Christ and St Peter.

  9. Michael says:

    in his small queer corner of the universe, statues seem mundanely down to earth and motionless – and frustratingly content to stay that way.
    So far, at least.

    Yes, as do most statues – this is the ordinary state of affairs. When things out of the ordinary occur, and can’t otherwise be explained, that is when we call them miraculous. Invoking the normal behaviour of matter as an implicit argument against miracles seems to miss the point a little, given that this normal behaviour is presupposed in our description of what the word ‘miracle’ means.

  10. GC says:

    crawl on their knees through broken glass to gape at a jigging statue. And who can blame them? Toad would do so himself, most likely – except that in his small queer corner of the universe, statues seem mundanely down to earth and motionless – and frustratingly content to stay that way

    Fie, Toad. You forget the Miraculous Crucifix of Limpias, which mmvc told us about. About 8,000 saw that one.

    Limpias is but a 2 hour drive from Moratinos, Toad. Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush too.

  11. johnhenrycn says:

    This post reminds me of several Ballykissangel episodes. And also the Glow in the Dark Virgin Mary in Jalhay, Belgium (a fake country, no less). No links to same given because no cynicism about miracles is intended. Just healthy skepticism.

  12. JH,
    What do you mean by “fake country”?

  13. johnhenrycn says:

    …”(a fake country, no less)”…
    …by which I mean to say:

    “Belgium was established as an independent state by the International Powers in 1831. One of its “fathers,” the French diplomat Talleyrand described the new country as “an artificial construction, consisting of different peoples.” According to his Austrian colleague Dietrichstein, the Belgian nationality was “a political attempt rather than an observable political reality.”

    Why Belgium is an Artificial State.

  14. johnhenrycn says:

    Now, your (and my) Pope seems to love Brussels, but as I’ve said on another thread, his opinion on political (and other temporal) issues deserves a respectful reading, not unconditional obeisance. His economic/ecologic platform, for instance, calls for the impoverishment of the First World as the solution for the impoverishment of the Third World. Completely daft.

  15. johnhenrycn says:

    “The time has come, [says the encyclical at paragraph 194 – look it up] to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.” What utter guff. His Holiness – well, let’s just say he is a good man.

  16. johnhenrycn says:

    …sorry, that quote from our Holy Father is actually in paragraph 193 of Laudato Si, not 194. Still utter guff, though.

  17. There is a historical precedent for Belgium however, in the Burgundian Duchy of Brabant, and the County of Flanders, otherwise know as the Spanish and Austrian Netherlands. I’m in favor of restoring the Low Countries to the Holy Roman Empire, under a subordinate King.

  18. GC says:

    Sad to note that Belgium, THR, whose very existence seems to be due to its Catholic heritage (among other things), is now performing the worst among European countries in terms of the practise of the Catholic faith, except perhaps for the Czech Republic.

  19. It’s a trend in former Hapsburg ruled countries.

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