One Crazy Summer

Last Monday night I watched RTE’s “Moving Statues – The Summer of 1985.” I’m sure there’ll be plenty who will find fault with it, but I thought RTE did a really good job of capturing the atmosphere that surrounded the events. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. 
If you can – watch it.
If you can’t – here’s a story (originally published across two articles) from the end of that summer, which appeared in the Wicklow People on Friday, 13 September 1985.
Many claim having seen Rathdangan statue move
Life progressed at its usual pace in Rathdangan up to Thursday afternoon of last week. But a chance meeting of two local ladies and a visit to the local Grotto for a silent prayer was to change the entire atmosphere of the village.
Mrs. Haddie Doyle is in the habit of putting flowers on the Grotto. It is something she has done for many years since her husband, Martin, and other local people erected the statue in 1954.
Photo from Wicklow People of 20 September 1985
Thursday was no exception and on her way back to her home she met with another local lady, Mrs. Breda Kearney, who was upset. Her mother had seen the face of Our Lord on a statue of the Blessed Virgin in Myshall, Co Carlow, the day before and the incident had frightened her.
So they both walked back to the Grotto to say a prayer and Mrs. Doyle takes up the story of what they saw as they knelt on the first step.
“I saw Our Lady smile and open her eyes while Mrs. Kearney saw the halo lights going on and off and the face of Our Lord, complete with the Crown of Thorns, appeared.”
“I wasn’t frightened but Mrs. Kearney got a terrible shock so we contacted some neighbours and recited a decade of the Rosary back at the statue.”
“By this time word had spread very quickly and villagers gathered. We continued with the Rosary and as we did, people raised their hands as they saw various images appear on the statue.”
“I saw the face of Padre Pio which then changed to the face of St. Theresa and then the vision of a former Pope appeared,” she said.
Mrs. Doyle said that many of the hundreds of people who have visited the Grotto since have all witnessed different images appearing.
I questioned her closely about the whole affair but there was absolutely no doubt in her mind about what she saw. The visions had appeared and she was very happy about it.
“There are prayers going on all the time now and people are coming from everywhere. It is absolutely amazing and I have no explanation for the events of the past week,” she added.
The entire area is intrigued and the Rathdangan sightings have become a major talking point in every town and village in the county.
In Arklow this week, for instance, conversations were going on in shops, doctors’ surgeries and almost anywhere that groups of people come together.
If it continues, Rathdangan could well become another Ballinspittle, although there are so many sightings now around the country that visitations will be divided up among them all.
Crowds pour into tiny village as news spreads
Streams of people have been pouring into the tiny village of Rathdangan for the past week following mysterious sightings at a local statue of Our Lady.
The silence of this peaceful village has been broken by screams and gasps of astonishment as various visions appear on the life size statue at the local Grotto, just yards from the village.
Photo from Wicklow People of 20 September 1985
As word spread about the mystery, hundreds of people have been gathering around the statue each night in search of that one movement or vision which is rapidly becoming a phenomenal part of Irish life.
Already there are claims that the statue has opened and closed its eyes, smiled and shed tears while some people maintain that visions of the Sacred Heart, Padre Pio, Pope Pius XII and various Saints have appeared over the face of Our Lady.
Word has spread like wildfire right across Co. Wicklow and scores of people have even come from as far away as Kildare, Carlow and Wexford to visit the Grotto.
The statue itself was erected in 1954, the Marian year and, apart from being well looked after by the local people, it was never a favourite place of solitude for prayer worshippers.
But suddenly now it has become a focal point for a large portion of Leinster and as publicity increases, the village is likely to be swamped by strangers for quite some time.
Some people to who I spoke this week were totally convinced that various images came up before their eyes while there are others claiming they saw nothing after staring at the statue for some time.
It does seem clear that the visions are in the eyes of the beholder and that it works for some and not for others.
However, it has frightened a few people and I heard of one particular case this week where a man had to spend a day in bed to recover while women at the Grotto have fainted.
Sergeant Benny Farrell of Hacketstown, who is in charge of that area, confirmed that crowds have gathered around the Grotto up to 3 o’clock in the mornings.
“There are people there all the time but the crowds increase after p.m. each night. There is a lot of praying and singing of hymns and the situation is generally very peaceful,” he added.
Sergeant Farrell explained that with the four roads adjacent to the Grotto there is little problem in parking at the moment although he felt there could be difficulties if the numbers continued to increase.
“I would not like to comment to deeply but I think it is fantastic the way the statue is attracting young people and bringing them back to prayer,” said Sergeant Farrell.
Wicklow People, 13  & 20 September 1985


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