During the summer of 1985, apparitions and moving statues of the Virgin Mary were said to have appeared at various locations throughout Ireland. Many people today still firmly believe the phenomena was real.
In a new RTÉ documentary, Moving Statues - The Summer of 1985, witnesses to these so-called miracles insist that what they saw was real.
In July that year, in Ballinspittle, Co Cork, it was claimed that a roadside statue of the Virgin Mary had moved spontaneously. Shortly afterward, similar occurrences were reported in Mount Melleray, Co Waterford and around 30 other locations across Ireland.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathering at these grottos in the belief that they would see the stone statues move on their own.
In September that same year, in Culleens, Co. Sligo, four teenage girls, Mary Hanely, sisters Patricia McGuinness and Colleen McGuinness, and their cousin Mary McGuinness, claimed that a floating Virgin Mary appeared to them in the sky.
Colleen McGuinness, who claims the Virgin Mary appeared in the sky, says she still has no doubt about what she saw as a teenager, the Irish Mirror reports.
She said: “I know what happened. 100%, and if I lived till 102 I will always say ‘I seen Our Lady on the 2nd of September 1985’ and nothing will ever change that.”
The girls were walking home from the shop when they witnessed the vision.
“Mary just held my hand and I looked up into the sky and to the right of me I seen a vision of Our Lady. It was like she was just floating just above the ditch”, said Coleen who went back to the spot on the road with the documentary crew.
“She was life-size, she was in brilliant white for me and I could see her face clearly. I did get very scared and I went over as far as (her sister) Patricia.”
Patricia, who returned to the spot with her sister and cousin for the documentary, confirmed that she could also see the face of the Virgin Mary.
“You feel you could reach out and touch her.
“I felt very frightened for a couple of seconds and then the fear just left me and I knew we were going to be OK and I just started praying.”
The girls were immediately believed by their parents who told them to tell their local priest.
“We were normal teenagers. We weren’t going to come up with something like this, we hadn’t heard of anything else going on back in 1985 at that stage.
“Our dad said to go and tell the priest and to go back to the same spot and pray.”
The girls endured years of teasing over their holy vision.
Patricia said: “A lot of our friends at school did believe us and would have come up and prayed along with us.
“But you had some people who just didn’t believe. You would hear things like it was the divil you seen.
“If we went to a disco the lads would start blessing themselves. We just got so used to the negative comments.”
The documentary also returns to the people who claim to have seen statues move in Monasterevin, Sligo, Stradbally, and Ballinspittle.
Patricia Bowen, secretary of the Ballinspittle grotto committee, remembers the huge crowds at the West Cork spot.
“The first night I think there might have been about 20 people fathered there, the next night there was a few hundred there, before the end of the week there was a thousand there and it kept growing and growing”
She said: “I saw the statue sway from side to side and in and out.”
Bowen said she still sees what she believes are divine movements.
“It still moves,” she said.
John Miller, from Kildare, who brought his mother up to the local statue Monasterevin, says he is still certain of what he saw in 1985.
He said: “It’s a long time since I seen but I have never forgotten it or people will never let you forget it either.
“It will always come up somewhere along the line, ‘ah you mad fecker you seen this, you were the one who seen that’.
“But if you see it you see it and that is the only way to explain it.”
Originally published April 2019. Updated May 2021.