"People have had very different experiences. 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 too and fro but floating... 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. In 1985 there was a mingling of two worlds, our world and the mystical world, and something amazing got people praying."retired Sgt John Murray.
In 1954, Pope Pius X11 marked the centenary of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and it was decreed to be a Marian Year in honour of the Virgin Mary. Small grottoes, based on St Bernadette's vision at Lourdes, were built all over Ireland, including one just outside the small village of Ballinspittle. The life size statue of the Virgin, the work of Maurice O Donnell, was placed on a hillside with St Bernadette in an attitude of prayer looking up at her. Dressed in white with hints of blue, the statue is bedecked with a halo of light bulbs which originally illuminated. In July 1985 Kathy O Mahony and her daughter were walking home passed the statue when they both saw it move. They reported what they had seen. Between July and September more than 100,000 people are said to have visited the grotto - the pilgrims and the curious. 7 out of 10 of these people reported seeing the statue move in some way - opening and closing of eyes, movements of the hands, and rocking to and fro. Even hardened sceptics reported seeing movement. On one occasion a gang of Hell's Angels motorcyclists are said to have visited the shrine, and although they did not believe that the statue moved, they blessed themselves before putting back their crash helmets and driving off.
Strangely, there were 30 other records of apparitions all over Ireland during 1985.
To this day it is a place of prayer and and still attracts many visitors and ranks as one of the four places of major apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The others are:
Knock, County Mayo ( 1879)
Inchigeela, County Cork (1985)
Dungloe, County Donegal (2009)
The signs warn you to drive slowly as you pass by the Grotto, a layby, seating, even a little shed containing toilets are all provided for the pilgrim. This grotto is kept immaculately (!) and painted in the BVM's colours of blue and white. Fresh flowers and lit candles. A steady stream of visitors park, wander across the road and pay their respects or just look on with curiosity.