A NEW DOCUMENTARY is hoping to throw light on one of the more curious – and perhaps less well-known – episodes of the Irish War of Independence.
The programme, Am an Ghátair: Deora Dé, is to be screened on TG4 on Wednesday night. It tells the story of Jimmy Walsh, a teenager in Templemore, Co Tipperary, who believed that he saw statues of the Virgin Mary weeping blood in the town in the summer of 1920.
The War of Independence was in full throes, the first shot having been fired in January of 1919 at the south Tipperary village of Soloheadbeg. Walsh’s story, however, drew the focus to its north Tipperary counterpart. Templemore was a dangerous place at that moment, the IRA having killed a Royal Irish Constabulary District Inspector named Wilson, and the RIC now carrying out reprisal attacks on local businesses and homes.
However, reports began to filter through to local and national newspapers of “supernatural manifestations” in the area with particular focus on young Jimmy Walsh who was not only receiving apparitions from the Virgin Mary but apparently had found a ‘holy well’ had appeared in his bedroom floor. A whole host of statues of the Virgin Mary in various places in the town were supposed to be crying tears of blood, including one, ironically enough, in the RIC barracks.
History Ireland cites contemporaneous reports of the ‘visitations’ and the belief locally that they had prevented Templemore from being entirely destroyed by British forces.
Pilgrims began to visit the town in the hope of seeing the visitations and statues and the attention had the effect of halting the battle between the Irish rebels and the British in Templemore, at least for a while. The RIC found itself confined to barracks as the crowds – up to 15,000 people arriving a day – grew in strength and the IRA stopped fighting.
These photographs, supplied by the film-makers Magamedia and the National Photographic Archive, give a taste of the massive crowds drawn to the town: