Mount Melleray. Historical Dates
The grotto of Our Lady of Boola is Lourdes-style grotto about mile from the famous Cistercian monastery of Mount Melleray founded in 1832. Father Celestine, a monk from this monastery, established the grotto in 1982. He directed the placing of the quarter-ton statue of the Immaculate Conception in small rock niche on the hillside. The statue of Bernadette was placed near the stream, which flows along the base of the hill into the Glenshelane River. Three benches and kneeler were placed in semi-circle around the statues.
August 16, 1985 (Day 1)
It was Friday.
- 8 pm
Ursula O'Rourke (16)
was at the Grotto with her mother, her sister Mary (12 years old)
and her brothers John (24)
and Donan (3). To her amazement, she noticed that the statue of Our Lady had «come alive», she could no longer see the pedestal. She looked at the statue of St. Bernadette, she said, reasoning that if she were imagining things this statue would be moving also. St Bernadette was, however, stationary. At that point Ursula reports that she became frightened and felt her blood rushing through her body. She blessed herself, saying, “You are the Queen of Heaven. Why me?
Please, bless my family”. Our Lady smiled. When Ursula told her mother, they all went back right away to the Grotto. This time, Mary, John and Donan also saw Our Lady, but She did not speak.
Speaking later Ursula said that no words could describe how beautiful Our Lady was.
August 17, 1985 (Day 2)
Saturday. The statue again moved as witnessed by several people. There were no messages, only visions of Jesus and Padre Pio were given to various people.
August 18, 1985 (Day 3)
Sunday. Many other people were privilege to receive visions during the course of this day.
- 1:30 pm
- A local farmer, Michael Cliffe, called into the grotto with his son Tom, aged 12 years. Tom was astonished when he saw Our Lords face on the statue. They left the Grotto.
- 3 pm
- Tom Cliffe and his mother again visited the Grotto. Having said some prayers, Tom said he noticed the statue changing. First the statue began to move. Then the cloak blew in the wind. A silver crown with stones appeared on her head. She had golden hair flowing to her shoulders. Then Tom says, that Our Blessed Lady spoke to him: “Mama, mama, Our Lady is speaking!” Our Blessed Lady said,
“I want you, too”
“I want two”.
A woman in the crowd said to Mrs Cliffe, “The Blessed Lady wants your child!”. Both Tom and his mother were distressed and began to cry. Leaving the Grotto in a very upset state, Tom said, “I am not going back there any more”.
- 4:30 pm
- A local farmer, Jim McCarthy, was praying in the Grotto when he noticed the statue changing, a mist or fog came over the statue, then Our Divine Lords face shone through and the mist cleared. Our Divine Lords face remained on the statue for a short time. Many people had visions during this evening.
- 11:30 pm
- Our Blessed Lady appeared to a local farmer, Michael O'Donnell. Suddenly the background
got really small and he no longer saw a statue but real lady, who began to walk toward him down clay steps with masses of roses on either side. She was clothed in a white robe and blue sash as on the statue. She wore a veil and her face was lightly tanned. As Our Lady came toward him, Mr. O'Donnell began to walk backwards.
He was recollecting: “I felt shattered and I swayed backwards in a trance. Two neighbours came to my aid. After a time I recovered but within a half hour I became shattered as Our Lady came forward and a second time down the steps, which had roses on each side, and said to me:
“Preserve Sunday for prayer”.
Then a neighbour and my sister saw me transformed into a very old man, completely deformed and with a bald head. Both thought that I was about to die. However, I was brought back to normal after a short time”.
August 19, 1985 (Day 4)
Monday. At evening ninety-seven cars were counted along the narrow road leading past the grotto.
- 5 pm — 7 pm
Tom Cliffe came to the Grotto with his mother and accompanied by his cousin Barry Buckley, aged 11. Shortly after some prayers Our Lady appeared to both boys. First they noticed the gown on the statue blowing as in the wind, and then a crown appeared on Our Lady's head, with golden hair flowing to the shoulders.
People were talking and children running around. Our Blessed Lady said through the boys,
But when the people did not heed her, Our Blessed Lady again said,
The boys reported to those around them, that the Virgin had started to cry, when the behavior of the crowd didn't change. The boys said, tears flowed from her eyes and splashed on the ground.
The people nearby realised that something was happening and asked the boys why Our Blessed Lady was crying.
Our Lady said,
“I want prayer”.
People started saying the rosary. The boys could see the lips and fingers of Our Lady moving in prayer. When the rosary was finished the boys heard Our Blessed Lady continue with the Hail Holy Queen. All joined in to the end of the prayers, afterwards they heard Our Lady say,
Shortly after this the boys got two biblical visions. The first was that of Our Blessed Lady standing in a line with six Apostles on each side of her. (The First Pentecost.)
Then Tom got the second biblical vision:
Our Divine Lord and the apostles were sitting around a table in a big room. Outside in the streets were beggars and some people sweeping with brooms and dogs barking. He saw Jesus with His finger raised as if to scold one of the Apostles.
This frightened Tom, as he thought Our Divine Lord was giving out to him, and Tom felt he was actually in the room and began to cry. Our Blessed Lady reappeared and said to Barry,
“Tell Tom to stop crying”.
As Tom looked up She said,
“Be happy, be happy, Tom”.
- 8 pm
The boys returned to the Grotto, both their mothers were with them. As they settled on the seat Our Blessed Lady appeared. Ursula joined them too. She told the boys to ask Our Lady how long She would stay. Our Lady replied
Somebody else also asked through the boys whether other people would see her. She replied,
A large crowd had now gathered and the Rosary was been recited.
“I have a message”.
According to the boys Mary made this announcement from the top of the grotto that is from the higher part of the hillside where the statue of the Immaculate Conception is located. She then walked down steps with roses on either side to the edge of the water, which flows along the base of the hill, to deliver the next two messages:
“My message is Peace and Prayer — Tell the people that the water is blessed”.
Our Blessed Lady was very close to the boys with her arms stretched out that Tom reached out to touch Her. She said,
The Virgin Mary then returned to the top of the grotto and said:
“God is angry with the world. The people will have to improve and pray. My message is for all the people of God’s Church. The people have ten years to improve and pray and if not then this is what will happen…”
Here the boys reported having vision of Noah's ark and the Great Flood.
They also said they saw the following visions:
Our Divine Lord clothed in dark robe, off the left shoulder turned sideways, exposing his left side with whip marks and holes in his hands.
Mary with the cross in front of Her. She had her hands on the arms of the cross and a dark cloud hung over the vision.
Our Divine Lord wearing a red robe, the crown of thorns on his head.
During this aparition the two boys were dressed in tee shirts and they were visibly cold. Our Lady sent down jets of warm breeze which kept the boys warm for half an hour.
As the boys arose to leave the Grotto, Our Blessed Lady said
and repeated this as they departed.
August 20, 1985 (Day 5)
Tuesday. The experiences reported by Tom and Barry took place in the presence of thousands of people.
This night the boys and Ursula arrived at the Grotto at the same time, not by pre-arrangement but by coincidence. They said they felt they should come. Our Blessed Lady appeared and prayed with the people as She always did. Our Blessed Lady asked for several Rosaries.
Then She said to the boys,
“I love the Irish people”
, and again,
“I am praying with the people to God to forgive the Irish people”
“I want the Irish people to spread my message to the world”.
When asked how this could be done She replied,
“You have ways yourselves of spreading my message”.
“The world must improve”
(said several times).
“If the people would improve and pray, God would save Ireland. I want the people to accept the message from the children. The people must pray more. The people must go to Mass more and receive My Son more often. I want the people to believe the children. The world has ten years to improve, it must improve ten times more than it is…
I want people to stop saying bad things about me and not to be mocking me.”
Mr Buckley asked the boys to request Mary to intercede with Jesus to know if the weather would improve so that the harvest could be saved. According to the boys She replied:
“When the people will pray more the weather will improve.”
Tom then received a vision of doubting Thomas.
August 21, 1985 (Day 6)
Wednesday. The Grotto was crowded and many cars and people were outside the Grotto unable to get in. This was also the first night that the public address (PA)
system was rigged so the boys could speak into the microphone and let the crowds know what was happening and also speak out the messages as they were given to them.
“I want hymns and prayers”.
According to the boys, the Virgin asked several times for the hymn, «Peace is Flowing Like a River». It happened like this: Tom and Barry heard Our Lady singing the hymn, but not being familiar with it, they relayed the words. Members of the crowd recognised it as «Peace is Flowing Like a River».
Our Blessed Lady said,
“I am pleased with Ireland, Ireland will be saved. I want the people of Ireland to convey my message to the world. You will know the best way yourselves. I am praying for the sick and I bless them”.
Here the boys reported vision of the disciples and Jesus on boat. They said that Jesus was asleep and that there was a storm and it was raining. The disciples were frightened and they woke Jesus. According to the boys Jesus stood up and said: “Be not afraid, I am always with you”. He put out his hand to order the rain to stop and the wind to go back. Then the boys said, the sun shone and the people were happy.
This night the boys also saw the vision of the Nativity.
Shortly afterwards Our Blessed Lady said,
“I want Ursula to help you to make the world believe. I am happy with the three of you. I want Ireland to tell the world and you have ways yourselves of telling the world. The world must behave. I want the world to believe me. I want the world to get my message. You must believe and the world must believe. My message is peace and prayer and no more fighting in the world.”
Then Our Lady told the boys:
“I will make a movement to the people”.
This was announced over the PA system. She then said,
“Thanks for the hymns”,
and then after a pause,
“I want more prayers”.
Then things really began to happen. It seems that not only the two boys, but many people saw Our Lady move her head towards the crowd on the road. The statue turned several times, people gasped as this happened and the boys announced what they saw over the PA system as it was occuring. Our Lady said She hoped most of the people saw Her. Suddenly the boys announced She was coming down the steps and looking towards the road. People backed away, but Our Lady assured the crowd through the boys,
“Be not afraid, I will never hurt you”.
She also said,
“I want the people out on the road to see Me, because I will leave soon”.
And there were many who did see Our Blessed Lady that night.
Tom and Barry then had a vision of Mary, her cloak ripped, holding the infant Jesus in her arms. Many of the people present claimed they could see this too.
August 22, 1985 (Day 7)
Thursday. Both parents and boys arrived at the Grotto shortly after 8.00p.m. They had been caught up in traffic as massive crowds were on their way to the Grotto. The road outside Cappoquin was blocked for about 2 miles from the Grotto.
But the parents realised that there was possibly another back way to the Grotto and to their amazement they were able to drive to within 100 yards of the Grotto. They went to their usual seat (now railed off), where Ursula joined them.
- 8 pm
Shortly after some prayer, Our Blessed Lady appeared and turning towards the people on the road said,
And turning back She said,
“I want prayers and hymns”.
Always when she requested prayers the Rosary would be recited, then silence giving Our Blessed Lady an opportunity to speak, which she invariably did. She asked for more prayers and the hymn «Peace is Flowing like a River», and then said:
“I want Ursula to guard you”.
This was repeated five times during the course of the evening.
“The world must improve and the world must believe. If the world doesn't improve, the devil will take over God's church in ten years.”
Here the boys reported seeing vision of the devil laughing and jeering at the Virgin. She was weeping. Both boys experienced pain, Tom in his ears, Barry in his throat. Mrs Cliffe said that Tom was very frightened by this vision and didn't want to put the details in writing.
As the night closed Our Blessed Lady asked for more prayers and the hymn, which She asked for frequently «Peace is Flowing like a River». The boys said that She was happy and that She was praying with the people to God before they finally informed the crowd She had gone back to the statue.
This night the stewards said afterwards that it was the largest crowd to date and that within the Grotto and out on the road some of the crowd were hostile.
August 23, 1985 (Day 8)
Friday. This night Our Blessed Lady, through the boys asked for prayers and more prayers.
- 8 pm
Our Blessed Lady said,
“Tell …… that I am sorry for …… suffering.”
This reference was in relation to an incident which happened out on the road the previous night (Thursday).
“I want you to pray harder.”
Shortly afterwards she said,
“I want you to pray harder and harder”,
“With our faith and our prayers we can overcome the devil.”
And so this was a night of much prayer, before Our Lady finally said,
“I want prayers and hymns. I will show myself to more people in more places.”
Speaking afterwards the boys said that the vision of Our Lady was fading away this night.
August 24, 1985 (Day 9)
Saturday. Friday marks the end of the apparitions to the two boys.
- 3 pm
Tom came to the Grotto with his parents. After some prayer he noticed the figure moving back and forth. He asked the question which he had been requested to ask by a local nun, “Are you the mother of Jesus Christ?”. He received the following reply,
Our Lady did not speak again to the boys and so the momentous events of the week at the Melleray Grotto were over. However, many people to this day report of vision they have received while praying in the Grotto.
Zimdars-Swartz Sandra L.
Popular Devotion to the Virgin. The Marian Phenomena at Melleray, Republic of Ireland /
Dévotion populaire à la Vierge. Le phénomène marial de Melleray en République d'Irlande.
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 67/1, 1989.