Friday 19 April 2019

'Because the Blessed Virgin always would wait until just after bingo to put on her Vogue' - the nation was mortified by Moving Statues

RTE documentary charted the mass hysteria of 1985

Moving Statues - The Summer of 1985 Monday April 15th RTÉ One. Patricia McGuinness, Mary McGuinness and Colleen McGuinness - Sligo
Copyright: RTÉ 2019
Moving Statues - The Summer of 1985 Monday April 15th RTÉ One. Patricia McGuinness, Mary McGuinness and Colleen McGuinness - Sligo Copyright: RTÉ 2019
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

RTE's documentary about the phenomenon of moving religious statues which gripped the nation in 1985 entralled, delighted, and horrified viewers on Monday night.

Moving Statues - The Summer of 1985 charted the few months in 1985 when children and adults from over 30 locations from Ballinspittle to Stradbally believed they saw religious statues move.

Moving Statues - The Summer of 1985 Monday April 15th RTÉ One John Miller from Monastervin
Moving Statues - The Summer of 1985 Monday April 15th RTÉ One John Miller from Monastervin

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at grottos across the country in the belief that they would witness the phenomenon themselves.

The moving statues viewed through the prism of Twitter thirty-four years later is as interesting as the phenomenon itself, and perhaps just as telling about where we are as a society today.

Those who lived through the hysteria recalled that time:

Most viewers were 'mortified' of what they perceived to be the nation's collective naivity in the 1980s, while others of course took the opportunity to take the proverbial...

The programme revealed how some rural parts of Kerry, Cork, Kildare and other areas of Ireland benefitted from the attention the statues brought to their area.

Entrepreneurs took advantage of the influx of crowds with chip vans and 'grotto burgers'. 

An unfortunate consequence of huge gatherings in small locations was, unsurprisingly, blocked toilets.  Cork County Council installed public toilets and phone boxes to alleviate the pressure on local businesses and local councillors applied for a £650,000 grant to improve the roads.

There were other take-aways from the programme, not least that the music of that era was exceptional, and the fashion perhaps less so...

While most people on social media are skeptical, there are still some believers.  A miracle and divine intervention?  Perhaps.  Some people certainly believe so and many of those who claimed to have seen the statues move back in 1985 stood by their visions on the programme today.

Others felt more unsettled by the programme than amused when considering the context of the events.

You can watch Moving Statues - The Summer of 1985 is available to watch on the RTE Player.

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