Bleeding Statues At Templemore Near Thurles Tipperary

A new forty minute programme entitled, “Deora Dé,” (God’s Tears,) is to get its first screening on TG4 tomorrow night (Wednesday,) at 9.30pm.

The story being told will relate to Templemore, Co Tipperary and a rather strange happening, which began in the late summer of 1920, when one Jimmy Walsh claimed he saw blood coming from the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary, at his home in Curraheen, Gortagarry, here in north Tipperary.

Bleeding statues in a yard beside Dwan’s shop in Templemore.
Picture courtesy St.Mary’s Famine & War Museum, Thurles, Co Tipperary.

Amongst those interviewed for the making of this TV documentary were renowned local factual historian, Monsignor Dr. Maurice Dooley from Loughmore, Eamonn de Staffort (Silvermines based historian), Deuglán Breathnach (Templemore historian), and Nenagh resident Seamus Leahy, (Son of Jimmy Leahy, then local IRA commander in this North Tipperary area during the period of this event.)

Summer Of 1920 Templemore Tipperary.

For those not familiar with the happenings of this period in Templemore, first we need to understand the events of five days previously. The night was the 16th of August, the year, as already stated, was 1920. Ireland was then in the throes of its ‘War of Independence,’ against England. Some members of the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment, then barracked in Templemore, decided to carry out reprisals against the local population. Their decision followed the killing of a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC ) District Inspector, William Harding Wilson by the IRA.

(History Lovers Please Note: D.I. Wilson, was a member of the Methodist church and hailed originally from Ballycumber, Co Offaly.  Following his death he was buried at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland Cemetery, Templemore, Thurles, Co Tipperary.)

Crown forces broke from barracks and burnt the market house to the ground, after soaking it with petrol, which was stolen from a nearby garage. Town’s people fled in panic or peeped, in terror, from behind their shuttered windows as two shops were burned to the ground, while armed men fired off their rifles indiscriminately. The glass in every window for over 600 yds, which had not been already heavily shuttered, was smashed by this indiscriminate rifle fire.

The reprisals were reported as having begun around 10.30 pm, when most of the town’s residents had retired to bed. The noise, made by the studded boots of some thirty to forty soldiers, was heard coming up from the direction of the barracks. They broke into Morkin’s pub & grocery premises first, claiming to be Black and Tans. While there, they looted a quantity of whisky, which they drank in the main street. They then targeted Michael Kelly’s public house, taking more spirits, which they again consumed, before setting the same premises on fire.

Fogarty’s drapery premises were entered next, by breaking its plate-glass windows. Much of the stock was removed & thrown into the river. Some of the men dressed themselves in ladies’ blouses and other drapery goods and danced up and down the town’s street.

Now riotously intoxicated, a bicycle shop was set on fire, then a jewellery store was raided where, in particular, alarm clocks were taken and set off. One soldier proved himself to be an expert stage performer, demonstrating his ragtime musicianship on a stolen mandolin. Handkerchiefs, previously stolen from Fogarty’s drapery premises, were now worn as masks, as the drunken men turned their attention to intimidating residential houses in the immediate vicinity, including persons involved holding and attending a wake. (Traditionally in Ireland, a wake takes place in the house of a deceased person, when the body of that deceased person is still present.)

It was three hours later before the drunken Crown Forces grew weary of their attempts at intimidation and returned to barracks.

Supernatural Manifestations – Bleeding Statues – A Holy Well – Cures

James (Jimmy) Walsh

Five days later an unusual phenomena was reported in the Templemore area.  The strange episode started when a teenager James (Jimmy) Walsh claimed he saw blood coming from the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary at his home at Curraheen, near the village of Gortagarry.  Jimmy, a farm labourer, also reported that a Holy Well had appeared in the earthen floor of his bedroom at his home. Although thousands of pilgrims, including a Dublin publican took away quantities, water from this unknown source continued to flow unexplained. It was reported by the Tipperary Star newspaper that Walsh had experienced Marian apparitions that “After the outburst on Monday night some of the statues from which blood had been oozing were taken by Walsh to Templemore and it is believed that it was this that saved the town from destruction,” five days previous,

Following growing daily reports in the press, word began to spread quickly. Considerable crowds now began to gather in front of the big house with the shop sign ” T. Dwan, Builder, Contractor, Newsagent.” It was here that the miraculous bleeding images belonging to Jimmy Walsh were stored. At around 9.00am a ground-floor window of Dwan’s premises would open a few inches and pilgrims, kneeling on spread handkerchiefs on the muddy ground, could get just a glimpse of three, one foot high, statues on a flower covered table. Capped heads were quickly uncovered and rosaries and crucifixes instantly appeared.

Empty houses were now filled up as temporary hostels, as pilgrims by the hundreds and then thousands began arriving not only from all over the 32 counties of Ireland, but also from the United States, England, Scotland, France, South Africa, Bombay & India. Marvellous cures were being reported as trains rushing from Dublin, motor cars, lorries, charabancs (Latter derives from the French ‘char-à-bancs,’ – carriage with benches, or horse drawn or early motorised buses), bicyclists, jaunting cars, donkey carts, walkers as well as wheelbarrows carrying cripples flooded into the area. Came also the stretcher cases, the babes in arms, the invalids in wheelchairs, the mentally ill, the blind persons, the deformed and outside the cottage at Curraheen a pile of discarded crutches grew bigger. Such road traffic had never been observed previously here in Tipperary, even for the popular horse races held in Thurles some 14.8 km (Nine miles) away. At its height, some 15,000 pilgrims per day were now reported as descending on the town.

Recorded Cures And IRA Involvement

Home of James (Jimmy) Walsh today

Danny Egan, a harness-maker, crippled by sciatica for five years was now able to walk around the town. Martin Monahan, a soldier, shot through the knee at the battle of the Somme and who previously hobbled about in splints just three days previously, had now regained almost the full use of his left leg.

IRA Vice-Commandant Edward McGrath reported that the town was packed with pilgrims, beggars, stall-holders and undesirables. The police and military had disappeared off the streets and non-uniformed IRA volunteers had taken over, acting as stewards and marshals, controlling traffic, parking and levying taxes. Local IRA commander Jimmy Leahy imposed a levy of 2/6d per day on all cars bringing pilgrims from Templemore to Curraheen claiming the levy was imposed to pay for repairs to local roads latter that had been damaged by the throngs of pilgrims, and to pay the expenses of IRA men involved in traffic and crowd control duty. This new levy caused an outcry, and Sinn Féin TD O’Byrne, chairman of North Tipperary County Council, met with Leahy pointing out that the levy was highly irregular suggesting that the Co Council should take over collection of this levy. Leahy refused, stating that same levy was required to purchase arms and ammunition, once his Volunteers expenses had been deducted. The IRA also became involved in preventing excessive profiteering by shopkeepers, caterers and hoteliers, dealing severely with those caught.  Collection boxes for the IRA and Cumann na mBán were also placed along the well worn routes of pilgrims, providing a reported total of some £1,500, which was subsequently delivered to their brigade quartermaster.

IRA volunteers, who previously had been enthusiastic, took to drinking their expense money and same appeared to forget that they were presently engaged in a struggle for their country’s freedom. Leahy now was obliged to contact Michael Collins to express his concern about the detrimental effect this situation was now having on local IRA operations. Reports of crime, violence and petty swindling at the expense of pilgrims, was also being reported. Leahy also visited Canon Ryan in Thurles and requested that the apparitions be denounced from the pulpit and demanded that Walsh hand over some of the money that had been given by pilgrims.

Michael Collins had already received information from the local Catholic clergy that IRA Volunteers had engineered statues that would bleed at specific times and now ordered Dan Breen to contact and interview Walsh, to which Breen reluctantly agreed. Walsh was now taken to Dublin and interrogated by Breen, with Collins waiting in the next room. Both men agreed Walsh was a fake. Phil Shanahan, a pub owner in Dublin and whose premises was frequented by IRA members, was asked by Breen to drive “the visionary,” back to Templemore.  Collins now sent a courier to Tipperary to acquire one of these bleeding statues. The internal mechanism of an alarm clock was now found to be concealed inside the acquired statue, which was connected to fountain pen insert containing a mixture of sheep’s blood and water. When the clock mechanism struck at certain times, it would send a spurt of blood from the statue, giving the impression that it was bleeding. According to an eye-witness, Collins took hold of one of the acquired statues and banged it off the side of his desk and out fell the works of the alarm clock. So ended the saga of the bleeding statues & local people, would soon learn that James Walsh had left for Australia.

The Northamptonshire Regiment raided the holy well at Curraheen and Dwan’s yard in Templemore. Here they removed crutches and other items left behind by cured pilgrims. Some soldiers decorated themselves with religious artefacts, while others feigning lameness, used discarded crutches to parade the main street in mockery.

Then, as suddenly as it had all begun, the whole sorry episode ceased to be no longer press worthy. With newspapers mentioning it no more, the steady flow of pilgrims ceased & with it the realisation of any further miracles in Templemore.  However, in the aftermath it became apparent that the events had been put to good use by the IRA. IRA men on the run, had been moved to new hiding places, the positioning of active service IRA guerrilla forces were altered and the distribution of supplies of arms and other munitions much better orchestrated.


1 comment to Bleeding Statues At Templemore Near Thurles Tipperary

  • Philip Roe

    What about the other religious shrines in France, Spain, Italy and South America. These are equally fraudulent, serving the Catholic Church’s superstitious mission to deceive people.

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