Ford employees' moving statue of Our Lady

In the summer of 1985, pilgrims from all over Ireland bore down on the small County Cork village of Ballinspittle to witness the phenomena of a ‘moving statue’ of Our Lady.

Ford employees' moving statue of Our Lady

A year later, employees of Ford in Cork city experienced their own moving statue phenomena, although this had a far simpler explanation.

For 30 years, employees at the Marina plant had prayed a Decade of the Rosary during their lunch hour before a statue of Our Lady in the plant’s service stores. It had been bought by the workers to honour and commemorate the Marian year — 1954.

When the factory closed in 1984, the saga of where to move Mary began — and she embarked on a journey that took in a good few ‘homes’, before finally finding a resting place in the garden of the Dominican Centre on Mulgrave Road, Cork city, where she still resides.

The statue has travelled so much, in fact, that former employee Richard Wiseman refers to it as the “moving statue”.

“A group of workers, led by my uncle, Michael John DeCourcey, purchased the statue in Egans Jewellers and Silversmiths in Cork,” Richard explains.

It cost 12 pounds and two shillings, for which the workers held a collection.

Richard fondly recalls the statue’s place in the everyday routine of the factory.

“The Rosary was recited by workers beside it during their lunch break each day,” he says, adding that the routine continued right up to the closure of the factory.

“There were about 1,000 working there, but there might be people praying every day during their lunch hour.

“There was a beautiful shrine built with glass, to hold the statue.”

Richard enjoyed seeing workers’ reactions when they passed Our Lady.

“This statue now, I kept my eye on her all the time, up on her platform. People would come along, it was a funny thing, 99% of people when they’d pass it, they would always bless themselves. They mightn’t have been very religious, but they would.”

When the plant closed, the statue may have been lost forever, if it wasn’t for a couple of ‘guardian angels’ — Richard and his friend and colleague, Eddie Mullins, who decided to ensure she lived to pray another day.

“When the service stores closed, Eddie and I went up there,” recalls Richard. “He was a forklift driver, which was handy because we had her up in the wall and we had to take her down.

“So we brought her from there down to where we worked for Ford at the ‘Eleven Acre Site’, that was the name for the place where they used to store Ford cars for dealers after the Marina closed.”

When ‘Eleven Acre Site’ closed in 2001, Richard wanted the statue to move to the Marymount Convent in Montenotte. He contacted a friend, Arthur O’Callaghan, who arranged for it to be taken to its new home.

But the convent wouldn’t be its final resting place.

“The sad thing about it was, that place closed down too,” Richard says. “The nuns got on to Arthur and said they were moving from Marymount in Montenotte, to a new building in Curraheen, and they couldn’t bring her.

“So the statue was painted and presented to the Dominican Order and it’s now installed in its garden in Mulgrave Road.

“It’s recorded that many petitions were granted for those who prayed at the statue over the many years,” he adds.

“I suppose, in a way, you might call it the moving statue. You have the moving statue down in Ballinspittle but this one was bought in 1954, and it moved from there to the service stores where I worked, then it was taken to Marymount and then to its final resting place in the Dominicans, and it’s still there.”

Sister Berchmans of the Dominicans says the statue is beautiful in its spot in the sanctuary of the garden.

Most statues tend to be broken up and dismantled when a place for them can’t be found, so the Dominicans were happy to have it.

Visitors to the garden are very impressed by it, Sister Berchmans says, adding: “They love it.”

Richard hadn’t seen the statue since it left for Marymount, so he was delighted to be reunited with it 16 years later, for our photograph here.

“I hadn’t seen it since 2001 it was nice to see her one more time,” he adds.

“I kept my eye on her all the time, she was my friend. I liked looking up at her up on her platform.

“Now the nuns have her, they like her and they respect her.”

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