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Mayo Apparition

Jim and I were pawing through yet another box of mysterious items. I pulled this out of a box of early thermoplastic items (hairbrushes and buttonhooks).

I assume its a decorative darning egg, but what do I know about darning? The 2-inch long egg unscrews at the "equator" to reveal a smooth hollow, probably too short for my darning needle.

It looks like a pleasant big bead.

"I think it has a tiny lens. What is it -- look through," Jim says.

"No, its a hole," I say. I look around on my cluttered desk but can't find my darning needle to poke it through and prove I'm right. I set it aside to move on to other treasures.

Yesterday, I pick it up again and really look through the hole. "Really looking" is my technical term for what Jim does by second nature and for what I have to discipline myself to do. This is why I don't have patience with 3-D comic books -- you have to relax your eyes and really look. I enjoy jumping to conclusions: nice Victorian bead to keep secrets in.

I look. Nothing. I turn it around. Oh! A picture! The Blessed Virgin. I run and show it to Jim. The eagle eye sees more. Two pictures. And a label. The right edge is obscured. Apparition at K... August 21 1879.

Jim may have better eyes, but I have access to the internet. I google on "apparition 1879." The results are immediate and surprising:

The Apparition at Knock, County Mayo, Ireland.

On the 21st August, 1879, 15 people, from the village of Knock, witnessed an apparition of Our Lady, St Joseph and St John the Evangelist at the South gable of Knock Parish Church. They watched the apparition for two hours, in the pouring rain and recited the Rosary. [from Museums of Mayo]

My great-grandmother Maggie Keville was 14 then, and living down the road a piece near Shrule. I wonder if it was big news. Apparently there were lots of cures happening. Okay, maybe there were a few other things going on:

The people who remained in County Mayo in the wake of the Great Famine [1845-49] soon showed that they were resilient in the face of adversity. A national movement was initiated in County Mayo during 1879 by Michael Davitt, James Daly, and others, which brought about the greatest social change ever witnessed in Ireland. Michael Davitt (1846 -1906), who was born at Straide, County Mayo, saw his family evicted at the age of four, emigration to England, and experienced many hard knocks and disappointments in his voyage through life. He became Mayo's most famous son on the pages of Irish history and one of the great patriots of his country. James Daly (1835-1910), who played a crucial role in the early land agitation in Mayo, came from Boghadoon, near Lahardaun, and was editor of The Connacht Telegraph newspaper. The land agitation started at a meeting held in Irishtown, near Ballindine, County Mayo, on Sunday 20 April 1879. The meeting, which was attended by a crowd variously estimated at from four to fifteen thousand, arose out of a threat to evict a number of tenants for arrears of rent from the estate of a local absentee landlord. The meeting led not only to the cancellation of the proposed evictions but to a general reduction of rents. Of far greater consequence, however, were the wider political effects of the meeting, whose reverberations were to be felt throughout the whole of Ireland over the next quarter of a century.

Apparitions and the rising tumult of social change. I wonder... Maybe it was about that time that Maggie decided she needed to get the heck out of there and set her sites on America.




Knock Folk Museum One of the museums of Mayo. Documents the apparitions and miracles.

Mayo on the Move. Account of the apparition

Our Lady of Knock on the Mary Pages.