many people associate Knock Shrine with only one person,
the legendary Canon James Horan, this COGAR tells the
extraordinary story of Knock's heroine - Dame Judy Coyne.
In the 1930s, Judy with her husband Liam, revived national
interest in the then almost forgotten shrine. She spent
a lifetime working to promote and develop the Marian Shrine
at Knock. And one Sunday morning in 1964, Judy Coyne got
the idea that the Pope should come to Ireland.
Coyne (nee Begley) was born the youngest of 11
children to a Claremorris farmer in 1905. She
married District court judge Liam Coyne in 1924;
they honeymooned in Paris, and settled into their
comfortable life at Bridgemount House, near Belcarra
where Judy enjoyed shopping, fine clothes and
1929, Judy and Liam received a letter from friends
asking them to meet them at Knock for the golden
jubilee of the Apparition of our Lady at Knock
(1879).The Archbishop of Tuam told the gathered
pilgrims that they mustn't take his presence there
as giving official recognition to the Apparition
alleged to have taken place fifty years earlier.
Church had never given any opinion for or against it
and the 1st Commission of Enquiry, which had been appointed
to investigate the claims, had come to no positive conclusion.
This surprised Judy and Liam but it wasn't until 1934
on a pilgrimage to Lourdes that the Coynes started to
make comparisons to Knock. The daily blessing of the
sick made a particularly deep impression on them.
day we joined in the huge procession… and as we did
so, we asked ourselves again and again why we were not
seeing the same thing happening in Knock…...A strange
feeling of a need to do something to promote it began
to nag at both my husband and myself, and there was
no getting rid of it.'
my Guide, Judy Coyne, 2004)
such ordinary motivations, began the extraordinary story
of Dame Judy Coyne and Knock. In 1930s rural Ireland,
with her husband Liam, she revived an interest in the
then almost forgotten shrine of Knock - beginning a
journey that would bring Knock to what it is today:
one of the principal Marian shrines in the world. In
1935, they founded the Society for the Promotion of
Knock Shrine (now known simply as the Knock Shrine Society).
They travelled the country distributing leaflets to
schools and convents. They held lecture tours promoting
the Shrine. Books were written and Judy produced the
Knock Shrine Annual. From the beginning a body of helpers
was established known as the Handmaids and Stewards
under Judy's strict guidance and over the years small
progress was made with a rest home opening for sick
the mid 1950s, the Dublin Pioneer Total Abstinence Association
announced they were hoping to make a large pilgrimage
to Knock and wrote to Judy to arrange things at the Shrine.
Judy was not encouraged by the local priest and met considerable
resistance from Mayo County Council - 'The roads couldn't
take them' 'Every tractor in the county would be pulling
the cars out of the ditches.' But the Dublin Pioneers
came - all 50,000 of them. The crowds were catered for
with no running water and no fridges - nothing like it
was to be seen again in Knock until the Pope's visit.
her lifelong involvement with Knock, Judy herself
interviewed some of the original witnesses to the
Apparition. She oversaw the search for cures as
part of the Second Commission of Inquiry into Knock.
In 1954, the Marian Year, Judy led the handmaidens
and stewards to Rome where the Knock Banner was
blessed by Pope Pius XII, one of her proudest moments.
'The first privilege the Vatican gave to Knock
the 1960s she travelled alone to Italy to oversee the
work of Professor Lorenzo Ferri who sculpted the statues
that eventually came to stand at the gable end of the
original Knock church. And one Sunday morning in 1964,
Judy read about the Pope's visit to the Holy Land, planting
the idea that the Pope should visit Ireland and more
especially, Knock. From then on, she started a countdown
to the centenary of the Apparition (1979), putting pressure
on Canon Horan and the Archbishops to make it happen.
The rest is history.
by Mary Brophy, this Cogar tells the story of one self-effacing
woman's determination and foresight - a woman who achieved
so much against a backdrop of an often resistant clergy
and in an almost forgotten Ireland.
- Dáma Chnoc Mhuire
An Esras Films production for TG4
Produced & Directed by Mary Brophy
For further information and/or publicity stills, please
Esras Films on 01- 2881939
Mary Brophy, Producer/Director on 01- 2881939
Esras Films Ltd,
43 Mount Merrion Avenue,
heroic force in the Knock Shrine story
Author: Kennedy, Ethna
Mercier Press Ltd. Douglas
Village, Cork, Ireland
(T) +353 -21 - 489 9858
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