by Marian Duggan
It was fitting that Knock experienced one of the wettest days of the year on the 140th anniversary of the apparition.
On August 21, 1879 the witnesses prayed for hours in the rain after Our Lady was said to appear on the church gable and locals were taken back to that day last Thursday when a model of 1879 Knock was launched.
The work, which takes pride of place in the museum, features the parish church built in 1828, school houses, the thatched cottage on the site where the basilica now stands, archdeacon Cavanagh’s residence, witnesses’ homes and the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks on the Claremorris side of the village.
Locals historians Tom Neary and Nollaig O’Muraile reminded pilgrims what 1879 Knock was like: Land quality was poor, the potato crop was paramount, donkeys were the transport used with the first car only arriving in Ireland in 1898, a farm labourer’s wage was only two shillings and sixpence,
and the best rural dwellings were thatched cottages.
The apparition gave “hope, healing and comfort to the people who suffered so much for a long time and it continues to do so today,” said Mr Neary, who served as head steward at Knock shrine for many years.
Mr Ó Muraile said despite the extraordinary event that the witnesses “never allowed themselves to be carried away by their own role.
“It’s a wonderful work of art and presentation that captures the legacy that is Knock itself,” said Knock’s parish priest Fr Richard Gibbons.
Launching the work, archbishop Michael Neary said the model’s role in helping us understand the Knock of the time couldn’t be overstated in this visual age.