IN the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, the ensuing guerrilla war reached its peak in August 1920, in the garrison town of Templemore, when a series of extraordinary events occurred. 16-year-old farm labourer Jimmy Walsh claimed that he was experiencing Marian apparitions, and that religious statues owned by him were moving and bleeding. Miraculous cures were claimed and the religious fervour that gripped Ireland led to an influx of thousands of pilgrims. The phenomenon of the ‘Templemore miracles’ or ‘bleeding statues’ lasted for several weeks and an informal ceasefire arose while the rebels, the police, military and civilian population struggled to comprehend the surreal situation.
With the logistics of conducting the war disrupted by the flood of pilgrims, the IRA stepped in. They interrogated Walsh and, with the direct involvement of Michael Collins, planned to deter further pilgrimages to Templemore. In due course, Walsh had left Ireland, never to return, and the war resumed with an even greater degree of ferocity. Here, John Reynolds charts the bizarre goings-on that intersected the spiritual, social and martial fixations of early twentieth-century Ireland based around a small town and a boy with visions.