Where Are They Now? Ballinspittle Moving Statue


IT harks back to a time when the Catholic Church was the rock ‘n roll of Ireland, the Ballinspittle moving statue was like no other phenomenon the country had seen up to that point. In 1985 thousands flocked to the small Cork village to catch a glimpse of the moving statue that had it all.

But now, long since the fanfare has died down, the curious tale of the statue of Our Lady is less well known, and certainly less celebrated. Today, WWN brings you the tragic story of the Ballinaspittle moving statue and how its days as the sexiest statue on the go seem a world away:

The interest was intense; fights had broken out in queues to the statue and priests were drafted in for crowd control, but even the threat of eternal damnation couldn’t quell the statue-mad people of Ireland. They came from further afield too, as far as Japan and other countries of roughly equal distance.

A whole economy built up around the statue and the small town: replica statues were sold, T-shirts sold out on the first day. Prostitutes jumped on the bus to Ballinspitlle and made a fortune.

Despite the media attention the Vatican paid little attention to the hype, that was until Gay Byrne presented a special edition of the Late Late Show live from the side of the statue itself and much to the amazement of everyone watching at home Our Lady’s eyes clearly moved.

The Vatican, sensing they had a truly exceptional moving statue on their hands, swooped in and cordoned off the site. The next day they left at dawn and the statue seemed to remain in place.

However, the Vatican had taken the statue, replacing it with a fake. Business cunning had trumped small town Ireland, and the statue was whisked away for a lucrative international tour, brought to the richest towns and cities which had large Catholics populations. In a pre-internet age, the people of Ballinspittle carried on unaware of the theft.

Tickets for the Vatican run events cost upwards of €1,000 and the Ballinspittle statue mania reached fever pitch.

Each event ended with a Q and A session hosted by Cliff Richard. The statue would blink once for yes, twice for no. It was a religious event like no other, an assault on the senses and a spiritual tour de force. City to city, the queues became larger, the tickets even more expensive.

It was only when Our Lady made the cover of Time magazine in 1999 with that famous wink pose that the locals of Ballinspittle realised they had been duped by the Vatican but it was too late, the statue had become the single biggest revenue generator for the church, eclipsing both church collections and priests forcing elderly parishioners to sign over all their possessions in their wills.

By 2003 the extensive world tour was set to conclude with a week long residency in Madison Square Gardens, the American media became obsessed with the little statue that could and Our Lady gave several high profile interviews most famously blinking her way into the hearts of the nation on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Just as Our Lady was about to take to the stage on her first night in New York, the unthinkable happened. Murmurs were heard in the crowd, a tsunami of whispers fell upon them and soon they headed for the exits. The Vatican had found a new, better and ‘sexier’ moving statue in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil.

This particular statue had, according to locals, begun to move as they prayed and before they knew what was going on the statue of Our Lady had lifted up her garbs to display her private parts which were quoting passages from the Bible. Suddenly a blink of an eye here, a slight move of the hand there just didn’t cut it anymore.

For our Ballinspittle statue, the dream was well and truly over. It is believed the statue was unceremoniously dumped into a bin behind the venue that night never to be heard from again. Rumours heavily linked the American actor Sylvester Stallone to the statue, with the actor himself claiming he picked it up at a car boot sale.

If these claims are true, then today the statue takes up residence in the LA mansion of the Rocky Star, propping up one corner of his ornate glass table along with three other religious statues.

On a whim, I jumped on a flight to LA and made my way to the Stallone mansion, sneaking past security, we peered in the window of the sitting room and there it was – the corner plinth to a glass table. I shouted through the window to ask a few questions.

“Are you happy?” I ventured, I received one blink in response. “Would you change of any of it?” I asked, this time two blinks for no. Despite her fame long behind her it seems this statue is happy to have moved and been able to move so many.