This Sunday (October 20) a shrine marking the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary performed a miracle was rededicated by George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff.
In 1926, in this mining village a three-year-old boy Gerald O’Shea fell into the coal-blackened raging confluence of the Rivers Taff and Cynon. When he returned home he said he had been plucked out of the water by a lady in blue – the lady on his religious medallion.
To mark the miracle a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes was set up with striking miners cutting into the steep rocky cliff to set it up. It became a place of pilgrimage that drew 10,000 pilgrims a year. But over time it became overgrown and the path to the shrine crumbled and became unsafe.
It had been forgotten for decades but when the Rev. John Phillips took over the church of St Thomas, above the shrine ,10 years ago he investigated and a plan was developed to bring it back to its full religious glory and years of work by volunteers set about the task.
The area leading to the shrine was an impenetrable mass of brambles, overgrown vegetation and Japanese knotweed. Father John’s vision was that the land could be transformed into a place of beauty, an impossible dream!
But with the help of a band of dedicated parishioners who tirelessly worked to clear the steps to the shrine tp remove the accumulated debris and silt built up over many years the shrine slowly came into view.
The team worked on restoring the badly damaged and crumbling Stations of the Cross that line the path leading down to the river and removing the overgrown Japanese knotweed. Landscaping work revealed the true glory of the Shrine and transformed what was a derelict overgrown wilderness into an attractive peaceful place where people could sit and pray in tranquil surroundings.
Parishioners flocked to the site when Archbishop George dedicated it and blessed the shrine.
Below the shrine the rivers Taff and Cynon raged with the great rainfall that had occurred over the weekend. But at least the rivers were clear since the coal mining in the valley had long since gone.
Yet thoughts went back to how that three-year-old boy had survived the fast flowing slurry coal dust polluted rivers with the help of a miracle!
Thoughts went back to the shrine created by immigrant Catholic miners as The Tablet revealed in an article of 12 August 2006, written by correspondent Richard Abbott.
Richard revealed the sorry state of the Shrine and hoped it would be restored.
His hopes were fulfilled on October 20 2019!