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Abercynon 'Welsh Lourdes' shrine in restoration appeal

Category: Wales

Published: 16th Mar 2011 07:13:22

An appeal is being launched to restore a holy shrine in the Cynon Valley referred to as the "Welsh Lourdes".

People have come to pray at the riverbank grotto at the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas, Abercynon, since it was built 85 years ago.

The shrine, the brainchild of the town's first priest, Father Carroll Baillie, was built by miners.

Rhondda Cynon Taf mayor Simon Lloyd said the monument was "a great reminder of this area's history".

Father Baillie arrived in Abercynon in 1924 to minister to the immigrant Irish and Italian miners, as well as to the small number of Welsh Catholics living in the area at the time, explained a council spokesperson.

The 1925 coal strike caused a stoppage of work at the two local collieries on which the local population depended for its livelihood.

In order to keep the town's unemployed miners occupied, Father Baillie decided to create a Welsh version of the holy shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes in France.

The miners used crowbars and ropes to haul huge blocks of stone from the riverbed, then strengthened the banks and terraces with a sloped wall.

The holy shrine at the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas is a unique place in this part of south Wales and is a great reminder of this area's history”

Mr Lloyd said: "The holy shrine at the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas is a unique place in this part of south Wales and is a great reminder of this area's history.

"I am delighted to hear that the shrine is going to be restored and I hope that local people will be able to support the restoration appeal."

Abercynon's shrine is relatively modern compared to others around Wales.

The shrine at St Winefride's Well, in Holywell, Flintshire, has been attracting visitors since the 7th Century.

St Mary's Well at Penrhys, in Rhondda, has been visited by pilgrims from around the world since the medieval period.

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BBC News, 2011. Abercynon 'Welsh Lourdes' shrine in restoration appeal [Online] (Updated 16th Mar 2011)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/138388/Abercynon-039-Welsh-Lourdes-039-shrine-in-restoration-appeal [Accessed 23rd Apr 2014]

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