The dubious testimony of Patrick Walsh concerning the Knock Vision

Images of Mary and Joseph and others supposedly appeared on the chapel gable at Knock in 1879 for two hours.

The following was taken by priests at the commission of investigation.

My name is Patrick Walsh; I live at Ballinderrig, an English mile from the chapel of Knock. I remember well the 21st of August, 1879. It was a very dark night. It was raining heavily. About nine o'clock on that night I was going on some business through my land, and standing a distance of about half a mile from the chapel, I saw a very bright light on the southern gable-end of the chapel ; it appeared to be a large globe of golden light ; I never saw, I thought, so brilliant a light before; it appeared high up in the air above and around the chapel gable, and it was circular in its appearance ; it was quite stationary, and it seemed to retain the same brilliancy all through. The following day I made inquiries in order to learn if there were any lights seen in place that night; it was only then I heard of the Vision or Apparition that the people had seen.

COMMENTARY: It is thought that as Patrick Walsh, 65, who lived at Ballinderrig about a mile from Knock saw such a bright light that it seemed as if the Church was on fire that a brightness of that potency could only be miraculous.

It is thought that luminous paint and magic lanterns can't account for it.

He said the light he saw was "quite stationary" and "circular" and "appeared high up in the air above and around the chapel gable" (page 26, The Apparition at Knock). He reported that he saw the light from a half mile from the chapel. His testimony is used to verify that the apparition was not mass hallucination - he alone stands as its seeming refutation. So his testimony is very very important - but is it true or believable?

The problems are that if his story was true, then why was he the only person at a distance that saw the light? A light that bright and big should have been seen by more than him. The area after all was quite flat with few trees. It should have been seen for miles around. Why did nobody else from that distance or more see it from their houses? Would he have really been out in the fields in the dark on such a wet night?

Patrick Walsh should have thought the Church was on fire when he saw the light from a half a mile away. Indeed it is claimed from oral testimony ie gossip that he thought somebody had lit a fire beside the Church (page 73, The Apparition at Knock). Surely somebody only a half a mile away from a church wrapped in light would have went to investigate? - it would have looked as if the Church was on fire. Indeed there are reports that Walsh thought it was on fire but went to rest for the night nonetheless (page 66, Mother of Nations). Reliable and dependable wasn't he? Surely when he went home his family would have went out to see if there was a light upon hearing his story? If it is true that Walsh spoke of what looked like a fire then his testimony has been doctored. It contradicts any notion of a fire with its talk of a circular and stationary light.

Why didn't the police investigate if there was any kind of light or anything that looked like a fire? They must have seen the light and they had a barracks nearby. Was it because there was nothing remarkable about the light?
No effort was made to ensure that Walsh mentioned this light before he was told of it. All we know is that he was asking the people about the light the next day. This is only hearsay. The story of the apparition would have been so arresting that the first person he met would have told him of it before he got the chance to ask about any fire.

Ballinderrig is a townland in the vicinity of Knock in the Ballyhaunis direction. You would find it impossible to get a reasonable or direct view of the gable from it. If he saw a light then it was not on that gable but another one and higher up. No wonder nobody was interested in mapping exactly where he was supposed to be.
People seeing lights is common enough - especially at apparition sites. The Church pays no attention to them. Nobody takes them seriously. God would have better things to do than make such effects. So why take Walsh seriously?
The testimony is altered. Tradition including that of Walsh's own family members say he thought he saw a fire but that is not in his testimony. Also the heavy rain tale is refuted by other sources. It was drizzle according to Patrick Beirne. We choose however to make do with what we have that is attributed to Walsh. But not much weight can be put on it.