Wexford footballer's miraculous cure recorded in new Lourdes book
The extraordinary cure experienced by Enniscorthy man Eddie Cleary, following a visit to Lourdes in 1977, is recalled in a new book that has just been released.
'The Village of Bernadette: Lourdes, Stories, Miracles and Cures - The Irish Connection', was written by bestselling author Colm Keane, and his wife, former RTÉ newsreader, Una O'Hagan.
Eddie Cleary, a former Wexford footballer, played at left back for his county in the 1950s. He also had the distinction of representing Carlow with the county's footballers as a result of him working there.
However, three years before he visited Lourdes in July 1977, his legs were shattered in a road traffic accident.
He suffered several compound fractures which left him in severe pain and with an inability to move about unaided.
For those three years he was either confined to a wheelchair or forced to use crutches or a walking stick.
However, encouraged by some friends, Mr Cleary, agreed to join a pilgrimage to the shrine in Lourdes.
His wife, Susan, who worked as a nurse, remained at home to mind the couple's three children.
Led by curate, Fr John Fingleton, the group departed from Dublin Airport, where Eddie had to be helped onto the plane.
Likewise, upon arrival, he needed some assistance to exit the aircraft.
Everything was fine until the last night of the pilgrimage, the events of which Mr Cleary later recalled: 'I was in the wheelchair in front of the grotto [and] I took a crutch and walked round the grotto and I sat back in the chair again.'
After a while he said he would like to walk again.
'I felt the urge to do it,' he said.
'I got up and walked without using the crutch,' he added.
'I suddenly found I could walk very comfortably without any pain.'
Leaving the grotto Mr Cleary walked about halfway to his hotel before taking his friends' advice and going the rest of the way in the wheelchair.
'I didn't really know what had happened,' he said of the incident, and admitted to being a little frightened.
However, he was also delighted and informed Fr Fingleton about what had occurred.
The next morning he walked into the hotel dining room where he was greeted by jubilant applause.
When he returned to Enniscorthy it was to a fanfare of media publicity with one newspaper headline proclaiming: 'Agony Turns to Joy as Wheelchair Man Walks at Lourdes' while another recalled how he had an 'urge to walk'.
Although he never returned to his job as a butcher, from then on he lived a normal, active life and one of the first things he did when he returned home was visit his mother in Enniscorthy.
Mr Cleary passed away in 2016, aged 82, but he always said that it was 'faith in God' that brought about his recovery.