The extraordinary cure from cancer of Letterkenny woman Sally McCloy, during a visit to Lourdes in 1962, is recalled in a new book, The Village of Bernadette: Lourdes, Stories, Miracles and Cures – The Irish Connection, written by bestselling author Colm Keane and his wife, former RTÉ newsreader Una O’Hagan.

Sally, who had moved to the UK but whose family remained in Letterkenny, weighed five-and-a-half stone and had been carried by boat and ambulance train all the way from her home in Coventry to the shrine. ‘I knew that I was not expected to live,’ she remarked. ‘The children expected me to come back cured, though no one else thought I would survive.’

Although born and brought up in Letterkenny, Sally was living in the UK and had four children. Her husband Dan worked with an engineering company in Coventry. Even though she was dying, it was her husband and children, and not herself, she was worried about. ‘My prayers were always for my husband Dan and the children,’ she said.

During the procession of the Blessed Sacrament in Lourdes, something extraordinary happened to Sally. ‘There was like a sudden burst of light,’ she recalled. She instantly felt free. It was as if a weight had been lifted from her body. The pain that had afflicted her for months was gone. ‘I knew I was healed,’ she remarked.

Despite feeling well, she feared on her return to Coventry what her medical specialist might say. ‘He examined me and for a minute didn’t say anything,’ she recalled. ‘I had a terrible feeling that although I felt well and the pain had gone, that he hadn’t found any change.’ But he had. What he said next came as a shock. ‘This isn’t imagination; it’s absolutely wonderful,’ he remarked. The cancer was in remission. It would shortly be gone.

Sally, who was soon restored to her normal weight of 8st 3lbs, put her miraculous recovery down to faith. Maybe her own prayers had helped, she reflected, because they had been directed to her family and not herself. Her family’s prayers had possibly helped, too, as had those of people at home in Letterkenny. But she had no doubt the visit to Lourdes was central to her cure – that’s where the miracle had happened.

Over the following three years, Sally was investigated by the Lourdes Medical Bureau. A panel of doctors, mostly non-Catholics, from all over the world, questioned her and examined her medical records. Her visits to the bureau took place on an annual basis. The bureau finally verified her cure, pronouncing her free of cancer.

The Village of Bernadette: Lourdes, Stories, Miracles and Cures – The Irish Connection is written by Colm Keane and Una O’Hagan.

Colm has published 28 books, including eight No.1 bestsellers, among them The Little Flower: St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Padre Pio: Irish Encounters with the Saint. Una O’Hagan is a No.1 bestselling author and former newsreader with Radio Telefís Éireann. She has anchored all the main news bulletins and interviewed Nelson Mandela, among others.

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