Ardboe was a quiet, isolated, rural community in the mid 1950s. However, in the 1950s, a series of strange happenings brought the area to international attention.
On a late August evening in 1954, Teresa Grimes was in her home overlooking the Annaghmore drain when she experienced a vision of the ‘Mother of God’ standing in a bush at the bottom of the garden. The vision was confirmed by several other local women.
The news of the event spread quickly through the community and crowds were soon flocking to the drain, praying and singing hymns.
Shortly after the first visitation, two young women from Portglenone, Co Antrim, Mary Rankin and Ann Hanna, claimed to be having similar visions. Eyewitness accounts recorded the young women going into a trance-like states and fainting. They became the focal point of all the apparitions, claiming to encounter the Virgin Mary almost nightly thereafter.
The stance taken by the local clergy, however, was lukewarm. The curate Fr McKeever reminded the parishioners that the Virgin Mary could be worshipped just as effectively in the local church. But a sense of occasion and natural curiosity continued to bring people to Annavore in their droves.
The drama that was acted out in and around the little fields surrounding the estate came to a climax on the night of December 8, 1954, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The crowds that came arrived mainly by bicycle, bus and car. Sixty-two buses were hired to convey people from Ballymena and Belfast and traffic jams were reported on both the Coagh and Magherafelt roads. A plane was apparently chartered to bring Tyrone emigrants home from Scotland.
The crowd gathered to hear a special message from the Virgin as promised by Rankin and Hanna. At about 1am it started to rain incessantly and the visionaries fainted. The crowd held its breath but the long awaited message never materialised and the faithful slowly dispersed. Dawn brought muddy fields and trampled gardens, the aftermath of the invasion, and Annavore as a spectacle was finished.