‘Providence My Guide’- The Inspiring Story of Dame Judy Coyne

Judy Coyne (nee Begley) from Mossbrook, Claremorris, Co. Mayo was born on the 12th September 1904 . She was the youngest of a family of ten and having completed national school in Mayo Abbey, she continued her education at Taylor’s Hill Secondary School, Galway. She had many hobbies including horse-riding, reading, music and tennis. The latter being one of her favourite, she founded tennis clubs in Claremorris and Galway. Judy married William David Coyne at the age of 19.


Her husband, better known as Liam Ua Cadhain, was born in 1888 and was a practising solicitor in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo. He went on to become chairman of Mayo County Council and later was appointed District Justice for South-West Mayo, a post he held until his death.


Following a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1928 and seeing developments there, the couple decided to do something to further the cause of Knock Shrine. In August 1935, they founded the Knock Shrine Society and  Bridgemount, Belcarra, Castlebar, where the couple lived, became the society’s headquarters. This began the Coynes involvement with Knock Shrine which lasted for twenty-five years in Liam’s case and seventy-four in Judy’s.


Liam was involved in many aspects of the Shrine’s work including stewarding, correspondence, publications on Knock, promotion and organisation of pilgrimage.  He was the author of several books on Knock including ‘Cnoc Mhuire in Picture and Story’ and ‘Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh – Pastor of Knock 1867-1897’. Liam continued this work until his untimely death on 3rd September, 1953.


Judy was a woman of strong faith and her spiritual influence on those with whom she worked was inspiring. She had a special love for the sick and ran St. Joseph’s Rest House for the Sick for over forty years. Every week Judy would buy and cook large quantities of food in her own home and transport it to Knock to provide meals for Handmaids, Stewards and the sick. During her seventy-four years of involvement with Knock, she established various Apostolates including the Dedicated Handmaids, the International Blessed Sacrament Guild, the Rosary Crusade and the Apostolate of the Holy Souls.


In 1938, the Coynes commenced publication of the Knock Shrine Annual to record yearly events at the Shrine. Judy compiled and edited this book for fifty-eight years Following her husband’s death, she assumed responsibility for all aspects of the society’s work and dealt with a great amount of correspondence, especially arrangements for pilgrimages.


Judy received many honours in her lifetime including ‘Dame of the Order of St. Sylvester’ in 1997, the first Irish woman to receive this honour. She was a great believer in Providence and her memoir, published 2004, is available online from Knock Book Shop  and is entitled ‘Providence My Guide – The Heroic Force in the Knock Shrine Society’. Dame Judy Coyne died on  April 24th  2002 and is buried with her husband in the Old Cemetery in Knock.

–  Text courtesy of Knock Museum