Fight to save Carfin Grotto nativity scene from flooding

The flooded area around the Cave of Bethlehem at Carfin Grotto.
The flooded area around the Cave of Bethlehem at Carfin Grotto.

Workers are racing against the clock to have a nativity scene ready for Christmas after flooding caused chaos at Carfin Grotto.

The grotto attracts pilgrims from all over Scotland and beyond, and the underground Cave of Bethlehem is popular with visitors, especially at this time of year.

However, recent heavy rainfall resulted in the basement which houses the nativity scene being under nearly five feet of water.

The grotto’s own pumps couldn’t cope with the deluge and it looked like the cave would be closed over the Christmas period.

Central Scotland MSP Richard Lyle was alerted to the desperate situation and he contacted Scottish Fire and Rescue who sent a pump to the grotto. Firefighters spent five hours pumping water away from the area around the cave and got the grotto’s own pumping system up and running again.

A local contractor, Gerry Gallagher, then arrived unannounced with a team of workers and they have dug new drains which should divert rainwater away from the cave and prevent further flooding.

Work at the scene continues, but those involved are confident the cave will, after all, be open for Christmas.

One grotto volunteer involved with the work said: “We’ve been fighting flooding for some time, but the last storm defeated us. Our pumps were overwhelmed with the surface water which all headed for the Cave of Bethlehem, situated in the lowest part of the grotto.

“The nativity figures were floating about in nearly five feet of water.

“We’re all grateful for the help of the fire brigade and Mr Gallagher who arrived out of the blue with four men to dig a drain and save the cave from further flooding.”

The grotto is a national pilgrimage site dedicated by the Roman Catholic Church to Our Lady of Lourdes. It was built using voluntary labour around 90 years ago and hosts many church services and national rallies each year.

Mr Lyle said: “I was only too pleased to help out. Carfin Grotto is a national monument, visited by people of all faiths, and I’m delighted it looks like the cave will be open for Christmas after all.”

Fr Francis McGachey, parish priest at nearby St Francis Xavier Church and grotto guardian, added his thanks and said the cave will be open for visitors once it is blessed following 7pm mass on Christmas Eve.

He added: “It will remain open until afer midnight mass and people can then visit throughout the Christmas season.”