In 1956, Fr. Louis Coffey had an idea. He wanted to bring the Bible alive for the children of Ireland, but with a Christmas focus and using, what was at the time, quite advanced mechanical figures. After much thought, discussions and planning The Moving Crib was born.
Although Fr. Louis Coffey is credited with founding the Crib, the creative genius of artist painter Fr. Aengus Buckley is evident in many of the 14 scenes that make up the Crib (a few scenes were added in later years). Fr. Buckley was an accomplished artist, so as well as painting all the original background paintings and design work, his paintings (frescoes) can be found in Galway Cathedral, Sligo, Limerick Dominican Church, Waterford Dominican Church.
In the first year, the attraction was literally the crib scene, with a stable and moving figures. This proved so popular and attractive that in the next few years the crib was extended to its present size. Frank Pringle was the master craftsman who built all the scenes, including a magnificent Noah’s ark. Another contributor in more recent times was Cormac Larkin, the renowned Dublin artist. He painted the background to later scenes and repainted some of the older scenes.
The Moving Crib first opened in our original premises of 30 Parnell Square before being moved to 42 Parnell square in 1977.
Would you like to be stuffed?
One ever popular attraction in the crib is the preserved and stuffed figure of a dog. It has been there for quite a number of years and the quoted reason for his presence is that we thought he deserved to be remembered because he was reputed to have saved three people from drowning in the River Liffey. Did he really dive in three times to save one person or three people or did this stuffed dog come in as a contribution for the jumble sales, which the Apostolate used to have? Well, whether a true hero or just a stuffed dog imbued with heroism as well as saw dust, he makes a wonderful attraction for the children – who love the idea of the hero dog.
The emotions of the children on seeing the dog for the first time vary from admiration to puzzlement and even tears. ‘How would you like to be stuffed?’ one young dog loving child was heard to say as the tears poured. But the background story of the hero dog quickly soothed the child and the tears were replaced with smiles.
One other historical anomaly is a miniature pony and trap, which like the dog, is just a further attraction for the children.
Below is some video and audio footage from the RTE Archives of original coverage of The Moving Crib.