Listowel Connection

This blog is a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home. Contact me at listowelconnection@gmail.com

A Mill, a Poem, a Signwriter and a Celtic Illuminator

Schiller in The Garden of Europe, Listowel, September 2021

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The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill

…Beneath it a stream gently rippled
Around it the birds loved to trill 
Though now far away 
Still my thoughts fondly stray 
To the old rustic bridge by the mill

Thomas Peter Keenan

While I was in Castletownroche for my family wedding I took the opportunity to visit the most famous spot in the village.

The Mill
The rustic bridge

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A President of St. Michael’s (1902)

Death of a Priest.
Much regret will he felt by Kerry priests and Kerry men all over the world at the death of the Very Rev. Father Timothy Crowley, lately president of St Michael’s College, Listowel. Father Crowley was a native of Kilsarken, and received his earlier education at St. Brendan’s Seminary, Killarney. Going thence to Maynooth, he had a distinguished career, and was made on his ordination president of the Kerry Diocesan Seminary. Subsequently he made a tour in America collecting for the O’Connell Memorial Church, and on his return was appointed to the presidency of St. Michael’s College, Listowel. Failing health overtook him, and he passed away in his 54th year, to the great regret of his confreres in the diocese, who deplore the loss of so able a colleague.

New Zealand Tablet, 14 August 1902

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Carroll’s Hardware, The Square, Listowel

Martin Chute is doing an excellent job of signwriting on this iconic building in Listowel’s picturesque Square.

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A Poem for Poetry Week

This poem by Delia O’Sullivan from her great book It’s Now or Never will give you food for thought.

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Michael O’Connor Remembered

Plans are afoot to bring some of the works of this extraordinary but under appreciated Listowel born artist back to his family home at 24 The Square, now Kerry Writers’ Museum.

On today, September 17, the anniversary of Michael’s death, his son, Fr. Brendan O’Connor shares memories of his father with us.

Michael Anthony O’Connor (1913-1969)
Although it is over 50 years since the passing of my late father, on 17th September 1969, I still have fond memories of seeing him stooped over his drawing board in the evenings, with paints, brushes, pens and quills arranged on the table beside him. He would work patiently for hours on end, usually after we had all gone to bed when he would have less distractions.

His concentrated and painstaking artistic work reflected his good-humored and patient manner. He never had to raise his voice.

“What did your mother tell you?” was enough to convey that it was time to obey.

We looked forward to his return from the office every day – his professional work was as an assistant architect in the Department of Transport and Power – but especially on Fridays when he would bring some chocolates for us and a treat for my mother.

We were so accustomed to his artistic creations that we didn’t fully appreciate the originality, skill and dedication he brought to his art. He had the humility to continue working at a very high level of achievement without seeking to be known or appreciated. The completed work was its own reward.

This is shown in particular in the “Breastplate of St Patrick” – a family heirloom which he produced for his own enjoyment in 1961 to celebrate 1,500th anniversary of the national saint. 


He responded generously to requests for illuminated commemorative scrolls and the like. He also completed a number of commissions for official government purposes, but of all of these we have little data.


Although original illuminated artwork and calligraphy in the Celtic style was not much appreciated at the time, a small circle of friends and acquaintances were aware of the quality of his achievements. Prof. Etienne Rynne and Maurice Fridberg have left written testimonies of their appreciation. 
Mr Fridberg, an Art Collector, wrote in a letter to the President of Ireland in 1972 –

“Michael O’Connor was in my opinion the greatest artist of modern Celtic Illumination in this century. “

Although obviously influenced by the Book of Kells, his own individuality comes through every letter.” Prof. Rynne, wrote an article on the revival of Irish Art in an American journal, also in 1972, in which he said “O’Connor, however, produced much excellent work, notably in the form of beautifully illuminated letters. Although a master-craftsman and an original worker he depended somewhat more on the ancient models and on neat symmetry than did O’Murnaghan. … With the death in 1969 of O’Connor, the ranks of first-class artists working in the ‘Celtic’ style were seriously bereft.”

Michael O’Connor was born in No. 24, The Square, Listowel in 1913. He married Margaret Walsh in 1950 and they had four children, Michael, Brendan, Gerardine and Aidan. We used to enjoy memorable visits to the family home on the Square when we were children and were especially proud of the Castle in the garden! 
It would indeed be a very fitting if belated tribute to his contribution to the ancient Irish artistic heritage and culture to have his available works displayed in his ancestral home in Listowel.
Brendan O’Connor (Rev.)

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Listowel Community Orchard

A beautiful spot down by the Feale is the community orchard. The pears are nearly ripe. The horse chestnut tree is laden with conkers. There are herbs galore for all to pick and use. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic.

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In Duagh

I like to call to Duagh church and grounds to reconnect with Fr. Pat Moore. He is still very much there in spirit.

“Somedays I just sits.”

I sat on the bench dedicated to Fr. Pat’s memory.

I sat and looked at the church where he ministered and the house and parish centre where he lived, worked and prayed.

On a sunny September day in 2021, it was a haven of peace and birdsong. Fr. Pat’s spirit is there among the people who loved him.

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Kitchener (1901)

A correspondent of Mr. T. P. O’Connor’s weekly writes as follows regarding the present Commander-in-Chief of the forces in South Africa.

Let me set you right about Lord Kitchener’s natal spot, regarding which I happen to know a good deal, having myself been born within a couple of miles of it. He was born at Gunsborough Cottage, which was lent to his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Kitchener, by the father of the well-known ci-devant Irish M. P., Mr. Peirce Mahony, of Kilmorna. Gunsborough is within three miles of Listowel, the capital of North Kerry. He was baptised at the little Protestant Church hard by now in ruins, I believe by the late Rev. Robert Sandes, a representative of the family of which the late Mr. George Sandes, of Grenville, Listowel, was a well known member. The Kitcheners subsequently went to live at Crotto House, which Colonel Kitchener afterwards sold to Mr. Thomas Beale Brown, a near relative of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach. The true history of the whole vexed question of the connection of the Kitchener family with Kerry was told during the late Soudan campaign in the columns of the Irish Times by Major Kiggell, of Cahnra, Glin, County Limerick, whose son, Major Lancelot Kiggell, is now on Lord Kitchener’s staff.

New Zealand Tablet, 25 July 1901, 

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Church Street Tattoo Shop

The tattoo shop has gone from pink to blue. It is probably more in keeping with the dark vibe coming from the shop.

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Getting in the Mood

Flavin’s window is getting us in the mood.

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Emigration and Returning

In Listowel Tidy Town’s herb and fruit garden

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A West Kerry Wake

Béal Bán by Éanon ÓMurchú

Snuff, tobacco, porter, port and tea…a great child’s account of a wake in the west Kerry Gaeltacht in the last century.

An Tórramh

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Duagh Priests…A Massive Contribution

Jer Kennelly has done Trojan work in documenting the worldwide contribution of North Kerry born priests. He has trawled through countless old newspaper obituaries in his search to see that these great men are not forgotten. I have been bringing you just some of the many life stories he has unearthed.

When I found myself in Duagh recently I took notice of all the priest’s burial places just to the left of the church. They tell a story of emigration and sacrifice and the global reach of a small village.

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The Castle Hotel, Ballybunion

Photo from Glin Historical Society on Facebook

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Carroll’s of Course

Carroll’s Hardware in The Square is being repainted. It is going back to a more heritage yellow colour and the sign writing by the master, Martin Chute, is clear crisp and traditional.

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A Church, a Social and a Rookery

Photo; Chris Grayson at St. Mary of the Angels, Beaufort

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Church of the Immaculate Conception, Castletownroche

Wedding in Church of the Immaculate Conception, Castletownroche

While I was in Castletownroche for my family wedding last week, I took a few photos of their lovely windows.

This window is behind the main altar and is unusual in that, apart from the central image, the side panels are repetitive and rather uninteresting.

The Mother of Sorrows window, like the others has no acknowledgement of a donation so it looks like the parish had to foot the bill.

This Sacred Heart window matches in design the Madonna one. Both are very pretty and colourful.

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North Kerry Pioneer Total Abstinance Social 1962

I had this email from Kathy Reynolds

Hi Mary

My name is Kathy Reynolds (nee Fitzmaurice) now living in England’s smallest county Rutland but originally from Lisselton
My family are pleased to hold Tony Fitzmaurice’s (Sandhill Rd, Ballybunion) large collection of photographs in particular the early photographs from the 1950’s & 60’s that capture so well the town of Ballybunion and the people of North Kerry. A video showing photographs taken at the what I thought was  1962 Ballylongford Pioneers Social can be seen at https://vimeo.com/592832676 However I was told today that although held in Ballylongford it was a North Kerry event and people from across North Kerry including Listowel are shown.
It would be wonderful if the people could be identified and the photographs reconnected with those people or their families, what recollections might be brought to life. Are there any photographic or historical groups in the Listowel area that might be able to help me reconnect the photographs with the families, indeed a link to it in your own wonderful blog would connect with so many. If you can offer suggestions I would love to hear from you.
A future project for Tony’s archive is more directly linked with Listowel as it is about 150+ images of children sitting on Santa’s lap at McKennas in 1959. I expect many Listowel children will have been captured but there will be children from across North Kerry
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind Regards,

Kathy Reynolds

kathymreynolds@icloud.com

( Please follow the link and let me know if you recognise anyone. We’ll have a better chance with the Santa ones when Kathy puts them up.)

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Look Up

They say that crows are a very intelligent species. They were quick to spot an opportunity on the scaffolding at St. John’s.

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Mother Gertrude came from a Very Holy Family

New Zealand Tablet 26 October 1899

Death of a Venerable Nun.— The death of Sister Mary Gertrude O’Connor (known for upwards of a generation as Mother Gertrude), of the Presentation Convent, Listowel, is an event deserving of more than local or ordinary notice (says the Daily Nation.) For nearly 51 years this truly excellent lady occupied a prominent and honoured place in the religious life of her native county. Entering the Listowel Convent on the 15th of August, 1849, her religious life may be said to have synchronised with the life of that distinguished branch of the great Presentation Community, and the remarkable growth of that Convent, both in usefulness as a educational institution and in size, is in no small measure due to her influence and labours. Mother Gertrude was born in Tralee about 76 years ago. Her father held a commission in the British Army, served with distinction under Moore and Wellington, and the hero of Corunna is said to have died in his arms. The Very Rev. John O’Connor. D.D., who, for many years occupied a prominent place in the clerical life of his native diocese, and was one of the organisers of that brave band of Irishmen who went to the assistance of Pope Pius the Ninth in the early stage of his struggle with the infidel makers of modern Italy, and who, led by his fiery missionary zeal went abroad while yet a young curate, where he died some years ago, was a brother of Mother Gertrude. Another distinguished brother was Dr. Morgan O’Connor who died universally respected and regretted a few years ago in Wagga, New South Wales. 

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Fort Shannon, a Fleadh and a wedding

Listowel Castle Sept 2021

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Fort Shannon, Ballylongford

Jim Halpin has been in touch. He is undertaking a project to research Fort Shannon, Ballylongford. Jim is particularly interested in the families and friends of the soldiers. He would appreciate if anyone has stories to share of how the soldiers integrated with the local community, marrying local girls and taking part in local clubs and sports. Jim is concentrating on the valuable contribution to local life in Ballylongford made by the soldiers at the fort. If you have photos or stories send them to me and I’ll make sure Jim gets them.

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Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Listowel

There are a few familiar faces in the crowd in this old newspaper cutting

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A Klondyke Millionaire with a Listowel connection

New Zealand Tablet, 11 February 1898

Mr Patrick Galvin, one of Klondyke’s millionaires, has arrived in Listowel, whence he emigrated over twenty years ago to America, and where he experienced varying fortunes until he struck for Klondyke, where he became immensely rich. He refused £200,000 for some land he owns there and sold one of his claims for £20,000 before starting for Ireland. His account of the journey from the new gold country is most interesting. Mr Galvin, who was accompanied by his wife, travelled by the Dalton trail and had to tramp 374 miles, and Mrs Galvin had to walk 150 miles during the journey. When starting from Klondyke they had eleven pack horses, and at the journey’s end they had but four. The provisions too, ran scarce, and they had to subsist on flour and water for a considerable time. 

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I was at a Wedding

My niece, Christine and her new husband held their wedding reception in Blackwater Castle.

This is me with my lovely niece on her big day.

This is a highlight of my Kanturk family weddings, Jerome Ryan singing Kanturk, my Home Town and whoever of the Kanturk crowd are nearby “helping” him out with the chorus.

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Fontenoy

A blog follower found this in an old NZ newspaper and I shared it with you.

Bartholomew Dowling, the writer of “Life’s Wreck,” was born at Listowel. County Kerry, about the year 1822. While still a child his parents emigrated to Canada, where his father died. Later the mother and children returned and settled in County Limerick, He wrote several poems for the Nation after its foundation. In 1848 he proceeded to California, where, after spending some time as a miner, he lived on a farm at Crucita Valley. In 1858 he was appointed editor of the San Francisco Monitor. In 1863 he met with an accident while driving, and soon afterwards died from its effects in St. Mary’s Hospital, San Francisco. Dowling’s best, and best known poem is probably “The Irish brigade at Fontenoy.” 

I mentioned that I couldn’t find the poem and then ….

Another blog follower found it. Here it is in all its blood curdling war mongering glory;

BATTLE OF FONTENOY

by: Bartholomew Dowling (1823-1863)

our camp-fires rose a murmur

At the dawning of the day,

And the tread of many footsteps

Spoke the advent of the fray;

And as we took our places,

Few and stern were our words,

While some were tightening horse-girths,

And some were girding swords.

The trumpet-blast has sounded

Our footmen to array–

The willing steed has bounded,

Impatient for the fray–

The green flag is unfolded,

While rose the cry of joy–

“Heaven speed dear Ireland’s banner

To-day at Fontenoy!”

We looked upon that banner,

And the memory arose

Of our homes and perish’d kindred

Where the Lee or Shannon flows;

We look’d upon that banner,

And we swore to God on high,

To smite to-day the Saxon’s might–

To conquer or to die.

Loud swells the charging trumpet–

‘Tis a voice from our own land–

God of battles! God of vengeance!

Guide to-day the patriot’s brand;

There are stains to wash away,

There are memories to destroy,

In the best blood of the Briton

To-day at Fontenoy.

Plunge deep the fiery rowels

In a thousand reeking flanks–

Down, chivalry of Ireland,

Down on the British ranks!

Now shall their serried columns

Beneath our sabres reel–

Through the ranks, then, with the war-horse–

Through their bosoms with the steel.

With one shout for good King Louis,

And the fair land of the vine,

Like the wrathful Alpine tempest,

We swept upon their line–

Then rang along the battle-field

Triumphant our hurrah,

And we smote them down, still cheering,

“Erin, shanthagal go bragh.”

As prized as is the blessing

From an aged father’s lip–

As welcome as the haven

To the tempest-driven ship–

As dear as to the lover

The smile of gentle maid–

Is this day of long-sought vengeance

To the swords of the Brigade.

See their shatter’d forces flying,

A broken, routed line–

See, England, what brave laurels

For your brow to-day we twine.

Oh, thrice bless’d the hour that witness’d

The Briton turn to flee

From the chivalry of Erin

And France’s “fleur de lis.”

As we lay beside our camp-fires,

When the sun had pass’d away,

And thought upon our brethren

Who had perished in the fray,

We prayed to God to grant us,

And then we’d die with joy,

One day upon our own dear land

Like this of Fontenoy.

“Battle of Fontenoy” is reprinted from Historic Poems and Ballads. Ed. Rupert S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.

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