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

Category: Ballybunion Page 2 of 6

Sand Art, The Races and Memories of a First Dance

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How it used to be


Ballybunion Sand Art festival 2021

This is an intriuging and fascinating craft, drawing pictures in the sand. The annual festival in Ballybunion on the weekend of Sept 10 to 12th was as brilliant as ever. I took a few photos but Pixie O’Gorman and Wild Atlantic Way posted these much better ones on the internet.

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A Hawney Legacy

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This is Hawney Way in Ballybunion. If you walk down this passageway you will come to this lovely little children’s picnic area. It is laid out with tables, in the centre of each is a draughts or chess grid and benches.

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Some of the tables are sponsored by local people.

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Tidy Town’s Vintage Day

One of the highlights of Listowel Harvest Festival of Racing every year was Tidy Town’s upcycle, recycle vintage day. Below are some of the organising committee.

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Every year this competition turned up some fascinating stories. The outfits themselves were often stunning but the accompanying stories never failed to entertain us.

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Frances O’Keeffe and her daughter, Edel

Edel is wearing a dress her mother restyled from a dress given to her by her friend, Suzie Moore.

Suzie was a matron in a London hospital. The queen was due to visit and Suzie felt that she needed something special for this meeting with her majesty. She had a dress especially made.

When she retired to Listowel she brought the dress with her and she gave it to her friend Frances. She knew that Frances would appreciate the material she had chosen so carefully and paid so much for. Frances never found an opportunity to use the material over the years . When she heard of this up cycling event she knew that this was just the ticket for Suzie’s dress. She remodelled it to fit Edel. Edel wore it with the pill box hat her mother wore at her own wedding and the pearl encrusted bag she carried.

Mary O’Halloran and Maria Stack are great supporters of Listowel Races. They usually pull out all the stops for Ladies Day and Vintage Day.

One year, Maria carried this vintage bag that she had bought in a charity shop.

When she got the bag home she found inside the original price tag.

And she found a ticket to the Empire State Building. Surely this bag was bought by someone as part of her trousseau and she honeymooned in New York.


A Listowel Dance in 1960

Philomena Moriarty kept this souvenir of her very first dance and she shared it on Facebook. The Super Ballroom was later rebranded as the Las Vegas.


Listowel Poetry Town 2021

As part of the Poetry Town initiative, Listowel got its very own Poet Laureate, Dairena Ní Chinnéide.

Part of her job was to write a Listowel poem. Dairena was great value for money.. She wrote two.



Sea Swimming, Races and Bringing Home the Turf

Photo; Bridget O’Connor

Friday, Sept 10 2021 was International Suicide Awareness Day. Bridget’s picture above shows a troop of people who ventured into the sea at Ballybunion on that evening to show solidarity with those bereaved by suicide and to highlight the issue of treatable mental illness.

Pictured with Snámhaí Sásta, June Curtin, are local ladies, Billy Jo and Lelia O’Connor and Bridget McCarthy.

June brought some of her positivity calendars with her on the night. She is selling them in aid of Pieta, the suicide prevention charity.

Aoife Scott was in town for a concert as part of the Ballybunion Arts Festival at The Tinteán. She came and sang a song or two for the delighted swimmers.


Listowel Races in Years Past

This man has been coming to the races and staying with Nora for over twenty years. I hope he got a ticket this year.


Out of This World

This Ballybunion placename never ceases to amaze me.


Bringing home the Turf

If I had been asked I would have said that this scene was earlier than the 1970s.

Donkeys and carts were ideal for bog work. The ground underfoot in the bog is soggy and unstable so it calls for a fairly light sure footed animal like this lovely ass.

Look at how the young man leading the donkey was dressed for his day in the bog. In the early years of the 20th century in Ireland there was no such thing as casual clothes. Athleisure is a very recent fashion. We had good clothes and old clothes. this man is in his old clothes, i.e. a suit that used to be his Sunday suit but was now relegated to everyday wear. It kind of looks like a suit he may have inherited from someone bigger than himself. Hand me downs were common too. Suits often were passed down through the family until they were no longer wearable.

I bet his v neck is hand knitted. All jumpers were hand knitted one time, until Ben Dunne brought us cheap clothes and it no longer made sense to knit something you could buy more cheaply. Of course it didn’t last as long but that mattered little when it was so cheap and did not entail hard work.

Along with the turf, this scene will soon be unfamiliar to all but the oldest of us.


Poetry Town

We’ve exchanged our Social distancing stencils for Poetry Town ones.


Raceweek, Duagh and Mallow

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


St. Bridgid’s, Duagh

Beautifully detailed colourful window behind the high altar

The windows and stations of the cross were donated by local families and emigrants.


Betty McGrath’s, September 2021

Few people loved race week as much as Betty McGrath. She loved the style, the excitement but most of all the days out with her beloved family and friends. This year, 2021, Betty’s daughter Grace has pulled out all the stops to dress a window that Betty would be proud of.

Sadly, Betty passed away before Raceweek 2021.

May her kind soul rest in peace.


Clock Home, Mallow

Sept 2021


Snámhaí Sásta

Friday Sept 10 2021 was International Suicide Awareness Day and this lady, June Curtin, is working hard to raise awareness of the tragedy that is suicide. .

June joined the Ballybunion Dippers sea swimming group in an event to highlight the therapeutic benefits of sea swimming.

The very well supported event was a huge success.


Culture Weekend

Last weekend, Sept 17 to 19 2021 was a great weekend in town for it included an International Storytelling Festival, Poetry Town events and a free concert.

Oh and Listowel Races opened on Sunday too.

Friday evening was the opening night of the storytelling festival. Two very sketchy “nurses” were on hand to make sure Covid regulations were observed.

This storyteller is Colum Sandes and his story was graced with music and mimicry.

Maria Gillen was the bean an tí. She kept the show rolling, singing songs and telling stories.

Maria with Jimmy Deenihan who was dividing his time between the Poetry Town events and the storytelling.

Our own Frances Kennedy was one of the star turns. For me she also had the best line of the night. She said we were all so tired of Covid restrictions that “a straw would pull us out the door now”.

The audience loved Gabriel Fitzmaurice heart-warming anecdotes and poems.

On Sunday morning a crowd regrouped at Kerry Writers’ Museum for some very interesting story walks.


Emigration and Returning

In Listowel Tidy Town’s herb and fruit garden


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


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.


The Castle Hotel, Ballybunion

Photo from Glin Historical Society on Facebook


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.


Wartime relief

Photo; Ita Hannon

Ballybunion folk have been busy growing sunflowers this year. They had a display of all their sunflowers on the castle green in Ballybunion.

They made all the papers. They are thinking of making it an annual event.


A Christmas Card from the Michel O’Connor Collection

Words by Bryan MacMahon gorgeously illustrated by Micheal O’Connor, a lovely co labortive work by two talented Listowel men.


John Stack

John Stack shared this old Fleadh photo on Facebook


War Relief to Listowel and North Kerry, 1921

Mark Holan sent us the following interesting information he uncovered in his research

I wonder if anyone knows if their family was helped in this way.

The American Committee for Relief in Ireland collected $5 million (£1,210,627) during the first half of 1921 to ease war-related suffering. The Irish White Cross distributed the money to all 32 counties through summer 1922, with £25,878 in “personal relief” approved in County Kerry. The North Kerry distribution including:

  • Ballybunion, £1,312
  • Ballylongford, £634
  • Listowel, £2,102
  • Lixnaw, £680
  • Tralee, £3,901

“Personal relief” included weekly allowances to dependents of civilians prevented from working “through being ‘on the run’ or imprisoned for reasons connected with the political situation”, dependents of those killed during the war, and to those prevented from following their ordinary occupations due to military restrictions or the destruction of their businesses, the Irish White Cross reported in 1922. Lump sum payments also were made to wounded civilians, and for the purchase of key essentials such as clothes, bedding, and trade implements.

Some 600 volunteer parish committees, typically composed of “local clergy and other responsible people,” helped to process and forward applications to the Standing Executive Committee in Dublin, which made the final determination.

On Sunday, 21 August 1921, a month after the truce, Bishop of Kerry Charles O’Sullivan ordered a special collection taken at all the masses in Listowel to provide local assistance to the Irish White Cross. The collection totaled £119 5s 10d, Kerry People reported.

A few weeks later, the Irish hierarchy sent letters to the Freeman’s Journal thanking the American Committee and White Cross. In Kerry, Bishop O’Sullivan wrote, “our persecuted people have good reason to remember and be grateful for the timely help which has enabled not a few of them to keep body and soul together, after they had seen their homes reduced to ashes, their women ill-treated, their men folk cruelly done to death.”

Of course, with civil war around the corner, the hardships were far from over.


Question answered

I posted this question a short while ago.

Can anyone tell us if this lady was an aunt of the late Canon Leahy of Listowel?

Advocate, Melbourne, Sat 4 Sep 1909 


Again the Daughters of the Cross have to record the loss of one of their Sisters, who died at Anand on Sunday, 18th July, after an illness of only a few hours. Sister Agnes Mary was born in Kerry, Ireland, in April, 1865, and joined the congregation at Liege in October, 1884.Two years later she arrived in India, and since that time worked with the greatest earnestness in the convents at Karachi, Igatpuri, Bandra, Panchgani, Dadar, and finally at Anand, of which house she was made Superioress in December, 1908. In the first week of July, cholera broke out in that locality, and some of the orphan children confided to the care of the Sisters; contracted the disease. A few cases proved fatal. However, on Sunday last it was hoped that the epidemic had ceased, an intimation to that effect

having been written by the Superioress herself, little thinking that she would be the next chosen victim. Sister Agnes Mary saw without fear death approaching, and was perfectly calm and resigned to God’s holy will. During the years she spent in India, and in whatever house she laboured, she was ever a subject of the greatest edification to her Sisters in religion and to all with whom She came in contact. Her happy disposition endeared her to everyone, and her loss will be keenly felt. Quietly and religiously she spent her days, and one may truly say: “She went about doing good.” Her death was a fit crowning to her life—a victim to duty, she has fallen at her post.

R.I.P.—Bombay “Examiner.”

Dave O’Sullivan has the answer.

 I can confirm that Sister Mary Agnes who died in India was the aunt of Mgr Michael Leahy.

She was born Honora LEAHY was born about 11 Apr 1865 in Lisaniskea, Knockanure, Co. Kerry. She was christened on 13 Apr 1865 in Moyvane, Co. Kerry. Her parents were James Leahy and Kate O’Connor.

Mgr Michael Leahy was the son of Honora’s brother Tom Leahy.


Listowel Pitch and Putt Club plays Host

Kerry County Juvenile Matchplay competition is being held at Listowel Pitch and Putt Club this Thursday the 26th Aug.The course will be closed to everyone apart from the juveniles competing on the day.


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