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 email@example.com
My mother never learned to drive. After my father died, she bought a donkey and from then until I was old enough to drive a car, a donkey was her means of transport when anything that could not be brought from town on her bicycle needed to be bought.
I always used to pay a visit to the donkey sanctuary when my grandchildren came for holidays. Now, like all other visitor attractions the sanctuary suffered a loss of income during Covid. So, if you have children to entertain during mid term, consider a trip to the donkey sanctuary.
Ball Alley Art
Recent work in the ball alley celebrates Irish culture. In these two pictures our love affair with the horse and with horse racing in particular is honoured.
A Bun Fight
There is a restaurant chain in the U.S. called Five Guys. Police were once called to the Florida branch of the chain because a fist fight had broken out there. They arrested five guys.
I spotted this on a recent stroll through Ballybunion. It looks like an ATM that is not associated with any bank. Anyone know the story?
Last weekend two of Ireland’s literary giants passed away.
Máire Mhac an tSaoi had a very small poetic output compared to Brendan Kennelly. She also wrote exclusively in Irish which meant that her poems were accessible to a limited audience.
Her work is well known by school children who identify with the teenage angst of her poem of first love with a local boy “Mac feirmeora ó iarthar tíre”, she had a crush on during a summer in the Gaeltacht of West Kerry.
She wrote a lovely sad little poem, a picture of a parent putting on the first shoe, “seoidín den leathar” , a step to freedom or the first shackles.
Probably her best known poem, Cuireadh do Mhuire, is a Christmas classic.
Guím leaba i measc na naomh di.
Brendan Kennelly R.I.P. was a prolific, popular, well known and loved poet and academic.
Throughout his long life he “walked with kings but kept the common touch”.
He never forgot his Kerry roots. He loved his large Kerry family, his Kerry friends and Kerry landscapes and values.
This prince of the Kingdom was a very proud Ballylongford man but he had many many Listowel connections and it was in this little corner of the world he saw out his days surrounded by his loving, caring and very proud family. It is they who will most feel his loss. His brothers, his sister and all his family will miss him greatly.
I took these photos in 2015 at the unveiling of the bust to Brendan Kennelly in Ballylongford.
This is 2017 when Brendan was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Listowel Writers’ Week.
These photos were also taken in 2017 at Opening Night Listowel Writers’ Week. In it Brendan is chatting to Eileen Moylan of Claddagh Design who designed and crafted the beautiful award piece depicting scenes from his two home towns, Ballylongford and Dublin.
Éamon Ó Murchú & Brendan Kennelly (Photo taken many years ago)
Today’s Incredible Fact
A Disney themed café in Birmingham was once closed down temporarily because a customer spotted a mouse.
The café is inside the world’s biggest Primark. It is famous for serving mouse shaped pancakes and there are posters of Mickey and Minnie all over the shop.
But when a real living mouse was spotted, it brought business to a sharp halt for a while.
Listening to the Radio
In Ireland in the 1950s the main source of inanimate entertainment was the radio. Many houses had a set like this. This is a PYE. Our one was a Phillips. I remember waking up to the sounds of O’Donnell Abú. This was the signature tune of Radio Eireann. We never listened to any other channel.
After The News we had sponsored programmes. These were short music or magazine programmes sponsored by big business e’g. ODearest Mattresses, Batchelors or The Irish Hospitals Sweepstake.
The Waltons programme on Saturdays ….”If you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song” and Dear Frankie’s “This problem may not be yours today but it could be someday” became phrases familiar to every Irishman.
Public Art in Ballybunion
Have you noticed that, as you walk around any town nowadays there is so much to delight the eye. I took these photos on a recent stroll around Ballybunion.
In the Ball Alley
This is just one of the many lovely pictures in the ball alley now. It says home; doesn’t it?
Winter, summer, old, new, commercial and residential, Listowel in all its loveliness.
At Ahafona cross there is this lovely secluded grotto. It is beautifully kept and a great credit to all who look after it.
In front of the grotto is a row of seats remembering the people who loved this place very much.
A while ago when I was doing my bit about handball in Listowel, I published this picture of Charlie Nolan with the Joe James trophy he won 50 years ago. To promote that post I also published the picture on Facebook.
Some people, seeing the photo, thought that Charlie had won some recent accolade. He hadn’t but he deserves one, so here goes.
This is Charlie Nolan in his happy place beside his Silver River Feale, photographed by Paddy Fitzgibbon.
Very often it is only when someone spends years away from their native place that they truly appreciate it. This is not true in the case of Listowel’s Charlie Nolan. Charlie was born and bred here and has spent most of his adult life in and around his beloved river Feale.
In a town famous for writers and composers, Charlie is a doer, a local historian who chronicles Listowel life not in words but in video pictures. He worked for a long time with his great friend and fellow videographer, John Lynch. They went out in all weathers to document significant happenings in town. They made a great team. When John stepped back, Charlie continued on his own to record life in the town he loves so well.
He spends hours of his time editing his videos and putting a soundtrack or captions to them. Then, most importantly, he shares them with everyone.
Charlie grew up in O’Connell’s Ave, and many of his childhood neighbours and friends are scattered throughout the globe. These are the audience that most appreciate his videos of Listowel life as they remember it. He is doing them a great service and they appreciate it.
Charlie is also hugely supportive of what I do. He is one of the greatest promoters of Listowel Connection.
Charlie is up for learning new things too. Here he is on a Googling trip with Damien O’Mahoney.
Charlie is happiest outdoors, whether in Gurtinard Wood or on The Feale.
To a whole other audience, Charlie Nolan is a wildlife videographer. He has a deep knowledge of Kerry wildlife and he has an unequalled knowledge of the River Feale. He has captured on film all the native birds and animals of North Kerry and he has introduced them to an audience that may never have got to see them otherwise. Spending hours by the river is no hardship to Charlie but he uses his time there to patiently video the wildlife.
Recently was the first time I heard about Charlie, the champion handball and squash player.
This man is nothing if not modest. He “can walk with kings but keep the common touch”. Charlie has only a small appreciation of the high regard in which he is held locally. He is part of the fabric of Listowel and one of the town’s noblest sons. He deserves the freedom of the borough or any other lifetime accolade that can be bestowed on him.
Charlie Nolan is a local treasure and Listowel is very lucky to have him.
I have often seen this mural on my way into Ballybunion. Last week I stopped to have a look around.
I think the welcome sign is probably best seen by a drone.
Do you remember the Irish Open of 2000? I was there in a different life.
As a kind off post script to the handball alley stories, here again is John Fitzgerald’s lovely paen of praise to the alley and four of its best players. The foursome mentioned in the poem are Junior Griffin, Tom Enright and Dermot Buckley from the Bridge Road and John Joe Kenny from Patrick Street.
The Ball Alley
A poem by John Fitzgerald
Standing on the dead line
I face the pockmarked wall,
it hides the bridge above me
fond memories I recall,
the side walls mark the theatre,
the concrete floor the stage,
four players take their places
the finest of their age.
The cocker’s hopped and hardened,
Junior’s feet fix solidly
he contemplates the angle
of the first trajectory.
His swinging arm begins the game
the ball’s hit low and fast,
a signal to John Joe and Tom
this will be no soft match.
Dermot standing by his side
sees his neighbour win first toss,
a simple game to twenty one
no ace is easily lost.
I watch them from the grassy mound
behind the dead ball line
hear the cries of older boys
cheer each one at a time
and in the space of half an hour
the ball has weaved its way
through every nook and cranny
in this battlefield of play,
the long ball to the back line
the close one to the wall
the deadly butted killer
seemed to hit no wall at all
and in end the four of them
take leave just as they came
and beckon us to take our place
and learn more of their game,
the game that gave such pleasure
the game I got to know.
when I was young and full of fun
in the Alley years ago.
(The cocker was the name they had for the ball)
The Friday Market is very small these times
Where does Tikka Masala, which is Britain’s most popular take away curry, originate from?
No, not Bangladesh or any other Middle Eastern country.
The answer is Glasgow.
This is the story according to my Fact book.
Chicken tandoori began to feature on restaurant menus in the mid 1960s.
A Glasgow restaurant served it to its customers. A diner asked for extra sauce. The chef improvised a sauce of tomato soup, spices and cream.
Masala means a mixture of spices. Tikka Masala contains cardamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, fenugreek and chilli among other things.
Turmeric is the spice that gives it its bright yellow colour and a synthentic dye tartrazine is what causes it to ruin your clothes with an unremovable stain.
On Church Street I met Martin Chute who was planning his sign for Lizzy’s Little Kitchen and with him is Mr. O’Mahoney who is opening his tattoo shop soon. Martin is doing that sign too.
A few days later I observed that the sign was done. Cool!
Lizzy’s is a great addition to Church Street The paintwork and colours are perfect and the sign is everything a sign should be, artistic, clear, well proportioned, uncluttered and tasteful. Well done all.
Dominican Church, Tralee
This is the corner stone on this magnificent edifice. Below is what it says about it on the Dominican website.
The builder is named as Mr Arthur Crosbie and the cost at about Â£6000. The cornerstone of the building was laid on 15th August 1866, the Feast of the Assumption, by Mrs Anne Jeffers, wife of the Benefactor.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same….
End of an Era
Junior finishes his story for us;
By the 1970s a new generation of handball lovers had come on the scene. Some of these that Junior remembers are Denny O’Connor, Eddie and Mike Broderick, Charlie Nolan, Tony Stack, Jer Loughnane, Con Gorman, Tony O’Neill, Jimmy Canty. There were many more in this new cohort too. The building of the Community Centre in the mid 1980s drew away from the old alley and handball ceased to be played there.
The new centre had an enclosed 40ft. by 20 ft. court. This was used by handballers but with no club structure it never really took off. Then the community centre courts became squash and racketball courts before they were eventually utilised for other purposes.
By 2008 Junior Griffin was the only surviving trustee of the old handball club. No committee had been formed for years. Junior took advice from former members and from solicitors. He decided to sign over the alley ground, which was purchased by the handball committee in 1962 to the safe keeping of Listowel Town Council. One proviso in the deal was that if ever a handball club was formed in the future, the council would facilitate that club in building a new handball alley.
We are very grateful to Junior for preserving and sharing all of this valuable information about the story of handball in Listowel.
Many handballers spoke to Caoimhe Coburn Gray for her Coiscéim project. If you are interested in handball at all, especially if, like Michael Enright, it was a big part of your life, you will love reading and hearing handball stories from around the country. You will be struck by the similarities, e.g. Sunday was the big day. Nobody taught you how to play handball. You observed and learned. Rivalries developed into life long friendships.
“Now we’ve two buildings in Ireland that are vernacular to Ireland you will not find them anywhere else – the round tower and the handball alley!”
Here is the link to the marvellous Coiscéim project