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: History Page 2 of 9

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.


A Church, a Social and a Rookery

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


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.


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 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

( 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.)


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.


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. 


Remembering a Play

Beckett Bridge photographed by Éamon ÓMurchú on the day of Kerry’s defeat in the All Ireland Football Semi Final by Tyrone on Saturday August 28 2021.


1907 Dublin

Irish theatre audiences were very sensitive to any slurs they perceived to be cast on their characters, especially if the characters portrayed on the stage were peasants and the people producing the play were the aristocracy.

The word “shift” meaning underwear, was removed from the text of Synge’s Playboy of The Western World before the play went to Broadway but it still got off to a rocky start until Lady Gregory employed her famous diplomatic skills and used her connections to the Roosevelt family to ensure the audience was won over and the run was a success.

Irish Examiner commemorative supplement


2015 in Cobh

Irish Examiner archive


Listowel Garda Station

On Church Street, Listowel in August 2021


Excitement is mounting

Festival lighting was erected in town on Wednesday Sept 8 2021.Numbers on the Island are greatly reduced but the town is looking festive anyway.


Meanwhile in Mayo

Knock Basilica, Sept 2021


Riverbank Repair, Fontenoy and Toothpaste

Photo; Barbara Walsh

Very different race week this year, Sept. 19 to 25 2021.

Maybe there will be a crock of gold for someone.


Riverbank Repair Works

More photos from Barbara Walsh of works underway on the banks of The Feale behind Convent Street, Listowel in September 2021.

In this last picture you can see the path that is being constructed on which to lay the boulders that are going to be used to halt the erosion of the riverbank and the undermining of property along Convent Street.



New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXV, 24 December 1897, Page 9

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 searched for his poem and couldn’t find it. But in the course of my search I learned a lot about The Battle of Fontenoy and the part played by The Wild Geese. Some of the Irish soldiers regarded this battle as revenge for Limerick and Luimneach abú was a battle cry.

The following is a synopsis from an AOH website. Anyone interested in history should Google Fontenoy.


June 2, 2020 By Mike McCormack

Any reader of America’s Civil War history knows of the Irish Brigade and their battle cry ‘Remember Fontenoy’, but a true understanding of that emotion is often not given other than to note that it refers to the Irish Brigade in the French Army. To understand it fully we must go back to the origins of the first Irish Brigade in a trade of French soldiers for Irish made in 1690. When William of Orange was invited by a Protestant Parliament to take the crown of England deposing Catholic James II, France’s Catholic King Louis XIV favored Stuart King James II in his struggle to regain his throne. In 1690, Louis sent 6,000 French regulars to James in Ireland, but since he needed men in his own struggle with William on the continent, he received about 5,000 Irish recruits in return under the command of Justin McCarthy, Viscount Mountcashel. Ireland got the best of the trade at the time but, as it turned out, it would be a better bargain for France in the years to come. The Irish troops were organized into three regiments, known by their commanding officers: O’Brien’s commanded by Colonel Daniel O’Brien; Dillon’s, commanded by Colonel Arthur Dillon and Mountcashel’s commanded by McCarthy himself.

The Irish stand against William’s army at Limerick under Patrick Sarsfield forced a treaty with William in October 1691 and as many as 19,000 more Irish troops followed Sarsfield into exile in France as a condition of the treaty. This came to be known as the “Flight of The Wild Geese.” Most added regiments to the French army and became the Irish Brigade. The names of the regiments would change with changes in command, but Dillon’s regiment remained under the command of a Dillon for its entire years of service. Irish regiments participated in most of the major land battles fought by the French and even served as France’s allies to the Scots against the English at the Battle of Falkirk Muir and Culloden during the Jacobite rising of 1745. Walsh’s Regiment also served with Washington in the American Revolution as part of John Paul Jones marines using their motto of ‘Semper et Ubique Fidelis’ (always and everywhere faithful) which may have influenced the subsequent adoption of the motto ‘Semper Fidelis’ by the U.S. Marines.

Since King Billy was the nemesis of both Louis XIV and James II and the split fidelity was defined by the Brigade wearing red coats as a sign of their fealty to the Gaelic house of Stuart and its claim to the English throne. England’s perfidious breaking of the Treaty of Limerick and introduction of the Penal Laws ensured that France’s Irish Brigade would remain supplied with the cream of Ireland’s sons for generations, bringing the total number to about 30,000 and leading to their battle cry of ‘Cuimhnigidh ar Luimneach agus ar feall na Sassanach!’ (Remember Limerick and Saxon treachery!) The Irish fought well for the French for the rest of the Nine Years War against William of Orange, at battles such as Landen in 1693, where Patrick Sarsfield was mortally wounded and whose dying words were reported to be “If only this had been for Ireland.” Despite their many victories, the one that stands out in Irish memory was the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745.

In 1698, after the war with William was concluded by the Treaty of Ryswick, many of the Irish regiments in France were disbanded by Louis XIV. But the peace that had come to Europe was short-lived; by 1701, Europe was at war again. King Charles II of Spain had died and Louis XIV pressed the cause of Philip of Anjou for the Spanish crown. The Austrians countered that Archduke Charles of Hapsburg, son of Emperor Leopold I, was the legitimate heir. Tensions, backed by England, soon led to the War of Austrian Succession with Holland, Prussia and Austria soon at war with France. Louis XIV had need of his stalwart Irishmen once again. Fontenoy was a major engagement of that war. The battle was fought against the English, with their Austrian and Dutch allies, commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, known as the ‘Bloody Butcher.’ King Louis XV of France and his son, the Dauphin, were also on the battlefield.

Fontenoy hardly ever appears in English history books, but has a strong significance in Ireland where even GAA teams are named for the battle. On the afternoon of 11 May 1745, near the town of Fontenoy in today’s Belgium, 16,000 of the finest soldiers in the armies of England and their allies stepped off to attack the center of the French army of Louis XV. Several attacks against other sections of the line had failed and the day appeared lost, but Cumberland took a chance on a bold massed attack on the French center that was sure to succeed. Courageously moving forward against heavy fire, the English soon reached the French position and appeared ready to overrun the center. The audacious gamble was about to succeed when the French sent in their last reserves in a furious attempt to save the day. As a few remaining French forces were holding on the left, the British observed another formation advancing on their right in uniforms as red as their own. Forward they came with bagpipes playing the Jacobite anthem, ‘The White Cockade,’ and voices raised in one of the most ancient languages of Europe: ‘Cuimhnigidh ar Luimneach agus ar feall na Sassanach!’ These red-coated soldiers were Irish and Frenchmen of Irish ancestry and they were intent on retribution against the nation that oppressed their people for generations. They crashed into the British with close-in hand-to-hand fighting at which they excelled with bayonet, clubbed musket and simply bare hands. A French historian later wrote that in 10 minutes it was over and the attackers who were left on their feet were driven off. The Irish Brigade had beaten the Brits and saved France  Ireland’s long-time ally.

The centuries after the broken Treaty of Limerick and introduction of the Penal Laws were a sorrowful time for Ireland’s people. It was said that the worst place in the world to be an Irish Catholic was in Ireland itself. However, if there was one organization the Irish could look to during those dark times for affirmation that they were as good as any other nationality, it was to the Irish Brigade in France and their stunning victory at Fontenoy. In addition to giving many Irishmen an outlet for their talents at a time when there was virtually none in the land of their birth, the Brigade provided hope to those destitute masses back in Ireland. As long as it existed, there remained the possibility that the flags of the regiments of the Irish Brigade might one day fly in Dublin and the Irish would have their own again. Though today many in Ireland still know the name and accomplishments of the Irish Brigade, there seem to be few in the Diaspora familiar with their legacy. That is unfortunate, for the hope that Fontenoy gave the Irish played an important role in sustaining them as a people then and a resurgent force later. That is why so many of the native Irish in the Irish Brigade of the Union Army were inspired to Remember Fontenoy!

Hark! Yonder through the darkness one distant rat-tat-tat!

The old foe stirs out there, God bless his soul for that!

The old foe musters strongly, he’s coming on at last,

And Clare’s Brigade may claim its own wherever blows fall fast.

Send us, ye western breezes, our full, our rightful share,

For Faith, and Fame, and Honor, and the ruined hearths of Clare

From “Fontenoy 1745” By Emily Lawless


Secure and Healthy Teeth

The obsession with white teeth is not a recent thing. In the days before fluoride in our drinking water and in toothpaste, tooth decay was common and a toothpaste that promised to keep your teeth securely in your head would sell well.

Did you know that people used to wash their teeth with soot before toothpaste?


Cork Hurling Legend, Christy Ring R.I.P.


River Works

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú


River Feale Development

Barbara Walsh has been keeping an eye on the massive job underway on the River Feale behind Convent Street.

The fine weather has meant that work is proceeding without delay with the crew working long hours and the huge logistic operation moving smoothly.


My Fact of the Day

In January 1964, Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress was jailed for life for sabotage and plotting to overthrow the South African Government. (Source; Irish Examiner)


A Highly Respected Listowel born Priest

New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXIV, Issue 50, 9 April 1897, Page 15

(From our Christchurch correspondent.)
Very great and widespread regret is felt at the demise of the Rev. Father Daniel O’Connor, who died somewhat unexpectedly at his late residence at Rangiora at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, 31st ult. The rev gentleman, who was parish priest of Rangiora, had not been in robust health for some time. Yet no serious results of his indisposition were anticipated until he visited Wellington in the early part of the year in order to consult Dr. Cahill, who informed Father O’Connor that his malady was a hopeless consumption.

In accordance with the doctor’s advice Father O’Connor abandoned his projected visit to Napier and returned home. He became rapidly worse and succumbed to the desease.

He was going about on Tuesday last and apparently fairly well. On the night of the same day he retired at eight o’clock but became restless and unable to sleep. Father Tubman, Miss Kellier and the Rev. Mother and the Sisters of St. Joseph were with him to the end.

Father O’Connor, who was approaching forty years of age, was born in l858 at Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland. He studied at St. John’s College in Waterford, and was ordained priest on the 18th of June, 1882. Immediately after his ordination he came to Christchurch, under Archbishop Redwood, who appointed him to Greyniouth. Thence he came to Port Lyttleton, where he remained several years. For the administration of that parish he received warm praise from Archbishop Redwood.

Ten years ago Father O’Connor was appointed parish priest of Rangiora, where he has done most excellent work. He was always most generous in supplementing from his own pocket the funds for the maintenance of the schools, and in every way sought to promote the cause of education. The whole parish is left absolutely free of debt.

During his residence in the Rangiora and Kaiapoi districts he has endeared himself to all classes of people. His house and all that it contained was open to every one. As an instance of the warm affection of his people for him, some of the ladies of the parish waited upon him a few days before his death in order to present him with a purse of sovereigns wherewith to meet the extra expenses of his illness. This thoughtful action made a deep impression upon the dying priest, and he was most anxious to acknowledge the gift through the newspapers. This he did not live to do.

New Zealand Tablet, Volume 04, Issue 6, 4 June 1897, Page 16

The Rangiora Standard has the following. The following was received by a private letter at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, Ireland, when a cable message was received there of the death of the Very Rev. Father O’Connor, at Rangiora, N.Z., this church presented a most mournful appearance on the 3rd of April, when Requiem Mass was celebrated, and thirty-five priests with their bishop, were present. Also at Listowel, a Requiem Mass was held at the church in which the late lamented priest said his first mass. This indeed was the most impressive, as all the relatives of the deceased priest were present. 


Veno’s Soothes your Cough in Seconds

Irish Examiner Archive

Speed seems to have been the USP of this old cough medicine. In the days when T.B. was rife across the land, anyone coughing was looked on with suspicion. Nowadays with Covid among us, we dont like to have anyone cough near us either.


Beautiful Cong, Co. Mayo

Photos; Éamon ÓMurchú


Move Completed


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