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

Tag: Cyril Kelly Page 1 of 3

Ballybunion Oasis, A Frog on TV, Ancestors, Writers’ Week 2019 and Bridal Dress Hire in 2021

Road from Athea in Springtime 2021

Photo: Athea Tidy Towns


A Lovely Corner in Ballybunion

This lovely little spot by the playground is set out with tables and benches complete with chess or draughts grid. It is a godsend in these times of outdoor living.


Headstone on my maternal ancestors grave in Knawhill in North Cork.

The author of the poem is unknown but it speaks to anyone who dabbles in genealogy

BTW I asked Kay Caball about the symbol over the names on the stone and here is the meaning of it.

The Christogram IHS is a monogram symbolizing Jesus Christ. From Greek it is an abbreviation of the name ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (Jesus). In Eastern Orthodox Church the Christogram is composed with letters X, P, I and X arranged into the cross. They are the first letters of one from two words in Greek language: Christ and Jesus Christ


Listowel Writers Week 2019

Back when we could do things in a gang, this crowd of us congregated on the steps of Kerry Literary Museum to show off some award LWW had won. I’ll credit Maire Logue with the photo simply because she is not in it and I can’t imagine who else would have taken it.

This year’s programme is here;


The Champion Frog…a sequel

In response to enquiries, here is David Kissane’s account of what happened to Mossie Walsh and the famous leaping frog when they got to RTE.

Off went Mossie, wife Nodie, a number of friends and relations, and the champion frog in a biscuit tin with holes and a leaves, to Limerick by cars to catch the train to Dublin. Introduced to Gay Byrne and then lights, camera, action. The frog jumped higher and further than ever and became the first and only frog to jump on the Late Late Show. Fame forever for Guhard Man and Mossie.After that, the frog retired from jumping to a river hole in Guhard and Mossie retired from frog-coaching with a European title in his CV.


North Kerry’s Sarah Fitzgerald’s New Business Featured in Saturday’s Irish Independent

What a surprise to open the newspaper and see an account of a brave new business in these parts.

The photoshoot for the launch took place in the Listowel Arms Photo: Rubistyle

If a preowned vintage dress is your dream wedding attire, be sure to check out Sarah’s rent and return option at


When I was a Muse

Very briefly on a happy morning last week I felt like a muse.

Cyril Kelly, formerly of this parish, wrote Listowel Connection (me) a little stanza of greeting on my return to blogging.


’twas like waiting for swallows and swifts in April,

’twas like waiting  for Brent geese in September, 

’twas like  the fisherman waiting for  Mayfly,

’twas like the gardener waiting for the January snowdrop,

’twas like woodlands waiting for the call of the cuckoo in April,

’twas like the children waiting on the conker-plop in September,

natives in distant domiciles waiting on listowelonnection’s return.



John Bs, Sam Bennett, Rás 2013, Harp and Lion and Listowel’s Scallige Night

John B. Keane Pub looking good in September 2020. It’s great to see the door open again.


Listowel People and A Strange Listowel Custom?

There are certain aspects of Listowel culture that never cease to fascinate me. 

I realised shortly after first moving to town that Listowel people marched to the beat of a different drummer.

The rhythm of life here is different, the whole year built around the annual Harvest Festival of Racing.

When I came to live in Listowel in the 1970s, race week was a  major holiday. Schools closed, shops and banks worked half days. It seemed to me that the whole town decamped to the Island every afternoon.

I soon realised that there were other local idiosyncrasies particular to this town.

Have you ever tasted Ciderina?

Are you overcome with a wave of nostalgia when you hearno knee, high knee, no julk, follow on there longs?

Listowel had its characters and well loved local individuals as remembered a while back on Facebook

Liz Chute shared this Church Street memory

 Church Street was a wonderful Street filled with interesting people . Over thirty years ago Mr Lawlee got a heart attack and was obviously in hospital . A few days later my own wonderful mother had a heart attack herself and believe it or not within a few days Michael Quille had one .  These houses were within 500 yards of each other . One evening whilst all three were in hospital a client of Allos hopped the ball that he had better watch out but Allo quick as ever responded ” not at all lads ‘ tis going in the other direction !!

And from Maurice O’Sullivan

I agree with Liz. Church St. was a wonderous place to grow up with so many characters or oddballs. Molly Flaherty shared Hannah Keane’s interest in leaving cert results or “d’onours”. Hannah had a massive opposition in the McMahons across the road. It didn’t matter that she had such successful children Eamon and John B. d’onours were still paramount. I suppose never in history had so many characters lived in such close proximity. Moll Troy, Dillon (who hated dogs) Lina Mullally, Ginny with the lame step, Nora O’ Grady, Short Pants the harness maker, John Joe Dillon, captain Shanahan, Mickey and Delia Kearney, Ina Collins. This is only a fraction.


If you remember these people  and this language that the strangers do not know then maybe you will remember Scelligging.

Maurice O’Sullivan brought it up on Facebook. I asked Cyril Kelly about it and here is his reply.

Unfortunately Scelligging pre-dated the MeToo era.  Where do you think that Boko Harum in Nigeria got their ideas? Why from Holy Ghost Fathers of course. North Kerry men wanted to introduce pre Lenten customs in a guise that would appeal to the natives. Ala Fr. Jack in Dancing at Lughnasa. 

I’m attaching an essay broadcast some time ago on Sunday Miscellany with regard to that gallant Listowel custom, Scallige Night. And sure, if it was on the wireless, it must be true.





I’m sure that what finished up being called Scallige Night in North Kerry actually began life as Óiche na Sceillige in Corca Dhuibhne. But when a word or phrase gets restless and decides to migrate from the parish where it was spawned and reared ó glún go glún, it faces discolourations and distortions, even the deliberate misrepresentations caused by the use of the tally stick. The tally stick was tied about children’s necks to register the number of Irish words spoken and for which they would be duly flogged at the end of the school day. At any rate, I’m sure that by the time Óiche na Sceillige had crossed a few ditches, braved vertigo on Connor Pass, skirted Gleann na nGealt, crossed the bridge at Blennerville and left Corca Dhuibhne behind, it had undergone some semantic slurs, some etymological refinements, and by the time it reached Listowel, it was going about its business under the assumed name of Scallige Night.

Óiche na Sceillige was a custom that took place in Corca Dhuibne on the night of Shrove Tuesday. Spirited young lads, under the cloak of darkness, would run around banging loudly on the doors of local bachelors and spinsters, warning them that, in case they had any notion of getting married, time had not run out. The monks on Sceillig Mhichíl followed a different calendar, one that lagged about two weeks behind the Gregorian calendar which was used on the mainland. So, as of Shrove Tuesday, any bachelor and spinster who had been surreptitiously eyeing each other up and calculating pecuniary plus land prospects, once they had the dowry sorted and she had given her consent to be buried with his people and had, in turn, received assurance that she would reign as bean a’ tí as soon as the old woman passed on, once all of these delicate protocols had been hammered out and spat upon, the happy couple still had two weeks grace when they could hop into a naomhóg, row the nine miles of spring tides and get hitched on Sceillig Mhichíl. 

In Listowel, on the night of Shrove Tuesday, the Skallige Night custom consisted of young lads, maybe ten or eleven years old, getting lengths of rope and chasing young girls around the streets, twining the rope around any who were caught. On this particular Shrove Tuesday night, a group of us altar boys was crossing The Square on our way home having served at benediction. The choir girls were ahead of us, chatting and giggling to their hearts’ content, apparently oblivious to our presence. Don’t ask me which one of us angelic spirits thought of the notion, but suddenly we were all crouching behind the wall of the Protestant Church, struggling into black soutans to enjoy our version of Scallige Night. Girls being girls, they had eyes in the backs of their heads and no sooner had we begun to give chase than they set up an unmerciful cacophony of screeches which was most un-choirgirl-like and began to run like hell. Up through The Small Square, into Church Street, with us in hot pursuit. Amazingly, well amazingly at the time, but maybe not so in the hard earned male wisdom of retrospect, they turned into Bunyan’s back-way, their screams magnified by the archway. 

At the top of the lane they swerved left, racing in the pitch darkness behind the houses on Church St. heading for the exiting arch at The Bon Tons. I was in the leading group of chasers, gaining on the girls all the time. Until, behind Pat Kenny’s butcher shop, I ran slap-slurry-bang into a mound of cow dung. There is nothing like the odour of ordure to cool your ardour. 

Slinking in our halldoor, I hung the altar bag, containing the stinking soutane, in its usual place on the coat rack in the hall. Apart from a remark that I was a little later than usual, there was no other comment passed that night. My father was a smoker, so his sense of smell wasn’t great but my mother was blessed with a twitchy nose that would have made a bloodhound jealous. Not alone had she finely calibrated olfactory faculties, she could get the scent of a lie at forty paces. So next morning, under maternal inquisition, I squirmed and procrastinated before eventually having to admit the truth. By the time she finished a diatribe which was Jesuitically sprinkled with the Litany of Our Lady, Morning Star, Mother most pure, Mystical Rose, I would gladly have swopped our house for seven penitential weeks in a clochán perched on a vertical cliff on Sceillig Mhichíl where I might hopefully be comforted by the sirens of the sea singing, as T. S. Eliot said, each to each and then, just when I might be in danger of getting a purpose of amendment, those singing sirens might remind me of the lovely choir girls in Listowel.



Sam Bennett, Cycling Champion 2020

Photo from the internet

Everyone in the Irish Cycling family is so proud of our own Sam Bennett who cycled first across the finish line of the 2020 Tour de France. He was the stage winner and the overall winner of the green jersey for the top sprinter.

When The An Post Rás rolled into Listowel on May 31 2013, Sam Bennett was in the lead. My attention was elsewhere as I turned my camera on the local people who had flocked to Market Street to see the finish.

Anne and Mairead were at the door to watch the race for the finish line.

Kathy, whose hands were always busy came to the door of her shop, Kerry Krafts.

Hannons and Chutes

Joan and Isobel arriving on a different kind of vehicle.

P.J. and Joan were there too.

Joan and Billy took a minute to pose for the camera as whey waited for the cyclists to arrive.

Painting for The Races

Armel White spotted Martin Chute giving a quick touch up to the iconic Pat McAuliffe stucco on the second day of Listowel Races, September 21 2020. We may not have as many visitors as usual but we are still painting and titivating and keeping our lovely town as beautiful as always.


Listowel’s First Picture House and Cowboys Remembered, Ballybunion RIC and Races on TV

John Kelliher’s photo of the empty racecourse in September 2020 says it all. The sun is setting on a forgettable summer.

Yes, there will be a race meeting this year, but it will be behind closed doors. We’ll have to be happy with watching the races on telly.

TG4 coverage will be hosted again by Seán Bán Breathnach with Mánus Ó Conghaile.  Race commentary comes from Mícheál Ó Sé and reporter will be Daragh Ó Conchúir.

TG4s schedule is as follows:

*Monday, September 21 – On-Air @ 3:00pm

Five races live including the main race of the day ‘The Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Hurdle’ @ 3:40pm.

*Tuesday, September 22 – On-Air @ 3:00pm

Five races live including the main race of the day ‘The Edmund and Josie Whelan Memorial Stakes’ @ 4:30pm

*Wednesday, September 23 – On-Air @ 3:00pm

Five races live including the main race of the day ‘The Guinness Kerry National’ @ 4:30pm

*Thursday, September 24 – On-Air @ 3:00pm

Five races live including the main race of the day ‘The Listowel Printing Works Handicap’ @ 4:30pm

*Friday, September 25 – On-Air @ 3:00pm

Five races live including the main race of the day ‘The Southampton Goodwill Plate Handicap Steeplechase’ @ 4:25pm

*Saturday, September 26 – On-Air @ 3:00pm

Five races live including the main race of the day ‘The M.J. Carroll ARRO Handicap Hurdle’ @ 4:00pm


Cowboys and Irishmen

Liam Dillon’s story of his mother’s frightening experience in Listowel’s first cinema prompted many cinematic memories for blog followers.

Mattie Lennon thought of Gene Autry, one of the biggest stars of the Cowboy genre.

Gene Autry was  a huge star of the silver screen and on Sept 7 1939 he and his horse, Champion, rode in parade near the theatre Royal. The crowd was estimated at 250,000. Autry was known as The Singing Cowboy. His many films were immensely popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mattie remembers a line from  the late great Seán MacCarthy

Sean Mc Carthy said that when the first chipper was set up in Listowel two fellows came out of the cinema and bought two bags of chips. One of them said, “I  don’t care what anyone says, there’s spuds in them.”

Cyril Kelly remembers the first Listowel cinema as well. Here in his own inimitable style is his reminiscence…

My erstwhile neighbour, Liam Dillon, relayed a story about his mother’s scary visit to the first ‘cinema’ in the town. That reminiscence aroused a memory that I have of my own mother and her recollections of the same picture house, aka cinema, aka fleapit. In her accounts the pictures were shown in Cooney’s, a shed/lean-to/stall behind Nurse Donovan’s Nursing Home (next door to North County House) where all the hair-raising episodes seemed to be confined to the brass beds of the lying-in rooms at the front rather than any six guns blazing to the rear. Dickeen Daly was the anti-hero in my mother’s cinema tales (People may recall Dickeen, caretaker to the old Courthouse).


At any rate, during the showing of a picture, Dickeen’s job was to provide sound effects ….remember, this was the silent movie era. So when a new picture came to Cooneys, Dickeen was at the ready for the first few nights with his rattles and whistles and squeaks, plus pebbles and rocks in empty biscuit tins. But, inevitably, as the week wore on and as Dickeen became overly familiar with the latest western or who-done-it, flickering on the whitewashed wall, his stamina was sorely tested. And as Cooney’s ventilation system was not designed to cope with a packed and hyperventilating audience, the poor sound effects man was known to nod off. With the result, audience screams of Dickeen! Dickeen! rang out when the gunfight was at its most ferocious, when the fusillade should have been ear splitting. But by the time Dickeen was roused, and the biscuit tin and the rocks and the pebbles were primed, the soundtrack was merely providing rolling thunder and teeming rain for the victim’s burial on Boothill.

Sic transit gloria mundi.


North Kerry man is new CEO of Lee Strand 

Gearóid Linnane takes the next step in his very successful career as he takes up the role of CEO of Lee Strand


Burning in Ballybunion 

The 1920’s was a terrible time in Kerry with shootings, reprisals, burnings and brother pitted against brother in a bitter fight that has left scars that are only barely healed today.

John Keane shared this photograph of the RIC barracks in Ballybunion which was burned to the ground.

Races 2019 and Cyril Kelly on Sunday Miscellany

Throw me Down Something

The heyday of this little money spinner for Listowel Traveller children seems to have passed.

The numbers in The Feale were well down. They seem to have taken to busking instead. I also missed the puppet man from the Small Square.


Ladies Day 2019

I hardly ever remember such a beautiful Ladies Day, weather wise. The ladies looked resplendent. The judges had a tough job.

A great design partnership of Aoife Hannon,  milliner, and Betty McGrath, model, won the prize for jazziest hat. Betty must have been in the running for the overall prize as well. She looked stunning .


Some More of the Style


A Minute of Your Time

Today I’m going to give you a sneak peek at my new book.

It’s still a work in progress but these are the front and back covers designed by Paul Shannon of Listowel Printing Works.

A Minute of Your Time is available to pre-order from me by contacting me at


The Past is a Different Country

Listowel in the rare auld times as remembered by Cyril Kelly

Sunday Miscellany

John B.’s Headstone, Summer Visitors and Cyril Kelly on being a pupil of The Master

Chapel at Teampall Bán, Listowel


There are so Many Lovely Songs to Sing


Summer Visitors

Whenever I have visitors I make sure they don’t leave without visiting the Garden of Europe.

My boyeens are not boyeens any more. They were back in Listowel with their parents last weekend. They were on their way to Coláiste Bhréanainn in Ballybunion.

Breeda Ahern and Sheila Crowley also made the trip over the border from Co. Cork.


A Trip to the Library

Recently I have been writing a lot about the Carnegie Library and it put Cyril Kelly in mind of trips there in his youth.

Here is a charming essay in Cyril’s uniquely  evocative style recalling a charismatic teacher;


This was the man who led us, both literally and metaphorically, from the classroom every day. This was The Master, our Pied Piper, who was forever bugling a beguiling tune, a tune sparkling with grace notes of the imagination. He’d have us on the white steed behind Niamh, her golden fleece romping in our faces. Transformed by his telling we had mutated into forty spellbound Oisíns. Knockanore was disappearing in our wake. The briny tang of the ocean was in our nostrils, bidding us to keep a westward course, forbidding us to glance back at our broken hearted father, Fionn. We were heading for the land of eternal youth, Tír na nÓg.

On the very next antidotal day, we’d be traipsing after him, into the graveyard beside the school. The narrow paths, with no beginning and no end criss-crossed the place like some zoomorphic motif. We were on a mission to see who would be the first to spot a headstone which was decorated with a Celtic design. The diligent boys leading the line were in danger of overtaking the laggards at the tail who were hissing that, in the dark recesses of the slightly open tomb, they had seen, staring back at them, a yella skull. 

But, on very special days, we crossed the road to the Carnegie Library. Master McMahon told us that it was the most magical building in the whole town. Even the whole world, if it came to that. He told us that we were so lucky because Andrew Carnegie, the richest man on earth, had bought all of these books for us. We were amazed because none of us knew Andrew and we felt sure that he didn’t know any of us. As a matter of fact, not one of us knew anyone who bought books, either for us or for anyone else. Master McMahon said that the Librarian, Maisie Gleeson, was minding the books for Carnegie and, especially for the boys in 3rdclass.

On our first day in the library, we all had to line up on tippy-toes at Maisie’s desk to scratch our names with nervous N-nibs on green cards. Maisie eyed us all over her spectacles, welcoming each one of us ominously by name, telling us that she knew our mothers and woe-be-tide anyone who didn’t behave themselves, particularly any boy who did not take good care of Andrew’s books.

If you have a book, boys, Master McMahon’s voice was echoing around us. If you have a book, boys, you have an exciting friend.

Drumming his fingers along a shelf, humming to himself, he flicked one of the books from its place, tumbling it into his arms. Turning towards us, he held it like a trophy in the air. 

The Clue of The Twisted Candle. Nancy Drew, boys. She’s a beauty. Blonde, like Niamh Cinn Óir. Solves exciting mysteries for her father.

The Master took his time to scan our expectant faces.

Here, Mickey, proffering the book to Mikey Looby whose father was a detective. Why don’t you sit down there at that table. Read the first few chapters. See what Nancy Drew is up to this time.

Turning to the shelves again, The Master threw back over his shoulder; Sure if I know anything, Mikey, you’ll probably solve the mystery before she does. Mikey, clasping the book in his arms, stumbled to the nearest chair, thirty nine pairs of envious eyes fastened to him. Sure it’s in the blood, Mikey boy. It’s in the blood.

Selecting another book, The Master faced us once more. This time he called on Dan Driscoll.

I saw you driving your father’s pony and cart to the fair last week. Three of the loveliest pink plump bonavs you had. And what a fine looking pony Dan Driscoll has, boys.

Well, here in my hand I’m holding Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. This man is a fantastic story teller. He’ll take you to the frontier lands of America. I promise that you’ll see and smell the rolling plains of Wyoming more clearly than if you were in the Plaza cinema down the street. You’ll ride with cowboys, you’ll hear the neighing not of ponies but of palominos. You’ll meet deadly gunmen, boys, noble Red Indians. And on the headstones in Boothill, boys, you won’t find any Celtic designs. 

And there, in the vastness of the library, The Master’s youthful tenor voice startled the silence; Take me back to the Black Hills/ The Black Hills of Dakota/ To the beautiful Indian country that I love. By the time he was finished he was besieged by a posse of outstretched hands and beseeching cries of Sir! Sir! Sir! Every one of us was demented to get our paws on that book, any book.


Archeloogy Open Day at the new Bypass

A nice little crowd came along yesterday to see what was to see at the site of the old cottage at Curraghatoosane.


Resurfacing Courthouse Road

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