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

Tag: Maeve Binchy

Women in Media Weekend in Ballybunion

Mothers and Daughters at WIM Ballybunion

Vourneen and Keelin Kissane with Róisín and Anne Ingle

It was Saturday, April 12 2014 and instead of reading Róisín Ingle in the Irish Times, we were sitting in Kilcooley’s Country House in Ballybunion, Co. Kerry listening to her talk about another favourite journalist and author, Maeve Binchy.

Róisín Ingle is now Daily Features Editor of The Irish Times, a mantle which sits lightly on her shoulders. She was in Ballybunion to take us back to another editor and to help us live again the enjoyment we got form Maeve Binchy, the journalist. Róisín has recently edited a collection of Maeve’s pieces for the Irish Times and so she is a bit of an expert on Maeve’s best bits. She described getting this job like getting a job in quality control in a crisp factory.

Róisín did not give us my favourite anecdote about Maeve on The Late Late doing battle with a formidable lady on the necessity of etiquette and decorum but she read for us Maeve’s account of an incident when she encountered a business man sitting in the Ladies’ Toilet  in a posh hotel. He had mistaken it for the lobby.

Maeve’s description of her first dress dance at age 16 is still hilarious today. Maeve’s coverage of Princess Anne’s wedding made us all regret that she had passed away before the recent state visit.

Róisín decided that Miriam Lord with her “irreverent but affectionate” approach to serious subjects is Maeve’s best successor today. I think that Róisín Ingle with her ability to mine the minutiae of everyday life and produce entertaining and self deprecating pen pictures has a lot of Maeve Binchy in her too.

This is Róisín with a local lady called Christine. Christine came to Ballybunion to meet Róisín because Róisín once wrote about her. If anyone reading this knows Christine will you get that story for us please?

(more from WIM tomorrow)

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I spotted this picture of Ballybunion Lady golfers on Perfect Pairs page. Looking good, ladies.

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Mike Enright took this perfect picture of sunset in Ballybunion last week.

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All will be revealed!


On Thursday next at 7.00 p.m. in The Seanchaí the Listowel Writers’ Week programme 2014 will be launched.  Come along to hear what great things are in store for us on the June bank holiday weekend. 

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spotted in a shop window on Church Street

Maeve Binchy R.I.P. and bog walking in Lyreacrompane

Some of the vistors to the Week of Welcomes joined the Dan Paddy Andy folk for a trip to a traditional Irish bog to do a spot of turf cutting. 

Dan Paddy Andy, the matchmaker
Joe shows Ger how to use a sleán
Bill tries his hand at turf cutting.
Turbary bank

walking in the bog
folk in the marquee take shelter, a cuppa and a dance

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The following obituary was sent to me by Julie in Oz. It appeared last week in the main Sydney newspaper, The Sydney Herald. Maeve’s books were very popular in Australia.

Maeve Binchy was a publishing phenomenon whose best-selling, gently humorous novels and short stories typically explored events in small-town Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s.

From the time she had her first success, aged 43, with Light A Penny Candle (1982), which remained in the top-10 charts for 53 weeks, Binchy turned out an unbroken stream of doorstopping bestsellers centred on such ordinary events as a wedding anniversary or the building of a hotel. They sold in their millions and were translated into more than 30 languages. In a survey of Ireland’s 100 bestsellers in the 20th century compiled in 1998, Binchy took first, third and fourth places, with seven of her books in the top 100. Her work also spawned two Hollywood films, Circle Of Friends and Tara Road.

Maeve Binchy was born on May 28, 1940 at Dalkey, south of Dublin. She attended a nearby convent school and, although she grew to 182 centimetres tall and was always overweight, recalled her childhood as, “secure, safe and happy”.

She went to University College, Dublin, when she was only 16 and afterwards became a history teacher in a girls’ school, which she loved. At 23 she lost her religious faith on a trip to Israel after being distinctly unimpressed by the “venue” for the Last Supper – a small cave. In 1968 she broke into journalism as a columnist for The Irish Times, though she admitted later that she never had the killer instinct to be a good reporter. After her parents’ deaths she moved to Dublin.

In 1971, Binchy met the children’s writer Gordon Snell, who was working in London. After a year flying to see each other at weekends she moved there and they married in 1977. She began to write stories in the evenings to keep herself occupied and after two books of short stories, tackled her first novel. In 1983, Light A Penny Candle sold for £52,000 ($77,475 today) – the largest sum paid for a first novel up to then. From then on Binchy wrote bestseller after bestseller, rattling off her books between 7am and 2pm and only writing one draft. When Scarlet Feather came out in 2000, Binchy announced that it would be her last book. Despite her promise that she would not be like Frank Sinatra “with lots of farewell concerts”, she soon came out of retirement because of demand from her fans, penning five further novels.

In 1996, weighing 114 kilograms, she lost 36 kilograms in six months on a drastic diet. She later suffered from heart problems which rendered her virtually housebound.

Binchy was refreshingly honest about being one of Britain’s richest women: “I used to think if I was very rich I’d be Mother Teresa and give it all away but of course, when you get it you don’t.” Nonetheless, Binchy gave generously to good causes. Maeve Binchy is survived by Gordon.

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And well done to you too!

North Kerry area Olympic story

Today is the first of August, Lunasa. It is also the first day of autumn

Lunasa gets its name from Lugh the Celtic god of the sun who married Danu the goddess of water.

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All of the following information and photographs were provided by Jer. Kennelly.  Jer. is a diligent local historian, a local treasure and one of the most loyal and consistent contributors to this blog. Take a bow, Jer!

Edward Barrett of Rahela, Ballyduff:

Edward Barrett was born in Rahela, Ballyduff in 1882. father Thomas and mother Bridget Whelan. He joined the City of London Police. In 1901 he won an All Ireland Hurling medal as a member of the London Irish Hurling team that beat Cork in the All-ireland final. At the 1908 Olympic Games held in London he won an Olympic Gold medal as a member of the City of London Police Tug- of -War team, he also won an Olympic Bronze medal in the heavyweight freestyle wrestling. He married Julia McCarthy in 1910 in Middlesex. They are on the 1911 Census in High Holborn and I can trace them both in Electoral rolls until 1926 in St Pancras area – Chalk Farm, Regents Street and Kentish Town Road. He died c 1930s.

John James Barrett:

John James was born 1879,  represented Britain at the 1908 Olympics and was a brother of Edward Barrett.

Tim Ahearne and his brother, Dan Ahearne  from Dirreen, Athea. 

They emigrated to the United States,  Tim Ahearne had won the 1909 AAA long jump championship, in America Dan Ahearn set the first IAAF-recognized triple jump with 50-11 (15.52) in May 1911. He won the AAU triple jump in 1911 and 1913-1918, mostly defeating Tim, who was runner-up in 1911, 1913-14, and 1916. Tim Ahearne born August 18, 1885 died December 1968. Tim Ahearne won the gold medal in the triple jump at 1908 Olympics held in London. Dan came 6th in the Olympics in 1920 triple jump, he was born in 1888 and died 1942.

LEAHY Family of Creggane

Seven brothers Leahy all atheletes. Pat and Con were the first brothers to win Olympic medals. First brothers to two Olympic medals each. The first family to win olympic medals in all three jumping events.

Martin Sheridan won a total of nine Olympic medals.

Michael Collins of Currans  competed in the free style discus at the 1908 London Olympics games.

1900 High Jump Pat Leahy of Creggane won SILVER 1.78m

1900 Long Jump Pat Leahy BRONZE 6.95m

1900 Hammer John Flanagan GOLD 51.01m

1904 3,000m S/C John Daly SILVER 7.40.61

1904 Hammer John Flanagan GOLD 51.23m

1904 Decathlon Tom Kiely GOLD 6,036 pt

1908 High Jump Con Leahy of Creggane won SILVER 1.88m

1908 Triple Jump Tim Ahearne of Athea won GOLD 14.92m

1908 Shot Putt Denis Horgan SILVER 13.62m

1908 Hammer John Flanagan GOLD 51.92m

Jer. tells me that the Ahernes and the Leahys had cousins in Knockanure.

Con Leahy

Tim Aherne

Dan Ahearne picture July 4th 1909 at Celtic Park when he won World Champiomship in Hop Step and Jump.

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There is another unusual olympic story from Jer here:

http://listowelconnection.com/2012/07/the-pope-who-helped-save-olympics-st.html

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Doesn’t this take you back?

 And he is still going strong.

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These pilgrims climbed The Reek in the 1950s. Numbers were down on Sunday last and fewer then ever climbed barefoot.

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In Finnegan’s in Dalkey yesterday, actor Eamonn Morrissey pays his repects. Finnegan’s is next to Maeve Binchy’s house

(photo by Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)


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I looked everywhere and failed to find Maeve Binchy’s article about her first dance in Ballybunion.  So instead I’ll pay my tribute to her with this article about the tribulations and compensations of being large.

Maeve wrote; “I am not a member of Fat Liberation, nor do I
think that obesity is healthy. But I do believe that in many ways my life has
been a more charmed and happy one because I was always large.

For one thing, my parents thought I was drop-dead
gorgeous. I grew up thinking it was wonderful to be big and strong and to be
able to knock down other children in the playground if I needed to. But I never
felt the need.

Then, in my teens, I discovered it was not all
right to be a big girl. At school, I was always the last to be picked for any
kind of sports team. Once, I unwisely asked a teacher what “jowls”
were. “Big chubby cheeks like what you have,” she said, not unkindly.
But the name stuck: For a whole year, I was called Jowls Binchy

At my first dance, nobody danced with me — nobody
at all. But I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, so I said it was a great
night. My mother knew. She said, “One day you’ll realize what’s important,
Maeve. It will be a wonderful day.” It was a while arriving, that day.

I would console myself with the view expressed by
one of the nuns who taught us. She said, “Whom the Lord loveth He also
persecuteth.” I decided the Lord must love me hugely.

Once I went to university, things started to
change. I discovered that men were just like everyone else, really. They liked
you if you were good-tempered and easy to talk to. And being a big girl meant
other females trusted you more, and confided in you. I realized that you didn’t
have to make self-deprecating remarks or turn yourself into the butt of some
unspoken joke. I also discovered that being big didn’t deter possible suitors.

When I was just over 30 and working as a
journalist, I met a man so good I feared there might be some Great Obstacle
somewhere, like he might already be married or have some awful problem that I
would only discover later. I hardly dared to hope we would see each other again
and was delighted when we became friends.

One day he invited me to go to lunch in France,
which was very romantic, and he told me that he thought I was the one for him.
I let my glass of wine fall on the floor, I was so shocked. My confidence left
me for a moment, and I regressed back to those tortured teenage years.

“But aren’t I a bit…well…a bit chubby to
be The One?” I asked.

He looked at me bewildered. And soon I became
bewildered myself. What had that got to do with anything when you loved
someone? I might never have had this great understanding, and 30 years of a
very happy marriage, had I been a petite little girl. I would have had
cheekbones, of course, which would have been nice, but I prefer the sense of
ease and comfort that has made a happy life happier still.”

Her entertaining and self revealing voice will be missed.


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From yesterday’s Irish Examiner



Call for return of historic church bell

TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2012

Scrap dealers have been urged to look out for a rare and historic church bell, stolen in Co Kerry, being offered for sale.

The bronze bell, dating to the late 1700s, was taken from the Ivy Leaf Theatre in Castleisland last Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

The Ivy Leaf Theatre was formerly a Church of Ireland church. The ornate bell, which hung outside for generations, was taken down and kept indoors following a fire some years ago.

Weighing around 350lbs, it was on a 12ft shelf inside the building, located on a laneway just off the main street.

A spokesman for the theatre company believe a number of people would be needed to move the bell as well as a vehicle to transport it from the scene.

It is feared the bell may be among several metal items and monuments being targeted in recent years by thieves around the country.

The bell was made by the Rudhall family of Gloucester, England, in 1776 and only 18 such bells of its type exist in the world, according to Michael Burke of the Ivy Leaf Theatre.

He also said such bells are only in three other locations in Ireland — at St Anne’s Church, Shandon, Cork; St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, also Cork; and Trinity College, Dublin.

“This bell is so old and so rare that it would be impossible to put a value on it,” said Mr Burke.

“You’d know from just looking at it that this bell is quite unique. It’s a treasure as far we’re concerned and we want it back.

“We’re also asking scrap dealers and junkyard owners to be fully aware and to tell the gardaí if they are approached by people with the bell which is 26 inches in diameter and about two and a half feet high.”

Gardaí in Castleisland are investigating the theft and the scene has been forensically examined.

A Tuesday laugh; badminton and Fred Peard

 Do you recognize any of the signs in yourself?

Being Irish means………….Describing someone with longstanding, persistent and untreated psychosis as “a character”.Saying “There’s definitely no recession here!” every time you see more than … 5 people in a pubSaying “Ah but he’s very good to his mother” about some utter lunaticTK Red lemonade and white pudding. Not together of courseYour ma or da greeting you with the phrase “d’ya know who’s dead?”That mini heart attack you get if you go out and forget to turn off the immersionYou’re not drinking??? Are you on antibiotics?Wallpaper on your school booksBeing Grand!!Boil everything in a huge pot for 3 hoursBeing absolutely terrified of a wooden spoon.Learning a language for 12 years and not being fluentFlat 7UP heals all illnessesCalling Joe Duffy instead of the Guards

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Very poignant picture of Ellis Island in 1912

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This is Irish Olympic gymnast, Kieran Behan. Kieran failed to qualify for the final but his story so far is one of triumph over adversity.

The New York Times traced Behan’s inspirational story from his childhood up until today. Behan remembers first being enamored by gymnastics at the age of six while watching them on the Summer Olympic Games. At age 8, he began taking lessons and showed great promise as a tumbler.

However, at age 10, all that promise was seriously threatened when a benign tumor was found on Behan’s leg. During the surgery, Behan’s doctor left a tourniquet on too long and tied too tight, causing nerve damage in the aspiring gymnast’s left leg.

Coupled with the bleak outlook, Behan remembers cruel schoolchildren taunting him at the time.

“They’d say, ‘Oh, look at the cripple,’ and that was so hard for me because, already, I was doing gymnastics and I was short, and I was doing a girls’ sport,” said Behan.

“So a lot of times, I would sit at the kitchen window and watch all the kids running around the park and playing football, and I’d get pretty emotional. All I wanted to do was be an ordinary kid again.”

Despite all the adversity, Behan made an astounding comeback. Fifteen months after the botched surgery, Behan was getting back to normal.

However, only about 8 months after Behan was back in the swing of things at gymnastics, he encountered was has been described to be a “freak accident.”

Behan smacked the back of his head on the metal horizontal bar during a routine and tumbled to the ground in a lump, resulting in traumatic brain injury and severe damage to the vestibular canal of his inner ear.

The damage affected Behan so greatly that the slightest movement could trigger him to blackout, which he did perhaps thousands of times following the accident.

Behan’s mother Bernie Behan remembers her son struggling to turn his head, feed himself and walk without stumbling and looking as if he were dead drunk.

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One olympic sport many Listowel people enjoy watching is badminton. Chloe Magee is through to the second round.

Traditionally badminton in Ireland was a “Protestant” game. Maybe it is because there were so many Church of Ireland families in Listowel that it really caught on here. In my time in town the continuance of badminton is down to two man; Junior Griffin and Roly Chute.

Junior tells this story of a Listowel connection with Irish badminton at the highest level going back a few years.

A family called Peard lived in the house on the right of St. Mary’s in The Square. This is the house that was later demolished to extend the church. The Peard family lived in Listowel from 1932 to 1938 and were very involved with the local badminton club. Fred Peard went on to be one of Ireland’s best players. In his book “Sixty Years of Irish Badminton” he alludes to his time in Listowel and to partners he remembers playing with. One of these was a Gus Stack who was his teacher in St. Michael’s. Another was a Mrs. Macauley. Fred Peard went on to become M.D. of Guinness Ireland. He  still  maintains his interest in badminton.

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Another poem from Kathleen Forrestal

Martin’s Daly’s Cart

Our front door was open to one and all,

The other houses were the same.

Children played their games outside,

Cowboys and Indians,

Spinning a top.

Rolling a bicycle tyre,

Mammies and Daddies,

Sometimes we made mud pies,

Hide and seek,

Rough and tumble with the boys,

Waiting for the Martin’s cart.

Martin drove a hay cart up along Charles Street,

Children jumped on it and dangled their feet.

At Dowd’s crossing, we’d hear him yell “Whoa”!

We’d open the railway gates to allow him through.

Up the boreen past fields of hay,

On through the glaise to collect his load,

And back to the waiting children on the road.

Not much room left on the cart,

Boys hanging at the edges as cart jostled hedges.

And then we’d hear Martin roar,

“Clear off the cart or ye’ll come no more”.

I can hear you yet Martin Daly

On your horse and hay cart,

I can see you in my mind’s eye.


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News is breaking this morning of the passing of the very popular writer, Maeve Binchy.

+ May she rest in peace +

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