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: Woodford Pottery Page 1 of 2

Portmarnock, Woodford Pottery, and Flying a Flag in 1917


A horse and rider in the sea at sundown in Portmarnock captured by Eamon ÓMurchú


Woodford Pottery Wows a New


If you stop in Kanturk on your way to Cork you may have dined in The Vintage or you may have had a wander around the lovely nearby Presents of Mind. O’Brien Street in Kanturk is well worth stopping for. On one side is the lovely riverside park, with picnic benches and a wooden sculpture by Fear na Coillte. The other side of the street is the commercial side and it’s here you will find Presents of Mind. If you are lucky, you will hit it on a day when my lovely friend, Lil, is in charge of the shop.

Recently I introduced Lil to Pat Murphy of Woodford Pottery and she was very taken with his unique tableware and very different items.

We visited Pat in his studio and he gave Lil a demonstration of his potting process.

Even though he is a one man operation, Pat seems to constantly have a production line on his shelves. This lot is waiting to be glazed.

As well as beautiful and unusual tableware, Pat makes lovely gift items like oil burners, his new range of owls and, my favourite, Christmas nativities. This year he had added a more modern “crib” to his range as well.

Oil burners ready for a Christmas at home.

These owls are causing a bit of a sensation on Pat’s Facebook page.

This is my kind of Christmas crib. I have the white one. I love it so much I never packed it away with the Christmas stuff. I’ve lit a tea light in it this summer as a kind of votive to pray for deliverance from the Corona virus.

This crib is more popular with young people who like the more rounded, less traditional figures.

Pat, like all artists, is hit by the closure of gift shops and the cancellation of craft fairs. He is lucky in that he can sell from his shop at his studio in Woodford, Listowel.

If you do want to treat yourself or a friend to something lovely for Christmas, I’d advise you to get on it. Now that the Kanturk crowd have discovered him, these lovely pieces will sell out fast.


This Could Be the Start of Something Big

Photo: David Kissane on Facebook

Sinéad Kissane (Ardfert Kilmoyley) on the podium in Mosney after winning the gold medal in the U10 200m in 1988.

That moment in 2020 when you are a well respected TV Sports Journalist and your dad digs out that old photo when they couldn’t find a tracksuit small enough for you when you won gold at the Community Games. Parents!


Flying the flag

The Irish Standard Sept. 29 1917


“It seems that it is considered necessary just now in England to hold on to the name Catholic, as others, who once repudiated it, are now appropriating it, and applying to us, with no friendly intent, the name Roman Catholic.

“A Catholic chaplain in the British army somewhere in France, put up a soldiers’ hut and over it ‘Catholic Soldiers’ Hut.’ Some Anglican parsons objected and demanded that the title be: ‘Roman Catholic Soldiers’ Hut.’ Father Regan demurred. The matter was referred to the authorities. 

Three Generals came along and ordered the change made. Father Regan refused and was threatened with reduced rank. He replied, ‘What I have put up stands, or I and every Catholic Chaplain here will resign. Quad scripsi, scripsi.’

“The matter has been allowed to drop with Father Regan’s flag still flying.”—Columbian.

Wren Boys, Listowel shops and Christmas Things

December 2019


Some Listowel Shops at Christmas 2019


A Christmas Tradition

Wren boys by Vincent Carmody

The wren-boy tradition on St. Stephen’s Day is unfortunately, now nearly a thing of the past. Now, only a few small groups, or individuals carry on a tradition, the origins of which, are lost in the mists of time. In the time of the big batches of wren-boys, under the leadership of their King, these groups would traverse the country roads all day, and as evening and night approached, they would head for the larger urban areas to avail of the richer pickings in the public houses.

The North Kerry area was well catered for, with two large groupings in the Killocrim/Enismore and Dirha West areas, There was also a strong tradition in the Clounmacon side of the parish.

Some time after the wrens-day, it was the custom to organise a wren-dance. When the date was picked, a house offered to host the dance. The dances were all night affairs, with liberal quantities of food and drink provided. 

In the early 1960’s I spent three years in London,  during which, I worked in a pub, The Devonshire Arms, in Kensington, for a year or so. At this time, The Harvest Festival Committee, under Dr. Johnny Walsh, organised the wren-boy competitions in Listowel. Mr Johnny Muldoon, of London, had met Dr Johnny in Listowel and told him that he would organise two dances in his Dance Halls in London, provided that the Listowel committee send over three or four wren-boys to be in attendance. During their stay in London, Dan Maher, who managed the Devonshire, invited the Listowel contingent to the pub. On the particular evening I was serving in the lounge bar. (the pub was a gathering place for many film and TV actors who would have lived nearby). Suddenly Dr.Johnny threw the double door open, and in came the Listowel wren-boys, led by the leader, Jimmy Hennessy. Jimmy, wearing a colourful pants, had only some fur skin over his shoulders and chest and a headpiece with two horns. The others followed, faces blackened, and wearing similar outfits, all beating bodhrans. To say the least, those present did not have an idea what was happening.  To this day, I can hear the remark which one man, Sir Bruce Setan, (he, of Fabian of the Yard) at the counter said to the other, Christopher Trace (of Blue Peter fame), Blimey, they’re coming in from the jungle. They will kill us all.
There was no one killed, and I think that Jimmy Hennessy enjoyed drinking pints of Guinness and pressing the flesh, surrounded by people he usually saw, only in the Plaza and Astor.


My Christmas Things

This is my new favourite Christmas thing, a beautiful Jim Dunn Christmas scene.

My second favourite Christmas thing is my Woodford Pottery crib.

And finally my little Judy Greene nativity

Woodford Pottery, Listowel Races 2019, Progress on The Greenway and North Kerry success at The Ploughing

Hands of a Master Craftsman

 Pat Murphy throwing a pot at his Woodford Pottery Studio in Sept 2019


Saturday at The Races

Saturday September 14th 2019 was a gloriously sunny day on the island. The big screens were in place to show the All Ireland Football replay between Kerry and Dublin and the Tidy Towns inspired fashion event was taking place.

 The judges were out and about mingling with the racegoers in vintage gear. In my photo the judge is in white and the lady on the far left was chosen as the winner. The rules said that your outfit had to be genuinely vintage and to have been upcycled by you. You had to wear a headpiece. This elegant lady fulfilled all these requirements.

The lovely ladies from Oonagh Hartnett’s were offering us sweets, some timely advice on sun protection, a squirt of perfume and entry into a raffle.

Another judge checking out the vintage of this lady’s garments.

 My lovely former neighbour, Anne Leneghan, came second in this smashing suit which someone else had worn to a son’s wedding. Anne had up-styled it with pearls from a broken pearl necklace and she had pinned down the lapels with a pair of pearl earrings. She was wearing her 90 year old mother’s going away hat and her lace gloves.

The always stylish Betty Stack with her daughter Maria and their friend, Anne Leneghan.

 Noelle and her friends were studying form when I interrupted them.

Gemma and Mairead Regan gave me a tip they got “from some fellow on the way in”. It won.

 Rose Wall was accompanied by her handsome son.


Good News on the Greenway

This is the report from the council meeting:

A dedicated team in Kerry County Council is to be appointed to progress two greenway projects to completion.

The status of the North Kerry Greenway was discussed at the monthly meeting of the Listowel Municipal District.

Councillor Mike Kennelly called for all resources to be put in place to get the multi-million-euro greenway from Listowel to the Limerick border over the line.

The Fine Gael councillor pointed to bureaucracy with Government departments with such projects.

Listowel MD Manager, Joan McCarthy told Cllr Kennelly that nobody is dragging their heels on the project adding that it is protection of public funds and not bureaucracy.

Kerry County Council says a senior engineer has been appointed to oversee both the North Kerry Greenway and the Tralee to Fenit Greenway; a team will be appointed shortly to progress both projects.

Work on the north Kerry project is expected to begin later this year and will take 18 months to complete.


Michael Guerin, Listowel


Upcoming Events


The Ploughing

Photo: Radio Kerry

Daniel Burke from Causeway and Derek O’Driscoll from Ballyheigue, who both claimed an All-Ireland title at this year’s Ploughing Championships

I’ve never been to “The Ploughing” but I’m told it’s possible to spend days there without seeing a plough or a ploughman. It’s a place for shopping, socialising, entertainment and education. I was delighted to see that these young men have got back to what it’s all about, celebrating the skill and art of ploughing.

Craftfair, Aghadoe, Bothar, Christmas in Killarney and Ballybunion Radio Station

Seanchaí Craft Fair

Pat Murphy was in The Kerry Writers’ Centre on Sunday December 16 2018 with some lovely new stock.

Vincent Carmody was selling his unique new book of printed materials from 1870 to 1970.

This new hair device, Dreamy Curls, curls your locks without the aid of heat. It is invented, made and marketed in Listowel. I bought one for my granddaughters. I’ll let you know how it goes when they have road tested it.

Orla has had 2 craft fairs in a row so she had enlisted some young help with this one. Her confectionary was selling fast.


Aghadoe, Killarney

The path to the viewing spot at Aghadoe

Remains of old tower in Aghadoe

Heavenly spot.


Sheep May Safely Graze

When I saw this pastoral scene on may way back from Aghadoe I was reminded of the hymn;

Sheep may safely graze and pasture

Where a shepherd guards them well.

So the nation ruled in wisdom

Knows and shares the many blessings

Which both peace and plenty bring.

And then I spotted the sign on the next door fence.


Christmas in Killarney


Ballybunion Radio Station

(Photo and text from Liam O’Hainnín on Facebook)

Despite references in several publications, Ballybunion Station was not built by Marconi, and never operated commercially. The station was built by the Universal Radio Syndicate. Construction started in 1912, but the station had not obtained a commercial licence by the time World War 1 started. The company went into liquidation in 1915. A sister station at Newcastle New Brunswick, built to the same design as Ballybunion, suffered a similar fate. The Marconi Company bought the two stations from the liquidator in 1919, mainly to prevent their use by potential competitors. The stations were not idle in the interim, however, having been appropriated by the British Admiralty almost immediately upon outbreak of the Great War and kept in constant activity as key components of the allied communication system until the Armistice of November 1918.

The Marconi Company did not use the stations commercially, and it would appear that the Ballybunion station was only used briefly, in March 1919 for a successful telephony experiment with the Marconi station in Louisbourg, and for communication with the R34 airship in July 1919.

In March 1919, Marconi engineers H.J Round and W.T. Ditcham made the first east-west transatlantic broadcast of voice, using valve technology, from the Ballybunion station using the callsignYXQ. The first west to east voice transmission had already been achieved by Bell Systems engineers from the US Navy station at Arlington Virginia to the Eiffel Tower in October 1915.

The contents of Clifden and Ballybunion were sold for scrap to a Sheffield-based scrap merchant, Thos. W. Ward in 1925.

My visit to Woodford Pottery

 Photo; Chris Grayson


Old Ballybunion

This photo was from The Kerryman May 1969


Pottering about in North Kerry at Easter 2018

The above three mugs were all made in Listowel by Pat Murphy of  Woodford Pottery

The blue one is my favourite. The white one is a work in progress. Pat is experimenting with different shapes and sizes of mug. He is planning on adding a plainer “everyday” mug to his more stylish range. It won’t be white like this but will have a colour outside and for those customers for whom this is important, a white interior.

I usually meet Pat at craft fairs and he has been inviting me to visit his workshop and shop at Woodford for some time now. I made the long promised visit at Easter 2018 accompanied by  my young visitors.

Woodford Pottery is a one man operation. This one man produces a wide range of very beautiful and practical items of tableware and one-off pieces such as bowls, lamps and vases and an adorable Christmas crib.

Like so many North Kerry artists, Pat is a blow-in, a cliamhain isteach. I never fail to marvel at how life in rural North Kerry and West Limerick is so enriched by these very talented people who chance to end up here.

Pat is a Wexford man who began his career as a potter at Kiltrae. You can see that early influence in the practicality of his pieces. In my humble opinion, Woodford Pottery outshines Kiltrae in terms of style, beauty, usefulness and price.

Look out for Pat at future craft fairs or give him a ring at his studio in Woodford.  You can also message him on Facebook where you can also see some of his wares.

Woodford Pottery

If you are in the market for a unique local gift, look no further. Tell him I sent you.


They Stretched in Never Ending Line

Beside St. John’s in Ballybunion

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