Listowel Connection

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

A Different Kind of Race

Listowel Town Square

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More Sustainable Fashion

This is part of the huge crowd at the races on Saturday Sept 24 2022. Listowel Racecourse is so vast and well laid out that there is always plenty of room for everyone and while demand for bars and toilets etc. leads to queues, these are never too long and this year everyone was in great good humour due to the sunshine and the blessed release from Covid restrictions. The best way to teach us to appreciate something is to take it away from us for a while.

Mary, Orla, Imelda and Joan were busy in the marquee organising the sustainable fashion event on behalf of Listowel Tidy Towns.

The ever stylish Helena was busy getting every entrant signed up.

Out on the course John Kelliher, who did a marvellous job of photographing all the colour and excitement of race week in Listowel, obliged me by posing with my friends and his, Maria and Anne.

This gorgeous lady was relaxing in the sunshine.

Local people in the marquee observing it all.

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A Poem for this Time of Year

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That Famous Walking Race

The walking race from Tarbert to Listowel was a much anticipated and keenly contested attraction in the 1960s. there are apocryphal tales of fellows going astray, fellows taking short cuts and there is one tall tale of a contestant who “borrowed” a bike for part of the journey.

King of the Mailroad Walking Race: Tarbert to Listowel.

John B Keane who gave a commentary on the race. Derek Johnson (Clonmel) winner and Dr John Walsh, race promoter. September 1961.

From the archive of the late Tony Fitzmaurice, Ballybunion.

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The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen

Photo from St. John’s Asts Centre on Facebook

Frances Kennedy was crowned Queen of the Wren at a great night of traditional music, dancing and merriment in Listowel Town Square on Friday Sept.23 2022

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Football, Racing and Playwriting

Statue of Bryan MacMahon at Kerry Writers’ Museum

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Master at Work

Martin Chute is, sign by sign, leaving his mark on Listowel. His work is an invaluable asset to our heritage town. I snapped him painting Finesse Bridalwear sign. Note he is writing in the traditional way with maul stick and brush.

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Sam Maguire in Town

There was a huge crowd in town to see the cup. I was amused to see the event described as a homecoming.

I wasn’t in The Square. I took the following photos on Upper Church Street.

Three lovely Hannon ladies

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Tom Coffey R.I.P. Playwright and Teacher

A lady was one day Googling her ancestors and she came upon the above headline in Listowel Connection

Tom, pictured at the back right between Mick Relihan and Pat Mc Elligott is remembered. I asked Marie Shaw if she remembered him and this is what she wrote:

“I can’t claim to know him personally Mary, I didn’t even remember his first name until you mentioned it, but I did take a commercial course with him at the Tech. What I remember vividly is his “Movie Star” good looks. There wasn’t a teenager in the town of Listowel at the time who wasn’t madly in love with him. Makes me smile just thinking of him. He was probably teaching at the Tech for two years. I left Ireland in 1958 and I would guess that he was in Listowel in 1956 and 1957.”


(I hope his family Google him and find out this forgotten corner of Tom’s life)

The lady who was doing the Googling was Tom’s granddaughter and she wrote

Hi there,

I found your posts about Tom Coffey—he was my grandfather. (I’m his son, Brian’s daughter.) I found the photo and sent it to my dad and grandmother. Thank you so much for posting about him; we all miss him very much, and it’s lovely to read about the other lives he touched. (I saw you hoped his family found the article, so I wanted to mention that, yes, we did.)

Thanks again,

Katie Coffey

The backstory: Junior Griffin gave me the photo and he told me that Mr. Coffey taught him Irish in the Tech. now Coláiste na Ríochta. Here is what Junior wrote in 2014

Having a look at this week’s Kerryman  I see an obituary on page 20 for the late Tom Coffey, very sorry to read about his recent death. You will see him in the back row of your recent photo.

They write about his time In Kerry but no mention of the time he spent here in Listowel. Now I started work in McKenna’s in Sept. 1953 and as  time went by struck up a friendship with 2 work colleagues, Willie Barrett and Pat Somers. Indeed, Pat who lived in Billerough, just before the Six Crosses, used to call for me in the morning and give me a bar up on his bicycle, a fine strong lad he was.

It must have been the following year that we decided to do an Irish evening class in the old tech and our teacher was none other than Tom Coffey. Irish dancing was another one of his subjects and those ladies in the front of your photo were also involved.

The Kerryman obituary mentions his first play called Luiochan, Irish for Ambush, and it seems it won an Oireachtas award.

In actual fact, it was a group of us that put on that play first. We did it in Moyvane, Ballybunion and Listowel, hence our presence in that photo. He decided to enter it for the Limerick Drama festival and we were highly commended by the judge, who happened to be a brother of Gay Byrne but we did not receive a prize due to the fact that we were the only Irish play taking part that year and we were not in competition with anyone. 

I honestly believe he was here in Listowel for 2 years, maybe the school terms of 1954 and 55. The obituary says he was in Dingle in 1955 so, if correct that could be starting the school term of ’55.

I did learn a good bit of Irish dancing from him but I most certainly did learn that I had 2 left feet.

He was a lovely man, I never met him after he left Listowel.

May he Rest in Peace

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More Sustainable Fashion

This great event on the Saturday of Race Week was a first for Listowel Tidy Towns and is greatly admired by other festivals.

Wardrobes and attics are raided and charity and vintage shops scoured in an effort to win the coveted title of best dressed lady in sustainable wear.

The competition was judged by international model, Sydney Sargent and Elaine Doyle of An Taisce. It’s great to see so many local people supporting this great initiative

Some of the Tidy Town Ladies who organised the event

I have known Anne Leneghan since she was knee-high to a grasshopper. She is a great supporter of Listowel Races. Her outfit started life as a maxi dress and coat. Her bag she sourced in the charity shop and the hat was given to her as a present, all old and pre loved.

Lovely local lady, Nell Reidy, like myself, loves Listowel Vincent de Paul shop. She sourced her complete ensemble there over the years.

Maria Stack comes from a family who are both crafty, talented and dedicated to style, Maria always makes great effort in support of this event. Her beautiful tweed skirt she adapted from an A line one. It is one of many beautiful classic pieces she inherited from her aunt. Her coat was her mother’s but she had to reduce it a few sizes. She made her hat herself from material she bought from a man who was going out of the millinery business. Maria told us that she spent her spare time during Covid working on her sewing, crafting and hat making. It helped her de stress from her hectic job as a nurse in an acute respiratory ward.

Another local finalist was Deirdre Kissane. She found her classic red and black ensemble in her wardrobe. Deirdre looks after her clothes and buys pieces that will last.

When your mother is the very stylish Marian Relihan, then all you have to do to look this good is raid her wardrobe.

(more tomorrow)

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Just a Thought

If you missed me on Radio Kerry last week, and you would like to hear my reflections, here is the link

Just a Thought

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Listowel Races 2022 Day 1 continued

Listowel Town Square

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Best Dressed Couples

Listowel Races this year introduced a new fashion event. This saw men and women dressing up as a co-ordinated couple. The venue was sponsored by Lyrath Estate Hotels. This company has a very strong Listowel Connection.

The judge on the day was Elaine Kinsella, a broadcaster with a very strong Listowel Connection.

The llama wasn’t helping her with the judging and since he was on his own he wasn’t eligible for the couples competition so he took a minute off from entertaining the children to allow his use as a prop for Instagram.

Gillian and Raymond Gilbourne were every inch the stylish co ordinated couple. They didn’t win.

A couple with a very strong Listowel Connection (and a Kanturk one too) are Barry and Eithne O’Halloran. They didn’t win either. They came second.

Barry was not actually on the island for the competition. He was presenting a prize on behalf of his company.

And the winners were Jacy Ybanez (Tralee) and Brian O’Connor (Abbeyfeale) with an outfit described by the people in the know as “fashion forward”.

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Pres. Girls Reunion

Hard to believe that these lovely ladies graduated from Presentation Secondary School in the early 1960s.

They chatted and reminisced ’til early morning

Miriam Kiely and Mary Sobieralski on their way to the reunion.

Mary and Marlene hadn’t met since they left school.

It was a great night for remembering and reconnecting.

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Harvest Festival 1994

Listowel Harvest Festival made a welcome return to town this year. Will it ever match the fun we had on the streets in 1994. Junior Griffin kept the brochure

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Listowel Races 2022

Day 1 of Listowel Harvest Festival of Racing 2022, Sunday September 18th

And I was there with my friend, Bridget O’Connor.

I was back on The Island on the last day, Saturday, Sept 24 2022 for Listowel Tidy Towns sustainable fashion event.

And the winner is…

Andrea Thornton is the queen of sustainable fashion. She rarely buys anything new. When her gorgeous dress was bought, it was already vintage with a slightly rusted metal zip and a few rust stains on the lace. Her headpiece came from Vincent’s in Listowel when it was called Second Time Around. She wore her shoes at a Bronte literary event in the UK.

Her fan had to be the most inventive reuse of something. It started life as a Barbie doll’s dress.

Two babies later, the dress still fits Andrea as well as it did on her 21st.

The runner up is another vintage affectionado. Amy G. loves her life, travelling around the world, selecting pieces for her pre loved business.

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When The Owner is an Artist

Traditionally everything in Listowel shuts down for Race Week. Work stops on building sites in town. This premises on Church Street was no exception but look at how they painted the boarded up window to match the colour scheme of the shopfront.

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Tralee Pillar Box from Another Era

This Tralee postbox dates from the reign of Edward VII so it was put there between 1901 and 1910. Hasn’t it weathered the years well?

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St. Michael’s 1972 Past Pupils Reunion

Back L to R.  Jim Larkin,Maurice Sheehy, Jack Flavin, Tom Stack, Brendan Keane, Eddie Flaherty, John Hartnett, Aidan Murphy, Finbarr Prendiville, Gerard Hussey, David Kissane.Front. L to R. Paddy Quilter,Gerard Neville,Jimmy Fitzmaurice, Joe Horgan,Seamus Kennelly, Neil Brosnan, Jer Riordan.

Names supplied by Jimmy Fitzmaurice.

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The Greatest Irish Athlete Ever?

The eccentric Cork athlete , when asked how he felt after winning his 5th. World Championship said in typical understated fashion ‘Fine”.

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Landlords and Shopkeepers

Tawny Owl…Photo: Jim McSweeney

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St. Mary’s, Listowel

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Relic of the Trinity College Estates

Photo and text from Martin Moore on Facebook

This thatched house at Acres was formerly owned by Trinity College, Dublin, who were granted extensive lands in north Kerry in the 17th century .Trinity College were granted extensive lands in north Kerry after the 9 Years War (1594-1603). Most of this was in the Ballylongford/Tarbert areas, but they held lands in Clanmaurice too.

At the same time as the College was granted the lands, there was a transplantation of Gaelic families from Laois & Offaly and it was then that that the Moores, Lawlors, Dowlings, Kellys (etc) came to north Kerry. This suggests that north Kerry had by then been devastated and the local population decimated. In a later transplanting into the area, many families from Clare arrived and you get the Carmodys, Finucanes, McMahons etc.

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Mrs. Crowley, ice cream and a snake

An extract from Keane’s Kingdom in Saturday’s IrishIndependent

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Building Works in Sept 2022

I took these photos in town on Sept 13 2022

Dowlings Bar in The Square
The Ivy Clinic, The Square
Mulvihill’s on Church Street
Old Pharmacy on Church Street

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Getting Ready for The Races

Holidays

In the time honoured tradition of Listowel people, I’m closing for business for Race week. I intend going to The Island and having a break (I’ll bring the camera.)

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