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

Christmas Then and Now

Courtyard at Listowel Castle 2023

Craft Fair in Kanturk

Sunday, November 26 2023

The annual Christmas craft fair is organised by the local Men’s Shed. The Edel Quinn Hall is the venue and it was mobbed.

This lady’s knitted toys and ornaments were very popular.

It is always a pleasure to meet the Two Crafty Ladies at a fair. It was their first time in Kanturk.

This lovely lady’s company is called The Rebellious Goat and she produces lovely soaps and balms using goats milk and honey from her bees. My friend, Lil is trying out some hand salve.

Paddy, Gael and Lil were sampling mulled wine all the way from Listowel.

Will you look at the lovely group of choristers I bought.

Booker Winner

Couldn’t believe my luck when I got this in the library. Just started but so far it’s lovely, very poetic but I know the subject is far from pleasant so I’m prepared.

A Seasonal Poem

A Kerry Christmas Childhood

Garry MacMahon

Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,

As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.

I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,

And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.

We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,

And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,

To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,

And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,

Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,

And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.

From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,

To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,

For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,

To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,

To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,

And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.

The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,

The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,

And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,

Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.

Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire

And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,

Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,

Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights

And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,

And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.

Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,

If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,

And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,

When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,

But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,

To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.

She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.

“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”

The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade

And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.

St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,

To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’

We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,

And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.

Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill

Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.

Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.

Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.

So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,

And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.

A Fact

A Christmas fact from the schools’ folklore collection…

The Big Wind

In the year 1839 on little Christmas night there was a fierce storm. The people were very happy and enjoying Christmas ; they had the Christmas candles lighted and the night was very calm. At ten o’clock they went to look at the cows and took lighted splinters as candles were very scarce in those days. It was so calm that the splinter kept lighting till they had secured the cattle for the night.

Afterwards they went to bed, and were sound asleep when the storm arose at midnight. It was so bad that the people ran out of the houses. The houses were thrown down, cowstalls were flying half a mile away, and cattle were bellowing with no roof over them. The people were screaming for help, and tried to hold on to each other, and were very much exhausted.

The storm lasted till twelve o’clock at night till seven in the morning. Then the people collected and made up little houses that they could sleep in, until a time came when they were able to build their houses once more.

Afterwards when people talked of it they used to call it the night of the Big Wind.
Pat Stack, Told by Nurse Stack, Newtownsandes, 62 years.



Looking Forward to Christmas


Brazil and Lyreacrompane


  1. Lauren Carroll Davis

    Mary, in the story about the Big Wind, what do they mean by “little Christmas night”? On the Carroll side of my family, there’s a story that my great-great grandmother was born the night of the Big Wind.

    • listowelconnection

      Lauren, Little Christmas is January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, often known as Women’s Christmas. It is the 12th day of Christmas. M.

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