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

Category: Asdee

Memories and Loss of Memories

Greenlawn in October 2023


Hospice Coffee Morning ; October 5 2023

Some photos from a very successful fundraiser. Some local people who were there to support a great cause.


Ballylongford Ladies Named

Claire Healy, Bridie O’Sullivan, Deirdre Finucane, Ann Boxall, Mavis Hall, Breda Enright, Nuala Melbourne, Catherine Ahern, Joan Barrett and Mairead Lawlee


Listowel Connections in the U.S.

Lovely memories from Eleanor Belcher.

I have been enjoying the blogs and have been meaning to email you several times with stories to add to articles. However I have been busy. 

The O’Sullivan reunion brought back a memory. My husband and I spent a year in Milwaukee and a friend of mine was visiting her uncle Dan Connolly ( from Co Limerick) who was a physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. We were invited to spend a weekend at the Connolly holiday home which was on a lake called Spider Lake  in Western Wisconsin. When we arrived Dan discovered that I was from Listowel so that evening he invited Michael O’Sullivan who also was a doctor ( pathologist I think) at the Mayo  clinic to meet me. Michael came with one of his daughters . She had a beautiful voice and later she sang a Mozart aria much to the delight of us all especially my husband who is a keen opera lover. The evening was memorable also because Ruth Connolly a formidable German lady and Dan’s wife insisted we all went to Mass at a convent across the lake. We went by boat. My husband a non Catholic was left behind with instructions to carve a smoked salmon which another guest had brought from Dublin. Ruth was most impressed by my husband’s skills ( he was a surgeon) as he extracted every last bit of salmon from the skin. 

. You might also not know that Denis O’Sullivan was a urologist in Cork and was known as Denis ‘Piss’ to distinguish him from another Dr Denis O’Sullivan a physician. Mary Lawlor from the Square went to work for the O’Sullivan family in Cork after she had done her Leaving Certificate. They (and my father) encouraged her to do nursing which she did at St John’s and Elizabeth’s Hospital in London. She and I still keep in touch, she lives outside Edinburgh. 

My Dad was the dispensary doctor in Ballylongford and Asdee so it was lovely to see the pictures of the church. He used to drop us down to Littor strand while he did his calls. We had tin whistles which we tried to play and we had a swim with Dad when he arrived. 

Eleanor Belcher


A Caffler

Not everything is on line. Sometimes the old sources are the best.




A Fact

Mockingbirds can imitate any sound from a squeaking door to a cat meowing


Caffling, Nurses and Guards

Edward VII postbox with Maid of Erin in the background



Tidy Town volunteers, Breda McGrath, Julie Gleeson and Jimmy Moloney returned from Croke Park with another Gold Medal, a well deserved reward for all the hard work.


On Upper William Street

This popular shop has recently moved and refurbished. It’s lovely.


Gardaí at the Hospice Coffee Morning

Listowel Arms, October 5 2023



A story from Billy McSweeney prompted by my use of a word I heard often from my Cork mother but is not so familiar to Kerry people.

I hadn’t heard the word ‘caffling’ before so I looked it up. Most dictionaries hadn’t heard of it either but I liked John Arnold’s definition of ‘pranks’. It reminded me of a story from before my time and handed down to me. 

There lived in Convent Street two brothers who were noted cafflers. 

As was inevitable, one of them died; and the whole neighbourhood came 

together to make the arrangements for the obsequies. The poor man was 

dressed in his best clothes and for the wake was laid out in the bed 

with a candle on each corner and suitable seating arrangements on both 

sides of the bed for the caoining women.

     At the appropriate time in the evening the candles were lit and the 

women took their sorrowful keening places around the bed. Friends and 

neighbours arrived in dribs and drabs to pay their respects and partake 

of the food and drink laid on for the occasion. Memories of how good a 

person the deceased was were related midst the weeping assent of those 

seated all around. Gradually, over the next hour or so, the level of 

noise grew as the attendees grew into their sympathetic roles, helped in 

no small way by the lubrications on offer.

     Suddenly, a raised voice came from the bed; “Turn me on my left side”!

     There was a momentary silence, split open by screeches and screams 

as the whole room erupted and rushed out the door. Silence ensued in the 

room until, after a few minutes, a brave soul peeped back in and 

announced that they must be mistaken. The mourners sheepishly resumed 

their seats but decided that even though they imagined the voice, the 

instruction in the voice was clear, so they turned the body in the bed 

on its left side. All agreed that the corpse looked more comfortable on 

its left side so all settled down and resumed normal obsequies. One 

could not after all neglect the duties of consuming the good food and 

drink that would otherwise be wasted just because of their imaginings.

     Another hour or so passed uneventfully until everybody then in the 

room was suddenly startled to hear the voice once more: “Turn me on my 


     Again there was pandemonium as the mourners sought to escape 

whatever retribution might descend on them from this supernatural 

emanation. The room again emptied but one can get used to anything so 

this time they looked back in shortly afterwards and saw that nothing 

else had occurred. They again nervously resumed their seats and as per 

the voice’s instruction, turned the corpse on its face.

     When, shortly afterwards, the voice rose again: ” Now kiss my 

arse”!, There were some incredulous cries from the audience at this turn 

of events and en masse they examined for the source of the voice. They 

lifted the bed and, lo and behold, there, under the bed, was the other 


As it was told to me, extended in the tradition of good storytelling, the corpse asked also to be ‘turned on his right side’ but either because the corpse had a sore right arm from lifting pints or that Listowel Connections was short of space, I left that one out. pastedGraphic.png

Billy McSweeney


English Trained Nurses

From the 1940s up until the 1980s, thousands of Irish young ladies trained as nurses in English hospitals. It is a phenomenon that should definitely be studied and memories recorded while these ladies are still with us.

This thought was prompted by an email from Ken Duckett.

…my brief knowledge of my mother’s nursing training in Eastbourne, Sussex. The pictures would have been from the early to mid 1930’s. Just the surnames appear below the pictures and it includes my mum who was Kathleen Hanlon from Asdee east, Kerry. Maybe your readers may recognise the faces, surnames or different uniforms. I wondered how she got there and if there was a sea route from Cork or she went to Dublin and Liverpool?

Anyone else reading this who trained in England, maybe even in Eastbourne, we’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to David O’Sullivan for help with the photos.

Aren’t the uniforms gas?


A Fact

A father sea catfish keeps the eggs of his young in his mouth until they are ready to hatch. He will not eat until his young are born. This may take several weeks.

(Some of these facts are leaving me floored)


Of Cabbages and Kings

Bench surrounded by wild garlic in Gurtenard Wood, Listowel a few years ago

This photograph is meant to lift the spirits.

It says “if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’


Spare me a Minute

My late mother -in -law had a phrase for this time of year, the hungry gap. It was referring to that time of year when few fresh vegetables apart from hardy greens were available in the greengrocers. That was in the era before freezers and food miles.

These days are also a hungry gap for your blogger as life is quiet and the weather is so inclement that only the brave or foolhardy venture out.

This is my excuse for including the following story which has absolutely no Listowel connection except that lots of Listowel people are talking about it.

This is the amusing window display in Bert’s Books in Swindon on January 10 2023. There is no such display in Woulfe’s.

I have not read the book and I dont intend to but I’ve seen snippets and I watched one interview.

It seems to me that Harry is casting himself as some kind of universal saviour with a message for us all .

He is hoping by sueing them to warn the paparazzi off and thus save us all from their intrusion. (Personally they’ve never bothered me that much)

By revealing the number of people he killed in Afghanistan, he says he hopes he is helping prevent the problem of suicide among war veterans.

There is one glaringly obvious saving mission he could embark on. His mother died tragically in Paris as she was being driven through a tunnel which allegedly had a dodgy camber, by a driver who had that day taken drink and drugs and was ordered by his boss to drive a powerful car with which he was not familiar. She was being pursued (‘chased” is Harry’s more emotive word). BUT she was not wearing a seat belt. Now a seat belt may not have saved her life considering the speed at which the car was travelling, but it just might have.

That’s my tuppence worth.


Listowel Marching Band

Listowel Marching Band 1987…Photo: Charlie Nolan

Those were the days! Someone must have the stories. I’d love to record the origins and the history of this piece of Listowel history.


Irish Antecedents Remembered

Kay Caball has done extensive research on the Famine girls from Kerry who were relocated to Australia. Here some of the other Irish girls are remembered at a ceremony last November. The account is from an online blog, Tinteán.

Descendant participants of VOICES with Irish Ambassador. L-R front: Julie Merrington, Ian Bowker, Noeleen Lloyd, His Excellency Ambassador Tim Mawe, Alicia Burnett, Sue Jacques.
Back: Gavan Duffy, Mark McAuliffe 

The Irish Famine Orphan Girls Commemoration event, held at Famine Rock in Williamstown in November, marked a return to the in-person event which has been an annual commemoration since 1998.

The special guest speakers included the Ambassador of Ireland to Australia, His Excellency Tim Mawe, who was accompanied by his wife Ms Patricia McCarthy. Two other guest speakers were the newly-elected Mayor Cr Tony Briffa and Cr Pamela Sutton-Legaud, both from Creative City Hobsons Bay, the major supporter of the event.  

This year, the commemoration committee searched for a new way of ‘bringing the girls to the table’, as it were, to somehow let the girls share their story with us, rather than us telling their stories.  This led to the creation of special presentation titled VOICES, written by Siobhan O’Neill. 

The presentation followed the journey from Famine to Australia – from Hunger to Hope – that was taken by the orphan girls of the Earl Grey Scheme. Each part represented the story of one orphan girl from each of the six ships that came to Melbourne. It was crafted in the first-person, and delivered by descendants of those six orphan girls. 

The presentation was led by committee member Noeleen Lloyd, herself a descendant with three orphan girls in her family. 

The featured stories included were:

  • Famine – Bridget ‘Biddy’ Kildea, a 15yo from Gleneely, Co Donegal, who arrived on the Lady Kennaway in 1848 with her sisters Margaret aged 18 and Ann aged 17. Biddy told us about famine, eviction, and the spectre of the workhouse in Donegal. Her story was read by her second-great-grandniece, Alicia Burnett.
  • Workhouse – Margaret Ryan, 15 years old from Roscrea, Co Tipperary. She was among the girls who arrived on the Pemberton in 1849.  She told us about her lost family, life in the Roscrea Workhouse, and talk of a new scheme to send girls to Australia. Margaret’s story was read by her second-great-granddaughter, Julie Merrington.
  • Earl Grey Scheme and Journey – Catherine Foran was 15 years old, and had lived in the Waterford Workhouse from the age of nine. She came to Port Phillip on board the New Liverpool in 1849. She told us of her six years in Waterford Workhouse, being chosen for the new scheme, and the epic voyage to Australia. Catherine’s story was shared by her second-great-grandson Gavan Duffy. 
  • Arrival and employment – Mary Margaret Hunt, a 17yo from Limavady, Co Derry, came to Australia on the Diadem in 1850. She told us about her hopes for employment, creating a successful life here, and the opportunities she envisioned in Melbourne. Margaret’s story was shared by her great-grandson, Ian Bowker. 
  • Building a new life – Lucy Ellis was 16 years old and from Newry, Co Down. She was one of 35 girls sent from the Newry Workhouse to Australia. Lucy arrived in Port Phillip on board the Derwent in 1850. She told us about getting settled in a new country, finding love, creating a home and raising a family on the plains outside Melbourne. Lucy’s story was shared by her second-great-granddaughter, Sue Jacques, who travelled to Melbourne from Queensland for the event. 
  • Legacy and Generations – Margaret O’Brien was a 15-year-old from Nenagh, Co Tipperary. She arrived, along with her 17-year-old sister Bridget, on board the Eliza Caroline in 1850, the last ship to bring girls with the Earl Grey Scheme to Port Phillip. Margaret told us about the lives she and her sister created here, both marrying Irish convict brothers, and the joys and hardships of their new life in North East Victoria. Margaret’s story was shared by her third-great-grandson, Mark McAuliffe.  

While the stories featured were interpretations based on facts in the lives of the named girl in each instance, they are essentially the stories of all Irish orphan girls. In giving the girls a voice, the Irish Famine Orphan Girls Commemoration 20222 paid homage to the courage and legacy of all of these remarkable young women.

Siobhan O’Neill

Siobhan convenes the Irish Famine Orphan Girls Commemoration Committee


From my Inbox

My 2X Great  Grandfather, John Murphy, was from Listowel, Ahabeg, County Kerry. He married Johanna Cronin after arriving in the United States.  They were successful pioneer farmers in leavenworth County, Kansas.  I am planning a trip to Ireland in the SPRING  and am interested to find if the Murphy Farm House Bed And Breakfast could be home of relatives. 

Janice Fitzgibbon Hughes

Any help for Janice would be appreciated.


TY Work Experience and Loving it

My granddaughter, Aisling, is in town this week doing her TY work experience in Listowel Writers’ Week office. Here she is, dead excited with the curator, Stephen Connolly, as they check out venues for this year’s programme.

Here she is at Listowel Courthouse where Stephen is composing this excited tweet

“too excited to wait to share this news: we’ll be doing an event with the authors of @badbridget (crime, mayhem and the lives of irish emigrant women) on the 1st of june in the town courthouse, pictured here with the work placement pupil aisling who is helping out at @writersweek”

I wasn’t familiar with Bad Bridget but I am now. I can’t wait for this enticing event.


Listowel and Asdee Remembered

Main Street, Listowel in November 2021


Asdee Memories

I met these members of Asdee Active Retired Group in Garvey’s Super Valu. They were promoting their great collection of memories and lore.

Do you know what a losset is?

I didn’t until I found out all about it and it’s biblical connections from a lovely lady, Noreen Dineen. Noreen remembers going to school in the 1930s when there were few facilities, no creature comforts and life was tough.

This delightful book is the first draft of Asdee history. It is full of precious reminiscences, old photographs and it preserves words used locally for a generation that is fast forgetting them.

I bought this window into the past as much for the next generation as for myself.


Christmas at Listowel Garden Centre

It’s still November but this Christmas display is just the ticket to raise expectation levels for the season still to come.


Then and Now

William Street 2007



Main street in November 2021


A Listowel Fact

Listowel’s trade history began with the laying out of the market square in 1697. Fairs and markets were held regularly and Listowel was a busy town.

In 1829 the Big Bridge was built and this was a game changer. the Mail Road in 1827 and the Cork line in 1829 also made access to outside markets easier. In particular The Cork Line to Abbeyfeale and Newmarket meant a saving of 37 miles for the car men going to the Cork Butter Market. Before that they had to go through Killarney.

The railway came to Listowel in 1880. The Lartigue Railway was built in 1889


A Few more Names

In Seán Keane’s lovely old photo we already had these names

Eamon O’Connor is lying in front with his hand to his head. On his right (left in photo) is Eamon Leahy. Behind him is his brother, Tadhg Leahy, beside him behind Eamon O’Connor is Ciarán ÓMurchú. Buddy Scanlon is the boy with the towel over his shoulder. Behind him is Monty Galvin and Toddy Scanlon is behind Monty.

Since publishing the photo we have a few more memories jogged.

Gerard Leahy recognised the little boy on the right looking on at the big boys. It is Gerard himself wearing the Fair Isle jumper his mother hand knitted for him.

Ned O’Sullivan saw “Paddy Fitz of Charles Street and possibly Peter McElligott of Bedford.”

Julie Gleeson thought that Michael Brennan and Eoin O’Neill might be in the picture.


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