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

Category: Ballybunion Page 1 of 15

St. Brigid, Muire na nGael

Today is February 1st. feast of our second patron saint. According to one tradition Saint Brigid was born in Faughart, Co Louth, where there is a shrine and another holy well dedicated to her. The Saint founded a convent in Kildare in 470 that has now grown into a cathedral city. There are the remains of a small oratory known as Saint Brigid’s fire temple, where a small eternal flame was kept alight for centuries in remembrance of her.

This is St. Brigid’s in Kildare

This window is in the Catholic church of St. Brigid in Kildare Town.

This is the St. Brigid stained glass window in St. John’s church, Ballybunion

She is usually depicted either with her famous cross or a church which she built.

The Kildare crowd in their church plaque don’t bother with the Co. Louth part of the legend. There she is all Kildare.

St Brigid’s Cloak

Once when on a visit to my Kildare family I came upon this display in the Whitewater Shopping Centre in Newbridge.

This is St. Bridget with her marvellous cloak. The project was the work of a local knitting group.

The story of the cloak is this. St. Bridget wanted to build a monastery so she approached the king of Leinster to give her a site. He laughed her off. Undaunted, she returned to him and asked only for “as much land as my cloak will cover” His majesty took one look at her small cloak and agreed to her request.

Then began her first miracle. She asked her followers to take her cloak and to walk North, South, East and West with it. The cloak grew and grew until it covered more than enough land to built her monastery. The king picked his jaw up from the floor, decided that this lady was blessed by God and there and then became her biggest fan and ardent supporter.

To celebrate this miracle one tradition is to leave a handkerchief (if anyone has one of these anymore) or piece of linen out overnight. St. Brigid will bless it and it will have curative powers from then on.

St. Brigid’s Cross

Probably the most popular tradition associated with St. Bridget is the custom of making crosses from rushes and hanging them in houses to ward off dangers particularly the danger of fire.

St Bridget had n0 cross with her when she was in the bothán of a dying man whom she wished to convert to Christianity. She picked up the nearest thing, rushes on the floor, and fashioned a crude cross from these. Irish schoolchildren have been making flitters of their fingers emulating her feat ever since.

Valerie O’Sullivan took these photos of the mid Kerry crowd out on The Biddy last year. The tradition involves taking an effigy of St. Bridget (a Brídeóg) from house to house and having a bit of a hooley along the way. This tradition is related to mumming and the colourful hats are part of it all.

Some people make a St. Brigid shrine. This was Helen Dunlea’s last year.

This is the St. Brigid icon by Sr. Aloysius McVeigh.

An icon is different to a picture in that it’s purpose it to tell the whole story. If a picture paints a thousand words, an icon paints several thousands.

Some of the symbols are;

Sword under her foot…her love of peace

Animals…she was fond of sheep and cows and depended on these for food and nourishment

Monastery

Her fellow sisters

Bishop’s Crosier…many traditions have it that Bridget was ordained a bishop

St. Brigid’s Cross

St Brigid’s Fire…Her fire was kept alight for decades, used for heating and cooking etc.

So now you know something about the saint responsible for our new national holiday.

I’m told that the name Bridget and derivatives has fallen out of fashion but her cult is now having a moment as we celebrate on our new national holiday.

Look at this beautiful piece of St. Brigid jewellery from Listowel goldsmith, Eileen Moylan. If you have a Bridget in your life, here is her birthday present sorted.

Claddagh Design website

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If Music be the Food of Love, Play on

Snow – Killarney – 18-01-2023 Photo: Kathleen Griffin

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Fleadh Cheoil Chiarraí 2023

Photo: The Kerryman

The Kerry Comhaltas committee organising the forthcoming County Fleadh. Back, from left, Sean Dee, safety officer, Karen Trench, assistant secretary Kerry County Board, Finola Fogarty, Fleadh Vice Chair, Martina O’Connor, Branch Secretary, Marie Houlihan, Fleadh PRO, Ann O’Donnell, DLP, Robert Stack, Ballybunion CCÉ.

Front from left, Catrina Heffernan, Secretary Kerry County Board, Aoife Mulvihill, Fleadh Secretary, PJ Mulvihill, Fleadh Chairman, Betty Joyce, Fleadh Treasurer, and John Lucid Treasurer Kerry County Board.

Two great weekends of traditional music, singing and dancing await us in Ballybunion in June. The County Fleadh will be held over two weekends, June 10 and 11, dancing competitions and the following weekend June 17 and 18 the singing and music competitions take place. These competitions are qualifying competitions of the Munster Fleadh.

As well as competitive music in venues around the town , busking competitions are planned for the streets and gigs in the pubs.

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Listowel Marching Band

Charlie Nolan took this photo in 1987. Two years earlier, in 1985, he filmed the band practicing before their performance in Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann.

Here is the link;

Listowel Marching Band 1985

The music and marching were top class. Well done all.

Dave O’Sullivan sourced a few newspaper clippings for us.

I know these will have brought back great memories for many. Thank you, Dave.

Many of the leading figures in conceiving and maintaining the band are no longer with us.

Music training, drilling at marching, making costumes, rehearsals, ferrying to Fleadhanna Cheoil was all done by a dedicated band of volunteers. They provided a great service to the young people of the town in the 1980s and 90s.

If anyone from that era would like to send us their memories, I’d love to get a first hand account.

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Caring for the Carer

Priscilla is home in Listowel after 20 years. She is looking after her lovely mam, Theresa. I met them on Church Street as they caught up with Carmel.

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Frozen Out

Sad to see this store closing and all the friendly staff being laid off.

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Prague, Ballybunion and Hollywood

Blossoms in Spring 2021

Won’t be long now.

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Child of Prague Statue

This icon has generated more than its fair share of interest since I shared it on Listowel Connection.

I have no idea why we have a little statue in St. Mary’s. It’s on a high shelf so I’d say the head will survive.

Infant of Prague story ……Wikipedia

The exact origin of the Infant Jesus statue is not known, but historical sources point to a 19‑inch (48 cm) sculpture of the Holy Child with a bird in his right hand currently located in the Cistercian monastery of Santa María de la Valbonna in Asturias, Spain, which was carved around the year 1340. Many other Infant Jesus sculptures were also carved by famous masters throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Often found in early medieval work, the significance of the bird symbolizes either a soul or the Holy Spirit. The sculptures of the Holy Child were dressed in imperial regalia reflecting the aristocratic fashion of that period.[7]

One legend says that a monk in a desolated monastery somewhere between Córdoba and Seville had a vision of a little boy, telling him to pray. The monk had spent several hours praying and then he made a figure of the child.[8]

The House of Habsburg began ruling the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1526; the kingdom developed close ties with Spain. The statue first appeared in 1556, when María Maximiliana Manriquez de Lara y Mendoza brought the image to Bohemia upon her marriage to Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstyn.[9] An old legend in the Lobkowicz family reports that María’s mother, Doña Isabella, had been given the statue by Teresa of Ávila herself.[10] María received the family heirloom as a wedding present. In 1587, she gave it to her daughter, Polyxena of Lobkowicz as a wedding present.

In 1628, Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz donated the statue to the impoverished Discalced Carmelite friars (White Friars).[9] Upon presenting it, the Princess Polyxena is reported to have said: “Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession. Honour this image and you shall never be poor.”[11]

The statue was placed in the oratory of the monastery of Our Lady of Victory, Prague, where special devotions to Jesus were offered before it twice a day. The Carmelite novices professed their vow of poverty in the presence of the Divine Infant.[8] Upon hearing of the Carmelites’ devotions and needs, the Emperor Ferdinand II of the House of Habsburg sent along 2,000 florins and a monthly stipend for their support…..

during an apostolic visit to the Czech Republic in September 2009, visited the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague and donated a golden crown with eight shells with numerous pearls and garnets, which is at present worn by the statue.[31] Since that year, the 1924 “cushion crown” of the image is now permanently kept in the Carmelite museum on display behind the church while the garnet crown donated by Benedict is the one that is permanently worn by the statue.

Several costly embroidered vestments have been donated by benefactors. Among those donated are those from Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, which are preserved to this day. A notable garment in the collection is an ermine cloak placed on the statue the first Sunday after Easter, which is the anniversary day of the coronation of the statue by the Archbishop of Prague Ernst Adalbert von Harrach on 4 April 1655.[11] In 1713 the clothing began to be changed according to the liturgical norms. Other valuable garments worn by the image are vestments studded with various gemstones, embroidered with gold, and silk fabrics as well as handmade lace customised purposely for the statue.

  • Green – Ordinary Time
  • Purple – Lent, Candlemas and Advent
  • Red or gold – Christmas and Easter
  • Royal blue – Immaculate Conception / Feast of Assumption.

The image ordinarily follows the liturgical colors[16] used by Catholic priests, as a representation of its priesthood.

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Display in Eason Listowel

Three men and their books…give me Neven any day!

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Clinton in Ballybunion

Photo; Bert Griffin

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An Cailín Ciúin

Having missed it earlier, I finally got to see the movie of Claire Keegan’s Foster. It was shown in St. John’s in a new co laboration with the Film Club while we are without a cinema proper in Listowel.

“What happened?” was the question asked of Cáit at the end of the film.

What happened was so deep and layered that it took me the guts of a week to process it all.

An Cailín Ciúin is not an Irish language film or even an English language one. The story is told in universal symbols that transcend language.

Water, water from a well in particular, is a symbol of renewal, of purity and of cleansing. Then there is bathing and a constant sweeping and washing in the cow house.

Food is important, fresh food and milk …the milk of human kindness.

Clothes are very much a symbol of who we are, a statement. It did not escape me that Eibhlín wore a trousers, unusual in a woman of that era.

This is story about love, about secrets, about death and grieving, about community, about family and particularly about parenting. It is about running away and running towards. it is ultimately a story about the redemptive power of love.

I loved the film. It should win an Oscar.

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Oh Sweet Irony!

I photographed this letter in one of last weekend’s newspapers.

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Old Days and Old Ways

Christmas Day 2022 in Ballybunion. Photo; John Kelliher

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Statue of The Infant of Prague

Statue of the Infant of Prague in St. Mary’s Listowel.

Marie Neligan posted on Facebook;

“I have had about three statues of the infant in Prague in my lifetime. I have a tiny one on the window ledge of my kitchen sink. Tonight, the statue fell all by itself and the head fell off. This is exactly what happened to the other two. There is an Irish superstition about this but I can’t remember what it is. Anyone out there remember?”

Apparently the statue, a well known bringer of a fine day only works its magic if the head has been severed from the body. But it is important that the head is separated from the body by accident and not by any human agency. So Marie has that invaluable meteorological genius in its most potent form.

My friend, Anne Moloney R.I.P. lent me her statue in order to ensure fine weather for my daughter’s wedding. Here he is sitting in a puddle outside my back door on the wedding morning. Too late I discovered that you have to put him under a bush for him to bring sunshine.

Then this post appeared on a Millstreet site…

Frank Reen with daughter Mairéad and the Infant of Prague statue that Frank’s father displayed when he began as a Chemist in 1938.

Picture – Sean Radley

We Irish people have a strange affection for this quirky little statue of baby Jesus in drag wearing a crown bigger than his head and carrying an orb.

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Football Club is Family

David Clifford and his son, Ogie, after his club’s victory in the Club Junior semi final. Photo; Hogan Stand

When your daddy is a superstar, you have to be part of the story.

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“The Tech” in the 1950s

These lovely old photos were posted to Facebook a while ago by Mike Hannon. I have no names but I’m sure someone will recognise people.

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St. Mary’s Well

From Duchas.ie the schools folklore collection

Long ago there was a blessed well in North Kerry near Ballyduff. It was called Mary’s Well. If any person had any pain he would go to the well and he would come home cured. The Fame of this well went through the county and they came from all parts to be cured. This went on for years and nobody ever came back from Mary’s well without being cured. Even the blind and sore-eyed people used go to be cured.

But this famous well did not always hold. There was a girl near the place who was going to be married and one day a half blind old woman came to her door looking for alms. She said, “I have nothing to give an old blind hag like you”. And the old woman said, “That the marriage ring may never go on you until you be as blind as myself”. Next morning when the girl got up she could not open her eyes and she went to Mary’s Well.

When she reached the well whom did she see but the old woman whom she refused the day before and she abused her and called her an old hag and she tried to pull her from the well but both of them fell into the well and got drowned and the well vanished and was never again seen and where the well was once there is now a stream.

Story collected by Cáit Breathnach of Tullamore School. Kilconly

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Dancing, Acting and Holidays

Closing date for applications has passed…Sorry!

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Passing on the Torch

Jimmy Hickey is a dancing teacher in a direct line from the old masters. Here is a paragraph from an article by Edaein O’Connell in last week’s Irish Independent. The Kelliher referred to is Jonathan Kelliher of Siamsa Tire.

Jonathan is videoing Jimmy dancing the steps and so preserving them for the next generation.

Here is a link to part two of the recent video about the dancing tradition in North Kerry.

Munnix dance tradition

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The Crown

Are you watching the latest series of The Crown on Netflix?

Here is our own local royal family at the premiere in London last week.

This photo of Dominic West and his wife, Catherine Fitzgerald, and their family was shared online by Glin Community News.

Dominic plays Prince Charles in The Crown. I think he has caught him well, his mannerisms and irascibility but West is far more handsome.

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Dates for the Diary

Full details of these talk on Kerry Libraries website

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Laethanta Saoire

Happy childhood days gone but not forgotten…

What’s in a Number

An essay by Charles McCarthy shared on Facebook by Glin Historical Society

What’s in a number? 

A lot actually, especially if that number is forever associated with childhood journeys.

ZIU 40 was the registration of my father’s car, or to be more precise to all of you auto fanatics out there a, 2 door, red, 1971 Ford Escort Mark I.

A little snug for a family of five with mam and dad up front.

Installation of the roof rack meant that the holidays were eminent and bootcases (Grappling with Pronunciations) had to be dusted down.

Not everyone had a full grasp of the English vocabulary but my mother was fluent in the many tongues of her young.

Destination was Ballybunion circa 1981 which meant passing through the bustling towns of Abbeyfeale, Listowel and some small villages with names we pronounced in a deep voice such as “Duagh”.

I would be consigned to the parcel shelf, transforming me into a small missile, primed, should the car come to a sudden stop.

We would all slowly bake if the sun was high, and no one really complained due to the possibility of we having to stop and thus hours being added to an already arduous journey.

I would have no choice but to stare at the gradual build-up of frustrated drivers faces, due to my father’s estimation of an acceptable speed and the cars inability to pass 45mph fully loaded.

What should have been a relatively short trip would seem an eternity. A garage in Listowel with the outline of a VW beetle painted on its side wall meant we were getting close to journeys end.

The stretch of road between Listowel and Ballybunion is long and relatively straight, with sudden dips in the road that reacted wonderfully with the leaf springs of an ageing car.

Sudden dips and up we would go with familiar tickles in the tummy, made all the more pronounced if we were getting hungry and the limited supplies had been exhausted.

Faster Dad! faster came the loud exclamations to my father’s ever growing frustration.

No one ever thought of opening a window, instead I believe it was my parents way of keeping us quiet, by way of partially knocking us unconscious from sheer heat exhaustion.

One damp face cloth was used on the many faces and we never thought to question such rationing, though that too would dry out over time within the hostile environment.

Complaining meant stopping which meant more time added,  which was a no, no.

Was it just beyond one hill crest, or two?, finally the sight of the sea side resort would appear like a majestic vista, mobile home roof tops glistening in the sun.

The slow procession of cars through the main street, each car loaded with little sea urchins such as ourselves in awe of the many sights.

A cacophony of sights, sounds and smells, salty sea air, chip shops, perry winkles, bumper cars, slots machines, and the latest block buster “ Raiders of the lost Ark” advertised at the local cinema.

We were finally there, a journey and destination that will forever be engrained in my memory.

 What’s in a number indeed.

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