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: Ballybunion Page 1 of 18

An Old Problem Arises again

May evening 2023 in Ballybunion…Photo: Alice Moylan


A Few More Busking Photos

Every year friends of North Kerry M.S. Society come out to sing, entertain and collect for the charity. Busking Day is always a great day in the Small Square. Music lifts the spirits. The lovely people in Lynch’s provide electricity, counting facilities and endless cups of tea and coffee. Here are a few last photos left over from May 19 2023.

Some people sat and listened to the music. Some paused for a minute, donated and moved on. One volunteer left what she was doing and helped a tourist couple to take a souvenir photograph. Volunteers rattled buckets and stopped traffic. And the band played on.

Great day!


Abbeyfeale Trip

I was in Abbeyfeale on Saturday and there was a vibrant craft market in full swing in The Square.

Here is the Listowel Connection I chanced to discover. My attention was grabbed by the most beautifully decorated cakes I have ever seen.

They are fifishadesofcake and they are based in Lisselton. Their cakes are works of art, beautifully presented. I bought two cupcakes as a present for someone who is herself a great baker and has decorated a few cakes in her time. She was blown away as I was.

These beauties are far too good to eat but we ate them anyway. AND they were as good as they looked.

You can catch them in Ballybunion Market from now on or you can contact them on their Facebook page Fifishadesofcake

Feast your eyes on these. For those in the know this is not fondant icing but butter cream. For those not in the know this is much harder to work with but way tastier.


Another Book from Emma


And there is was …Gone!

Monday May 22 2023, Market Street and the most expensive loo ever is

gone, never to be forgotten.

This is how our public convenience used to look. It was costing us nigh on €40,000 a year and bringing in around €1,000. It gave spending a penny a bad name.

A public toilet in Listowel was ever and always a contentious issue and the present plan to locate it temporarily at the old Neodata site is not meeting with universal approval either.

David O’Sullivan did a thorough trawl through the papers for us last time this issue came up when the contract for this one came up for renewal. I’m going to rehash the whole saga now. If you dont have time to read it now put it aside for a few days. I’m going to take a bit of a break from here to go and help my friends at Writers Week so, from Wednesday next May 31, there will be no blog for a while.

More on this saga tomorrow when a man named Kidney draws up a proposal and Listowel Town Council have a win in the Prize Bonds and a win in a category in the Tidy Towns to help fund the loo.


A Fact

Today’s monkey fact is straight from my calendar. These “facts” are for entertainment purposes only. I recommend they are taken with a pinch of salt.

Poetry and Cattle

Late Evening Surfer…Photo: Alice Moylan


Great Bealtaine Idea

Molly Twomey is one of the poet’s. Here is a poem of hers

recently published in the newspaper.

Have you ever lied to me? I ask. You reply,
that on our fifth date, you said a rock hit the wheel,

but it was a chaffinch. You didn’t turn and hand me
that small flame of news but drove into the mango

and gunpowder sunset. Afraid I’d make you pull up
to check that there were no quavers stuck in its throat.

That if its pulse didn’t react to my fingers
tap-dancing on its keel bone, I’d want to bury it 

under heather and moss. You thought I’d make you pray
every time we drove from Lismore to Ballynoe, that our date

would become not the boardwalk, chips and the anemones
but broken wings and blood wet feathers. I think of your ex

in North Carolina. How she might have perched and looked out
to razed earth, waiting for you with your newly shaved beard,

hand luggage of notebooks and craft beer. Only for the fast
and brutal machine of my heart to catch you off guard.

Molly Twomey has won the Padraic Colum Poetry Prize, the Waterford Poetry Prize, and has been awarded the Eavan Boland Mentorship Award and an Arts Council Literature Bursary. She is currently working on her debut collection.



Serendipity is all about making happy discoveries by chance.

Recently I got a demand for more money from Google as I had used up 70% of my storage. You will appreciate that the blog with all its pictures uses up a lot of storage space. I decided to clear out some of the old stuff to free up some space. I started with gmail.

Did you know that gmail has lots of strange folders called names like Promotions and Social? They slot emails into these folders without your spotting.

Long story short, in the folder called Social I found all of the late Fr. Pat Moore’s emails from Caring Bridge which was where he had a blog before he had his own website.

Here is his upbeat post from May 2016 with his individual take on life, complete with his unique appreciation of his home, his friends, and country folk in general.

R.I.P. Fr. Pat.

The bees are busy in the apple blossoms at the side of the house. I prefer apple blossoms to cherry blossoms for they seem to share more with the green leaves. And they seem to last much longer perhaps because they are more native than the Japanese cherry blossom.

Tom Costello lives on the banks of the river Feale. Someone  called to him lately collecting for a new swimming pool they are building down in Limerick and asked for a contribution. He was delighted to support the project. He gave them a bucket of water from the river!

Sonny Egan told me of a local happening. A builder he knows was asked to build a two storey house for a rather mean tight man. Would he get enough money to complete the job he thought? ‘Do you know what we will do,’ he suggested. ‘We will build one storey and the second storey might be another story.’

Last night we remembered the wit of the late Jackie Healy as we recalled a different world. Jackie made a career out of being perceived to be lazy. At his 80th birthday party at The Jessie James Pub he was asked if he had any regrets. ‘I think I worked one day in my life,’ he said.  ‘ Have you a garden this year,’ he was asked.  ‘The only earth turned on my behalf will be the day I’m buried in the grave!’ Other sayings are either too local or wicked!

It’s First Communion season. My god-child,  Caoimhe, made her Communion on Saturday and she came to see me on Sunday with her lovely family. My cousin Debbie is with me again.

The young swallows are learning to fly.

And all is well with the world this May evening.

May 16 2016


Listowel Success at The Kingdom County Fair

Photo and text from The Irish Examiner

Many competing on the weekend said that the Kingdom County Fair was a great start to the season for them.

Michael Laffan from Kilfinny, Adare, Co Limerick, certainly agreed, as in the dairy classes on Sunday, he took home the Senior Champion and Supreme Female Champion titles for 2023 for Everground Hagley Gail 51.

“It’s great to be back,” Mr Laffan said, and the animals may have known they were gearing up for something too because in advance, “you’re washing them, and they would have got a little extra feed, just getting ready for today”.

“For a cow like this, you start with a nice udder that looks like it’s high and wide; good teat placement, from a milking point of view that they’re in the right place; and then we like a high-yielding cow so a cow with the capacity to yield,” he added.

As Mr Laffan was competing, he said he took notice of a lot of young people in attendance at the show – which instills great confidence in him about the future of these competitions, and brought back some memories for him.

“We started showing when our children were small and even though they’ve grown up, myself and my wife Margaret kept showing away,” he explained.

“We enjoy it, it’s nice to do of a Sunday, and it’s nice to take out the cows now and again,” according to Mr Laffan, who said his children continue to help out on the dairy farm and to prepare the cattle for competitions.

In the dairy section on Sunday at the Kingdom County Fair, the Junior Champion, Reserve Junior Champion, and Reserve Senior Champion titles went to Daniel and Emer Curtin from Listowel, Co Kerry.

Meanwhile, in the Young Handlers U-12 dairy class, Stephen Harty came first, Clodagh Kennelly in second, and Nora O’Carroll in third. 

Jennifer Harty placed first in the Young Handlers 13-16 class, with Sarah O’Connell and Jacqui O’Connell in second and third.


An Artefact

A butter churn…when our forefathers made butter this is what they used. It was a job that required careful attention to timing.


A Fact

The Ancient Romans used to drop a piece of toast into their wine for good health. That is where we got the phrase to raise a toast.


Listowel People to be Proud of

Ballybunion photo; Christopher Scott


A Well Deserved Tribute from The Kerry Association in Dublin

Photo and text from

NÓRA Relihan has been chosen by the Kerry Association in Dublin as the 2023 recipient of the Kerry Association in Dublin Arts Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the Arts.

Nóra was an actor with Listowel Drama Group and Listowel Players, a Director, Adjudicator, Entertainer, Broadcaster, Writer, Nurse, Social Worker, Co-founder of the Listowel Players in 1959, Writers Week in 1971 and St John’s Theatre and Arts Centre in 1987.

A member of the Arts Council she was accorded a Civic Reception in Listowel in 2008 in recognition of her prestigious contribution to the Arts.

Born in Abbeyfeale in 1929, Nóra Ryle, as she was then known, was educated at Killorglin National School, Presentation Convent Milltown and Presentation Convent, Hospital, Co. Limerick.

Nóra was nurtured and encouraged by her exposure to theatre while a student nurse in Guy’s Hospital in London. While there she seized every opportunity to attend and watch plays, operas and musicals. She settled in Listowel in 1952 and there later married Michael Relihan.

It was the late Eamon Kelly who was a woodwork teacher in Listowel, and very involved with Listowel Drama Group with his late friend Bryan MacMahon, who first put Nóra on stage. Nóra became friends with John B. Keane when she returned from London.

In 1958 John B saw Nóra’s prize-winning production of Joseph Tomelty’s play “All Souls Night”. According to Nóra, he was not greatly impressed, and he told her he was going to write a play himself.

John Bs first play – SIVE – emerged. Nóra was cast as Mena Galvin, in her first character part, and Mena was part of her life until the early 1980’s. The play opened in February 1958 at Walsh’s Ballroom in Listowel.

Drama festival after drama festival brought major awards, ending triumphantly with All Ireland honours in Athlone, and the highest recognition of all from the Abbey Theatre.

Listowel Drama Group were invited to present SIVE in the Abbey Theatre in May 1959, an invitation that was extended before the All-Ireland final.

In late 1959 Nóra joined a professional company, which included the late Eamon Keane and J.G. Devlin, for a short season in the Grand Opera House, Belfast. Very shortly after that Nóra, with John B. Keane, founded the Listowel Players and chose SIVE as their first production.

For years afterwards Nóra applied herself to many acting roles with Listowel Players, as well as being producer and stage manager at various times.

In 1970 the then editor of “The Kerryman” Seamus McConville rang and asked Nóra if she could review a forthcoming radio programme, “A Gift of Ink” which was based exclusively around the many facets of Listowel and its environs.

Requests like this were not unusual as Nóra was a general contributor to “The Kerryman” and had a weekly television column. Nóra gave the programme an excellent review and it subsequently became available as a beautifully packaged long-playing record.

“A Gift of Ink” celebrated the work of writers from Listowel and Seamus Wilmot suggested to Tim Danaher that a writing festival be held in his native town. A list of proposals for a festival of the Arts was drafted and circulated to members of the Kerry Association in Dublin and to prominent people in Kerry, including the Secretary of the Listowel Race Week Harvest Festival Committee – Nóra Relihan.

Nóra chaired the meeting to discuss the proposal in Listowel in November 1970. Among the luminaries present were John B Keane, Bryan MacMahon, Luai O Murchú, Michael O Connor and the first Writers Week, under its first Chair, Luai O Murchú, took place from 2nd to 6th June 1971.

A special programme for the younger generation took place and at this Nóra presented a sensitive interpretation of the works of Bryan McMahon and John B. Keane. In 1976, Nóra as programme director of Writers Week, restructured the organising Committee from 11 to 5 subcommittees. She succeeded Luai O Murchú as Chairman in 1977.

The existence of St John’s Theatre and Arts Centre, and its outstanding contribution to the Arts in Listowel for over thirty years is due in no small measure to the vision, courage and single-mindedness of Nóra.

A meeting of Listowel Urban District Council was convened by the Chairman, Robert Pierce, who proposed that an ad-hoc Committee be set up to decide what would be done with St John’s and that Nóra be Chairman of the Committee. St John’s Founding Committee was established in 1987 under Nóra’s Chairmanship.

At this stage Nóra was recognised throughout Ireland and further afield as a woman of extraordinary ability, immense creativity, single minded vision and great courage. These artistic and personal qualities resulted in her being invited to become a member of the Arts Council. She used this position with discretion and wisdom to further her ambitions for St John’s.

Nóra was a regular contributor to “The Kerryman”, writing articles on a weekly basis on matters literary and social. Inevitably, she was invited to broadcast on Radio Kerry, with her first broadcast from O’Carroll’s window in the Square in Listowel. Nóra was such a successful broadcaster that on every Sunday for nine and a half years she aired her regular and informative radio programmes on Radio Kerry.

Writing and presenting for RTE, Lyric FM and Radio Kerry, Nóra was invited in 2001 by Paul Sheehan, General Manager and Programme Controller of Radio Kerry to present her radio programmes in book form, and so “Signposts to Kerry” was born.

Nóra had a varied career throughout her lifetime with solo tours, drama, TV, and film appearances, including “Fair City” and TG4 film “Limbo”.

Jimmy Deenihan, Chairperson of the Selection Committee, said “Nóra Relihan richly deserves this prestigious award in recognition of her immense contribution to the promotion of the Arts during her lifetime. One of her greatest achievements was the establishment of St. John’s Theatre and Arts Centre in Listowel which is regarded as the premier small arts centre in the country. She now joins the pantheon of renowned Kerry Artists who have received the award to date including Pauline Bewick, Brendan Kennelly, Fr Tony Gaughin and Fr Pat Aherne”.

In announcing the award, Mary Shanahan, Chairperson of the Kerry Association in Dublin said “Nóra has made a unique contribution to the promotion of the Arts in Kerry and nationally. She deservedly merits the accolade “Voice of the Kingdom” for her role as Director, entertainer, broadcaster and for her role in the various arts activities in North Kerry”.

In accepting the award Nóra Relihan said; “I am delighted and honoured to receive this award from the Kerry Association; it is a really lovely tribute to my interest and work in the arts over many decades”.


A Date for the Diary


Another Michael O’Connor artwork

Wasn’t the late Michael O’Connor who was born in No. 24 The Square, Listowel the most versatile and productive of artists?

Every week Stephen Rynne seems to unearth another piece of this extraordinary artist’s work.

The news this time came from Michael’s son, Fr. Brendan O’Connor;

“…My father won a competition for the design of the Irish Standards mark for what was then the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards. It was a celtic eye shape, based on the letters c and é, the initial letters of the Irish words Caighdeán Éireannach (Irish Standard). The logo is still in use today as the Standards Mark for Ireland.”

‘The Irish Standard Mark signifies that a product has been manufactured in compliance with the relevant Irish Standard (I.S.). The symbol assures customers that the item meets certain basic standards and has been produced under a system of quality control supervised by NSAI.’

Michael O’Connor could do ornate intricate colourful illumination to the highest standard. He could do pared back minimalist graphic design to the highest standard as well. This modest Listowel man was, in short, a genius.


An Artefact

This looks like an old fashioned ash tray of the kind that cigarette smokers used to use in pubs.

Well. it’s not. it is a smoking related artefact alright but its actually a kind of glorified match box.

The outside edge of the receptacle is rough and you used this surface to strike your match which you had taken from the bowl part of this collector’s item.


A Fact

At the first recital of Handel’s Messiah on April 13 1742 in The New Music Room in Fishamble Street Dublin, such was the demand for space that men were requested not to wear their swords and ladies not to wear hooped skirts.



Ballybunion; Jason ODoherty


Moya Sunday Fair

Ballybunion’s MOYA festival on the May bank holiday weekend was a resounding success. I was at the craft and food fair on Sunday…the best ever.

This Ballylongford crafter and her daughter had a wide range of unusual crafts for sale.

Delia was there with her beautiful unique ceramics.

These were just two of the myriad of stall holders

Drumdance Ireland were entertaining the younger ones. Bouncy Castles, treats, animals, food, a great festival going from strength to strength.


Call Cards

Remember the call card?

Once upon a time these were the nearest we had to mobile phones. I always carried one of these in case of any necessity to make a call from a phonebook.

There were thousands of these issued and they featured all sorts of things, like famous people, festivals, advertising products etc. I used to collect them. Mine have absolutely no value as only ones in mint condition are valuable and even only very few of those. If you have a few still in their cellophane wrapper, you’ll have to hold on for a few hundred years before your descendants cash in

Here are a few to jog your memory;


Bed warmers

I mentioned a hot water jar I spotted in Tankers’ window, and lo and behold, Eddie Moylan, an antiquarian, literally on my doorstep, has a collection of them.


A Poem

Poetry Ireland published some poems on convenient little cards for World Poetry Day. They are all lovely, touching and accessible.


At Punchestown

Beautiful Mary O’Halloran and her daughter Louise at the recent Punchestown meet.

Mary is living with Motor Neurone Disease, In true best dressed style, Mary gets up, dresses up and shows up. All her Listowel friends are hugely proud of her.


A Fact

Botanically a strawberry is not a berry but a banana is.


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