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: Duagh Page 1 of 3

A Church, A Grotto and a Poem

Admiring the fields of rapeseed in Castlemagner in April 2024.

Edel Quinn

They are very proud of Venerable Edel Quinn in Castlemagner. They have built a shrine in the church to this holy woman. She was a Legion of Mary missionary to Africa, where she worked bringing the message of Christianity to Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. She died in Nairobi in 1944 and she is buried in the missionaries Cemetery there. She was selfless, and well meaning and she is commemorated in Kanturk and Castlemagner.

May is the Month of Mary

Ballyduff Grotto  ( Image and text from the Facebook page Anyone from Ballyduff…)

The Ballyduff branch of Macra Na Ferme set about the task of erecting a Marrian Grotto in 1954. A site offered by farmer Frank Hammil was accepted which resulted in the “Wayside shrine” been in Rahela. As regards work on the Grotta itself, the labour was voluntary. Paddy and Johnny Costello, Clashmealcon supplied trailers of gravel from a Quarry in Clounlougher. Thomas Sheehy designed the Grotto and ordered the Statue from Dublin. The statue arrived in a box to Lixnaw railway station and delivered by lorry to Ballyduff. Those who worked regularly at the building were Jack Joy and John O Connor Clounlougher, Den Joe Galvin Drumartin, Jimmy Supple Hearthill, and John Dunne Glounerdalive.  The plastering was done by Michael Regan from bishopscourt, the ironwork by Mike O Carroll of Lacca. and the Electricals by Pat Joe Burns of Ardcullen, and the finishing work by Mikie Brassil, Rahela and Jack Enright Kilmore. The Grotto was blessed by Fr. Courtney and assisted by Fr. B Hayes on Sunday 3rd July 1955.


I was reminded of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem as I followed the saga of Thade Kelly’s Hen.

I have lived in important places, times

When great events were decided, who owned

That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land

Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.

I heard the Duffys shouting “Damn your soul!”

And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen

Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –

“Here is the march along these iron stones.”

That was the year of the Munich bother. Which

Was more important? I inclined

To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin

Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.

He said: I made the Iliad from such

A local row. Gods make their own importance.

One from the Archives

From The Knocnagoshel Phoenix 2007

A Fact

Fairs were held in Ireland during May. The main business of a fair was the buying and selling of livestock. Unfortunately, faction fighting became a feature of fairs too. Fights at the Donnybrook Fair became so commonplace that the word Donnybrook entered the language as a word for a mass brawl.


A Play, A Train, Toast and a Poet’s Muse

Bike stand with Listowel Arms in the background

John Relihan in Kanturk

Duagh’s world famous chef and food entrepreneur was in Jack McCarthy’s world famous butcher’s and food shop in Kanturk on Saturday.

John Relihan with William and Cian Ahern in McCarthy’s on Saturday March 16 2024

Lartigue Opening at Easter 2024

From the Archives

Kerryman Friday, April 24, 1987

Tons of Money; comedy

GROUP Theatre Tralee takes the stage in Siamsa Tire Theatre at the end of this month with their 52nd production to date; a three act farce called “Tons of Money” by Will Evans and Valentine.

“It’s the funniest play I’ve read in years and I can recommend it unreservedly,” director Maurice Curtin told The Kerryman this week as work started on the set in Siamsa.

“Tons of Money,” which is currently running at London’s National Theatre, will be performed by the Tralee group from Thursday to Saturday, April 30 to May 2 at 8.30 p.m.

The cast of Group Theatre’s latest production in this, their 18th consecutive season, includes Betty Crowley from Ardfert, Bernie O’Connor from Moyvane and Tralee actors and actresses, Tony Collins (Lisbeg), Miriam O’Regan (Moyderwell), Brian Caball (Ashe Street), Brendan McMahon, Mary Church, Mairead Dowling, Danny O’Leary and Kay Dowling.

Mr. Curtin told The Kerryman that “Tons of Money” was one of the earliest box office blockbuster plays, reaching a record 733 consecutive performances when it was first staged, in London in 1922.

He said he believed it had been performed in Tralee before by the CYMS Drama Group and Denis Hourigan of St. Brendan’s Park, Tralee, could remember playing the part of the butler, Spules, in it.


Stella was Dean Swift’s muse. Little is known about her. She was Esther Johnson, an English woman. She is buried beside Swift in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

St. Patrick’s Day 2024

Kay’s Children’s Shop window

Big crowd of spectators

First sighting of the marchers

Leading the parade in sunny Listowel

A Fact

French toast has nothing to do with France. It was the brainchild of Joseph French, an innkeeper in New York in 1724. He intended to call it French’s Toast but in his advertisement, he forgot the ‘s.


Drama in Kilcullen

Christmas crib in Duagh.

photo from 2022

Out of Order

One of the highlights of my trip to Kildare was a visit to the Town Hall Theatre, Kilcullen for a most enjoyable evening of theatre in the company of family and friends.

My daughter Clíona surrounded by her McKenna, O’Neill and Muldoon in-laws in the ample foyer of the theatre.

The play was a fast paced farce full of confusion and misunderstandings and was played to perfection by the local cast.

The part of Miss Worthington was played by Sinead O’Neill who posed for me beside a photo of her late grandfather who was also a member of Kilcullen Drama Group.

The O’Neill’s were out in force to support Sinead.

Mary and Anne O’Neill beside their late father’s photo.

This group has a strong Listowel connection.

There was a period in the 60s and 70s when they staged almost every John B. Keane play.

The group have the most comfortable theatre in which to perform.

This theatre began life as a cinema and it has the marvellous tiered seating and physical closeness associated with a small old style cinema.

The place got a major overhaul in 1999. This huge work was spearheaded by a man called Pat Dunlea. Pat was a garage owner and Volvo dealer. He persuaded Volvo to sponsor the seats.

These are the most comfortable theatre seats you’ll ever sit in.

Seated comfortably, we were treated to a head spinning, laugh a minute adult pantomime.

The action took place in Buswell’s Hotel in Dublin.

In the interval, “Buswell’s staff ” served us tea in china cups.

Another nice touch was the cast came to meet and greet, pose for photos and chat in the foyer after the show.

If you are ever in that neck of the woods and these people are performing be sure to go along. They were just the tonic for a cold evening in Winter.

Christmas at The Claus House

Home Alone

A Christmas poem from Mary McElligott

‘What will I do Mrs Claus?”

Santa rubbed his head.

He really was exhausted.

His legs felt like lead.

His head was pounding, throbbing.

He was frozen to the bone.

Mrs Claus was too busy cleaning,

To listen to him moan.

He was like this every year,

I suppose you’d say, stressed.

She’d listen, support and encourage,

Take out his long sleeved vest.

Christmas Eve was looming,

Three more sleeps to go.

Was it his age? She wondered,

Gosh, t’was hard to know.

Mrs Claus was high dusting,

Changing sheets and beds.

Five hundred elves was no joke,

The last time she counted heads.

One hundred stayed all year

But in October that count went up,

Hard work for Mrs. Claus,

To get it all set up.

She cooked and cleaned their dorms.

She worked out their Rota,

24/7 their job,

Hard, juggling that quota.

She loved it though, being busy,

Loved caring for the elves,

They were like their children,

When they didn’t have any themselves.

Some poor elves were homesick,

In the North Pole for a whole twelve weeks.

She often saw tears flowing,

Down their little cheeks.

She had one big job to sort.

She did it through the year.

It was she who got the elves their gifts,

Brought them their Christmas cheer.

She made several trips down south.

There was a great service from The Pole

But her favorite place to go,

Was a place called Listowel.

It was so tidy and clean,

So pretty, down by the park

And even more beautiful at night,

With with all those blue lights in the dark.

She’d buy all their gifts,

Hats, scarves and gloves for the elves.

She’d pack them in huge cases,

Leaving a bit of space for a few bits for themselves.

She loved Christmas Eve,

Santa gone, the elves in bed.

She’d open up her cases,

Deliver gifts as she’d quietly tread,

Up and down, between the beds,

One hundred in each dorm,

Over and back until the cases were empty,

Finishing up near dawn.

They all get a Christmas bonus,

50 Euros and of course, some sweets,

After all it was Christmas

And you’d have to give them treats.

She’d only just be gone tombed,

When Santa would land in, FROZEN..

She’d leave out coke and cake,

Waiting for him, dozing.

‘How was it Santa?’ she’d ask,

‘Everything go all right with the reindeer?’

“Absolutely perfect Mrs Claus,

Thanks to you. Merry Christmas, my dear.”

A Fact

From Schools’ Folklore collection

Garret Stack went to confession Christmas Eve and he was to go to communion Christmas morning and the clock stopped during the night and he got up and went away thinking it was very late and when he was near Newtown he met a priest and he knew him and that priest was dead and he came down the road and went into Mc. Cabe’s and it was only one o’clock and he stayed there until morning.

Written by Con Shine, Kilbaha, told by his father John Shine.


Food Fair, Book Launch and a Mystery Solved

St. John’s photographed from St. Mary’s

Listowel Food Fair Food Trail 2023

Stop number 3 was at Daisy Boo Barista.

Another Listowel success story here. Daisy has her own business at age 20. She served coffee, tea, herbal tea and hot chocolate to the by now fairly full trailers.

On to stop number 4.

Stop the lights! the two Mags served us up a full meal of chicken in a romana sauce with rice and salad, They had a full array of desserts including chocolate biscuit cake.

Helen Godfrey has been with Mags and Mags nearly since the beginning.

The celebrity chef was happy to pose with the real chefs of the day. He reminisced about calling to the deli when he was a garsún in to town from Duagh. John Relihan loved their food then and more so now. He particularly loved Mags’ Deli romana sauce.

Mags joked that she wasn’t going to share her recipe with a man who sells sauces.

This deli is a Listowel institution. It is now 25 years since John O’Connor moved out and the two ladies took over. They deserve all the support they get.

From William Street Upper to Pennsylvania Avenue, Kathy Buckley’s life story makes for great reading.

Her cousin, Vincent Carmody, tells her story well, embellished with photos, recipes, menus etc. …a great read.

I took a few photos at the launch.

Anne and Elaine Sheahan with Helen Moylan

Rose Molyneaux, Judy MacMahon and Kay Caball

Jed Chute and Liam Grimes

The book was launched by Katie Hannon and lauded by Dr. Miriam Nyhan Gray, a historian specialising in the Irish diaspora. She was fascinated by the fact that Kathy came back to William Street to end her days. Irish emigrants to the US have a very low rate of return by comparison with people from other countries.

From Duagh to the bright lights of Dublin, Katie Hannon is a lady who has blazed her own successful trail. She recalled Vincent, then her postman, delivering her CAO offer letter and waiting for her to share the contents. She recalls him being underwhelmed at her choice of career. He has been proven wrong, hasn’t he?

Máire MacMahon and Anne and Elaine Sheahan

Vincent had signed all the books in advance….this was not his first rodeo. People felt that you can’t leave a book launch without a signing so Katie had to take out the trusty Bic and sign for us.

Mary O’Connell was there

Kieran Lyons caught up with his old teacher, Mick Mulcaire.

Katie and Helen Moylan

Mystery Solved

Our lovely boyeen at Listowel Mart in 1985 has been identified as Maurice O’Connor.

Date for the Diary

A Fact

The Spanish Inquisition once condemned the entire Netherlands to death for heresy.


History and Food

Harp and Lion Antiques, Church Street

In Listowel Garden Centre Christmas Shop

If you haven’t been there yet, do drop into the Christmas shop and be a child for a while.

Stairs are no obstacle to this explorer.

Aren’t these Victorian carol singers only gorgeous?

My first time in a ski lift.

In Kanturk Library

I made my first visit to the beautiful new library in my hometown. This is the children’s corner.

There I ran into my cousin, Donal Desmond. Donal is profoundly deaf. He was joined in the library by Eric Johnson, a fairly recent resident of Kanturk. Eric was a teacher of the deaf in Canada for 27 years. Eric signed for Donal so we didn’t have to do all the usual writing to communicate.

I was back in the library later that day for the launch of Seanchas Duhalla. Here I am with Noreen O’Sullivan of the Duhallow Heritage Society.

Denis Twohig is the chairman.

I met my old friend, Mary Lynch, chatting to Noreen Meaney

I met Mary Corbett for the first time in years.

Catching up was great.

The magazine committee have published the story of my Uncle Bernie and the combine harvester which you read first here on Listowel Connection.

There are lots of great stories in the book. i can’t wait to read them.

A gem from Facebook

Listowel Food Fair Food Trail 2023

Stop number 2 on our trail was in John.R.’s

Jimmy, Pierce and the wine expert.

They certainly believe here that we eat with our eyes. Feast your peepers on this spread.

John Relihan with John Mangan of the organising committee

John and Thalita with our host, Pierce Walsh.

The people who brought us this wonderful feast….John R’s lovely workers.

Having gorged ourselves here we moved on to Daisy Boo.

A Fact

Every known dog, except the chow, has a pink tongue. The chow’s tongue is black.


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