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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Home from Colorado, Alan Groarke joined his mother Madge and his sister, Rachel, for the festival.
My friend, Bridget, grabbed a chance to be photographed with a film star. We all loved Seamus O’Hara in the Oscar winning short film, The Irish Goodbye. He was really down to earth in real life and he made a huge contribution to the year’s festival.
A Sorry Sight
The River Feale on June 17 2023. Fishermen tell me they have never seen the river so dry.
Not for long! the drought is over for now. We have had monsoon like weather this week with the heaviest rainfall in living memory.
Collecting for Nano Eagle School
I met these lovely people out fundraising for their great school on Saturday last.
Tomorrow, June 23, is St. John’s Eve. Traditionally fires were lit to celebrate midsummer. I don’t know is it will happen this year, but in the past this tradition was carried on in places around Listowel.
The feast of St. John, Midsummer is a Quarter Day.
Before we had the Gregorian calendar in 1752 we had the Regency calendar. Ordinary people didn’t have calendars so all they worried about were the seasons. The seasons were marked by quarter days. The year began on the first of these quarter days, Lady Day, on March 25. The other quarters were based on religious feast days making it easy for the peasants to remember. These were, Midsummer Day, Michaelmas Day and Christmas Day. All rents and other debts fell due on these quarter days.
My little granddaughter, Aoife McKenna in Ballybunion in June 2023
Writers’ Week 2023
I’m back in the saddle after a little blip. In this picture, Saturday, June 4 2023, my younger daughter Clíona is addressing the audience at my Writers’ Week walk. In the forefront right hand side is my older daughter, Anne. My son, Bobby, is beside her in the picture.
The event this year became a family and friends affair as I was temporarily indisposed. They did fine without me.
I was sorry to miss this highlight. The legendary Jimmy Hickey, with his past pupils and fellow dancers, Jonathan Kelliher and Patrick Brosnan delighted the crowd with dancing, before the castle and beside the memorial to a man who would have appreciated this event more than most, the late Michael Dowling.
Michael O’Connor, Illuminator
Stephen Rynne shared these two pictures. They are both pictures of &.
The top one is the work of an unnamed monk. It is in The Book of Kells and the bottom one is from Michael O’Connor of Listowel.
O’Connor took what he saw in the Book of Kells and elevated it to a new level.
Plans are afoot; On July 6th Stephen Rynne, our Michael O’Connor expert will give a talk in Kerry Writers’ Museum to an invited audience. The talk will be on Michael O’Connor and all the other Listowel artists working in different branches of art but all with a Celtic ambiance. I’ll be telling you more about this in the coming days. It is hoped that the talk will be live streamed and we’ll all be able to hear it.
Remembering Luke Kelly in Ballybunion
I got a lovely email from the U.K.
…I grew up in the Square in Listowel and my father Dr Johnnie Walsh was a GP. He was called to Ballybunion one night where the Dubliners were playing. Luke Kelly had dislocated his shoulder. My father put his shoulder back in but demanded payment first. He had not been paid often as a young doctor and had learnt that you got the money when ‘the tear was in the eye’!
Thank you for all the pleasure I am getting from the blogs.
Best regards, Eleanor
A Great Night in The Tinteán
I hadn’t been in the Tintean in years until last week when I went there with my visitors.
One of the main attractions (for me anyway) was Elle Marie O’Dwyer. On the left of my picture is Elle Marie’s mother, Catherine, who comes from Kanturk, with Breeda Ahern, my sister in law, Sheila Cronin, my cousin, and in the front Lil MacSweeney.
Elle Marie with Frances Kennedy, also from our parts and another friend.
Elle Marie on stage. You could hear a pin drop as she sang, unaccompanied, Garry MacMahon’s beautiful Land of the Gael.
A slightly bigger name on the bill was Sean Keane, always a joy to listen to.
Crystal Swing came out of retirement for the night and Derek threw his legs east and west in his inimitable style. We loved it. If an act wasn’t to your liking, you knew that there would be another one on in just a few minutes. My visitors loved their night’s entertainment.
These lovely people have bought a house in Beale and are relocating there shortly. Unfortunately they will miss Writers’ Week 2023. Maybe next year.
Will Collins, Scriptwriter
This photograph is from 2015 when Will Collins was a guest at The Children’s Festival during Listowel Writers’ Week. In it I am beside Will’s wife Karen and his lovely mom and dad are on the right of Will. Luke is in the buggy.
Will today is even more famous than he was back then. Here’s why.
Will Collins, who grew up a stones throw from my family home, co-wrote an episode of the Star Wars Visions’ series alongside Jason Tammemägi.
The programme, which is currently streaming on Disney Plus, is titled Screecher’s Reach.
The episode formed part of an ambitious project that allowed filmmakers and animators all over the world access to the Star Wars universe.
Will’s previous screenwriting credits include the Oscar nominated feature animations, Wolfwalkers and Song of the Sea with Cartoon Saloon.
Will got to live out every Star Wars fan’s dream with a trip to the George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch located north of San Francisco.
Man of the Moment (and girlfriend)
Stephen Connolly, curator of Listowel Writers’ Week 2023, is being helped at every step of his new venture by Manuela.
Saturday June 3 2023
If you join me outside The Listowel Arms Hotel at 10.00 a.m. we’ll take a short stroll to the Tidy Town seat and we’ll have a few songs there.
Then we’ll take the short stroll to the castle steps.
That’s the walking part done.
We’ll be entertained and informed. Hopefully the sun will shine on us and everyone will have a good time. I’m looking forward to it.
Opening Night Writers Week 2023
Opening Night will start at 8.00p.m. The doors will be open at 7.00p.m.
Jack O’Rourke will entertain us. Prizes will be distributed and the John B. Keane Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to distinguished actor, Stephen Rea.
Ger Holland is the official photographer but I’ve got permission to snap some local folk for Listowel Connection.
I’ll be taking annual leave to enjoy the festival and then some more annual leave to recover.
See you back here soon.
Last word on the toilet for now
Tuesday May 30 2023
Nearly there but no electricity yet so unfortunately it looks like it won’t be ready for Writers’ Week.
You saw it here first! the kindly Kerry County Council staff gave me a sneak peak. No super loo this…a bog standard wheelchair accessible public toilet.
On Friday May 19 2023, Main Street came alive with music. The concert was in aid of an association very close to my heart. I apologise that I can’t include some clips of the great music here but video clips just take up too much of my precious storage space. I have pictures though.
This is a group of morning collectors and musicians. A new crew took over in the afternoon. Some of the morning people were involved in the afternoon as well.
I’ll include a few more tomorrow.
This epic cycle fundraiser in aid of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind paused in town on Monday May 22 2023.
This is Alice Curtayne’s panel in Kerry Writers’ Museum. She is the only female writer among the great men of letters.
Alice was actually an extraordinary lady, writing on lots of subjects, many of them religious in nature. She has written on Dante (She lived for a time in Milan in the 1920s) St. Brigid (She lived in Kildare too) and she has written one novel, House of Cards which her family think is largely biographical. She wrote many articles for newspapers and periodicals like the Capuchin Annual.
She was born in Tralee. Her father was a coach furnisher and he had his business in what is now Benners Hotel.
She lectured in America before settling down and marrying a farmer whom she met when he wrote her a fan letter.
Her husband, Stephen Rynne was a romantic. They married in Tarbert on Valentine’s Day. In their garden in Prosperous, Stephen planted snowdrops in a formation which every Spring spelled out Alice.
Alice passed away in 1981. She is under appreciated even in her native Kerry. Her grandson, Niall, is doing much to bring knowledge of her to a wider audience. Some of her books have been republished by an American publisher. I bought the one on St. Brigid. I’ll review it here at a later date.
Listowel Writers’ Week, Opening Night 2023
What links these two places to opening night 2023?
Special guest on Opening Night will be acclaimed singer /songwriter Jack O’Rourke.
Jack is a storyteller in song. He was fascinated by the story of Michael O’Connor as told to him by Aiden on one of his visits to Mike the Pies.
Michael O’Connor, uncle of Aiden, was an extraordinary man. He was a talented artist, a collector of posters, an opera lover and a book lover. He was also a very private person. His family left his apartment over the pub very much as he left it. A visit to this place of music, art and literature inspired O’Rourke to write the song.
“…And that opera on the top floor No one knows, it’s under lock and key The needle hits the vinyl, I’m away on the wind Every secret needs a sanctuary.”
I hope he sings it for us on Opening Night.
Another treat in store for us at this year’s Writers’ Week is a chance to see some of Michael O’Connor’s great collection of international graphic art in Mike the Pies.
I Love Paul Galvin
Maybe not Paul himself. I don’t know him but I love, love, love his book.
People who know me here know that I love a good anecdote or story and I love random facts. Paul’s book is full of these. I’ve only dipped into it so far. I’ve only just got it.
Spear throwing! sword fighting!
If, like me you love these little stories, Paul Galvin has lots of them in his great book. He is a great researcher and a great story teller.
Do come along to hear him in
The Listowel Arms at 3.00p.m. on Saturday June 3 2023
Dolly Day in Listowel is on June 24 2023 and it promises to be a good one. The lady herself has been invited to attend and she is checking her calendar.
You can be part of the fun by buying your wig online Here
There are a few instructions laid down by the Guinness Book of Records people about how you should be dressed. Nothing major.
Catching Up with Friends
I met my old friend, Dolores O’Connor in The Flying Saucer on Monday. She was enjoying a hot chocolate with her sister, Eileen. When they see me with my camera they know that I will connect them with their family in the US and England. Great Listowel people and supporters of this blog.
I had a great chat with my lovely friends, Liz and Jim Dunn, in Thyme Out café yesterday. Liz is going to be our hostess at Opening Night of Listowel Writers’ Week on May 31st. No better woman for the job.
When I came to Listowel first I found local people had quite a few phrases we didn’t use over the border in my part of the country.
“Will you walk to town or will you carry the car?” asked a new friend.
The image this conjured up came back to me when I read Brian Bilston’s amusing poem:
you took the last bus home
i still don’t know how you got it through the door
but you’re always doing amazing stuff
like the time when you caught that train
The English language syllable “ough” can be pronounced in eight different ways. The following sentence includes all eight.
A tough dough-faced ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough, coughing and hiccoughing thoughtfully.
This is the remains of the first arch in 2016, It was damaged in a big storm. You will notice the the new designer didn’t bother with the things that looked like very big ball bearing between the arch and the pillars.
Wolfgang and Anita Mertens
in John B. Keane’s Bar, May 16th 2023
This is the house from which Maria wrote to Wolfgang.
Here are 2 letters Wolfgang kept as souvenirs of his visit to Writers Week in 1974. The first is from Maria Coffey who was, I think, writing on behalf of Writers Week and one from Bryan MacMahon with whom he had a long correspondence. Wolfgang was writing his thesis on his work.
Anita and Wolfgang can’t remember where they stayed which is surprising because they remember a lot about their trip.
On their last night they saw a production of The Honey Spike by the Carrick- on-Siur Drama Group and they were enthralled by it.
Wolfgang in his library has almost all of MacMahon’s published works, in English and some in translation as well.
While we were at the MacMahon statue we met Maggie and Mac Donald who were just returning from a visit to Kerry Writers’ Museum.
Brían MacMahon took time out of his busy day to welcome the German visitors. He told them a few stories about his famous grandfather and generally charmed them with his wit and friendliness.
We met Liz Dunn who gave them a brochure for this year’s Writers’ Week. Wolfgang promises to send me his 1974 programme.
We called to the Garden of Europe on the way home from town.
A 1980 Visitor
I came upon your blog while searching for “Irish Horse Caravans”.
I was a young soldier in the US Army on leave in 1980 when I hitchhiked/walked through Ireland.
I have a photo in this email, which I think may possibly be in Adare or very close to it. I was wondering if you perhaps recognize this image and the signs for the roads they reference and could tell me where this may have been.
Regards from the US, Marietta, GA Bob Jewell
Is Bob correct? Is that Adare? I think so.
Is your name Kevin or Caoimhín?
If the answer is yes, the place for you to be is this Listowel pub on Friday June 2 in the late evening.
The first annual gathering of people called Kevin in Kevin’s is happening there.
The back story; Stephen Connolly, curator of this year’s Writers’ Week programme was, by chance, in Kevin’s on the late owner, Kevin Broderick’s, birthday and he happened to sit beside a man called Kevin. This sparked this idea; Why not have a gathering of people called Kevin in a pub called Kevin’s during Writers’ Week.
BTW you can come too if your name is not Kevin.
On the Prowl with Camera
I was in The Square on Saturday May 20 2023
I met the lovely and very talented Eileen Sheehan as she went into Kerry Writers’ Museum to facilitate a poetry workshop.
I had a lovely chat with friends, Brian and May Griffin and Mary and Seán Comerford.
The meaning of the word, good luck in finding valuable things unintentionally, refers to the fairy tale characters who were always making discoveries through chance. You can thank serendipity if you find a pencil at an empty desk just as you walk into an exam and realize that you forgot yours.
I have so often experienced serendipity at Listowel Writers Week. I have gone to a book launch by someone I had never heard of and find the writer or subject so fascinating that I can’t wait to read the book.
Let me point you in the direction of a few opportunities for serendipity coming up for us in Listowel.
I have never read either of these authors but it looks like lots of people have and loved them.
Friday June2 in The Listowel Arms
This handsome dude is well known to everyone in Kerry. As well as being one of Kerry’s all time great footballers, he is also a clothes designer and now an author.
Confession here; I considered buying this book at Christmas and dismissed it without knowing what it was about. I presumed wrongly that it was the story of how a footballer turned into a fashion designer.
I should have looked more closely and, if only to honour my weaver ancestors, I should have bought it. It’s not too late to make up for lost time.
Join me in Listowel Arms on Saturday at 3.00
I Love this One
Published in The Irish Times on Saturday May 20 2023.
I have a god daughter who I can just imagine spending her old age (which is a long way off yet) reminiscing about horses.