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: Festivals Page 2 of 3

Sand Art, The Races and Memories of a First Dance

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How it used to be


Ballybunion Sand Art festival 2021

This is an intriuging and fascinating craft, drawing pictures in the sand. The annual festival in Ballybunion on the weekend of Sept 10 to 12th was as brilliant as ever. I took a few photos but Pixie O’Gorman and Wild Atlantic Way posted these much better ones on the internet.

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A Hawney Legacy

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This is Hawney Way in Ballybunion. If you walk down this passageway you will come to this lovely little children’s picnic area. It is laid out with tables, in the centre of each is a draughts or chess grid and benches.

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Some of the tables are sponsored by local people.

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Tidy Town’s Vintage Day

One of the highlights of Listowel Harvest Festival of Racing every year was Tidy Town’s upcycle, recycle vintage day. Below are some of the organising committee.

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Every year this competition turned up some fascinating stories. The outfits themselves were often stunning but the accompanying stories never failed to entertain us.

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Frances O’Keeffe and her daughter, Edel

Edel is wearing a dress her mother restyled from a dress given to her by her friend, Suzie Moore.

Suzie was a matron in a London hospital. The queen was due to visit and Suzie felt that she needed something special for this meeting with her majesty. She had a dress especially made.

When she retired to Listowel she brought the dress with her and she gave it to her friend Frances. She knew that Frances would appreciate the material she had chosen so carefully and paid so much for. Frances never found an opportunity to use the material over the years . When she heard of this up cycling event she knew that this was just the ticket for Suzie’s dress. She remodelled it to fit Edel. Edel wore it with the pill box hat her mother wore at her own wedding and the pearl encrusted bag she carried.

Mary O’Halloran and Maria Stack are great supporters of Listowel Races. They usually pull out all the stops for Ladies Day and Vintage Day.

One year, Maria carried this vintage bag that she had bought in a charity shop.

When she got the bag home she found inside the original price tag.

And she found a ticket to the Empire State Building. Surely this bag was bought by someone as part of her trousseau and she honeymooned in New York.


A Listowel Dance in 1960

Philomena Moriarty kept this souvenir of her very first dance and she shared it on Facebook. The Super Ballroom was later rebranded as the Las Vegas.


Listowel Poetry Town 2021

As part of the Poetry Town initiative, Listowel got its very own Poet Laureate, Dairena Ní Chinnéide.

Part of her job was to write a Listowel poem. Dairena was great value for money.. She wrote two.



Fort Shannon, a Fleadh and a wedding

Listowel Castle Sept 2021


Fort Shannon, Ballylongford

Jim Halpin has been in touch. He is undertaking a project to research Fort Shannon, Ballylongford. Jim is particularly interested in the families and friends of the soldiers. He would appreciate if anyone has stories to share of how the soldiers integrated with the local community, marrying local girls and taking part in local clubs and sports. Jim is concentrating on the valuable contribution to local life in Ballylongford made by the soldiers at the fort. If you have photos or stories send them to me and I’ll make sure Jim gets them.


Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Listowel

There are a few familiar faces in the crowd in this old newspaper cutting


A Klondyke Millionaire with a Listowel connection

New Zealand Tablet, 11 February 1898

Mr Patrick Galvin, one of Klondyke’s millionaires, has arrived in Listowel, whence he emigrated over twenty years ago to America, and where he experienced varying fortunes until he struck for Klondyke, where he became immensely rich. He refused £200,000 for some land he owns there and sold one of his claims for £20,000 before starting for Ireland. His account of the journey from the new gold country is most interesting. Mr Galvin, who was accompanied by his wife, travelled by the Dalton trail and had to tramp 374 miles, and Mrs Galvin had to walk 150 miles during the journey. When starting from Klondyke they had eleven pack horses, and at the journey’s end they had but four. The provisions too, ran scarce, and they had to subsist on flour and water for a considerable time. 


I was at a Wedding

My niece, Christine and her new husband held their wedding reception in Blackwater Castle.

This is me with my lovely niece on her big day.

This is a highlight of my Kanturk family weddings, Jerome Ryan singing Kanturk, my Home Town and whoever of the Kanturk crowd are nearby “helping” him out with the chorus.



A blog follower found this in an old NZ newspaper and I shared it with you.

Bartholomew Dowling, the writer of “Life’s Wreck,” was born at Listowel. County Kerry, about the year 1822. While still a child his parents emigrated to Canada, where his father died. Later the mother and children returned and settled in County Limerick, He wrote several poems for the Nation after its foundation. In 1848 he proceeded to California, where, after spending some time as a miner, he lived on a farm at Crucita Valley. In 1858 he was appointed editor of the San Francisco Monitor. In 1863 he met with an accident while driving, and soon afterwards died from its effects in St. Mary’s Hospital, San Francisco. Dowling’s best, and best known poem is probably “The Irish brigade at Fontenoy.” 

I mentioned that I couldn’t find the poem and then ….

Another blog follower found it. Here it is in all its blood curdling war mongering glory;


by: Bartholomew Dowling (1823-1863)

our camp-fires rose a murmur

At the dawning of the day,

And the tread of many footsteps

Spoke the advent of the fray;

And as we took our places,

Few and stern were our words,

While some were tightening horse-girths,

And some were girding swords.

The trumpet-blast has sounded

Our footmen to array–

The willing steed has bounded,

Impatient for the fray–

The green flag is unfolded,

While rose the cry of joy–

“Heaven speed dear Ireland’s banner

To-day at Fontenoy!”

We looked upon that banner,

And the memory arose

Of our homes and perish’d kindred

Where the Lee or Shannon flows;

We look’d upon that banner,

And we swore to God on high,

To smite to-day the Saxon’s might–

To conquer or to die.

Loud swells the charging trumpet–

‘Tis a voice from our own land–

God of battles! God of vengeance!

Guide to-day the patriot’s brand;

There are stains to wash away,

There are memories to destroy,

In the best blood of the Briton

To-day at Fontenoy.

Plunge deep the fiery rowels

In a thousand reeking flanks–

Down, chivalry of Ireland,

Down on the British ranks!

Now shall their serried columns

Beneath our sabres reel–

Through the ranks, then, with the war-horse–

Through their bosoms with the steel.

With one shout for good King Louis,

And the fair land of the vine,

Like the wrathful Alpine tempest,

We swept upon their line–

Then rang along the battle-field

Triumphant our hurrah,

And we smote them down, still cheering,

“Erin, shanthagal go bragh.”

As prized as is the blessing

From an aged father’s lip–

As welcome as the haven

To the tempest-driven ship–

As dear as to the lover

The smile of gentle maid–

Is this day of long-sought vengeance

To the swords of the Brigade.

See their shatter’d forces flying,

A broken, routed line–

See, England, what brave laurels

For your brow to-day we twine.

Oh, thrice bless’d the hour that witness’d

The Briton turn to flee

From the chivalry of Erin

And France’s “fleur de lis.”

As we lay beside our camp-fires,

When the sun had pass’d away,

And thought upon our brethren

Who had perished in the fray,

We prayed to God to grant us,

And then we’d die with joy,

One day upon our own dear land

Like this of Fontenoy.

“Battle of Fontenoy” is reprinted from Historic Poems and Ballads. Ed. Rupert S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.


Arts Festival, Michael O’Connor, Illuminator, and a Kerry link to High Office in the U.S.

Above is an example of the work of Michael O’Connor, formerly of 24 The Square Listowel.

Totally unrelated to yesterday’s post I had a phonecalll from a man called Stephen Rynne who is in possession of much of the work of the late O’Connor.

Michael O’Connor worked in Dublin as a draughtsman in The Department of Industry and Commerce. In his spare time he made these marvellous illustrated artworks in the style of The Book of Kells.

This is a family photograph of Michael looking at The Book of Kells from which he took inspiration.

Stephen has many of these works, many of them gold leaf on vellum and he also has correspondence relating to the works from a collaborator of O’Connors, Maurice Fridberg , a famous Dublin art dealer. This Fridberg considered O’Connor to be the best artist doing this kind of work.

A former Uachtarán na hEireann, Cearbhall ÓDálaigh was presented with some of O’Connor’s work by Fridberg on the occasion of his inauguration.

Since O’Connor lived in Listowel in the house that is now Kerry Writers Museum, Stephen would like the artwork, some of it unfinished, to return to the his native place.

There is much work to be done to bring this about but it looks like a valuable and historic find for Listowel.

Another example of the detailed artwork and colourwork in one of Michael O’Connor’s pieces.


What Kathy Did

Kathy Hochul is to be the first female Mayor of New York. Kathy’s maternal grandparents hail from Kerry and she is proud of her Irish roots.

Kay Caball of Find My Kerry Ancestors had traced Kathy’s maternal ancestors to a remote West Kerry parish.


Ballybunion Arts Festival

Something to look forward to in September.


Local Fleadh Committee 1970

Frances Kennedy kept this cutting and posted it on Facebook. Maybe someone will name them all.


My Friend has become a Beekeeper

and I have learned something. Native Irish bees are black!!!!!


A Bit of Housekeeping

Some of you will know that this year I changed platforms from Blogger to WordPress. I am still having teething problems. One such problem has only come to light recently. The way a web post displays on a tablet or phone is different to how it appears on my laptop.

People reading this on a tablet or phone don’t see the side bar at the right hand side. This is where the search box and the subscribe box are located.I dont know if I can fix this but I hope so. In the meantime if you are reading this and you would like your name added to the mailing list please sent me your email address and I’ll do it for you.

Handball and Brightening Air, William Street and Newtownsandes Creamery and Some Writers’ Week Windows

Listowel Town Square, May 2021


Another on on the Move


Listowel Handball Alley June 1 2021


Brightening Air

Ten Days of incredible arts experience in surprising locations June 11 to 21 2021.

Listowel’s turn is on June 18 and our surprising location is the handball alley. We are part of In the Magic Hour series of dance and interview events in handball alleys around the country. Only a limited number will be able to attend the free event because of Covid restrictions but we can all see it online on June 19.

In tandem with these arts in the alleys events Coiscéim sent a project manager around the country collecting the story of handball in Ireland. My appeal encouraged a few people to talk to her and share their stories and over the next days you will be seeing lots on Listowel Connection about handball and handballsers.

Junior Griffin has compiled a history of hand balling in Listowel and most of the information that follows if from Junior.

It would appear that the site for the alley was given by Lord Listowel and the alley built in the early years of the twentieth century. The front wall of the alley is part of the big bridge. Wire netting was placed on top of this wall to prevent the ball going out on to the road above. The side walls had a railing on top. This railing was part of rail track of the `Lartigue. The Lartigue closed in 1924 so we can assume that the ball alley was built shortly after.

In a message written for the match programme to celebrate the opening of Frank Sheehy Park on May15th 1960, Seamus Wilmot, Registrar of the National University of Ireland, wrote ” When I recall the Listowel I knew before the First World War, two places come immediately to my mind, The Ball Alley and The Sportsfield….

They were the only two places where we enjoyed freedom, unrestricted in the case of the Alley, conditional as to the Sportsfield….”

This newspaper story tells us that the court was upgraded in 1954.


Newtownsandes Creamery staff

Old Newtownsandes creamery staff


Some Writers’ Week Windows

The theme of the children’s festival was Out of This World

Matt Mooney’s poetic tribute to the late John Lynch beautifully illustrated in Lynch’s Coffee Shop window.


I was Forest Bathing

It was great to be part of a live event at Listowel Writers Week 2021. Forest bathing was badly named on this occasion because we weren’t in a forest and we weren’t bathing ins the usual sense of the word.

We were in Listowel’s Garden of Europe and we were bathing in the feast for the senses in this beautiful spot.

We were “high on our own supply”, mindfully concentration on our 5 senses and letting nature heal us. This was a guided experience and most enjoyable and renewing even if I was well outside my comfort zone.

Saturday June 5 2021 Guided Forest Bathing in Garden of Europe as part of Listowel Writers’ Week 2021.

Feeling Creative after my treat for the senses I wrote this little poem

A Sense of Place

I am in Kerry, a carpet of green and gold before me.

I am in Europe, Schiller and all that is best in Europe to my right.

The Holocaust and all that is worst in Europe to me left

All around me is all that is most beautiful in Nature

Forty shades of green to see,

Birdsong to listen to

Scents of flowers

A taste of summer all around

Here I can touch all that is beautiful in Creation.


Exciting Times in Pres. Primary School, Listowel

Girls from the Presentation Primary School were delighted to be invited by the office of the Minister for Education, Ms Norma Foley to be involved in the launch of the BLAST initiative for schools. This took place on Friday June 4th in Listowel.The girls had a lovely experience and enjoyed their chat, while remaining socially distanced, with the minister. It certainly looks like an exciting programme for schools, one which the Presentation Primary Listowel will certainly be participating in.


Listowel Connection First with the News!

Straight from the horse’s mouth

I met Lizzy slaving away to be ready in time for the grand opening. She really really really hopes to open in Church Street on June 15 2021. The extra good news is that she will have outdoor seating for 40 patrons in her new place. Lots of food related news from Church Street lately, all good.


Glentenassig, Writers’ Week 2012 and O’Connell Tailors

Photo; Martin Moore


Handball Alley in the Old Days

Junior Griffin has given me the history as best he knows it of Listowel’s ball alley. I’ll be serialising it for you over the next week before the planned Brightening Air performance on June 18th

This is Junior Griffin at his home earlier this week, giving an interview to Caoimhe from Coiscéim. I’ll fill you in on more of this next week.

Máire Logue, Artistic Director of St. John’s, who is organising the Coiscéin event locally, Charlie Nolan, former handball and Caoimhe Coburn Grey of Coiscéim reliving memories in the handball alley on Tuesday June 1 2021


Oh, what a Night it was!

Listowel Writers’ Week opening night 2012. Michael D Higgins is accompanied by chairman Seán Lyons made his way toward The Listowel Arms flanked by a guard of honour of boys and girls in school uniform.

Seán Lyons, chair Writers’ Week 2012, Noelle Campbell-Sharpe, Mike O’Donnell and Joanna O’Flynn

Margaret Broderick R.I.P., Aisling Wren and Jerry McDaniel

Members of Listowel Writers’ Week Children’s committee 2012


John O’Connell, Tailor

Bernard O’Connell, formerly of Upper William Street and now of Brampton Ontario posted the following account of his family on Facebook. Vincent Carmody is the usual source of such precious local social history

John O’Connell and John O’Flahery , clerical, civil and livery tailors of Upper William St. Listowel

When John O Connell of Irremore married Mary Walsh of Tullamore Ballydonoghue, in February 1877, their first home, was one of the thatched cottages in Upper William Street. Soon after, John converted this cottage into a double dormer slated house, which remains to this day, with the O’Connell family. He also built No’s 30 and 32 at the opposite side of the road.

John and Mary O’Connell and their son Edmund

In an ironic twist, John O Connell, was the only one of his family to remain in Ireland. He had already been apprenticed to the tailoring trade, when his father died. His mother emigrated with her family to America, leaving John behind. Among John’s and Mary’s large family were Edmund (pictured below, with his parents and with his own family in Chicago, to where he also emigrated). John (Jackie) became a master tailor and carried on the family business in the family home..

Edmund O’Connell and family in Chicago

They also had two daughters who remained in Listowel, Julia, married Denis Quill from Church Street and they set up home at No. 32,

Denis and Julia Quille

Julia’s older sister, Nellie, never married and lived with the Quill family throughout her life. Jackie Connell, apart from his tailoring trade, was a leading member or the local dramatic society. He married Catherine Griffin from Castle-island.

Their eldest son, Benny became the father figure to their large family following his father’s, Jackie’s death, at a young age. Benny married Noreen O Connell from Ballyhorgan, Lixnaw

Benny and Noree O’Connell

They had a family of four boys and one girl, John (Jackie) Paul (RIP) Tommy, Kathleen and Bernard.

Kathleen and Bernard O’Connell

A Useless but jawdropping Fact

(From a website called Bustle which I wandered into by accident so I cant 100% vouch for it. It sounds plausible to me.)

…Along with the addition of the lake, the Daily Mail reported that the Beckham’s are also looking to expand the underground space below their garage. Hello said they’ve upscaled their designs to create a 117.5sqm room to hold around 7,000 bottles of wine. You’ll never be short on a glass of red at the Beckham’s house, that’s for sure.


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