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 email@example.com
This short poem is full of the pain of being forced by circumstances to live in a country that is not your motherland.
“The past is a hole in the chest….”
Women in Sport
“I’ll eat my O’Neill’s shorts if this book is not nominated for Sports’ Book of the Year.” Ray Darcy.
On Friday June 3, in Listowel this very articulate young sportswoman/writer will be part of a great discussion on the place of women in sport. Eimear is GAA royalty, grandfather a president and father and a clatter of cousins successful county players.
In her book she deals with the humiliation of being left on the bench, the need for make up and straightened hair on the playing field, the negative image of competitive girls as opposed to the lauding of these traits in boys.
I have a personal interest in this Writers’ Week event which will be facilitated by our own local sportswriter, Emma Larkin and will feature trampolining champion, Rebecca Perry.
My sports mad granddaughter Aisling, who did her TY work experience in Listowel Writers’ Week, will be allowed to introduce this event.
Aisling made her Writers Week debut many years ago, being “fired” out of a cannon.
Cards brought back as souvenirs from foreign trips.
St. John’s, Tralee
St. John’s Tralee is a magnificent church, full of nooks and crannies, altars and shrines and exceptional stained glass windows.
This is a modern window telling the story of the prodigal son.
As well as this modern one there are many traditional windows.
The Playboy of the Western World
Can you spot me with my great friends and former colleagues Bridget O’Connor and Sr. Consolata behind two rows of current Presentation Secondary Listowel staff in St. John’s Theatre on May 4th for the TY production of The Playboy.
These are the happy girls on stage at the end of a very successful evening.
Under the guidance of drama coach and director, Margaret O’Sullivan, this cast and crew breathed vibrant new life into Synge’s dated play. They played music, sang and danced and milked every bit of comedy out of a drama set in an Ireland long forgotten by the time they were born. The play was a triumph. Well done all.
Remember Concorde? Due to time zones crossed, if you flew by Concorde from London to New York you could arrive two hours before you leave.
St. Patrick’s Hall, Listowel to some of a certain age will always be The Bandsroom. Once upon a time this parish hall was a very male preserve.
Here is an account given a few years’ ago by local historian, Vincent Carmody.
Final of the billiard tournament in St. Patrick’s Hall, Listowel in 1954/55
Front Row; Seán Stack, Francie Holly, Eamon Stack, Moss Carmody, John Enright, David Roche, John (Chuck) Roche, Tom Murphy, Simon Kelliher, Michael Mc Guinness, J.J. Rohan
Back Row: Danny Enright, Matt Kennelly, Michael O’Connor, P.J. Maher, Frankie White, Tim (Windy) Kelliher, Dan Lou Sweeney (with glasses)
Backround: Ned Stack (caretaker), Fr. Michael Keane (C.C. Listowel) (Uncle of Moss Keane )
St Patrick’s Hall, a brief history by Vincent Carmody
There was an active Temperance Society in Listowel at the end of the nineteenth century, this committee were anxious to have a meeting place and after some protracted negotiations with Lord Listowel’s agent they were facilitated with a site where the present hall now stands.The committee comprised of the following, Lar. Buckley, Maurice Kerins, Con Kearney, Maurice Scanlon, Michael O Sullivan and John Kirby.
Fund raising began at once and the agreed contract price of £293 was quickly risen. Soon afterwards building commenced and was completed within an agreed twenty two weeks. The builder was Mr Michael Costello of Church Street.
An interesting aside is that the builder was bound by a contract clause that he was libel to pay a penalty of £1 for each week of part of for any over run. The committee appointed Mr Maurice Nugent, then coach-builder to the Lartigue to act on their behalf. Fealy Brothers supplied all building material.
When built, the hall became the focus for much Parish activity. A very fine Brass & Reed band which had been active in the town for some years were facilitated with the use of the upstairs room as a bands room, the balcony from this room overlooking Upper William Street was used as a stage for many outdoor summer evening performances. The main room downstairs was used for card games, billiard and snooker, the towns musical society of the day also used the hall and the billiard tables were used as an improvised stage.
In 1895 a split occurred in the local GAA club and for a number of years afterwards the Temperance Society affiliated a team in the Kerry Co. Championship known as St. Patrick’s.
In March 1907 a set of nineteen general rules were drawn up and unanimously adopted. These rules gave a clear indication of the moral code which the members were expected to adhere to.
In 1936, a branch of the Catholic Young Mens Society was started, this incorporated a study circle and lectures were given on various nights. One of these had Paddy Fitzgibbon (senior) speaking on the topic “Is Ireland ripe for Communism?”
Also, the same year saw a move into the electronic age with the procurement of a radio. This was very popular, especially on Summer Sundays with live transmission of GAA matches.
Over the years, whist drives were organised as fundraisers, a bridge club was also set up under the chairmanship of local photographer, Jimmy Adams.
From the 1920’s all band activity was under the baton of James Hennessy. He had served in the British Army as a bandsman in his younger days and besides being a noted musician he also was a strict disciplinarian. However allied to his retirement in the 1940s and a lack of genuine interest shown by the younger members it was decided to cease band activity, and so the band which had given so much joy the followers near and far for over fifty years was no more.
Father Sayers arrived as a new curate in Listowel the early 1940s, and was appointed as Spiritual Director to the Society. At the first committee meeting which he attended it became apparent that he was determined to leave his imprint with a set of new rules and regulations which he proposed. These caused immediate resentment. Some of these were,
In future the Hall would be referred to as St. Patrick’s Catholic Hall,
He in future would nominate all committees, (this was a break in tradition, as from 1905, members elected half of the committee of sixteen)
Membership of the men’s confraternity had to be strictly adhered to by all members.
Fr. Sayers, who was vehemently anti-drink, decreed that anyone he suspected of entering the hall having taken drink would be suspended. Many members resigned at this point and the position was further escalated by the announcement that the front door lock was to be changed and entry would be permitted to key holders only. During this period also the now unused band instruments which had been stored in the upstairs bands room were sold without any consultation with the older members who had been part of and had always hoped for a reformation of the band.
The resignation of so many of former active committee members must have had an immediate effect on Fr. Sayers. He relented on much of what he had tried to implement. Sanity prevailed and things resumed in a more lax mode with Fr Sayers taking a more demure back seat role.
Following the war years, under a new and younger management, the hall went from strength to strength. Billiard tournaments were organised with clubs from other towns, card games of Poker, Solo, Patience and Whist were popular, while Jimmy Adams and Super Mulcahy again revived the dormant Bridge club. An annual dinner dance was organised (a ladies committee was chosen to run this, even though membership of the Society was for men only). The hall remained in great use and activities were most popular especially during the months from August to May, however by the late 1950s the condition of the hall in general, now built over sixty years had started to decline and a revamp was badly needed.
Again it was in the form of a new Curate as Spiritual Director that was to effect changes, Fr. Michael Keane arrival in Listowel was to herald a new beginning for the hall. A tireless worker, he gathered around him a band of fellow workers and so began a whole array of improvements, the first since 1893.
During the late 1950s and 1960s the hall was once again the centre of winter activities and one of the most popular fundraisers was the holding of Pongo during Listowel Races. However by the latter part of the decade a steady decline of membership had begun. This would have been mainly due to emigration and a host of other social activities which had become popular by this time.
The hall had closed by 1970 and the billiard and snooker tables were dismantled. One particular group showed interest in taking it and running it as a private members club, the local council were said to be interested in buying it, with a view to knocking it in order to give wider access to a council car park at the rear of Charles St./Upper William St.
During the 1970/80s it mainly served as a hub and office space during Writers Week, Fleadh Cheoil, Listowel Races and as headquarters of a youth club. By the 1990s a very vibrant active retirement group under the Chairmanship of Michael O Sullivan and they with the youth club began a series of fund raising draws to find money to implement some repairs. Again a young Curate got involved, Fr John Kerins. Meetings took place and with the funds already collected along with grants promised by Tuatha Ciarraí and North Kerry Together, the committee set up to oversee the changes sought and got FAS to carry out the restoration work. Work started and was completed in 2002. The major improvements have left us with a building that looks better than ever, since the re-opening has once again been the centre of a multiplicity of events and groups. Hopefully it will again serve the town and its people for the duration of the twenty first century as it has done for the previous hundred years.
Good Bridget, Bad Bridget
February 2023 for me is all about saints and sinners. I have just bought my copy of Bad Bridget in Woulfe’s and now I’m looking forward to reading it in preparation for Elaine and Leanne’s visit to Listowel for Writers’ Week 2023.
Their event is set to be held in Listowel Courthouse, a setting familiar to Bad Bridgets.
The boys of Scoil Realta na Maidine made and sold St. Bridget’s crosses.
Eileen Moylan’s beautiful silver or gold crosses were in great demand after her appearance on Imeall. People have asked me to share the link here.
The site has details of all the shipwrecks off our coast and there were a lot clustered around the Shannon estuary.
From the Mailbag
I’m a distant relation of Sean (John) Lenane who died in 1923 (buried at Gael Graveyard outside Listowel). I’m wondering if you would know of any Listowel or area commemorations occuring for those who lost their lives in the Civil War. I’m not from the area but would love to attend if there are any such events in the months ahead. Thanks in advance if there is any information you’ll be posting in your blog or could email.
Patricia O’Halloran (on behalf of my Mom in photo)
I happened to be in the Bon Secours hospital in Cork on January 24 2023. The hospital was celebrating its anniversary.
Over the years The Bons has been good to me. An anniversary is a time for reflection. Not all my visits there were happy ones!
The Clock of Life is Wound but Once
The song My Grandfather’s Clock dates back to 1876. It tells the story from a child’s perspective of a clock bought for his grandfather on the day of his birth. Mysteriously it stopped working on the day he died. Maybe it was only a mystery to the child. I am old enough to remember the custom of manually stopping the clocks when someone in the house died.
My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf, So it stood ninety years on the floor; It was taller by half than the old man himself, Though it weighed not a pennyweight more. It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born, And was always his treasure and pride; But it stopp’d short — never to go again — When the old man died.
Ninety years without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick),
His life seconds numbering, (tick, tick, tick, tick),I
It stopp’d short — never to go again —
When the old man died.
This grandfather clock has stood in The Bons in Cork for as long as I can remember.
They’re Teasing Us
Some of the people coming to this year’s Writers’ Week. Put the dates in your diary. It looks like a good one.
Movie of the Moment
It’s all about the movies these days as the Irish film industry is having a moment.
When I think of films I think of the late Kieran Gleeson. He would be in his element just now, lapping up all the movie news.
I am printing here an old post from 2016. It is Billy Keane’s tribute to Kieran, our man of cinema, published in the Irish Independent after Kieran’s untimely death.
Billy Keane’s Tribute to Kieran Gleeson Irish Independent Jan 25 2016
Kieran Gleeson’s eyes lit up as he explained the background to the film he was showing, and you could see he was excited – excited about sharing all he knew with his audience there in his three-screen cinema in a small country town.
There was always an introduction before his cinema club films on a Thursday night. This was his night, the night when he got to choose the films he loved. Kieran spoke as all the knowledgeable do – in simple, easy-to-understand language.
Kieran has been in love with the cinema ever since he stood up on the piled-high metal boxes that were used for storing magic reels. There, he was the spellbound kid looking out through the porthole in the projectionist’s room with his dad and grandad in their country cinema in Cappamore, County Limerick. Afterwards, he would be full of excitement and full of talk.
Kieran ‘the man’ is still ‘the boy’ in the projection room. Often, we would be kept on after the crowd had gone home for a discussion about the movie he was showing. He knew his stuff, did Kieran. There was no showing off, just teaching and sharing. The soft, gentle but passionate voice, hoarse from too much talk, is gone for good now.
Kieran’s life is a silent movie. He breathes with the help of a machine. Our small town hero’s chest rises and falls with every breath. It’s as if he’s a marathon runner at the end of a gruelling race. Kieran Gleeson who rescued, owns and loves our local cinema here in Listowel – has advanced Motor Neurone Disease.
But he’s still communicating. Kieran writes a little, but only with great effort. He sends text messages, nods in agreement or moves his eyes towards something he wants you to read.
Kieran writes ’29’ on a sheet of paper and hands it to his wife, Teresa. Did you ever notice it when two people feel and read each other’s thoughts? They seem to instinctively know what the other person is thinking. The bond has to be strong, but there’s more than just tuning in. The two must share the dream.
The 29 refers to January 29, 1987 – the day the cinema in Listowel reopened under Kieran’s management.
The cinema had been closed for two years. Kieran was driving by one day with his mother and he noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign up over The Astor Cinema. There and then, he made up his mind to buy the rat-infested wreck. A local businessman told Kieran he was “absolutely mad” – and maybe he was. Small town cinemas were going the way of small shops. There are only a few independent cinemas left in Ireland. The prophesy of failure made Kieran all the more determined to succeed. He worked day and night and, bit by bit, the cinema began to pay for itself. His mother helped out every Sunday when the cinema was at it’s busiest.
Kieran opened three screens and he had the best of films showing at the same time as the big cities. He was one of the first to embrace digitalisation and encouraged Jimmy Deenihan, the then Arts Minister, to provide grant assistance to a number of cinemas.
Hard-up parents were given deals. Kids who didn’t have enough money were never refused. Kieran often declined the big money-making movies if he felt they were bad. He never overcharged for tickets, sweets or popcorn. Director Ger Barrett – who is now about to release his third movie, ‘Brain on Fire’, later this year – was allowed in for free. Ger premiered his last movie, ‘Glassland’, in Listowel – and the night was turned into a tribute to his mentor and friend. Actor Jack Reynor came along and Kieran was so buzzed up that the illness was put into remission for a night. It was like the football coach who sees the player he trained as a kid step o collect an All-Ireland medal.
I was only three, but I remember being brought to The Astor for ‘Summer Holiday’ by Bernie Buckley – who was babysitting me then, and still does. Dad and I cried when Davy Crockett died at the Alamo. It was here I had the first lip-kiss in the back seat.
Sometimes, when our kids were young, we’d be there at the pictures and, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kieran standing in the aisle at the back, taking it all in. He was enjoying the kids enjoying the picture show. The light flickered over his smiling face and, if ever there was man who was happy at work, well, it was him. There and then, and always. After all, he gave up his studies in accountancy to help run the family cinema in Cappaghmore when his dad died suddenly from a heart attack.
There have been tough times and, last year, thousands of euro were stolen from the safe by heartless thieves. Teresa is trying to get to grips with the details of running a cinema, but she’s learning fast. Best of all, she and Kieran are determined to keep the cinema going. “Our staff have been so good to us,” she says.
Kieran had been checking out the possibility of live streaming concerts and sporting events. He had big plans.
The kids come in from school and Kieran gets a smile out. Teresa, I know, struggles to come to terms with how it is that such a decent man suffers so much. She is loyal to him as a full-time carer on a break from her job in the civil service, and loyal to his vision for the family-run cinema. Such is the practicality of true love and mutual respect.
Teresa sent me a link to a Radio Kerry interview with John Herlihy, where Kieran speaks of his love of the sounds of the old cinema projection room with the 35mm reels. “We treasure that now,” she says. “It’s all we have of his voice.”
He shuffles in his wheelchair to attract my attention. He shows me the screen on his phone. This week, Kieran is showing ‘The Revenant’ and ‘Creed’, as well as kids’ movies. Still promoting his cinema as he fights for every movement. There is such a powerful, undefeated will within him. As I leave, I kiss my friend gently on the head and thank him for all he has done for all of us.
Kieran was a lovely kind man. His screen 3 was the only one which was wheelchair accessible. Kieran offered to show any film which normally was showing in One or Two in Screen 3 on a Monday night, just to suit Jim Cogan. All we had to do was ask.
It was an offer we never took him up on but we greatly appreciated the kind gesture.
At every stage of the loving restoration of this building, its facade offers us a new aspect to the Church Street streetscape. This premises has been looking neglected for many years. I predict it will be one of the most beautiful shopfronts on the street when it is finished. Thank you everyone involved.
The News is Out
All over town.
Signs have appeared alerting us all to our new amenity, The long awaited Greenway.
Writers Week 1973
Matt Mooney sent me this brochure from Writers Week 1973
Nadd, Co Cork
A rare sight nowadays! I was only too glad to wait as this Fresian crossing took me back a good few years.