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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

Category: History Page 1 of 13

Dress Dance in 1956

In Cromane by Chris Grayson

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A Grand Affair

One of the highlights of the North Kerry social calendar used to be the Teachers Dress Dance.

Kathy Reynolds shared the link to Tony Fitzmaurice’s photographs of the 1956 dance and an abridged version of an essay first published in The Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine 2021 outlining the work of the ballroom photographer and Kathy’s efforts to reunite the photographs with their subjects or their families.

Teachers Dress Dance in Walsh’s Ballroom in 1956

The Ballroom Photographer

Teacher’s Dress Dance 18th Nov ’56 Band; J McGinty.

That was my introduction to the ledger where the late Tony Fitzmaurice (RIP), Ballybunion, kept a record of his semi-professional photography. In the back of the ledger was some headed paper and this introduced me to “Tony’s Photo Service & Kerry’s Youngest and Best Ballroom Photographer”!

Tony was my father’s first cousin and I was familiar with his photography all my life. As a small child his special dark-room partitioned from the bottom of the kitchen was a source of fascination. As an adult I became more aware of his photography as it was a hobby we shared and he was generous with his advice as I developed my interest. On holiday or at any event Tony always had a camera to hand but it was only on his death in 2019, when his widow Madeline asked my family to look after his photography, that I found out about his life as a Ballroom Photographer.

His ledger recorded every detail of his semi-professional photography business which co-existed alongside his job as a Kerry County Council employee. The ledger gives us a look at the work of a 1950/60s Ballroom Photographer.  The Teachers Dress Dance on the 18th November 1956 with music by Joe McGinty was his first professional engagement. A 10 minute video showing photographs from the event can be found at  https://vimeo.com/666457253  Can anyone recognise teachers from their childhood? Looking at some of the posters in the room and as most of the money for the photographs came via Jim Walsh I assume the venue was Walsh’s Super Ballroom, Listowel, where Tony was resident photographer. His card with a unique number given to everyone he photographed tells us that proofs could be inspected at Mr. Jim Walsh’s, William Street, Listowel. Photographs were available in two sizes, Postcard (3.5 x 5.5 inches) or large (6.5 x 8 inches) costing 2 or 3 shillings (10 or 15p). Photographs were relatively expensive back in the 1950/60s when you consider that today a standard 6×4 inch print can be printed for as little as 5p at my local supermarket and the 8×6 for just 15p.

In the 1950s not many homes had a camera and so the Ballroom Photographer had a good market. The accounts for the teacher’s dance show that 70 photographs were taken and 90 prints were sold making a gross profit of £7 3s 9d on the night. Of course the capital cost of cameras, flashguns and darkroom equipment had to be covered as well as a payment to the Ballroom owner. The 1957 Teacher’s Dance was much larger with about 350 people present, 380 prints sold generating a gross profit of £24 13s 8d. In addition to the teachers other groups had annual dances such as The Post Office Staff,  Macra na Feirme and North Kerry Farmers. 

In his 6 years as a semi-professional photographer dances at the Super Ballroom occurred mainly from September to May with the busiest period being Listowel Race week with dances from Sunday to Thursday night with approximately 800 photographs taken.  Over the 6 years the most popular act was Chick Smith with 23 appearances followed by Denis Cronin and Mick Delahunty with 12 and 11 appearances respectively. International stars of the 1950s and 60s such as Eddie Calvert and his Golden Trumpet, Johnny Dankworth, Anne Sheldon and Winifred Atwell also made appearances. Tony’s ledger notes that Bridie Gallagher appeared 5 times drawing audiences of 1,500 to 2,000, indeed on 11th December 1960 Tony notes that the ballroom was too crowded leaving one to wonder just how big the audience was. St Patrick’s night and St Stephen’s night also drew large crowds but not every night was a success.  One such night received the withering comment “poor crowd — hopeless band”.

Although dances at the Super Ballroom accounted for most of Tony’s photography (26,600 negatives carefully stored) during these 6 years he also photographed local events, a few weddings, friends and family. One such event was in December 1959, children sitting on Santa’s lap at McKenna’s, Listowel. This will cover children from across North Kerry and the images can be found at https://vimeo.com/647951277 . It is my intention to try to reconnect the photos with the people or communities they came from. The easiest way for me to share them is as video slide shows, all are or will be titled North Kerry People 1..2..3 etc and they can be found by searching the internet for North Kerry People Vimeo. The 26,000+ Super Ballroom negatives is a very long term project, it will take many long winter days to scan them but I would like at some time to make the archive available in North Kerry for social history purposes.    

Many thanks to those, too many to name, who have already helped put names to many faces.

Autographed photo of Bridie Gallagher

Kathy Reynolds (Fitzmaurice), Oakham, Rutland, UK and previously Moybella, Lisselton.    

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Graffiti or Street Art

(Image and text from Yay Cork)

Asbestos’ mural on South Main Street has been featured in the Street Art Cities’ Top 100 list. The mural has won great admiration since its completion as part of the Ardú Street Art Project in 2021, and is now eligible to be voted for as the best piece of street art in the world.

Tim Marschang, who is the organiser behind the list and the competition, explained how each work was selected, saying: “For the past 12 months Street Art Cities selected some of the best murals across the globe and shared it on their popular Instagram Story polls letting the audience decide.” Over 100,000 votes were counted.

“This resulted in a list of 100 most popular artworks of 2021. And it’s literally a global list with murals from every corner of the planet, from Denmark to South Africa, From Lima to Brisbane, take a look and pick your favourites.” If you want to support Cork and Asbestos, you can vote here. Voting closes on February 6th.

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A Coup for a Writer with a Listowel Connection

Photo of Colm Tóibín by Barry Cronin

Colm Tóibín who is President of Listowel Writers’ Week has been appointed Laureate for Irish Fiction 2022 to 2024. He is a very popular choice nationally and internationally but especially in Listowel.

Isn’t Barry Cronin’s photograph gas?

At Writers Week 2019 I photographed Colm Tóibín with Rick O’Shea, John Boyne and Joseph O’Connor. I hope photo ops like this will come my way again in 2022.

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Emigration

Cromane; Photo; Chris Grayson

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A Prayer for My Daughter

By Gabriel Byrne

You are born in love and pain.
Given to us for a short time only.
Before we must let you go again, with love and pain.
One day you’ll come to know how close they are, one to the other.
You are a treasure, a blessing, a prayer’s answer,
A jig in my Irish soul.
You are me, and I am you.
You are both of us, the love of your mother and me.
Let me be worthy of you.
Let me lead you to truth, to beauty, to the mystery of the universe.
You will ask me great questions, and sometimes I will not know the answers.
Perhaps we are not meant to know some things.
That is life too… a seeking.
It may be our only purpose here.
All things are changing, always.
Yesterday is dust, tomorrow a dream.
Our gift is now.
And so, my sweet angel, may you know love, and be loved in return.
May you know truth, and laughter, and peace, and happiness,
And may the great spirit of the universe enfold you in his arms, and keep you safe, for always.

Éamon ÓMurchú sent us this lovely poem by Gabriel Byrne around the time that the nation was in mourning for Ashling Murphy.

Walking Among Ghosts

Gabriel Byrne, one of our most successful actors is also a skilled writer. His recent interview with Tommy Tiernan showed us another side of him.

A story that he told resonated with me. In case you missed it, here is is.

In the old Irish legend Niamh Cinn Óir lured Óisín to come with her to Tír na nÓg. She promised him happiness and eternal youth. He went with her and he was happy and youthful. One day Niamh asked him if he was contented. He replied that he was but he missed his fiends at home. So Niamh granted him his wish to go back to Ireland and see his old country and his old friends.

Alas, the country was changed utterly and his friends were gone. He found himself walking among ghosts.

Byrne was telling us that this is the story of every emigrant.

It is a story I hear often from followers of Listowel Connection.

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Handball Days

John Croghan and Autie Galvin being presented by John Joe Kenny with the Joe James Handball shield.

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A Jorum?

This is part of Dan Hartnett’s collection of old receptacles. I think these were for whiskey or beer. If memory serves me right we used to call them jorums.

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Listowel Town Square is changing. Here is something I photographed for you from last week’s Kerryman.

The section of Greenway from Abbeyfeale to Listowel is scheduled to be ready for summer 2022.

Kerry Co. Council have shared this video of progress so far.

Abbeyfeale to Listowel Greenway

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A Thought Found on Twitter

“Takiwatanga” is the Maori word for autism and it means “In their own time and space”.

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Then and Now

Ballybunion; Photograph by Sharon of Simple Snaps by Sharon

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Relocating

Purtill Solicitors has relocated from The Square to Church Street

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1983

In 1983 the secondary school was extending its footprint. another extension is planned soon.

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The Land

by John McGrath

I stand in fields where my forefathers stood once

And feel the dreams of those who’ve gone before me.

I tramp through damp and half-remembered pastures,

The folds and features of the land that bore me

All around.  Above the sound of lark’s song,

Below the spring of earth beneath my feet,

The green and gold of April in the hedgerow,

The purple haze where sky and heather meet.

Where mighty men have thought to mark their passing

The furze creeps back to mock the spade and plough,

Those futile epitaphs of generations

In Folk Museums condemned to moulder now.

Where men have raised a fence or tilled a furrow

The land, as if to scorn their simple gains,

Erases each proud trace until tomorrow.

The men have gone; the land alone remains.

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A Timely Song

Here we come a wassailing

Among the leaves so green

Here we come a wassailing, so fair to be seen…..

So what exactly is wassailing?

  • Singing and drinking, usually associated with Christmas time.
  • Going around orchards at the beginning of a new year, blessing the trees and praying for a fruitful year.
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Listowel Technical School Hurling and Football teams back in the day.

The late Tom Galvin posted this photo on Facebook and Marie Shine supplied some of the names;

Back row, left, 2nd – Tim Hartnett.Ennismore, 6th: Danny Fealey, Ballygologue Road.

2nd Row left: Now Garda Tim Reidy, Lixnaw, 3rd: Roger Connor (Mike The Pies), 5th: Billy Walsh Greenville 7th: Gerry Carey Convent Street 10th: Michael Nagle, Ballybunion Front Row: Right of Tod Nolan (RIP): ? Costello Ballybunion.

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Changes

Ballybunion Photo by Simple Snaps by Sharon

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A Change in the Weather

Jean Byrne has quietly slipped from our screens. She retired in October 2021 according to a story in RSVP.

“Jean, from Tarbert in Co Kerry, had become a household name since first appearing on our TV screens in 1996.

She became famous for her daring style with her often eye catching outfits causing a storm online.

She also became a firm favourite with viewers after appearing on Celebrity Home of the year in 2019.”

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Confirmation Day 1960

Kathy Reynolds has been in touch to tell us that she has uploaded another tranche of precious old photographs.

This album is called North Kerry People, Episode 4 and it features Confirmation Day in Ballybunion in 1960. The photos were taken by the late Tony Fitzmaurice

Kathy says “By 1963 (maybe) but definitely 1966 children were confirmed in Ballydonoghue Church as I was confirmed there, Ballydonoghue having separated from Ballybunion Parish and got it’s own PP. However I have just learnt that Ballydonoghue lost it’s PP in 2021 and he will not be replaced so it will once again be reliant on priests from surrounding parishes. I wonder if confirmations will once again be held in Ballybunion.”

If you recognise someone in the photos will you contact Kathy , kathymreynolds@icloud.com . She is anxious to put names to the people in the photos.

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Listowel Is Changing

On Friday January 14 2021, I met Andy Smith who was in town overseeing the big changes that are afoot.

The Square will soon see the installation of a series of canopies. These will be permanent structures covering an area that will be used for outdoor dining and performance. This will be the new normal as we embrace our outdoor lifestyle.

This is Bridge Road. The pavement is on the left, the next section will be a cycleway.

I took this photo in the old Neodata site where it is all systems go to join up this new cycleway with the Greenway.

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Presentation School Magazine 1983

In 1983 the school magazine was produced by the secondary and primary schools. I remember the event described here well.

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A Brilliant Teacher Remembered

John O’Leary has been in touch. Here is a part of his email;

Hi Mary,

My name is John O’Leary. For so many years I have been trying to 
find a person who would get me in contact with a relation of a teacher 
who taught me back 1959 in the Beara peninsula. Her name was Sheila 
Enright from Old Bridge Road Listowel, a brilliant teacher.

If you can help John please get in touch.

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1959 Donkey Derby

Sunrise on Galway Bay by Éamon ÓMurchú

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Donkey Derbies

Donkeys in Race Week 1959

I saved the following poem years ago. Unfortunately I never noted the name of the poet. If you wrote it or you know who did, will you let me know and I’ll credit them.

Listowel Donkey Derby 1959

The weather being fine, being fifty nine and the races drawing nigh

To win the donkey derby sure our hopes were very high.

So we called on all the donkeys that might win cup or bowl

And we started preparations for the derby in Listowel.

The donkeys came in dozens, some were fast and some were slow,

But sure that’s the way you’ll find them no matter where you go

But we put them through their paces and we raced them past the pole

And twas all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

We had Nixes grey and Driscolls bay, she showed a little blemish

John Joe brought our camera in case of a photo finish

When Lady Barney won the second race, Dan Riordan scratched his pole

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Nedeen Buckley came with Sad Dust and Nellies Morning Dew

This was a kind of challenge race and t’was left between the two

Then Margaret came on Forge Road Lad, He’s the sire of a foal

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

When Shanahan’s Stamps came winning home, the crowd they gave a roar

They heard it back in Coolagown and down through Ennismore

Bob Stack got so excited, he ran up the winning pole

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Scortlea’s Hope when going well, won many a thrilling race

He ran his best to half a length and that was no disgrace

But when Casey down from Dromerin,  said he couldn’t run with goats

Sure his feeding was substandard, it was small Kilarda oats.

When Phil arrived on Gurtinard Lad,  Sean’s donkey gave a wink

He started like a bullet and gave him no time to think

Our jockeys rode like professionals both fearless and bold

And there’s one thing I can vouch for; a race was never sold.

The crowd grew larger every night, they came from far and near

Elsey , Kit and Minnie came the winners home to cheer

We had Bertha , Paul and Bridie, sure they played their usual role

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Eileen came with Kathleen and Bridge came running fast

Sure Mary nearly broke her neck in case she might be last

Ginette was there from London oh my heart she nearly stole

And t’was all in preparation for the Derby in Listowel.

So then when the fun was over and we picked our chosen few

We raced them down Church Street where we met our Waterloo

But such is life, there is always strife in trying to reach your goal

Still our hopes are high for another try at the derby in Listowel.

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Ferry at Rest

Breda Ferris took this photo of the Tarbert ferry. This is what she wrote about it when she posted it on Facebook;

‘Shannon Breeze’ Ferry leaves Tarbert and sails to Kilimer without any passengers. It is a terrific service when you consider the cost of doing this. Wonder should they have a booking service only during winter. Would surely save some money

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John Lawlor’s Tragic Death in 1921

(From Glin Historical Society)

Kerrys fight for Freedom 

John Lawlor was born on May 3rd 1903. His father was Listowel’s parish clerk and the family lived in Convent street. He was a member of the Irish Volunteers and at the time of his death was studying for the priesthood.

In November 1920 John’s father refused to ring the bells of Listowel church to mark armistice day and he was subsequently threatened and lived in fear of the RIC and Black and Tans.

A month later John was home on holiday from his clerical studies from All Hallows College, Dublin. On New year’s Eve as he was going to church he was accosted by a group of Black and Tans on William Street and brutally assaulted. This unprovoked attack was in response to his father’s refusal to comply with the request to commemorate Armistice Day. 

John Lawlor died from his injuries on New Year’s Day was was buried in Listowel cemetery. He was 17 years old.

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Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival 2022

BBF 2022, our local bardic festival will take place this year

– March 24th to 27th.

The committee are currently making plans today for workshops.

Closing date for entries to the writing competitions is February 28 2022.

For full details of the festival click on this link.

Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival 2022

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