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: History Page 1 of 27

Poetry, Drama and Memories

The Big Bridge in May 2024

+ Nóra Relihan R.I.P+

Photo credit: Paul O’Flynn

Nóra Relihan, who passed away on June 14th 2024, deserves a statue in her honour in her adopted town of Listowel, for Nóra was central to every significant cultural development in Listowel during her lifetime. She packed more into her life than many people do in many lifetimes.

Nóra was named Kerry Person of the Year 2023

(Photo and text from Kerry Association in Dublin)

Nóra had a varied career throughout her lifetime with solo tours, drama, TV, and film appearances, including “Fair City” and TG4 film “Limbo”.

Jimmy Deenihan, Chairperson of the Selection Committee, said “Nóra Relihan richly deserves this prestigious award in recognition of her immense contribution to the promotion of the Arts during her lifetime. One of her greatest achievements was the establishment of St. John’s Theatre and Arts Centre in Listowel which is regarded as the premier small arts centre in the country. She now joins the pantheon of renowned Kerry Artists who have received the award to date including Pauline Bewick, Brendan Kennelly, Fr Tony Gaughin and Fr Pat Aherne”.

In announcing the award, Mary Shanahan, Chairperson of the Kerry Association in Dublin said “Nóra has made a unique contribution to the promotion of the Arts in Kerry and nationally. She deservedly merits the accolade “Voice of the Kingdom” for her role as Director, entertainer, broadcaster and for her role in the various arts activities in North Kerry”.

In accepting the award Nóra Relihan said; “I am delighted and honoured to receive this award from the Kerry Association; it is a really lovely tribute to my interest and work in the arts over many decades”.

Photo from Kay Caball

Nóra (in sunglasses) with John B. Keane and the cast of Sive. On the right is Dan Moloney T.D. who entertained them in the Dáil after their big win in the All Ireland Drama Festival in 1959.

Here Nóra remembers her performance as Mena Glavin. Nóra, always glamorous and stylish, transformed into the shrewish, put- upon Mena was a triumph of acting.

Nóra was also an evocative writer.

Photo from Kay Caball …..Nóra, second from left with the cast of Drama at Inish in 1955.

Nóra loved the stage. Whether as a cast member in a big production, as a solo performer, performing on location, touring, or producing, the stage was Nóra’s home. It was fitting that her family returned her to St. John’s in Listowel to bring the curtain down on her long life.

Nóra is remembered in Kerry for her programmes on Radio Kerry, her Signposts to Kerry and Hospitals Requests. Her mellifluous voice was perfect for radio.

I took this photo with Phil in John B. Keane’s pub during one of Nóra’s final performances, a one woman show.

Nóra with her neighbours on Nunday in 2012.

Nóra at Writers Week in 2014 with Brenda Woulfe and Mike Lynch.

Nóra with her great friend and co founder of Listowel Writers’ Week, Noreen Buckley, was honoured at a commemorative meal in 2014.

With Joe Murphy in St. John’s

Nóra Relihan leaves behind a cultural legacy to her beloved Kerry. We will not see her likes again.

A great lady has exited the stage. We are lucky to have known her.

Monday, May 17 2024


Michael Guerin, Owen MacMahon and Mary McKenna on the Friday morning walk at Writers’ Week 2024.

Owen was an excellent Byrne in Listowel Drama Group’s recent production of John B. Keane’s Big Maggie. Mary was only 10 when her late father played the same role with Kilcullen Drama Group in the first ever amateur production of the play many moons ago.

The cast….Mary’s late dad was Johnny O’Neill. The play won many accolades at the festivals. Johnny won the award for Best supporting actor at the All Ireland final in Athlone.

The Sullivans

This is an extract from Ireland’s Own. It contradicts what I had always believed, i.e. that ÓSúilleabháin meant one eyed rather than dark eyed.

Another Fascinating Fact

The contrary Mary of the nursery rhyme was known as Bloody Mary, the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII. Queen Mary was a fanatical Catholic. She tortured and killed Protestants and buried them in her “garden”. Her ‘silver bells’ were thumbscrews and “cockle shells” were instruments of torture attached to male genitalia.


The Beauty that is Listowel

Flower lined road to the courthouse in June 2014

Loss of Innocence

Listowel poet, Paddy Glavin, mined his Listowel memories for inspiration.

This poem resonates with me these days as I learn of the catastrophic fish kill in my hometown.

Due to a terrible misadventure at the Uisce Eireann water treatment plant at Freemount, toxic water was discharged into the river Allow, a tributary of the Blackwater. For a stretch of at least 4 kilometers, everything was poisoned. Even the insects didn’t escape.

Signs of Growth

This premises is getting a massive makeover.

When I came to town it was Crowley’s shop.

The shop has had many changes of business since and many coats of paint, layered over old coats of paint.

On Martin Moore’s Walk

We were lucky to have on the walk as well as Matin, our guide, two very knowledgeable local men.

The above picture is of Michael Guerin telling us watery stories. Did you know that once the water supply went so horribly wrong that the water, instead of coming from the river, flowed the wrong way and nearly flooded the town.

It is a great pity that this walk wasn’t recorded as it was full of stories and anecdotes that deserve a wider audience.

Conscription: a Hot Topic in 1016

The Liberator (Tralee), Thursday, October 05, 1916

Emigration; When they know the worth of Irishmen as lighting men they stop emigration to keep them at home that weekly a few might go to fight for England’s glory and nothing for Ireland but to wait until after the war.. What was to stop England in June, 1914, giving Home Rule to Ireland. Had they given it then the men who were now opposing the threats of conscription would give it their support. They had a starving agricultural little country, without trade or commerce or manufactures. He was sorry that Mr. Redmond and the Irish Party before they started the recruiting campaign did not say that the shores of Ireland would be defended by Irishmen. Mr. Redmond and his Party were now going to oppose conscription. “Why did they not oppose it when they had an opportunity? He was not one of those men who would set one party against another, but he should say that the present Irish Parliamentary Party has as hopelessly failed as ever a Party in God’s earthly world. Many the Convention he (Mr. O’Shea) trotted up to Dublin for and left his bed at three o’clock in the morning for a minor little question, but why would not a Conscription convention of the Irish people be summoned to give expression to the views of the people. The Party want to divide the country. Redmond divided the Volunteers and is trying to divide the people to attain his own selfish ends

(Jer Kennelly found this in an old newspaper. Unfortunately he didn’t record who was speaking.)

A Fact

King Charles 111 was crowned in 2022. The first coins bearing his image did not go into circulation until December 2023..


Lovely People

Collecting for the hospice on Friday June 7 2024. The amount collected was €11,028

When I called to Carroll’s last week I was served by my lovely smiling past pupil, Máire. She is home and helping her dad in the shop as she builds up her make up artist’s business.

Lovely to see the next generation in this iconic local business.

A Picture of Friendship and Love

This is Kevin Sinfield, carrying the limp body of his friend Rob Burrow over the finish line in the first Rob Burrow Marathon in Leeds.

Kevin and Rob were friends and team mates in their Leeds Rhinos rugby team. When Rob was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2019 at the age of 36, he had a wife and three young children. Kevin stepped up to help his friend, encouraging him to write an autobiography, organising fundraising events, writing a children’s pocketbook about friendship and generally being there for him.

Rob passed away on June 2 2024.

At The Flemings

On the Sunday of Writers’ Week, one of the events on the packed schedule was a chat with Derry and Tadhg Fleming. Earlier in the festival, they had been awarded a prize in the new category of digital storytelling.

Peggy and I were a bit surprised to find ourselves awaiting admission alongside Fr. Antony Gaughan.

Mystery solved. Fr. Gaughan is not actually a TikTok fan. He was there to meet Deirdre Walshe who was there to interview the Flemings.

Friends, Noreen and Marylyn were on their way out of the Barbara Scully event as Bridget went in to The Flemings.

Derry and Tadhg were relaxed guests chatting about family, trolls, the growth of their online following, where they get inspiration from (Tadhg’s head). The vibe was just as it comes across in their videos, a close happy family helping each other out in a fun way.

Maureen and Derry posed with me and my friends Bridget and Peggy…lovely people.

From the Papers

New York NY Irish American Advocate 1916-1918 pdf

Mr. James J. O’Neill, Librarian of National University of Ireland, in a series of monthly lectures at the Carnegie Library, Listowel, Co. Kerry, read an interested paper on some distinguished Kerrymen.”

Mr. O’Neill after a rapid survey of Ireland’s ancient scholars, and their merits said that Kerry had just cause to be proud of its place in its countries roll of fame. In view of the fact that Irish born dramatic writers and Irish born players have contributed so largely to English  dramatic literature, and to acting on the English speaking stage is not surprising to find the name of a  Kerryman prominent among the writers of that literature. Hugh Kelly,? the Kerry dramatist was born in Killarney in 1739. At an early age he removed to Dublin with his course he was apprenticed to n stay maker during his apprenticeship the family, and after the usual school made the acquaintance of many of the players who performed In the Old Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin.


Richard Cantillon, the political economist, sprang from a Kerry family He was born at Ballyheigue.

Among the writers in English we have the names of Bartholomew Dowling, Mrs. Mary Downing and Maurice O’Connell. Bartholomew Dowling was born in this town ? emigrated to Canada

 ballad “The Brigade at Fontenoy,” appeared without any signature. In 1848 Dowling went to France and from, thence he sailed to America, where he engaged in farming In 1858 he became editor of the San Francisco Monitor. ——————————————- Died in institution run by Rev. Mother Russell, sister of Lord Russell.- ———————————-

Mrs. Mary Downing was the daughter of Daniel MacCarthy of Kilfadimore, near Kenmare.

Henry O Brien, one of the most celebrated antiquaries of the early 19th Century, was born in Kerry In 1808. He was educated, at Trinity College ——————–

and we find some very scathing references to Moore, and the Royal Irish Academy, who refused to grant O’Brien the price for his essay ——————————-

A Fact

King Charles 111 image is featured on the front of British banknotes since June 5 2024. The back of the notes remains unchanged.

The £5 has Winston Churchill on the back.

The €10 has Jane Austen..

The £20 has the artist JMW Turner

The £50 has Alan Turing, the computer pioneer.


May Day

Wild garlic in Gurtinard in April 2024

Today is May 1 2024

Mayday, according to tradition is a day when the fairies are up to mischief. They might steal dairy produce or even children at this time so it was a time for vigilance.

May day was also the day for the hiring fair. Extra labour would be needed for saving the hay and cutting the turf so men in search of work came into town to meet up with potential employers.

“Im’ spailpín fánach fágadh mise

Ag seasamh ar mo shláinte…”

May was a time for the young and the strong. May poles, bonfires, May queens are symbols of this time of year.

In Ireland we have turned the tables and Bealtaine is a time for celebrating age and maturity.

Thomas F. O’Sullivan

Who was Thomas F. O’Sullivan who trolled John J Foley in the pages of the Kerry newspapers for a short time in 1901?

In my opinion he is a man who should have known better. He let himself down badly in continuing to torment a popular local entertainer.

If you have ever taken one of Vincent Carmody’s informative walking tours you will have heard of this man. He was a very well respected journalist, so highly regarded that there was a suggestion that he deserved a memorial erected in his memory. His best known work is his history of the GAA

Here is what David O’Sullivan found about him.

O’Sullivan was born in Listowel in 1874. He developed an early interest in the GAA and in 1893 at the age of nineteen became secretary of the newly formed Listowel Temperance Football Team. In 1899 he became secretary of the Listowel GAA. He was appointed county secretary after the Kerry board was reformed in 1900. In 1903 he was appointed president of the Munster GAA council. He continued as secretary of the Kerry board until he moved to Dublin to write for the Freeman’s Journal in 1907. O’Sullivan held a number of positions for that newspaper, including a spell as parliamentary correspondent in London from 1916, until its demise in 1924. His Story of the GAA (1916) was the first ever history of the association.

O’Sullivan wrote several books and was a frequent contributor to The Kerryman.

John J. Foley passed away in 1941

Our thanks are due to Christan Bush, whose email sparked our interest in this local spat.

Commemorative Seats in Town

Listowel, like many Irish towns has come up with ways of remembering local people who we loved and lost. One of these ways is the placing of seats in memory of the loved one in the park or by the river.

Here are a few I see regularly on my walk.

Along the banks of the Feale are these two;

My picture of the tree is dark and shadowed even though the day was sunny.

A Favourite Poem

Mossbawn or Gneeveguilla, poet or storyteller, we all mine our childhood experiences for inspiration.

A Fact

Pluto takes 248 years to orbit the sun.


In Dublin

Easter 2024 altar in St. Mary’s Church

It all Happened Again, and Again and Again

From Pres. Secondary School yearbook 2004/05

Knocknagoshel Phoenix 2006

The Big Smoke

I took the train from Farranfore with my friend, Peggy, on a mission to see our old friends who usually travel in the other direction to meet us.

This sign is at the entrance to the station. Take a half a look at the translation of Live train/ platform information.

Did no one check it before it went up?

Who signed off on it?

We visited The National Gallery. It’s a beautiful place, so much more worthwhile than the shops.

The only shopping we did was in the National Gallery. There I spotted a Listowel connection, two displays of Anna Guerin’s Sock Co op souvenir socks.

More Flowers

We have a Champion

Schools 5- a -side soccer is like World Cup when you are 11.

Cora and her Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin team are Cork champions and Cora got the award for “Player of the Tournament”. On now to Munster in May.

A Fact

The most difficult tongue twister in the world is

“The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.”


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