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 19

Memories from Clounmacon and Kanturk

Corner of Listowel Town Square on Dec 2 2022

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My favourite Grinch Window Display

Once again Doran’s Pharmacy on Church Street has a beautiful creative and entertaining Christmas window .

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From An Sleán

A Clounmacon Journal from Christmas 1985

Bryan MacMahon remembers old Clounmacon and old Clounmacon people.

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More Photos from Garda Centenary Commemorations in Listowel

These are some of the people gathered to celebrate with Kerry gardaí

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In Kanturk we were once Dead Posh

Source: Facebook Group, Kanturk Memories

( De Valera’s “comely maidens” had nothing to our “bright faced, laughing young girls”)

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Aoife in The Christmas Shop

On Aoife’s visit we had to visit the Winter Wonderland that is Listowel Garden Centre Christmas Shop.

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Christmas Crafts

St. John’s, Listowel Nov 2022

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Crafting Revival

I love to see enterprising young people practicing old crafts. Ballylongford was the place to be on Sunday November 20 2022. The Community Centre was jammed with beautiful things and lovely crafters.

My daughter in law, Carine, was delighted with her purchases from the Mulvihill family stall. She is holding the unique willow wreath which she plans to put on her door. She also loves the flower picture she got for her kitchen.

This engaging young lady was rocking an equine theme with lightweight horseshoe ornaments for every occasion.

I remember a time when every bride carried a horseshoe as well as her bouquet.

This is what the internet says about the horseshoe as a symbol of luck;

Although the origins are not exactly known, it is believed that the horseshoe became the symbol of luck when the eighth century Chaldeans thought its crescent shape represented various moon goddesses thus protecting against the curse of the evil eye.

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Remembering Childhood Christmases in Listowel

Margaret Dillon kindly answered my call. Here is her account of childhood Christmases in pre digital days.

These days Christmas is heralded by a marathon of Festive adverts which start earlier each year. Back in the 40’s and 50’s we didn’t have Television so we weren’t subjected to that constant bombardment. Nevertheless we had full and plenty of all the Christmas essentials. Listowel was a busy bustling town back then, the shops were full of all sorts of goodies. Of couse as children we were only interested in the Toy shops particulary Fitzgibbon’s and Walsh’s corner shop. Walsh’s window had a nodding Santa  which was a great attraction.  We couldn’t contain ourselves on Christmas morning as we opened our presents. Santa was a wonder then and he still is to all children. 

On the home front , the  decorations were put up  across the ceiling from corner to corner. The Holly was put behind the pictures and most important of all the crib was put on the sideboard or windowsill. The cake and plum pudding were already made. While Mam was making the cake we made our wishes as we stirred the mixture. A few days beforehand a goose ( for the New Year celebrations) and a flitch of hairy bacon to go wth the turkey arrived from our Clare relations.  My mother and the neighbours Mrs Hickey and Mrs Brennan bought  the live turkeys in the market,  Mrs Brennan did the killing and we plucked our own, making sure to keep the wings. They served as dusters around the range and grate for the rest of the year.

The big shop was done shortly before the big day in John Joe’s and the  reward  for our business during the year was the Christmas box. This was like a mini hamper containing tea, a pot of jam and maybe an Oxford Lunch cake. The drinks order of minerals, bottles of Guinness and a bottle of Sherry  arrived from John R’s in a large timber box.  

Of course Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the Christmas hymns “Away in a Manger” or “Angels we have heard on High” Or the Christmas songs “Jingle Bells” , “Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”  Adeste Fidelis was sung at  Mass on Christmas Day After Mass we stayed back to visit and welcome Baby Jesus in the crib. During the holidays we paid regular visit to the cribs in the parish church and the convent chapel.

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Boyeens to Men

My lovely boyeens spent a lot of time in Listowel as children. They always surprise me with their recall of things we did together on their Kerry holidays.

Killian on the Greenway in Nov 2022

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Folklore in The Library

Tom Dillon was his usual entertaining and informative self in Listowel Library last week when he filled us in on the origins of place names.

Placenames are in danger of being lost as we move to Eircodes.

Tom told us that the fishermen had names for various parts of the Feale. Now that fishing is no more these names are in danger of being lost.

I did not know this until Tom told us but wags in Tralee have invented a new place name. They call the Corrib Oil station the Mini Barack Obama.

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Christmas Market 2022

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Looking Back and Forward

Childers Park 2022

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A Different Kind of Covid Poem

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In Listowel we Remembered

November is the time set aside for remembering our war dead. In Listowel we have a dedicated band of volunteers who make sure we never forget.

Flags at the altar rails in St. Mary’s Listowel on Saturday November 12 2022

Prayers of the Faithful were read by retired and serving members of the Irish Army reserve.

These last 2 screen grabs are of refugees from the war in Ukraine who prayed with us in English and Ukrainian.

The mass was celebrated by Canon Declan O’Connor, himself a former soldier of the FCA, and by Fr. Martin Hegarty.

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Christmas as it Used to be

In this great little book, Stephen Newman has curated a collection of Christmas reminiscences from the National Archives.

I’d love if Listowel people would send us some of their own stories of Christmases past.

I remember a kind of novena we had. It was called “A crib for Baby Jesus” and there was a set number of prayers for each element of the crib and these had to be said every day during Advent.

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Shall we Dance

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Listowel Success Stories

Ballybunion in Nov 2022

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My Friends in Vincents

Vincents of William Street, Listowel, is one of my all time favourite shops. Recently I am meeting many new people manning the shop on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Helen, Theresa and Eileen
Frances, Mary and Hannah

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A Laugh from Mattie Lennon

An elderly man, in Listowel,  was quite unhappy because he had lost his favorite hat. Even though he was a man like myself who was always as honest as hard times would allow, rather than purchasing a new one, he decided he would go to church and steal one.. When he got there, an usher intercepted him at the door and took him to a pew where he had to sit and listen to an entire sermon on the Ten Commandments. After church, the man met the Priest  in the vestry  doorway, shook his hand vigorously and said, “I want to thank you for saving my soul today, Father. I came to church to steal a hat, but after hearing your sermon on the Ten Commandments, I decided against it.” “You mean the Commandment, Thou shall not steal, changed your mind?” the Priest  asked. “No, the one about adultery did,” the man said. “As soon as you said that, I remembered where I left my old hat.”

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Listowel Tidy Towns

The good people of Listowel Tidy Towns held a great local awards night recently. They have shared photos of all the winners on their Facebook page

Listowel Tidy Towns

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A Listowel Success Story

Seamus Given sent us an account of this one.

No Magic Pill is as play by Christian OReilly. It played to universal acclaim at the recent Dublin Theatre Festival.

“It had previously run in the Black Box Galway and had its Dublin opening night on 5 October. 
It is a dramatisation of a campaign for independence for disabled people in Ireland, based on the life of Martin Naughton.
It was rapturously received by the Dublin opening night audience, which included many Listowel residents and Dublin exiles.
It continues Christian’s stellar year. His play “The Good Father“ presented by Bunclody/Kilmyshall Drama Group was placed second in the Athlone All-Ireland Drama Festival in May and his play “Chapatti”, presented by the Palace Players from Kilworth, came third.” Seamus Given.

Christian is a native of Listowel.

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What I’m Reading

They now have copies of this book in Woulfe’s and Kerry writers’ Museum.

Noel Grimes is a native of Listowel. He now lives in Killarney. His book is a very readable account of the Famine in the Killarney area. It is perfect for someone who wants the sad story in accessible form. I highly recommend it.

Well done and thank you, Noel!

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Mid Term Break

Cora Darby in Listowel with Nana for mid term break November 2022

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Junior Griffin and Listowel Pitch and Putt Club

I was in Ballybunion with my weekend visitors when I met the very obliging Imelda Breen, niece of Junior Griffin. She and Junior were enjoying an outing to the beach on a lovely unseasonably sunny November Saturday.

I knew from many conversations with the great memory man, Junior, that he was into pitch and putt at its very beginning in Listowel. Sure enough, Junior had kept the memorabilia.

Junior is a lifetime member of the club. He was given this honour in response to the fundraising he had done in the early days of the course development.

Junior’s membership card confirms that the club was in existence in 1971.

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My Ballincollig Bookclub

I spend a good bit of time in Ballincollig where most of my family live. I am a member of the library bookclub. At our last meeting we were honoured to have Tadhg Coakley as our guest. Tadhg’s marvellous book Game is shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year. In my humble opinion, while it is a brilliant book, it may be pipped by Listowel’s own Healyracing Point to Point. I didn’t tell Tadhg that.

Confession time. I am not a reader of Sports’ Books usually so these are the only 2 of the short list I have read. I’d highly recommend both.

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David Kissane and the Dublin Marathon

David posted this essay on Facebook as he prepared for another great feat of running.

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All bibbed up for this Sunday’s Irish Life Dublin Marathon…now read on…

                            We Who Are About to Suffer, Salute You

                                          By David Kissane

“Well done on all the hard work” my wife says as I leave the house to head off to the Dublin Marathon on Friday. 

“Ah, sure, I have a bit of training done anyway,”  I says with great humility, sitting into my van.

“No, well done for all the work around the house you’re going to do next week!” she shoots “now that all the running will be over!”

Gulp!

Very funny she is. Sometimes.

After changing the oil in my van and WhatsApping club business (while under the van) and packing all known items of running gear (all neatly washed for me, I might add!) off I drive past Tubrid Cross and stop to fill up with the diesel in Dillane’s in Abbeydorney. The owner is outside sweeping away the October leaves. A fair athlete himself and he quips “I think ye are mad taking on the 26 miles 385 yards” but adds “but I envy ye all.”  I tell him that the nine of us from St Brendan’s AC will do our best and that I will act as sweeper at the back. Hoping to be back south of the Liffey before the gantry is taken down and the Sunday evening silence envelops the city.

As I head towards Lixnaw, I recall the uneasy road of 2022 to Dublin.

It could all have finished for me a few weeks ago.

It was the second week in October and no long runs had been done. I watched in awe as our colleagues in St Brendan’s rattled off the 25Ks and the 30Ks, and over, in single runs. All way ahead of my humble efforts. So I had to up my game. A run of 30K was planned for Ardfert Recreational Centre, a place we’ve grown to love over the year. The perimeter of the magnificent Astro pitch and the pristine grass pitch is around 650 metres. About 60 laps of it would put my marathon train back on the tracks and it would be full steam ahead.

Great place to train. Smooth concrete, no noise pollution, no traffic coming at you, level as a runway, clean as a whistle. “Fair play to you!” says John Kelly, a club founder member who loves walking in the ARC as I have lift off with water nearby on my van (another advantage of the ARC) and my Garmen is purring and the sun is shining and life is good. Earphones pumping “Wild Montana Skies” by John Denver on the Ronan Collins Show on RTE Radio 1 at 12 noon.

Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes

Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies

No phone to bother the head and the total freedom of the run. Lengths of the pitches to use for fartleky dashes or closed-mouth-and-breathe-through-the-nose inserts or little Irish dancing steps to add variety for the legs.

I like to absorb the hinterland as I run. Ardfert Cathedral roof could be seen to the north west and the green and manicured undulations of Ardfert Pitch and Putt course were over the fence on the north side of the ARC. A cropped cornfield next door tells the story of a good summer and a rich harvest. The children in Ardfert National School had audibly been let out to play. Their energy flew across the houses to my ears. “Mankind made the school, but God made the schoolyard” said Walter Bagehot, the English social scientist. The energy that would drive the country ahead and secure the future of Ireland and the world. The undeniable energy of the school yard.

Then suddenly a flock of swallows landed on the top of the nets behind the goals in the GAA grass field. Twittering and excited and no doubt the last of the swallows to head off to the sunny climes of Spain and Africa. Their summer done in Ireland. A few took off and came back as if testing the flightpath. Then suddenly they all took off, except one lone swallow who resisted the urge to follow. The rest headed over Station Road

I used to give my Leaving Cert Irish students a homework scéal to do when I was teaching in Tarbert Comprehensive. “Bhí an lá ag dul ar aghaidh go hiontach go dti gur…” The day was flying until… and they were to create a plot and a title. Well, soon the title for me became “The day the music died” as I lost interest in the run after a mere fifteen laps, my legs seized up and the battery went in my radio. And in my heart. 

Pointless, I decided. Making a fool of myself going to Dublin. As Mohammed Ali said once about an opponent, “I’m so bad I make medicine sick!” 

I restarted, as I had never failed to finish a training session during the year. I tried to think like a coach and encourage myself to keep going as I have done with athletes over many years. I rehydrated and ate a few more grapes and tried to camouflage the pain and mental plonk with thoughts of how lucky I was to have good health and to be still alive at 69 years of age. After all, a brother and a sister didn’t live to be the age I am now. I though of others I could run for also. It worked for a while and I plodded on but then, full stop again! Back into the van and home and goodbye to the marathon. Too slow to keep up with my eight club colleagues who are in a different league. Mentally kicking myself in the backside and worse, admitting that I wouldn’t be physically able to do another marathon ever.

And I didn’t want to emulate the marathon-end of the first man to run a marathon. Poor old Pheidippides dropped dead after bringing news of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC! His last words were “Joy to you!” Fair play to him.

But the sun set and the sun rose and two days later I was back in action on the soft sand in Barrow. Plan? To give up on the long runs and do shorter, more intensive ones. Fartlek, soft sand, hills, twin runs some days, fast walks…not checking the Garmen too often. Survival mode. The culture of the effort is fundamental. Take the chance and you will never regret it. Arthur Lydiard, whose book, Run To The Top, Con Dennehy lent me recently, proposed that one should do a module of speedwork the week of the marathon.

That and more got me on the road to Dublin yesterday.

Autumn leaves dancing in Adare and russet trees getting russeter and streams of traffic coming against me on their way to a long weekend or mid-term break in Kerry. The Silvermines resplendent in the setting sun and then bacon and spuds in the Obama Plaza in Moneygall – great place – and soon autumnal Dublin wraps its arms around the mind. I love Dublin and always have done from All Irelands as a child with my father and later as a resident for eight years and from the early marathon days in the 1980s where I ran 3:12 in my second one. But I had trained for that, and oh yeah, I was a younger man!

I hear the news that Ballydonoghue’s Jason Foley has got his well-earned All Star as the best full back in the country. A great honour for my other parish and Jason is a fine example to all, both young and old. His grandfather was a founder member of the Ballydonoghe Parish Magazine which is entering its 37 year. I have to edit some items in the current upcoming issue before I sleep tonight! Jason will feature much in it.

Then the alarm rings this Saturday morning – I am already awake – and it’s out to the RDS to register. A wettish morning and would be ideal if it was like that on Sunday. Pre-hydrated air. Parked in a nice place near the RDS but the parking meter wasn’t working so had to circle. The usual buzz in the RDS and very efficient in the registration hall and friendly as well. Loads of stalls selling their stuff and of course I couldn’t resist. On duty at his post is Frank Greally, the Irish Runner inspiration whose book, Running Full Circle I finished last night. He exudes passion for athletics. And life. Then to Blackrock where I spent years of weekends at my craft outlet and headed for a lunch of pancakes and syrup – lots of syrup – with extra crispy bacon in The Yellow Fig. Tried to keep my feet on the heels as an hour passed in perfect relaxation.

As I drank a few cups of sweet tea, I sought positivity in the year gone by. A few miles covered in non-marathon-style training. Munster masters indoor walk, national indoor walk (in the beautiful Athlone Arena), British Masters walk in Lee Valley in north east London, a lovely arena also. Then outdoors in Kerry, Munster and Derby for the British masters outdoor walks championships. And then the Athletics Ireland national masters championships. Ah yes, the national championships in a hot hot hot Tullamore in August where three St Brendan’s AC walkers made their national walks debut along with Con Dennehy of An Ríocht AC. With Michael O’Connor (Farranfore Maine Valley AC) and Pat Murphy (Castleisland Walking Club) Kerry masters kept walking to the forefront that beautiful day.

A regular summer chat with John Griffin, Dublin Marathon winner supreme, was always inspiring when I often bumped into him near my favourite Lesotho bookshop in Tralee.  

So back through heavy Saturday evening traffic and here I am at 10pm on the Saturday night before the big event. “Not young and not renewable, but human” to misquote the poet Thomas Kinsella who was born a few doors away from the house where I will sleep for a few hours tonight. Then up in the Dublin Sunday morning and across the city to the leafy streets around the Grand Canal to Fitzwilliam Square. The first and second and third waves with the well-prepared pistoleros will be well on their way when we start in the fourth wave. The Purple Wave. The last wave.

Then at 9.45am we will join the river of runners going north over the Liffey and through the Phoenix Park and back to the southside and…who knows.

By the time I might reach the last Purple Mile and the finish in Merrion Square North, the other waves will have reached home, hotel or wherever and will have well started the after-marathon-heaven-is-here level. So will my St Brendan’s AC colleagues. Let the celebrations then begin.

The marathon is a noble thing and deserves respect. It is a strategic enabler if you treat it right. The runners will meet a part of ourselves that lies beneath and is rarely visited. We will question our very core. If the training didn’t go to plan, we will question ourselves even more in the excursion into something different. It ain’t no way to treat a marathon if we don’t prepare properly and we have to pay the price. That is the terrible beauty of the great run. The journey may be the destination for many with the experience of emotional and physical diversity. 

We finish and some of us say never again. Then we start training in May. We know the soul-rinsing experience that is there for the taking.

Sure anyway, comfort is the enemy of progress. Let’s make the magic and believe for a while that the myth is the only reality.

The line from Gladiator comes to mind at this moment. It has to be paraphrased.

“We, who are about to suffer, salute you.”

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A Few More from the Food and Craft Fair

on Sunday October 31 2022

I bought delicious blackberry jam from this man. He picked the berries and made the jam in Abbeydorney. For me Blackberry Jam is a taste of childhood summers, when I picked the berries in Ballintubber, my mother’s childhood home, and my Aunty Eily cleared all of us children out of the house while she cooked the jam on a Primus stove. Next morning by the time we got up there would be freshly baked brown bread, spread with butter and the newly cooled jam for breakfast.

These two ladies call their business Two Crafty Ladies and they live up to the name.

Pat Murphy, of Woodford Pottery brought examples of his newest range of colourful ware. It’s always great to talk to Pat and hear what he is at.

Woodford Pottery is available directly from Pat in his shop at the pottery or from Kerry Writers’ Museum.

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