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: Just a Thought Page 1 of 2

John Molyneaux R.I.P.

Resurrection altar in St. Mary’s

This annual display on the side altar, as well as all the symbols of Easter includes animals. flowers, water and light.

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Commemorative Manhole Covers

These permanent memorials of 1916 are literally under our feet in town. I photographed this one on Church Street. Try to notice them next time you are out and about.

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Memories of an Influential Teacher

“And still they gazed and still the wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew.”

Oliver Goldsmith’s The Village Schoolmaster

The late John Molyneaux had a wealth of knowledge and he imparted it to cohorts of pupils in St. Michael’s. He had a prodigious knowledge of football, running and later golfing strategy.

One of his past pupils, David Kissane, published an obituary to his former teacher on line. I am including it here. As it is very long, I will give it to you in instalments.

Semper Invictus

 A tribute to Mr John Molyneaux, St Michael’s College, Listowel

                                                By David Kissane, Class of ’72

It is fifty years ago since a group of about thirty young fellas headed out the gates of St Michael’s College, Listowel and into the wide, wild and wonderful world of the 1970s. As a member of the class of ’72, there is a compulsion to remember the year and its hinterland. Its place in our layered lives. What contributed to what we are cannot go uncelebrated. It just keeps on keeping on.

But how can one capture the colours and contours, the shapes and shadows of half a century ago when the world had a very different texture to what we perceive now in the bóithríns of age? The ships we sailed out in may be wrecked or dismembered. The ports we set sail from are hidden in the mists of time and memory, and our fellow sailors are scattered.

So where does one begin? 

The writer Colm Tóibín once asked the artist Barrie Cooke how he began his paintings. Cooke answered “I make a random mark on the canvas and see what happens”.

Just as I follow Cooke’s suggestion and type a random “J” on the screen, the phone rings. It is Jim Finnerty from Glouria. I look at my J and wonder if Cooke was right! “There’s a man you knew well after passing away in Listowel” Jim announced. Listowel, I thought out loud as Jim let the news simmer in the wok of my memories. A number of names came to mind before Jim said “John Molyneaux”.

And then my canvas began to fill in. I write the name of Mr John Molyneaux, my Latin and English teacher, my athletics and football coach, and the dam opens. For the five years I spent in St Michael’s College, Listowel, he was an enduring presence, a multi-dimensional man who had a huge influence in our lives for those budding years. An icon.

Of course the first question that challenged my memory was “when did I last see John Molyneaux?”

About three years ago I parked my van down by the Feale off the Square in Listowel. Near Carroll’s Yard. Near the entrance bridge to Listowel Racecourse where you’d hear “Throw me down something!” on race days in sepia Septembers. As I returned to the van with a brand new chimney cowl, I saw him coming along the bank of the river. Lively as always, thoughtful, loaded with intention, energised quietly by the magic of the Feale walk, eyes down. I knew immediately if was him although I hadn’t met him in thirty years or more. 

I almost said “Sir”. There is something un-shielding about meeting our old teachers. For us teachers, there is often a similar feeling when we meet former students.

“Hallo”, I said. He looked up and at me and it was that same look that I had forgotten with the passing of the years. Stored in the subconscious though. A moment of silence. I heard myself say my name. “I know” he said and a pathway opened up between the two of us and five minutes of reacquaintance. The older face transformed itself back through the years and the voice reframed its undeniable Mr Molyneaux-ness. 

“We might have a chat about athletics sometime?” I broached timidly and he nodded. I was talking to the man who helped discover Jerry Kiernan and a host of other athletes. We parted and my day was enriched and changed.

Time and Covid played their cruel games and the chat never took place.

I will regret that for as long as memory is my colleague. 

A group of raw first year students entered St Michael’s College in September 1967 having done an entrance exam the previous May. From the hinterland of Listowel and the town itself. There were only two from Lisselton NS some eight miles away off the Ballybunion-Listowel road. Francis Kennelly and myself, coincidentally from the same townland of Lacca. And distantly related as well. 

The novices of 1967 were the first beneficiaries of Donagh O’Malley’s free education bill with free transport and no fees. Up to then second-level education was the premise of the wealthy. Now we were part of a historical educational development which would change the face of Ireland forever. Educate that you may be free, Pádraig Pearse had said long before he was executed in 1916. 

In we went to the famed, and sometimes feared St Michael’s College, imposing and immobile. Two storeys of history and education above the ground and one storey below looking out on our little minds. Long walk in like an estate house with manicured lawns and apple trees. We were told by those in the know that if we picked the apples that were growing on those trees that autumn that it would have worse repercussions than when Adam was persuaded by Eve to prove his manhood by picking the Granny Smiths in the Garden of Paradise. The principal, Fr Danny Long would punish the picker with impunity. We were herded up the spotted clackety marble stairs and looked down on the trees to our right and pondered the decree of ne tangere. Do not touch.

(more tomorrow)

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Turf

Photo by Caroline O’Sullivan taken near Listowel

CUTTING THE TURF.

A poem by Martin O’Hara

Ah god be with the

Good auld days. 

And the times, of long ago.

For to get the peat, 

for our household heat, 

To the bog, we had to go.

No modern ways, back

In those days.

All in life, you would require. 

Was a fine turf spade, 

That the blacksmith made. 

To secure, yourself a fire. 

With Patrick’s day, 

out of the way. 

It was time, to make a start. 

With the bike and dog, 

Off to the bog. 

And some, by ass and cart.

From countrywide, to

The mountainside. 

The journeys, would begin. 

To replace once more, the

Old turf store. 

For the wintertime again.

Now the cutting of a

Bank of turf, 

This job was done, with pride. 

The cleaning first, was

Taken off, 

And placed down at the side. 

The peat exposed for 

Cutting now, 

Was cut out, with the spade.

And the sods of turf

Upon the bank, 

In rows, were neatly laid.

With the turf now dry,

 As time went by. 

The footing, would begin. 

From countrywide, to

The mountainside. 

The people came again. 

With pains, and aches, 

And many breaks. 

We stood them, row by row. 

And to season then, they

Would begin. 

Where the mountain breezes

Blow. 

In harvest time, with

Weather fine, 

Once more, we would return. 

The turf by now, in perfect shape. 

Was good enough to burn. 

With the ass and cart, we

Made a start. 

To take them to the road. 

And a stack did rise, 

Before our eyes. 

Growing bigger, with each load. 

Now to take them home, 

For wintertime. 

To the bog, we came

Once more. 

With a fine big stack, built

Out the back. 

We renewed, our winter store. 

That was our way, and

Still today. 

This tradition, carries on, 

but In time they say. 

It will pass away, and

Forever will be gone. 

No bog, no more, for

The winter store. 

Only memories, that

Live on. 

Of our working ways, back

In the days. 

That are now, long past and gone. 

Martin O’Hara   3 /3/2020. ©

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Just a Thought

My reflections from Radio Kerry which were broadcast last week April 18 to April 22 2022

Just a Thought

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Firemen

The Mermaids, William Street, Listowel

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John Kelliher posted this old dance ticket on Facebook.

I remembered that Violet Dalton Puttock had shared a photo of a Fireman’s ball with The Advertiser. Violet’s photo is from the ball a year or two earlier.

The men in the photo are;

Fireman’s Dance 1963-64.

 Back L-R: Buddy Dalton, Tommy Dalton, Benny O’Connell, Bunny Dalton, Jim Doyle, Michael Brennan, John Mahony and Joe Keogh. 

Front L-R: Pat Dowling, Roly Godfrey, Patsy Leahy, Ned Broderick, Tommy Lyons and Sean Curtin. 

Music on the night was by the late Bunny Dalton Showband, Listowel. 

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Corpus Christi Procession 2011

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St Senan’s Well

(Today, March 8 is the feast of St. Senan. Here is an account from the Schools’ Folklore Collection of the saint’s well near Listowel.)

There is a holy well, and close by a burial ground, in the townland of Kilsheanane or Kilsenan about 5 miles west of Listowel on the road to Tralee. Both are called after St. Senan who was Bishop and Abbot of Scattery Island on the Shannon in Co. Clare, in the VI Century. He built many churches and had a monastery on the Island. His feast day falls on the 8th March.

On that date in former times, people came long distances, even outside of Kerry, to pay rounds at the Blessed Well. It is said to be powerful in many complaints but especially in eye trouble, and running sores. At the present day people, principally locals within a five mile radius, come to pay rounds on St Senan’s Day 8th March. The path of the “round” follows a well beaten track around the well. The “Round” itself consists of 3 Rosaries, one to be said while walking round the well 3 times, therefore it takes 9 rounds of the well to complete the 3 Rosaries. The round is started by kneeling in front of the well and beginning the Rosary there and after some time stand up and walk round the orbit 3 times completing the round of the Beads in front of the well. Then start the second Rosary and walk round orbit 3 times and complete Beads at front of well. Do this the third time and your round at St Senan’s well is completed. You then take a drink of the well water from the well itself (a small mug is always there for the purpose).
Next you wash the afflicted part in the stream running out of the well. Also people usually take home with them a bottle of the well water for that purpose. Many white and black thorn trees grow adjacent to the well and strings of all kinds, tassels of shawls etc are left tied to the branches in token that the particular complaint is also to be got rid of. 

Sometimes Coppers and hairpins etc are left.

Within the last dozen or more years an elderly lady teacher Miss M O’Connell now deceased, got a cement slab altar-like construction built at the back of the well. In this there are three niches, one holding a statue of our Blessed Lady, another a statue of the Sacred Heart and the third a statue of St Bridget, each enclosed in a glass shade.
Miss Glavin a retired teacher of 66 years of age told me that she often heard her mother (R.I.P.) who lived about 4 miles from the townland of Kilsenane, tell a story of how a Protestant family residing near the well, took some water from the well home to their own house and put it in a pot or kettle to boil, but if it were left over the fire for ever it would not boil. The ancestors of this family were Roman Catholics but in the bad times they turned ‘Soupers.’
Those who came to pay rounds at the well, usually enter the burial ground by the stile and pray for the dead in general and their own deceased relations in particular. This is done on the way and from the well.

COLLECTOR

M. Shanahan

INFORMANT

Miss Glavin

School:  Clandouglas, Lixnaw

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Looking Forward to The Races

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Just a Thought

Here is the link to my last week’s reflections on Radio Kerry;

Just a Thought

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St. Bridget’s Month Begins

Photo; Derry McCarthy, Mallow Camera Club

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St. Bridget’s Day

Kildare Heritage Centre photo

February 1 is St. Bridget’s Day. If you can at all, get or make a St. Brigid’s cross. It is meant to protect the house where it is displayed from all harm but particularly harm by fire. Many houses in Kildare (the home of St. Brigid) used to put up a new cross every year but they did not take down the old one and it was not unusual in a Kildare home to see a long line of crosses displayed on a wall or door jamb.

There is a new moon tonight Feb. 1 2022. The full moon will be on Feb. 16. I never knew until lately that full moons had names. Last month it was a wolf moon. This month it is the snow moon or the storm moon.

By the way this is the chinese year of the tiger.

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Pat McAuliffe’s Abbeyfeale

Photo; Alice Dennehy

Text: Alice Dennehy for Vanishing Ireland on Facebook

I passed this beautiful building yesterday in Abbeyfeale, County Limerick. I believe it was a pub in its day. J.D. DALY established 1869.

From National Heritage of Architectural heritage website it says..

“This unusual large scale building makes a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of Abbeyfeale.

The building is distinguished from its neighbours by its highly decorative rendered façade, which was applied by the Listowel artisan builder named Pat McAuliffe (1846-1921). The stucco work on Daly’s dates to 1890. Here McAuliffe uses an eclectisim of decoration on a single façade: Corinthian capitals, Egyptian cornice mouldings, arabesques, Latin scrolls, Hiberno-Romanesque bearded men and lionheads and Italian diamond pointed quoins. McAuliffe’s plasterwork imitates features more commonly found carved in stone and is best exemplified here by the render pilasters, corbelled eaves, decorative quoins and elaborate window surrounds with masked keystones. Such is the variety and quality in Pat McAuliffe’s work, that these masterpieces merit continued protection and appreciation within Abbeyfeale and Limerick County as a whole”

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Pres. Yearbook 1990

In 1990 the girls on the magazine committee asked a few past pupils to write a bit about their lives now. One of the chosen old girls was Katie Hannon.

She has come a long way since 1990.

I met Katie with Miriam O’Callaghan at Women in Media in Ballybunion a few years ago.

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Just a Though

The link to last week’s reflections, broadcast on Radio Kerry from Jan. 24 to Jan 28 2022 is

Here

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Christmas is coming

Mike the Pies, Upper William Street, Listowel in November 2021

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A Street with Four Names

As well as Main Street, An Príomhsráid and Sráid Mhór this area of town is also known as The Small Square.

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It’s Nearly December

so I’m allowed to start including Christmassy things.

This essay is by a Cork writer, Declan Hassett in his book, All our Yesterdays.

(Apologies for the repetition. I’m getting used to this snipping. Apologies as well for the blue background. No idea!)

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A Christmas shop window display

When it comes to decorating, Danny Russell is in his element. His window this year is impressive, as always.

Naughty or nice?

The old tradition was that children had to be “good for goodness sake’ or Santa would leave them a lump of coal instead of a present at Christmas.

Danny is keeping the tradition alive, just adding to coal’s bad press these days.

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Lovely to have a child in the house for the Toy Show

….even if the child is way too young to have a clue what’s going on.

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One for the Diary

A note from John Murphy about tonight’s programme

That radio doc Fergal (Keane) and I were working on will be broadcast on Radio 4 next Tuesday at 5pm (repeat on Dec 5th at 17:30).

Also to be found here afterwards: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00120wz

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Just a Thought

My reflections in the Just a Thought slot on Radio Kerry for last week are at this link

Just a Thought

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At The Races, Ballylongford a New Library Experience

Howth by Éamon ÓMurchú

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A Poem from a Week of Poetry in Poetry Town

From the 10 to 18 September 2021 Listowel was one of Ireland’s Poetry Towns. Here is another of the poems that were available to collect all over town.

Great idea! I hope we get to do it again.

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Ladies Day at Listowel Races 2021

A few more of Bridget O’Connor’s photos

The winner of Race Three; Game Catch

Patsy Dowling and John O’Connor

Christy O’Connor and his grandaughter

Margaret Kearney, Ballyduff

Maria Stack and Anne Leneghan

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Blacksmithing Festival, Ballylongford Sept. 25 2021

The festival was part of the fundraising effort to revive and restore the old mill.

I parked in the church carpark and walked to the venue for the festival. At the bridge I came upon this group being given a guided tour of the architecture of Ballylongford by Dr. Declan Downey. Had I known that was on I’d have taken part in that too.

Declan Downey is a thorough researcher and an excellent guide.

At the corner I met these three heroes. I think they may be from Asdee. After a bit of good natured caffling they pointed me in the right direction.

I obeyed the sign and found my way to the displays.

There was a nice little crowd gathered around the exhibitions.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about what I saw of the fun of the fair.

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The Public Library is Changing

I hadn’t visited the library in person in ages until a few weeks ago. I have been listening to audio books on Borrowbox and I have been reducing my “to be read” pile slowly.

I made my return with my granddaughter in Ballincollig.

Cora showed me how the system operates now.

It’s a DIY job now. You put your library card and then your book, whether you’re returning or borrowing, under a barcode scanner and all the information is digitised and recorded on a computer. No need for any interaction with a librarian any more.

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Kerry Thanks

A full page ad in Irish Examiner, Monday September 27 2021

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Just a Thought

My reflections, broadcast last week on Radio Kerry are at the link below;

Just a Thought

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