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 4

Art, Memoir and Poetry

River Feale, June 2024

One Hundred to One

The three men on the stage at The Plaza on the Sunday of Listowel Writers’ Week 2024 were Martin Dyar, festival curator, Tom Shortt, director of Prison Education and Pat Sheedy, recovering gambling addict and author.

While half the readers of Listowel were in Kerry Writers Museum for the launch of Autumn Blooms, an anthology of work by local writers, Paddy Gavin, Cyril Kelly and John Fitzgerald, I joined the small audience for Pat Sheedy’s cautionary tale of his life in gambling.

Pat’s story is one of fall and redemption. It tells of the saving power of education for a man who had reached his lowest ebb.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in human nature, who likes a good story well told.

A Poem to Make you Laugh ( or maybe even inspire you)

Listowel, The world Centre of Modern Celtic Art

St Patrick’s Breastplate by Michael O’Connor

Stephen Rynne did a great job marketing Listowel to those of us attending the International Day of Celtic Art. His presentation was recorded. I hope it will be available soon on youtube. It was marvellous.

Small detail of the calligraphy and illumination on this beautiful artwork, now on display in Kerry Writers’ Museum, Listowel.

Just a Thought

A link to my latest contributions to Just a Thought on Radio Kerry

Just a Thought

Back from The Land Down Under

Niamh and Deirdre looking happy to be home to Listowel

A Fact

King Charles 111 is only the second British monarch ever to be featured on banknotes. His mother Queen Elizabeth 11 was the first.

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Remembering and Celebrating

Charles Street, April 6 2024

Forty Years of Gardening

Radio Kerry’s lovely new wagon was the first indication that today was a big day at Listowel Garden Centre.

Forty years in business for the MacAuliffe Roberts family

There were raffles every hour on the hour in aid of Listowel Hospice.

A great day of celebration and fun.

Remembering Michelle

It is always unbelievably sad when a yearbook contains an obituary. Michelle had only just left Pres. and her memory was still very much alive in the school when she died. She made a mark. May she rest in peace

Just a Thought

Here is the link to my reflections in the Just a Thought slot on Radio Kerry last week.

Just a Thought

Immigrant Communities in Britain

This is Rook Street in London in 1912. There was a large Irish community in the Poplar area in the East end of London in the early 1900s. This photograph shows local residents preparing for their Corpus Christi procession.

The photograph is part of a collection in the National Archives in Britain. The postcard was sent to me by Ethel Corduff (formerly Walsh of Tralee). Ethel has a great interest in immigration and immigrant communities. It was she who studied and documented the story of Irish girls training as nurses in British hospitals. Her important book, Ireland’s Loss, England’s Gain tells their story.

A Poem

John McAuliffe doesn’t find an empty house creepy at all.

Today’s Fact

During the 1950s atomic bomb tests were a popular tourist attraction in Las Vegas.

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Hurling, Plumbing and Turf cutting

Church Street in Feb. 2024

A Star with a Camán

Pic. and text from Hurling Banter on Facebook

What a AMAZING performance by former Kerry and Ballyduff hurler Jack Goulding who scored 3-11 as London Beat Wicklow by 3-20 to 1-20 in Division 2b. Goulding a Real DASHING and a massive loss to The Kingdom -BE

Historical Artefacts

On my night at Muskerry Local History lecture I heard from Mary Oleary.

Her artefact was a certificate of indenture. Mary’s ancestor was apprenticed to a plumber at age 15 in 1891.

This apprenticeship sounded a bit like slavery to me. The master owned the poor lad body and soul. He was not allowed to frequent public houses or any entertainment. He couldn’t swear or court a young lady. He was to dress respectably at all times. He got no money until his third year and then it was only four shillings. The apprenticeship lasted 7 years. Mary’s ancestor survived the period of his indenture and went on to eventually set up his own gas and plumbing business.

Jerry Twomey from Kilgarven told us about his own experience of hand cutting turf using tools and skills handed down through his family.

Turf cutting usually began on or around St. Patrick’s Day. The first job was to soak the handles of the sleáns and pikes. After the winter the wooden handles would be dried out and loose. Soaking them swells the wood and means they are easier to use.

The top scraw was cut off with a hay knife. This was cut horizontally. It was a hard job and in Jerry’s family it was always done by his dad. V trenches were dug for drainage and then the work of turf cutting began. His dad also cut the first sod as this one was fibrous and needed a strong man to cut through it. The pike man stood in the trench and threw the sods to the spreaders. Children were often given the job of spreading the sods as they could carry the sods one by one away from the bank. The second sod was not quite so fibrous, so a less able man could be put on the sleán.

The best black turf was at the bottom.

Turf cutting is an age old tradition that connects us to our forefathers.

Listowel Lady on Today

Beautiful, talented broadcaster, Elaine Kinsella joined Dáithí on the orange couch to present the Today programme for two days last week.

She did a great job, relaxed and engaged…a natural.

Hayfield Manor

A little bit of heaven in Cork

Just a Thought

Reflections I gave last week on Radio Kerry

Just a Thought

A Fact

Bambi Thug has been chosen to represent Ireland in the 2024 Eurovision contest.

Ireland has won the European talent show no fewer than seven times (in 1970, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996). That’s more than any other country that has ever entered the competition!

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Christmas in Cork

The big wheel for Christmas 2023 in Cork’s Grand Parade

Cork at Christmas

My next spot of Christmas travel was to my home by the Lee.

Finn’s Corner, early morning

St. Peter and Paul’s, beautiful old city centre church

This took me back to opening term masses here when I was in UCC. I wonder if that tradition is still observed.

Statue of Our Lady in the grounds of St. Peter and Paul’s.

This was my first sight of the Michael Collins statue.

A great likeness

Just a Thought

Here is a link to my reflections which were broadcast on Radio Kerry in the Just a Thought slot last week.

Just a Thought

Serendipity

Serendipity is the making of unexpected and pleasant discoveries by accident.

Front (faded) and back (vivid) covers of a book discovered in a charity shop and purchased for 50c.

A story from the book… Pail but not Wan

The Wran

I don’t know the year for this one.

With Tambourines and Wren boys

Wm. Molyneaux

(Continued from yesterday…)

But then, about the Wren.  How the wren derived her dignity
as the king of all birds.  That was the question.  An eagle issued a challenge between all birds, big and small as they were-wrens, robins, sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds, jackdaws, magpies, or else.  They commenced their flight this day-Christmas Day-The eagle, being the bravest continues her flight and was soaring first.  All the other birds were
soaring after, until, in the finish, after a lapse of time in her flight, the weaker birds seemed to get weary and could not continue their flight some  ways further. 
But the Wren pursued to the last. 
The other birds got weak and worn out and in the heel of fair  play, the eagle said that she was the king of all birds herself now.  The wren concealed yourself under the Eagles feathers, in the end of  fair play the Eagle got worn out.  The wren flew out from under the Eagles
feathers and declared yourselves the king of all birds.  That is how the Wren derived her dignity as being the king of all birds.  So we hunted her for the honour of it.  

Also, when St Stephen was in prison and as he was liberated the band went out against St Stephen, and it was a daylight performance and the wren, when she heard the music and the band, came out and perched yourselves on the drum.  That’s how we heard the story.

Anyway we made our tambourines.  You’d get a hoop made (in them days) by a cooper.  There is no cooper hardly going now.  You’d get this made by cooper for about half a crown.  I used to make my tambourines always  of goat’s skin.  You could make them of an ass foal’s
skin-anything young, do you see.  How?  I’d skinned the goat, get fresh lime and put the fresh lime on the fleshy side of the skin-not that hairy side but the fleshy side of the skin-fold it up then and double it up and twist it again and get a soft string and put it around it and take it with you then to a running stream and put it down in the running stream where the fresh water will be always running over it, and leave it so. 
You could get a flag and attach it onto the bag, the way the water wouldn’t carry it.  Leave it there for about nine days and you come then and you can pull off the hair and if the hair comes freely you can take up the skin and pull off the hair the same as you would shave yourself.  And then you
should moisten with lukewarm water.  You should draw it the way it wouldn’t shrink. You should leave it for a couple of hours.  You would get your ring and you’d have the
jingles and all in-the bells-you’d have them all in before you put the skin to the rim. You should have two or three drawing the skin to keep it firm-pull it from half-width, that would be the soonest way t’would stiffen.  Let the skin be halfwidth and put it down on the rim and  have a couple  pulling it and another man tacking it with brass tacks. 
That’s the way I used make my tambourines, anyway.  Ther’d be no sound out of it the first night.  I used always hang my tambourines outside.  And then the following morning t’would be hard as a pan  and a flaming sound out of it.  And then after a bit t’would cool down.  T’would be bad to
have them too hard, they’d crack.  Ah, sure I made several tambourines that way.

To be continued…

A Christmas Poem

Christmas

John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
   The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
    Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
    And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
    The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
“The church looks nice” on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze
    And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
    Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says “Merry Christmas to you all.”

And London shops on Christmas Eve
    Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
    To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
    And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
    And Christmas-morning bells say “Come!'”
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? And is it true,
    This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
    A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true? For if it is,
    No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
    The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
    No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
    Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

+ R.I.P. Maureen Sweeney+

As a tribute to a heroine who has passed away, here is her story from a previous blogpost…

Flavin Sweeney wedding  1946

 2nd, lL to R, Maureen Flavin Sweeney Blacksod Bay, 5th L to R Theresa Flavin Kennelly Knockanure, 6th L to R, Peg Connor Moran, Knockanure 

Billy McSweeney told us this story and it appeared in Listowel Connection in 2018

In my Grandparents time, Kerry people understood that they were cut off from the rest of Ireland by a series of mountains; they realized that they were isolated and had to look after themselves. Life was harder in Kerry than in the Golden Vale or on the central plains of Ireland. The mothers of Kerry especially, knew that they had to look to every advantage to help their children and prized education highly to that end. In the mid-19thcentury the people of Listowel welcomed enthusiastically the establishment of St Michael’s College for Boys and the Presentation Convent Secondary schools for Girls, not forgetting the Technical School. The people who read this blog are most likely familiar with the Census’ 1901 and 1911 and will have noticed that many homes in Listowel housed not only Boarders but also welcomed Scholars who came from the villages and isolated farms scattered around North Kerry. These boys and girls spent 5-6 years in the Listowel schools to be educated for ‘life’.

The upshot of this was that from Listowel we sent out many young adults who were a credit to their teachers to take their places in many organizations and many whose names became nationally known for their talents and abilities, especially in the Arts.

Let  me tell you about one such young girl, Maureen Flavin, who was born in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry. When the time came for Maureen to go on from National school she was welcomed into the Mulvihill home in Upper Church Street who themselves had a young girl, Ginny, of the same age. Maureen and Ginny became fast friends and stayed so for life. 

When Maureen finished school in 1930 she wanted a job; couldn’t get one in Kerry because of the times that were in it, so she answered an ad in the National Papers for an Assnt. Postmistress in Black Sod, in North Mayo. Her references and qualifications were suitable and in due course, as she says, to her own surprise she was offered the job. This was to set Maureen on a course where she would be an integral part of one of the most momentous actions of the age. Mrs Sweeney, the Black Sod Postmistress, was married to Ted who was the Lighthouse Keeper, both operating from the Lighthouse building in Black Sod. They had a son, also Ted, who Maureen fell in love with and married in due course. They in turn had three boys and a girl and life took up a normal rhythm for the family; that is until 3rd June 1944.

The WW2 was in full swing at this stage with Gen. Eisenhower as the Allied Supreme Commander and Gen. Rommel the German Commander in Normandy. Rommel knew that an Allied invasion was prepared and imminent. Conventional Meteorological sources at the time for the US and German military said that the coming days would bring very inclement weather so that the invasion would have to be postponed. Eisenhower postponed the action and Rommel left Normandy for a weekend in Berlin based on the same information. The British Chief Meteorologist had however visited Black Sod some years previously and knew the value of Black Sod as the most westerly station in Europe and when a break in the weather was reported by Black Sod on 3rdJune he persuaded Eisenhower that 6thand 7thJune would be clear and to ignore the same conventional Met advice used by both the US and the Germans. Ted compiled the reports for the Irish Met Office and Maureen transmitted them. Maureen remembers receiving a telephone call a short time later from a lady with a ‘very posh English accent’ asking for confirmation of her report. Ted was called to the phone and he confirmed the readings, The rest, as they say, is history. 

(R.I.P. Maureen, who passed away on December 17 2023, aged 100. She was a recipient of the US Congress Medal of Honour)

A Fact

In one week from today it will be St. Stephen’s Day 2023

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Frank Greaney R.I.P.

Cool shaded walk in Childers Park, Listowel, June 2023

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Photographing a Photographer

John Stack with two of his talented and very photogenic grandchildren pictured in The Square, Listowel, in June 2023.

It’s always a bit risky snapping a very experienced snapper but a photo of this doting grandad was too good to miss.

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One of the Best Gone too Soon

I love this picture of Frank and Jim in Frank’s garage back in the good old days. Few knew as much about cars as Frank Greaney. He loved cars and he loved dealing in them and repairing and refurbishing them. He was the Citreon king and he loved nothing better then to talk cars with is cronies.

Frank’s garage was a kind of mini parliament chamber. A few of his friends used to come and sit and set the world to rights with Frank while he worked.

Away from the garage, Frank was a super volunteer. Nothing was too much bother to him. He expended hours fundraising for St. Mary Of the Angels, Beaufort, where his beloved daughters were looked after. He helped every cancer charity. Poignantly, on the day of his funeral, Hospice fundraisers left their posts in the Small Square to join in the guard of honour that accompanied Frank’s huge funeral cortege through the town.

He was a familiar presence in St. Mary’s, taking up the collection, counting the money and helping wherever he was needed.

It was sad to see Frank suffering and in pain for the last few months of his life, but, like the trooper he was, he soldiered on.

Eileen and Frank Greaney were inseparable, a living example of enduring love. My deepest sympathy to Eileen and Mike. Frank was one of the good ones, one of my favourite Listowel people.

In this photo Frank is holding his copy of Brendan of Ireland, a long out of print special book in which his family played a part. It was a measure of the man that he lent it to me to photograph and to share with followers of Listowel Connection. Others would not have let it out of their sight.

Tonight we’ll have the graveyard mass in John Paul cemetery. It won’t feel right not to have Frank there directing traffic and helping out generally. He contributed a lot to making that graveyard the lovely place it is today.

May the sod rest lightly on the gentle soul of this lovely gentleman.

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Marketing Listowel in the 1960s

My recent German visitors, Wolfgang and Anita gave me this booklet that they had kept from their first visit to Listowel in 1973.

Another era surely! Who remembers travellers’ cheques?

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Just a Thought

My reflections which were broadcast last weak on Radio Kerry in its Just a Thought slots are here;

Just a Thought

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Ponder this

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