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 email@example.com
John Kinsella is a local singer songwriter of great talent.
Sr. Eileen Leen is a singer, dancer and ever cheerful and upbeat young lady.
John wrote The Jolly Nun Hornpipe with Eileen in mind. I’m looking forward to hearing it.
Windows in St. John’s
One of the highlights of our walking tour with Tom Dillon on Saturday August 13 2022 was our guided tour of St. John’s.
One of St. John’s more notorious parishioners was the most hated man in Kerry in the late nineteenth century, George Sandes. He died in 1895. During his lifetime his misdeeds earned him the title of Terror of North Kerry.
Above is the triple window, George Sandes erected in 1888 to his son, George Jr. who died in March 1887.
The choice of three women depicting, Faith, Hope and Charity as a subject for a Sandes memorial was ironically inappropriate. George senior terrorised the womenfolk of his tenant families. The story goes that he insisted that tenants send their wives to pay the rent and he expected more than the rent from them.
Once he was taken to court by a Mary Quinlan, one of the many women he raped. She was demanding child maintenance. Mary was wise enough to bring her then 7 year old son to court. Such was the likeness to his father that the judge immediately ruled in her favour.
George’s legitimate son, also George, in whose memory he donated the window was very different to his father and was well liked and mourned.
The windows feature an entwined GS and the motto, The Lord Giveth and the Lord taketh away.”
This massive grindstone stands in Kildare Town Square. I can’t imagine what needed such a huge edging tool.
In an authentic Chinese meal the last course is always soup because it allows the roast duck entrée to swim towards digestion.
Just a thought
My reflections, which were broadcast last week on Radio Kerry’s Just a Thought slot are at the link below.
This annual display on the side altar, as well as all the symbols of Easter includes animals. flowers, water and light.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Corpus Christi Procession 2011
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.
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.
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”
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.
Just a Though
The link to last week’s reflections, broadcast on Radio Kerry from Jan. 24 to Jan 28 2022 is