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: Listowel Races Page 2 of 3

Anseo, The Races and Blacksmithing

Howth photographed by Éamon ÓMurchú



Anseo is an initiative by Kerry County Council and others to help the entertainment industry and to bring a bit of entertainment to our streets that have been so quiet for so long.

This is the scene at the Anseo concert in Listowel on Saturday Sept 18 2021.

Afternoon Show 1.00 – 3.30pm

Eoghan Duignan, John Browne & Brendan O’Sullivan 

Tim O’ Shea & Afro Trad Ireland 

Liam O’Connor & Family 

Evening Show 6.00 – 8.30pm

Seamus Begley & Donogh Hennessy 


Peter Staunton and Super Ceili 

This is the line up. As you can see it features the best musicians and brilliant music. So why was the venue almost empty?

Answer; People didn’t know about it.

“I would have been there if I’d known,” is what I am hearing on every side since.

I know the First Communion was on and the storytelling festival but maybe it should have been part of the craic for these events.

These four ladies couldn’t resist breaking into a set.

I’m told that the evening concert was sold out.


After the Races

A poem for the week that’s in it.


At the Storytelling Festival

The O’Connor family from Cork with local storyteller, Godfrey Coppinger at the international Storytelling Festival at Kerry Writers Museum on Sept 19 2021


Ladies Day, Sept 24 2021 at Listowel Races

I missed the Races this year but my friend deputised for me and took a some photos for you. Here are a few of Bridget O’Connor’s photos from Friday.

Chloe Daly and Graham
Patricia Collins
Celia Holman Lee and Orla Diffley
Lisa Griffin and her daughter
Claire, Elaine and Katsy with Elaine’s baby at her first Harvest Festival of Racing

(more tomorrow)


Ballylongford Blacksmithing Festival

I was in Ballylongford on Saturday September 25 2021 for this very new , very different festival. The blacksmiths looked nothing like blacksmiths I remember from my childhood and their open air forges were fuelled by gas.

These smiths were not farriers but decorative workers in molten metal. I saw no leather aprons and face shields here and there seemed to be a certain kind of hippy style to these modern day smiths. They made beautiful things and it was great to see them at work.

I will have more photos for you during the week.


Ladies’ Day at Listowel Races

Friday was always a day I loved to be on The Island. Sadly I won’t be there this year. So I’m going to relive happier times before we ever heard of Covid.

I am going to bring you a few photos of local people enjoying themselves in Septembers past.

Bishop Ray Browne came one year in the company of a some members of our parish council.

Collette and Seamus Stack are regulars at the races.

Simon and Lilly O’Flynn

Helen Kenny, Joan Kenny and Helen’s sister, Maisie

Sarah and Monica Quille with Madeleine O’Sullivan and Eilish Wren

Billy and Ursula O’Conor with Judy and Owen MacMahon

Maura Carmody and family

Noelle Hegarty and Bridie O’Rourke

Joan and Orla O’Connor

My friends John and Bridget O’Connor

Eileen Worts and Joe Broderick


Sights I hope to see again in September 2022

Pat Power and his marionettes outside Footprints

Traveller children in The Feale calling “Throw me down something.”

Race cards will cost a bit more than €3

Youngsters dressed up to the nines doing what youngsters do.

My friends Maria and Anne and maybe even a man with a daft hat.

Famous people like Jerry Hannon and Dáithí ÓSé

Interesting headwear

More famous people

Vintage Day.


Betty McGrath R.I.P. Farewell, Dancing Queen

The late Betty McGrath in one of her most stylish hats for Listowel Races Ladies Day.

Listowel is in mourning this race week for one of its most colourful, most vivacious, most hard working and most relentlessly cheerful business women.

Betty ran a very successful floristry business in Courthouse Road. She was tailor made for her job. Her creativity and innate sense of style knew no bounds.

Betty loved Christmas. She loved creating the window display, the table decorations and many festive flower arrangements and wreaths. She also loved Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Easter, birthdays and all high days and holidays.

In short, Betty loved life. She loved every day.

Betty with the late Anne Moloney

Meeting Betty in the morning meant you were set up for the day. No matter how busy she was she always made time for a chat.

I love this photo of Betty with my late husband, Jim. Betty was full of fun and she came into her own on occasions like Nunday or the Oskars.

Betty had a big coterie of loved girl friends. She was a loyal friend, supportive, kind and always fun to be with.

But at heart, Betty was a family lady. She loved Denis and adored her children, Grace and Denis. Throughout her life she remained close to her siblings and it was always a joy to meet her on The Island with her very stylish sisters.

Betty was a photographer’s dream. She loved to be photographed. She was always willing to pose and she was invariably appreciative.

To know Betty McGrath was to love her.

Betty had her shop repainted recently and these are two of the last photos I took of her front wall.

The flower that was Betty’s life was plucked far too soon. She has left behind many many loving memories and many friends whose lives are a little less colourful nowadays.

She will never be forgotten.

Listowel will miss her.


Sand Art, The Races and Memories of a First Dance

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How it used to be


Ballybunion Sand Art festival 2021

This is an intriuging and fascinating craft, drawing pictures in the sand. The annual festival in Ballybunion on the weekend of Sept 10 to 12th was as brilliant as ever. I took a few photos but Pixie O’Gorman and Wild Atlantic Way posted these much better ones on the internet.

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A Hawney Legacy

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This is Hawney Way in Ballybunion. If you walk down this passageway you will come to this lovely little children’s picnic area. It is laid out with tables, in the centre of each is a draughts or chess grid and benches.

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Some of the tables are sponsored by local people.

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Tidy Town’s Vintage Day

One of the highlights of Listowel Harvest Festival of Racing every year was Tidy Town’s upcycle, recycle vintage day. Below are some of the organising committee.

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Every year this competition turned up some fascinating stories. The outfits themselves were often stunning but the accompanying stories never failed to entertain us.

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Frances O’Keeffe and her daughter, Edel

Edel is wearing a dress her mother restyled from a dress given to her by her friend, Suzie Moore.

Suzie was a matron in a London hospital. The queen was due to visit and Suzie felt that she needed something special for this meeting with her majesty. She had a dress especially made.

When she retired to Listowel she brought the dress with her and she gave it to her friend Frances. She knew that Frances would appreciate the material she had chosen so carefully and paid so much for. Frances never found an opportunity to use the material over the years . When she heard of this up cycling event she knew that this was just the ticket for Suzie’s dress. She remodelled it to fit Edel. Edel wore it with the pill box hat her mother wore at her own wedding and the pearl encrusted bag she carried.

Mary O’Halloran and Maria Stack are great supporters of Listowel Races. They usually pull out all the stops for Ladies Day and Vintage Day.

One year, Maria carried this vintage bag that she had bought in a charity shop.

When she got the bag home she found inside the original price tag.

And she found a ticket to the Empire State Building. Surely this bag was bought by someone as part of her trousseau and she honeymooned in New York.


A Listowel Dance in 1960

Philomena Moriarty kept this souvenir of her very first dance and she shared it on Facebook. The Super Ballroom was later rebranded as the Las Vegas.


Listowel Poetry Town 2021

As part of the Poetry Town initiative, Listowel got its very own Poet Laureate, Dairena Ní Chinnéide.

Part of her job was to write a Listowel poem. Dairena was great value for money.. She wrote two.



Sea Swimming, Races and Bringing Home the Turf

Photo; Bridget O’Connor

Friday, Sept 10 2021 was International Suicide Awareness Day. Bridget’s picture above shows a troop of people who ventured into the sea at Ballybunion on that evening to show solidarity with those bereaved by suicide and to highlight the issue of treatable mental illness.

Pictured with Snámhaí Sásta, June Curtin, are local ladies, Billy Jo and Lelia O’Connor and Bridget McCarthy.

June brought some of her positivity calendars with her on the night. She is selling them in aid of Pieta, the suicide prevention charity.

Aoife Scott was in town for a concert as part of the Ballybunion Arts Festival at The Tinteán. She came and sang a song or two for the delighted swimmers.


Listowel Races in Years Past

This man has been coming to the races and staying with Nora for over twenty years. I hope he got a ticket this year.


Out of This World

This Ballybunion placename never ceases to amaze me.


Bringing home the Turf

If I had been asked I would have said that this scene was earlier than the 1970s.

Donkeys and carts were ideal for bog work. The ground underfoot in the bog is soggy and unstable so it calls for a fairly light sure footed animal like this lovely ass.

Look at how the young man leading the donkey was dressed for his day in the bog. In the early years of the 20th century in Ireland there was no such thing as casual clothes. Athleisure is a very recent fashion. We had good clothes and old clothes. this man is in his old clothes, i.e. a suit that used to be his Sunday suit but was now relegated to everyday wear. It kind of looks like a suit he may have inherited from someone bigger than himself. Hand me downs were common too. Suits often were passed down through the family until they were no longer wearable.

I bet his v neck is hand knitted. All jumpers were hand knitted one time, until Ben Dunne brought us cheap clothes and it no longer made sense to knit something you could buy more cheaply. Of course it didn’t last as long but that mattered little when it was so cheap and did not entail hard work.

Along with the turf, this scene will soon be unfamiliar to all but the oldest of us.


Poetry Town

We’ve exchanged our Social distancing stencils for Poetry Town ones.


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