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
More Photos from Coffee Morning for Listowel Hospice
The Ghost Train
As fans of the Kerry team prepare to travel to Dublin this weekend, let us remember the famous Ghost Train that departed from Caherciveen, when t’was midnight by the clock, on the eve of All Ireland day. From the 1920’s up until 1959 this was the way fans journeyed to Dublin for the match. The journey took about eight hours as the steam trains of that era travelled at a maximum of twenty five miles an hour plus the odd break down thrown in. Fans fortified themselves for this epic journey with bottles of Guinness, Nash’s lemonade and buttered marietta biscuits for the children, crubeens and an assortment of sandwiches usually carried in shoe boxes to spare them from being crushed. Melodeons and mouth-organs were also carried on board. Good singers and reciters were in constant demand to while away the hours. Decks of cards for the game of ‘Thirty Wan’ which went on in every carriage. The Ghost Train got its name from the fact that it travelled through the night but also because of the low lighting in the carriages which made people look ghost like to those looking in, as it made its way through the country. Another reason was the eerie and lonesome sound of the whistle from the train. This of course woke every barking dog along the way. Caherciveen’s renowned poet, Sigerson Clifford immortalised this epic return journey in his poem ‘The Ghost Train for Croke Park’. The Journalist, Con Houlihan, sized up this famous outing, which was the longest train journey in Ireland in its time when he said it was, ‘Puck Fair on Wheels’.
From the Killorglin Archive
The Longed For Day arrived
Jimmy Moloney one of the many campaigners for this facility shared a photo of Facebook to welcome the opening of our stretch of this great amenity.
My daughter Clíona spotted this sign in Cahirdown on her way home to Listowel for the weekend.
I took the photo and appealed for captions.
Catherine Moylan won with the one I’ve chosen as the heading.
She was also a close second with
Ground control, major wrong!
Geraldine O’Connor was also in the running with Fake News
I like Breda OSullivan Ahern’s “No true road but a destination.”
This sign on the approach road from Tarbert is sure to raise a smile in the midst of roadwork disruption.
Presentation Girls Reunion
On the evening of their reunion the convent girls from the sixties remembered their previous reunion. There was talk and remembrance of the ladies who had passed away since then.
We’re a Sound Town
The radio station Today Fm has awarded Listowel the accolade of September’s Sound Town. Cora O’Brien of Listowel Community and Business Alliance convinced the judges that Listowel was one of the best towns in Ireland to live in. We’re Sound Out!
One Brave Lady
Get up, dress up and show up could be the motto of the lady on the right of these photos. She is Mary O’Halloran and she has Motor Neurone Disease. She is living with it and trying to do all the things she enjoyed before. Her lovely voice has gone but she retains her enviable sense of style. She is a regular at Listowel Races and she came back in style this year, earning herself a place on the stage as a finalist in the Ladies Day fashion competition.
My friends, Peggy O’Shea from Firies and Bridget O’Connor from Ballyduff joined me to lose some money and spot some style on Friday Sept. 23 2022.
My great friend, Jimmy was joined by his friend Ted for the day out.
Lilly and her dad Simon were enjoying the racing.
I wonder what John B. is so certain of in this lesser known poem I found in a penguin anthology of Irish verse.
Carnivorous animals will not eat another animal that has been hit by a bolt of lightening.
Denis Quille found this old photo of The Bridge Road. In it, on the right hand side, you can see the remains of the old library.
Quick recap on the history of that building.
In 1910 local leaders recognised the need for a library in town. They passed a motion at the UDC meeting to approach Lord Listowel for a site. They proposed to approach The Carnegie Trust for money to fit it out and then to pay for the upkeep from an extra penny on the rates.
The story dragged on a bit with approaches to Crosbie, Lord Listowel’s agent, to the Carnegie trust, a bit of a local kerfuffle when a Cork firm got the contract etc. until 1915 when the library or Hall as it was known was finally opened.
Listowel’s own Carnegie Hall was the town hall, a concert venue, a classroom and meeting room as well as a free lending library.
It thrived and served the people of the town well until one Sunday night in 1921 at the height of The Troubles, the building was gutted by fire. Fearing that the dreaded Black and Tans, who were on their way to town, would set up headquarters there, the local IRA burned the building. The UDC records as well as the books and equipment were all lost. A notice posted on the burned out shell claimed that the IRA had saved it from “the army of occupation”.
The ruin of the building remained on Bridge Road, a grim reminder of a troubled time until it was eventually levelled to make way for a store.
Derry Buckley who knows Bridge Road well has done a bit of research for us.
Derry has circled the houses which were built by his grandfather.
“Jerry Buckley, my Grandfather built a house, and then lived in it while he built another. He moved home to the next house as he went along, Dad was born in 37 Bridge Rd. in 1932. The twins who died were born in another then Beatrice and Toddy in the corner house 51 in 1938. The end houses which are in the photo 53 and 55 were built after this so pic is about 1940.”
Another piece of evidence that the photo is younger than I thought is the presence of electricity wires. Listowel had electricity before rural electrification.
The below quote is
Listowel Electric Light and Power Co. Ltd. was in operation before 1927. It supplied 336 homes and businesses in 1929, and was acquired by ESB in September 1929.
Source: ESB Archive
Old Photo from the Pres Class of the early sixties.
Ladies Day 2022
There was a prize this year for the most creative hat. I have a suggestion for next year. I think there should be a prize for the best hat made by an amateur. I saw lots of brilliant hats which were works of art but really didn’t stand a chance competing against the professionals.
Barbara Mulvihill looked so good in a hat made by her mother.
The model’s Mammy made this one too.
This Galway lady told me she made her own chapeau.
This creation won the prize on Ladies Day 2022. It was worn by Breda Butler, from Thurles, Co. Tipperary. She bought her canary yellow headpiece from milliner Cathriona King to compliment her dress from Kimono in Newcastle West,
I saw the following on Facebook shared by a lady who remembers Millstream House and Jim Sheahan. What a loss he is to the hospitality industry!
To my friend Jim.
This is how I will choose to remember you.
Not afraid to take the jacket off and jump over a locked fence while touring around Dingle one day in the late ’80’s. I cannot recall the spot where this photo was taken but I do remember sharing one of my first days back home since I was a young girl with you. We toured about the Ring of Kerry and the love of your country, history and people left an impression long after my first Guinness hangover had faded and the blue returned to my eyes.
Thinking of the kitchen in Greenville summons memories of Nora’s brown bread, apple tarts, coleslaw, salmon fresh from the Feale, and fairy cakes. It is here that I am reminded how to properly eat a good Irish potato: holding it with a fork in the left hand, peeling away the thin brown skin to expose the floury flesh bursting forth, slathering it with fresh butter, a dip of the tip of the knife in the salt bowl to spread on top, before a pop in the mouth while hot enough to blister! Years later, I inherited a little crystal salt cellar from my husband’s grandmother. I was so excited to set the table when you came to visit my home in Pittsburgh- I finally had a guest who knew how to use that thing! (And just because I know Nora loves to recall menus the way I do- we enjoyed a meal of veal chops, baby red potatoes, rutabaga, and creme brulee that night!)
But I also see you sitting at the table with the paper while the big brown Stanley keeps watch over all of our comings and goings. Jim, you were always ready to get up to turn on the kettle, set the table, or to run us into town knowing full well that none of us would be in any shape for driving home after a few pints at John B.’s. I would often make a very solid attempt to help, and you would scold, “No, no Tricia, you’ll make me redundant.” (For my American friends, this means that you might get laid off.)
Jim, I don’t think you could ever be considered redundant. I am honored to have known a man like yourself. A man who has no problem moving from the milking barn to the bank office with a quick change of jacket and boots. A man who is so proud of his family, his sons and their accomplishments, but never boastful. A man who joked about his wife being a boss, but secretly admired her hardwork and determination. A man whose eyes sparked with joy and a smile from ear to ear as he greeted you in front of the monkey tree in the driveway- always rushing out the door just as the car turned in. A man who authentically loved all the people he welcomed into his life.
And today, instead of Céad míle fáilte, we must bid our farewells to you and God Speed. We will cherish the memories.
Trish Cloonan Ridenour
Another photo from the classes of early 1960s
The roar of an adult lion can be heard up to 5 miles away. The purpose of the roar is to warn off intruders and to gather scattered members of the pride
This is Mary Twomey with her haul of running medals. This year’s London marathon will add to her over 100 races so far. Mary ran her 100th marathon in Tralee recently with her proud family an attendance.
Jim Sheahan R.I.P.
Another good one gone.
The symbols of Jim’s life that were brought to the altar by his beloved grandchildren at his funeral mass on September 29th 2022 were a Kerry jersey, a tin whistle, a newspaper and a rosary beads. The cover photo on his funeral mass booklet was Jim in Croke Park. Gaelic games, music, keeping abreast of the news and helping where he could, and his faith, were, along with his family, the pillars of Jim Sheahan’s 88 years on this earth.
I was surprised to hear that Jim wasn’t by birth a Kerry man. He was born in Knocknagorna, Athea, Co. Limerick. He came to Kerry at age 12, when he transferred from the local national school to St. Michael’s. He stayed with his aunt, Kate Dee and her husband, Jerry.
Jim was very happy in this house in Greenville, Listowel and it was in this holding that he lived up to the time of his death.
Jim was a hard worker. After school he went to work in Niall Stack’s furniture business and afterwards in McKenna’s. He also ran a small farm, milking up to 20 cows before he went to work in the morning. He worked too as a part time musician.
At McKenna’s social in 1962, Jim won the door prize. Here is is being presented with a portable transistor radio by Mrs. McKenna. Mr. Jack McKenna is also in the photo.
A few years ago I visited Jim and Nora in their hospitable home and Jim told me about the good old days of the dancehalls.
In Listowel in the 1940s and 50s, nighttime entertainment consisted of card games, small local dances and, during Lent, dramas and variety shows.
Jim learned the tin whistle and the fiddle from music teacher, Tim O’Sullivan at a shilling a lesson.
He had a great ear for music. Recognising his pupil’s talent, Tim suggested the saxaphone. Since he neither smoked nor drank Jim had plenty of lung capacity. He had found his preferred instrument. He was mostly self taught. He told me that the skills he had learned on the tin whistle transferred “easily” to the sax.
In one of those happy co incidences of timing, Jim Sheahan mastered the saxaphone at the very time the the big band was all the rage and Vincent Walshe was bringing a whole new style of dancehall entertainment to Listowel.
The Bunny Dalton Band in the Las Vegas ballroom, Listowel
Jim became a regular in the Las Vegas house band, led by Bunny Dalton. Jim told me that this band rivalled any big band in the land. He played with them for 5 or 6 years. Their signature tune was Glen Miller’s In the Mood.
Bunny Dalton and his band played the Las Vegas on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Occasionally, Vincent Walshe took his band to an all night dance in one of the small local halls run by enterprising families near by. Jim told me that these dancehalls were usually situated beside the owner’s house and the band members were always treated to a great meal after the dance.
Around this time Jim met and married the love of his life, Nora Broderick of Coolnaleen.
Of all the teams he followed over the years, far and away the best team was the team of Jim and Nora. They were happily married for 58 years.
When he retired from McKenna’s, Jim joined Nora in running their guesthouse, Millstream House. They were cut out for this job. Nora is the best cook and baker and anyone who has sampled her hospitality will know that if you come as stranger, you will leave as a friend. Her repeat business is the stuff of legend.
Jim with John Lynch at a function in St. John’s
Jim was a born storyteller. He remembered that when he was a child, Paddy Drury, the wandering poet, used to come to his house and settle himself in an armchair for the night. Jim, himself, was a worthy successor to the seanchaithe of old and his family, as well as visitors to the house, loved to listen to him telling stories.
In Michael’s funeral tribute, we heard of Jim, the much loved family man. He used to song to entertain passengers in the car in the days before car radios and Spotify. He took his four sons far and wide to attend matches. He would usually stand in his preferred spot behind the goal. He loved simple things, Kerry football, Limerick hurling. He volunteered with the local Saint Vincent de Paul Society. In this way he was carrying on the generosity and kindness that he had learned as a child. He often left his young family on Christmas Day to deliver a meal to a less well off neighbour.
Jim’s way was a quiet way, never making a fuss, never once raising his voice: the gentlest of gentlemen.
Jim was immensely proud of his very successful family and it was clear on the day of his funeral, Sept 29 2022, that they are immensely proud of him.
Life for Nora will never be the same again but Jim will watch over her and the lovely family they reared will be a consolation and support to her in the years to come.
Guím leaba i measc na naomh duit, a Jim. May you hear the music of the angels eternally.