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

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Áras an Phiarsaigh

In The Rose Hotel, Tralee

A magnificent bookcase

You’ll have to enlarge to read the history of this gorgeous pice of craftsmanship.

The beautiful detail is a lasting tribute to the work of these master craftsmen.

This piece on top is not explained but would seem to have associations with its previous religious owners.

In Boherbue

My visitor, Phil, grew up in the little village of Boherbue on the Cork Kerry border. It’s in Co. Cork but in the diocese of Kerry.

Now a centre of activity in the village is this hub which has the local supermarket, the post office and a really lovely café.

Here we met up with some old friends and some family of old friends.

The range of ages in this photo is close to a century. Boherbue is a vibrant close knit community. Listening to some of these reminiscing was a pleasure. Three of the people in this picture once worked in the post office when everyone in town visited the post office for some errand or other. The telephone exchange was also housed there. In those days the telephonist knew all the numbers by heart. There is a story here for another day.

Family Visit

My next visitors were Carine and Bobby and the lovely Reggie.

From the Newspaper Archives

April 1930

A few good-steed salmon were amongst those landed within the past

few days, between Kilmorna and Abbeyfeale. John Creaghe Harnett got three, 10 to 15 lbs.; J. Kelly, Kilmorna, landed a 28.5 lb. salmon; J. Hickey, one 19 lbs.; W. R. Collins, two, 10 and 12 lbs.; M. Galvin, Duagh, one, 10 lbs.; J. Relihan. one, 11 lbs.; D. Downey, two, 9 and 10

lbs.; J. Clancy, one, 11 lbs.; W C. Harnett, one 9 lbs.

Beautiful Paintwork

Isn’t this superb?

I managed to find signwriter, Martin Chute, nearby so he posed for me with another of his beautiful masterpieces. I think this just might be my new favourite shop front, not mad for the flags but I’ll allow that bow to modernity.

Martin is now working on this shop next door. It’s much more minimalist and a contrast to the buildings on either side. It’s going to be an interiors shop I’m told, soft furnishings and homewares.

Great to see new life coming back to town.

A Fact

Fred Bauer (1918 -2002), the designer of the Pringles can, had his ashes buried in one.


In Kiskeam

Áras an Phiarsaigh

In Kiskeam

Kiskeam is lovely rural village in North Cork. Its people are friendly and welcoming.

Kiskeam in the past was devastated by poverty and emigration.

This is the sign on the graveyard wall. I visited the graveyard last week.

The graves are beautifully kept.

Nestled among the flowers in this box I saw this lovely little message.

A Celtic Cross

Amanda Danzinger in the group “Dicussion on Celtic Art”

I found this big beautiful Celtic cross in Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Seattle. It was made around 1910. I looked it up and it belongs to M.J. Heney, aka “The Irish Prince of Alaska” who built the Alaskan railways during the Klondike gold rush.

I looked it up too, and

I found this from An Irishman’s Diary by Frank McNally, March 24 2017

Hiking in eastern Alaska some time ago, Dublin photographer Paul Scannell chanced upon a small town called McCarthy, where he was so charmed by the ambience that he skipped his flight home and stayed for five months.

The locals took him to heart during his visit. They even elected him “prom queen” at one point, which may sound a bit irregular. But bear in mind that while McCarthy is at the centre of America’s largest national park – two-thirds the size of Ireland – the township itself is not extensive. It has a population of 28.

Anyway, Scannell eventually abdicated his monarchical responsibilities to return home. And next week in Dublin, he opens an exhibition of pictures both from McCarthy itself and the Wrangell-St Elias national park that surrounds it. The show runs at the Powerscourt Gallery from March 29th.

Like many former mining towns, McCarthy used to be bigger than it is now.

Named after one Irishman, the philanthropist James McCarthy, it was made possible by another, a railroad contractor named Michael “Big Mike” Heney.

The Canadian-born son of immigrants, Heney made his fortune building the infrastructure required by the Klondike Gold Rush and other mining booms of the 1890s onwards, in the process of which he too earned a regal title, “The Irish Prince of Alaska”.

His boast was that, given enough dynamite, he could build “a road to hell”. And when a vast copper find at a place called Kennecott demanded a rail-link from the coast, his promise was sorely tested.

Begun in 1907, the 196-mile Copper River and Northwestern Railroad had to cross mountains, glaciers, and river rapids. That and its initials earned it the nickname “Can’t Run and Never Will”. But it did, within four years, and on its maiden journey there was already a quarter-million dollars worth of copper ore awaiting it.

Kennecott became a company town and, as such, was declared “dry”. Miners were not allowed to bring families on site, either, lest their monk-like existence be compromised. So what became McCarthy – the local railway junction – had to make up for Kennecott’s deficiencies.

During three rambunctious decades, it had bars, brothels, pool-halls and all the rest of the services required for a population that reached about 1,000 at its height. Then in 1938, $200 million worth of copper deposits later, reserves ran out.

Mining stopped, so did the trains, and the settlement was abandoned so abruptly that plates were left on tables.

Not much happened there again until the 1970s, when Kennecott and McCarthy were found to have the sort of deposits required by another industry, tourism. Intrepid visitors now come to see the old mining ruins and the wilderness around them. Kennecott houses the national park people. Minus the brothels, McCarthy still looks after the social side.

The place has had its darker episodes too. In 1983, a man went on gun rampage and massacred six residents, more than a quarter of the population. He was ostensibly protesting against the Alaska pipeline.

Then, further afield from McCarthy but in the same corner of the world, there was the sad case of Christopher McCandless, a wanderer who styled himself “Alexander Supertramp”. He is presumed to have starved to death, aged 24, while hiking along another of eastern Alaska’s trails.

His remains were found in the abandoned “Magic Bus”, an improvised shelter, in 1992.

And his life story has since spawned a book, film, and documentary. In fact, it was after hiking to the site of the Magic Bus that Paul Scannell found his way to McCarthy.

Scannell is not the first person from these parts to rediscover the latter town. For obvious reasons, it was also a sort of spiritual homeland to the late comedian and travel writer Pete McCarthy, born in Liverpool of a Cork mother.

After the success of his 1999 book, McCarthy’s Bar, set in Ireland, he wrote a follow-up called The Road to McCarthy.  That was an international affair, tracking the Irish diaspora to such places as Butte, Montana, and the Caribbean island of Monserrat.

But McCarthy, Alaska, featured too. As well it might, because not only does it have a road to McCarthy, it has the McCarthy Road, now as much a travel destination as the town at its terminus.

According to the local travel website (, the drive takes about 2½ hours each way. But the surface can be weather-affected, severely. So those planning the journey are advised to bring “food, water, a spare tyre and jack and plenty of fuel”.

A Fact

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don’t develop until they are about 6 months of age.


Summer 2024

The Square July 2024

No. 10 Downing Street….The Listowel Connection

Helen and James Kenny of this parish pictured with Keir Starmer a few years ago.

I got the story from the horse’s mouth. (James Kenny, himself)

This photo was taken at the time of a family wedding when Helen’s niece married Chris Ward. Chris was then a member of Starmer’s backroom team. Since July 4 2024 the same Chris is an M.P.

Casement Train Station

Did you know that Tralee train station is called Casement Station?

With the John B. Statue

Every visitor to Listowel has to be photographed with this statue. Thank you very much to the kind man who took this one of Phil and me. He did a great job.

A Bit of History from the Newspaper Archives

April 19 1930

New York NY Irish American Advocate 1930-1931

The returns of the Registrar-General for the year 1929, show that Kerry had the lowest death-rate in the Irish Free State during that period.

From the Devil’s Dictionary

by Ambrose Bierce

belladonna, n. In Italian a beautiful lady; in English, a deadly poison. A striking example of the identity of the two tongues.

A Fact

The acronym BFF (best friends forever) was first used by the character Phoebe Buffay in the TV show Friends.


In Ballybunion and Tralee

Road from the library

Ballybunion, A visitor’s Angle

Text and photos from Raymond O’Sullivan on Facebook

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry DavidThoreau.

This is a ‘mantra’ that I repeat continuously to my charges on school history tours.  Looking is a passive, surface-level act; seeing is an active process of interpretation.  But, due to aggressive modern ‘landscaping’, they would be forgiven for not noticing that the iconic castle overlooking the beaches in Ballybunion was built on the site of a much earlier coastal promontory fort. 

These forts, generally assigned to the Iron Age, consist of promontories connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of land and defended elsewhere by steep cliffs. On the landward side they are defended by earthen banks and fosses.

In Ballybunion the path from the beach seems to pass through the fosse between the two outer banks, before bursting through the inner of the two into the castle green itself. There is a much eroded third bank nearer the castle. The few that have been investigated show that they were not permanent occupation sites. Probably only used in times of trouble. Check it out the next time you’re in BallyB.

The castle was built in the early 16th century by a branch of the Geraldines. They placed a Bonzan family there as caretakers. Bonzan-Bunyan, Bunion- this family gave its name to the place.

Flowers in Tralee

A Poem


There is little joy in growing old, some maturing people say

As they get stressed with the ageing process, trying to cope

With health, death of partners, accommodation

And who will look after their daily needs as they age

Their household and personal requirements

Finances, health issues, nursing home facilities

Or maybe they want to keep their own independence

Will family members pop in and assist with household chores

Will they be able to cook and mind the house

With assistance from home help and meals on wheels

What family member has space in their home where they can live for a while

Will they be able to get respite care when they need it.

Decisions, decisions, mostly out of older peoples’ control

They are really difficult decisions to be decided

Which put a strain on family relations

This can result in arguments and bitter feuds

Which are sometimes nasty and deeply wounding

Often caused by some simple silly remark

Or misrepresentation of some retort

Which should be ignored by sensible  people involved

Sadly, this does not happen on a regular basis

Forgiveness is often forgotten about

I am sorry, I regret what I said or why can’t people say

Sorry I misunderstood what you said or did

Instead of prolonged shouting and arguments

Followed by legal advisers and costly court cases

These bitter family feuds can go on for years and years

Causing more stress, anxiety and tears

This is so sad when a family member dies

And some other members refuse to attend

Wakes, reposing, masses, funerals or cremation services

Tensions are unfortunately unnecessarily risen

There are stern stressed looking countenances

When feuding members meet socially or on the street

Scowling and frowning and attempting avoidance

Eyes down, looking in the other direction

With every facial and body muscle tensed and stressed out

When a simple hello how are you?

Or warm embrace or a hug or handshake

                                                      Could soothe and resolve the nastiest of rows.

In my life I have seen family members excluded from wills

Court cases ensuing, arguments, fights and injuries

Even death and murder most foul

Caused by not getting a few acres of land

A bit of financial endowment or house in a will

And mental and physical stress continues to the grave and beyond.

Mick O Callaghan. June 2024

I love the chorus line of Ken Dodds song  ‘Tears’ written in 1930 that goes ‘Let’s forgive and forget
Turn our tears of regret ,Once more to tears of happiness’

Or as the American journalist, author and world peace advocate, Norman Cousins [1915-1990] said ‘Life is an adventure in forgiveness’.

’What a great country we would have if we could have more forgiveness and less tears and regrets.

A Definition

from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

barometer n. an ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.

A Fact

In 1908 the morse code signal …—… became the worldwide standard for help.


Hungry July

Greenway photo by John Kelliher

Hungry July

July is the month before the Harvest comes in. In the days before copious imported produce, farmers and housewives worried about making last year’s stocks last through to harvest time.

Here is what Kevin Danaher’s The Year in Ireland has to say. This account is from 1841

This year, 2024, we’ve had a poor summer after a wet winter and spring. Fodder for cattle and grains and vegetables for us all are a cause of concern.

If we think we’re badly off we need to take a look at our poor forefathers in the years before it all went so disastrously wrong for them in the 1840s.

A Few More from Ard Churam

Some singers and audience on June 27 2024

A Definition

From The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

auctioneer n. someone who proclaims with his hammer that he has picked a pocket with his tongue

A Fact

In 1568 the Catholic Church condemned the entire population of The Netherlands to death, for heresy.


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