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: Personal Page 2 of 11

Listowel Success Stories

Ballybunion in Nov 2022


My Friends in Vincents

Vincents of William Street, Listowel, is one of my all time favourite shops. Recently I am meeting many new people manning the shop on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Helen, Theresa and Eileen
Frances, Mary and Hannah


A Laugh from Mattie Lennon

An elderly man, in Listowel,  was quite unhappy because he had lost his favorite hat. Even though he was a man like myself who was always as honest as hard times would allow, rather than purchasing a new one, he decided he would go to church and steal one.. When he got there, an usher intercepted him at the door and took him to a pew where he had to sit and listen to an entire sermon on the Ten Commandments. After church, the man met the Priest  in the vestry  doorway, shook his hand vigorously and said, “I want to thank you for saving my soul today, Father. I came to church to steal a hat, but after hearing your sermon on the Ten Commandments, I decided against it.” “You mean the Commandment, Thou shall not steal, changed your mind?” the Priest  asked. “No, the one about adultery did,” the man said. “As soon as you said that, I remembered where I left my old hat.”


Listowel Tidy Towns

The good people of Listowel Tidy Towns held a great local awards night recently. They have shared photos of all the winners on their Facebook page

Listowel Tidy Towns


A Listowel Success Story

Seamus Given sent us an account of this one.

No Magic Pill is as play by Christian OReilly. It played to universal acclaim at the recent Dublin Theatre Festival.

“It had previously run in the Black Box Galway and had its Dublin opening night on 5 October. 
It is a dramatisation of a campaign for independence for disabled people in Ireland, based on the life of Martin Naughton.
It was rapturously received by the Dublin opening night audience, which included many Listowel residents and Dublin exiles.
It continues Christian’s stellar year. His play “The Good Father“ presented by Bunclody/Kilmyshall Drama Group was placed second in the Athlone All-Ireland Drama Festival in May and his play “Chapatti”, presented by the Palace Players from Kilworth, came third.” Seamus Given.

Christian is a native of Listowel.


What I’m Reading

They now have copies of this book in Woulfe’s and Kerry writers’ Museum.

Noel Grimes is a native of Listowel. He now lives in Killarney. His book is a very readable account of the Famine in the Killarney area. It is perfect for someone who wants the sad story in accessible form. I highly recommend it.

Well done and thank you, Noel!


Mid Term Break

Cora Darby in Listowel with Nana for mid term break November 2022


Junior Griffin and Listowel Pitch and Putt Club

I was in Ballybunion with my weekend visitors when I met the very obliging Imelda Breen, niece of Junior Griffin. She and Junior were enjoying an outing to the beach on a lovely unseasonably sunny November Saturday.

I knew from many conversations with the great memory man, Junior, that he was into pitch and putt at its very beginning in Listowel. Sure enough, Junior had kept the memorabilia.

Junior is a lifetime member of the club. He was given this honour in response to the fundraising he had done in the early days of the course development.

Junior’s membership card confirms that the club was in existence in 1971.


My Ballincollig Bookclub

I spend a good bit of time in Ballincollig where most of my family live. I am a member of the library bookclub. At our last meeting we were honoured to have Tadhg Coakley as our guest. Tadhg’s marvellous book Game is shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year. In my humble opinion, while it is a brilliant book, it may be pipped by Listowel’s own Healyracing Point to Point. I didn’t tell Tadhg that.

Confession time. I am not a reader of Sports’ Books usually so these are the only 2 of the short list I have read. I’d highly recommend both.


David Kissane and the Dublin Marathon

David posted this essay on Facebook as he prepared for another great feat of running.


All bibbed up for this Sunday’s Irish Life Dublin Marathon…now read on…

                            We Who Are About to Suffer, Salute You

                                          By David Kissane

“Well done on all the hard work” my wife says as I leave the house to head off to the Dublin Marathon on Friday. 

“Ah, sure, I have a bit of training done anyway,”  I says with great humility, sitting into my van.

“No, well done for all the work around the house you’re going to do next week!” she shoots “now that all the running will be over!”


Very funny she is. Sometimes.

After changing the oil in my van and WhatsApping club business (while under the van) and packing all known items of running gear (all neatly washed for me, I might add!) off I drive past Tubrid Cross and stop to fill up with the diesel in Dillane’s in Abbeydorney. The owner is outside sweeping away the October leaves. A fair athlete himself and he quips “I think ye are mad taking on the 26 miles 385 yards” but adds “but I envy ye all.”  I tell him that the nine of us from St Brendan’s AC will do our best and that I will act as sweeper at the back. Hoping to be back south of the Liffey before the gantry is taken down and the Sunday evening silence envelops the city.

As I head towards Lixnaw, I recall the uneasy road of 2022 to Dublin.

It could all have finished for me a few weeks ago.

It was the second week in October and no long runs had been done. I watched in awe as our colleagues in St Brendan’s rattled off the 25Ks and the 30Ks, and over, in single runs. All way ahead of my humble efforts. So I had to up my game. A run of 30K was planned for Ardfert Recreational Centre, a place we’ve grown to love over the year. The perimeter of the magnificent Astro pitch and the pristine grass pitch is around 650 metres. About 60 laps of it would put my marathon train back on the tracks and it would be full steam ahead.

Great place to train. Smooth concrete, no noise pollution, no traffic coming at you, level as a runway, clean as a whistle. “Fair play to you!” says John Kelly, a club founder member who loves walking in the ARC as I have lift off with water nearby on my van (another advantage of the ARC) and my Garmen is purring and the sun is shining and life is good. Earphones pumping “Wild Montana Skies” by John Denver on the Ronan Collins Show on RTE Radio 1 at 12 noon.

Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes

Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies

No phone to bother the head and the total freedom of the run. Lengths of the pitches to use for fartleky dashes or closed-mouth-and-breathe-through-the-nose inserts or little Irish dancing steps to add variety for the legs.

I like to absorb the hinterland as I run. Ardfert Cathedral roof could be seen to the north west and the green and manicured undulations of Ardfert Pitch and Putt course were over the fence on the north side of the ARC. A cropped cornfield next door tells the story of a good summer and a rich harvest. The children in Ardfert National School had audibly been let out to play. Their energy flew across the houses to my ears. “Mankind made the school, but God made the schoolyard” said Walter Bagehot, the English social scientist. The energy that would drive the country ahead and secure the future of Ireland and the world. The undeniable energy of the school yard.

Then suddenly a flock of swallows landed on the top of the nets behind the goals in the GAA grass field. Twittering and excited and no doubt the last of the swallows to head off to the sunny climes of Spain and Africa. Their summer done in Ireland. A few took off and came back as if testing the flightpath. Then suddenly they all took off, except one lone swallow who resisted the urge to follow. The rest headed over Station Road

I used to give my Leaving Cert Irish students a homework scéal to do when I was teaching in Tarbert Comprehensive. “Bhí an lá ag dul ar aghaidh go hiontach go dti gur…” The day was flying until… and they were to create a plot and a title. Well, soon the title for me became “The day the music died” as I lost interest in the run after a mere fifteen laps, my legs seized up and the battery went in my radio. And in my heart. 

Pointless, I decided. Making a fool of myself going to Dublin. As Mohammed Ali said once about an opponent, “I’m so bad I make medicine sick!” 

I restarted, as I had never failed to finish a training session during the year. I tried to think like a coach and encourage myself to keep going as I have done with athletes over many years. I rehydrated and ate a few more grapes and tried to camouflage the pain and mental plonk with thoughts of how lucky I was to have good health and to be still alive at 69 years of age. After all, a brother and a sister didn’t live to be the age I am now. I though of others I could run for also. It worked for a while and I plodded on but then, full stop again! Back into the van and home and goodbye to the marathon. Too slow to keep up with my eight club colleagues who are in a different league. Mentally kicking myself in the backside and worse, admitting that I wouldn’t be physically able to do another marathon ever.

And I didn’t want to emulate the marathon-end of the first man to run a marathon. Poor old Pheidippides dropped dead after bringing news of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC! His last words were “Joy to you!” Fair play to him.

But the sun set and the sun rose and two days later I was back in action on the soft sand in Barrow. Plan? To give up on the long runs and do shorter, more intensive ones. Fartlek, soft sand, hills, twin runs some days, fast walks…not checking the Garmen too often. Survival mode. The culture of the effort is fundamental. Take the chance and you will never regret it. Arthur Lydiard, whose book, Run To The Top, Con Dennehy lent me recently, proposed that one should do a module of speedwork the week of the marathon.

That and more got me on the road to Dublin yesterday.

Autumn leaves dancing in Adare and russet trees getting russeter and streams of traffic coming against me on their way to a long weekend or mid-term break in Kerry. The Silvermines resplendent in the setting sun and then bacon and spuds in the Obama Plaza in Moneygall – great place – and soon autumnal Dublin wraps its arms around the mind. I love Dublin and always have done from All Irelands as a child with my father and later as a resident for eight years and from the early marathon days in the 1980s where I ran 3:12 in my second one. But I had trained for that, and oh yeah, I was a younger man!

I hear the news that Ballydonoghue’s Jason Foley has got his well-earned All Star as the best full back in the country. A great honour for my other parish and Jason is a fine example to all, both young and old. His grandfather was a founder member of the Ballydonoghe Parish Magazine which is entering its 37 year. I have to edit some items in the current upcoming issue before I sleep tonight! Jason will feature much in it.

Then the alarm rings this Saturday morning – I am already awake – and it’s out to the RDS to register. A wettish morning and would be ideal if it was like that on Sunday. Pre-hydrated air. Parked in a nice place near the RDS but the parking meter wasn’t working so had to circle. The usual buzz in the RDS and very efficient in the registration hall and friendly as well. Loads of stalls selling their stuff and of course I couldn’t resist. On duty at his post is Frank Greally, the Irish Runner inspiration whose book, Running Full Circle I finished last night. He exudes passion for athletics. And life. Then to Blackrock where I spent years of weekends at my craft outlet and headed for a lunch of pancakes and syrup – lots of syrup – with extra crispy bacon in The Yellow Fig. Tried to keep my feet on the heels as an hour passed in perfect relaxation.

As I drank a few cups of sweet tea, I sought positivity in the year gone by. A few miles covered in non-marathon-style training. Munster masters indoor walk, national indoor walk (in the beautiful Athlone Arena), British Masters walk in Lee Valley in north east London, a lovely arena also. Then outdoors in Kerry, Munster and Derby for the British masters outdoor walks championships. And then the Athletics Ireland national masters championships. Ah yes, the national championships in a hot hot hot Tullamore in August where three St Brendan’s AC walkers made their national walks debut along with Con Dennehy of An Ríocht AC. With Michael O’Connor (Farranfore Maine Valley AC) and Pat Murphy (Castleisland Walking Club) Kerry masters kept walking to the forefront that beautiful day.

A regular summer chat with John Griffin, Dublin Marathon winner supreme, was always inspiring when I often bumped into him near my favourite Lesotho bookshop in Tralee.  

So back through heavy Saturday evening traffic and here I am at 10pm on the Saturday night before the big event. “Not young and not renewable, but human” to misquote the poet Thomas Kinsella who was born a few doors away from the house where I will sleep for a few hours tonight. Then up in the Dublin Sunday morning and across the city to the leafy streets around the Grand Canal to Fitzwilliam Square. The first and second and third waves with the well-prepared pistoleros will be well on their way when we start in the fourth wave. The Purple Wave. The last wave.

Then at 9.45am we will join the river of runners going north over the Liffey and through the Phoenix Park and back to the southside and…who knows.

By the time I might reach the last Purple Mile and the finish in Merrion Square North, the other waves will have reached home, hotel or wherever and will have well started the after-marathon-heaven-is-here level. So will my St Brendan’s AC colleagues. Let the celebrations then begin.

The marathon is a noble thing and deserves respect. It is a strategic enabler if you treat it right. The runners will meet a part of ourselves that lies beneath and is rarely visited. We will question our very core. If the training didn’t go to plan, we will question ourselves even more in the excursion into something different. It ain’t no way to treat a marathon if we don’t prepare properly and we have to pay the price. That is the terrible beauty of the great run. The journey may be the destination for many with the experience of emotional and physical diversity. 

We finish and some of us say never again. Then we start training in May. We know the soul-rinsing experience that is there for the taking.

Sure anyway, comfort is the enemy of progress. Let’s make the magic and believe for a while that the myth is the only reality.

The line from Gladiator comes to mind at this moment. It has to be paraphrased.

“We, who are about to suffer, salute you.”


A Few More from the Food and Craft Fair

on Sunday October 31 2022

I bought delicious blackberry jam from this man. He picked the berries and made the jam in Abbeydorney. For me Blackberry Jam is a taste of childhood summers, when I picked the berries in Ballintubber, my mother’s childhood home, and my Aunty Eily cleared all of us children out of the house while she cooked the jam on a Primus stove. Next morning by the time we got up there would be freshly baked brown bread, spread with butter and the newly cooled jam for breakfast.

These two ladies call their business Two Crafty Ladies and they live up to the name.

Pat Murphy, of Woodford Pottery brought examples of his newest range of colourful ware. It’s always great to talk to Pat and hear what he is at.

Woodford Pottery is available directly from Pat in his shop at the pottery or from Kerry Writers’ Museum.


Books and Men and More

The Square, Sat. Sept 10 2022


A Womanless Library?

My story of Andrew Carnegie and Listowel Library prompted Mattie Lennon to send us an account of a man who was no Andrew Carnegie. Here is the strange tale of Towsend Murphy Zink.

 A total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  66 were built in Ireland of which 62 are still in operation today.

  And if another benefactor, had got his way September 11 2022 would be the 17th anniversary of the turning of the first sod for the construction of a library of a different kind.

  When Iowa attorney T.M. Zink died on September 11th  in 1930, aged 72, he disinherited his wife in his will  and left $5 to his daughter.  The will, which had been drawn up on July 18th.   He left a sum of $50,000 to be invested for 75 years, when he calculated it would total about $4 million. This would be used to endow a rather unique library:  “A Woman free” library, where,  “No woman shall at any time, under any pretence or for any purpose, be allowed inside the library, or upon the premises or have any say about anything concerned therewith, nor appoint any person or persons to perform any act connected therewith.”

 He also stipulated that “No book, work of art, chart, magazine, picture, unless some production by a man, shall be allowed inside or outside the building, or upon the premises, and this shall include all decorations for inside and outside the building.” And over each entrance there would be a sign carved in stone bearing the words, “No Woman Admitted.”

 He said that his intention was,” . . .  to forever exclude all women from the premises and having anything to say or do with the trust estate and library. …”

 He went on to explain his  considered decision, “My intense hatred of women is not of recent origin or development nor based upon any personal differences I ever had with them but is the result of my experiences with women, observations of them, and study of all literatures and philosophical works within my limited knowledge relating thereto.”

 At the end of the seventy-five-year period, in 2005, no more than 25% of the estate was to be used for the purchase of the site and for the construction of a non-circulating library. He added that an additional 25% should be “invested in the best, most reliable and authentic books, maps, charts, works of art, magazines, and other authentic works containing all known information and knowledge of science, literature, geography, religions, and all known knowledge of the world.”

The document continues, “no book, work of art, map, or chart shall be excluded therefrom on account of any theory, philosophy, ethics, religion, or language; it being my intention and purpose to establish a library in which all known human knowledge may be found by any man wishing the same.”

  Townsend Murphy Zink was born on December 28, 1858, in Hillsboro, Ohio. While he was still a young child, his parents, James and Clarissa, picked up and moved to Jasper County in Iowa, not far from the county seat of Newton. Not one for the farm life, Zink opted to study law at the State University of Iowa. He received his degree in June 1883 and moved to Le Mars, where he would practice for the remainder of his life.

    Having been such a prominent member of the Le Mars community, his death was front-page news in all the area papers. Hundreds attended the funeral services that were held at his home at 112 Third Street, SE, which looks amazingly similar today to what it looked like back in 1930.

    On September 15th 1930 a piece in the Le Mars Globe Post stated that, “In the passing of Mr. Zink, this city and the members of the bar of this community, lose a real, honest man of high standing and ideas.” An editorial in that same day’s paper said, “If T.M. Zink had been able to attend his own funeral, he would have been touched by the evidences of affection and esteem which his fellowmen have held him.” The author continues, “There were many who sensed in a greater or less degree his underlying goodness; many to whom he had been kind in his unobtrusive way; many who had cause tosee his passing with regret.”

Today there is no Womanless Library as a tourist attraction in Le Mars.  Mr Zink’s will was successfully challenged and she got everything. Dr. George Donahoe from the state mental hospital in Cherokee. He testified, “Mr. Zink was suffering from a classic case of sexual paranoia, which is a form of insanity that is chronic, progressive and incurable.”

One way or another the “honest man of high standing” was no Andrew Carnegie.


Two Books and a Correction

I called to Woulfe’s to pick up In Our Day, It’s a great collection of first hand recollections of old Dublin.

While I was in the shop I spotted this poetry book that I had seen advertised. It’s lovely, a collection of poems for those times “when you can’t find the words.”

Now the mug Sean brought me from France…..I made a big mistake last time I posted about it. The mug is from Brittany not Normany as I said. Eagle eyed people will have recognised the Brittany flag.

Brittany and Normandy are kinda frenemies. There is a belief in Brittany that Normandy ‘stole” their Mont Saint Michel.

Apologies to my Brittany family, especially Sean.


New Business on Bridge Road


Parking is about to Change

These men, or men like them were at every parking meter yesterday.

They came to town in these vans.

I didn’t ask but I’m guessing they were adjusting our parking meters to take cards


A Fact ( and a warning)

Drinking too much coffee can be lethal. Ten Grams (100 cups) over four hours can kill the average human being.

Remember that next time you are dying for coffee


A Mural and a Festival

Lullymore Bord na Mona Visitor Park; Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú


In Lyreacrompane

I sourced the following picture and story in the Lyreacrompane Historical Group’s Facebook page.

“People immediately recognise the image of the ‘Bull McCabe’, a character in John B Keane’s play, The Field”, Kay O’Leary from the Heritage Group told The Kerryman. She went on, “There is much debate as to which murder in the area ‘The Field’ is based on but the character of the Bull McCabe does point in one direction and John B knew the Lyreacrompane area and its happenings and secrets from a young age!”

The other image on the mural that has people asking questions is of a young girl watching the horse being shod. Joe Harrington from the Heritage group explains that this image represents Amelia Canty (1874-1955), who played an important role in the War of independence in North Kerry. He credits Kerry historian, Mary McAuliffe with unearthing the story. Amelia was born in the original Canty homestead near the forge which had been set up by her father. In her forties she worked undercover in RIC barracks in Abbeydorney and Listowel and in a witness statement to the Bureau Military History in 1955, Patrick McElligott, Commander of the Volunteers in North Kerry during the War of Independence, said that; “It would have been nearly impossible to carry on in such a hotbed of spies and informers without her aid”. 

Some of the older people still remember the Forge in Lyreacrompane and the mural brings back many childhood memories. It seems that the wet day was always the busiest at the forge as farmers, unable to work in the wet weather, used the time to get horses shod, gates and farm machinery fixed and catch up with the local news. Those gatherings at the forge were an important opportunity for social gatherings back then. Canty’s Forge closed in 1951 and on Sunday last, the extended Canty family gathered to view the mural, remember olden times and pass on the story to the younger generation.

In the photo. On the left; Jeremiah and Shay O’Connor, Cathy and Evelyn Canty, Donagh and Rian Horgan, Mike Horgan, Donal Canty and Leah and Ava Canty. On the right; Finnán and Daire Canty, John, Betty and Patsy Canty, Catherine Canty Horgan and Sean Horgan, Margaret Canty Kerins, Heather O’Connor and Padraig Canty.


International storytelling festival 2022

This year’s international storytelling festival will take place in and around Kerry Writers’ Museum from September 15 to 18.

All the great local storytellers will be in action as well as international guests. There will be songs and walks and all kind of shenanigans as well. A great weekend is planned.

Get information and tickets from Kerry Writers’ Museum here;

Kerry Writers’ Museum


Sam’s Visit

News from North Kerry GAA

The Sam Maguire Cup with members of the Kerry team will be in the Square Listowel on Saturday September 17th @8pm. Also in attendance will be the North Kerry Minor County Champions. As this was a historic achievement been organised by the North Kerry Board in conjunction with Listowel Emmets we are asking ALL CLUBS In North Kerry to have members of their u13 teams present at Frank Sheehy Park, Listowel on the same night @7pm sharp to parade to the Square as part of the Celebrations. We need all clubs to get on board with this to make the night a memorable event for all. All clubs can contact PJ Mulvihill secretary of the North Kerry Football Board in relation to your club participating.


A Fact

The phrase “rule of thumb” derives from an old English law which stated that you could not beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.


Sive in John B.’s

Listowel Arms 2004


Sive in John B.’s

This is artist Moira Keane and publican Billy Keane. I took the photo in John B.’s on Aug 25 2022 when Moira came from her home in Galway to sign the mural she had painted when she was a young art teacher in town.

Billy put on a great show for her.

We started with Micky MacConnell.

He sang a Galway song especially for Moira. We were back with Mickey and his first love “busking in Eyre Square” having arrived in his old car, Flattery, which got him everywhere.

Then, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, another John B. regular, read a poem or two for us.

In honour of the occasion, the Lartigue Little Theatre Group were staging a special performance of the closing scene in Sive. Denis Mahoney explained to us that it was difficult to adapt it for this small intimate venue, but the cast had pulled out all the stops for this special night.

There is something special about seeing the play performed in the house where it was written.

Con Kirby was excellent in the role of the “withered old lurgadawn of a man”, the lecherous Seán Dota.

Katie Lucey was “the sweet flower of the canavaun” as Sive.

That match was never going to work.

Pats Bacach (Mike Moriarty) put the heart crossways in us as he summoned Carthalawn (Brendan Kennelly) to curse Tomsásheen Seán Rua who had made the match.

When Liam Scuab enters carrying the body of Sive, everyone is chastened.

Con Kirby, Laura Shine Gumbo and Jimmy Moloney

Those who should have cared for Sive have let their own unhappy situations lead them for a mad moment into believing that this match was the right thing to do.

Sive is a marvellous play. I grew up in an Ireland that had only recently come out of that awful era. I feel sympathy for every one of those characters.


Heatwave a hundred years ago


Page 2 of 11

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén