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 17

In Kanturk, Cork and Listowel

An image for today, August 15 2023 , feast of The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. Photo taken in Teampall Bán in August 2023


Kanturk Arts Festival

This is the scene in the O’Brien Street Park in Kanturk in summer 2023

This is a lovely way to spend a bit of time. I photographed some of the poems for you so I’ll be sharing them here now for a while.


End of an Era

Last week I was at two funerals. Both deceased were nuns. Slowly I am witnessing the end of a way of life I thought would continue forever.

Sr. Mary Salmon was the sister of Listowel’s Michael. Her life was one of service to the communities in which she lived. She was a member of a very small order of sisters, The Little Sisters of the Assumption. They live among the people they serve and give witness to God’s love in a practical way.

Sr. Mary was a nurse and though a succession of roles, eventually a director of home care services in the north of Cork city. She had many friends in the neighbourhood and it was lovely to meet her friends from the rosary group she set up 40 years ago and her more recent friends from the active retired group all come to celebrate her life at her funeral mass.

Sr. Mary was active right up to her final few days. She loved her family, her community and her beloved Mayo. May she rest in peace.

Sr. Benedict O’Connor was my colleague in Presentation Secondary School, Listowel.

She passed away after a long life of service to education in Kerry and in the U.S. Sr. Benedict loved books, she loved reading and encouraging others to read. She kept abreast of what was happening in the world by reading the newspaper and she loved to do the crossword.

Many Pres. past pupils will remember her in the school library, where she was in her element. She loved to encourage girls to read the classics and she encouraged many a reluctant reader to take up a book .

In her final years she lived in a silent world, being profoundly deaf. She still attended mass in St. John’s nearby to where she lived in Pres. Tralee and she lived as full a life as she could. She accepted her cross and was resigned to death when it came suddenly at the end.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal.


An Old Ad.

( shared by Liam OHainnín on Facebook)

Listowel’s first department store?


Just a Thought

My reflections which were broadcast last week on Radio Kerry are here;

Just a Thought


A (Mad) Fact

In the 19th century madness was an occupational hazard of hatmakers. Hence the phrase “as mad as a hatter”.

Mercury was an ingredient in the solution that was used to treat the felt that was used in the making of hats. Mercury poisoning attacked the central nervous system causing trembling, irrationality and confusion. People just thought that all hatters were mad.


Teampall Bán

Beautiful butterflies and moths photographed in Ardgillan by Éamon OMurchú.


Teampall Bán

Teampall Bán has been undergoing some changes so I was delighted to have an opportunity to visit with my houseguests. It is always an opportunity for a history lesson and a time for reflection on our many blessings in life today.

Killian and Cora are standing at the magnificent new gate sponsored by Beasley Engineering. As you can see the painting isn’t quite finished yet.

The Celtic Cross is beautifully repainted.

Last time I visited the gable wall mural was looking a bit shabby. This time it had been painted over. The mural with its dark sky and gaunt crosses added a sombre air to the place and was very much part of the experience for me. Maybe they will be able to get someone to redo it.

The tree of contemplation.

The “scores on the doors” are blood chilling.

The quiet little chapel is perfect for prayer and reflection.

It’s hard to call a place of such awful sorrow a visitor attraction. In the manner of war cemeteries and and holocaust museums it is a reminder to us all of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. I believe we should market it more. It’s a truly hauntingly beautiful place. Credit for its upkeep goes to Listowel Tidy Towns and friends.


Flocks of Birds

Thank you, Rose McGinty for sharing this


R.I.P. Sinead O’Connor

A verse of a traditional song in tribute to the sweetest singer of them all

I’ve seen the lark soar high at morn,
Heard his song up in the blue.
I have heard the blackbird pipe his note,
The thrush and the linnet too.
But there’s none of them can sing so sweet,
My singing bird, as you,
Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
My singing bird, as you

Below is the poem Sinead’s brother, Joseph, said at her funeral ceremony. Sinead, in her internet rants, was wont to refer to her f…ing family. There is no doubt her family loved her dearly, if she could only have believed that.

There’s a blackbird in Dun Laoghaire

When I’m walking with my sons

Through the laneways 

Called ‘The Metals’

By the train-tracks. 

And he sings among the dandelions 

And bottle-tops and stones, 

Serenading purple ivy, 

Weary tree-trunks. 

And I have it in my head 

That I can recognise his song, 

Pick him out, 

I mean distinct 

From all his flock-mates.

Impossible, I know. 

Heard one blackbird, heard them all. 

But there are times 

He whistles up a recollection. 

There’s a blackbird in Dun Laoghaire – 

And I’m suddenly a kid, 

Asking where from here to Sandycove 

My youngest sister hid. 

I’m fourteen this Easter. 

My job to mind her. 

Good Friday on the pier – 

And I suddenly can’t find her. 

The sky like a bruise 

By the lighthouse wall. 

We were playing hide-and-seek. 

Is she lost? Did she fall? 

There’s a blackbird in Dun Laoghaire 

And the terror’s like a wave 

Breaking hard on a hull, 

And the peoples’ faces grave 

As Yeats on a banknote. 

Stern as the mansions 

Of Killiney in the distance, 

As the pier’s granite stanchions, 

And Howth is a drowned child 

Slumped in Dublin Bay, 

And my heart is a drum 

And the breakers gull-grey. 

The baths. It starts raining. 

The People’s Park. 

And my tears and the terns, 

And the dogs’ bitter bark. 

There’s a blackbird in Dun Laoghaire, 

And I pray to him, then, 

For God isn’t here, 

In a sobbed Amen. 

And she waves from the bandstand, 

Her hair in damp strings, 

And the blackbird arises 

With a clatter of wings 

From the shrubs by the teahouse,


Where old ladies dream 

Of sailors and Kingstown 

And Teddy’s ice-cream. 

And we don’t say a word 

But cling in the mizzle, 

And the whistle of the bird 

Getting lost in the drizzle. 

Mercy weaves her nest 

In the wildflowers and the leaves, 

There are stranger things in heaven 

Than a blackbird believes. 

– Joseph O’Connor, 2010 


Protestants in Tarbert

Planting on Eileen/Breda’s wall with cinema in background in July 2023


The (Pink) Movie of Summer 2023

Cartoon by Mike O’Donnell


A Verse



Square Deals has closed.


Protestants in Tarbert

(from Rev. Patrick Comerford’s blog)

One of the earliest Methodist preachers to minister in Tarbert was the Revd Gideon Ouseley, an Irish speaker from Dumore, Co Galway. He rowed across the Shannon from Kilrush, Co Clare, to Tarbert, one day in 1820, and as he came ashore on Tarbert Island he declared aloud: ‘I take Tarbert in the name of the Lord Jesus.’

The Revd William Foote held regular Methodist services in Tarbert from 1820, and his twin sons were baptised in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert) on 4 April 1821.

The Methodist Conference approved building a chapel in Tarbert in 1830, and a site on Church Street, east of the Rectory, was leased from John Leslie of Tarbert House. The new chapel and school opened for worship on 30 October 1830. It was a year after Catholic Emancipation and, by coincidence, this was the same year work began on building the first Roman Catholic church in Tarbert.

At the opening of the new Wesleyan chapel, the preachers included the Revd Elijah Hoole, a former missionary in India, and the Revd James Gillman, a Methodist minister in Limerick. The Clare Mission, based in Kilrush, once covered five counties – Clare, Galway, Tipperary, Limerick and Kerry – and ministers based in Kilrush regularly rowed eight miles across the Shannon Estuary to preach in the chapel in Tarbert, often exposing themselves to great danger.


Changes at Listowel Writers’ Week

Tom Donovan

 Listowel Writers’ Week Announces Appointment of New Chairperson  20th  July 2023:  

The board of directors of Listowel Writers Week is pleased to announce the unanimous election of Tom Donovan to the position of Chair of the Board as well as the appointment of Richard Vance as a new, incoming director, both appointments taking effect from the 13th July 2023. The previous Chair, Catherine Moylan, retired having completed her full term as a director and Chair of the Board. The new Chair and directors would like to express their appreciation to Catherine for her hard work and contribution to Listowel Writers Week over many years. 
Tom Donovan is a native of Glin, and resides in Clarina, County Limerick. Before being elected to the position of Chair, Tom was already an existing member of the board as well as holding the position of Company Secretary. Tom has had a long and distinguished record in the public sector as well as extensive experience in the literary, historical, voluntary and charitable sectors. He is also the editor of the Old Limerick Journal, the Ballybrown Journal, and the Glencorbry Chronicle as well as Treasurer of the Limerick Historical Society. He has edited several publications as The Knights of Glin, Seven Centuries of Change (2009), and Limerick, Snapshots of 1840 to 1960 (with the well-known Listowel historian Vincent Carmody) in 2021. 
 Speaking about his election, Tom Donovan said: “I am both honoured and delighted to accept the role of Chair of the Board of Listowel Writers’ Week. On my own behalf and on behalf of the board, I would like to thank Catherine Moylan and other directors I have served with, for all their good work. I look forward to a good year where everyone in Listowel can become part of the festival and maintain it as one of Ireland’s premier literary events”. 
Robert Vance, a native of Dublin but a long-time resident of Fenit, County Kerry has also joined the board as a new director. Robert will bring fresh and new insight and valuable skillsets to the Board having had extensive media experience through working both with RTE and the private sector in developing over 50 film productions. He also has extensive experience in the tourism sector. Robert has also written and published several books including Secret Sights and The Magic of Ireland. 
Writers’ Week Board is committed to inclusivity, diversity, and community involvement. These new appointments will both enhance the existing board and ensure that it will continue to serve the Company, Festival, and Listowel in the years ahead. Further appointments to the board will be announced in the immediate future. The Listowel Writers’ Week Board looks forward to celebrating and continuing the proud North Kerry literary tradition of Writers’ Week, developed over 53 years, giving a platform to new and emerging writers and bringing the best of international literary writers to Kerry and Ireland in the years ahead. It also remains very appreciative of its stakeholders including The Arts Council, Fáilte Ireland, Kerry Group, Kerry County Council, The Piggott Family, The Nielson Family, Xavier McAuliffe, its many patrons and sponsors, the businesses and residents of Listowel and of course, all of our volunteers, old and new, without whom Listowel Writers’ Week would not be what it is today. 


This is a Fact

(I couldn’t believe this one either but I Googled it and apparently that is the word for it alright)

Some people ‘s fear of encountering a big word while reading aloud is so disabling that it is classed as a social phobia.

There is a word for this phobia. Believe it or not the fear of big words is


Try pronouncing that one.


Conkers and Conquerers

Listowel Courthouse in July 2023


I saw this picture on the internet and I was back to my childhood. These photos are English but some Irish shops used this method too.

My late mother used to work in a drapery shop. (The word drapery has fallen out of fashion now.) Drapery refers to curtains but the shop sold everything in the household line as well as ladies underwear and knitting wool and haberdashery (another word gone out of fashion.)

My mother told me that they had to be able to calculate how much material to sell a customer who came with the measurements of her window. The shop sold dress material as well and often the customer came with just the paper pattern and the shop assistant had to furnish everything required to make the garment. In short the job involved more skill than simply taking something from a shelf and handing it to the customer.

There were no calculators so the price had to be calculated by the shop assistant. It was very easy to make a mistake. The above devices were the start of specialisation in the retail trade.

In a shop that had this system the shop assistant just had to put everything she had supplied on a docket, whizz the docket to the office. When it came back the calculation would be done, the customer handed over the money, another whizz of the canister to the office and back came the change and the receipt.


Won’t be Long Now


Well done to a superb Kanturk Horsewoman

This is Felicity Ward and I took the photo in her yard in Kanturk last August.

Well, Felicity and the talented Cuba have just gone and done it. They are selected to represent Ireland in the European Senior Eventing Championships in France.

Horse Sport Ireland ..”Dag Albert has named his squad that will travel to Le Pin Au Haras next month for the FEI Senior Eventing European Championships, with a blend of experienced combinations added to some up-and-coming talent representing Ireland.

The squad travelling to France to compete on August 9th-13th, in alphabetical order, is as follows:

  • Susie Berry and Clever Trick (ISH)
  • Ian Cassells and Woodendfarm Jack O D (ISH)
  • Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson (ISH)
  • Jennifer Kuehnle and Polly Blue Eyes
  • Joseph Murphy and Calmaro
  • Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty (ISH)

Art and Books

Back Lane behind Church Street in Summer 2023


Dancing Down the Years

Photo and text from Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan


The dance tradition of North Kerry has extended its influence far beyond its borders, to different places around Ireland, across Europe, and over the Atlantic to America.

Dance has been part of the culture in this region for centuries, passed down through the generations by the Dance Masters, like O’Ceirín in the 1700’s to Mooreen, Ned Batt Walsh, and to the great Geramiah Molyneaux, affectionally known as Munnix, who passed on the dance, to the young girls and boys, of the area.

The Dance masters travelled, often on foot, from town to town, village to village, 

such was their love of, and desire to pass on their art to the younger generation.

Munnix pupils like Jack Lyons, Jerry Nolan, Sheila Bowler, Liam Dineen, Liam Tarrant, Paddy White, Phil Cahill and many more would perform the old steps with great pride.

Long live the dancers! Long live the dance! 

Featuring Dance Master Jimmy Hickey, Musician Greta Curtin.

Devised and choreographed by Jonathan Kelliher, Artistic Director, Siamsa Tíre, The National Folk Theatre of Ireland.


Celtic Artist, Tony O’Callaghan

When your grandad is an artist, you are lucky enough to have some marvellous bespoke piece of his work made especially for you and celebrating your name.

Few nameplates are as beautiful as these pieces that Miriam brought to share with the audience on July 6 2023.

Tony O’Callaghan, among many of the prestigious commissions he did, designed the logo for Listowel Writers’ Week.

This information comes to us from Wolfgang Mertens’ 1974 LWW memorabilia.



My latest summer visitor, Aoife McKenna, from Kildare loves, loves, loves Listowel library.


A Smile from the Internet


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