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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

Category: Poem Page 1 of 9

Then and Now

Ballybunion; Photograph by Sharon of Simple Snaps by Sharon

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Relocating

Purtill Solicitors has relocated from The Square to Church Street

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1983

In 1983 the secondary school was extending its footprint. another extension is planned soon.

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The Land

by John McGrath

I stand in fields where my forefathers stood once

And feel the dreams of those who’ve gone before me.

I tramp through damp and half-remembered pastures,

The folds and features of the land that bore me

All around.  Above the sound of lark’s song,

Below the spring of earth beneath my feet,

The green and gold of April in the hedgerow,

The purple haze where sky and heather meet.

Where mighty men have thought to mark their passing

The furze creeps back to mock the spade and plough,

Those futile epitaphs of generations

In Folk Museums condemned to moulder now.

Where men have raised a fence or tilled a furrow

The land, as if to scorn their simple gains,

Erases each proud trace until tomorrow.

The men have gone; the land alone remains.

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A Timely Song

Here we come a wassailing

Among the leaves so green

Here we come a wassailing, so fair to be seen…..

So what exactly is wassailing?

  • Singing and drinking, usually associated with Christmas time.
  • Going around orchards at the beginning of a new year, blessing the trees and praying for a fruitful year.
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Listowel Technical School Hurling and Football teams back in the day.

The late Tom Galvin posted this photo on Facebook and Marie Shine supplied some of the names;

Back row, left, 2nd – Tim Hartnett.Ennismore, 6th: Danny Fealey, Ballygologue Road.

2nd Row left: Now Garda Tim Reidy, Lixnaw, 3rd: Roger Connor (Mike The Pies), 5th: Billy Walsh Greenville 7th: Gerry Carey Convent Street 10th: Michael Nagle, Ballybunion Front Row: Right of Tod Nolan (RIP): ? Costello Ballybunion.

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Young Scientists in 1983

Ballybunion; Photo by Simple Snaps by Sharon

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Plough Monday

I bought a great book in Woulfe’s before Christmas. Its an old fashioned Almanac full of wisdom and folk information.

I bet you never heard of Plough Monday. Traditionally it is the first Monday after The Epiphany. this year that was January 10th. It is called Plough Monday because it was the beginning of the agricultural year.

The first tillage task is ploughing.

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New Indian Restaurant

This is the next iteration of this Indian eatery. It seems to change hands often but if you love Indian food you’ll be glad you still have a takeaway to get your fix from in Listowel

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In 1983

Another story from Presentation School Magazine.

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A Poem of Love and Loss

(John McGrath in After Closing)

Missing You

(For James McGrath)

The sheep of Donegal are missing you today.

They bleat your name on rocky hillsides.

The echo of their voices on the Wild Atlantic

resounds all the way to Clifden where

the gulls cry, So do we! So do we!

In Killorglin, a wild goat ruminates

on words you shared in a bright room,

as we looked out on a jagged mountain

that came and went and reappeared

in a magical mist, as light and dark as time. 

Here in Lisselton, sun and rain beat down

on Cnoc an Óir and on the apple trees.

Swallows dart and dive and write your name

against the slate-grey skies.  They miss you too

and we cry, So do we! So do we!

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Cinema Memories

Ballybunion Photo: Simple Snaps by Sharon

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Remembering

Paul Johnson shared with us a link to the wonderful film about the cinema from a few years ago

A Window in Heaven’s Gable

“A documentary about the love affair between a town and its cinema. The town realizes how lucky it is to have a cinema, as most small towns in Ireland have lost theirs. The Classic Cinema in Listowel is one of the last of the small family-run independent cinemas on this island. It is also the story of Kieran Gleeson, the man who rescued the cinema from dereliction over thirty years ago and ran it with love until his recent passing. In defiance of the odds, his wife and two teenage children continue to keep the flame of cinema alive in the town.”

Sadly, despite their trojan efforts the cinema has had to close its doors in January 2022

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Opening an Old Page

I discovered this old magazine lately. It’s like looking into another life. Here is one of the short articles written by the girls. looks like Listowel was vibrant with industries and festivals thriving.

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A Man who Plants a Tree touches the Future

We’re getting a facelift down my way. David Twomey and the outdoor staff of Listowel Municipal Area of Kerry County Council are brightening up a little corner we used to refer to as the outside farm. We’re getting trees and shrubs on a pebble carpet. Lovely!

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A Poem

In Ballyegan Bog

By John McGrath (In After Closing)

In Ballyegan bog the cuckoo’s tune

has changed to mark the turning of the year.

Through summer’s haze the lark sings loud and clear

and soars above the dancing ceannabhán.

Where lines of neat turf-teepees strut and seem

to mock neglected neighbours with disdain,

sad strips of black spaghetti wait in vain

for willing hands. The bog-land trampoline

beneath my feet springs back as I march on,

remembering those summer days long gone

when life was sweet as heather-scented air

and feet were bare and fleet as children’s are,

when time endured and even work was play

and skylarks sang the live-long, lark-song day.

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Ballybunion and Listowel

Ballybunion at Christmas 2021

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Neighbours and Friends

Cyril Kelly sent the photo to Eamonn Dillon and Eamonn sent it to me. It’s a picture of Church Street neighbours and shopkeepers, Liam Dillon (Eamonn’s father) and Mai Naylor (Cyril’s mother).

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Sign of the Times

Lynch’s Coffee Shop is now reopened

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New Business on Leahy’s Corner

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A Poem of Hope for an End to This

Covid Sonnet

John McGrath (published in John’s anthology, After Closing)

The world has pinned us with a warning glance,

the kind our mothers gave us long ago,

the look that was designed to let us know

that this might be our last and final chance.

So grounded, we can only hope and pray 

as, day by day, we inch away from fear

and tiptoe towards a future far from clear

our wounded planet showing us the way,

that voices raised in ignorance and greed

may yet be drowned by kindnesses and care,

together we may rise above despair,

united we will find the strength we need

as, all for one, we reach beyond the pain

and dare to dream tomorrow once again.

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The Holy Season closes in St. Mary’s, Listowel

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Memories of the Movies

News that the cinema has closed brought up some cinema memories for blog followers.

So sad to see the Astor closing . It was a huge part of growing up for me . Introduced us to a fantasy world where we believe we were Cowboys / Indians ie The Durango Kid, Johnny McBrown , The Lone Ranger or Tonto, Elvis movies always guaranteed a full house . I remember a Chubby Checker Movie where every one was on their feet doing the Twist. Peter Cushing , Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff scaring us to death. What a great time it was. Noel Roche

I accompanied my grandmother to the matinee every Sunday. It was her outing. But for me on Monday at school the question was who went to the cinema yesterday. I had to stand up then my hands were put on the desk palm side down and I got wacked with the bamboo across my knuckles. That was my punishment for watching Hoppalong Cassidy with my gran. Not good memories. Maria Sham

So sad I remember in my day it was a great meeting place and we did not have much else going on in Listowel at night. It is definitely a sign of the times. Frankie Chute Phillips

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Cinema Closure

Portmarnock by Éamon ÓMurchú

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My girleens are all grown up now. It was lovely to spend Christmas with them.

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St. Stephen’s Day 2021 in Youghal

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The Last Picture Show

Message of thanks from all at the Classic.

The final programme

Listowel’s ‘Classic’ Cinema has been in operation for almost 70 years, first as The Astor from 1949 to 1985 and then with the Gleeson family from October 1987 to January 2022.

Our lovely cinema closed its doors for the final time on Thursday January 6 2022.

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A Poem about Land and Legacy

John McGrath’s anthology, After Closing, is full of lovely poems to dip into. Here is one I like.

Foley’s Field

Dan Foley dug his field but not for gold,

Though long ago his father showed him how.

Plant trees! he said, The ground’s too poor to plough.

But sons don’t always do as they are told.

Dry summers gave a glimpse of buried store

And so Dan dug where mighty trees had grown,

Where cows had grazed and summer crops were sown

And men had thrived two thousand years before.

Great golden roots of long-dead deal he found.

Dan raised them one by one from acid ground,

And as he filled their void with fertile soil,

He knew the field would soon repay his toil,

For land is like a poem, it draws men back

To write another line and leave their track.

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