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: Poem Page 1 of 22

Singers and Fundraisers

Library Road in May 2023


Annual North Kerry M.S. Busking Day

On Friday May 19 2023, Main Street came alive with music. The concert was in aid of an association very close to my heart. I apologise that I can’t include some clips of the great music here but video clips just take up too much of my precious storage space. I have pictures though.

This is a group of morning collectors and musicians. A new crew took over in the afternoon. Some of the morning people were involved in the afternoon as well.

I’ll include a few more tomorrow.



This epic cycle fundraiser in aid of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind paused in town on Monday May 22 2023.


Alice Curtayne

This is Alice Curtayne’s panel in Kerry Writers’ Museum. She is the only female writer among the great men of letters.

Alice was actually an extraordinary lady, writing on lots of subjects, many of them religious in nature. She has written on Dante (She lived for a time in Milan in the 1920s) St. Brigid (She lived in Kildare too) and she has written one novel, House of Cards which her family think is largely biographical. She wrote many articles for newspapers and periodicals like the Capuchin Annual.

She was born in Tralee. Her father was a coach furnisher and he had his business in what is now Benners Hotel.

She lectured in America before settling down and marrying a farmer whom she met when he wrote her a fan letter.

Her husband, Stephen Rynne was a romantic. They married in Tarbert on Valentine’s Day. In their garden in Prosperous, Stephen planted snowdrops in a formation which every Spring spelled out Alice.

Alice passed away in 1981. She is under appreciated even in her native Kerry. Her grandson, Niall, is doing much to bring knowledge of her to a wider audience. Some of her books have been republished by an American publisher. I bought the one on St. Brigid. I’ll review it here at a later date.


Listowel Writers’ Week, Opening Night 2023

What links these two places to opening night 2023?

Special guest on Opening Night will be acclaimed singer /songwriter Jack O’Rourke.

Jack is a storyteller in song. He was fascinated by the story of Michael O’Connor as told to him by Aiden on one of his visits to Mike the Pies.

He wrote this song

Opera on the Top Floor

Michael O’Connor, uncle of Aiden, was an extraordinary man. He was a talented artist, a collector of posters, an opera lover and a book lover. He was also a very private person. His family left his apartment over the pub very much as he left it. A visit to this place of music, art and literature inspired O’Rourke to write the song.

“…And that opera on the top floor
No one knows, it’s under lock and key
The needle hits the vinyl, I’m away on the wind
Every secret needs a sanctuary.”

I hope he sings it for us on Opening Night.

Another treat in store for us at this year’s Writers’ Week is a chance to see some of Michael O’Connor’s great collection of international graphic art in Mike the Pies.


I Love Paul Galvin

Maybe not Paul himself. I don’t know him but I love, love, love his book.

People who know me here know that I love a good anecdote or story and I love random facts. Paul’s book is full of these. I’ve only dipped into it so far. I’ve only just got it.

Who knew?

Spear throwing! sword fighting!

If, like me you love these little stories, Paul Galvin has lots of them in his great book. He is a great researcher and a great story teller.

Do come along to hear him in

The Listowel Arms at 3.00p.m. on Saturday June 3 2023


Dolly Day

DollyDay fundraiser for Comfort for Chemo and the Kerry Hospice was launched in Quanes Bar, Blennerville on Thursday evening.

Dolly Day in Listowel is on June 24 2023 and it promises to be a good one. The lady herself has been invited to attend and she is checking her calendar.

You can be part of the fun by buying your wig online Here

There are a few instructions laid down by the Guinness Book of Records people about how you should be dressed. Nothing major.


Catching Up with Friends

I met my old friend, Dolores O’Connor in The Flying Saucer on Monday. She was enjoying a hot chocolate with her sister, Eileen. When they see me with my camera they know that I will connect them with their family in the US and England. Great Listowel people and supporters of this blog.

I had a great chat with my lovely friends, Liz and Jim Dunn, in Thyme Out café yesterday. Liz is going to be our hostess at Opening Night of Listowel Writers’ Week on May 31st. No better woman for the job.



When I came to Listowel first I found local people had quite a few phrases we didn’t use over the border in my part of the country.

“Will you walk to town or will you carry the car?” asked a new friend.

The image this conjured up came back to me when I read Brian Bilston’s amusing poem:

you took
the last bus home

i still don’t know
how you got it through the door

but you’re always doing amazing stuff

like the time
when you caught that train


A Fact

The English language syllable “ough” can be pronounced in eight different ways. The following sentence includes all eight.

A tough dough-faced ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough, coughing and hiccoughing thoughtfully.


Memories from 1974 and Looking Forward to 2023

Millenium Arch in May 2023


How it used to look

This is the remains of the first arch in 2016, It was damaged in a big storm. You will notice the the new designer didn’t bother with the things that looked like very big ball bearing between the arch and the pillars.


Wolfgang and Anita Mertens

in John B. Keane’s Bar, May 16th 2023

This is the house from which Maria wrote to Wolfgang.

Here are 2 letters Wolfgang kept as souvenirs of his visit to Writers Week in 1974. The first is from Maria Coffey who was, I think, writing on behalf of Writers Week and one from Bryan MacMahon with whom he had a long correspondence. Wolfgang was writing his thesis on his work.

Anita and Wolfgang can’t remember where they stayed which is surprising because they remember a lot about their trip.

On their last night they saw a production of The Honey Spike by the Carrick- on-Siur Drama Group and they were enthralled by it.

Wolfgang in his library has almost all of MacMahon’s published works, in English and some in translation as well.

While we were at the MacMahon statue we met Maggie and Mac Donald who were just returning from a visit to Kerry Writers’ Museum.

Brían MacMahon took time out of his busy day to welcome the German visitors. He told them a few stories about his famous grandfather and generally charmed them with his wit and friendliness.

We met Liz Dunn who gave them a brochure for this year’s Writers’ Week. Wolfgang promises to send me his 1974 programme.

We called to the Garden of Europe on the way home from town.


A 1980 Visitor

Hello Mary.

I came upon your blog while searching for “Irish Horse Caravans”.

I was a young soldier in the US Army on leave in 1980 when I hitchhiked/walked through Ireland.

I have a photo in this email, which I think may possibly be in Adare or very close to it. I was wondering if you perhaps recognize this image and the signs for the roads they reference and could tell me where this may have been.

Regards from the US, Marietta, GA
Bob Jewell

Is Bob correct? Is that Adare? I think so.



Is your name Kevin or Caoimhín?

If the answer is yes, the place for you to be is this Listowel pub on Friday June 2 in the late evening.

The first annual gathering of people called Kevin in Kevin’s is happening there.

The back story; Stephen Connolly, curator of this year’s Writers’ Week programme was, by chance, in Kevin’s on the late owner, Kevin Broderick’s, birthday and he happened to sit beside a man called Kevin. This sparked this idea; Why not have a gathering of people called Kevin in a pub called Kevin’s during Writers’ Week.

BTW you can come too if your name is not Kevin.


On the Prowl with Camera

I was in The Square on Saturday May 20 2023

I met the lovely and very talented Eileen Sheehan as she went into Kerry Writers’ Museum to facilitate a poetry workshop.

I had a lovely chat with friends, Brian and May Griffin and Mary and Seán Comerford.



The meaning of the word, good luck in finding valuable things unintentionally, refers to the fairy tale characters who were always making discoveries through chance. You can thank serendipity if you find a pencil at an empty desk just as you walk into an exam and realize that you forgot yours.

I have so often experienced serendipity at Listowel Writers Week. I have gone to a book launch by someone I had never heard of and find the writer or subject so fascinating that I can’t wait to read the book.

Let me point you in the direction of a few opportunities for serendipity coming up for us in Listowel.

I have never read either of these authors but it looks like lots of people have and loved them.

Friday June2 in The Listowel Arms

This handsome dude is well known to everyone in Kerry. As well as being one of Kerry’s all time great footballers, he is also a clothes designer and now an author.

Confession here; I considered buying this book at Christmas and dismissed it without knowing what it was about. I presumed wrongly that it was the story of how a footballer turned into a fashion designer.

I should have looked more closely and, if only to honour my weaver ancestors, I should have bought it. It’s not too late to make up for lost time.

Join me in Listowel Arms on Saturday at 3.00


I Love this One

Published in The Irish Times on Saturday May 20 2023.

I have a god daughter who I can just imagine spending her old age (which is a long way off yet) reminiscing about horses.


A Fact

A typical lightening bolt is two miles long.


The March of Time

Ballybunion Sunset…Photo : Denis Carroll


Remembering the last of the Listowel Shoemakers

(Story told to me by Jimmy Hickey, son of Joe)

Joe Hickey had a shoemaking business in Colbert Street. He had a shop on the street and a factory at the back employing 6 men. All of his family were involved in the business with him, making the shoes and selling them.

All of the shoes were leather, upper and soles and all were hand stitched. There was no glue used in the making of these shoes.

Hides were bought from a tannery in Tralee or from a firm called Matthews who had a tannery in Cork. Matthews’ salesman would call to the shop with a selection of hides in his van and Joe would pick the best for his purposes. He would buy hides the size of a cow’s back for men’s shoes and boots or kid ones for the more delicate ladies’ shoes.

Hickey’s sold more men’s shoes and boots than ladies. They made shoes to sell to the local shoe shops, mostly Whelans. They had  a full book of private customers. Each person had his own steel last with his name on it. Small adjustments sometimes had to be made if the customer developed a bunion.

Priests were good customers. Because their job involved genuflecting their shoes were made of pliable  leather which would bend and regain its shape without damage.

Ladies bought high boots with “glassy kid uppers’. These were soft and supple like kid gloves. They were handsewn with hemp waxed end and the eyelet holes made with special awls.

The “big shots” sometimes asked the shoemakers to leave the squeak in so that when they wore their new shoes to mass the  distinctive squeaking noise would let everyone know they had new shoes.

The average price for a new pair of shoes was £3.50, when wages were about 2/6 per week. Hand made shoes were a luxury and had to be taken care of. Some country people walked to the edge of town in their boots with their shoes slung over their shoulders and changed into their shoes when they reached town.

There were no specific shoes for step dancing in those days but sometimes dancers asked to put a halfpenny into the toe cap of their shoes. This was covered over with leather and made an “extra tap” when they danced.

Working boots were the hardest to make as they had to be made from very strong box hide  leather. Again no nails were used but they were pegged with timber pegs like match sticks.

Jimmy remembers these pegs coming in 10 stone sacks. These working boots were pegged to a removable wooden last that had three holes in it. Wooden pegs were driven through the three holes. When they were wet they swelled making the boot waterproof.

Jimmy and his family all worked in the shop. They loved to see a good fishing day come around. Joe would be off fishing and the boys would finish all the town orders, knowing that when they delivered them the customers would stand to them, a handy few bob for themselves.

All of this and salmon for tea.


The Clock is Ticking

Behold this lovely old clock with pendulum and clock face with Roman numerals. It dates back to the days when a clock was a piece of furniture.

Now look at your clock, if you have one.

Enough said.


A Poem

Molly Twomey is one of the poets participating in the Bealtaine project this week.


Beautiful Nature in Bloom in 2023

by the river Feale


A Fact

Vatican State is the world’s smallest independent state. It has zero birthrate and a population of around 1,000. The Pope and his palace are protected by The Swiss Guard, an armed (the ancient halberds are for show but the guns ar real) force of young Catholic men.

Now the most amazing fact…the Swiss Guard still wears the uniform designed by Michelangelo in the early 16th century.


Poetry and Cattle

Late Evening Surfer…Photo: Alice Moylan


Great Bealtaine Idea

Molly Twomey is one of the poet’s. Here is a poem of hers

recently published in the newspaper.

Have you ever lied to me? I ask. You reply,
that on our fifth date, you said a rock hit the wheel,

but it was a chaffinch. You didn’t turn and hand me
that small flame of news but drove into the mango

and gunpowder sunset. Afraid I’d make you pull up
to check that there were no quavers stuck in its throat.

That if its pulse didn’t react to my fingers
tap-dancing on its keel bone, I’d want to bury it 

under heather and moss. You thought I’d make you pray
every time we drove from Lismore to Ballynoe, that our date

would become not the boardwalk, chips and the anemones
but broken wings and blood wet feathers. I think of your ex

in North Carolina. How she might have perched and looked out
to razed earth, waiting for you with your newly shaved beard,

hand luggage of notebooks and craft beer. Only for the fast
and brutal machine of my heart to catch you off guard.

Molly Twomey has won the Padraic Colum Poetry Prize, the Waterford Poetry Prize, and has been awarded the Eavan Boland Mentorship Award and an Arts Council Literature Bursary. She is currently working on her debut collection.



Serendipity is all about making happy discoveries by chance.

Recently I got a demand for more money from Google as I had used up 70% of my storage. You will appreciate that the blog with all its pictures uses up a lot of storage space. I decided to clear out some of the old stuff to free up some space. I started with gmail.

Did you know that gmail has lots of strange folders called names like Promotions and Social? They slot emails into these folders without your spotting.

Long story short, in the folder called Social I found all of the late Fr. Pat Moore’s emails from Caring Bridge which was where he had a blog before he had his own website.

Here is his upbeat post from May 2016 with his individual take on life, complete with his unique appreciation of his home, his friends, and country folk in general.

R.I.P. Fr. Pat.

The bees are busy in the apple blossoms at the side of the house. I prefer apple blossoms to cherry blossoms for they seem to share more with the green leaves. And they seem to last much longer perhaps because they are more native than the Japanese cherry blossom.

Tom Costello lives on the banks of the river Feale. Someone  called to him lately collecting for a new swimming pool they are building down in Limerick and asked for a contribution. He was delighted to support the project. He gave them a bucket of water from the river!

Sonny Egan told me of a local happening. A builder he knows was asked to build a two storey house for a rather mean tight man. Would he get enough money to complete the job he thought? ‘Do you know what we will do,’ he suggested. ‘We will build one storey and the second storey might be another story.’

Last night we remembered the wit of the late Jackie Healy as we recalled a different world. Jackie made a career out of being perceived to be lazy. At his 80th birthday party at The Jessie James Pub he was asked if he had any regrets. ‘I think I worked one day in my life,’ he said.  ‘ Have you a garden this year,’ he was asked.  ‘The only earth turned on my behalf will be the day I’m buried in the grave!’ Other sayings are either too local or wicked!

It’s First Communion season. My god-child,  Caoimhe, made her Communion on Saturday and she came to see me on Sunday with her lovely family. My cousin Debbie is with me again.

The young swallows are learning to fly.

And all is well with the world this May evening.

May 16 2016


Listowel Success at The Kingdom County Fair

Photo and text from The Irish Examiner

Many competing on the weekend said that the Kingdom County Fair was a great start to the season for them.

Michael Laffan from Kilfinny, Adare, Co Limerick, certainly agreed, as in the dairy classes on Sunday, he took home the Senior Champion and Supreme Female Champion titles for 2023 for Everground Hagley Gail 51.

“It’s great to be back,” Mr Laffan said, and the animals may have known they were gearing up for something too because in advance, “you’re washing them, and they would have got a little extra feed, just getting ready for today”.

“For a cow like this, you start with a nice udder that looks like it’s high and wide; good teat placement, from a milking point of view that they’re in the right place; and then we like a high-yielding cow so a cow with the capacity to yield,” he added.

As Mr Laffan was competing, he said he took notice of a lot of young people in attendance at the show – which instills great confidence in him about the future of these competitions, and brought back some memories for him.

“We started showing when our children were small and even though they’ve grown up, myself and my wife Margaret kept showing away,” he explained.

“We enjoy it, it’s nice to do of a Sunday, and it’s nice to take out the cows now and again,” according to Mr Laffan, who said his children continue to help out on the dairy farm and to prepare the cattle for competitions.

In the dairy section on Sunday at the Kingdom County Fair, the Junior Champion, Reserve Junior Champion, and Reserve Senior Champion titles went to Daniel and Emer Curtin from Listowel, Co Kerry.

Meanwhile, in the Young Handlers U-12 dairy class, Stephen Harty came first, Clodagh Kennelly in second, and Nora O’Carroll in third. 

Jennifer Harty placed first in the Young Handlers 13-16 class, with Sarah O’Connell and Jacqui O’Connell in second and third.


An Artefact

A butter churn…when our forefathers made butter this is what they used. It was a job that required careful attention to timing.


A Fact

The Ancient Romans used to drop a piece of toast into their wine for good health. That is where we got the phrase to raise a toast.



On Church Street


A Primus Stove

The Primus stove was the first pressurized-burner kerosene (paraffin) stove, developed in 1892 by Frans Wilhelm Lindqvist, a factory mechanic in Stockholm. The stove was based on the design of the hand-held blowtorch; Lindqvist’s patent covered the burner, which was turned upward on the stove instead of outward as on the blowtorch. (Wikipedia)

I knew none of this when I saw one of these in every house I knew in the 1960s. The little brass stove could be used indoors or out. I remember my aunt boiling a big saucepan of blackberries and apples into jam on one of these. She used to bring it outdoors to avoid steaming up the kitchen and we, children (who had picked all the blackberries and were eagerly awaiting the jam) were shooed out of harm’s way.

The Primus was much quicker than the range for boiling a kettle. I’m told people took them camping. We never went camping.


Listowel Tidy Towns at 30

Our local heroes had a bit of a celebration in Mike the Pies. Well deserved.


Heartbreaking Poem for anyone who loves an addict;


Larger than Life

Mural and text by Neil Dwyer of Irish Murals

Just completed this mural of Ireland’s legendary jockey Rachael Blackmore for MJ Buckley at his Gastrobar & Guesthouse, appropriately called ‘The Junction’. Situated across the road from Tipperary Racecourse at Limerick Junction, County Tipperary, this was an ideal location to illustrate and pay tribute to County Tipperary’s own Rachael, the first (and only) woman to win the Aintree Grand National in it’s 184 year old history. She achieved this historic and unique sporting feat in 2021 on ‘Minella Times’. Coincidentally, Rachael was aboard another winner across the road the very evening that this mural was completed (4/5/2023).


A Fact

Beer was not considered an alcoholic beverage in Russia until 2013.


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