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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember last week I told you about an email from a researcher looking for a photograph of a Listowel soldier who was killed at Passchendale.
Imagine his surprise when he found he was communicating with Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland when his soldier was from Listowel in Canada.
I think he had already discovered his mistake when I forwarded him Dave O’Sullivan’s find.
Up to the middle of the 20th century confraternities were a feature of Catholic parishes in Ireland.
These all male lay societies promoted personal piety, engaged in charitable undertakings and supported the work of parish clergy.
Religious orders played a big role in the promotion of fraternities. They organised annual retreats to re-enthuse any who may be falling by the wayside. The above picture is of a group of Listowel men attending one such retreat (with the Redemptorists in Limerick, I think.)
In the early and mid twentieth century there was an upsurge in religious devotion in Ireland. When the bubble burst and scandals and injustices within the church exploded into public consciousness, confraternities, almost overnight, disappeared from the face of the earth.
Pres. Girls at Young Scientist 2023
Laoch ar Lár
Seamus Begley R.I.P. spoke three language fluently, Gaeilge, English and the universal language of music.
Only when he was in his beloved fields in Baile na bPoc was Seamus ever alone. He was the ultimate co laborator and accompanist and he always seemed happiest in the midst of the Session.
I encountered Seamus fadó, fadó on tamaill spent in An Carraig as a student of Irish. Halla na Muirí was where the céilithe were. Halla na Muirí was the Tinder of the 1970s. I can still remember our first sashay into the dancehall.
“Anyone here take your fancy?” says one of the cailíní eyeing the row of aspiring woodwork teachers opposite.
” I fancy the lad on the stage in the red jumper.”
The lad on the stage was James Begley. Little did we realise that we were in the presence of greatness.
The world is a poorer place for his passing.
Go gcloise tú ceol na naingeal go síoraí, a Shéamuis.
The main stronghold of Anti-Treaty forces (the Irish Republicans) became the self-styled Munster Republic, consisting of the counties south of a line between Limerick and Waterford. Liam Lynch, the republican commander-in-chief, hoped to use the “Republic” as a means of re-negotiating the Treaty, and ideally reconstituting the Irish Republic of 1919–21. For this defensive attitude, Lynch was bitterly criticised by some other republicans, who felt that he should be acting offensively to bring the war to a quick end.
Kerry Officers elected by the Gort na Glanna Martyrs’ Cumann, Co. Kerry are as follows: Chairman, John Buckley; Secretary, Bill Horan; Treasurer, Hugh Goulding, P.R.O., Paddy Kennelly; Tom Manaher and Hugh Goulding were appointed delegates to the Comhairle cheantair. Dozens of homes in the Ballybunion area have been raided by members of the Special Branch and uniformed gardai in yet another act of collaboration with the British occupation forces. For over two weeks the raiding parties concentrated on the area, homes were ransacked, bedrooms were torn apart and women and children were terrified. In some cases homes were continuously watched for up to two days. Following the raids one man was jailed.
Poetry is sometimes described as “What oft was said but ne’er so well expressed”
I recently bought a book of poetry by a talented local writer
On Sunday December 18 2022, they unveiled a sculpture in memory of Con Dee and events one hundred years ago.
An email from Chicago
I am an occasional reader of your blog, and am living in Chicago. My Bedford great-grandmother, Mary Josephine Bambury, and her Ballyeagh husband, James Dore, settled here about 130 years ago.
While my Bambury cousins are scattered all over the globe, many are still living in Kerry and Cork, and I try to keep up with them when I can. One of them, the late Bart Bambury, of Cork City and Kenmare, was a bit of a Renaissance man, and although I did not connect with him until a few years ago, I enjoyed our correspondence immensely. Recently, his friends and family published a book of his poems, and there was a launch party in Cork City.
I thought that with Bart being a “local boy” to Listowel (in a manner of speaking), you might be interested.
A ceremony of remembrance was held at the remembrance tree on Sunday December 18 2022.
A Poem for Christmas
by John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring, The Tortoise stove is lit again And lamp-oil light across the night Has caught the streaks of winter rain In many a stained-glass window sheen From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.
The holly in the windy hedge And round the Manor House the yew Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge, The altar, font and arch and pew, So that the villagers can say “The church looks nice” on Christmas Day.
Provincial Public Houses blaze And Corporation tramcars clang, On lighted tenements I gaze Where paper decorations hang, And bunting in the red Town Hall Says “Merry Christmas to you all.”
And London shops on Christmas Eve Are strung with silver bells and flowers As hurrying clerks the City leave To pigeon-haunted classic towers, And marbled clouds go scudding by The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad, And oafish louts remember Mum, And sleepless children’s hearts are glad. And Christmas-morning bells say “Come!'” Even to shining ones who dwell Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true? And is it true, This most tremendous tale of all, Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue, A Baby in an ox’s stall? The Maker of the stars and sea Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true? For if it is, No loving fingers tying strings Around those tissued fripperies, The sweet and silly Christmas things, Bath salts and inexpensive scent And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells, No carolling in frosty air, Nor all the steeple-shaking bells Can with this single Truth compare – That God was man in Palestine And lives today in Bread and Wine.
Duagh Live Crib
Remember all the hoo ha in Dublin earlier this December about a live crib. Well, we, in North Kerry, are so lucky to have a live crib to rival anything the capital has to offer.
You have until January 7 to visit the Duagh Live Crib. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a treasure. Do remember though that these are farm animals and pets, not zoo animals so respect their space.
Fr. Pat is looking down on this project and he is delighted.
The animals are housed in this beautiful old stable at the back of the church.
Even though the stable is kept at a temperature suitable for the animals some of whom have fur coats, the atmosphere is warm, cosy and welcoming.
The animals have names given to them by the children. The walls all around are decorated with local children’s artwork.
This is a marvellous parish effort. Well done to everyone involved. It’s a triumph. My photographs don’t do it justice. You must go there.
Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,
As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.
I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,
And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.
We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,
And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,
To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,
And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,
Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,
And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.
From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,
To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,
For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,
To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,
To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,
And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.
The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,
The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,
And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,
Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.
Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire
And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,
Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,
Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights
And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,
And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.
Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,
If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,
And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,
When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,
But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,
To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.
She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.
“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”
The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade
And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.
St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,
To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’
We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,
And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.
Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill
Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.
Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.
Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.
So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,
And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.
More Photos from Garda Centenary on Nov. 30 2022
Listowel Widows Association
Folklore from Listowel
The following is from the schools collection and was collected by Bryan MacMahon in the 1930s.
If you bought bonhams and put them all together throw two buckets of sour milk on top of them to keep them from fighting. I saw Dan Shea of Clievragh doing it. It isn’t sour milk at all sir, it’s porter you should throw in their eyes. I saw Mick Stokes of Market St. doing it. 8. If you kill a goose, or a cock, or a cow and put your fist on the back of his neck and press he’ll make the noise he made when alive. (9). If you want to make a starling talk split his tongue and put his beak up to a rack (i. e. a comb) – and he’ll speak. (10). My mother (Mrs Doyle Slievecahel) told me that a man was coming home from Castleisland one night and he saw a lovely city inside in a Glen. He went in and there was nothing there only rocks. It was the reflection of a town in Australia. (11). My mother said they used use pointy sticks before as forks. They used have a pointy stick as a Knife and a gabhlóg as a fork. (12) People long go used go to no Mass but they used put a pot on another man’s head and hit it with something and that’d be by-the-way the bell. One night the pot fell down and they couldn’t pull it off and they had to break it to knock it off. 13. When I received my first Holy Communion in Ballyduff, after the priest made the sign of the cross with the Holy Communion I saw a little baby in the priest’s arms. 14. Jack Joy told me that Paddy Ferris of the Gaire made a cake a’ Christmas time with 5 lbs. of flour and it took him 5 hrs to make it. 15. St. Synan’s Well is in “Souper” Connors land (Protestants) and they got water out of the well to boil the Kettle and it wouldn’t boil at all so they had to throw it out and get other water. 16. Daniel O’Connell was at a feast one time and poison was put in his glass. One of the sewart-girls was by the way singing a song [?] in Irish and thus she warned him and she blew out the candles and he changed glasses. with some other one. She sang “A Dhomhnall Ó Conaill, a dtuigeann tú Gaedhilg? Tuigim a’ coda (a chodlad, a chiota) agus a’ chuid eile Gaedhilg, Tá an ionad den salainn á chuirfead sa dtae dhuit, Múcfad-sa an solas agus cuir cúcha féin é”. (T. Kennelly from mother who is from Glenbeigh)
Marie Moriarty came across this story on a recent trip to Australia
Fr. John O’Shea was just one of many Irish missionaries who are remembered for their great work in Australia.
A Few more Photos I took at the Garda Centenary Celebrations
A Christmas Custom from the National Archives Folklore Collection
A Story with Neven Maguire in it
Every now and again I get an email from a researcher asking permission to use a photograph that they have found credited to me. Usually its some fabulous picture, well outside the scope of my talents.
Here is the latest email and I’m hoping someone will know this photographer.
My name is Helen and I work at a TV production company called InProduction TV. We are currently producing an RTÉ TV series called ‘Neven’s Greenway Food Trails’ for RTÉ One. We would like to request permission to use an image from your website in the series if possible please? The image is attributed to Liam Downes, if you might have Liam’s contact details please? The context of use is that Chef Neven Maguire will be travelling the Limerick Greenway exploring the food producers nearby and learning about the formerrailway and the history of the Greenway. This is the image we would like to use if you might be able to help please?
This is the lovely new Christmas light garland for 2022. It celebrates Listowel’s literary heritage.
Listowel Writers’ Week opens a new chapter in Listowel’s literary history in 2023 as the festival welcomes its new curator.
Stephen Connelly comes with a hugely impressive cv. I wish him all the best in his new role and I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us in June.
New Kid on the Block
My Cork family has a new dog. You may remember that their beloved Helios passed away a while back. They felt it was time to take another dog to their hearts. Reggie is a sweet tempered lurcher. Molly has welcomed him to the extended family.
Reggie had a rough start in life and was homeless for a while before being rescued. Housetraining and lead training are in hand.
Mary Nolan sent us this photo of the cast of Presentation Secondary School’s 1979 operetta, Lilac Time
Christmas Jumper Day
Our local Vincent’s shop has a great selection of toys, clothes and bric a brac at rock bottom prices. If you are finding it hard to make ends meet this Christmas, drop in on Thursday or Friday and you could have your family decked out and all your presents sorted for next to nothing.
And this shop has the nicest shop volunteers as well.
Searching for Photos of a Stokes ancestor
Gus Stokes has been in touch. He found the below story on Listowel Connection from 2012.
Here is Gus’ email;
Looking for Jack Stokes Dirrha photos and wondering if he could be found in this photo
I am his grandson but sadly I was 10 years too late to find my birth mother or any living relatives with photos of my family and I would be over joyed to see any photos of my mother who was born c1935 and went to Presentation Convent but I was unable to get any joy when I visited the school but I found my mother has a daughter who is delightful but only had Collection photo that came as quite a shock !
Any help would be greatly appreciated and I will continue to search your wonderful website and maybe you were at the Library lecture on local fables?
I hope to get back to Listowel sometime in the next few months