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 2 of 9

Nostalgia and More

A Robin by Criostóir Grayson

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Got it!

Gerard Stack was anxious to see a photo of the scene in Walsh’s toyshop at Christmas time long ago.

Mike Moriarty had just such a photograph

Here is Mike’s email;

In response to Gerard Stack’s post re Toy Shop at Walsh’s I have attached a photo from those days. At the back on the left is yours truly, centre is Marie Keane Stack (mother of the Brogans) and on the right is my brother, Tom. At the piano is Mary Sheehy(nee Shaughnessy). At her left shoulder is Mike McGrath and in the centre is your correspondent, Gerard Stack. We were all neighbours, such a contrast with today where there are no children growing up in William St.

Rgds., 

Mike Moriarty.

Dave O’Sullivan found some great old ads in The Kerryman. Walsh’s had a Toy Fair complete with film show in 1950.

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Another Regular at Christmas Time

At this time of year I like to include familiar seasonal pieces of excellent writing. This is one of my favourites.

A Kerry Christmas Childhood

Garry MacMahon

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.

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Advertisements from another era

Sent to us by Mattie Lennon

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So Much has changed

Knitting group in Scribes in 2012

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Listowel Christmas 2021

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My Christmas Reading

I loved my Woodford Pottery jug and vase so much, I went back and bought the mug to match.

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‘Twas the Night before Christmas 2021

By Mary Conlon

Twas the night before Christmas, but Covid was here,
So we all had to stay extra cautious this year.
Our masks were all hung by the chimney with care
In case Santa forgot his and needed a spare.
With Covid, we couldn’t leave cookies or cake
So we just left Santa hand sanitizer to take.

The children were sleeping, the brave little tots
The ones over 12 had just had their first shots, 
And mom in her kerchief and me in my cap 
Had just settled in for a long summer’s nap.
But we tossed and we turned all night in our beds
As visions of variants danced in our heads.

Gamma and Delta and now Omicron
These Covid mutations that go on and on
I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t get better,
I’ll soon be familiar with every Greek letter”.

Then just as I started to drift off and doze
A clatter of noise from the front lawn arose.
I leapt from my bed and ran straight down the stair
I opened the door, and an old gent stood there.

His mask made him look decidedly weird 
But I knew who he was by his red suit and beard.
I kept six feet away but blurted out quick
” What are you doing here, jolly Saint Nick?”

Then I said, “Where’s your presents, your reindeer and sleigh?
Don’t you know that tomorrow will be Christmas Day? “
And Santa stood there looking sad in the snow
As he started to tell me a long tale of woe.

He said he’d been stuck at the North Pole alone
All his white collar elves had been working from home,
And most of the others said “Santa, don’t hire us!
We can’t work now, thanks to the virus”.

Those left in the toyshop had little to do.
With supply chain disruptions, they could make nothing new.
And as for the reindeer, they’d all gone away.
None of them left to pull on his sleigh. 

He said Dasher and Dancer were in quarantine,
Prancer and Vixen refused the vaccine,
Comet and Cupid were in ICU,
So were Donner and Blitzen, they may not pull through.

And Rudolph’s career can’t be resurrected.
With his shiny red nose, they all think he’s infected.
Even with his old sleigh, Santa couldn’t go far.
Every border to cross needs a new PCR.

Santa sighed as he told me how nice it would be
If children could once again sit on his knee.
He couldn’t care less if they’re naughty or nice
But they’d have to show proof that they’d had their shot twice.

But then the old twinkle returned to his eyes.
And he said that he’d brought me a Christmas surprise.
When I unwrapped the box and opened it wide,
Starlight and rainbows streamed out from inside.

Some letters whirled round and flew up to the sky
And they spelled out a word that was 40 feet high.
There first was an H, then an O, then a P, 
Then I saw it spelled HOPE when it added the E.

“Christmas magic” said Santa as he smiled through his beard.
Then suddenly all of the reindeer appeared.
He jumped into his sleigh and he waved me good-bye, 
Then he soared o’er the rooftops and into the sky.

I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight
“Get your vaccines my friends, Merry Christmas, good-night”.
Then I went back to bed and a sweet Christmas dream
Of a world when we’d finished with Covid 19.

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A Christmas story

Portmarnock photo by Éamon ÓMurchú

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A Lost Soul at Christmas

Today’s story is from Cyril Kelly

Apologies for the awful scanning. I favoured substance over style.

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Down Memory Lane with the Boys

This photo and the accompanying autographs was shared by John Keane on Facebook. The photo is from 1980, in the days before uniforms in St. Michael’s.

All the names were gathered by William Carroll of William Street. The photo is his.

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A Christmas Window

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A Present Suggestion

John McGrath’s poems are always food for thought. This lovely new anthology is out just in time for Christmas. I’d highly recommend it for that last minute present.

After Closing”Poetry for Everyman…” Lori De’Molet”Big! Huge, Hearty!” (Catherine White Snr)

Make someone smile at Christmas!

After Closing, my new collection, available at:

Ryan’s Mace. Lisselton,

The Thatch Lisselton,

Seanchaí Writers’ Centre, Listowel,

Brenda Woulfe’s Bookshop, Listowel,

and…via PayPal at moybellapress.com

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Robert French

Portmarnock on a Sunday morning in December 2021;

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú

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A Street with Five Names

Remember this story from a few weeks ago? The part of town local people call The Small Square is also Main Street, An Príomh Sráid an An Sráid Mhór.

Vincent Carmody reminded me that it was also called O’Rahilly Square.

Here are two billheads from Vincent’s great book, Snapshots of a Market Town.

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The Lawrence Photographer

William Street from the Lawrence Collection

Robert French

In the early 1900s a man came to town who would shape the way future generations would see Listowel. Robert French took the photographs of the streets of Listowel for the Lawrence collection. His photographs have appeared in postcards, in calendars and everywhere that Listowel in the twentieth century is spoken of. We owe him a lot.

So who was Robert French?

Here is Noel Kissane’s essay from The Dictionary of Irish Biography

French, Robert (1841–1917), photographer, was born 11 November 1841 in Dublin, eldest of the seven children of William French, a court messenger, and Ellen French (née Johnson). At the age of nineteen, in September 1860, he joined the Constabulary (later RIC) as a sub-constable, giving his occupation as ‘porter’. He was stationed at the barracks at Glenealy, Co. Wicklow. Having served almost two years, he resigned in August 1862.

French next found employment in Dublin as a photographic printer, possibly at the portrait studio operated by John Fortune Lawrence at 39 Grafton Street. He later joined the more successful studio run by John Fortune’s brother, William Mervin Lawrence (qv) (1840–1932), which opened at 7 Upper Sackville (later O’Connell) Street in March 1865. Progressing upwards through the grades of printer, colourer-retoucher and assistant photographer, he attained the rank of photographer in the mid-1870s. Meanwhile, William Mervin Lawrence had developed a lucrative trade in the sale of topographical views and he gave French the task of providing a comprehensive range of scenic photographs representing all parts of the country. French performed this role with dedication and distinction for almost forty years until his retirement in 1914.

French’s function was to provide photographs for a market that favoured views of picturesque landscapes, seaside resorts, and the streets of cities, towns, and villages. Lawrence was in charge of marketing strategy and planned French’s itineraries, but French selected the individual views. He travelled throughout the country, identifying and photographing appropriate subjects, generating stocks of negatives from which Lawrence’s printers produced multiple images for sale in the medium of prints, stereoscopic views, and lantern slides. The images were also widely used in commercial advertising and in publications designed for the tourist market, particularly in the extensive postcard trade that Lawrence developed in the late 1890s. As people wanted views that were up-to-date, many of the images, particularly those of urban scenes, were periodically retired and replaced, the replacements almost invariably being taken from the same optimum viewpoint. The photographs presented the more positive aspects of Ireland and contemporary Irish life, with evidence of social deprivation appearing only incidentally, and with few instances of social or political conflict other than a relatively small number of eviction scenes.

French married, 1 December 1863, at St Peter’s church, Dublin, Henrietta Jones, daughter of Griffith Jones, a farmer at Newcastle, Co. Wicklow. The couple had eleven children, some of whom long afterwards recalled their father as a fervent unionist, fond of singing rather loudly in the congregation at St Patrick’s cathedral, and infuriatingly painstaking when taking family photographs. He is portrayed in a number of his own photographs as a dignified figure with a fine full beard. In his later years he lived on Ashfield Avenue, Ranelagh. He died 24 June 1917.

While French played a central role in the success of the Lawrence firm, which dominated the photographic trade nationally for a generation, his historical significance arises from the extensive archive of surviving negatives. These make up the greater part of the Lawrence collection (held by the National Photographic Archive in Dublin), amounting to approximately 30,000 of the 45,000 images in the collection. They reveal him as a talented and extremely competent photographer. His compositions presented sites to best advantage, and the images are invariably sharp and engaging and suggest the inherent atmosphere of the place. The predominant factor, however, is that the photographs provide an invaluable visual record of urban and rural Ireland over a period of almost forty years. They document the process of change and modernisation in various aspects of environment and society, reflecting the considerable economic and social progress in the decades of relative peace and prosperity leading up to the first world war. While engaged in the relatively mundane profession of commercial photographer, French emerged as one of the foremost chroniclers of his generation, albeit unwittingly, and endowed posterity with a unique cultural and educational resource.

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A Poem for our Exiles

Shared by the poet on Facebook

AN EXILE’S CHRISTMAS

It was Christmas Eve in London,

And an Irishman, called Joe.

Stood by an upstairs window

That looked on the street below.

He could see the shoppers passing by,

Their voices filled with cheer.

As they shouted Happy Christmas,

And a prosperous new year.

As he looked around the little room,

That for years had been his home.

He was fifty years in London,

Since he crossed the ocean foam.

His youthful days behind him now,

And his working days long gone.

In retirement, his days were spent

On his own, to carry on.

He could hear a church bell ringing,

On the street across the way.

Where mass was celebrated, on

The eve of Christmas day. |

Then a choir started singing and

The strains of silent night,

Came drifting through the window.

Into Joe’s old flat that night.

As he listened to the singing,

He began to shed a tear.

For he always felt emotional,

On Christmas Eve each year.

When old memories came flooding back,

And his thoughts began to stray.

To his childhood days in Ireland,

Long ago and far away.

He could see again the old thatched house,

At the corner of the lane.

Oh what he’d give to be a lad,

and be back there once again.

The candle in the window,

To light a welcome way.

For the virgin and the Christ child,

On the eve of Christmas day.

The holly and the ivy,

and the cards Around the fire.

And his mother’s Christmas cooking,

That would fill you with desire.

The boxes left for Santa Claus,

In the hopes that he would call.

With the toys to play on Christmas day,

The happiest times of all.

As his memories began to fade,

reality Set in.

He was back once more in London,

In his little flat again.

And he drew his coat around him,

as he sat back in his chair.

And for all those in his memories,

he began to say a prayer.

And he asked the Lord, to grant them rest,

In the land beyond the sky.

All the folks he once shared Christmas with,

In the happy years gone by.

Tomorrow at the Centre, he will meet o

His old friend Jack,

an Irishman just like himself.

That never made it back.

They will have their Christmas dinner,

and a glass or two of beer,

As they join their old acquaintances,

And the friends they love so dear.

Everybody has their party piece,

To raise a bit of cheer.

At their Christmas get together.

In the Centre every year.

So to all our Irish exiles,

in lands far off and near

The blessing of this Christmas time

we wish you all this year.

And although we are divided,

by land and sky, and foam,

A very Merry Christmas,

from the Irish Folks at home.

Martin O’Hara © 29/11/2021

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High Praise Indeed

John Comyn is the Bridge columnist with The Irish Independent. He has been writing the column for 50 years and he has been playing Bridge at the top tier for far longer. He has played against top international players.

However, he says the best player he ever encountered was Pat Walshe, from Listowel, Co. Kerry.

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Something to look forward to

#ANSEOKerry LIVE in LISTOWEL FREE OUTDOOR CONCERT for all the family – Saturday 18th December 12-6pm. LOOK – it’s going to be special… Get ready for some SINGING 🙂 and lots of craic!Fanzini Grace Foley Singer Drum Dance Ireland The O’Neil Sisters Renovator plus more…. 🙂

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Listowel, December 2021

Upper William Street, Listowel in 2021

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Then and Now on Market Street

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A Listowel Fact about Leahy’s Corner

These two houses were the first slated houses in Listowel. They were built by a man called O’Callaghan with money he brought back from the Napoleonic wars.

The blocked up windows were a later renovation. At various times in our history a tax known as a window tax was imposed. The more windows you had in your house the more tax you paid. This is thought to have given rise to the phrase ‘daylight robbery”.

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From Shannonside Annual 1958

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Three Generations

I decided to reprise my photo with my daughter and granddaughter on their recent visit.

Aoife was a bit reluctant to add her hand to the mix.

The final take was a lovely one.

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North Kerry

Market Street, Listowel, December 2021

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Ads for North Kerry Businesses

From Shannonside Annual 1958

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A Christmas Window…Behan’s Horseshoe

One of these bunnies is a bit on the Kildare side. Maybe he overindulged in The Horseshoe.

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A Poem

Today’s poem is by Éamon ÓMurchú. It arose out of a recent hospital stay.

Fear Turns to Awe

Thirteen years 

of fear and trepidation

Change in the space of two days 

To Gratitude  and Admiration

Everybody here Displays

Commitment

Dedication

Expertise

Professionalism –

putting the patients first 

in all they plan and do

Front of House staff 

give warm and reassuring welcome

While in the pre-op room 

frenzied yet consistent attention to detail

Plan Prepare and Reassure

In the Operating Theatre 

one witnesses 

albeit briefly 

Extraordinary

Teamwork, 

Partnership, 

Cooperation, 

and Skill Sets 

that know no bounds

And there is the Patient’s room

where the Night Nurse

caring, patient, encouraging 

with kind demeanour makes a sleepless night 

manageable 

-the patient coping 

by looking forward to her next visit and chat

And the Day Nurse –

Kind comforting reassurance

coupled with

firm but sensitive directives

which hasten recovery and healing

People gifted kind unique

We owe them; let’s not forget that

All personnel here share 

a humanity and concern for life 

in all its manifestations – 

so exemplary,

so necessary 

in our world today  

Conversion is their trade

Fear into awe

Worry into relief

Darkness into light

Sadness into joy

These people 

are of the same stock as you and me

Vulnerable and proficient

Deserving affirmation

Let’s not be wanting in our response

Let’s praise, applaud and celebrate

In deed and word

Joining them in their healing

Thus making a better world

Éamon Ó Murchú 

12/11/2021

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Which Crest?

A blog follower needs help from O’Connors or anyone well versed in heraldry.

She wishes to know which of these family crests is the correct one for her Kerry O’Connor clan.

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Costing a Fortune

Mattie Lennon wrote a letter to The Sunday Independent. When he saw it in print he was surprised to see that someone had done the Math and came up with the answer to the question he posed.

I’d love to know did he arrive at the correct answer. It looks a bit big to me. I know that there are a few mathematicians among followers of Listowel Connection. Your help is needed.

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One for those with a Limerick Connection

Vincent Carmody has produced another triumph. In this latest book he has been joined by his good friend, Tom Donovan to produce a pictorial account of Limerick commercial life between 1840 and 1960.

The book was launched in Limerick on November 30th.

Left to right in St. Mary’s Cathedral at the launch were Tom Ruddle, Deputy Mayor of Limerick, Tom Donovan, Vincent Carmody and Jimmy Moloney, Mayor of Kerry

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