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 14

Joy and Sorrow

William Street at evening…photo Elizabeth Brosnan

The sun has not set on the celebrations just yet.

Photo ; Breda Ferris

The Kerry ladies put up a gallant fight against a superb Meath team.

Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach.

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Some of the Kerry Team Support in Listowel

Danny’s Hair and Beauty
Blossom in Market St.
Mermaids

When neighbouring counties win both the hurling and football, there are bound to be some very happy Listowel households.

Bailey and Co.

Ballybunion showing its support in typical Ballybunion fashion.

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Ballybunion 2022

Tommy Martin of The Irish Examiner holidayed in Ballybunion this year.

Here is how he opened his article on his experience.

For Sean O’Shea’s moment of square-jawed heroism NOT to be the prelude to Kerry’s ultimate deliverance just doesn’t seem to make any narrative sense. It would be stupidly anti-climactic. To north Kerry, in the space between two All-Ireland finals.

Your correspondent finds himself on his annual pilgrimage to Ballybunion this week, the seaside resort town which remains oblivious to global meltdown. While Europe burns, Ballybunion warily slips off its kagoule, not liking the look of those clouds one bit. “Some heatwave!” is the sardonic comment of choice, as two days of hazy pleasantness gave way to temperatures soaring into the mid-teens.

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A Meadow Walk

When the gardeners of the local council mow the grass in the town park they leave it tall for the birds, insects and bees and they cut paths through the grass for us to walk and enjoy. A great Idea!

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Lest we Forget

This award winning front page will forever be the image of the worst of Covid 19 restrictions. Now that we are at the other side of that awfulness we should spare a thought and a prayer for people scarred forever.

This poem is for them.

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The Beautiful Kingdom

Molly in The Square, July 2022

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Church Street supporting the team.

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Irishisms by Ronan Moore

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The Kingdom

Beautiful Knightstown pier at evening in July 2022

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Getting behind the Team

Listowel is pulling out all the stops to support Kerry

Listowel Vincent de Paul shop.

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The Ghost Train

Dan Doyle remembers going to an All Ireland final in the bad old days. Dan writes essays about growing up in The Black Valley in what seems like a different age.

Dan Doyle Black Valley All Ireland

So long ago we went to Dublin for the All Ireland final. We went on the Ghost Train from all over Kerry.  We went on the Ghost Train as it was the only way to get to Croke Park before motor cars.  The train traveled through the night and it was packed. 

It started back in West Kerry and men from Portmagee and Waterville and Sneem and Kenmare took the train.  These were the pure men of Kerry, big and tough men of the land and the sea, men who carried parts of pigs heads wrapped in news paper and tied with a bit of binder twine. These men had overcoats and caps on them and big hands from digging the land and pulling in nets with fish that time. 

My mom came home from the village and told me go. She handed me a 10 bob note and to this day i dont know where she got it as we never had much money. So she said go as some of the older lads were going from the village of Milltown.  So down to Rathpook i went at around 7 or 8. 1955 I think this one was and I stepped into the train, They say Calcutta in the back streets are full this Ghost train had them all beat, full to the rafters, men playing 31, men sitting on the toilet playing old beat up melodeons and those great men asked if we were alone and they told us stick together when we got to Dublin. It was easy to pick these men out, they all looked alike. That was before fashion came to Kerry, big grey overcoats and big caps on their head that they put on as babies and never took off i think until God called them home. Some even wore wellingtons turned down at the top, they were a sight but one thing for sure nobody bothered them in the big city, so to say this train steamed through the night would be an exaggeration in fact some times it stopped as if to draw a breath and went backwards and stopped again and seemed to collect itself as if making up its mind if it wanted to go forward or not .

We got to Dublin finally at bright of day  in the morning and we followed the big overcoats to mass. That was the way things were done that time.  W e got to the field early and that day it was a big crowd 82 thousand I think. Kerry and Dublin and our neighbor down the road John Cronin played center half back.  He was a friend to all of us young lads at the cross roads as he came up our road. Walking was his exercise.  He was black headed and big and he was an Army man and he was no one to mess with in that time of tough men.  John Dowling of Tralee was another physical man who didnt know his own strength. 

As the evening sun went down it was over. Kerry won, they beat the Dubs.  The men on the train going home they talked about next year already they had bottles of porter in their pockets of these big coats they still had bits of pigs’ heads and crubeens but by now the wrapping paper was long gone and they shared the last of the grub with us and it tasted great.  Old turn over bread was torn asunder and passed around. We went home to Kerry and the bon fires burned as we crossed the Kerry border. 

We said good bye at Rathpook station and we never saw each other again.  the Ghost Train stopped soon after and the place got civilized but let me tell you all the adventure lives on.  The 10 bob note from my mom makes me remember her still.  She was the smallest in the house.  She was special because she found a way to put us kids first.  My dad was a big tough man but he stood in awe of the job she did raising us. I loved that time of my life  I loved seeing Kerry win but that was only a small part of the story for me. I carry it for a lifetime ,

Good luck to Kerry against Galway on Sunday ,they are carrying on a tradition started long ago. If they win it will carry us through the winter thinking about it ,someone less known on the team will have a big game and thats the way it is.  The ref will throw the ball in and the atmosphere at Croke Park will make your heart beat quickly. It is good to be from Kerry on All Ireland day .  Iwill listen to Ambrose o Donovan on the radio i will listen as that is the way my dad before me did it to Micheal o Hehir and i will pace the floor like he did.

Come on the Kingdom

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Fr. Anthony Gaughan

This house in the Silent Valley in Co. Down is renovated in the style of an old time cottage with open fire and old furniture. Photo by Éamon ÓMurchú

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McKenna’s Yard staff

Photo Mike Hannon

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A Poet at a Book Launch

Gabriel Fitzmaurice and Fr. Anthony Gaughan in St. Jiohn’s at Writers’ Week 2022
queueing for a signing
Eamonn and Marion are great supporters of Fr. Gaughan

The setting was a coincidence. The picture of the Blessed Virgin was on stage as a prop for the lunchtime play, The Six Marys.

Fr. Gaughan, Catherine Moylan, Martin Moore and a lady who writes bilingual books

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Maureen Flavin Sweeney Commemorated in Knockanure

Ted and Maureen Sweeney

Maureen Flavin was born in Knockanure 99 years ago. She married Mayoman, Ted Sweeney.

The Sweeney family, Ted, his mother Margaret and sister Frances, together with Maureen, had been reporting on the hour, twenty-four hours a day, to the Meteorological Service in Dublin for the length of World War II. This hourly reporting continued until an automatic meteorological station was brought into operation in Belmullet in 1956.

On her 21st birthday, June 3 1944 the barometer at the remote weather station at Blacksod showed pressure was dropping rapidly, indicating a major Atlantic storm was due to arrive and blow right across western Europe. Based on Maureen’s readings, US general Dwight D Eisenhower postponed the D-Day landing by 24 hours. And so a woman from Knockanure changed the course of the war.

She was honoured in her home place on Sunday June 19 2022. She was not well enough to attend but I’m sure her relatives brought her back photos and recordings of the event.

( A little bird told me that she attended the All Ireland Final of 1951, the last time Mayo won)

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The New Kingdom

The New Kingdom Bar was been repainted. I love the new look.

This is one of the very stately upstairs sash windows.

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A Poignant Book Launch at Writers’ Week 2022

This book launch had a few elements of a wake about it. Like any good wake it had an element of hooley about it too.

We had songs and stories and we laughed and cried with the chief mourner.

Mary Kennelly gathered into this book a collection of poems she wrote chronicling her feelings as she observed two beloved uncles fade into the grey of dementia.

This wasn’t just another political duty for Norma Foley. Norma is a friend of Mary’s and like everyone who contributed to the success of this book launch was there a friend who empathised with Mary, knowing the toll this illness takes on families.

The book was published as a thank you to the two nursing homes, Aras Mhuire in Listowel and Fatima House in Tralee, where Mary’s two uncles, Fr. John and Brendan were cared for. All proceeds from the sale of the anthology go to these two places.

Brendan Kennelly who loved words, lost his words at the end. He returned, “helpless as a baby” to his Kerry family who eventually, in death, returned him to his worldwide family, an audience, who loved his words.

Mary Kennelly signing my book at Writers’ Week 2022.

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Summertime

Galvin’s of William Street

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Mr. Jiggs

This is Mr, Jiggs happily grazing in his field in Kanturk. He didn’t win any competitions ( He didn’t enter any). He is included in the blog today because it’s summer, a slow news day and he is an auld pet.

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More St. Michael’s Memories from 1972

Morning has Broken by David Kissane

What a different world it was in May 1972! The carnivals were in full swing and some of our class went to Finuge Carnival to have a fling before the exam. Some even got lucky! They said. And others pushed it to the limit and took one of the many buses that shunted to the dance in Shanagolden on Saturday May 20th. Some craic on that bus on the way there. Bigger craic on the way home. Even a few students headed for the “Gay Bachelor Festival” in Ballybunion during the Leaving Cert to help alleviate the stress of revision. Yeah right. 

And there was the 13th of May fair in Listowel. An ancient event no doubt inspired by the festival of Bealtaine. The fire-festival of Baal. Horse dung and life all over Market Street. Women who still wore scarves, even shawls and men who wore caps and spit on their palms and bought and sold. Visits to the Bargain Stores and Cavendish’s. Echoes of Kavanagh’s “shops and stalls and markets and the Oriental streets”. Child of Prague statues and duffel coats and a glass of Guinness in Stack’s Hotel. Chats in The Sheebeen. 

The balladian beauty of a fair day. The exotic came to town.

We watched it all on our way down to the school bus in the evening. 

Listowel Writers’ Week was also coming to life in that year and John B Keane and Bryan MacMahon were to the forefront in the town where big crowds were gathering for the novel festival. Some day, I said to myself…but I recall spending a half-day-off down by the river rather than attending any of the festival’s talks, in the belief that you need something to write about before you can write about it!

And what about the clothes we fellas wore both at school and after. No uniforms. Boots if we could afford them under bright-coloured bell-bottom trousers and orange-coloured shirts with massive collars. Ties straight from Woodstock akin to the wildflower gardens of today. Peace man! Polo-necks and tank tops were a speciality. The polo-necks were a divil in a sweaty ballroom. The heat rushed up to the neck and had nowhere to escape. Thank god for the Hai Karate anti-perspirant. Strong as a horse it was but a right hoor for attracting doctor bees if you laid down in a meadow of a Sunday afternoon. Then there was the hair! Long and wide and directionless. Like furze bushes on a windy night. Side-locks that would sweep out the stall for you. 

                                                     Outside the Walls

While study was more in our minds than most other things in the latter months of our second level education, we were glued to our one-channel TVs for major news events. The deaths of 13 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday on January 30th was a riveting event and was discussed in our class at length. A suggestion by one student that we should organise a protest fell on deaf ears. Too avant-garde for the majority. Mr Rochford organised a class debate sometime later and the event gave us the opportunity to hone our argumentative edges. A rare and educational avenue which put riches in our store. 

The debates on Ireland joining the European Economic Community was a little prolonged for any dramatic focus by our heat-seeking mental faculties, but it did broaden our horizons, although 6,ooo plus people in North Kerry wanted to change the future by voting against joining Europe in the referendum that May. Interesting. Raidió na Gaeltachta was launched that year and, being a possible topic for an essay, was devoured with gratitude. Apollo 16 landed on the moon (no big surprise) in April. Black September terrorists. The Vietnam War reached an emotional peak for much of the world, and for us as we sat down to our Leaving Cert exams, when the Associated Press photographer Nick Ut takes his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a naked 9-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc running down a road after being burned by the chemical napalm. The Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed between the US and Russia – it is not forgotten by our age-group what a real threat nuclear war had been up to then. 

A world of hope and fear. Was it ever otherwise.

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P.J. Kenny and Street Leagues

This photograph is from 1927. It shows the Greenville team, winners of the McGrath Cup. Street leagues go back a long way in Listowel.

Mr. P.J. Kenny’s name is synonymous with the organising of street leagues in more recent times. P.J. continued his involvement with the leagues in Scoil Realta na Maidine, even after his retirement from teaching.

On Monday last, June 20 2022 the school honoured his huge commitment with the presentation of an engraved vase and a special cake.

The teams that contest the leagues nowadays represent The Boro, The Ashes, The Gleann and The Country.

The 2022 senior league was won by The Boro

Ogie Scanlon was the winner of the Brendan Guiney Cup. The cup was presented by the late Brendan’s sister, Rose, and brother, Jim.

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A Poem

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Then and Now

Áras an Phiarsaigh, June 2022

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Today’s Tumbling Paddy

Do you remember this image from last week. It was the Tumbling Paddy, used for gathering the mown hay into heaps for making into wynnds. Things have moved on and no one uses a Tumbling Paddy anymore.

I was at home in Kanturk last week and they were haymaking.

This is the modern equivalent of the Tumbling Paddy.

These are today’s wynnds. Progress!

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Covid hasn’t gone away

Our poor little girleen got Covid.

Thank God it was a mild dose. A big fright and a short few hours in the hospital saw her soon back to her old self again.

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David Kissane’s Memories of St. Michael’s Continued

The new NCPE (National College of Physical Education) in Limerick was in the thoughts of the sports students in St Michael’s that year but the balance of interest was in teaching, especially primary teaching. While Mrs Murphy and Mr Eggliston (affectionately called “Iggy”) had worked hard to make science popular at Junior Cert level, the uptake of the science subjects by our final year was low and the classical background of the school held sway in our peer year. We did study physics for a while in 5th year as fair play to the school for testing the future waters in that trial. It gave us an insight into the magic of neutrons, the photoelectric threshold and transmutation. The silent secrets of the world around us. When a little digging took place today in old books, the red Leaving Cert Physics by the Christian Brothers was unearthed with a hand-written photo-statted Christmas exam paper still sleeping inside. Comments written on the inside covers by fellow students and Convent girls’ names inscribed in little hearts while Mr Eggliston was busy at the blackboard. I had totally forgotten that we studied physics for a few months – fifty years is a long time – but the formulas and facts and diagrams came flooding back as if they had been close friends all along. The book was closed in LC1 in 1971 and never opened again till today.

While different students left St Michael’s with different attitudes to teachers – friends, frenemies or just no comment – all our teachers had a genuine interest in hoisting the proper sails for the oceans ahead. 

                                                            Pushpenny

Subcultures often define a society. The game of “Pushpenny” was huge in St Michael’s and persisted right up to the final days of the class of 1972. It consisted of a game between two students, played out on the wooden desks with a coin (usually one of the new decimal coins, although the old thrupenny bits were ideal) as a flat football, another bigger coin by each of the two players and a piece of ruler to strike the bigger coins which would in turn strike the “football” and send it flying to the “goal” which was usually a book. There were corners, frees, line balls and penalties, with screamers, banana shots and diagonal bullets. Every lunchtime, or part thereof, was accentuated by Pushpenny games, with leagues, cup-finals and home-and-away fixtures. My desk-mate, Mike Carmody from Lyreacrompane was an expert. Being a Leeds Utd supporter, he was on a high after that first week in May 1972 when Leeds had beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup Final 1-0 in front of a 100,000 people at Wembley. Alan Clarke goal. The only time that Leeds have won before or since. My Man Utd were having a shaky time so all I could do was redeem their fortunes with Pushpenny goals. Now and again, if a teacher was delayed on the way to class, or if a teacher arrived early for class and had a chat with another outside the door, a whole spate of games would break out on every desk. When the teacher arrived, there was a scramble to hide coins and accoutrements and replace with the necessary books and copies. Once or twice, a teacher might confiscate the coins and pocket the lot (obviously to be later donated to charity) but generally a blind eye was turned as the games were quiet and harmless.

Injuries were rare but once I did a metaphorical sliding tackle on the desk with my striking hand and managed to get an inch-long splinter of the desk lodged under my nail. My Lyreacrompane/Leeds opponent went pale and partially fainted. I scored the resultant penalty before he recovered. Man Utd 1, Leeds 0.

A few days before we finished classes, it was announced that Fr long was retiring as president of the college after being in charge since 1954. A gathering of the whole school was organised and Mr Paddy Rochford gave a speech in which he revealed the career of Fr Long. “Danny” had guided the college over the boom in student numbers that had occurred after the introduction of free education in 1967 (our first year) and the introduction of science subjects and French to replace or complement the strictly traditional classical subjects. Fr Danny introduced the black gown for the teachers of our year, giving them a fearful appearance on occasion. The gowns did have a practical value in keeping chalk off their clothes but on occasion some teachers were known to discard the heavy archaic apparel when “Danny” went across the road to his president’s house for his meals.

Towards the last week of class that magical May, a blackboard was commandeered to act as a stadium for lunchtime games and there was a world cup of Pushpenny with a knockout system and a big lead-up to a grand final. A significant incident around the final has grasped a place in the memory. The whole class was assembled in a circle around the two finalists and the town boys had returned early from lunch to witness the end of an era of Pushpenny. At a vital moment of the action, Fr Danny Long opened the door. Gasps. This usually meant trouble and a charge of unstudent-like behaviour and repercussions could follow. We could hear our hearts beating and our eyes looked down. Danny became a legend when he simply said “Carry on!” and walked out, closing the door behind him. In our minds we would respect him forever for that action. To feel valued in our curious pastime was a privilege written in no book and summarised the atmosphere in St Michael’s College in 1972.

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Question Answered

In reply to the people who were wondering who “The Twelve Apostles” who, 50 years ago set up Kerry were;

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Poem for you

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