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: Schools’ Folklore Page 1 of 3

Long Ago Christmasses

Photo: Eamon ÓMurchú in Portmarnock in December 2021

<<<<<<<<<<<

Christmas in Ballybunion

From the Schools’ Folklore Collection 1937/38

Christmas Day
Christmas comes but once a year;
When it comes it brings good cheer,
When it goes it leaves us here,
And what will we do for the rest of the year.
When Christmas morning dawns everyone is up early and goes to early Mass, and many receive Holy Communion. When people meet on their way to Mass their salutes to each other are:- “A happy Christmas to you” and the reply is – “Many happy returns”. The children are all anxiety to see what Santa Claus has brought them.
When Mass and breakfast are over the children play with their toys while the elders are busy preparing the Christmas dinner.
The chief features of an Irish Christmas dinner are – roast turkey, or goose and a plum pudding. The remainder of the day is spent in the enjoyment and peace of the home, and the family circle.
Christmas customs vary from country to country but the spirit of Christmas is the same the wide world over. It is the time of peace, and it is also the feast for the children, because it was first the feast of the Child Jesus who was born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand long years ago.

Collector Máighréad Ní Chearbhaill

Address, Ballybunnion, Co. Kerry.

Teacher: Máire de Stac.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Some Christmas Windows 2021

Taelane Store
Coco for Kids
The Gentleman Barbers’

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Our Perennial Christmas Story

(I never tire of this one).

The Christmas Coat   

Seán McCarthy  1986

Oh fleeting time, oh, fleeting time

You raced my youth away;

You took from me the boyhood dreams

That started each new day.

My father, Ned McCarthy found the blanket in the Market Place in Listowel two months before Christmas. The blanket was spanking new of a rich kelly green hue with fancy white stitching round the edges. Ned, as honest a man as hard times would allow, did the right thing. He bundled this exotic looking comforter inside his overcoat and brought it home to our manse on the edge of Sandes bog.

The excitement was fierce to behold that night when all the McCarthy clan sat round the table. Pandy, flour dip and yolla meal pointers, washed down with buttermilk disappeared down hungry throats. All eyes were on the green blanket airing in front of the turf fire. Where would the blanket rest?

The winter was creeping in fast and the cold winds were starting to whisper round Healy’s Wood; a time for the robin to shelter in the barn. I was excited about the blanket too but the cold nights never bothered me. By the time I had stepped over my four brothers to get to my own place against the wall, no puff of wind, no matter however fierce could find me.

After much arguing and a few fist fights (for we were a very democratic family) it was my sister, Anna who came up with the right and proper solution. That lovely blanket, she said was too fancy,  too new and too beautiful to be wasted on any bed. Wasn’t she going to England, in a year’s time and the blanket would make her a lovely coat!. Brains to burn that girl has. Didn’t she prove it years later when she married an engineer and him a pillar of the church and a teetotaler? Well maybe a slight correction here. He used to be a pillar of the pub and a total abstainer from church but she changed all that. Brains to burn!

The tailor Roche lived in a little house on the Greenville Road with his brother Paddy and a dog with no tail and only one eye. Rumours abounded around the locality about the tailor’s magic stitching fingers and his work for the English royal family.  Every man, woman and child in our locality went in awe of the Tailor Roche. Hadn’t he made a coat for the Queen of England when he was domiciled in London, a smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales and several pairs of pyjamas for Princess Flavia.

The only sour note I ever heard against the tailor’s achievements came from The Whisper Hogan, an itinerant ploughman who came from the west of Kerry.

“ If he’s such a famous  tailor,” said Whisper, “why is it that his arse is always peeping out through a hole in his trousers?.

Hogan was an awful begrudger. We didn’t pay him any heed. Tailor Roche was the man chosen to make the coat from the green blanket. Even though it was a “God spare you the health” job, a lot of thought went into the final choice of a tailor.

The first fitting took place of a Sunday afternoon on the mud floor of the McCarthy manse. The blanket was spread out evenly and Anna was ordered to lie very still on top of it. Even I, who had never seen a tailor at work thought this a little strange. But my father soon put me to rights when he said, “Stop fidgeting, Seáinín , you are watching a genius at work.” Chalk, scissors, green thread and plenty of sweet tea with a little bit of bacon and cabbage when we had it. A tailor can’t work on an empty stomach.

The conversion went apace through Christmas and into the New Year. Snip snip, stitch, stich, sweet tea and fat bacon, floury spuds. I couldn’t see much shape in the coat but there was one thing for sure – it no longer looked like a blanket. Spring raced into summer and summer rained its way into autumn. Hitler invaded Poland and the British army fled Dunkirk, the men of Sandes Bog and Greenville gathered together shoulder to shoulder to defend the Ballybunion coastline and to bring home the turf.

Then six weeks before Christmas disaster struck the McCarthy clan and to hell with Hitler, the British Army, and Herman Goering. We got the news at convent mass on Sunday morning the Tailor Roche had broken his stitching hand when he fell over his dog, the one with the one eye and no tail. Fourteen months of stitching, cutting, tea drinking and bacon eating down the drain. Even a genius cannot work with one hand.

Anna looked very nice in her thirty shilling coat from Carroll Hengan’s in Listowel as we walked to the train. Coming home alone in the January twilight I tried hard to hold back the tears. She would be missed.  The Tailor was sitting by the fire, a mug of sweet tea in his left hand and a large white sling holding his right-hand. I didn’t feel like talking so I made my way across the bed to my place by the wall. It was beginning to turn cold so I drew the shapeless green bindle up around my shoulders. It was awkward enough to get it settled with the two sleeves sticking out sideways and a long split up the middle. Still, it helped keep out the frost. Every bed needs a good green blanket and every boyhood needs a time to rest.

The ghosts of night will vanish soon

When winter fades away

The lark will taste the buds of June

Mid the scent of new mown hay.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

From the Top Shelf

Vincent Carmody has a new book out for Christmas. This one is a collaboration with Limerick historian, Tom Donovan. It is a must have for anyone with a Limerick connection. Even if you have no affiliation to the Treaty City this book is a valuable insight into trade in our part of the country in the recent past.

<<<<<<<<<

A triopall of stories

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú in Mount Usher Gardens

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

More Changes on Church Street

November 2021

<<<<<<<<<<<<

A Christmas ad. from 1958

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Beautiful Ballydehob

Ballydehob is a bit like Lyreacrompane. Lots of people believe its a makey up place. The two places have something else in common too. They are real and beautiful.

Breda Ferris took the above photo of Ballydehob.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<

A Pres. Fundraiser

This photo from an old Pres album shows a group of seniors counting money. Can anyone name the girls and tell us what was the occasion.

<<<<<<<<<<<<

Neil Brosnan ag teacht i gcabhair orainn

Last week I included a lovely account from a west Kerry schoolgirl of Christmas customs long ago. The piece included this sentence;

Oidhche Nodhlagh beagh oidhche na trí ríghthe creidhtear go ndeintear fíon de’n uisghe síoda de’n triopall agus airgheadh de’n ghreann.

The word triopall stumped me and I couldn’t find it in the dictionary. Help was nearer than I imagined.

Neil Brosnan wrote “I think I can help with ‘triopall’ – as in triopall of rushes. Rushes were used as door mats on special occasions. Triopall was a measurement – a gwall (gabháil) – the amount one could carry in one’s crossed arms. ‘A beart of rushes’. Tá an Gaeilge beo fós.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Listowel Food Fair 2021

The Food Fair was a low key affair this year. The only evidence I saw was a Garvey’s on Saturday, November 13 2021

<<<<<<<<<<<<

An Old Ballad, Ballybunion RIC and a Toyshop Raffle

Photo credit; Éamon ÓMurchú in Mount Usher Gardens

<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Old Listowel Ballad

from Shannonside Annual 1956

I’ve never seen this old song before. Does anyone have an air to it?

<<<<<<<<<<<

Ballybunion Old RIC Barracks

James Sherman’s photos shared with Glin Historical Society

We have no names for the policemen.

<<<<<<<<<<<<

McGillicuddy’s Toy Shop at Christmas

The late Jackie McGillicuddy and his son Seán …photo from Facebook

McGillicuddy’s Toyshop has been part of Listowel Christmasses for decades.

This year, Seán is holding a raffle with some sought after Christmas prizes. It’s all in aid of Crumlin Children Hospital.

McGillicuddys Crumlin Children’s Hospital Christmas Raffle

Raffle in store or online at https://www.idonate.ie/raffle/McGillicuddysRaffle

1st Prize Rainbow High Dolls House and Doll

2nd Prize Barbie Dreamhouse and Doll

3rd Prize €150 of Bruder Toys

4th Prize Wendy Dolls house

5th Prize Lego Hogwarts Express

6th Prize Hasbro Games Bundle.

This initiative is definitely worthy of support.

Footnote; Now might be a good time for some older readers to share with us their memories of Listowel’s iconic toyshop and its place in Listowel Christmasses past. Memories to listowelconnection@gmail.com please

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Christmas in Kerry Long Ago

From the Schools Folklore Collection in The National Archives

Photo from National Archives. Caoimhín ÓDanachair in Athea, Co. Limerick

Customs and Manners of Christmas.

The people of olden times, when Christmas used come, no matter how poor the people were they tried to honour Christmas the best way they could.

They used always kill a calf for Christmas day and some of them used have a goose roasted Christmas day.

When they used get out of bed Christmas morning they used take three drinks of water and bless themselves after each drink before breakfast. This was a cure for any sudden pain they used get for the rest of the year. There was another custom following it they used keep a piece of the Christmas candle that used be lighting in the kitchen and if they got the pain they used take three drinks and bless themselves as before and they used light the candle and they used make the sign of the cross on themselves with the candle.

They believed that the baby boy who would be born at midnight on Christmas night had a cure on his hand for evil sores by making the sign of the cross on the sores.

The old people said that the night Our Lord was born our Blessed Lady put her hand on the asses back and the ass has a cross ever since.

They brought the holy water from the chapel Christmas morning, because they thought the priest used give it a special blessing for that day. They used eat as much as they could New Years night or if they wouldn’t they wouldn’t eat enough for the rest of the year.


Oidhche Nodhlagh beagh oidhche na trí ríghthe creidhtear go ndeintear fíon de’n uisghe síoda de’n triopall agus airgheadh de’n ghreann.

( On Little Christmas night, the night of the three kings, it is believed that water is made into wine, ………..into silk and ……… into silver)

The child scribe wrote down what she heard. I couldn’t find triopall in the dictionary and greann means fun so maybe it was gcrann as in a tree or wood)

INFORMANT Cáit Bean Uí Shúilleabháin

Address Coad, Co. Kerry

The school is Bunaneer, Co Kerry

<<<<<<<<<<<<

Conor Pass, a New Granddaughter and St. Batt’s Well

Waterfall at Conor Pass by Éamon ÓMurchú

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

The Miracle of Life

There’s been a bit of a change in circumstances in the Kildare branch of the family.

Last week I got to visit the lovely Aoife, my newest grandaughter, who, at two weeks old is already everyone’s darling. Here she is making her Listowel Connection debut.

<<<<<<<<<<<<

24 The Square, Listowel

This lovely town house has been home to some of Listowel’s most famous families. The Creagh family lived here before the O’Connors. This house is now home to Kerry Writers’ Museum.

This was the family home of Michael O’Connor, illuminator. Here are a few more examples of his work.

The alphabet is amazing. The second picture is a work in progress. Michael died at a young age leaving many projects at various stages of completion.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Our Ancestors were Superstitious

The Schools Folklore collection has many stories of superstitions and weather lore. Here are some beliefs the old people held that foretold wet weather on the way.

The Robin sings inside in the middle of the bush.
The Geese fly against the wind.
The Snail creeps up the wall.
The cat turns his back to the fire.
The wave can be heard for miles.
Red in the sky at east before the sunrise.
The warble fly lays its eggs on the cattle and the cattle run in the fields.
The high hill near Tralee is clouded at the east side.
The fish dont rise to the fisherman’s fly.
The cement floor gets damp
The spring wells will rise
The Seagulls come inland from the seashore.
COLLECTOR Gerald Mulvihill

<<<<<<<<

St. Bartholamew

Today, August 24 is the day for visiting St. Batts Well in Coolard. Applying the water from the well to sore eyes is meant to cure ailments of the eye.

A Charity Shop, A Holy Well and a Swim

Peacock Butterfly by Paddy Fitzgibbon

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Roses by the Feale in July 2021

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Volunteering in the VdeP shop

All the Covid regulations are observed in Vincents in Upper William Street. Abina and Sarah were in charge when I visited on Friday July 23 2021.

You should call in soon. They will be selling off all their summer stock in their much anticipated sale.

<<<<<<<<<<

The Blessed Well in Kilshenane

(From the Schools’ Folklore Collection)


Saint Senan was a great Kilshinane Saint. His well is situated in Kilshinane in John O’Connor’s farm. Many people pray for sore eyes or for any sore they have. If they are to be cured they will see a white trout in the water.
It is thought to be a very good well as people come from far and near to pray rounds there. We may pray rounds there any day, but there are four special days for doing so – Saint Senan’s day, the 8th March, the Saturday before the 1st of May the Saturday before Saint John’s day, and the 24th June, and the Saturday before Michalemas the 29th of September. Saint Senan’s well is surrounded by an iron railing.
There are three statues over the well placed there by one who may yet be canonized – the late Miss O’Connell, Principal teacher of Dromclough Girls’ National School. One of these is of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the Sacred Heart, another of the Mary of the Gael Saint Brigid. It is thought that the well sprang up suddenly one one night because of Saint Senan’s prayer.
In olden times a pattern as held there on Saint Senan’s day 8th of March Whenever there is a funeral at Kilshinane cemetry crowds of strangers go to see the well. It is thought that long ago some person took home some of the well-water to boil as an experiment but if it was down since it would not warm not alone to boil.
When people go there they bring home a bottle of the well water with hem, some people leave money there to repair the well. Miss O’Connell R.I.P. The Principal Teacher of Dromclough Girls national school get it repaired first, and got the statues over the well and the iron railing round it also.
Collector Eileen Hannon- Age 14
Informant- Mrs Bridget Flaherty- Relation grandparent- Age 74- Address, Mountcoal, Co. Kerry

<<<<<<<<<<<<

My Girleens are Growing Up

My three lovely granddaughters love the water. Here they are after their evening swim in The Dock in Kinsale.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén