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
Once upon a time there were lots of private nursing homes in Listowel. Maybe someone in your family was born in one.
If you have someone in your house who felt frozen to death during the Covid restrictions, show them this from the schools’ folklore collection of the 1930s. Sitting beside an open window and wearing a mask is small hardship by comparison with what our ancestors endured in schools like Derrindaff.
About sixty years ago there was an old school in Meenganare. It had a thatched roof and only one small window to let in light. The floor was an earthen one. In wet weather the roof let in the rain and it formed into pools under the children’s feet. The seating accommodation consisted of long planks placed on two blocks of wood. There was only one teacher in this school Mr Purcell, a native of Cork. He lodged near the school. He was paid every Friday evening. Irish and English were the only subjects taught, Irish was spoken by master and pupils. The teacher wrote on a large stone flag placed against a wall : the pupils wrote on slates. Mr Purcell taught in that school from 1844 to 1879 . Told by Mrs Quill of Derrindaff.
Covered dining in Listowel Town Square
This is the scene in the Square. Work is underway to prepare for the erection of the canopies to cover our new dining and performance area.
Our returning emigrants won’t recognise the place when they come home.
In the great website, Tipperary Studies which has a huge collection of local history and memorabilia. Well worth a visit.
From the schools folklore collection (Presentation Primary School, Listowel)
There is a Holy Well in Droman, some miles from Listowel. It is said a girl called Depra, who was deaf and dumb, was taken to this well by her parents and left there for three days. When her parents retuned, to their great joy she was able to speak and hear. She told them during their absence a beautiful lady appeared to her, and told her to drink from the spring. Depra did so and immediately she was able to speak and hear. The beautiful lady smiled sweetly on her, and disappeared.
Bridge Road these times
In a few months time this will be a cycleway.
Some St. Patrick theme Windows
SACRED FOREST TREE PLANTING: In Templeglantine beside the school Saturday, March 19. Come and help us to plant Irelands first micro forest. 1,150 trees in a third of an acre with EcoSikh, Reforest Nation and Templeglantine Community Development. Bring wellies and a spade! Refreshments will be provided.
Earth has more than 60,000 known species of tree.
A tree thought to have went extinct 150 million years ago was recently discovered growing in a valley near Sidney, Australia For reference Dinosaurs like T. Rex died out 66 million years ago.
Before trees earth had fungi with grew 30 feet tall. Ok not really a tree fact but so cool I thought I had to include it
Trees in a forest can ‘talk’ and share nutrients through an underground internet built by soil fungi. Sometimes called the wood wibe web, each tree acts like a neuron in the human brain giving a forest intelligence.
A large oak tree can consume about 100 gallons of water per day, and a giant sequoia can drink up to 500 gallons daily.
Trees help us breathe — and not just by producing oxygen. Trees in city’s remove air pollution and save lives, each year 4.2 million people die each year from air pollution.
Adding one tree to an open pasture can increase its bird biodiversity from almost zero species to as high as 80. Even more of a reason not to cut down fairy trees!
Trees can lower stress, raise property values and reduce crime rates. A large oak tree can drop 10,000 acorns in one year. So adopting just a few trees will one day become tens of thousands!( Reforest Nation).
John Kelliher posted this old dance ticket on Facebook.
I remembered that Violet Dalton Puttock had shared a photo of a Fireman’s ball with The Advertiser. Violet’s photo is from the ball a year or two earlier.
The men in the photo are;
Fireman’s Dance 1963-64.
Back L-R: Buddy Dalton, Tommy Dalton, Benny O’Connell, Bunny Dalton, Jim Doyle, Michael Brennan, John Mahony and Joe Keogh.
Front L-R: Pat Dowling, Roly Godfrey, Patsy Leahy, Ned Broderick, Tommy Lyons and Sean Curtin.
Music on the night was by the late Bunny Dalton Showband, Listowel.
Corpus Christi Procession 2011
St Senan’s Well
(Today, March 8 is the feast of St. Senan. Here is an account from the Schools’ Folklore Collection of the saint’s well near Listowel.)
There is a holy well, and close by a burial ground, in the townland of Kilsheanane or Kilsenan about 5 miles west of Listowel on the road to Tralee. Both are called after St. Senan who was Bishop and Abbot of Scattery Island on the Shannon in Co. Clare, in the VI Century. He built many churches and had a monastery on the Island. His feast day falls on the 8th March.
On that date in former times, people came long distances, even outside of Kerry, to pay rounds at the Blessed Well. It is said to be powerful in many complaints but especially in eye trouble, and running sores. At the present day people, principally locals within a five mile radius, come to pay rounds on St Senan’s Day 8th March. The path of the “round” follows a well beaten track around the well. The “Round” itself consists of 3 Rosaries, one to be said while walking round the well 3 times, therefore it takes 9 rounds of the well to complete the 3 Rosaries. The round is started by kneeling in front of the well and beginning the Rosary there and after some time stand up and walk round the orbit 3 times completing the round of the Beads in front of the well. Then start the second Rosary and walk round orbit 3 times and complete Beads at front of well. Do this the third time and your round at St Senan’s well is completed. You then take a drink of the well water from the well itself (a small mug is always there for the purpose). Next you wash the afflicted part in the stream running out of the well. Also people usually take home with them a bottle of the well water for that purpose. Many white and black thorn trees grow adjacent to the well and strings of all kinds, tassels of shawls etc are left tied to the branches in token that the particular complaint is also to be got rid of.
Sometimes Coppers and hairpins etc are left.
Within the last dozen or more years an elderly lady teacher Miss M O’Connell now deceased, got a cement slab altar-like construction built at the back of the well. In this there are three niches, one holding a statue of our Blessed Lady, another a statue of the Sacred Heart and the third a statue of St Bridget, each enclosed in a glass shade. Miss Glavin a retired teacher of 66 years of age told me that she often heard her mother (R.I.P.) who lived about 4 miles from the townland of Kilsenane, tell a story of how a Protestant family residing near the well, took some water from the well home to their own house and put it in a pot or kettle to boil, but if it were left over the fire for ever it would not boil. The ancestors of this family were Roman Catholics but in the bad times they turned ‘Soupers.’ Those who came to pay rounds at the well, usually enter the burial ground by the stile and pray for the dead in general and their own deceased relations in particular. This is done on the way and from the well.
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
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.
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