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 email@example.com
Eleanor Belcher Remembers life in Listowel; Town Square in the 50’s and 60’s
There were families in the Provincial Bank next door (to Dr. Maguire’s) but I can’t remember their names though we went to parties there. There was a long passageway beside that and we spent a lot of time as teenagers meeting up with the local boys in there. It was all very innocent.
The Carroll family Maurice, Olive, Pamela and John lived over the shop and Mrs McCoombe lived above the chemist shop with her son Colin ( our age) and her sister Finnuala Lane.
The Lynches had a bakery on the opposite side of the Square and had a large family who again were younger than me. Miss Kirby taught music above a shop next to Lynches and we went for piano lessons there. She was a lovely white haired lady and I think she was Mr O’Hanlon, the dentist at the top of William Street’s, aunt.
The third doctor in the Square was Dr Bob Corridon whose house was next to the National Bank. The large family there were younger than I was . The Bank Houses tended to have families who changed from time to time.
The Dalys came to The National Bank when I was about eight and the youngest girl, Helen, and I are friends to this day. We were very impressed when she arrived as she had blue ‘bobby ‘ stockings while the rest of us had grey school stockings. Her elder sister Patsy got married when we were small and Mr Harry Daly walked her across the Square to the church which we thought so romantic.
Date for Tractor lovers
The Changing Face of Kerry Population
Population statistics as reported on Radio Kerry
Tralee has the largest population in Kerry.
That’s according to figures released from the CSO’s Population, Distributions and Movements report from Census 2022.
The report shows that of the county’s population of over 156,500 people, 17% live in Tralee.
According to figures in Census 2022, 156,458 people live in Kerry.
The latest report from the CSO shows that of these, over 26,000 (26,079) people live in Tralee.
Killarney has the next highest population in Kerry, with almost 14,500 (14,412) residents.
Listowel (4,794), Kenmare (2,566) and Castleisland (2,536) make up the rest of the top five largest populations in the county.
The report shows that the village with the largest population in Kerry is Ardfert, with 771 residents.
This is closely followed by Rathmore, where 766 people reside, and Lixnaw, with a population of 758.
Fenit (619) and Kilcummin (612) completing the top five largest villages in the county.
The figures show Portmagee is the village with the smallest population in Kerry, with 116 residents.
Fact of the Day
Nadia Komanechi was the first gymnast to achieve a perfect 10 out of 10 in the Olympic Games of 1976
“Some of you who keep sheep will know it very well and more of you won’t. These photos were sent to be a neighbour of mine, a sheep farmer called Maura Ryan up here under Mount Leinster. It’s a little lamb wearing an ‘adoption jacket’ which was made from the skin of a lamb that died at birth and put on another spare lamb in order to get the mother to bond to her.
This has been going on in cultures all over the world for a very long time and is always special to see it – especially when it works. It’s a sad and happy sight and as you can see from these photos the mammy here has taken to the little yoke and it’s triving. I saw this over in rural Newfoundland too back in 2019 and great to see these photos today in my inbox.”
Listowel Badminton Club 50 Celebration
Photos from the club’s Facebook page
Listowel Badminton Club held its first invitation mixed doubles tournament fifty years ago. It is still going strong in 2023.
The winners of the first competition, Teresa Broderick and Patsy Sweeney with this year’s winners. Teresa told the story of how the partner she was originally picked with was a no- show. Patsy, who had not intended playing, was plucked from the crowd to step up. They went on to win.
It was great to hear that a competition has been named after Roly Chute, who has spent a record 50 years training juvenile players.
Roly presented the Roly Chute Perpetual Shield for the first time to this year’s Mens doubles winners, Fergal & Sean with runners-up Adham & Ethan.
The man with all the badminton stories, Junior Griffin with Tom McElligott at the Badminton Social.
On Saturday I ran into Tom McElligott as he was delivering her copy of the commemorative booklet to Joan Flavin. He gave me mine too, a vital piece of Listowel history recorded for posterity.
This is the Christy Hennessy Plaza in Tralee.
You are a star, Christy, forever remembered in your native Tralee.
The actors who were the voices of Mickey and Minnie Mouse were married for nearly 20 years in real life.
Wayne Alwyn passed away in 2009, aged 62 and his wife, Rossi Taylor passed away in 2019 aged 75.
Fr. Anthony Gaughan, who has donated all of his awards to be displayed in Kerry Writers’ Museum is the author of 45 books, most of them scholarly histories of important people and places. His best known book of local interest is Listowel and its Vicinity which is now a much sought after collector’s item.
At age 91 he is still going strong and will launch another book, a collection of his reviews, at this year’s Listowel Writers’ Week.
Helen Moylan, mother of the silversmith artist, holding Fr. Gaughan’s Writers’ Week Lifetime Achievement trophy at the handover of his precious decorations on April 24 2023. This piece of Eileen Moylan artwork depicts Listowel landmarks, dear to Fr. Gaughan and it has a quotation from his dear friend, John B. Keane. . It is very generous of Fr. Tony to bring it back to Listowel, where it can be be displayed and appreciated.
Gardaí Raise Awareness of Domestic Abuse
On Friday last, April 28 2023, Listowel Garda Station joined other Garda stations nationwide to raise awareness of domestic violence.
Purple day was winding to a close as I passed but I was welcomed in and treated to a bun.
John Ryan joined Sergeant Fidelma O’Leary and the representative of Adapt Women’s refuge in Tralee for my photograph.
Found on the internet;
In 1955 John Steinbeck wrote to Marlyn Monroe.
The telephone kiosk is back.
This is the new public telephone in Tralee.
The phone accepts coins and cards. There is a minimum charge of €2. Not cheap but it could be a lifesaver in certain conditions. Beside the phone there is a touch screen with vital phone numbers and other handy information. The sun was shining on it so I couldn’t photograph it for you.
This looks to me, like a welcome development .
Bagpipes were introduced to The British Isles by the Romans.
Éamon ÓMurchú took this photo of the bridge to Listowel Racecourse in December 2021
Beautiful door on Courthouse Road
Grave of the Presentation Sisters in St. Michael’s Graveyard
The last time I posted the nuns’ headstones I omitted one. It was missed. So for the sake of accuracy I’m putting them all together here now. Sisters who have died since 2013 have been buried “with their own people”. May they all rest in peace.
Coming to Listowel Writers’ Week 2023
The future of Irish writing is in safe hands. Sarah Gilmartin is one of the new generation of Irish writers and novelists.
On Friday, June 2 2023 in Listowel you can hear Gilmartin discuss her novel with Una Mannion and Elaine Feeney.
These are two of the inscriptions on the plinth of the statue
My Weekend Visitors
Listowel looking beautiful in the sunshine As I welcomed the Kildare branch of the family.
Important Donation to Kerry Writers Museum
Fr Anthony Gaughan is one of Listowel’s most prolific and respected writers. On April 24 2023 he donated all his awards to be displayed in Kerry Writers’ Museum.
Not all of the board of the Writers’ Museum could attend the hand over of this generous donation. Those present were Seán McCarthy, David Browne, Cara Trant, Fr. Gaughan, Jimmy Deenihan, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Bernie Carmody and James Kenny pictured with the awards.
An Easter Window in St. Mary’s Listowel in April 2023
Then and Now
On Church Street
Beautiful Cherry Tree
In Listowel Pitch and Putt Course
A Biden Story (Kind of)
From Mattie Lennon
When President Biden mentioned his great-grandfather Finnegan, the poet, it reminded me. The poet Paddy Finnegan was a friend of mine. He was from Galway and was no stranger to Listowel Writers’ Week. I don’t know if he was related to “the President’s Finnegans” and there again I don’t know that he wasn’t!
When Paddy died in 2014 two others and myself organised a “Finnegan’s Wake with an Apostrophe”, in Dublin’s Mansion House. President Higgins couldn’t attend but his daughter Alice Mary did. We made a DVD of the evening’s events,
I’ve a piece that I wrote about Paddy Finnegan after his death.
Paddy Finnegan passed away, unexpectedly, on 16th July.
Shortly after his death poet and writer Stephen James Smith wrote, “Paddy was a wonderful man who inspired me with his poetry and acted as a great supporter of other young poets too. . . as he speaks to me beyond the grave his verse is still unnerving me with his gravely pitted voice holding my ears. . . .Paddy you’ll always live on in my memory, you’ll always be one of the first people who made poetry sing to me, you’ll always be a writers’ writer, a warrior with words. The Fionn mac Cumhaill of verse.“
Paddy was born “between two years” either in the dying moments of 1942 or just after midnight on New-year’s day 1943 in Dereen, Kilkerrin, County Galway. Like everywhere else in rural Ireland clocks weren’t all that accurate at the time.
While a pupil at the National School in Kilkerrin a teacher convinced his father, Michael, that Paddy had academic potential. He got a Scholarship to St Jarleths College, Tuam, in 1956 and continued his formal education in UCD.
Paddy had a fantastic knowledge of the English language, was fluent in all dialects of Gaeilge and had a good grasp of Greek and Latin. His versatility was increased in the year he spent in Wolverhampton as one of “the men who built Britain”. He became an expert on how to fry steak on the head of a shovel.
He joined the Irish Civil Service in 1962 but office work wasn’t for Paddy. Apart from being on a higher mental plane than most of his colleagues he was an open-air man. During his stint there I’m sure Sigerson Clifford’s line often went around in his head, “They chained my bones to an office stool and my soul to a clock’s cold hands.“
He worked as a bus conductor with CIE from 1971 to 1980.
When I got a job as a bus-conductor in 1974 I was sent to Donnybrook garage. I didn’t ask who was the most intelligent person in the garage but if I had the reply would have been concise, “Paddy Finnegan.” As a conductor he could reply to any criticism from an irate passenger; in several languages if necessary. During this period Paddy and a few of his fellow intellectual would assemble in a city centre flat which was known a Dáil Oíche. It was a later edition of “The catacombs” as described by Anthony Cronin in Dead as Doornails. With such a collection of intelligentsia you can imagine (or can you?) the topics under discussion. He lived for many years in Lower Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh. If ever a house deserved a Blue Plaque it’s Paddy’s former residence.
He brought out a collection of his poetry, sadly now out of print, titled Dactyl Distillations. I know dear erudite reader that you know the meaning of dactyl but I had to look it up. It is, “a foot of poetic meter in quantitave verse.”
He was inspired by everyday events. His “Post from Parnassus” was inspired by the annual Saint Patrick’s Day commemoration of Patrick Kavanagh on the banks of the Grand Canal.
Post From Parnassus
(after Patrick Kavanagh)
by Paddy Finnegan
Here by my seat the old ghosts meet. Here, the place where the old menagerie Relentlessly soldiers on Remembering the old green dragon, me, On the feast of the Apostle of Ireland.
Ye greeny, greying catechumens Will cease to stage this ceremony Only on the command of Sergeant Death. Then break not the heart of poet past Nor that of preening poet present: But know, ye prodigies of prosody That multitudes in times to be Will listen to my lays And look askance While cods forever fake Their own importance.
More recently he recorded a, limited edition, CD, Fíon Ceol agus Filíocht. I hope that somebody will now bring out an “unlimited” edition. Since 1995 he was a familiar sight selling the Big Issue outside Trinity College and more recently at Bewleys on Grafton Street.
Paddy always had a story, like the day he was chatting to his fellow poet Professor Brendan Kennelly at the gate of Trinity as dark clouds hung overhead . “ . . . I asked the Ballylongford wizard for a meteorological prognostication. He replied in the immortal words: ‘ There’’ be no rain; it’ll be as dhry, as dhry as a witches tit.’ He wasn’t gone fifteen minutes when amazingly the cloud dispersed and as our old friend Pythagoras used to say: ‘ Phoebus played a blinder for the rest of the day.” That was Paddy.
I asked his brother James if there were poets in their ancestry. He said no, that their father was a farmer but, in the words of Seamus Heaney, “By God, the old man could handle a spade.”
Listowel Success in The Rebel County
Elaine and Seán O’Sullivan with Bobby Cogan and Carine Schweitzer.
They won the weekend table quiz in The White Horse, Ballincollig.
An old Post Box
This post box is on the street in Tralee at the corner of Day Place. These pillar boxes date back to an earlier era when they were painted red and had the monarch’s cypher on the front.
This one is one of the ones that had an angle grinder taken to it and the cypher shorn off.
Just a Thought
My Reflections, broadcast last week on Radio Kerry are here;
Absolutely pure gold is so soft it can be molded with the hands. A lump of pure gold the size of matchbox can be flattened into a sheet the size of a tennis court. An ounce of gold can be stretched into a wire 50 miles long.