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
This Damien Stack, pictured in The Kerryman, is the much travelled man who has visited 193 different countries and has left reviews of 176 of them on Tripadviser.
I wrote about him last week and many people thought that the man referred to was the better known locally, Damien Stack, proprietor of The Arcade. I felt, myself, that it wasn’t our Damien. I thought it was another namesake, Damien Stack, the sports journalist.
Who knew that there was a third famous Damien Stack, the man of the moment?
Tralee, last week had all the flags out to welcome teams and supporters to the weekend games.
Something to look forward to
A Message from the good folk at Ballylongford Mill
We’ve been busy preparing for our first event for 2022 at the Mill, the Irish Traditional Trades Fair on the weekend of 30-31 July.
This will be a much expanded version of our Blacksmithing Fair from last year, there’s been an amazing response and so far there are 33 different traditional trades and craftspeople who are either confirmed or interested in attending. It’ll be a family friendly weekend with old fashioned fairground games for the kids, there will be talks and demonstrations by the exhibitors, food and entertainment and lots of traditional crafts for sale.
It’s going to be quite a unique event, there’s no other event in Ireland that brings so many different traditional trades and crafts together in one place, and we’re hoping it will bring several thousand people into the village over the weekend. In addition, there’s an amazing folk band called the Black Irish Band coming over from the States for the weekend to play in the Mill and at the Fair who are seriously very, very good.
It will be the first of an ongoing annual event that will help to put Bally on the map as a
a place that runs interesting, historical themed events, and start getting visitors back into the village.
We’ve just set up a Facebook page for the Trades Fair, this is the link for anyone who wants to like and follow the page, which would be very much appreciated, and there will be regular updates on both pages as the event draws nearer.
Vincent Carmody Remembers Great Times in the Cinema
As someone who grew up quite close to the Astor, the cinema site itself, the adjacent railway property, in and around the Sluadh Hall and around the creamery were play areas for those of us from the top of William Street.
A particular thing that we used to do when in the cinema yard was to pick up pieces of the celluloid film which would have been cut from the reels as the projectionist would splice reels together. We would take these clips home and get real enjoyment if any actors faces appeared on the clips. Another thing that would have been discarded were sticks of carbine. They would have been used in the projection room. This room was attached to the end wall of the cinema and was accessed by concrete steps to the upstairs projection room. Underneath was the boiler room.
Pat Dowling of the Bridge Road was the projectionist. He was a mechanic at Moloney’s Garage in William Street and was also a member of the Fire Brigade. Jeremiah O’Connor of O’Connell’s Avenue was his assistant. Mrs Woulfe of St. Brendan’s Terrace was manageress and worked in the ticket office, while Michael Nolan and John Joe O’Connor were doormen.
There was no shop in situ in our time. Sweets would have to be bought at either Jet Stacks, Quills or Kelly’s from further down the street.
Admission to the gods (hard seats) was four old pence, middle soft seats, I think ten pence and the more up market balcony around would have cost one shilling and three pence.
The Astor would show the same film, at the most, for two nights, whereas the Plaza would usually have the same film for three nights. Both cinemas would have afternoon matinees and and night show on Sundays. There were some in the town who would alternate visits to both cinemas on different nights. One nightly man in particular, was a pipe smoker and he would have two pipes, smoking one until it got hot, then changing it for the second one.
Advertisements for many local shops would appear on screen prior to the shows. Then usually what was shown next was either a serial or shorts, then trailers of upcoming films. If it was a serial, this would continue over a period of weeks. A great favourite at one stage, was a half hour Scotland Yard mystery case. This was presented by an actor called Bruce Seton, (at that time I was not to know that I would get to know him very well when I worked in the Devonshire Arms public house in Kensington London in the 1960s).
At one time, whoever was booking films must have got a bargain in buying in bulk. For about five Sundays in succession, films starring a cowboy by the name of Whip Wilson filled the screen, so much so, one local wit, put it out that Wilson was lodging at a local B & B.
Being at the Astor on Sunday September 11th 1955, is a date I remember quite vividly. The reason for this, is that in that year, both All Ireland semi finals ended in draws on the two previous weekends. Both replays were re-fixed for the 11th, Kerry playing Cavan and Dublin playing Mayo. I remember that the Kerry match was played first, meaning that it did not finish until nearly four o clock. The Astor management, realising this, wisely put back their starting time to facilitate cinema goers who would have been listening to the match on the radio.
Another standout memory is of attending a showing of Angela’s Ashes. I found this a depressing movie, more so, as it seemed to have been filmed in near constant rain and depression. Leaving the cinema shortly after ten o clock that evening, we exited to a lovely bright warm summer evening. It felt great after what we had seen on screen.
Another vivid memory for me is seeing Dead Poets’ Society. At the end of the film, Eamon Keane, recognising a fellow actor, Robin William’s tour de force, stood and applauded for a full five minutes
On occasions (especially before Walsh’s Super Ballroom was built in the 1950s) the Astor was used as a Dance Hall. In the 1940s there were occasional supper dances, with dancing at the Astor and a supper meal been served at the Slua Hall across the road.
I can also recall a variety show sometime in the early 1950s.
I, like many, regret the closure of the Astor, now Classic, as a cinema. However I realise that without a regular substantial audience attendance, a venue like this could not pay its way. Hopefully this fine building will not be pulled down and maybe have a rebirth, as it could be used as a theatre, exhibition space, museum or boutique cinema.
Meanwhile, I salute the late Kieran Gleeson, his wife Teresa and family, for the pleasure which they gave to Listowel cinema goers. I thank them for rescuing the Astor and making it a worthwhile and pleasant location for North Kerry film buffs from January 1987 until its closure in January 2022.
The Astor cinema was built and operated by the Coffey family in the late 1930s. The Coffey family had two cinemas in Tralee. Brendan Coffey ran the Listowel cinema.
June 30 1922 was the day that future genealogists’ and family researchers’ hearts were well and truly broken. On that fateful day, the biggest explosion ever seen in Dublin destroyed records of Irish administrations from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Earlier damage had already been done during World War 1 with the pulping of census returns for 1861, ’71, ’81 and “ 91.
What was lost in the explosion of 1922?
Census returns for the years 1921, 31, 41, and ’51
One thousand Church of Ireland parish registers
Wills and deeds and land transactions
Was this explosion an accident?
The public records office was housed in The Four Courts in Dublin.
On April 14 1922, anti treaty rebels under Rory O’Connor occupied this building.
Pro treaty forces of the Free State government under Michael Collins attempted to dislodge them.
On June 30th the rebels in The Four Courts, now under Ernie O’Malley surrendered.
The arsenal of ammunition and explosives the rebels had stored in The Four Courts was torched and thus was lost a millennium of official Irish records.
I made a trip to Ballincollig recently to catch up with some of my family. Clíona and Seán were on their way home to Kildare from a wedding in Kinsale. Their happy event is due in early August and I’ve hardly seen them for the whole 9 months.
The boys are boyeens no longer. They are as tall as their dad now.
On my way home to The Kingdom I called to my family in Kanturk.
This time there were 3 horses to greet me in the field near the house.
This is Woody, the newest of the three. The two well established ones were bullying him out of my picture.
This noble looking fellow was the boss on this occasion.
Just to spite them I’m putting a picture of Woody all by himself in all his chestnut beauty.
Ireland’s Love Affair with the Kennedys
Of all the American presidents, Ireland held a special place is the heart of JFK and that love was reciprocated. The combination of his youthful good looks, his superb speechmaking and declared love for this “green and misty isle” of his ancestors on both sides, meant that on his visit here shortly before his death, he was feted like a film star and world leader rolled into one. The photograph printed in a Sunday newspaper of President and Mrs. Kennedy was displayed in many Irish homes side by side with The Pope.
So I was not surprised when a local man shared with me an album of photographs and newspaper cuttings that an Irish American nun had put together for him.
The album included autographed photographs of JFK and Jackie.
Lovely changes in The Small Square
The green awning and wind shelter at Lynch’s are an enhancement to this corner.
Tralee had finished their pedestrianisation just in time for outdoor dining regulations. Quinlan’s looks particularly attractive.
Our New Public Toilet
Necessary but ugly
The Big Bridge at Night
I was by the big bridge at night for the first time recently. It is beautiful. My photo doesn’t do it justice.
Famous lady with a Listowel Connection
This is the Western People story about Maureen Sweeney who was in all the papers recently because she was awarded huge honour by the U.S. Congress
Maureen Sweeney was 21 years old when she took weather readings at Blacksod weather station in June 1944. Her actions influenced the D-Day landings and changed the path of the war. Her data threw General Dwight D Eisenhower’s meticulously planned invasion strategy into chaos. It forced him to mediate between opposing US and UK weather advisors and generals, and ultimately left him alone to make one of the most difficult decisions in the entire war. Maureen’s readings were the first to point out an impending storm which led to the postponement of the invasion. Her readings were used to pinpoint a short window of opportunity that Eisenhower needed to launch, thereby altering the course of the war.
When John J Kelly, who led the design and production of the modern landing craft, which has been used in military and humanitarian roles worldwide, heard the story of Maureen Sweeney, he was fascinated.
John approached the World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, of which he was a director, and requested official recognition of Maureen and the Sweeney Family by the museum. The World War II museum has sent a letter to Maureen that John J Kelly will read during the tribute on June 19. John will also read a personal note to Maureen from US Congressman Jack Bergman (Michigan First District) who is the highest-ranking veteran to ever serve in Congress. A distinguished award, rarely given, and obtained by Congressman Bergman will be read and presented to Maureen and the Sweeney family by John.
Now aged 98, Maureen beat Covid-19 last year.
Now the Listowel Connection
Billy MacSweeney told us this story and it appeared in Listowel Connection in 2018
In my Grandparents time, Kerry people understood that they were cut off from the rest of Ireland by a series of mountains; they realized that they were isolated and had to look after themselves. Life was harder in Kerry than in the Golden Vale or on the central plains of Ireland. The mothers of Kerry especially, knew that they had to look to every advantage to help their children and prized education highly to that end. In the mid-19thcentury the people of Listowel welcomed enthusiastically the establishment of St Michael’s College for Boys and the Presentation Convent Secondary schools for Girls, not forgetting the Technical School. The people who read this blog are most likely familiar with the Census’ 1901 and 1911 and will have noticed that many homes in Listowel housed not only Boarders but also welcomed Scholars who came from the villages and isolated farms scattered around North Kerry. These boys and girls spent 5-6 years in the Listowel schools to be educated for ‘life’.
The upshot of this was that from Listowel we sent out many young adults who were a credit to their teachers to take their places in many organizations and many whose names became nationally known for their talents and abilities, especially in the Arts.
Let me tell you about one such young girl, Maureen Flavin, who was born in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry. When the time came for Maureen to go on from National school she was welcomed into the Mulvihill home in Upper Church Street who themselves had a young girl, Ginny, of the same age. Maureen and Ginny became fast friends and stayed so for life.
When Maureen finished school in 1930 she wanted a job; couldn’t get one in Kerry because of the times that were in it, so she answered an ad in the National Papers for an Assnt. Postmistress in Black Sod, in North Mayo. Her references and qualifications were suitable and in due course, as she says to her own surprise she was offered the job. This was to set Maureen on a course where she would be an integral part of one of the most momentous actions of the age. Mrs Sweeney, the Black Sod Postmistress, was married to Ted who was the Lighthouse Keeper, both operating from the Lighthouse building in Black Sod. They had a son, also Ted, who Maureen fell in love with and married in due course. They in turn had three boys and a girl and life took up a normal rhythm for the family; that is until 3rd June 1944.
The WW2 was in full swing at this stage with Gen. Eisenhower as the Allied Supreme Commander and Gen. Rommel the German Commander in Normandy. Rommel knew that an Allied invasion was prepared and imminent. Conventional Meteorological sources at the time for the US and German military said that the coming days would bring very inclement weather so that the invasion would have to be postponed. Eisenhower postponed the action and Rommel left Normandy for a weekend in Berlin based on the same information. The British Chief Meteorologist had however visited Black Sod some years previously and knew the value of Black Sod as the most westerly station in Europe and when a break in the weather was reported by Black Sod on 3rdJune he persuaded Eisenhower that 6thand 7thJune would be clear and to ignore the same conventional Met advice used by both the US and the Germans. Ted compiled the reports for the Irish Met Office and Maureen transmitted them. Maureen remembers receiving a telephone call a short time later from a lady with a ‘very posh English accent’ asking for confirmation of her report. Ted was called to the phone and he confirmed the readings, The rest, as they say, is history.
Ted Sweeney died in 2001. Maureen is still alive.
Who is the New Mayor of Kerry
Jimmy Moloney is the grandson of the late Dan Moloney T.D. and Senator. He comes from a family steeped in politics. The Kerryman of July 6 1963, in a full page obituary to Dan Moloney described him as an outstanding public figure.
This is an extract from one of the many tributes paid to Dan Moloney.
So young Jimmy has big boots to fill. At his installation in Austin Stack Park on Monday, Jimmy undertook to do his best for Kerry and for the country. We wish him the very best in his big year.