The Martello Tower, Sutton …. photo by Eamon ÓMurchú


Convent Street, Listowel

I shared this photo with you last week. It prompted Marie Shaw to write

Hi Mary, 

Another flashback to old times, seeing the picture of those three houses at Convent Cross. The corner one was the  McElligott Family. Paddy Joe and his wife Bunny Sayers (whose brother was married to my aunt) they had five children, Robert, Betty, Anne, Gerald and Pat. Only Gerald still survives.

Next house was Doyle’s. I remember Maureen who died in the US and whose body was returned to Ireland for burial in St. Michael’s cemetery. Joan, who was married to one of the Relihans whose family owned a pub in upper William St. And Aloyousis , the youngest who lived in Dublin. There was another sister who lived in Canada whose name escapes me. 

Next house was Griffins. In the 40s it was a sweet shop. I remember Tony and his wife Nora, they had two children, a son named Donald and a daughter whose name I’ve forgotten. They moved to England in the early 50s.

I could probably go right down that street and tell you everyone who lived there back in the day.

Thanks for the memories.




The Fascination of Family History

This is a group of girls from  Freemount Co. Cork school in 1931. There is an O’Shaughnessy and a Brosnan in the group but I dont know who is who.

A yarn linking 2 families and spanning 200 years


Today my story for you is a saga going back to the 1800s and with only the most tenuous of Listowel connections: me.


Recently I’ve been doing a bit of family history research. Almost by chance, I was put in touch with a rare treasure, a generous researcher of family history.  Patsy O’Brien is a thorough and diligent family genealogists and is most generous with all his findings. He is connected to my family through marriage.


I knew that my great grandfather was a weaver because I had seen it given as his occupation in census forms. Back in the day every parish had a weaver. Most now are long faded from memory and their trade gone with them. What Patsy found that changed this story a bit for me was that my great great grandfather, Benjamin, who was married in 1835, was also a weaver. That meant that my ancestral weavers and their trade had survived The Famine.


The Schools’ Folklore Collection was my next stop. One of the headings in this great resource from 1937/38 is Local Crafts.


Some years ago there lived at Brosnahan’s Cross a weaver named Ben Brosnahan and his son Johnny. All the weaving was done by them with two looms. They turned out all kinds of woollen stuffs such as blankets, freize and cloth coarse and fine. The wool was carried by the farmers’ wives to Coolbane Mills where it was cleaned and put through the carding mill and saturated with oil. It was then brought home and spun into thread with the woollen spinning wheel. It was woven into cloth by the weavers, again taken to Coolbane and passed through the tucking mill for the purpose of shrinking the cloth. It was then ready to be made into clothes.



Hannah O’ Donoghue


I had never heard of Coolbane Mill, but, luckily, my good friend, Eddie Moylan comes from that very townland near Freemount in North Cork. Of course he knew about Coolbane Mill and the OShaughnessy family who owned it.


So here I go a Googling.


Andrew O’Shaughnessy was one of Ireland’s most successful, entrepreneurial  industrialists. He first owned  a string of creameries starting with Newmarket. (Privately owned creameries were common one time. They had them around here too.)  Another family business was milling, first at Coolbane and later he bought Dripsey Woolen Mills, Kilkenny Mills and others. As well as woolen milling, Coolbane  milled wheat and oats . O’Shaughnessy built 70 workers’ cottages in Dripsey. This is known as The Model Village and is still there today. He also restored several  “houses of character” including Dripsey Castle. He was also invested in publishing.


When he passed away  he left a legacy of weaving, publishing , restoration and building. The next generation inherited the business at a time when the textile industry in Ireland was on its knees. Cheap imports of synthetics and other textiles from China and Hong Kong put paid to our native cloth production. Sadly the mills had to close.


Andrew O’Shaughnessy who has been shortlisted for this year’s EY Entrepreneur of 2020 is one of the fourth generation of OShaughnessys of Coolbane fame. Like his grandfather, he knew when to diversify. He and his father shut down the mills in the 1980s and Andrew started to make his way in the burgeoning technological industry. Following a spell abroad, honing his skills, he returned to his native Cork and set up his own company, which he named Newsweaver in a nod to his family tradition in both these spheres.


Newsweaver grew and expanded here and in the US. It rebranded as Poppulo. Poppulo comes from the Latin for people. It’s a business all about people, about employee engagement., about communication.

(This photograph of Andrew O’Shaughnessy, CEO of Poppulo which accompanied the Irish Times article on his award nomination was taken by Cathal Noonan. Cathal, who is an award winning photographer, has a strong Listowel connection with two aunts and four first cousins living locally.)

“Every day, secure communications to more than 25 million employees in more than 900 companies are managed through Andrew O’Shaughnessy’s Poppulo. Employing 200 staff at its Cork base, the company has fast become a leading player in employee communications technology, and the Covid-19 pandemic has further helped its growth.”  

Irish Times Sept 26 2020


NOW here comes the extraordinary part. My daughter, Anne (Cogan) Darby works at Poppulo’s global headoffice in Cork.


So Anne now works for a descendant of the family who gave her great, great, great grandfather a living, who saved him and her great great grandfather and his twelve children from poverty and emigration in post Famine Ireland.


Sin  é mo scéal, agus, creid é nó ná chreid, níl bréag  ar bith ann.


More Colourized Photos of Church Street from Rob Cross

Church Street then and now

These great old photos of Church Street are part of a project of restoration. Rob Cross is passionate about promoting history by restoring and colourising old black and white photos. You can see all his photos on Twitter. Just search for Rob Cross.


Mike O’Donnell, Renaissance Man

Mike O’Donnell is the man who kept us sane with his insightful cartoons during the first lockdown. Since then he has been busy painting murals, court sketching, writing and composing.

Mike’s grandfather was a Garda, stationed in my native Kanturk, when he was tragically drowned while attempting to save two young ladies in Ballybunion. Mike is enormously proud of his grandfather who is commemorated at Garda headquarters with other officers who died in the line of duty.

Mike’s murals and cartoons cover a huge range of subjects. His public works can be seen all over Tralee, Blennerville and Castleisland. He has also written plays, poems and music. Our very own Banksy plus!

Below are just a small few examples of Mike’s work. He is a diverse and unique talent leaving his mark on his beloved Kerry.