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

Nunday and Writers’ Week

Michael D. Higgins with Sean Lyons approaching Listowel Arms  where he officially opened Writers’ Week last night.


From  (the writer is not credited on the website)

Wednesday May 30 2012

HOW TIME flies. I cannot believe that it’s 10 years today since the death of the Bard of Listowel, John B Keane.

It’s hard to believe the voice of this brilliant man, playwright and author, has been silent for a decade.

From a room above his pub on Market Street in my Co Kerry hometown, John B surveyed his kingdom, giving us world-renowned plays, and even a weekly column in the Herald.

From his little eyrie he crafted the flow of humanity into unforgettable prose.

John B was a classmate of my elder brothers. He was a private man and he could be caustic in his way, not suffering fools gladly.

I remember an American visiting his bar once. Before he left he told the writer that he really enjoyed meeting him, but he had a complaint: “There is no lock in your men’s room.”

The playwright replied: “Musha, you needn’t worry your head about that. I’m here for 30 years and there was nothing ever stolen from that place.”

Listowel Writers’ Week starts today. It’s a fitting tribute to the great man.

One of the first events of Writers’ Week was our schools’ programme. Áine Ní Ghlinn, writer, poet, lecturer and journalist visited 5 schools in North Kerry on Tuesday and Wednesday. My picture was taken in Gaelscoil Lios Tuathail.


Looking good! This is how this corner of William St. will look. Renovations continue in The Keg, now rebranded as Behans.


Now to something far more serious:

photo by Dominick Walsh

can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together
when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.’
~Jane Addams

Cora O’Brien could have given up but she didn’t. Out of her immeasurable grief and desolation at the loss of her lovely son, she has found the strength to reach a hand of help to other people struggling with thoughts of suicide and self harm. I am printing here Majella O’Sullivan’s article from Friday’s Irish Independent.

CORA O’Brien has no idea what
caused her teenage son David to take his own life five years ago.

She and her husband Martin and
their two younger children have understandably struggled to come to terms with
it since.

However, she feels strongly that
parents need to talk to their children about suicide the same way they would
about other topics like drugs or alcohol.

“We just have no clue what
happened,” she told the Irish Independent. “There was no one thing
that you could say was big enough by any means for him to do that.”

David was in hisLeaving Certyear at St Michael’s
College in Listowel, Co Kerry.

The popular student had filled in
his driving licence application, hoped to study in the University of Limerick
the following year, coached his school’s basketball team and worked two jobs at
weekends for pocket money.

“There was just no possible
way you could think he was depressed, if anything he was the opposite,”
his mother added.

Mrs O’Brien is hoping to break theGuinnessworld record of getting as
many people as possible in the one place dressed as nuns to raise buckets of
money for Pieta House — the self-harm and suicide prevention organisation.

“I think a lot of people don’t
even know Pieta House is there or about what it does, so this is about raising
awareness that there is help out there,” she said.

‘Nunday’ in Listowel will be on June
30, and Mrs O’Brien is hoping the idea will inspire people to turn up to help
break the record of 250, which she hopes they’ll easily achieve.

“Well, I have 500 habits so
hopefully we’ll get enough heads to put them on,” Mrs O’Brien said.”

– Majella O’Sullivan

I urge everyone who can to make it to Listowel on Saturday June 30th 2012  at 5.30. If you can call to Finesse, Christy’s, John B’s or Easons in the next few weeks, you can pay your €20 there, collect your habit and get all the paperwork out of the way before the event. You can register online at

 If you can’t make it to Listowel or if dressing up as a nun is a step too far for you, you can also donate to the charity in the above shops or through the website.


I got lots of great pictures at opening night of Writers’ Week. I’ll post them next week,D.V.


Fine Gael, JK Sports, mass goers and Jowika


Roundup of the week


  1. Mattie Lennon

    By Mattie Lennon.

    I’ve always felt that Kerry people have a more profound sense of place than anyone else.
    I’m sure the Lisselton writer Maurice Walsh was thinking of Kerry specifically when he wrote,
    “A place acquires an entity of its own, an entity that is the essence of all the life and thoughts and griefs and joys that have gone before.”
    The late John B. Keane once wrote that if you spin a Kerryman around, three times, in any part of the world, when he stops rotating a certain one of his appendages will be pointing to Mount Brandon.
    North Kerry Reaching Out (NKRO) is a coming together on a voluntary basis of the villages of North Kerry with a view to promoting and preserving our culture, heritage and history. It covers the parishes of:
    • Listowel • Ballyduff • Lisselton / Ballydonoghue • Ballybunion • Asdee • Ballylongford • Tarbert • Duagh • Lyreacrompane • Lixnaw • Moyvane/ Newtownsandes • Knockanure • Finuge and Kilflynn.
    However, if you, or your ancestors, are not from any of the places mentioned, don’t worry. The good people of North Kerry will look after you. And if you are famous and have North Kerry
    In its few short months of existence NKRO has developed a network of followers throughout the world, whom it has helped trace their roots in North Kerry.
    Lewis Mumford said, “Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.”
    Whether or not you revolted against your father NKRO, through its Genealogy Programme, will ensure that you get the opportunity to make friends with your grandfather and his grandfather and his . . .
    The next step on its journey of discovery is the hosting of its first welcome home festival in the first week in August. Activities planned for the week include ‘A Day in the Bog’, workshops in genealogy and local history, trips to places of beauty and historic importance as well as opportunities to learn a few Irish dance steps and how to wield a camán.
    If you come to a place that produced George Fitmaurice, Brendan Kennelly, John B. Keane, Bryan McMahon, Dan Keane, Professor Alfred O Rahilly
    and Sean McCarthy you won’t be disappointed. Our Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, has found a connection between Listowel and, no less a scribe than, William Shakespeare. This is interesting because Professor Paul Myers of the Theatre Department of KU, Kansas, points out that some words in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” don’t rhyme if delivered in an English accent which prompts the question if Helena and Lysander were played by two Duagh people would the rhythm be more pleasing to the ear?
    And a small corner of this green and misty island which can hold such international events as the Dan Paddy Andy Festival, The Brendan Kennelly Festival, the Sean McCarty Weekend and Listowel Writers Week, now in its 41st year, must be doing something right.
    “Plans are currently being finalised for our week-long festival in August and we are looking forward to welcoming our many guests from throughout the world to experience life in North Kerry”, said Ger Greaney, Chairman of the Group. “We are delighted to say that we have already received several bookings from as far away as the USA and Australia. Irish people too are welcome to join us. We would love our group to be made up of North Kerry people from near and far.”

    The package will include;
    • Transport from airport
    • Transport to and from events

    Cara Trant, Secretary,
    North Kerry Reaching Out,
    C/o Seanchaí – Kerry Literary & Cultural Centre,
    24 The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry.
    Tel. +353 (0)68 22212

  2. Mattie Lennon

    JOHN. B.
    By Mattie Lennon.

    Before you went you told us not to cry.
    On that sad night.
    "Let the show go on" you said and then "goodbye".
    We shouldn't question why you had to die
    Before you went you told us not to cry

    As Writer's Week had opened,
    For it's thirty-second year,
    Where poet and peasant mingle
    To absorb Listowel's good cheer.
    A cloud crossed hill and valley
    From Carnsore to Malin Head,
    As news went 'round our island
    "The great John. B. is dead"


    He who walked with King and beggar
    Will lift his pen no more,
    To bring out the hidden Ireland
    Like no one did before.
    He banished inhibitions
    To put insight in their stead.
    The world stage is brighter
    But The "Kingdom's King" is dead.

    The dialogue of two Bococs
    Is known in every town.
    Now the Ivy Bridge links Broadway
    To the hills of Renagown.
    While men of twenty emigrate
    And Sharon's Grave is read,
    Or a Chastitute 's forlorn
    His memory won't be dead.


    They stepped out from the pages
    Of The Man From Clare and Sive
    To walk behind his coffin
    Each character alive.
    His Soul, with One-Way Ticket
    To The Highest House has sped,
    And this world has lost a genius;
    The great John. B. is dead.


    Copyright Mattie Lennon 2002
    (Put to music by John Hoban.)

  3. Listowel Connection

    Great photos. Love the comment by John B to the "Yank". Just a note, I first met John B when he worked at Keane/Stacks, I was in for fitting and purchase of eyeglasses as a young lad with my father, and he gave me a " barley suggar cane" from a big jar on a shelf behind the counter. He was quite a young then, I had been fitted by Willie Keane-Stack.
    From Bill Murphy (Lyreacrompane and U.S.)

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