Listowel Connection

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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

Then and Now

Ballybunion; Photograph by Sharon of Simple Snaps by Sharon

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Relocating

Purtill Solicitors has relocated from The Square to Church Street

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1983

In 1983 the secondary school was extending its footprint. another extension is planned soon.

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The Land

by John McGrath

I stand in fields where my forefathers stood once

And feel the dreams of those who’ve gone before me.

I tramp through damp and half-remembered pastures,

The folds and features of the land that bore me

All around.  Above the sound of lark’s song,

Below the spring of earth beneath my feet,

The green and gold of April in the hedgerow,

The purple haze where sky and heather meet.

Where mighty men have thought to mark their passing

The furze creeps back to mock the spade and plough,

Those futile epitaphs of generations

In Folk Museums condemned to moulder now.

Where men have raised a fence or tilled a furrow

The land, as if to scorn their simple gains,

Erases each proud trace until tomorrow.

The men have gone; the land alone remains.

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A Timely Song

Here we come a wassailing

Among the leaves so green

Here we come a wassailing, so fair to be seen…..

So what exactly is wassailing?

  • Singing and drinking, usually associated with Christmas time.
  • Going around orchards at the beginning of a new year, blessing the trees and praying for a fruitful year.
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Listowel Technical School Hurling and Football teams back in the day.

The late Tom Galvin posted this photo on Facebook and Marie Shine supplied some of the names;

Back row, left, 2nd – Tim Hartnett.Ennismore, 6th: Danny Fealey, Ballygologue Road.

2nd Row left: Now Garda Tim Reidy, Lixnaw, 3rd: Roger Connor (Mike The Pies), 5th: Billy Walsh Greenville 7th: Gerry Carey Convent Street 10th: Michael Nagle, Ballybunion Front Row: Right of Tod Nolan (RIP): ? Costello Ballybunion.

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Young Scientists in 1983

Ballybunion; Photo by Simple Snaps by Sharon

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Plough Monday

I bought a great book in Woulfe’s before Christmas. Its an old fashioned Almanac full of wisdom and folk information.

I bet you never heard of Plough Monday. Traditionally it is the first Monday after The Epiphany. this year that was January 10th. It is called Plough Monday because it was the beginning of the agricultural year.

The first tillage task is ploughing.

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New Indian Restaurant

This is the next iteration of this Indian eatery. It seems to change hands often but if you love Indian food you’ll be glad you still have a takeaway to get your fix from in Listowel

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In 1983

Another story from Presentation School Magazine.

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A Poem of Love and Loss

(John McGrath in After Closing)

Missing You

(For James McGrath)

The sheep of Donegal are missing you today.

They bleat your name on rocky hillsides.

The echo of their voices on the Wild Atlantic

resounds all the way to Clifden where

the gulls cry, So do we! So do we!

In Killorglin, a wild goat ruminates

on words you shared in a bright room,

as we looked out on a jagged mountain

that came and went and reappeared

in a magical mist, as light and dark as time. 

Here in Lisselton, sun and rain beat down

on Cnoc an Óir and on the apple trees.

Swallows dart and dive and write your name

against the slate-grey skies.  They miss you too

and we cry, So do we! So do we!

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Changes

Ballybunion Photo by Simple Snaps by Sharon

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A Change in the Weather

Jean Byrne has quietly slipped from our screens. She retired in October 2021 according to a story in RSVP.

“Jean, from Tarbert in Co Kerry, had become a household name since first appearing on our TV screens in 1996.

She became famous for her daring style with her often eye catching outfits causing a storm online.

She also became a firm favourite with viewers after appearing on Celebrity Home of the year in 2019.”

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Confirmation Day 1960

Kathy Reynolds has been in touch to tell us that she has uploaded another tranche of precious old photographs.

This album is called North Kerry People, Episode 4 and it features Confirmation Day in Ballybunion in 1960. The photos were taken by the late Tony Fitzmaurice

Kathy says “By 1963 (maybe) but definitely 1966 children were confirmed in Ballydonoghue Church as I was confirmed there, Ballydonoghue having separated from Ballybunion Parish and got it’s own PP. However I have just learnt that Ballydonoghue lost it’s PP in 2021 and he will not be replaced so it will once again be reliant on priests from surrounding parishes. I wonder if confirmations will once again be held in Ballybunion.”

If you recognise someone in the photos will you contact Kathy , kathymreynolds@icloud.com . She is anxious to put names to the people in the photos.

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Listowel Is Changing

On Friday January 14 2021, I met Andy Smith who was in town overseeing the big changes that are afoot.

The Square will soon see the installation of a series of canopies. These will be permanent structures covering an area that will be used for outdoor dining and performance. This will be the new normal as we embrace our outdoor lifestyle.

This is Bridge Road. The pavement is on the left, the next section will be a cycleway.

I took this photo in the old Neodata site where it is all systems go to join up this new cycleway with the Greenway.

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Presentation School Magazine 1983

In 1983 the school magazine was produced by the secondary and primary schools. I remember the event described here well.

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A Brilliant Teacher Remembered

John O’Leary has been in touch. Here is a part of his email;

Hi Mary,

My name is John O’Leary. For so many years I have been trying to 
find a person who would get me in contact with a relation of a teacher 
who taught me back 1959 in the Beara peninsula. Her name was Sheila 
Enright from Old Bridge Road Listowel, a brilliant teacher.

If you can help John please get in touch.

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Cinema Memories

Ballybunion Photo: Simple Snaps by Sharon

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Remembering

Paul Johnson shared with us a link to the wonderful film about the cinema from a few years ago

A Window in Heaven’s Gable

“A documentary about the love affair between a town and its cinema. The town realizes how lucky it is to have a cinema, as most small towns in Ireland have lost theirs. The Classic Cinema in Listowel is one of the last of the small family-run independent cinemas on this island. It is also the story of Kieran Gleeson, the man who rescued the cinema from dereliction over thirty years ago and ran it with love until his recent passing. In defiance of the odds, his wife and two teenage children continue to keep the flame of cinema alive in the town.”

Sadly, despite their trojan efforts the cinema has had to close its doors in January 2022

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Opening an Old Page

I discovered this old magazine lately. It’s like looking into another life. Here is one of the short articles written by the girls. looks like Listowel was vibrant with industries and festivals thriving.

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A Man who Plants a Tree touches the Future

We’re getting a facelift down my way. David Twomey and the outdoor staff of Listowel Municipal Area of Kerry County Council are brightening up a little corner we used to refer to as the outside farm. We’re getting trees and shrubs on a pebble carpet. Lovely!

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A Poem

In Ballyegan Bog

By John McGrath (In After Closing)

In Ballyegan bog the cuckoo’s tune

has changed to mark the turning of the year.

Through summer’s haze the lark sings loud and clear

and soars above the dancing ceannabhán.

Where lines of neat turf-teepees strut and seem

to mock neglected neighbours with disdain,

sad strips of black spaghetti wait in vain

for willing hands. The bog-land trampoline

beneath my feet springs back as I march on,

remembering those summer days long gone

when life was sweet as heather-scented air

and feet were bare and fleet as children’s are,

when time endured and even work was play

and skylarks sang the live-long, lark-song day.

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1959 Donkey Derby

Sunrise on Galway Bay by Éamon ÓMurchú

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Donkey Derbies

Donkeys in Race Week 1959

I saved the following poem years ago. Unfortunately I never noted the name of the poet. If you wrote it or you know who did, will you let me know and I’ll credit them.

Listowel Donkey Derby 1959

The weather being fine, being fifty nine and the races drawing nigh

To win the donkey derby sure our hopes were very high.

So we called on all the donkeys that might win cup or bowl

And we started preparations for the derby in Listowel.

The donkeys came in dozens, some were fast and some were slow,

But sure that’s the way you’ll find them no matter where you go

But we put them through their paces and we raced them past the pole

And twas all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

We had Nixes grey and Driscolls bay, she showed a little blemish

John Joe brought our camera in case of a photo finish

When Lady Barney won the second race, Dan Riordan scratched his pole

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Nedeen Buckley came with Sad Dust and Nellies Morning Dew

This was a kind of challenge race and t’was left between the two

Then Margaret came on Forge Road Lad, He’s the sire of a foal

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

When Shanahan’s Stamps came winning home, the crowd they gave a roar

They heard it back in Coolagown and down through Ennismore

Bob Stack got so excited, he ran up the winning pole

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Scortlea’s Hope when going well, won many a thrilling race

He ran his best to half a length and that was no disgrace

But when Casey down from Dromerin,  said he couldn’t run with goats

Sure his feeding was substandard, it was small Kilarda oats.

When Phil arrived on Gurtinard Lad,  Sean’s donkey gave a wink

He started like a bullet and gave him no time to think

Our jockeys rode like professionals both fearless and bold

And there’s one thing I can vouch for; a race was never sold.

The crowd grew larger every night, they came from far and near

Elsey , Kit and Minnie came the winners home to cheer

We had Bertha , Paul and Bridie, sure they played their usual role

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Eileen came with Kathleen and Bridge came running fast

Sure Mary nearly broke her neck in case she might be last

Ginette was there from London oh my heart she nearly stole

And t’was all in preparation for the Derby in Listowel.

So then when the fun was over and we picked our chosen few

We raced them down Church Street where we met our Waterloo

But such is life, there is always strife in trying to reach your goal

Still our hopes are high for another try at the derby in Listowel.

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Ferry at Rest

Breda Ferris took this photo of the Tarbert ferry. This is what she wrote about it when she posted it on Facebook;

‘Shannon Breeze’ Ferry leaves Tarbert and sails to Kilimer without any passengers. It is a terrific service when you consider the cost of doing this. Wonder should they have a booking service only during winter. Would surely save some money

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John Lawlor’s Tragic Death in 1921

(From Glin Historical Society)

Kerrys fight for Freedom 

John Lawlor was born on May 3rd 1903. His father was Listowel’s parish clerk and the family lived in Convent street. He was a member of the Irish Volunteers and at the time of his death was studying for the priesthood.

In November 1920 John’s father refused to ring the bells of Listowel church to mark armistice day and he was subsequently threatened and lived in fear of the RIC and Black and Tans.

A month later John was home on holiday from his clerical studies from All Hallows College, Dublin. On New year’s Eve as he was going to church he was accosted by a group of Black and Tans on William Street and brutally assaulted. This unprovoked attack was in response to his father’s refusal to comply with the request to commemorate Armistice Day. 

John Lawlor died from his injuries on New Year’s Day was was buried in Listowel cemetery. He was 17 years old.

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Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival 2022

BBF 2022, our local bardic festival will take place this year

– March 24th to 27th.

The committee are currently making plans today for workshops.

Closing date for entries to the writing competitions is February 28 2022.

For full details of the festival click on this link.

Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival 2022

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