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

A Walk in Listowel

William Street in July 2022; Photo by Elizabeth Brosnan

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A Ragged Robin

As I was walking my canine visitor through Gurtinard Wood I spotted this friendly robin posing on a sign telling us all about him and the other fauna we might meet in these parts. He waited for me to get a close up. Not looking his best, I thought. A bit ragged! Maybe he is only a baby and not fully into the complexities of feather preening yet.

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Hawthorn Drive

This small estate is a well deserved winner of many Tidy Town prizes.

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On the Eve of the All Ireland

Dan Doyle who grew up in Kerry’s Black Valley and now lives thousands of miles away in the U.S. Looks forward to All Ireland Sunday

July 23 2022

So tomorrow is the All Ireland final football match in Croke Park in Dublin.  Two counties made it through after playing all year.  This year it is Galway and Kerry.  Tonight these players will sit and think about tomorrow.  It is a time to reflect on a life with the ball.  They start as young lads and some make it this far.

It takes a lot of help to step on that ground at Croke Park, a lot of luck, a lot of hours alone training, a lot of meditation and a family who leave them alone to get the bodies in tip top form.  To play tomorrow is an honor.  This game is an amateur sport played by the fittest 30 men in the world. 

  I have had the privilege of knowing a few who made it this far.  I have had the privilege of knowing a few who won All Ireland medals and to their dying day they remembered that game for the rest of their lives. One friend won two and he had them made into a bracelet for his mom. When she died she made sure he got them back.  Most of us who win medals really think little about them but an All Ireland medal is something special.

Tonight will be hard to go to sleep and tomorrow they will lace on the boots and march behind the Artane Boys band and when the referee blows the whistle all the nerves will go away.  It will be tense in the beginning.  Bodies will be tense and then it will start to flow.

If it is a good game the referee will be mostly out of it.  It is a place where names are made. It will be all over and they will shake hands and swap jerseys.  They will go home to Kerry and Galway and they will play it over in their minds for years.  People will shake their hands and congratulate them if they win, but for those 30 tomorrow it is a world away from everyone except those men between the white lines.  

It is actually a beautiful game to watch when it is played the way it is supposed to be played.  Some will retire.  Some will see they are too old as it is a young man’s game and as winter winds blow off the mountains players will hang the boots up, some forever.  Anyway lads I am glad it is Galway and Kerry, two great sporting counties and tomorrow night we will have a winner. 

 I used to love the third Sunday in September when Kerry played in Croke Park.  I have seen a lot of good times and a lot of heartbreak  too when we lose , I will listen on the radio to Ambrose O’Donovan in America.  I could be anywhere looking at it on these big screens but I will do what my father did in the Black Valley when we listened to Kerry V Armagh long ago in 1953.  I just wont hit the Pye Radio with a stone hammer just because the battery died as Mc Corrig was taking the Penalty.

Good Luck lads tomorrow and it is our honor to watch Gaelic games all over the world.

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Meeting Your Heroes

When Breda Ferris was in Croke Park for the All Ireland Senior Football Final 2022 she snapped a few famous GAA people only too willing to pose with young and not so young fans.

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Best of luck to the Kerry Ladies on Sunday against Meath.

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GAA and More

Listowel Courthouse and Library in July 2022

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Planning Your Weekend?

Two local festivals are back in full swing next weekend. Here are the details.

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The GAA is all about Family

Pic: Kerry GAA Fans Facebook page

There are some families that are steeped in GAA lore. Football is in the DNA of OSés, Griffins, Cliffords etc etc. But Pat Spillane’s farewell speech has to be the most poignant reminder of how much winning an All Ireland medal can mean even to families who have biscuit tins full of them under beds.

“My father never saw us play. The three sons have 19 All-Ireland medals and his two grandsons today, Killian and Adrian, have two more. He would have been a proud man, 21 senior All-Ireland football medals brought in to his house. It’s just a special day. A special day.”

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Stephen Fernane in this week’s Kerryman tells us why he also remembers his father on Ireland final day.

Photo; BBC Sport

Ogie Clifford in the Sam Maguire cup with his father, David, and his uncle, Paudie in Croke Park on Sunday, July 24 2022.

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Summers Past

“…Oh, for the touch of a vanished hand,

Or the sound of a voice that is still….”

This lovely photo is from The Irish Examiner archive. It was taken in a meadow in Wilton in Cork but it could be anywhere in Ireland in the 1950s and 60s.

I remember the gallon of tea and the sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper from a sliced pan.

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Obituary to a Man who Kept Lartigue History Safe

by David Kissane for The Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine

The Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine was saddened by the death recently of one of its original members, Mick Barry of Ballingown. Mick was an advertisement for mental and physical vigour, with a curious mind and a challenging nature.Well into his 90s, he had a long and interesting life, spent mostly on his farm in Ballingown where his father had passed away when Mick was quite young.

He was well rooted in his own townland and parish, and knew every inch and every person in the locality. He fulfilled many roles in his long lifetime, from farmer to enginerer to mechanic to historian to taxi driver to husband to father to grandfather to philosopher to much more.

He was a fear iol-dánach, a man for all seasons of human life. He was a valued companion of his friend John B Keane, a writer who valued the Kerryness of Mick. Mick contributed this Kerryness to his work with Listowel Writers Week and the Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine. His creativity was displayed on many occasions in his membership of the latter, creating the concept of the photo-story where he took an old photo and generated an article about the people in it, the time it was taken and the latent emotive potential around it. In times of doubt and division at a meeting, he could unentangle the algebra of issues and cast light on the possible road ahead.

An hour spent in Mick’s company always became three hours as he had the ability and nous to draw one into the fresh pastures of his tales, memories and histories. He was also, of course a humorous man and a rogue when it suited! A twinkle in his eye at the start of a story meant that his listener was going nowhere fast.

He was inspired by many things in the parish around him, not least the sulphur green and the bottle green and the lime green and the sea green of the Hill that looked down on him sometimes under a cobalt blue sky. He had the sunny side of that Hill as his first vista every morning, drawing a deep energising breath as he indulged his eyes over its raw and changing face for over 90 years. It was under that Hill that he recreated a section of the Lartigue Train to relive the Lartigue experience of the late 1800s and early 1900s, to the amazement and delight of neighbours like Páidín Roche and Joe Kennelly.

To see Mick in the company of his late wife Sheila at a meeting or on a night out was to experience a team of two who worked well together. They added a colour and texture to many a Lisselton night. Together they rinsed the mundane from many a flat ordinary occasion and rendered it special with a half smile, a knowing nod or a ripened word.

The BPM offers its sincere sympathy to the Barry family.

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Summer in The Kingdom

St. Michael’s in July 2022

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Friends Reunited

Fiona Keane Stack and Deirdre Lynch were in the same class in school. I met them when they met up while they were out for a walk in St. Michael’s graveyard. Fiona now lives in Boston and the lady next to her is her daughter, Rebecca. Deirdre was accompanied by her dad, the great John Lynch who has recorded so much of Listowel life for future generations.

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In the Black Valley

Dan Doyle grew up in The Black Valley.

He writes about this house that means a lot to him:

So it waits. It made it to another summer, the slates are lose and the weather is getting inside but it stands strong defying the tugs on its timbers. It is me as my body gets old but I will fight always. The Black Valley made us that way. So I look at this house and I hope it stands for a long time. It is a symbol of the way I feel about the Valley. Strong winds in the winter may pull it down but the summers sun dictates it will store up more energy to live through the gales that are sure to come. I am with you old house. You and I are tough. They will get us eventually but by god we wont go easy into that dark night.

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All Ireland Final Memories

from Brendan Griffin

All-Ireland Sunday – Time to make new memories…

You wake well before the alarm- you’ve been waking regularly throughout the night.

Getting scrubbed up you think through team selection yet again and dare to question some of the choices but then you trust that management knows best.

In the wardrobe, the jerseys hang in chronological order, oldest on the left.

You shortlist it to the classic Adidas from ‘98, the 2000 O’Neills as worn gracefully by Captain Moynihan, the collared beauty that draped majestically over Donaghy stealing the show in 2014, Back to Gold or the new one…The new one is a bit tight for the maturing gentleman, as is the Adidas because you were only 16 when you bought it. 2000 has picked up a few blemishes from numerous previous outings, 2014 has a slight tear from the night you wore it training with the Bs. Back to Gold it is. You pull it over your head and for that split moment you could just as well be in the dressing room in Croke Park.

No appetite for breakfast, it’s too early and and you’re anxious to hit the road and you don’t want to keep the lads waiting. You’ll grab a quick fry in Birdhill or the Barack Obama Plaza. Tickets: check. Cash: check. Cards: check. Padre Pio: check.

The car feels chilly, but it’s not long after dawn and you’re just a bit nervous. The fuel gauge goes to full on starting – you filled it at the shop last night when you were stocking up on a few snacks for the journey. While you were there you met your cousin and some of the neighbours doing the very same thing. 

You pick up your expert co-panellists down the road. What will follow is four hours of forensic pre-match analysis interrupted only by the odd phone call about tickets or a nostalgic hark back to bygone adventures in sporting or other contexts. The radio sports news hushes all too, every hour just after the hour.

The villages enroute have hung out all their proudest colours – bunting, flags, sprayed cars, jersey clad mannequins, painted gates, painted tractors, even the fields are green and gold. Good luck signs by the roadside personalise it all, each patch identifying their local heroes. At the county bounds, you privately hope there’ll be another title in the bag upon your return. 

There’s still a bit of a morning chill in the air as you cross the carpark in Moneygall. Half the parish is there for the breakfast too. And half every other parish in the county. Even the 44th President has donned the Kerry jersey for the big occasion – he wouldn’t have worn it in ‘82. The nourishment hits the spot and you’re on the road again. You ponder how it must have been a far tougher drive in the days before the M7 as you cruise towards the Pale amidst a fleet of KYs. Through the passenger windows, the faces of utter excitement on the little boys and girls says it all. In Inchicore you pull up behind a ZX Mark II Escort with brilliant green doors, bonnet and boot. The rest is a magnificent sunshine gold and you hazard to think it may well have carried its occupants to the final of ‘75. 

You pass the second greatest Kerryman of all time as you make your way up the capital’s main thoroughfare and wonder when they’ll ever commission a statue of the Gooch. Our colours mingle with those of the tribe of our fellow finalists and it’s a delight to behold. They’re all making special memories too. Approaching the crowd outside the Gresham reminds you of approaching the Starlite in Killorglin at 2 o’clock on a Saturday night back in the day. You meet your school friend home from London. He introduces you to his wife and she’s the first Columbian you’ve ever met wearing the ‘86 retro. At Toddy’s counter you spot the friend who’s back from New York and you realise you last met each other at the exact same spot for the previous final. You’re delighted he’s doing so well for himself and the kids in his screensaver are naturally bigger than you remembered. He’s been gone 25 years now but he’s never lost the local twang and he’s booked his flights to allow for a replay, just in case. 

All the great and the good of the Kerry football scene are there – you take a second look at the ones wearing jerseys with numbers on the back. If they didn’t wear them on the battlefield themselves, there must be a close relation or else a good story behind how the garment was acquired. Tickets are in high demand, young lads and ladies are looking to swap Nallys for Hills and vice versa, a husband and wife, one in the Cusack and one in the Hogan are looking for two together, anywhere at all. Radio Kerry are downstairs broadcasting the magic of it all to the Kingdom and to the world but you wonder if all the diaspora aren’t here in this building. You fondly remember Liam and Weeshie.

There’s a fierce gathering of the lads and girls in the lounge and they start a few verses of An Puc ar Buile. The usual suspects, the serious heads, depart first for Croke Park. There’s time for one more surely? There’s not. It’s time to head for HQ. You trek northward towards the promised land, the most sacred 3 and a half acres of land on this isle, coveted more than the Bull desired the Widow’s field. This is it. The hour has come and we’re all here together. Those we’ve lost are with us too. It’s the proudest feeling of them all. It’s a pride that binds us, win or lose. It’s a pride that makes us of Kerry. Ciarraí abú! 

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And Few Pictures from last weekend in Dublin

Photos; Breda Ferris

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Coming Soon

This pedestrian crossing is in Carlow. It is proposed to install one in Listowel.

It is a rainbow crossing in support of the LGBTQi community

The rainbow is the universal symbol of this community and the message the crossing sends is that local people who identify as LGBT dont have to go to the big cities to gain acceptance.

In rural/ urban Ireland we extend a crossing of welcome to everyone.

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Meanwhile in Behan’s Bar in New York

from John Anthony Hegarty

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Seaside Memories

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú

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Memories of Ballybunion

Stephen Twohig is an exile from his native Kanturk. On our Facebook group, Kanturk Memories, he is sharing his childhood memories. Day trips and holidays in Ballybunion were an important part of his young days in the 1970s.

Ballybunion, our Disney!

On day trips one could take the bus from the Square on a Saturday or Sunday, all your gear packed in bags. You were laden down with shovels, buckets, fishnets and armbands , blankets and picnic baskets. 

When driving the long road through Newmarket, Rockchapel and Listowel the journey seemed to take forever. When we reached Listowel we knew we were on the home stretch. Finally cresting the last hill and long stretches of these last nine miles we would call out “Ballybunion here we come”” when we saw the gable end of the first row of houses in the town. 

Ballybunion was our Disney. It had a magic and mystique about it. It was circus~ carnivaL sun and fun all in one place. Even the harsh winter Atlantic couldn’t erode all the warm memories we have from this seaside town. There are two long beaches split in the middle by a long outcrop into the ocean. On the tip are the remains of a castle, still standing guard. In the olden days the women went to one beach and the men the other and one still called them by those names. God forbid one saw the other in their long drab flax burlap costumes.! Doubtless there was any big run on sun block back then. 

We always went to the men’s or right hand beach. You would scoot down the hill trying not to fall through the coarse sandy grass and finally plop down on the dry white sand. We would stay on the beach from morning until near sundown. More often than not we would be the last few stragglers left behind all huddled around each other in goosebumps from the cold. We would erect a windbreaker for a wall and drape a blanket over it if the showers came. When others ran for cover we were staunch and held our ground. 

To give mother her credit she stayed with us from morning until dusk and never complained of getting bored. Dad on the other hand would last about an hour on the sand, on a good day. He would wait for us above on the grass and wave down and wonder when these kids were going to get fed up of the beach and want to go home. He would have a long wait. I like to imagine that he still watches over us, and still waits. 

When the tide went out it left warm pools to bathe in over by the cliffs and in some cases small caves that you dared not venture in, in fear. Mike and I would pull plastic boats or ships behind us. When with us Dad would hold us high on his shoulders as he waded out into the tall waves scaring the daylights out of us on purpose. You could hear the screans and yells of children as they jumped the incoming waves. played ball or held on to flapping kites, or just made castles in the sand. And there sitting uncomfortably on the edge of the blanket looking out of place in his heavy tweeds, shirt and tie and cap is your man from the front of Roches, waiting. Out of place again, on the edge of more than the blanket. He will spend the required time then hoof it up for tea in the shade of a Hotel. Or head to the pub to wait it out. 

Every few hours we would hop from foot to foot on the hot tar up the steep hill to the two shops near the bathrooms. These shops had all you ever wanted as a child. Little plastic windmills spun in the wind like propellers, balloons, kites, boats, bright buckets and shovels stuck out from every possible place. There, laid out was an array of sweets and delights that would leave your mouth watering if not so already in the sweltering heat. The smells of cotton candy, cones, periwinkles and sun lotions filled the sea air. We would each buy a ninety-nine cone with a chocolate crumbling “flake” stuck in the top. Then before it melted you would climb up the coarse grass to the hill on top and look down on the beach far below trying to see your own blanket. When finished scoot down the hill again with a runny and melting cone for the mother. In the late afternoon we would be left to ourselves as the parents went over and had tea at the far end of the beach. If indulgent they would treat themselves to a warm seaweed bath. All we could think about was the slimy. shiny fronds of the bubbled seaweed and we couldn’t believe they would willingly bathe in it. 

If it was wet or rainy we would go for tea and Club Milks at Dana’s. There you would pick out postcards from the revolving racks and write and send them, though we probably would be home before they got there. There were always treats in the front window of Beasleys that would catch your eye and we wouldn’t be happy until we had emptied our pockets and had it in our hands. There were toy cars. diaries . seashells, boats, storybooks and the ever favourite candy rock. This was a long piece of hard candy, the o

utside pink and inside white and cleverly had the word Ballybunion ingrained in the white centre . You would bring them home as gifts or ruin many a good appetite or tooth. 

Up the street were two arcades. We would spend every penny we had saved or borrowed on the bumper cars or many video games. There was one driving game called “Superbug” and the brother and I would challenge anyone to beat us such was our dedication and devotion to it.

 At night we would go to the Bingo with mother and if you won, the lady calling the numbers would have you choose from a number of balloons tied above her tied on a string. Having chosen she would pop the balloon and as dramatically as she could unravel the winnings. Therein would be a brown fiver or if lucky a big red twenty pound note. On the way home we would buy a burger and bag of chips from the caravan across the street and head home.

If left alone in our room we would hang out at the window and watch the people go by outside. There was an alleyway between the Central and The Ambassador and at the back was a dance hall. All night long there would be a stream of people coming and going and in the distance the rhythm and boom of the muffled music. It was near impossible to sleep with all the excitement, the shouts, the loud motorbikes, scuffles, the odd smashing bottle but much laughter in the streets outside. Outside was the grown up world we longed for and would pass through, way too soon. 

Yes if you had to choose, these were the good old days. And you had better remember them as you would have to write about it every first week back at school in “La Cois Farraige” (Day by the sea).

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Ballygologue Park Entrance

Molly and I love to walk on the John B. Keane Road

We took a small detour one day and went up Ballygologue Road. Their flower displays at the entrance to the park and along the grassy area are definitely worthy of another prize.

This is the little island at the exit.

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Listowel Pitch and Putt Course

If there is a picture out there of the founding fathers of Listowel Pitch and Putt Club please send it to me. These men are heroes. They had the vision. They planted the trees in whose shade they never sat. We are so lucky to have this lovely oasis in the middle of our town. I don’t play the game but I love the course. It is a joy to walk beside it every day.

Barry O’Halloran, whose father Tom was one of the early committee members has sent us copies of the receipts for the early planting.

I’m sure it seemed like a lot of money in 1974. It was money well spent.

I must not forget today’s committee and groundsmen who have built on that early course, enhancing it with trees, shrubs and flowers. They have kept the dream alive and I think you will agree with me that the course nowadays is a credit to those who look after it.

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You Couldn’t Make it Up

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One is Nearer God’s heart in a Garden

than anywhere else on earth.

Beautiful sunflower Photo: Éamon ÓMurchú

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Molly in The Garden of Europe

I took a walk with M0lly Madra through this oasis of peace and calm.

Schiller’s yellow roses are not yet in bloom

This weeping willow is at its best just now.

The Holocaust memorial stands out in its semi circle of yellow.

This new seat is perfectly placed to contemplate Patrick Tarrant’s extraordinary sculpture.

This is one of two lovely mosaics, the work of visiting artists.

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Schoolgirls in The Black Valley

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My favourite Iraq1 Kerryman

This is the Karim family from Ballybunion. Namir is an exceptional person, the most kind and generous man you will meet in a lifetime.

The Karims are a lovely family.

We heard Namir tell his extraordinary story to Mary Fagan on Horizons yesterday. Listen to it here;

Horizons

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Sam’s in his Heaven

And all’s right with the world

Photo from Kerry GAA Fans on Facebook

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