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

John Pierse R.I.P.

By the Feale in August 2022


+ John Pierse R.I.P.+

John Pierse’s Tidy Town colleagues changed their window display as a tribute to one of their stalwarts, John Pierse.

John’s nephew, Roibeard Pierse, captured the essence of John when he said that John was a man who would do the hard work and step away when the photograph was being taken. That was the John I knew. For a man who was often seen with a camera and who appreciated the importance of a photograph to document a historic moment, he was himself very camera shy.

However when I looked for photographs to illustrate my small tribute I found that I had quite a few, mainly of John in the company of like minded people.

I took this photo of John with his friend and collaborator, John Lynch on the first occasion I saw Bliain dár Saol, an invaluable documentary of life in Listowel in 1972.

The importance of this film was recognised again lately when it was shown on three days during Heritage Week 2022. The film, beautifully scripted and narrated by Eamon Keane, records The Fleadh with which John Pierse will be forever associated , the Wren and other traditions whose memory is still alive today.

With friends, Pat and Leisha Given at a book launch

John Pierse was a scholar who loved learning. This class phot0 of a group of Listowel people at a conferring in UCC on the completion of an adult outreach diploma has both Mairead and John in it. John was a life long learner. He was generous in sharing the fruits of his learning and I am one of many who has learned much from him.

With Kay and Arthur Caball

Kay Caball worked with John on many of his history projects. There was a deep mutual respect and friendship between these two avid historians.

Eileem Worts R.I.P. , John Pierse R.I.P., Joan Byrne, Breda McGrath and Mary Hanlon

One of the projects close to John’s heart, a labour of love, was his book, Teampall Bán. He has done the town an invaluable service in trawling through documents and records to put together this thorough account of the Famine in the Listowel area. In an act typical of the man, he donated all the profits from the book to Listowel Tidy Towns’.

This book will stand as John’s legacy to future generations.

With Finbar Mawe

John had a huge library of history books and maps. He was a great supporter of local authors. Here he is at the launch of Vincent Carmody’s book adding another to his collection.

John loved the company of local people who shared his love of the town and its history. With him here are Kieran Moloney, Paddy Keane and Michael Guerin.

With John in this photo taken at an event during the military weekend are Kathy Walshe and Dr. Declan Downey.

These two photos I took after an event in the hospital chapel, forever a reminder of Famine times in Listowel and North Kerry.

This is the last photo I took of John Pierse. We were in a brief respite in pandemic restrictions and we were both out early in the morning to see how Listowel was faring in these extraordinary times. John was his usual chatty self. While suffering under the privations of enforced isolation, John was putting his time to good use with his books.

In his 86 years in this life, John lived a fulfilled life. He packed more into one lifetime than anyone I know. He is part of Listowel’s rich history now. He will be greatly missed by his beloved gentle Mairead and by all his family.

I am glad I got to know him.

“Lives of great men remind us

We too can make our lives sublime

And departing, leave behind us

Footprints in the sands of time.”

Go gcloise tú ceol na naingeal go síoraí, a John.


Going to the Creamery

This photograph which was shared originally to Rockchapel Memories by Charles MacCarthy shows the scene at the creamery in Rowles, Meelin sometime in the 20th century.

That scene, or versions of it, was repeated in villages and rural areas all over the country when men made the daily trip to the local creamery. Judging by the size of the milk churns, these men were not rich but happy farmers making a living on small holdings in a remote part of North Cork.

The ritual of the morning at the creamery involved the exchange of news and gossip. Men looked forward to what was often their only social interaction in the day. It took a few hours to get to the creamery and back but in those days people weren’t in a hurry.

This photograph was also shared on line. Sorry I cant remember by whom. Was it you, Brigid O’Brien?

It is a later time when tractors and the odd car had replaced the horse or donkey and cart. The ritual was the same though and chat was still a big part of going to the creamery.


Tina Kinsella was entertaining her sister in Lynch’s Coffee Shop. Bernie was on holiday from Wexford.


Old News

In Marley Park, Photo: Éamon ÓMurchú


People I met

Margaret McAulliffe, Bernie Daly and Anne Crowley in Main Street on August 25 2022


Seán McCarthy in The Kerryman of 1973

PAPERS: Kerryman Saturday, March 03, 1973;

By Sean McCarthy

HE was born, at Kilbaha, Moyvane, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred -and eighty two.( James Augustine Aloysius Joyce  born 2 February 1882)  That was -also the year when James Joyce was born.  that year, too, that Eamon de Valera came- kicking and screaming ‘ into an unstable world. ‘ Charles Stewart Parnell ,( walking tall and handsome through O’Connell Street, the fight of freedom shining in his eyes Chester Alan Arthur was-President of the United States and the words ‘income tax weren’t even in Webster’s dictionary. A great United States President was born that year of eighty-two: his name was Franklin “Delano Roosevelt. He was destined to hold the presidency for ” thirteen tumultuous years. .Queen Victoria was ruling England and the far-flung British Empire when Patrick Joseph Anthony Cahill’s first cry echoed across: a Kerry glen. (Break)

“Dear Sean: I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Paddy Joe Cahill died, two days ago. He died quietly in  his  room. All the Kerry guys at the bar were very upset and John Sheehy said that I must let you know. I know that you and old Paddy Joe had many a good crack, together and that you both came from North Kerry. I hope you and yours are well and again, my sincere regrets for being the bearer of sad news. Your friend, Timothy Horgan.”‘

– Patrick. Joseph Anthony Cahill, born County Kerry 1882, died New York City 1973. Rest in peace.


The Square

Old photo shared online by Mike Hannon


People I Met

Two members of the Kelliher clan stop to chat on William Street.


A Fact

Celery has negative calories!

It takes more calories to eat and digest a piece of celery than the celery has in it.


Films, Books and People

Sunset in Howth by Éamon ÓMurchú


Obituary to Eddie Gleeson

From The Irish Independent

Eddie was a brother of our own late cinema owner, Kieran. Like Kieran he was passionate about cinema and spent his whole life working in cinema.

Those of you who saw A Window in Heaven’s Gable will remember Eddie. He was part of Kieran’s adventure into cinema ownership and the two were close, sharing a family love and great knowledge of cinema and movies.


Molly Madra Returns

Molly came back for a short visit. She had been to the groomers and so was all shaven and shorn.


When You Love your book so much you want everyone to read it….

I have only recently discovered Tadhg Coakley although he is practically a neighbour’s child from my own neck of the woods. His new book is just brilliant.

By the way, my grandson, Sean, brought me the mug from Normandy.

I knew Bobby would love The Game. He does.


People I met

My lovely friends, Peter and Mary McGrath

Peter, who is in his mid nineties, danced in Main Street with a teenage visitor on M.S. Busking Day August 25 2022.

Peter is truly “among the very young at heart”.


A Fact

Alexander Calder, a renowned American sculptor, rigged the front door of his Paris apartment so that he could open it from his bath.


The Northern Tour Ends the Road Trip

Listowel Garda Station in August 2022


In Teampall Bán

I took my granddaughters, Aisling and Cora to soak up a piece of history at Teampall Bán

The little chapel has the history of some of the worst statistics from The Famine on its door.

Listowel Tidy Towns have recently placed a commemorative plaque remembering one of its’ volunteers, Eileen Worths, who loved the little cemetery.

Across the road from the entrance to Teampall Bán I saw that great progress has been made in the construction of the bypass.


Barbara Heads North

A brief summary of the 2nd tour:    Places we visited:

Listoke Distillery-story of the distillery and the Gin School.   

Belfast City:  Panoramic Tour of the Fall and Shankill Roads to learn of the effects The Troubles had on the city and the entire island.   Titanic Quarter-learning everything about the legendary RMS Titanic, from standing in the shipyard it was built all the way to its maiden voyage.  That evening  we went to The Old Inn in Crawfordsburn, a quaint town north of Belfast City.  This restaurant was built in 1614.  A delicious dinner was had by all.  A real treat for us.   We got to see how truly beautiful Belfast City really is and how it’s a booming city now.   Lots of construction everywhere.  Definitely up and becoming for Belfast City.   

Giant’s Causeway and Derry CIty all in one day.   We headed north along the Antrim Coast for a visit to the famous Giant’s Causeway.  We made a stop at the Glenariff Forest Park at the Glenariff Teahouse for some tea and scones.   Giant’s Causeway is definitely a sight to behold and one that will leave you in awe when you do.  This is my 2nd time seeing them and each time, it definitely leaves you in awe.    We headed to Derry City, the historic walled City.   This was the last walled city to be built in Ireland and the only city whose walls remain completely intact in the country.  We were met by a local tour guide and embarked on a walking tour  of the city to learn all about Derry’s turbulent past.  We were supposed to stay a night in Derry City, but had to head to Donegal Town instead.   

I was delighted with the switch.   My room had a view of the Donegal harbor.   The next morning, we made our way to Irish House in Donegal where we saw a demonstration of how tweed sweaters were originally made as we watched the threads weave in and out on the old wooden loom.   We headed to Sligo Town for lunch.   We couldn’t see Ben Bulben because it was covered in clouds.   We went to WB Yeats grave and church.   Then we headed to Roscommon to Kilronan Castle one of Ireland’s most luxurious castle hotels and stayed the night at the castle.   It was a real treat on beautiful grounds.  We had a beautiful dinner being our last night with this tour group of 14!  

Then the next day, we headed to Arigna Mines where we got to experience a unique perspective into what coal mining life was like in Ireland from the 1700’s all the way to its closure in 1990.  Once above ground, we head to the ancient village of Kells.   This olden village was where the famous Book of Kells was written and protected for over 800 years before being moved to Trinity College in the 17th Century.   I learned that this quaint village is part of the reason Ireland is referred to as the Land of Saints and Scholars.  After touring Kells, we made our way back to Dublin to end this amazing tour.  

The title of this tour was WILD ATLANTIC EXPERIENCE:  10 DAY TOUR Premium Sightseeing Tour with ROYAL IRISH TOURS.   I highly recommend this tour!!  We were in a small coach with 14 people on each tour.    What better way to see Ireland-you get to sit back, relax and let someone else do the driving.    Ireland is simply a beautiful place which I will always come back to visit.    18 days wasn’t enough, but enough to recharge my batteries for the next school year!!!!  Hopefully it won’t be another 6 years for my next visit!  


A Gaslight

When street lighting was introduced it was powered by candlelight, gas or oil. Eventually electricity replaced other sources of power and the old lampposts were removed and replaced with less decorative but more functional lamp standards.

The lady who is commemorated on this park bench is the reason that we still have one old street lamp left outside Behan’s. Bibiana lived in The Horseshoe when it was Foran’s and she prevailed on the town council to leave the lamp outside her home.


A Fact

Image; Wikipedia

The African baobab tree can have a circumference as large as 100 feet. One such tree in Zimbabwe is so wide that the hollowed out trunk serves as a bus shelter. It can shelter up to 40 people.


Remembering Knitwits

In Marley Park; Éamon ÓMurchú


A Window in St. Mary’s

St Mary’s, Listowel

This is the Darby O’Mahoney window in the sanctuary of St. Mary’s Listowel. Fr. Darby O’Mahony was a much loved parish priest during the worst of The Famine years in Listowel. He brought four sisters from Milltown to establish a Presentation Convent to help the starving people of North Kerry. The nuns set up a soup kitchen and they spent hours making simple garments for the poor inhabitants of the workhouse to wear. Very often people arrived at the workhouse, destitute, starving and in rags.

Once when the starving people threatened to storm the workhouse in their demented search for food, Fr. O’Mahiny addressed them until he himself collapsed from exhaustion. He succeeded in quelling the riot.

The people of Listowel donated a stained glass window and a memorial to him in his church. The scene depicted on the window shows Fr. O’Mahony ministering to a dying famine victim. As far as I know he is the only person who is not a canonised saint whose image is commemorated in a memorial window in our church.


Footing the Turf

This photo was uploaded by Myles Campbell. It’s obviously hand cut turf and there’s acres of it. Could it be a Bord na Mona bog in early days?


Memories, Memories

Knitwits in happier times in Scribes Café in Church Street.

R.I.P. Anne and Joan, friends gone before us.

Paudie sent us this obituary to remember his mother, Joan, by.

Joan Carey (Nee O’Connor) was born on the 22 October 1945 to Thomas O’Connor and Mary (Moll) Looney at Boltons Cross, Skehenerin, Listowel. She was the youngest of 6 children and the last surviving sibling. 

She attended the Presentation Convent in Listowel and after completing a secretarial course in Tralee, she worked as a shorthand typist initially at Raymond Solicitors, and subsequently at Robert Pierse’s, Listowel before meeting her husband and moving to London in 1970. In Oct 1972, she married Gerald Carey and worked in Central London at such famous streets as Dover Street, Bond Street and Oxford Street. 

After a number of years in London, residing at 45 Blawith road, she and Ger returned to Listowel, settling initially in 7 Holytree Drive and finally at 105 Church Street, Listowel. 105 Church Street was to be the family home for over 40 years. 

In 1982, she opened her little grocery shop, very popular with the children from the Boys National School nearby. In 1987, she opened a larger premises in 107 Church Street. Over the years, she built up a loyal following of Customers, many of whom became friends from all over Listowel town, Cahirdown, Skehenerin, Clounmacon and Kilmorna. 

Her greatest achievement were her 3 children, Paudie, Thomas and Siobhán. She was equally proud of a all three. As a mother she was loving, caring and affectionate. She had a great sense of humanity and compassion and was always concerned when she saw a fellow human being troubled or in distress. She always did what she could to help, living the true Christian message.

 In 2002, with the shop closed she worked at Galvin’s off-licence in Lower William Street and knew all the goings on the centre of town. Since retiring, she had the joy of seeing two wonderful grandchildren been born, Séan and Paddy Hand. She was always looking forward to the next picture or video of them on Whatsapp, drinking her Glass of red wine in the evening. 

She enjoyed a good murder mystery on ‘Albi’ and had a keen interest on current events. In addition, what gave her great pleasure was meeting her Knitting friends (Knit Wits!) at Scribes in Church once or sometimes twice a week, where she developed many friendships. 

With the arrival of Covid, a very difficult two years begin in her life, and it was the great care she received in Kilcara Nursing Home, that her suffering and pain was made bearable for her to endure. She bore her illness with remarkable humility, dignity, and courage. To the end she showed concern and love for her family and that will always be her greatest legacy. 


People I Met

Jed Chute and Maria Fitzgerald in Main Street last week


A Fact

If Monaco’s ruling house of Grimaldi should ever be without a male or female heir the country will cease to be a sovereign state.


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