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 firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the most beautiful treasures in the National Museum is The Tara Brooch which dates from around 700A.D. It was found on the beach in Bettystown in 1850 and according to Wikipaedia has nothing to do with Tara at all.
The original may have nothing to do with Tara but this one has a Listowel connection. Eileen Moylan of Listowel, Macroom and Claddagh Design fame was once commissioned to make a modern day replica solid silver “Tara” brooch. She took us step by step through the smithing process in her blog here:
The pieces cut out in silver.
Inserting the gems.
Engraving, finishing and polishing
Eileen’s splendid finished diamond and emerald brooch
Wouldn’t it be perfect to wear on Patrick’s Day?
Listowel Credit Union at 50
The interior of Listowel Credit Union’s lovely office on the Monday of the celebration, March 6 2023.
I met Eleanor OSullivan and Jimmy Deenihan.
Leo Daly and Betty O’Sullivan are long serving members of the credit union. They posed for my photos with Jimmy Deenihan.
There was a big display of press clippings on the day. I photographed a few.
Look who is Coming to Listowel Writers’ Week 2023
“Seamus O’Hara, who plays Turlough in An Irish Goodbye, will be leading a workshop with acclaimed Casting Director Mary-Ellen O’Hara called ‘Interpretation, Inflection, Intonation: Poetry Aloud’.”
You can book a place in this workshop or tickets for some of the events on the programme at Listowel Writers’ Week
I posted this picture of Listowel men on a confraternity retreat a while ago. I had hoped to spark some memories of that all male institution but I haven’t got very far. The Confraternity was essentially a prayer group to keep men on the straight and narrow. It met for “meetings’ once a month. These were held in the church and consisted of prayers and sermons. Once a year they all headed off to Limerick for a retreat.
Locally some sceptics regarded them as “Holy Joes” A while ago I got this missive from an unnamed local man;
Regarding the Confraternity and the Sodality; these were gone or on the way out when I was a nipper. I do remember a crude put-down that was used in those days against someone that was, in the common perception, ‘ró-mhór leis an gcléir,’ and involved in every religious event and occasion- this put-down was as follows: ‘Jaysus, that fellow is stuck in everything! He’d be in the Children of Mary as well, if they could find a knickers big enough for him.
Looking Forward to St. Patrick’s Day
Some stalwarts of St. Patrick’s Day parades in the past.
Dandy Lodge Story Continued
This is a photo in the National Museum of Bridge Road, Listowel in 1903. You can see the Dandy Lodge on the left.
There it stood until 1997 when it was moved brick by brick into Childers’ Park to be looked after by Listowel Pitch and Putt Club.
You can see from the press release that Adare Co. Limerick had an interest in purchasing the lodge. We have to thank the foresight of Listowel Pitch and Putt Club members who made sure it remained in Listowel.
The late Tom O’Halloran took these photos of the relocation.
The following pictures were taken at the opening.
A presentation to Tom and Eileen OHalloran
Joe Dillon, Jerry Brick and Cathal Fitzgerald
Bill Walsh, Paul O’Dowd, Jerry Maher, Dr. Corridan and Joseph Dillon, previous owner of The Dandy Lodge
Across the Shannon Estuary, in North Kerry, lies the small coastal townland of Doon East. It was here in 1799 that the piper pictured here, Thomas McCarthy, or Tom Carthy, was believed to have been born. Tom learnt to play the uilleann pipes in his youth. He spent many hours walking the cliffs near his homeplace, about a mile from the seaside town of Ballybunion, practising on the pipes. The sound of the water and the wonderful view across the estuary to the Loop Head Peninsula in Clare is said to have inspired many of his tunes. With his haunting Irish airs and lively dance tunes he was a welcome figure in the houses of the gentry, and a well-known character in Ballybunion. No wedding or country dance in the area was complete without Tom and his pipes. For sixty-five years he entertained the crowds on Fair Days and Sundays in his favourite spot at Castle Green in the town. This was written about him in the Kerryman in 1934:
‘Through the long summer days, with his back to the old castle, he sent the notes of his music among the clouds or away across the ocean waves at Ballybunion, until he almost became part of the old ruin itself, his weather-beaten, age yellowed coat fitting perfectly with the grey-lichened ruins of the once lordly keep of the O’Bannins. In North Kerry still people speak of “Carthy’s Reel,” and often a musician is asked to play that dance tune which, through constant repetition by the old piper, came to be associated with him as his own composition, but is in reality the well-known “Miss McLeod’s Reel.” ‘
When Tom died in 1904 it was said he was 105, although he is listed in the 1901 Census as being 88. He had requested to be buried with his pipes but instead they were sold by a relative for £1. The buyer soon returned them, claiming they had started playing of their own accord in the night. These ‘enchanted’ pipes were then taken to London by a member of Tom’s family but eventually ended up, years later, with Comhaltas – I wonder where they are today?
( Shared online by Ballybunion Tourist Office)
He wanted no fuss. However his friends in the Listowel Arms got a tip off. He doesn’t look a day over 60.
I never told you it was his birthday!
A Great old Junior Griffin Story
Told first in 2007 but well worth repeating
In its early years Listowel Badminton Club was a mens club only and Eddie Faley, Mortimer Galvin, J. Farrell and others were members at that time. Ladies applied to be admitted but to no avail. It is said that Eddie Faley considered the females to be “A bloody nuisance”.
However he was prevailed upon to admit the ladies and grudgingly condescended, and in his first ever mixed doubles game his partner was one Aileen Cronin, and lo and behold, she became his life partner for many years to follow.
Indeed, it leads one to ponder on the seemingly unending number of romances that have blossomed through Badminton, and one feels that that the figure of Cupid should be depicted with a racquet and shuttlecock and not with the customary bow and arrow.
Listowel is very fortunate that yet another dance ticket was found in an old Library Book giving details of yet another dance ball but more importantly for the benefit of historians, the officers and committee of that time was listed.This dance, known as a wireless ball coupled with a fancy dress parade, was held also in the Gymnasium on Saturday March 1st 1924 .
On Sunday evening March 5 2023 Behan’s of Lisselton closed the shop door for a final time and held a final hooley for family and friends (a.k.a. customers).
The till is silent, the meat hooks are empty, the shop coat is hanging limply. An old way of life, a Lisselton institution, is no more.
My association with Behans goes back to when Jeremiah ran the shop in the 1980s. We had a family to feed and we did something that was so common then. We bought a chest freezer and filled it with food, mainly meat.
Behan’s offered a bespoke butchery service like no other. When the meat had been slaughtered and hung, I would go to Lisselton and stand at Richard’s elbow while he cut the joints of meat to my requirements and I bagged them for freezing. I learned so much in those bagging trips, for, if truth be told, while I was there to tell Richard how I wanted the beef cut, it was in fact Richard teaching me the best way of organising my meals. and Richard was always full of good advice. He was the most patient of shopkeepers.
As you can imagine, this operation took a few hours so meanwhile the business of the shop went on in front of us. The meat counter was at the back of the shop.
The shop was like a rambling house. Everyone knew everyone else. Jeremiah was always up for a chat and positively encouraged customers to hang around and swap news and pass away a bit of the day. The atmosphere was just so warm and welcoming. You could get a tip for a horse or a hound. You would learn the state of the bog and the situation with cutting or footing. The price of cattle and news from The Mart was exchanged.
Jeremiah always read the newspaper and was well up in global news so he held his own on many topics. The health of neighbours was a regular topic as well as local marriages and deaths.
Then Mrs. Behan would bring the cup of tea and the slice of cake. The tea was always presented in a china cup and I was made to feel like a VIP guest rather than a customer.
Getting the meat for the freezer at Behans was never a chore. It was a trip to be looked forwarded to and enjoyed. It was part of a way of life that is now just a memory to me….a lovely few hours in the company of lovely people.
My family have grown and flown. The chest freezer is banished to electrical recycling heaven. I have not been to Behans for years. A new generation of Behans has grown up in the intervening time. And now the door has closed on that happy place.
The affection of their many customers and friends is evident in my friend, Bridget’s, photos which she so kindly shared with us.
Forgive me if I shed a tear for those happy bygone days when I was privileged to be part of a retail legend. Behans were a rare breed of business people when the customers were treated like a valued friends.
I wish Richard and Geraldine a long and happy retirement with plenty of family time to enjoy.
The Murder of Seán O’Brien
This very unusual grave memorial in St. Michael’s cemetery, Listowel has an interesting story behind it. According to people who know these things, Sean O’Brien’s remains are no longer interred here but have been removed to his native Cork.
Here is the story from Mike Mc Grath in last week’s Corkman.
One hundred years ago this week Charleville man Seán O’Brien was murdered by Crown forces at his hardware shop at Main Street Charleville in a reprisal attack. Here local historian and genealogist Evelyn O’Keeffe, who is chair of Charleville Heritage Society, researched the details and recalls the terrible event, and its aftermath.
‘Terrible Fate of Well-known Charleville Shopkeeper’ was the headline 100 years ago this week when Sean O’Brien, a hardware merchant was murdered.
Sean died from his wounds as his wife and young daughter bore witness to his terrible end.
‘At 8.30pm there was a knock on the door. The Tans came into the town looking for blood that night, a Volunteer attack earlier that day on an RIC patrol in Charleville had maddened the Tans.
‘They went to the home of Seán O’Brien. The Tans knocked at his door, and Seán, without opening the door, enquired what they wanted, and the Tans’ reply was to fire several volleys through the door and they also threw some grenades through the fanlight. It was an extremely brutal murder, for his body was ripped asunder. He died seven and a half hours later.
‘Seán was president of the local Gaelic League and was a committed Irish-Irelander. He was elected in June 1920 to the Urban District Council on the Sinn Féin ticket and was the unanimous choice for chairman.
O’Brien’s funeral prompted an ugly scene. During his funeral procession on 4th March 1921 ‘two military officers approached the clergy, who were in front, and asked them were they not aware of the fact that the Republican flag which covered the coffin was not permitted in accordance with official regulations. One of the priests pointed out that the ensign was wrapped around the remains and secured to the lid, and that the coffin should be opened if they insisted on having the flag removed. After some controversy the military officers decided not to interfere further’.
‘Seán took an active interest in all aspects of life in Charleville and the turnout at his funeral was huge, being a member of the Kilmallock Board of Guardians, Cork County Committee of Agriculture, and was always ready to volunteer his services to resolve labour disputes. He enjoyed the respect and esteem of all classes in the town, including those who did not coincide with his political views.’