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

Lyre, Ballyseedy and Ballylongford

Scully’s Corner

From the Capuchin Annual Archive

Horse-Drawn Ploughing, 1945 

This is an image of a farmer with a traditional horse-drawn plough in rural Ireland. The image dates to about 1945. Attracting an annual attendance of nearly 300,000 people, the National Ploughing Championships is the flagship event for Irish agriculture and is one of the largest outdoor exhibition and agricultural trade shows in Europe. The event runs for three days.

The photograph forms part of a bound volume containing a collection titled ‘Views of Irish life’ intended for publication in ‘The Capuchin Annual’. 

What I’m Reading

The Lyreacrompane and District Journal is full of interesting little stories.

I was happily reading these when I spied a photograph of my postman.

Pat Hickey’s story is on page 12.

In 1979 Pat’s grandfather made a find in a bog in Banemore…a casket of bog butter that could be 2,000 years old.

This is just one of the great and extraordinary tales in this marvellous journal. The best value in town at only €15.

In Ballylongford

I was in Ballylongford last Sunday for the annual craft fair. The community centre where the fair was held shares a carpark with St. Michael’s church.

I arrived at mass time. Big mistake! Cars parked and some more abandoned everywhere. I’ll know better next year.

When Your Granny Played a Role in History

The Ballyseedy massacre has to be one of the the worst atrocities of a very bitter civil war in Kerry.

Here is Mick O’Callaghan’s story;

Granny Curran and The Civil War

Granny Curran said her rosary nightly and prayed for people who died in wars. We were always very aware of the significance of her home place and civil war politics. My granny played a role in saving a man’s life. On March 7th, 1923, nine republican prisoners, six from the jail in Tralee and three from the workhouse, were taken from Ballymullen army barracks in Tralee. They were taken in a lorry, lying down, to Ballyseedy, on the Killarney Road. They were secured by the hands and legs and to each other and arranged in a circle around a landmine at Ballyseedy and they were blown up.

This barbaric event was in reprisal for the killing of Capt. Michael Dunne, Capt. Edward Stapleton from Dublin, Lieut Patrick O Connor from Castleisland, Private Laurence O Connor from Causeway, and private Michael Galvin from Killarney. They were killed in a booby trap bomb set off by anti-treaty forces at Talbot Bridge near Knocknagoshel on March 6th1923.

     One of the men at Ballyseedy, Stephen Fuller, was blown clear. He landed in a ditch, suffering burns and scars. He crossed the little river Lee and hid in Ballyseedy Woods. He followed the stream until he came to the gable of a house owned by Mike and Hannah Curran, my grandparents.

They took him in and hid him in the hayshed and tended to his wounds. The following day they took him to the home of Charlie Daly. His injuries were treated by a local doctor, Edmond Shanahan who found him in a dugout. He moved often in the coming months including to the Boyle and Burke families in the locality. Then he stayed in a dugout prepared by the Herlihy family for seven months until they were able to contact people who could get him to safety and back to health. The Dublin Guards scoured the country for Fuller but failed to find him.

He joined Fianna Fail led by Eamon De Valera in 1926 after a split with Sinn Fein. He returned to full time farming. Later he became a TD for North Kerry and won elections in 1937,1938, 1943.

My grandparents were not actively involved in any movement but just did the Christian thing in saving a man’s life. They were shocked at the barbaric act that had been committed so close to them at Ballyseedy Cross.

This was a time when brutality was everywhere with pro and anti- treaty sides involved in terrible atrocities with brother fighting against brother and families split over civil war loyalties.

My first cousin Michael, who is now in his eighties and resides in Connecticut, lived with Granny Curran, and I asked him if he ever spoke to her about the Troubles and he wrote to me as follows: “She described the Stephen Fuller episode to me many times.  It struck me as a one-off event.  He came up along the river that runs behind our house and saw the gable in the distance and headed for it.  She said they put him up – I think in a loft, maybe in one of the outhouses overnight and passed the word to wherever they needed it to go that he was there.  I had the impression “they” came for him the next day in a pony and trap and took him away.  As I say I think it was a one-time event.  I don’t believe she ran a “safe house” although it was safe for Stephen Fuller that night.  She never impressed me as a fan of either side in the civil war.  I think she was too practical for that.  

She had a large family at home – my father was 14 at that time – and the civil war was an extension of what they went through with “the Tans”.  I think she just wanted to be left alone.  She was sympathetic to Fuller on a human level but was shocked by the atrocious brutality of what the Free State did on that night – the tying of the men (I’m told) to a landmine.  

But there was so much ambivalence.  I think she admired Michael Collins for his looks.  She talked about that.  

 I remember the crowning of Elizabeth II.  Our grandmother (and every other female I knew) was enthralled by the spectacle.  No resentment was shown about old issues.

Come to think of it, I teared up when the much older Elizabeth stood in Dublin, dressed in green, and gave a toast in Irish.  And when she got into the joking back and forth with the fishmonger in the English Market in Cork it was more than I could take. There’s so much more to all these relationships.

There was an RTE program presented by Pat Butler some years ago about Ballyseedy [a reprisal for an event in a field in Knocknagoshel]. My Auntie Kitty was interviewed for it and spoke about her mother’s role and her reluctance to speak about her role in it confirming my cousin’s story.

Our grandmother had a great interest in and knowledge of the family tree.  At one point in my teen years, realising that she would not be around forever, I asked her about the ancestors, one by one, going back through the generations.  She took me back three or four generations, I think.  I wrote it down, drawing it as a family tree or chart and kept it.  In fact, I was looking for it about six weeks ago to show to my granddaughter but couldn’t find it.  It was a pencil sketch of the tree as she described it to me.  We were raised as Catholics but there were Protestants in our background and people with German ancestry. The name was Poff, and they lived in Killorglin.   It may have been one of the Palatinate people”. 

Some five days after Ballyseedy another five republicans were chained to a landmine at Bahaghs near Cahirciveen, having their legs first being shot to prevent them from escaping. Five men were also chained to a mine in Countess Bridge in Killarney, but one Tadhg Coffey was blown clear. All this was done under the command of Major General Paddy O Daly, and all were exacting revenge for Knocknagoshel.

 It is interesting that during his life as a public representative Stephen Fuller never spoke about the Ballyseedy massacre. He spoke publicly about it for the first time in 1980 in an interview with Robert Kee’s ground-breaking BBC series Ireland: A television history. This happened a few years before his death.

 In this interview, as on many other occasions, he never mentioned my grandparent’s role in the rescue. They knew each other and respected their privacy.

He never wanted to influence his own family in their political beliefs. I remember reading that Stephen Fuller told his son that Civil War divisions should not be passed on to the next generation. He also stated that he bore no ill-will towards his captors or those who were involved in his extrajudicial attempted killing.

Granny Curran, like most women of her era, was a strong-willed person. She had her own strong religious and political beliefs, but they were not shared. She spoke about the five years she had spent in America at the turn of the century and how it had influenced her life and she in turn influenced us.  We heard a lot of stories about different cultures and beliefs. Her chats with us during our formative years had a very positive influence on our attitude to people during our lives especially in respecting difference. We had regular lessons in tolerance and inclusion, and this was very important to her since they lived in a mixed religion area.

She said her rosaries and had the Stations in the house which were held with due respect and reverence. She was progressive in her thinking, but she never crossed the line with politics. She never wanted her political beliefs passed on to the next generation. As she often said to me ‘You are too young for that information” or “somethings are best left unsaid and kept to yourself”.

The Ballyseedy monument was opened in 1959 and the Curran family was represented but no mention was made of their involvement in the 1923 explosion or incident as it was euphemistically called. Ballyseedy was a sad event which happened long before we were born but the story has been part of the folklore of our lives down the years and whenever we pass the Ballyseedy monument on the way into Tralee we recall Granny Curran and the many memories we have of her long life.

It is interesting that the Curran and Fuller families, in Ireland and America, are still in contact. Although all members of the family are fully au fait with the tragedy of Ballyseedy, they never speak about it. Is binn béal ina thost.

Let the past look after itself as my granny used to say.

A Poem

This poem by Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the first I learned by heart.

A Fact

A sleeping man’s snore can be as loud as 69 decibels, i.e. the same as a pneumatic drill.


A Craft Fair, a Christmas Story, The Annual Lyreacrompane Journal and More

Riding home at dusk…Photo; Elizabeth Ahern

A Christmas story from a Great Anthology

Craftfair in Ballylongford

Sunday November 19 2023

This productive little crafter was spending her time building up her stock.

Beautiful locally produced craft work. Knitting, pictures, everything for your dog, confectionary and more will be on sale in some craft market every weekend from now til Christmas.

From the Capuchin Archive

Cumann na nGaedheal Election Poster, 1932

A striking poster published by Cumann na nGaedheal for the 1932 general election.

The poster seeks to lampoon senior members of Fianna Fáil, the principal opposition party, by comparing them to performers in a travelling circus. Principal figures in Fianna Fáil are given distorted and mangled names to this effect; Éamon de Valera (‘Senor de Valera, World Famous Illusionist’), James Geoghegan (‘Jiffy Geoghegan, Champion Quick-change Artist’), Frank Aiken (‘Frank F-Aiken, The Fearsome Fire-eater’), Seán MacEntee (‘Johnny Magintee’), Hugo Flinn (‘The Great Hugo, The Mystery Man’), Seán T. O’Kelly (‘Shaunty O’Kelly’), and Seán Lemass (‘Monsieur Lemass, Famous Tight-Rope Performer’).

The 1932 election (16 February) was historic as it saw the defeat of Cumann na nGaedheal, which had been the governing party since the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922. It was succeeded by Fianna Fáil which formed a government with the support of the Labour Party.

The men named in this poster were among those most closely identified with violent opposition to the state during the Civil War ten years earlier. They now assumed power, embarking upon a sixteen-year period of government for Fianna Fáil. The poster forms part of an ephemera collection assembled by the editors of ‘The Capuchin Annual’. 


Lyreacrompane and District Journal

This year’s journal is the best yet.

Lyreacrompane punches well above its weight in terms of initiative. A place without a village but with a festival, a rambling house, a forest walk, a journal and its own radio station.

I have no doubt the planned tourist trail will be a success too. If you are in the locality take a trip out there soon and if you are local or distant check out their website..

Lyreacrompane Heritage Group

A Fact

Every day between 10 and 20 volcanoes are erupting somewhere on earth.


Football and Poetry

in St. Michael’s Graveyard


No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –

A Piece of GAA history from the Capuchin Archives

Maurice Davin, GAA Pioneer, 1903 

A rather mundane letter albeit one written by a towering figure in the history of Irish sport. Maurice Davin (1842-1927) was a farmer from Carrick-on-Suir in County Tipperary who achieved international recognition for his athletic endeavours in the 1870s. He is now chiefly remembered as one of the co-founders of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

On 1 November 1884 Michael Cusack and Davin convened a meeting at Hayes’s Hotel in Thurles in County Tipperary, at which the GAA (Cumann Lúthchleas Gael) was established. Davin presided over the meeting and was elected as the organisation’s first president. He remains the only individual to have ever served two terms in that role. Although not actively involved in the GAA after 1889, he remained passionately committed to Gaelic sports. He organised matches on his farm at Deerpark near Carrick-on-Suir, and several Tipperary County finals and the All-Ireland hurling final of 1904 were played there. Davin was also responsible for drafting the early rules for both Gaelic football and hurling. The Davin Stand in Croke Park, Dublin, the principal national stadium of Ireland and the headquarters of the GAA, was named in his honour. Davin’s letter is addressed to Fr. Richard Henebry, a Waterford-born priest and Irish language scholar. It forms part of a collection of Henebry’s papers held in the Irish Capuchin Archives.

“I asked my mother what will I be….”

This photo and caption shared on social media by Kerry Franchise is one of the sweetest things you’ll see today.

David (aged two – seated, squirming maybe, wearing the ‘goated’ 1998 Adidas jersey) and Paudie Clifford (four years old, standing snugly behind David’s buggie) at Kerry Airport to welcome the Kerry team home after 2000 All-Ireland win. 

Just two small boys lost in the crowd. But in 20 years time they’d be creating their own Kerry legacy. Stuff of dreams. And literally for them. 

Paudie now has 3 All Stars – and some said he didn’t have the ‘stuff’ for senior football when he was playing with the Kerry juniors; and now, after 3 years playing senior he has 3 All Stars; 3/3. Just goes to show – anything can happen if you will it into existence. 

As for David, well, what’a ya gonna say about Daithi that hasn’t already been said. It’s a pleasure to be around to just enjoy him. 

This photo shared by Fossa GAA shows Paudie and David on Friday evening last, November 17 2023 with their all star awards . David holds his Footballer of the Year trophy which he won for the second consecutive year.

Looking forward to Christmas

One of my favourite anthologies from Moybella Press

The Lyreacrompane and District Journal has been published 14 times since its inception in 1990.


Christmas is Coming

William Street

From the Capuchin Annual Archive

Hay Harvesting, County Donegal, 1950 

Two views of Capuchin friars harvesting hay in the fields around Ard Mhuire Friary in County Donegal in about 1950.

Formerly the residence of the Stewart-Bam family, Ards House and its 2,000-acre estate, located near Creeslough, were taken over by the Irish Land Commission in 1926. The Commission assigned the northern portion of the estate to the Department of Lands for afforestation. This part of the estate, covering over 1,200 acres, is now managed by Coillte, the state-run forestry body, as Ards Forest Park, which is an important tourist site and publicly accessible amenity in the locality.

The remaining portion of the former Stewart-Bam estate was divided among tenants. Ards House and its adjoining farmland comprising about 100 acres was left unoccupied and gradually fell into disrepair. The house was acquired by the Capuchins in 1930. Ards House was renamed Ard Mhuire Friary which became a theological seminary. For many years afterwards, the friars continued to farm the land on the former estate.

The present-day Ard Mhuire Friary, situated on the shores of Sheephaven Bay, offers retreats, conferences, seminars, and periods of rest, relaxation and holidays.

Paupers’ Burial Place

KNOWN ONLY TO GOD: The main burial ground for those who died in Tralee Workhouse (now Áras an Chontae) during The Famine was the small cemetery that was opened in 1846 in the north-east corner of the site; it’s still possible to visit it. In September of ‘Black ‘47’, as the dreaded Gorta Mór raged among our people and as deaths and burials increased, the Poor Law Commissioners ordered that the authorities in every workhouse in the country were to bury their dead paupers in separate locations at a distance from Tigh na mBocht! It has long been the belief in Tralee that it was then that God’s Acre in Ballybeggan was opened as the Workhouse Cemetery. For over 160 years, people have been regularly visiting that very special little burial ground and devoutly praying for the souls of the departed; they pray especially for those ‘known only to God.’ That wonderful tradition continues!

Looking forward to Christmas

Christmas shop 2023 in Listowel Garden Centre

Below a lovely Christmas story from Ena Bunyan published in Hearthsong in 2009

A Thought

Remember when the streets were silent

Remember when we spoke through glass

We could not touch or hold each other

To say we hoped ‘this too shall pass’

Lemn Sissay

A Fact

The word Jeep entered the language during WW2. The vehicle it referred to was a general purposes vehicle often referred to as a GP. In the way words do, g.p. morphed into jeep.


Hearthsong, Brosna and Jumbos

“The trees are in their autumn beauty

The woodland paths are dry……”

Our 2 Final Stops on Food Trail 2023

Our marvellous trek around town during Listowel Food Fair’s Food Trail 2023 ended in William Street.

In Dough Mamma, this lovely lady told us about their offering which is much more than just piazza. She told us that dishes in her native Ukraine are much more complex. Even a simple soup has 10 ingredients.

We got samples of different piazzas and bruschetta.

On to Jumbo’s, another Listowel institution. Jade filled us in on their latest offering , a Listowel burger made completely from local components.

Damien brought us all a sample. I’m not surprised that it sells out every day.

A Second Coming

The Rose and Crown has reopened.

There are some marvellous photos documenting Irish life in days gone by in the Capuchin Archive. Here is one such photo and the caption by the archivist.

Brosna National School, County Kerry, 1944 

A common issue faced by archivists is trying to identify locations and dates for photographs but fortunately there is some evidence attached to this particular image in the form of the placard held by the child in the foreground. The board seemingly reads ‘Brosna / 2nd / R44 / 2’. Brosna is a small village situated in northeast County Kerry, not far from the town of Castleisland. It is located close to the Kerry-Limerick border. The reference to ‘2nd’ on the placard probably indicates that this group is composed of students in the second class of the local boys’ national (or primary) school in Brosna. The mention of ‘44’ is possibly a reference to a year (1944), but this is not certain. However, it is very likely that the image dates to the early 1940s. The Irish for Brosna is ‘Brosnach’ which can be translated as the land of dried wood or firewood. Interestingly, the surname Brosnan, from the Irish ‘Ó Brosnacháin’, is most likely derived from the place name as in ‘a descendant of Brosna’. The image forms part of the photographic archive of ‘The Capuchin Annual’

(It is important to remember that going barefoot in those days did not necessarily denote poverty. In the 1940s and 50s many children went barefoot by choice.)


Heartsong is one of the many anthologies that have been published by John McGrath, either as a collection of work from his writing group or a compendium of the work of one poet or writer. John is an important cog in Listowel’s wheel of creativity, teaching, encouraging, organising and publishing the work of some talented local writers we might otherwise never get to see.

In 2009 the Just Write writing group produced Heartsong.

The writers

Below is an example of one of the lovely essays from Winnie Greaney. As we approach the Christmas season, Winnie’s reminiscences will resonate with many who have experienced emigration.

A Fact

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to improving sanitation throughout the world.

In India, sanitation in some slums is very poor with many people having no toilet so they poo outdoors in open air latrines.

Sometimes tomatoes and watermelon plants grow on these middens. The seeds of these plants pass through the digestive system intact.

Word of advice; If you are in India and you see proof of this phenomenon, you would be very ill advised to eat a tomato or watermelon you see growing in this way.


Page 3 of 606

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén