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

Christmas Then and Now

A bank vole in Kerry photographed by Chris Grayson

Criostóir Grayson is an excellent wildlife photographer. He is lucky to have this little lady in his garden. Here is what Conserve Ireland says about the bank vole.

Bank voles are very small rodents which are often mistaken for mice. They have small compact bodies generally about 15cm from head to tip including a 5cm long tail and can weigh from 15 to 40 grams, they have small eyes and ears and a blunt nose. Their tails are shorter than mice and are covered in fur with their blunt noses also being the main physical difference between the two. The fur is a chestnut red or brown on the upper body with their undersides being a bluff to grey colour. Juveniles will have a more grey to brown fur colouration. The fore feet have four toes while the slightly larger five toed hind feet leave small tracks up to 2cm in length which are quite similar to the footprints of mice. Bank voles are not a particularly vocal species but will emit a limited range of squeaks when communicating using high frequency ultrasound which humans cannot hear. The bank vole has a well developed sense of smell which is important for receiving information on individuals who have used territorial scent markings in an area.

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Join us Online in St. Mary’s, Listowel at Christmas 2021

All masses will be live-streamed on the parish website

Listowel Parish

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Above is advice from a campaign called Don’t Buy It. Apt at Christmastime.

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Cavendish’s

Gerard Stack who wrote to us about Walsh’s shop came from the above shop. Like many other shops in Listowel there was a shop on the street and a totally unrelated business, often run by the man of the house, in the back of the premises.

Now Walsh’s shop was in the premises that is now Chutes’ Stores/ Milano. It used to be Cavendish’s. This was a popular TV and electrical brand. Anyway, Gerard remembers that, at Christmas this big shop sold bikes and toys. They invited the nearby children in to try out the toys and this party was sometimes covered by The Kerryman.

Photo of Walsh’s at Christmas from Mike Moriarty

I told this story to Pierce Walsh (no relation). He thought maybe he was too far from the shop to get the golden ticket. He was in Church Street. He did remember, however, that, for one Christmas before he went to South Africa, Xavier MacAuliffe had a toy shop. Does anyone else have memories of that one?

Back in 1920;

Dave O’Sullivan found this great old ad.

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Don’t They Know it’s Christmas Time?

I was home in Kanturk when I snapped this picture of Woody looking longingly through the window at his family’s Christmas tree.

Meanwhile thousands of miles away another EPA horse is living the dream. He is to appear in a Hollywood movie with Dwayne Johnson.

His new owner sent a picture of the co stars at their first meeting; The Rock and EPA Cullen.

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CHRISTMAS EVE IN KERRY

Butte Independent 1927

“Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the Pooka is at rest

Contented in his stable eating hay;

The crystal snow is gleaming on the mountains of the West,
And a lonesome sea is sobbing far away;
But I know a star is watching o’er the bogland and the stream,
And ‘tis coming, coming, coming o’er the foam;
And ’tis twinkling o’er the prairie with a message and a dream
Of Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.

‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the happy mermaids croon
The songs, of youth and hope that never die;
Oh never more on that dear shore for you and me, aroon.
The rapture of that olden lullaby:
But the candle lights are gleaming on a hillside far away.
And peace is in the blue December gloam;
And o’er the sea of memory I hear the pipers play
At Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.

‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, oh I hear the fairies’ lyre
Anear the gates of slumber calling sweet.
Calling softly, calling ever to the land of young desire,
To the pattering of childhood’s happy feet; 

But a sleepless sea is throbbing, and the stars are watching’ true
As they journey to the wanderers who roam —
Oh the sea, the stars shall bring me tender memories of you

On Christmas Eve in my dear old Kerry home.


D. M. BROSNAN, Close, Castleisland, Co. Kerry.

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Take a look at this old footage

John B. Keane remembered in John Lynch videos

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Slán Tamall

I’m taking my leave of you today for 2021. A big shout out to all my helpers, supporters, my technical support team, my researchers and contributors. There would be no Listowel Connection without you. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me, met me or in any way offered a word of thanks, support and encouragement. It is all appreciated.

Have a lovely peaceful Christmas.

Go mbeirimid go léir beo ag an am seo arís.

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Our Language is changing

Baby egret in flight by Criostóir Grayson

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A Lovely Corner of Listowel in December 2021

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A Language that the Strangers do not know

Last week I included this photo from Vincent Carmody’s Snapshots of a market town book. I was using it to illustrate the point that the street names have changed.

But it isn’t just the streets names that have changed. Our whole vocabulary has changed utterly. The concept of a General Draper or General Outfitter is alien to today’s young people.

A General draper sold everything for the house, curtains, tablecloths etc, he sold haberdashery which was pins, needles, buttons, sewing thread etc, everything necessary for making and mending and smaller items of clothing like underwear and nightwear.

The General Outfitter sold clothes for both men and women, as well as hats bags, scarfs and what we now know as accessories.

Millinery and mantles are words rarely seen nowadays.

Hats and coats to you.

Look again at the bill. I don’t know what an S.P. coat could be. It cost 4 times as much as an overcoat.

There used to be a jacket called a sports coat but I can’t imagine that being more expensive than an overcoat.

Another interesting aspect of Mr D. J. Flavin’s bill is that he was given two months credit. In 1926 it was not unusual for people of standing to be only presented with a bill for goods bought three or four times a year.

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Listowel, the very Place for a Shopping Spree in 1959

The town was buzzing; Santa, a Bazaar, Dances , a local Radio Station and transport laid on.

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Farming Life in North Kerry in 1974

A lovely little film of life in these parts, milking the cows, shoeing the horse and walking the dogs, all narrated by the unmistakable voice of Eamon Keane..

Thank you, Jim Ryan, for finding this one.

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Beautiful Hand Made Cards

I make no apologies for including these again. They are made locally by a very talented artist. They are available at Kerry Writers’ Museum, Listowel.

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A Sad Note

Fr. Kevin MacNamara who passed away unexpectedly yesterday was a popular priest when he served the parishes of Moyvane Knockanure. He will be missed by his many friends in North Kerry. May he rest in peace

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Nostalgia and More

A Robin by Criostóir Grayson

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Got it!

Gerard Stack was anxious to see a photo of the scene in Walsh’s toyshop at Christmas time long ago.

Mike Moriarty had just such a photograph

Here is Mike’s email;

In response to Gerard Stack’s post re Toy Shop at Walsh’s I have attached a photo from those days. At the back on the left is yours truly, centre is Marie Keane Stack (mother of the Brogans) and on the right is my brother, Tom. At the piano is Mary Sheehy(nee Shaughnessy). At her left shoulder is Mike McGrath and in the centre is your correspondent, Gerard Stack. We were all neighbours, such a contrast with today where there are no children growing up in William St.

Rgds., 

Mike Moriarty.

Dave O’Sullivan found some great old ads in The Kerryman. Walsh’s had a Toy Fair complete with film show in 1950.

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Another Regular at Christmas Time

At this time of year I like to include familiar seasonal pieces of excellent writing. This is one of my favourites.

A Kerry Christmas Childhood

Garry MacMahon

Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,

As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.

I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,

And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.

We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,

And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,

To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,

And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,

Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,

And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.

From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,

To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,

For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,

To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,

To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,

And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.

The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,

The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,

And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,

Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.

Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire

And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,

Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,

Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights

And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,

And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.

Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,

If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,

And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,

When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,

But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,

To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.

She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.

“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”

The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade

And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.

St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,

To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’

We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,

And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.

Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill

Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.

Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.

Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.

So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,

And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.

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Advertisements from another era

Sent to us by Mattie Lennon

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So Much has changed

Knitting group in Scribes in 2012

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Listowel Christmas 2021

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My Christmas Reading

I loved my Woodford Pottery jug and vase so much, I went back and bought the mug to match.

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‘Twas the Night before Christmas 2021

By Mary Conlon

Twas the night before Christmas, but Covid was here,
So we all had to stay extra cautious this year.
Our masks were all hung by the chimney with care
In case Santa forgot his and needed a spare.
With Covid, we couldn’t leave cookies or cake
So we just left Santa hand sanitizer to take.

The children were sleeping, the brave little tots
The ones over 12 had just had their first shots, 
And mom in her kerchief and me in my cap 
Had just settled in for a long summer’s nap.
But we tossed and we turned all night in our beds
As visions of variants danced in our heads.

Gamma and Delta and now Omicron
These Covid mutations that go on and on
I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t get better,
I’ll soon be familiar with every Greek letter”.

Then just as I started to drift off and doze
A clatter of noise from the front lawn arose.
I leapt from my bed and ran straight down the stair
I opened the door, and an old gent stood there.

His mask made him look decidedly weird 
But I knew who he was by his red suit and beard.
I kept six feet away but blurted out quick
” What are you doing here, jolly Saint Nick?”

Then I said, “Where’s your presents, your reindeer and sleigh?
Don’t you know that tomorrow will be Christmas Day? “
And Santa stood there looking sad in the snow
As he started to tell me a long tale of woe.

He said he’d been stuck at the North Pole alone
All his white collar elves had been working from home,
And most of the others said “Santa, don’t hire us!
We can’t work now, thanks to the virus”.

Those left in the toyshop had little to do.
With supply chain disruptions, they could make nothing new.
And as for the reindeer, they’d all gone away.
None of them left to pull on his sleigh. 

He said Dasher and Dancer were in quarantine,
Prancer and Vixen refused the vaccine,
Comet and Cupid were in ICU,
So were Donner and Blitzen, they may not pull through.

And Rudolph’s career can’t be resurrected.
With his shiny red nose, they all think he’s infected.
Even with his old sleigh, Santa couldn’t go far.
Every border to cross needs a new PCR.

Santa sighed as he told me how nice it would be
If children could once again sit on his knee.
He couldn’t care less if they’re naughty or nice
But they’d have to show proof that they’d had their shot twice.

But then the old twinkle returned to his eyes.
And he said that he’d brought me a Christmas surprise.
When I unwrapped the box and opened it wide,
Starlight and rainbows streamed out from inside.

Some letters whirled round and flew up to the sky
And they spelled out a word that was 40 feet high.
There first was an H, then an O, then a P, 
Then I saw it spelled HOPE when it added the E.

“Christmas magic” said Santa as he smiled through his beard.
Then suddenly all of the reindeer appeared.
He jumped into his sleigh and he waved me good-bye, 
Then he soared o’er the rooftops and into the sky.

I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight
“Get your vaccines my friends, Merry Christmas, good-night”.
Then I went back to bed and a sweet Christmas dream
Of a world when we’d finished with Covid 19.

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Willie Guiney’s Life in Running and Our Toy Shop on Telly

Blue tit by Criostóir Grayson

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Listowel’s Oldest Toy Shop

A bit of the shops history from Vincent Carmody’s book

From the RTE Guide

9.30 on Rte One on December 22 2021

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Another Toyshop, Another Time

Hi, 
My name is Gerard Stack formerly of 51 William Street.
As a young boy I remember being in Walsh’s shop which was located across the road from us in William Street.
At Christmas they would have a toy section and they would invite the children from around the town to try out the toys and there would be photos taken.
The shop was owned by Jim Walsh and his wife and they had a Cavendish dealership, but at Christmas they turned into a Christmas Wonderland for all of the children in town.
Jim’s brother was  Dr. Johnny Walsh who had a GP practice in the square.
It would be great to see some of those old photos if they are available.
Regards,
Ger.

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(The following photo and essay I sourced on Facebook)

Running for Love

                                          A Portrait of Willie Guiney

                                                  By David Kissane

New Year’s Day 1990. Luton, outside London. A dark cold morning of a brand new year. Six thirty am. The phone rings in the hall downstairs. The head still groggy from celebrating the night before. Who the hell could be ringing at this early hour? Hallo? 

“Hallo” a voice said. “Is that Willie?”

“Yeah, this is Willie…”

The voice on the phone said “This is Eddie Mangan in New York…” An awkward silence followed in the sharpness of that morning…

The news that followed is the news that no human being ever wants to hear. It is the news that no human being ever wants to deliver. Its impact is written in the stone of the memory.

As best he could, Eddie Mangan from Ballylongford, calling from New York told Willie Guiney that Willie’s brother Brendan had been involved in an accident. Was it bad? Yes it was. Brendan was dead. Killed in a hit and run before midnight. The bells were about to ring  in the new year. A new year that Brendan Guiney would never see…

Brendan Guiney was only twenty four. His life was over before it began. “He was my first and best friend” Willie says. They went everywhere together as kids around Listowel. A good footballer too. Captained Listowel Emmett’s in the 1985 North Kerry championship final against Tarbert. Then Brendan emigrated to New York and was crafting a good new life there. And then…

Willie flew to New York and arranged the return of his brother’s remains back home. Brendan was laid to rest. Then there were what Yeats called “the dragon-ridden days” before the slow journey to healing began for the family. Running played its part. Like the friend that it is during painful times, running came to Willie’s aid. 

One day he put on his runners and saw part of the road to resurrection ahead. It would take him thirty five miles around North Kerry. On the route would be the six football grounds where his lost brother had played football. But it wasn’t just a run of recovery. It was a charity run and Willie raised over €5000 for St Mary of the Angels in Beaufort. 

That run around the hedged and ditched roads of North Kerry taught Willie that the motivation of human love can drive one through marathons, miles, mountains. He would run for love for the rest of his life.

A few weeks ago Willie was running in the Tralee Half Marathon. Fine Sunday morning. St Brendan’s AC had been asked to supply a water station. And we did. Kirstie Nowak, Danielle Faulconbridge and daughter Noelle dispensed the water, sweets and fruit as the runners reached Ardfert. On runs Willie Guiney. No stranger to runs around Ardfert. He had been a strong finisher in the 11th Banna 10K only a few months ago when summer was in middle age. Heavy hallmark bandage around the left knee. “Morning lads!” he says and stops for a chat! In the middle of a gruelling half! Told us he appreciated the support and was struggling with injury but he loves the distance and couldn’t miss it. Stood for a few photos and thanked us again and waved goodbye and headed off down towards Ardfert cathedral and Barrow and in to the finish in Tralee. Running for love. It was one of the highlights of that Sunday morning and one came home later with a better version of one’s self. 

                                                       Beginning to Run

Willie Guiney was born in Listowel and attended the local schools, including the Listowel Technical School or the “Tech” as it was lovingly known for generations. Great school for sport and for developing the whole person. Especially the physical intelligences as Professor Howard Gardiner called the intelligence that created carpenters, plumbers and builders. The trades people who are very difficult to find now. When did you last try to get a plumber?

Willie left the Tech at seventeen and got a job straightaway in Spectra in Listowel. A growing business where you put in your rolls of film and came back a few days later and marvelled at the prints you were handed back in a neat folder. Willie loved the job and his boundless energy was appreciated by management and his co-workers. In the evenings he found boxing a huge outlet. Strong body and the right attitude. Garda Pat Healy’s coaching resonated with the youth of the town and Willie won boxing matches in the rings of Dingle, Castleisland and Tralee and was a silver medallist in the Munster middleweight division. 

Then a job in Tarbert in Kelly’s Butchers ensured a happy time, popular with customers as he displayed his undoubted linguistic intelligence. Willie has the gift of the geab which means popularity in any Kerry community. And living in Tarbert in a flat at the back of Donie O’Connor’s Bar made a huge contribution to the person Willie was to become. 

If you meet and mix with athletes, the chances are you will fall for athletics. Into Willie’s life jogged Sonny Fennell from out the road in Tarmons. Look at Sonny and watch him run and you know running is a good thing. Sonny came to fame with an All Ireland win in Belfield in the national intermediate cross country of 1975. Six miles of power-running and came home nearly a hundred metres in front of 250 other athletes. American career and glamour. In many ways the Steve Prefontaine of Kerry. 

Willie often went for runs in the nearby GAA field in Tarbert. Then Sonny saw him and so began a lifelong love of running. Of course running after Sonny was like a non-greyhound chasing a hare. See you later Sonny. But the bonding and the craic and the sheer helium of running with sonny’s gang caused an amazing metamorphosis. A kind of fantasy. And he grew into the sport. He got faster and inherited endurance. I have something to offer here, Willie thought. A Bach sonata was rising in the background.

And the craic and stories shared around athletics in those days. There was the story of an athletics man who came to live in Kerry and had innovative ideas. The ideas didn’t go down well with some and he was told “There’s no need to bring that bullshit into Kerry. There’s enough of that here already!”

A year after Willie began chasing the sonic Sonny around the roads and fields of Tarbert, he got a silver medal in the Kerry BLE novice cross country championships. “I was actually leading with a few hundred yards to go but I got a bloody stitch!” he says. Learning curve. The need to discover a side of the world that existed beyond himself took him further.

He joined An Ríocht at the age of twenty in 1984 and found it great to be part of a team in a strong club. In that same year he ran race of his life to finish third in the county ten mile road championship in Listowel in a time of 53 minutes. It was a proud day for him to chase the talented Griffin brothers from St John’s AC home in his home town. Place is important to Willie. Roots are primal. Around those times he had great battles with Noel Stack of Moyvane. Willie’s father came from Moyvane and his uncle Willie was still living there in the 1980s so he was delighted to beat Noel in the Moyvane U21 four mile road race in a time of 21 minutes soon after. The good times went on with a 73 minutes run in the Tralee half marathon. 

                                                         Emigration 

In 1985, Willie emigrated to America, to Boston where he lived for the next two years, working in construction. He loved Boston. He took his running with him and ran the Boston, New York and Washington DC marathons. He returned home in 1987 with his then girlfriend and now wife Kathleen Devane from Lispole whom he met while in Boston.

After a short break, the couple were off again, this time to London where they lived for the next few years. Again he took his running with him. He was honoured to be able to come home for the National Marathon in Tralee in 1989 with the help of sponsorship from the Burns family who owned businesses like the famous Galtymore. He was delighted to finish third Kerry man that day, behind John Griffin (St John’s AC) and Willie O’Riordan (St Brendan’s AC). He was especially glad because the long working hours in construction meant he had little time for serious training. But anyone who worked on a building site in England those days was never short of fitness!

The year 1990 was the year his brother died and meant another change in Willie’s life-trajectory. After the funeral, he and Kathleen returned home to Listowel, never to emigrate again. Got into shape and won a sackful of medals in road and cross country. 

Then came the hill running phenomenon of the 1990s. Willie won two Munster titles in the rugged and beautiful sport. He then won the Connacht title in 1997, which included a climb of Nephin in Mayo carrying a severe ankle injury acquired a few weeks previously. John Lenihan was to become the star of the mountains in those years but Willie was never too far behind.

And around this time Wille took stock of his life-path. “So much of life is waiting…making room for dreams” says Cork author Billy O’Callaghan in his book of short stories “The Boatman”. Willie concluded on some of those long runs on winter evenings around Listowel that there was one ambition he would like to fulfil. To wear the green singlet for his country. He believed it was in his power and his province to do it. There were two athletic organisations in Kerry in the 1990s, BLE and NACA. The former was the official organisation from where recognised international selections were made. Willie decided that his only opportunity to run in a green vest would be to join the NACA.

And so in 1995 he went south to Desmond Currans AC and said goodbye to An Ríocht. Not an easy decision and one which could carry baggage. He knew that would be so but the next year he achieved his dream. He was selected on the official Irish team for the world hill/mountain running championships in Austria. Proving that he could do it again, he trained hard and competed harder and was invigorated and was selected again for the Irish team to compete in the Czech Republic in 1997 and then for the European championships in 1998 in Turin in Italy. In each event he acquitted himself with honour. He had arrived.

Memories are treasured from Sundays of gold. While competing in the Kerry NACA cross country championships in Cahersiveen in the latter half of the 1990s on one of those fiery cross country afternoons, he and Ger Ladden were involved in a titanic struggle towards the end of the race. Ger was after purchasing a brand new pair of spikes for the event. The two runners were so close that Willie accidentally stood on one of Ger’s spikes and ripped a hole in it! Years later, Ger met Willie and at the end of the conversation asked him “Do you remember the day in Cahersiveen that you made a bloody big hole in my brand new spikes in the middle of a twenty-acre field!” 

Willie was to continue to compete for Desmond Currans AC until the unifying of BLE and NACA in the year 2000 and Kerry Athletics was born. This brought athletics in Kerry and in Ireland into the unified position that exists today and Wille rejoined An Ríocht AC when Desmond Currans AC ceased after 2000.

So the dance went on for the running man who now lives in Dromerin in the Parish of Ballydonoghue on the banks of the Feale as it heads west, a few miles from Listowel. A lot of running went on. By now Willie has run 73 marathons and would love to run 100 before he drops down to shorter distances. The following are his personal bests: 5K – sub 16 mins; 4 miles – sub 21 mins; 5 miles – sub 27 mins;10K – sub 33 mins; half marathon – 73 mins and full marathon – 2 hours 35 mins.

Since running his first marathon in Dublin in 1984, Willie has raised €1,000,000 for charities in Kerry and Dublin. In the runs of love,  he has found it very motivating to help people with any form of disability: Goal; Crumlin Hospital; Temple St Hospital; St John of God, Tralee; Kerry Parents and Friends, Listowel; St Francis Centre, Listowel; Listowel Community Centre; Foyle Hospice in Derry; Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue; Enable Ireland, Tralee; St Mary of the Angels, Beaufort; North Kerry Wheelchair Association; Tarbert Association and Áras Mhuire, Listowel and there are more.

Willie values the support of family in his exploits in the running world. His wife Kathleen, daughters Noreen, Katie, Martina and son Liam are all treasured and understand his commitment. 

Nowadays it is a positive philosophy of training to have a variety of venues on which to “rexpress” (run and express) oneself. Willie’s favourite places include the Town Park in Listowel (aka The Cows’ Lawn); Frank Sheehy Park; Ballygrennan Hill; Ballydonoghue GAA pitch in Coolard while his favourite roads would be around Finuge and Mountcoal en route through Listowel and home to Dromerin, to the same area where his mother lived. 

A life lived on a running base. In the dawning days of involvement, there was the joy of discovery and camaraderie. Wherever there was a road or a field to run, there was summer. Then came the ways of the world and Willie realised he needed running. There followed the realisation that the world around running can have the face of an angel and the heart of a mountain stone. Nothing is promised. Expected recognition may prove as slippery as an eel in a North Kerry stream. In an individual pathway everyone is right. There is no truth, there are only points of view. That realisation is often the end of the running road for many. They run out of road. For those who persist, there is redemption road. Do it for somebody else, somebody who needs the spirit of it. Do it for yourself too of course and be true to the best version of you that you want to be. And that’s why Willie does it.

So now he heads out towards Finuge and Mountcoal, his back to Cnoc an Fhómhair to the north and his face to Stack’s Mountain to the south and its November 2021 and his daughter has just graduated from college and his son is playing with Ballydonoghue and all the world is bright. The early winter beauty of the countryside wraps itself around him as the adrenaline is released. The worst he has to fear on the run is “careless drivers on bloody mobile phones not watching the road”. When the adrenaline subsides and the bones creak, he digs deep and cherishes the gifts that life has thrown his way, of the loved ones no longer here. And he runs for them. 

Yeah, Willie Guiney runs for love.

Willie Guiney with his proud mother

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Christmasses Remembered

Christmas card from Listowel’s Bryan MacMahon, illuminated by Listowel’s Michael O’Connor.

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Christmas 1957

Noreen Keane- Brennan shared this photo of friends and neighbours in Sheahan’s of William Street at Christmas 1957.

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A Kerry Christmas…a poem by the late Brendan Kennelly

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A Listowel Bridge Champion

Earlier this week when I was writing about John Comyn’s 50 years writing the Bridge column in The Irish Independent, I included the observation that he thought that Pat Walshe of Listowel was the best player he had ever encountered in a long career playing Bridge at championship level.

But who was Pat Walshe?

Jim MacMahon has the answer.

“… Pat was the son of the late Dr Toddy Walshe and Siobhan, nee Ashe, a cousin of Thomas Ashe. Pat lived in Church Street (or Ashe street). I recall my late father Bryan saying to me one day when Pat was about 8 years old ,…..Do you see that young fellow, Toddy’s son, he has an unusual aptitude for maths…and so it proved to be.”

( What was in the water in Church Street? I wonder if any other street has produced so many exceptional scholars.)

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Edwardian post box at Convent Cross. This box dates from the 1930’s. Many is the Christmas card started its journey here.

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Craft Hub at Kerry Writers’ Museum

If you’re looking for a beautiful locally made Christmas present, drop into Kerry Writers’ Museum.

This is what I bought and I’m delighted with my haul. The beautiful intricately detailed bookmarks are made by Karen Pleass. They are absolutely beautiful and perfect for that air mail present for someone who loves the Irish countryside.

The hand made cards are a steal at €3.75 each. Maggie Donald makes these unique frameable cards from local plants. They are absolutely gorgeous. I wanted to buy the lot.

Everyone who knows me knows that I love Woodford Pottery. Pat Murphy has been very busy in lockdown. This new range is a new departure from his block colours. I bought a little jug, ideal for those of us who dine alone. And then because it was so sweet and I love a posy on the table I bought this lovely little vase.

Be sure to drop in before Christmas and support local artists.

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