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

Sweets from Listowel, Paper Dolls, A Town Council and Retirement is just what the doctor ordered

The old Sweet Factory

Above is an old postcard of Listowel with the old sweet factory to the far right.

Vincent Carmody recently posted on Facebook the pictures below of an old sweet tin he has in his possession.  Underneath is the history he posted.

The tin box is an original from Listowel’s sweet factory which traded from the old mill building, which occupied the site where Carroll’s Hardware providers is now located. The mill, a fine, six floor, cut stone building, was originally owned and operated by the Leonard family of The Square. It was powered by water from a millstream, which ran from near the old ball alley to the mill. The mill closed in the mid 1800’s, despite an effort by John Latchford of Tralee to buy the property. He subsequently build a mill back in Greenville.

The building served for a time in the early 1900’s as a creamery, this was owned by George R. Browne. He also had a creamery at his property at Cahirdown. He had in his employment an Englishman, Thomas Armstrong. When Brown decided to sell his interest in the business, it was purchased by Armstrong. Shortly afterwards, Armstrong went into the manufacturing of ‘Irish Cream Toffee Sweets’ 

The tin carries the initials N.K.M on the cover, with North Kerry Manufactory at the side, however with a play on the initials, the legend “Nicest Kind Made” also appears on the cover.
There is not much information on the business, however, we know that after a period of industrial unrest, Armstrong closed the factory in 1921. The Mackintosh sweet company bought the brand and continued making these sweets at Rathmines Dublin, under the brand name,’The North Kerry Manufacturing Co Ltd’


One for the Girls

Do you remember these?  They used to come with Bunty. You cut them out, pasted them on to card and dressed and undressed them until the tabs fell off.  Memories, memories……


Listowel Town Council 2008

Photo: John Kelliher


One Happy Retiree

I ran into John Halkett in The Seanchaí as he was enjoying a relaxed morning coffee.


A Hug from a Flower

Mickey MacConnell posted this photo on the internet. On a recent trip to Dublin he met up with Liam O Maonlaí of The Hothouse Flowers


Junior Griffin

Junior  with his old friend, Liam Healy

Junior is the third youngest and the only surviving member of his family. He was born in
1936. He attended school in the old boys National School and he remembers the
building as an old cold unsanitary place. He went to school barefoot but that
was by choice rather than necessity. He loved the freedom of running around
barefoot although the frequent cuts and bruises were unwelcome.

The teachers he remembers are Bryan MacMahon, Mrs. Crowley,
Mrs. Griffin, Tadhg O’Flaherty, Jerry Walsh in 4th class, Michael
Keane in 5th and Jim Hayes in 6th.

Junior went to St. Michaels’ for one unhappy year. He has
memories, which are shared by many of his contemporaries, of a harsh, controlled
regime where corporal punishment was the order of the day. Fr. David O’Connor
was the college president and he ruled with a rod of iron.

Junior remembers a day when he was in first year and several
boys were late for school. Fr. O’Connor came into Junior’s classroom and asked
all the boys who were late to stand up. Seven boys stood. Fr. Davy fixed the
first boy, the one farthest from Junior who was last in the line, with his
stick, in a manner reminiscent of Pats Bacach in Sive, and asked him why he was late. He said he had to go to the shop to buy a
message for his mother. The next boy claimed his bike was punctured. As Fr.
O’Connor moved from boy to boy, Junior realized that all the excuses he was
thinking of offering were being used up. To this day Junior can relive the fear
and terror he felt as his doom approached. He blurted out the truth. “I slept
it out, Father.”

Junior had got the right answer. Fr. O’Connor decided to
leave them all off because he had found one honest boy. Junior was the hero and
his deed became the subject of the rest of the lesson on the importance of

Despite this one good experience, Junior was terrified to go
back to the college after the summer holidays. His mother understood his
unhappiness and enrolled him in the tech. This was a much happier experience
for Junior. He has great memories of Paddy Drummond, an excellent Maths.
teacher. The regime in the tech was a caring one and kindness and encouragement
feature prominently in Junior’s memories of his second level education.

Junior told me an interesting fact; Seamus Wilmot taught in the St. Michael’s in 1924 and a
little known fact is that his future wife,  May Scanlon taught in Listowel Vocational School. She taught carpentry, and they met through a shared interest in badminton.


Not exactly an election poster…but close


Junior Griffin, Gunsboro, Listowel before election fever takes hold, a very old radio and a voice of morning radio passes away


Spring in Listowel, A memory of Tom Doodle and a Listowel teacher out on the Biddy


  1. Riviera Wanderer

    NKM – I am the grandson of Thomas Armstrong who started the NKM toffee
    business in Listowel & just this evening I have fallen on this wonderful Listowel
    blog which mentions the NKM business & also the sad death of my grandmother when my mother was just ten. I would love to have a contact with
    anyone from Listowel who knew the Armstrong family – Bless you all – Patrick McCrea

    • Unknown

      Patrick, I think we share the same great grandparents! My grandmother was Alice Cox (nee Johnson) and her sister was Daisy (Katherine). My mother, Doris, used to visit the Armstrongs when they moved to St. Helen's. She died about 10 years ago but she remembered your mother, her sister and Walter well and always spoke of what fun they had. My cousin, Liz Augereau, has just sent me all the information she got from (I think) you. Mum didn't know where the Armstrong children eventually went and she lost touch with them. Really interesting to read all about the toffee factory. I had never heard about it.
      All the best
      Kate Lovegrove

  2. Cynicus

    I have one of those NKM tin sweet-boxes- not in that good condition, though. I retrieved it from my Granny's old house in South Meath years ago. It must have come from the Rathmines Manufactory (love those real, old words). I recognised the NKM connection with Listowel and held on to the tin as I was curious as to how it ended up in South Meath. Thanks to this great site, the Listowel Connection, now I know, after all the years! Older AND wiser! And, I am a hoarder-a result of being brought up in the hard times of the 50s and early 60s when the daily dictum impressed on all children was: 'Waste not, want not." My beloved Granny was also a hoarder- mostly of old ghost-stories, unvarnished local history, and 'readings of the seven generations of all neighbours, if called upon. She could name the 'night-murderers' of the Ribbonmen and other 'heroes'- and their descendants. She had a particular hatred for one gang of local, cowardly bush-patriots that murdered the local Landlady's poor, labouring-man at night with a spade, and left his large family close to starvation. She was a free-thinking and irreverent rebel against all 'imperious' or interfering authority- be it Church or State – all her long life. One of her 1960s predictions averred that: "The time will come when people will walk around naked, and, we will have to pay for water to drink!" The first prediction was already in progress in 'pagan' countries in the Swinging Sixties, but the second one was unthinkable! Why would anyone have to pay for drinking-water when there were 'community-free' spring-wells in almost every field, and County Council water-pumps on most roadsides? I thought at the time that she was completely wrong there! Now I know better! Maybe it was inevitable as the old country wells and pumps are gone, probably in the interests of public safety, such is the real likelihood of poisoning by nitrates or Cryptosporidiosis or E.coli, VTEC and other such exotic-sounding plagues.
    As the late JB Keane used write "I digress." But that old NKM tin box really is a box full of precious Granny-memories. No wonder I hoarded it all those years.
    I recall also the ‘Bunty’ and 'Judy' – and the serial, “The Four Marys," of my sisters' comics, which, like 'Ireland's Own,' were re-cycled round the townland – and which we boys read too. I can't remember the names of the Four Marys- wasn't there a Mary Cotter? A Raleigh?
    Then the Granny had the 'Red Star,' The People's Friend,' 'Woman's Way,' and, of course, the ubiquitous ‘Messenger’- de-rigueur reading, via the local school.
    One old neighbour used to dampen the red cover of 'The Messenger' on a Sunday morning and 'rouge' – (some said, unkindly, 'raddle') – her cheeks with the colouring as a form of cosmetic improvement for her pious outing. Waste not want not, indeed!
    Time to stop.

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