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

Tag: 1937 folklore

Old Creamery, folklore and a paen to motherhood

Old Creamery

This photo is in Vincent Carmody’s book,  Snapshots of an Irish Market Town. It is the old McKenna’s Creamery in Listowel.


Listowel Folklore

Here is some more wisdom from the folklore archive gathered by Listowel children in 1937/38

These accounts refer to food.

Peggy’s Leg

Kevin Sheehy of Church St.
interviewed Dan Broderick also of Church Street.

Dan remembered a woman called
Peggy Carey who used to make a confection called Peggy’s Leg. It was made from
sugar and “farmers’ butter.” Peggy also sold seagrass. Peggy used to sell her wares at “Listowel Cross out in
Newtown”. ( I’m presuming this refers to Moyvane. )  The Peggy’s Leg cost  two

Another local confectioner
was Bridge Conway. She used to sell penny bars which she made herself.

A man from Moybella,
Lisselton whose name was William Diggin used to make porridge from “yellow
meal, salt and creamery milk.”

Hand Savage of Lisselton also
had a story about William Diggin. Mr. Rice from Moybella had several men
digging potatoes. He promised a quarter of tobacco to the man who would produce
the biggest potato. William Diggin was one of the men digging the spuds. He dug
a big potato and cut it in half. Then he got another potato and quartered it and
he tied the two potatoes together with string to make one enormous potato. He
won the quarter of tobacco.

It was the custom not to give
a workman his breakfast until he had paid for it in work. A labourer often
worked for two hours on an empty stomach.

People killed a goose at
Michaelmas and on St. Martin’s Eve.

The stories told to the
children were full of hearsay and inaccuracies but also laced with gems of
wisdom. A D. Bunyan of Market Street wrote what he heard about the Famine. He
wrote about a mill on the banks of the river which was full of corn and
surrounded by soldiers guarding it. The local people used to go down to try to
get the wheat but the soldiers prevented them. Finally the wheat rotted and had
to be thrown out.


Jim MacMahon set me straight on this one.

He wrote;

“The Sciath was a half moon shaped basket  made from scallops . It was originally a shield in olden times , hence the phrase … buailim  sciath ..meaning a braggart or one who struck the shield of a chieftain who hung his shield outside his castle thereby calling him out to fight .
Re Tae Lane  there used to be a shed there with a curved wall at the right hand side going down. Tim Hannon from Ballybunion told me his father had a cinema there in the very early days of films.”


Celebrating the century

The extended family of Stacks of The Arch Bar now Stack’s off licence dressed in period costume on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate their 100th  year in business.

These celebrations were tinged with sadness a short week later, with the passing of Mrs. Máiréad O’Connor (née Máiréad McGrath) of Market St., on March 24th. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.


Celebrating Mothers

The following was read at masses in Tarbert on Mothers’ Day.

This is for the mothers who
read The Three Little Pigs, The Billygoats Gruff and Little Red Riding Hood
every night for a week. Then a little eye would open and a little voice would
ask, “Please Mom, will you read it again?”

This is for mothers who take their children to football matches and basketball games, who sit in the car and watch
and wait or stand on the sideline and when your child says,” Did you see my goal,
mom?”proud as punch you answer, “Of course, love, I wouldn’t have missed it
for the world.”

This is for mothers who run
car pools and bake birthday cakes and sew Halloween costumes and for mothers
who don’t.

This is for mothers whose
patience runs out when their two year old wants ice cream before dinner and
whose four year old says, “I’m bored. I want to go home.”

This is for mothers who
taught their children to tie their shoelaces before they went to school and for
mothers who opted for Velcro instead.

And for the mother who bites
her lip til it bleeds when her fourteen year old dyes her hair green and puts
seven earrings in each ear.

This is for mothers who don’t
sleep a wink, wondering and waiting and hoping all will come in. Now all safely
home and the lock on the door, she turns over and says., “Thank God for the end
of another weekend.”

This is for mothers whose
children have gone astray and can’t find words to reach them and all they can
do is pray.

This is for all the mothers
who cook, launder and clean, wash up all the dishes and never complain,

This is for all the mothers
who turn automatically when they hear a little voice say,”Mom” even thought
they know their own are safe at home.

This is for the heartbroken
mothers who put flowers and teddy bears on the graves of their children, who
hold precious and fond memories of times past and wonder today, what they would
look like or how tall they would stand.

This is for the mothers who
have gone home to Heaven themselves. If we had them today we would treat them
and spoil them but instead we pray for them and look forward to meeting them in

This is for young mothers who
are learning and mature mothers who are trying to let go, for working mothers
and stay-at-home mothers, for young mothers and old.

Can I say, “Hang in there. We
need you. You are rarer than gold. God bless all mothers. May they never grow


Alexandra Park

Some people live near really beautiful places, e.g. Alexandra Park London


Darkness into Light, Saturday May 9 2015

Below is the link for online registration if you would like to take part in the first Listowel walk

Pieta House Darkness into Light


That show on a lovely June day in 1953

John Murphy sent the following

“This is  in response to the picture dated June 29,1953.

I believe this is me the seventh person seated from fence on right and I believe Sean Cahill is seated immediately on my left  as you view picture  and that is Junior Griffin standing to the left  and behind  Sean Cahill as you view picture.

It sure brings back some great memories of that show.

Keep up the great work you are doing keeping us informed while faraway from lovely “Listowel”.

Yours Truly,

John F. Murphy ”


Listowel Community Centre is planning a refurb and is looking for ideas.

Folklore, Green shoots and Tadhg Kennelly honoured in Sydney

The country has gone rugby mad

Billy Keane’s Independent article A Day we’ll remember for the rest of our lives and even longer

puts it best.

Together, standing tall



This is the Kerry County Library in Tralee. I was here last week on a mission.

I’ll begin at the beginning.

In the school year 1937/38
the Irish Folklore Commission undertook a great project. They got teachers
around the country to encourage their pupils to collect lore from their elders.
The boys and girls undertook the task with varying degrees of enthusiasm and
success.  The results of their efforts
are now stored in archives around the country. 
It is no surprise to see that one of the biggest files is the one
collected by pupils in Scoil Realt na Maidine, Listowel. Their teacher, Bryan
MacMahon had a deep appreciation of the value of this project .

A past pupil of my own, Emma
MacElligott, now herself a teacher, alerted me to this rich store of stories,
sayings, placenames etc. I visited the archive in the Kerry County Library,
Tralee and there the archivist, Michael Lynch introduced me to this treasure
trove. I will share with you some of the stories I read there.

One boy wrote about a woman
called Madge Shine who lived in The Red Cottages, Cahirdown. Madge used to make
baskets from hazel. She used to place the hazel twigs over the fire to soften
before weaving them into baskets.

Another local man, Martin
Sheehy, made ‘sgiaths” from “scallops”. I’m guessing that sciaths are the kind
of flat basket used for gathering flowers or vegetables, which, in English, we
call a trug. According to Michael O’Brien of Ashe Street who recorded the
story, “he bended the sticks in and through one another until he had his
sgiaths made.”

Other basketmakers used

Before candles were
commercially made people used to make their own from “fat.” They used the fat
of goats and other animals according to Mary Hickey of O’Connell’s Avenue who
was 85 when she told her stories to B. Holyoake of Railway House. According to
Mary, they got a mould, put a stick across the top. Attached to the stick were
6 or 7 “cotton threads”  These were
obviously the wicks. Then they “rendered the fat”.

(I remember well my own mother
rendering suet in the days before cooking oil. 
There was always a bowl of fat at the ready for frying.)

Back to 1937…the hot fat was
poured into the mould and left to set overnight. In the morning they had 6
candles. Half penny candles were called “padogues”.

More stories to come….


County Colours

Do you remember the days before scarves and county jerseys, people showed their support by wearing crepe paper badges and caps? These things inevitably ran all over  your face and clothes…happy days!


Progress Report on Listowel Revival

The rebuilding of The Plaza is moving along nicely.

The rumour mill says that this premises is to be a medical centre.

Rumour has it that this will be a veterinary clinic.

If true, all of this is great news.


Hall of Fame

Tadhg Kennelly of Listowel has been inducted into the Sydney Swans Hall of Fame. What an honour!


Tidy Town Awareness Day in Super Valu

Photo;  Listowel Tidy Towns


+   R.I.P. Ann Cox  +

My very stylish, feisty, animal loving former colleagues in Pres. Listowel has gone to her eternal reward.

Ann was a fashionista before the term was invented. She was always beautifully groomed, softly spoken and ladylike.

Ann loved her dogs. When she brought them from the rescue home they were the luckiest dogs in Kerry for Ann lavished love and care on them to their final days.

She loved the Irish language and promoted Irish culture and traditions in everything she did.

She took up golf late in life but she enjoyed immensely the whole new circle of friends it brought her.

Ann contracted Parkinsons Disease in her late sixties but due to her fighting spirit and the great care of her neighbours and friends she continued to live in her own home until two years ago.

She passed away on March 21 2015.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal.


Sunday Morning in Brosna, March 2015

photo; Ballybunion Prints Beach

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