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: 1979

Tralee approach to town, NeoData photos and Claddagh Design

This is the lovely new sign that bids you farewell as you leave Listowel on the road to Tralee.

The Kerry Group plant.

There used to be a hedge on this wall. It had suffered frost damage and was removed recently.

This says Fáilte go Lios Tuathail. You get a better view from a vehicle than on the ground.


Lucky girls! When Santa brought me a pram just like those ones, he left a note telling me to share it with my sister!!!!!!


This account of apprenticeship was first published in Seanchas DughEalla

Learning the Trade

by Donncadh Mac Curtáin

At the age of 16, I was apprenticed to a carpenter in Rathmore County Kerry. This was a long three
and half years in Inchabeg in Co. Kerry. I remember well my first day in the
workshop. I was amazed to see all the tools of my future profession, augars,
wood planes, chisels, saws and an array of other tools and instruments I had
never seen before. The first lesson I was taught was how to make all wedges and
dowels for cart wheels. At the time there were no motor cars or lorries and the
only means of transport were horse-drawn carts, traps and side cars. Some people will remember, the side car and
trap were the principal means of passenger transport at the time. To make the
wedges and dowels we used a long handled chisel and the first month was taken
up doing this, I well remember my bruised and blistered shoulder from pushing
and leaning on the chisel.

The next part of my training was to paint the carts and
wheels with red lead mixed with boiled linseed oil. This job was always reserved
the young apprentice. After a while I was shown how to plane the shafts for the
cars and use the draw knife to shape them.

By this time I was familiar with most of the tools such as
the hand lathe, for turning the wheel stocks. This was probably the hardest job
I ever had to do. I used the adge for shaping the fellows and the draw knife
and spoke shave for shaping the spokes. The trammel was used for defining the
circle and height of the wheels. Apart from the steel band the wheel was made
entirely from wood, oak and elm which was bought from Leaders Forest, Dromagh.

We were also taught to make tables, chairs and dressers and
coops in the workshop. I left home at six o’clock on Monday morning and walked
the nine miles to Inchabeg, returning
home again on Saturday night after work. It was a long hard 6 day week. Rising
at seven o’clock and finishing work at 7 PM there was no pay during my
apprenticeship, except for a half crown
at Christmas. This corresponded to 12 1/2 pence in today’s money. In addition my father had to pay my
master £12 to cover my training. How
things have changed! There were no holidays, apart from one week at Christmas.

During the week I stayed at the Mulcahy’s house. There were
two other apprentices and the three of us shared the same room and the same
bed. The other two were Denis Tucker, Ballydaly and Arthur Tarrantt, Ballydesmond,
both of whom have now gone to their reward. We went through tough times
together but the fact that the three of us were such great friends made life
that bit easier.

We started the day by washing in the Abha na Sciortán, which
flowed by the back of the workshop. There was no soap and our towel was a flour
bag. Our breakfast consisted of home-made bread, butter and tea, and a mid day
meal of potatoes, bacon and cabbage, or turnips, and a supper of home-made
bread, butter and tea and sometimes an egg. After supper, we occasionally went
roving to neighbours houses, to the O’Donoghues or the Caseys, where we heard ghost stories and fairy
stories and stories of haunted buildings. We had no money for pubs pictures or

The first four months we spent in the workshop, then we
moved on to housebuilding. This comprised of cutting and erecting roofs, making
doorframes, doors window frames and sashes and stairs. All were made at the
owner’s premises. While doing this work, we frequently stayed with the owner of
the house. We travelled in a pony and car, usually within a radius of 6 to 8
miles from Rathmore. I remember that at the time we never ceiled a kitchen. The
joints were planed and meat hooks were attached to them to hang the home cured
bacon. After three and a half years training in all aspects of woodwork and
carpentry, the big day arrived when I received my indentures. This document
confirmed I was now a fully qualified carpenter, free to work and earn my
living. It was the beginning of a career which spanned over 50 years in the building
industry and during this time I have witnessed many changes in the trade and in
the country.


Were you at the NeoData social in 1979?


For a trip back to your schooldays click the above link.


My account yesterday of Eileen Moylan of Claddagh Design’s award was missing this photo

 Eileen’s jewellery was awarded best product here


While I made my slow progress to Tralee yesterday morning, I took a few photos while stuck in traffic.

Con Houlihan, a Listowel connection

Last week I wrote about Con Houlihan, the art critic. Today I’ll address Con Houlihan, the book reviewer.

According to his obituary in Saturday’s Irish Times, Con”s first article in a national paper was a review of Solzhenitsyn’s novel, The First Circle.

” When the review appeared, I couldn’t have been more excited if I had won The Nobel Prize or been voted captain of Castle Island RFC.” he wrote later.

As a journalist, Con was a bit of a Jack of all Trades and he did the occasional review. His classical studies and his wide ranging general knowledge made him the ideal man to assess a play or a book.

One book that he enjoyed reviewing was our own Vincent Carmody’s North Kerry Camera.

Here is what he wrote in The Evening Press on Saturday December 8 1990:

“The fair town of Listowel has produced yet another book. The
perpetrator is a young man called Vincent Carmody – and the new arrival is
christened “North Kerry Camera”.

   It is a loving
chronicle of Listowel and its outback between 1860 and 1960. Over the last 20 years or so we have become
more and more aware of our heritage. The reason is clear, our country in those
two decades has been changing at a mighty rate of knots. Our awareness of this
change has led to us appreciating more keenly the value of our heritage.

  Vincent Carmody has
done the state some service; his book – both in pictures and in words – is an
invaluable contribution to history. The picture on the front cover will be
familiar to many. It shows two beshawled women riding high ona donkey-and-cart
as they pass Galvin’s pub, otherwise The Central Hotel. The words are contributed by John B. Keane,
Brian Kennelly, Eamon Keane, Bryan MacMahon, John O’Flaherty, Fr Kieran O’Shea,
Ned O’Sullivan, John Molyneaux and Sean McCarthy. Eamon Keane and Sean McCarthy
are no longer with us; I was privileged to have enjoyed their friendship.

  I love especially
the photograph of The Square on a fair day. I know that Square very well
indeed; I bought and sold Bonhams there in my wild youth. The fairs are now
almost a thing of the past – and I am not being sentimental in regretting their
passing. I am not indulging in a pun when I say that, unlike the marts, they
gave the small man a fair chance.

  Of course sport is
not neglected; it plays a huge part in the culture of Kerry. There is a grand
picture of Tommy Stack being almost mobbed as he came back after winning a
historic Grand National on Red Rum in 1977. Tommy is my neighbor on the other
side of the great moorland. – I shed a few tears in Aintree on that famous day.

  All on one page
there are pictures of four north Kerry immortals – Con Brosnan, Denis Moran,
Tim Kennelly and Jimmy Deenihan. Denis Moran is not really a son of north
Kerry, except by residence. His dear departed father was a native of
Cahirciveen; his mother, my sweet departed friend, was a daughter of

  Jerry Kiernan, that
deer in human form, figures too; we see him winning a marathon somewhere in
America, 2.12.48. We see Willie Sexton with oval ball in hands making a break
in the light-blue of Garryowen. And we
see my old friend Pat Mulcare, the great golfer, swinging a wood on some
unspecified course.

  Humour puts up its
crazy ead, especially in a piece by Fr. Kieran O’Shea. He tells the story of a
certain Mr. Doodle who stood for a Dail election a way back in innocent years.
By now you will have guessed that Doodle was not his registered name, but who

  Like all
politicians he excuded promises; they included a factory for shaving
gooseberries in the town of Listowel. He also promised to give leprechauns the
right to vote. Now, two generations later they still lack the franchise. He
also threatened to plough The Rocks of Bawn. You will be saddened to hear that
he didn’t make it to Leinster House.

  Vincent Carmody’s
splendid book is published in a limited edition and as far as I know is not on
general sale. “


Unfortunately Vincent’s book is long since unavailable to purchase but rumour has it that another and even better one is on the way.


The year is 1979 and this is the cast of Presentation Secondary school’s musical.  Jer. Kennelly found the photo  but we have no names. No doubt it’s stirring a few memories so maybe someone will remind us of the musical and maybe someone will even have kept a programme with the names.


This picture from the national archives was taken in Dublin in 1960. Notice the cyclist, the nun and the window cleaner, familiar sights on the capital’s streets back then.


Old Ways

Harvesting silage; 1995


Well done all AND Cian O’Connor of course.

Staff of St. Michael’s College, Listowel 1979

Tempus fugit.  This is the teaching staff of “The College” in its centenary year.

May the lord have mercy on the souls of the three who have gone to their eternal reward.

Most of the others are now retired.

Only 2 of the people pictured are still working in education.

Memories, memories!

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