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: 2003

Jim Cogan R.I.P.

June 23 2014

Jim and Mary Cogan July 26 1975

Enduring love is a two way street. People looked at us and saw Jim, an invalid, and Mary, a carer. They did not see the true picture.

Jim Cogan cared for me in so many ways. He bolstered my faltering self esteem and gave me the self belief to be proud of what I can do. Jim was a great encourager. He encouraged me in all my efforts. Without Jim I would never have had the confidence to produce a book or to write a blog.

Ironically, being confined to Listowel so much gave me the interest and the time to get to know and love the town and its history. This knowledge and love informs all of my creative output nowadays.

From his first diagnosis in 1973,  Jim was never alone in his struggle with M.S. I stood at his side and watched every stage of his slow decline for over 40 years. I remember the first day he couldn’t do his shirt buttons, the phone calls from school to say he had fallen, the nights he couldn’t sleep and the fatigue that left him exhausted by 4.00p.m. I remember the walking stick, the crutches, a succession of motorized scooters and eventually a chin controlled wheelchair. I heard his voice decline and weaken until he could no longer teach. His hands had long since failed him until he couldn’t even scratch an itch on his face.

Together we picked ourselves up after every fall and found a way round every new obstacle. In the early days we tried every new fad and treatment. We both read voraciously about the disease that was slowly crippling Jim. We were prey to every quack and charlatan who might offer a hope of a cure. The medical profession seemed to have none.  We went to Knock and Lourdes. We tried everything.

We were lucky to have supportive families. We had three children. We tried to shield them as much as possible but they lived with M.S. and no doubt they saw the decline and worried.

Our greatest ally was always Listowel and the community in which we found ourselves. Cherrytree Drive neighbours and in particular the Moylan family have carried us for years. They are still carrying me now that Jim is gone. Emotionally, practically and at times physically, Eddie and Helen lifted and carried their ailing neighbours.

St. Michael’s College was good to Jim. Fr. Diarmuid OSuilleabháin assured Jim, when he was first diagnosed, that, for as long as he could do it, there was a job in St. Michael’s for him. That promise meant a lot to a young couple facing an uncertain future. Every successive principal, without exception, looked after and accommodated Jim’s needs. Ramps were built, his room moved downstairs and an emergency evacuation plan put in place to facilitate him. The boys too rose to the challenge. Jim often had to ask for help and he usually got it without question.

Jim made good friends among his teaching colleagues. Joan ORegan came to visit him frequently right up to his last hours. After his retirement, Jim missed the buzz of the staffroom but his colleagues called often and eased the transition for him.

Over the years, as our interaction with health care providers increased, we met constantly with support and kindness. Dr. Billy O’Conor supported us in trying every new treatment and maintenance regime. He treated Jim through numerous chest infections, bladder cancer, respiratory failure, heart failure and all the twists and turns of M.S. along the way.

Nurses Mary MacMahon, Denise McKenna, Catherine Kirby and all of the other community nurses were kind and caring to Jim. Aileen O’Carroll and the various physiotherapists from her practice stretched and flexed and manipulated stiffening muscles into keeping going a little longer.

Jim’s illness brought out the best in every one. So many people went that extra mile for him. Dan Carmody, Ear Nose and Throat specialist, drove from Tralee to make a house visit to deal with an intractable ear infection, Seán Moriarty, dentist, treated Jim after hours and often at short notice. His previous dentist, Mr. Kennelly built a ramp for Jim to access his surgery.  John Doyle, John O’Carroll and later, Pete Spink were incredibly patient and attentive to Jim’s technology problems. A past pupil, James Carr, sourced for Jim an ingenious little programme that allowed him to turn on and off the computer by voice.

Jim was lucky to find in Helena Moore a neurologist with whom he hit it off from the start. Jim enjoyed his interchanges with her. Jim felt cared for and he respected the honest and forthright way she dealt with him. He appreciated the sensitivity with which she allowed him to make the “Do not resuscitate” decision for himself. She knew his wishes and she carried them out to the end.

As well as Helena Moore, Jim had many friends in The Bon Secours hospital in Tralee. He had been going there for nearly 30 years and he always felt he was among friends in St. Patrick’s. Betty, Phil, Maureen, Nancy, Margaret, Mary, Bríd, Catherine and all the other nurses and staff whose names I have so soon forgotten looked after Jim better than I could myself on so many visits. They saw him up and down, once or twice at death’s door, and they restored him to health and to me.

When it became obvious that I needed help to look after Jim, the decision to take strangers into our home to help in the caring role was taken with some difficulty. It was a decision that we delayed too long. Beginning with Christina Enright, Jim welcomed a succession of carers, all of whom became his friends. Eileen Hanrahan was Jim’s last carer. For years she looked after Jim with professionalism and great gentleness.  Jim looked forward to her daily visits and to the banter with her or with one of her many subs.

Jim loved all of his girls in The Twilight Service. He looked forward to his nighttime routine and the welcome interaction with all of these lovely women. Cathy Corps was like a angel bringing blessings to us continually.

Given the level of his disability, Jim had a good life and he knew it.  He harnessed an amazing array of technologies to give him as much independence as possible. He accepted what life threw at him and he always endeavored to look on the bright side. He was lovable and well loved. Twelve months on, I miss him out of every corner of my life. Family, blogging, our old friends and my new friends in the craftshop and in Writers’ Week have all helped and distracted me but there is no escaping the fact that, for me, life has changed, changed utterly.


Kindness       (Naomi Shihab Nye)

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing,

you must wake up with sorrow,

you must speak it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I that you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a movement which is well supported in Ireland.

Visit the local Eagles page here

In 2003 Special Olympics came to Ireland and we, in Listowel got a chance to be part of it when we played host to Jordan and the torch passed through the town, carried by Gardaí.

Boys from Scoil Realta na Maidine waiting for the torch.

The torch arrives.

The convent school band

Local Gardaí waiting to run along with their colleagues bearing the torch.

Teachers, Madeleine O’Sullivan, Cathal Fitzgerald, Tom O’Connor and P.J. Kenny.


A recent sports story from Donal Nolan of The Kerryman


Wednesday April 04 2012

A LARGE contingent left Listowel on Wednesday morning to support local girl Savannah Mccarthy in her debut as Republic of Ireland captain against England in an international under-15 girls’ schools soccer tournament in Dublin.

Clubmates and mentors at Listowel Celtic said it was a massive honour for the town to have a local girl as Irish captain. Savannah has long been one of the club’s outstanding female players and was central also to the successes of the Listowel Community Games team in recent years.

“For Savannah and her family it is a great honour that she’s captain,” Dominic Scanlon said. “It is actually amazing to have someone from the town of Listowel captaining Ireland. On behalf of Listowel Celtic we’re extremely proud of her and wish her the very best of luck in the tournament. She has been outstanding for us over the years.”

The tournament is taking place in the Amateur Union League complex in Dublin and Savannah and her teams faced England in their first match on Wednesday morning, with a massive swell of Listowel support behind them. A busload of the young soccer star’s school pals was among the supporters.


This girl is amazing. I can’t find any match report online but hopes were high, fueled by an early success, as reported in Radio Kerry.

2 Apr 2012

Soccer-Kerry Player Skippers Ireland To Success

Savanah McCarthy’s debut as Republic Of Ireland captain has turned out to be a winning one.

The Irish Girls Schools have beaten the FAI selection in the Bob Doherty International Cup.

Listowel Celtic player McCarthy’s team won 4-2 on penalties after the match ended 1 all.


Also from The Kerryman this story of Listowel’s greatest athlete, Jerry Kiernan:

Wednesday April 04 2012

IT was one of those unforgettable and wonderful Kerry sporting occasions. As an invited guest to the Kerry AAI awards on recently in the River Island Hotel, Castleisland I found myself in the company of many of our county’s greatest athletic sportsmen and women, young and old. A host of awards were presented and I was afforded the great honour of presenting the Hall of Fame award to one of this county’s greatest ever sportsmen and a hero to me, Olympian Jerry Kiernan.

The huge crowd rose to their feet to give this unassuming and pleasant North Kerry man a standing ovation. It was a long overdue accolade for this remarkable Kerry man whose achievements have never been fully acknowledged within his own county. Well done to the Riocht Athletic Club for hosting the event and those who organised this glittering occasion. Sheena Brosnan was responsible for a superb commemorative booklet of the occasion. Gneeveguilla’s Paddy O’donoghue and Kerry AAI chairman Martin Fitzgerald were also deeply involved, and in his role as MC Denny Mcsweeney, one of the great athletic warriors in this county, ensured that everything ran like clock work. The whole night was a credit to one and all.

Jerry Kiernan was born in Brosna, where his father was a member of An Garda Síochána. A very promising footballer in his youth, he won a County Minor championship medal with Feale Rangers and also played for St Michael’s College, Listowel. However, his great love for athletics was born as he watched the best runners in the world compete in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. He was simply, as he says himself, ‘born to run’.

He won his first medal in Duagh when he

fini s h e d second at a local sports meeting. Little did he realise that this was the beginning of what was to be one of the greatest running careers of any Kerry man. In fact Jerry’s ninth place finish in the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon is the second highest placing ever achieved by an Irishman. John Tracy won the silver in the very same race.

As a youth Jerry won all the major underage titles, Kerry, Munster and All-ireland; his career was blossoming. He left Kerry at eighteen years of age to begin a teaching career in Dublin and joined the famous Clonliffe Harriers Athletic Club, with whom he won a host of All-ireland championships. His ability at a range of distances was astonishing. He was fractionally outside the world record for the ten miles, running this in 46.5 minutes. Jerry ran in four Dublin City Marathons, winning twice and setting the record time in 1982. Then, in a classic mile race in June 1976, the he became the first from the county and only the seventh Irishm a n to run under four minutes for the distance. Rod Dixon was the winner.

Kiernan competed all over the world despite his commitment to his teaching career. Halfmarathons, full marathons, 10km, the mile or 3,000 m (he held the then Irish record for this distance), Jerry took them all in his stride. He excelled at cross-country running and won All-irelands at Under-18, Under20 and senior level in 1984. He was a regular on the Irish team, winning close to sixty green singlets: a magnificent achievement. When the book of Kerry’s greatest athletes is finally written, Jerry Kiernan will be right there at the very top.

In the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon of 1984 he proved beyond a doubt that he was equal to the world’s very best. Finishing ninth, despite cramping a lot towards the finish, was an astonishing achievement when you consider that this was one of the greatest fields of marathon runners ever assembled: Carlos Lopez of Portugal won the gold in a new Olympic record time, John Treacy was second for Ireland, and Charlie Spedding of England was third. Other legendary names in the field of 105 athletes running shoulder to shoulder with the Brosna man that blistering hot day in Los Angeles included Alberto Salazar (USA), Takeshi So ( Japan), Rob de Castella (Australia), Joseph Nzau (Kenya) and the legendary Toshihiko Seko ( Japan).

We can only speculate what further greatness Jerry Kiernan would have achieved had he gone to America and become a full-time athlete.

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