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: A Year in Kerry

Ballybunion, Christmas Candles and An Gleann 1978 and Maurice Leonard in Famine time Listowel

The Barrack Corner, Ballybunion


Pres. Listowel girls who represented Ireland in the World Schools’ Basketball Championships

( Someone might tell us the year)

Top left is Louise Galvin who is now more famous as a rugby player. She recently scored a try in Dubai in the Sevens’ World Series which ended in defeat for Ireland at the quarter final stage.


Christmas Candles

Last week I posted this;

In olden days the Christmas candle was the big white one pounder. Anything smaller was regarded with something bordering on contempt., unworthy of the title “Christmas” candle. They were unfavourably described as “little traithníns of things”. Tháithnín being the Irish for a wisp of straw or a blade of grass. When the electric candle arrived in the mid sixties the newcomer was dismissed as being nothing like a rale candle at all.” I vividly remember all those “rale candles” shining in the windows of the farmhouses as we made our way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the nip of frost in the air and the sky “alive with stars.”

And then I read about candlemakers in the Irish Independent. Let me share a few things I learned with you.

Rathbornes of Dublin is the oldest candle making firm in the world. It was founded in in 1488.

In 1488 only the wealthy could do anything after dark for there was no public lighting and only the rich could afford a supply of candles to keep the dark at bay.

Before candles there were smelly oil lamps which often fell over with disastrous consequences.

The first candles made from animal fats were made at home or in monasteries.

The first street lighting was candle light until it was replaced by oil and gas in the 18th century.

Candles were used as devices to keep the time. A timekeeping candle has 12 marked divisions and could burn for 24 hours. These were used to mark the length of work shifts in industry.  Timekeeping candles were used in some coalmines until 50 years ago.

The phrase ‘burning the candle at both ends” has its origins in the days when candles were valuable and used sparingly. Burning the candle at both ends would be wasteful and an inefficient use of energy.


Slander in Kerry

From Patrick O’Sullivan’s A Year in Kerry

A learned professor with an address in Kensington, London, believed that there was enough gossip in Kerry in the year 1935 to make it a proposition for him to publish the following advertisement in The Kerryman: ‘If those suffering as a result of scandal or slander care to send me a postal order for 2s.6d I will give them sound advice to assist them in defeating same with the utmost dignity and prudence.” The professor’s advice did not come cheap; 2s.6d, the old half crown was a considerable amount of money in those days.

Victims might have been better advised to seek out a trusty solicitor. Though, according to an old story, when Daniel O’Connell was asked by a woman to direct her to an honest lawyer, he replied, “I fear your request is beyond me, Madam.”


Those were the Days….Probably 1978

Photo and names from Denis Carroll on Facebook

Back row L-R Gigs Nolan,?, Pa Kennedy, Miley Fitz, Jerry Kelliher, Bob O Brien, Buster Lynch, PJ Kelliher, Jimmy Griffin, Manager Roche.

Front L-R, Denny Carroll, Peter Sugrue, Kempes Kelliher, Kevin Sheehy, Liam Kelliher & Noel Roche.


A Clarification of a Clarification

Just a quick bringing you up to speed on this story. A little boy in the folklore collection in Dúchas recorded a story in his family of how the local mill owner, whom we now know was Maurice Leonard, allowed  people to starve during the Famine while his mill was full of flour.

A blog follower who had read Home Thoughts from Abroad   wrote to “correct” the folk memory and to say that Mr. Leonard was in fact extraordinarily generous to the starving people of Listowel.

Not so according to today’s email;

Hello, Mary.

Always enjoy Listowel Connection — and appreciate the effort and detective work you put into it.

In your latest post, the person who was “happy to put the record straight” about Litstowel mill owner Maurice Leonard actually raises more questions.

On the one hand, W. Keane reported that Leonard had soldiers posted outside his mill during the potato famine to keep the hungry away from the grain. And that the mill owner was willing to let grain that he couldn’t sell go rotten.

On the other hand, the person who wants to set the record straight notes that a T. F. Culhane (in his book Home Thoughts From Abroad) recalls that same mill owner getting “six thousand barrels of flour” to the starving.

‘Recalls’ is the wrong word, as T. F. Culhane was born fifty years after the famine.

W. Keane’s version, which painted quite a different picture of that mill owner, was recorded in the late 1930’s — so that wasn’t a first-hand account either.

There are a couple hard facts in John Pierse’s excellent book Teampall Bán relating to Mr. Leonard’s mill and to the man himself.

First of all, during that time Leonard’s mill functioned as an auxiliary workhouse, which means Leonard benefited from free labour from those reeling from the famine. That was, of course, perfectly in line with the UK government’s quaint economic/moral philosophy at the time.

And as far as any contemporaneous record of Mr. Leonard’s charitable largesse, Teampall Bán notes his donation to the 1846 Listowel Relief Fund. It was two pounds.

It’s only implied through the T. F. Culhane quote that Mr. Leonard freely gave those six thousand barrels of flour to the starving.

Without other evidence, it’s a safer bet that Leonard in fact sold that flour to workhouse officials.

I think six-thousand-barrels worth of charity would have left a far greater imprint in local lore.

I’m interested if any fellow blog readers and any historians out there have any info about whether our local mill owner was indeed a saint, or just a man of his times.

Best regards.

— Dan Murphy

Dan raises some very interesting points. What a pity John Pierse is n’t online! I’ll have to leave it to a few more local  historians to unravel this one.


Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

This is Vincent Carmody’s latest addition to the history of Listowel in print. This book is a tribute to the late printer, Bob Cuthbertson and to the people who worked with him and the printers who came after him until 1970. 

These are a few examples of the material that is in the book. Anyone interested in social history will have a great time feasting on the nuggets in this impressive book. I dont think any other town has such a record. It also has a brilliant introductory essay from Cyril Kelly and an afterword from Fergal Keane.

National Treasures, Robins, Ireland’s Fittest Family 2018 and Kerry Choral Union in St. Mary’s

St. John’s in Listowel Town Square


Treasures in The National Museum

When I was in Dublin recently I called in to see some of the lovely gold treasures that have been unearthed over the years. The last cross here is one of the most beautiful. It is from Ballylongford.


Christmas Robins

Photo: Chris Grayson

from Patrick O’Sullivan’s A Year in Kerry


Island Farming

Recently Seán Mac an tSíthigh posted these photos on Twitter. He took them on a day that island farmers were moving their sheep to the mainland.


Ireland’s Fittest Family 2018

The Pierse family from Listowel had a good run in this year’s competition under coach Davy Fitzgerald.    Riobard gave us a peep behind the scenes in The Advertiser.

Up to 200 families applied to be on the show. Forty of these were fitness tested and interviewed. If any of the family have a criminal record, they’re out.

Having passed the fitness test and the interview the Pierse family had to be medically certified fit to participate by their own doctor. The doctor had to proclaim them medically able for a variety of sports including sky diving.

All these hurdles scaled, they signed a lengthy contract.

Health and Safety measures were taken very seriously throughout the filming of the programme. Every activity was preceeded by a health and safety briefing. There was a doctor and a safety officer on hand at all times.

The Pierse family enjoyed their stint on the show and we were all delighted to have a family to follow. Well done “The Pierses”.


Another Concert for You


The Kerryman 2008

You’ll have to enlarge it to make any sense of it.

Christmas at The Listowel Arms, Manchester Martyr’s memorial and some Listowel children

The Big Bridge


Christmas decorations at The Listowel Arms


Manchester Martyrs

I am still getting correspondence about the Manchester Martyrs and their commemorative memorials.

Mark Holan sent us this;

Regarding your photos of the Manchester Martyr memorial at St. Michael’s Graveyard:

The Kerry Independent, 19 November 1883, page 3, contained a small story under the headline “Anniversary of the Manchester Martyrs.” It noted the 16th anniversary of the trios’ execution would be celebrated “Sunday next” in different parts of the county.

“In Listowel, the proceedings will be on the extensive scale, and a beautiful cutstone Celtic cross, the workmanship of Messrs. Healy Brothers staff will be unveiled in the graveyard.  … The mode of proceeding adopted by the patriots of to-day is different from that of ’67, but equally potent. We hope that the celebrations in Listowel will not only be participated in by the people of the North Kerry, but all others who can possibly attend. Already we understand a move has been made by a number of nationalists of Tralee to attend in Listowel as there will be no public celebrated (celebration) in this town.”

The Kerry Sentinel, 23 November 1883, page 3, reported that the Waterford and Limerick Railway company “have kindly consented to run an excursion train from Tralee” for the event. “It is anticipated the demonstration will be one of the largest held in Listowel for a number of years.” 

The Sentinel, 27 November, page 3 reported that Saturday evening before the event, authorities “proclaimed” the gathering … “the reason set forth for the suppression of the meeting was that if permitted to be held it would be dangerous to the public peace. … “however, the anniversary was allowed to be held without interference of the authorities. … “

The 12-foot-high limestone Celtic cross “is a finely executed piece of workmanship, delicately chiseled, and of strikingly graceful proportions. … the cross was unveiled in the midst of torrents of rain, those present standing with uncovered heads.” P.J. Murphy of Cork delivered the oration, which is quoted in detail.

The group left the graveyard quite satisfied they had “outwitted the authorities,” but the ceremony took place before the arrival of the Tralee excursion train with “a very large contingent.” Extra police drafted from the outlying area, numbering over 100 men, marched to the center of William Street and distributed themselves throughout the town, including the train station and graveyard, according to the Sentinel. While there appears to a some shoving between police and nationalists, there was no large scale violent confrontation.


Local Children Photographed by John Lynch

For years John Lynch has been filming local events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Corpus Christi Procession and other local events.

Earlier this year he took a few screen grabs of some local children at St. Patrick’s Day parades in 2003 to  2007.

If you see yourself I hope it gives you a smile.


Sixty First Wedding Anniversary

John and Lilly Lenehan of Florida and Moyvane, whose happy marriage is a inspiration to us all are still going strong.

Brendan at School (in Kilconly), St. Mary’s Listowel, Heather Ale and Limerick hurling

Dandy Lodge in Listowel Town Park, August 2018


Brendan at School

The school scenes for Brendan of Ireland were shot in Kilconly school.  Michael Greaney who played Brendan, went to school in Rathea.

Kilconly was most likely chosen as a location for the photos as it was a new school and would look good in the photos.

Mike Flahive who is the boy with the shock of black hair seated in front of “Brendan” in the photo remembers the occasion well. Brendan arrived with the photographer and an entourage and Brendan was put sitting in the midst of the local children. Frank remembers that the photographer, Wolfgang Suschitzky, was accompanied, during his time in Kerry by a very famous actress, Eithne Dunne. Maybe she was to give acting tips to the participants in the staging of the story for the camera.

The hurling game in front of the school is another story altogether. The visitors brought the bag of hurleys and the sliotar with them. There was no hurling in Kilconly back then. They gave the boys the hurleys, a quick lesson in how to hold them and away they went. The girls are well back from the action, sitting in benches outside the school. Michael Flahive remembers the game being called off after about 10 minutes for health and safety reasons. There were genuine fears that someone could be maimed.  No helmets, shin guards or gum shields in those days!

Brendan is pictured making a donkey out of “modelling clay” i.e. marla which was the brown Play Doh/ plasticine we all had as a nod to craft  in Primary school in the 1950s and 60s. Notice the clean new desk with the brass lid on the inkwell shined to perfection.

The book was translated into several European languages


Our Beautiful Church all decked out for a Wedding

You’ll have to agree it’s beautiful.


An Early Craft Beer

Source: A Year in Kerry by Patrick O’Sullivan


Luimneach Abú

Heartiest congratulations to all my Limerick friends, neighbours, family and blog followers. You knocked it out of the park, lads

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