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: Anew McMaster

Mrs Quinn’s, Moyvane Church Builders and Anew McMaster in Listowel

 Photo: Chris Grayson


We’re in lockdown

You’ve heard and seen all the jokes about the bread crisis and the overreaction of some people to a few snowflakes, So I’m just going to bring you a few photos I snapped from the internet. The March 2018 blizzard is the stuff of legends.

Barbara Walsh took this at the Conor Pass. Yes, the river is frozen.

Mario Perez posted this photo of stalactites in Ballybunion

Jason ODoherty took this photo of snow on the beach and the sea without a wave in Ballybunion. spotted this snowman in Inchicore, Co. Dublin.

Conor O’Sullivan just looked out his window in Co. Clare.

But the brave parishioners of Lyreacrompane braved the elements on Wednesday to attend Family Day at their parish retreat.


A Mrs. Quinn’s Coffee Morning

These local ladies were holding a coffee morning in aid of the Mrs. Quin’s charity. They are Angela, Anne, Theresa and Lesley and the two ladies on the right I can’t name.


I Love to do my Homework   (Anonymous)

I love to do my homework,

It makes me feel so good.

I love to do exactly

 As my teacher says I should.

I love to do my homework,

I never miss a day.

I even love the men in white

Who are taking me away.


Moyvane church builders 1957


From my kitchen table

I persevered with John Boyne’s book even though I hated the glib, almost Ross O’Carroll Kellyesque, style of narration for the first two thirds of the novel. Then I read the epilogue and everything made more sense. It gives an insight, only slightly exaggerated, into an Ireland some aspects of which are best forgotten.

I’ve loved my new mug from day one.


Anew McMaster in Listowel

I consulted a few Listowel men of a certain age to enquire if they remembered Anew McMaster in the Plaza or The Carnegie Library. Here are three of the replies I got.

Billy McSweeney says:

On checking as much as I could, Anew McMaster toured Ireland between

1925 and 1959 and could have visited Listowel a number of times. Eamon

Keane was born in 1925 and would have been 15 in 1940, before my time.

The McMaster week I remember in the Plaza was during the 1951/52 tour

when Harold Pinter was a member of the troupe.

Jim McMahon says;  

Mary, I do recall some performances upstairs in the library..yes it may well have been the Church St performers. I think my brother Garry may have sang there as a young boy of maybe about 8 years   Also a youth called Will Regan from upper Church St.. I was about 6 or 7 then, probably in the late  1940s. Much more clearly I recall Anew Mc Master’s travelling actors doing Othello and other plays in the Plaza. There must be written records of these around.

Cyril Kelly says:

I too have an atmospheric image of Anew McMaster bestriding the stage of the Plaza like a colossus declaiming iambic pentameters, though about the words he speaketh, I have not the slightest memory. My image of him is something akin to the willowy W.B. Yeats caricature by Max Beerbohm.

And no, I was not among the superior script writers of the day but I do remember paying a precious ‘lop’, complete with copper hen and chicks, to gain admittance to similar back shed productions as Billy.

Trees in the town park, Beef Tea, a poem, and Anew McMaster in The Plaza

Photo: Chris Grayson


Trees in the town park, February 2018

We are very lucky to have a great variety of trees in the town. I have noticed much new planting being done in the park.

 These really tall trees look fairly vulnerable to me. I’m glad to see that new trees have been planted in front of them, to replace them when the inevitable happens.

These are the new trees. They are just inside what remains of the old stile, pictured below


Beef Tea           by John
B. Keane

I am certain there
are many people who have never heard of beef tea much less drank it. When I was
a gorsoon there was a famous greyhound in my native town who was once backed
off the boards at Tralee greyhound track. He was well trained for the occasion
and specially fed as the following couplet will show;

We gave him raw
eggs and we gave him beef tea

But last in the
field he wound up in Tralee.

Beef tea in those
days was  a national panacea as well as
being famed for bringing out the best in athletes and racing dogs. Whenever it
was diagnosed buy the vigilent females in the household that one of us was
suffering from growing pains we were copiously dosed with beef tea until the
pains passed on. The only thing I remember in its favour is that it tasted
better than senna or castor oil.

I remember once my
mother enquiring of a neighbour how his wife was faring. Apparently the poor
creature had been confined to bed for several weeks suffering from some unknown
but malicious infirmity.

“Ah,” said the
husband sadly,” all she is able to take now is a drop of beef tea.”

She cannot have
been too bad for I have frequently heard it said of invalids that they couldn’t
even keep down beef tea. When you couldn’t even keep down beef tea it meant
that you were bound for the inevitable sojourn in the bourne of no return.

Of course it was
also a great boast for a woman to be able to say that all she was able to
stomach was beef tea. It meant that she was deserving of every sympathy because
it was widely believed that if a patient did not respond to beef tea it was a
waste of time spending good money on other restoratives. It was also a great
excuse for lazy people who wished to avoid work. All they had to say was they
were on beef tea and they were excused. No employer would have it on his
conscience that he imposed work on someone believed to be on their last legs.

On another
occasion, as I was coming from school, I saw a crowd gathered outside the door
of a woman who had apparently fainted a few moments before.

“How is she?’ I
heard one neighbor ask of another.

“They’re trying
her with beef tea now,” came the dejected response. The woman who had asked the
question made the sign of the cross and wiped a tear from her eye.

(more tomorrow)


The Millennium Arch and Bridge Road


Here is another poem from a great anthology I picked up in the charity shop. The book is called  For Laughing out Loud.

Someone said that it couldn’t be done

Anonymous author

Someone said that it couldn’t be done –

But he, with a grin, replied

He’d never be one to say it couldn’t be done –

Leastways not ’til he tried.

So he buckled right in, with a trace of a  grin;

By golly, he went right to it.

He tackled The Thing That Couldn’t be Done!

And he couldn’t do it.


Church Street “Entertainments” Remembered

Billy McSweeney writes;

I remember Anew McMaster’s visit to Listowel very well. I actually
managed to be in the audience in the Plaza cinema, (today the Ozanam
Centre), across the road from my home, to see him play McBeth. I was too
young to really understand it but I vividly remember McMaster in his
stage makeup. The sight was frightening to a child. My mother felt that
I was too young to see some of his other amazing offerings from the pen
of Shakespeare, so I was warned to stay away. This was definitely in the
Plaza and not the Library. I also remember the yellow posters pasted to
the walls of the derelict library in Bridge Rd. (as written by Eamon
Keane). The latter was a common occurence.

My belief is that it was McMaster’s visit to Listowel that was the
inspiration for the ‘local’ lads to put on their later ‘entertainments’
in the Carnegie Library. It would have been a much cheaper venue than
Trevor Chute’s Plaza. That, in turn, was the inspiration for my brothers
and sisters to stage our entertainments in our back-house for the local
Church St children during the Summer holiday months when the remaining
sods of turf in the building were used as seats and concrete wooden
shuttering from my father’s workshop was fashioned as a stage. We wrote
the scripts ourselves; but the quality of the writings was not up to the
standards of our illustrious predecessors!

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