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Tag: Aras an Phiarsaigh

In Kiskeam

Áras an Phiarsaigh

In Kiskeam

Kiskeam is lovely rural village in North Cork. Its people are friendly and welcoming.

Kiskeam in the past was devastated by poverty and emigration.

This is the sign on the graveyard wall. I visited the graveyard last week.

The graves are beautifully kept.

Nestled among the flowers in this box I saw this lovely little message.

A Celtic Cross

Amanda Danzinger in the group “Dicussion on Celtic Art”

I found this big beautiful Celtic cross in Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Seattle. It was made around 1910. I looked it up and it belongs to M.J. Heney, aka “The Irish Prince of Alaska” who built the Alaskan railways during the Klondike gold rush.

I looked it up too, and

I found this from An Irishman’s Diary by Frank McNally, March 24 2017

Hiking in eastern Alaska some time ago, Dublin photographer Paul Scannell chanced upon a small town called McCarthy, where he was so charmed by the ambience that he skipped his flight home and stayed for five months.

The locals took him to heart during his visit. They even elected him “prom queen” at one point, which may sound a bit irregular. But bear in mind that while McCarthy is at the centre of America’s largest national park – two-thirds the size of Ireland – the township itself is not extensive. It has a population of 28.

Anyway, Scannell eventually abdicated his monarchical responsibilities to return home. And next week in Dublin, he opens an exhibition of pictures both from McCarthy itself and the Wrangell-St Elias national park that surrounds it. The show runs at the Powerscourt Gallery from March 29th.

Like many former mining towns, McCarthy used to be bigger than it is now.

Named after one Irishman, the philanthropist James McCarthy, it was made possible by another, a railroad contractor named Michael “Big Mike” Heney.

The Canadian-born son of immigrants, Heney made his fortune building the infrastructure required by the Klondike Gold Rush and other mining booms of the 1890s onwards, in the process of which he too earned a regal title, “The Irish Prince of Alaska”.

His boast was that, given enough dynamite, he could build “a road to hell”. And when a vast copper find at a place called Kennecott demanded a rail-link from the coast, his promise was sorely tested.

Begun in 1907, the 196-mile Copper River and Northwestern Railroad had to cross mountains, glaciers, and river rapids. That and its initials earned it the nickname “Can’t Run and Never Will”. But it did, within four years, and on its maiden journey there was already a quarter-million dollars worth of copper ore awaiting it.

Kennecott became a company town and, as such, was declared “dry”. Miners were not allowed to bring families on site, either, lest their monk-like existence be compromised. So what became McCarthy – the local railway junction – had to make up for Kennecott’s deficiencies.

During three rambunctious decades, it had bars, brothels, pool-halls and all the rest of the services required for a population that reached about 1,000 at its height. Then in 1938, $200 million worth of copper deposits later, reserves ran out.

Mining stopped, so did the trains, and the settlement was abandoned so abruptly that plates were left on tables.

Not much happened there again until the 1970s, when Kennecott and McCarthy were found to have the sort of deposits required by another industry, tourism. Intrepid visitors now come to see the old mining ruins and the wilderness around them. Kennecott houses the national park people. Minus the brothels, McCarthy still looks after the social side.

The place has had its darker episodes too. In 1983, a man went on gun rampage and massacred six residents, more than a quarter of the population. He was ostensibly protesting against the Alaska pipeline.

Then, further afield from McCarthy but in the same corner of the world, there was the sad case of Christopher McCandless, a wanderer who styled himself “Alexander Supertramp”. He is presumed to have starved to death, aged 24, while hiking along another of eastern Alaska’s trails.

His remains were found in the abandoned “Magic Bus”, an improvised shelter, in 1992.

And his life story has since spawned a book, film, and documentary. In fact, it was after hiking to the site of the Magic Bus that Paul Scannell found his way to McCarthy.

Scannell is not the first person from these parts to rediscover the latter town. For obvious reasons, it was also a sort of spiritual homeland to the late comedian and travel writer Pete McCarthy, born in Liverpool of a Cork mother.

After the success of his 1999 book, McCarthy’s Bar, set in Ireland, he wrote a follow-up called The Road to McCarthy.  That was an international affair, tracking the Irish diaspora to such places as Butte, Montana, and the Caribbean island of Monserrat.

But McCarthy, Alaska, featured too. As well it might, because not only does it have a road to McCarthy, it has the McCarthy Road, now as much a travel destination as the town at its terminus.

According to the local travel website (, the drive takes about 2½ hours each way. But the surface can be weather-affected, severely. So those planning the journey are advised to bring “food, water, a spare tyre and jack and plenty of fuel”.

A Fact

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don’t develop until they are about 6 months of age.


The Frances and Sonny Show

Áras an Phiarsaigh in April 2024

Great Show in The Glen

Friday, April 12 2024 was a special day for our own Frances Kennedy. She and I were back on our home turf of North Cork in The Glen Theatre, Banteer. Frances was performing and I was in the audience.

The show was a Frances Kennedy and Sonny Egan special. Frances looked ever so glamorous and Sonny was his usual understated self.

Didn’t I capture him well on a borrowed phone from my seat in the second row?

It was a big night for Frances. She was celebrating a roundy birthday. And it was forty years to the day since she met Patsy. Frances and Patsy met on her first day in Listowel, which was also her twentieth birthday. Meeting Patsy put paid to her plans to emigrate to the U.S., she told us. Thank you, Patsy.

Sonny and Frances sang, danced, played and told stories to the delight of the appreciative audience. The highlight of the night was a rare duet from Patsy and Frances.

It was a great night’s entertainment from two very versatile, talented performers.

Maureen Sweeney

I told you last week that An Post was commemorating Maureen Flavin Sweeney with a postmark.

Eleanor Belcher sent us this obituary from The London Times.

From Pres Yearbook 04/05


Luckily horses love mud, almost as much as pigs do. Fields are saturated these times but these two boyos were delighted to be allowed to play outdoors for the first time without their coats.

As he frolicked around the field, kicking up mud in all directions, it was hard to believe that Henry is 24 years old.

These best buds love a bit of mutual grooming.

A Fact

In 1914 in Brussels the first non direct blood transfusion was performed by Dr. Albert Hustin.


Fork Off!

Áras an Phiarsaigh in February 2024

Remember the Forks?

Friday’s fork picture put Mattie Lennon in mind of a piece he wrote many years ago.


                                                           Mattie Lennon.

   Have a look at the picture. What does it convey to you? No, I’m not going to bore you with the old chestnut about Sir William Wilde building his reputation with the knife and losing it with the fork. Neither am I going to tell you that when I was young we were so poor that the first time I saw two forks on a table I thought somebody was after getting a puncture.

   Yes, maybe, as you say, the image has a subtle or subliminal message of erotica. All I know is that it has won a number of prizes in Photographic Competitions.

  However, that is not why I’m showing it to you. I first saw the picture at the IPH National Photographic League Finals in Tallaght where our friend Tom Fitzgerald was a competitor.  Actually my wife saw it first and  drew my attention with her shrieks. You see she has a phobia about “two forks”.  On the odd occasion when a pair of forks gets entangled in the kitchen drawer at home it leads to grimacing and “teeth-watering.” (Much the same effect, I presume, as the scraping of fingernails on a blackboard has on other people.)  But seeing the object of her aversion in black-and-white (or in this case colour) it prompted me to make some enquiries. 

 For some time I had been planning to do a bit of research on this phobia, which is not life-threatening, and causes very little disruption in anyone’s life. So here was pictorial assistance and it got me into gear.

First I tracked down the photographer, Howard Swaine, who, as it happens, lives quite close to me. When I phoned and convinced him that I wasn’t calling from the comfort of a padded cell or the constrictions of a straitjacket, he offered to copy the print for me and gave me permission to use it.

I enquired as to the inspiration behind his prize-winning pic and he told me, “ I was just flutin’ around with two forks in the kitchen.” 

When I relayed this information to the spouse the predictable reply was, ”By &*$~% he wouldn’t  flute around with them in my #/%!* kitchen.”

   As to the Freudian explanation for such an irrational reaction, the aforementioned tangle of cutlery, your guess is as good as mine.

A Poem

A Poem to convince you that every life is worthwhile.

The Men’s Shed is not just for Men

Everyone is welcome to join in their walking group.

Their Facebook page will have all the information…

Listowel Mens’ Shed

St Patrick’s Festival in San Diego

The 2024 Miss Colleen Selection took place on Saturday, February 24, 2024 at Hooleys Public House in Rancho San Diego.

Congratulations to Riley Pidgeon on her crowning as the 2024 Miss Colleen. Riley will serve the Irish congress for the next year, starting at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival on March 16th. 

She will be accompanied in the parade by her court, 

Siobhan O’Shea and Brigid Powers.

It was a lovely event, enjoyed by all who attended and included a fantastic display of Irish Dancing by the Malone Academy of Irish Dance.

A Fact

Today is Super Tuesday in the U.S.

Every four years people in the U.S. elect a new ( or not so new) president. Super Tuesday always falls on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November and it is a day on which most of the primary polls to elect candidates are held.


An Blascaod , Fun Run 1985, Listowel Courthouse Plaza and KCC Outdoor staff reunited

Blasket and Tiarach  photos by Tom Fitzgerald


Fun Run 1985

Photos: Con Dennehy


Listowel Courthouse and Plaza in 2020

Aras an Phiarsaigh in the background.

Listowel Library


Friends Meeting

Our Town Gardener, David Twomey takes a minute off to catch up with his old work colleague.


Another Closure

Changed and Changing Times

This is Áras an Phiarsaigh, our town hall. As I was visiting the library last week I noticed that this building was getting a face lift. All the old dead shrubbery has been removed and it’s looking a bit bare but much cleaner and more welcoming.


I photographed this sign at Mike the Pies. Isn’t it lovely? Of course there is no Patrick Street in Listowel. Mike the Pies is on Upper William St. but thereby hangs another tale….


This premises known as Chutes’ Bar has been unoccupied now for some years. Well, let me be the first with the news. Danny Russell of Changes has purchased the building and he has big plans for it. The project will be a long term one but Danny, with his innate sense of style and his love of interior design will, I’m sure, make a lovely job of it. He plans to change the facade and to give it a look more in keeping with a heritage town. He is thinking along the lines of a series of concession shops or maybe an interiors and soft furnishings shop. 

All of these plans will change and evolve over time so watch this space….


Remember these?

This picture is from Dublin in March 1982 and it shows the last of the open backed buses. These were 2 man buses. You got on to a platform at the back of the bus. You bought your ticket from a conductor and you told him where you wanted to get off. The driver had one job only, to drive the bus.  Ah, changed times indeed.


Another one for the emigrants, well written and informative.

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