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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

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Christmas 1926, an Athea Nun and a Listowel Emigrant remembers a deadly hurricane.

Marian Grotto in OConnell’s Ave



This is a symbol of home for so many of my emigrant readers.

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Christmas Comforts in Wartime


Kerry Sentinel  Wednesday, December 13, 1916; Section:

Listowel Grift and Jumble – Sale.

COMFORTS FOR IRISH REGIMENTS.

Listowel, in common with most other towns in Ireland, has each winter since the war commenced established a-fund for providing winter comforts for the men of different regiments in the trenches. The regiments for whose benefit the endeavours of the Listowel Comforts Committee have and are being made, are the Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1st and 2nd Battalions, and Irish Guards. The comforts which are provided consist of shirts, socks, mufflers, mittens, etc. The committee have hitherto been most successful in getting these comforts distributed properly and they have the satisfaction of knowing from letters received both from officers and man that the consignments dispatched have reached their destinations and were highly appreciated by their gallant recipients.

 Last year and this year the committee, for the purpose of carrying on this excellent and patriotic work have held two gift and jumble sales both of which have been extremely successful. To get the necessary stuff for the sales the committee appealed to the people of the town of Listowel and district for donations and gifts of any and every kind and the response on both occasions-has-been magnificent. It has been truly said that whenever an object as really deserving and laudable the people of Listowel are always ready and willing to subscribe and the committee are in a position to heartily endorse this statement as nothing could have been more open-handed, and generous than the response to their appeal both last year and this. 

The gift and jumble sale this year was held in the Gymnasium Hall and the committee have every reason to congratulate themselves on; the result. The net proceeds of the sale and the grand drawing of prizes held in connection with it amount to the sum of £125: The committee, it might be stated, were fortunate enough this year in securing the assistance of the R M Fusiliers band which contributed not a little to the success of the occasion. To all the ladies and gentlemen who so cheerfully assisted, and to the public generally for their generous support, the committee-desire to tender their sincere and hearty thanks.

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Nun on a Hay Float

Brigid O’Brien posted this gorgeous photo to the Athea Facebook page.

Nell Casey (Sr. Loretta RIP). Kay O’Sullivan, Breda O’Sullivan holding Margaret O’Sullivan (Mrs. Tim Scanlon).

Love the tackle on the Horse and great memories of the Hay Car!

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Where are they Now


Mary Ursula O’Rourke of Church Street now lives in the U.S.


This is how Mary looked when she lived in Listowel


This is a recent photo.


Hurricane Sandy was one of the deadliest  most destructive hurricanes of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season. Mary shares this incident from that time with us.

“Hurricane Sandy saw all of  Rockaway without power, water or phone /internet. The storm water came up to the first floor of our building. A friend had to email my family to tell them we were ok We  slept in sleeping bags for 2 weeks until everything  was restored A great lesson in how we take our amenities for granted and miss them when they are gone.  We managed to see patients every day though in daylight but without light or phones .They just walked in sick hoping we were there. As they had no where to go as all the other doctors offices in Rockaway took weeks to recover from the water damage.”

Flavins Closing, Christmas in Athea and Listowel and A Minute of Your Time

Last Christmas 




In January 2020 a chapter will close in the proud literary history of Ireland’s literary capital, Listowel. Flavin’s of Church Street is closing.


D.J. Flavin of 30 Church Street is a shop and a family woven into the fabric of Listowel for generations.


I will miss Joan and Tony and their lovely shop when this  little bit of local colour and individuality has gone  from our town.


Thanks for the memories.


Joan serving, Christine, one of her regulars on December 18 2019

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They’ve Planted a Hedge




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Christmas in Listowel


Here are a few images of home for the diaspora.


My friend Rosie painted the lovely scenes on the shop windows here at  Spar on Bridge Road.

Lynch’s Coffee Shop in Main Street always has some of the loveliest window displays.


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Christmas in Athea


(From Athea and District Newsletter)

That Time of Year

By Domhnall de Barra

Coming up to Christmas, my mind always wanders back to days of yore when the world was indeed a different place. There are huge changes since those days, most of them for the better, but there are also some good things that have been lost along the way. The biggest difference between the middle of the last century and today  is how more well off we are now. Today, thank God, there is little or no poverty in our area. Back then it was an entirely different story. The years after the 2nd world war were lean ones indeed with no employment and a real scarcity of money. Families were usually big; 9 or 10 children being the norm but some were much bigger. Small farms were dotted around the parish, most of them with 10 or 12 cows to milk, and they barely survived. The farm was handed on to the oldest son so all the other siblings had to find work. The only employment available was to work for bigger farmers, most of whom lived on the good lands down the County Limerick, or working for shopkeepers and publicans in the village or nearby towns.

There was only so much of this to go around so, as soon as they were old enough, the boys and girls from Athea emigrated to England or America to find a better life for themselves. There was many a tear shed at the railway station in Abbeyfeale or Ardagh as young people, who had never seen the outside world, embarked on the long trip to some foreign city, not knowing what they were facing. There was hardly a house in the parish that was not affected by this mass exodus of our finest young people. It was however the saving of this country because those who found work with McAlpine, Murphy, and the likes sent home a few pounds every so often to help the family left behind. The postman was a welcome visitor bearing the letter with the English or American stamp. People would also send home parcels, especially coming up to Christmas. You didn’t have much, growing up in that era. You had two sets of clothes, one for weekdays and one for Sunday, well, when I say Sunday I suppose I really mean for going to Mass because as soon as you got home the clothes were taken off in case they got dirty!.  The ordinary clothes were often hand-me-downs from older brothers and sisters and might have been repaired and altered many times. The mothers, in those days, were deft with sewing, darning and mending. When a shirt collar got frayed it would be “turned” and it looked like a new garment. The socks were made of thick wool and worn all the week. Naturally they got damp in the wellingtons, our main type of footwear, so we hung them over the fire at night . In the morning they would be stiff as pokers and we often had to beat them off the floor or a nearby chair to make them pliable enough to put on. There was no such thing as an underpants in those times or indeed belts for the trousers. A pair of braces did the trick and kept the trousers from falling down. That is why the parcel from abroad was so welcome. The new clothes they contained  transported us into a different world and we felt like kings in our modern outfits.

The food was also simple but wholesome. Bacon and cabbage or turnips was the norm at dinner but sometimes we would make do with a couple of fried eggs and mashed potatoes or “pandy” as we used to call it. The eggs were from our own hens and had a taste you will not find today. Sausages were a rare treat and of course we looked forward to a bit of pork steak and puddings when a neighbour killed a pig.

Education was basic national school level, except for the few who could afford the fees for secondary school so, all too soon, childhood was over and the next group took to the emigration trail. There was great excitement at this time of the year because most of those who emigrated, especially to England, came home for Christmas. Their arrival at the station was eagerly awaited on the last few days before the festive season and we were in awe of their demeanour as they stepped down from the train dressed in the most modern of clothes with their hair in the latest fashion. There was much rejoicing and a nearby hostelry was visited where the porter flowed freely as those who came home were very generous to those who had stayed behind and had no disposable income. It was now time for a change of diet because nothing was too good for the visitors and we gorged ourselves on fresh meat from the butchers and “town bread”.

Midnight Mass was a special occasion with the church full of people all wishing each other a happy Christmas. The crib was a great attraction for the children who  looked in awe at the baby Jesus in the manger. There was a solemnity about it and a sense of celebration at the same time. The Christmas dinner was a real feast with a goose or a turkey  filling the middle of the table surrounded by spuds, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables. Jelly and custard followed and it was like manna from heaven!  I don’t think many of today’s youngsters will be as excited as we were or cherish every moment in the company of family members who would soon take the lonesome trip back across the seas.  Even though, today, we have more than enough I would give anything to go back to that  time when I was a boy and experience the magic once more.


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A Poem from Noel Roche of Chicago and Listowel


In Loving Memory of my sister, “ Jack’

I wonder if you’re up there

Irish dancing on a cloud.

I know that when you sing

You’re surrounded by a crowd.

Mam and Dad and Dick and Jim,

And all who passed are there.

I wonder what God’s thinking

Every time he hears you swear.

I know in my heart

There is one thing you will do.

I know you’ll ask Elvis

To sing The Wonder of You.

I know there’s angels laughing,

They all think you’re great.

Heaven has not been the same

Since you walked through the gate.

You left behind a lot of stuff

Clothes, jewellery and rings.

Your daughter got the promise

That you’re the wind beneath her wings.

I know your friends are sad

I know they’re feeling blue.

But I also know they’re grateful

That they had a friend like you.

Your brothers and your sisters

Are going day by day

And trying to accept the fact

That you have gone away.

Your nephews and your nieces

Every single one,

Are struggling with the fact

That their favourite Aunty’s gone.

I’m here in Chicago

Many miles away.

I’ve got a hole in my heart

That will not go away.

I’m trying to get over this

And make a brand new start

I know that I am not alonw

You are always in my heart.

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A Heartfelt Thank You




I am truly grateful to everyone who has supported me by buying my book. This publication was a leap of faith for me. It was very different from my previous book which sold well to people who love Listowel.

With A Minute of Your Time I was much more exposed. I let down the crutch of our beautiful town and the huge volume of affection that people feel for it. I had to trust that people would buy me, my musings and my photographs. I am humbled and uplifted by the response.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who bought the book, to people who sent me lovely cards and letters, to people who stopped me in the street to tell me how much they love the book, particularly to the man who quoted, “Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your attitude. Page 77.” Classy, you made my day.”

The book is available in local bookshops. I’m hoping that people home for Christmas will pick it up while they’re in town. If you got a book token for Christmas, maybe you’d think of your hard working blogger…..

Wartime Rationing, Bishop in Moyvane and Patricia Lynch’s Grey Goose of Kilnevin and Athea in Stripes

Rutting Season 2019

Chris Grayson took this fellow’s photo as he took a rest from the exertions of The Rut.


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A Listowel Memory of Rationing


The following story about a childhood memory of rationing, the tea chest, and a kindly adult comes to us from Billy McSweeney


The blog today reminded me of the fear of losing the ration book on my way to Mrs Twomey’s shop in the 1940’s. The ration book was kept in a cupboard in the kitchen and was entrusted to one on pain of death, to go to the shops. I still have visions and fear of hunger and starvation attached to that infernal book and the awful responsibility that went with it. I still remember the smile on Mrs Twomey’s face one day when I ordered ½ stone of Tea and  ¼ lb Sugar. Only those of your readers who are of that age or have an appreciation of the old weights and measures will realise that those order  weights were back to front; hence Mrs. Twomey’s smile. The correct order was dispensed naturally and the debit added to the ‘Order Book’ which accompanied the ration book. My mother paid the ‘Order Book’ on a weekly basis. This was really serious business. 

Twomey’s shop was an old-style establishment. The front half was the grocery and the back half was a pub. Today it is the Kingdom Bar, at the top of Church Street. For her part I can still see Mrs Twomey, with Kitty, her assistant, weighing out tea from a tea-chest and sugar from sacks into paper bags which when full were tied with cord, to be ready for sale; tea in ¼ lb bags and sugar in ½ stone paper bags . The empty tea-chest was usually donated to a family with a young child to have the four edges of the top covered with horsehair under a wax cloth for protection; and used as a ‘cot’ to mind a very young child. The cord from the retail bags was saved for future use by the familys. You learned to save everything because it could be of future use. My own earliest childhood memory is being in such a tea-chest at our front door on Upper Church Street and being spoken to very kindly by Joe Galvin, a schoolboy about five years older than myself,  on his way to the  old National school which was no more than 100 metres further up the street probably at 9.00am. One should be very careful of the way you speak to a young child. It could leave a lifelong memory. Joe stopped and spoke kindly to me, a child of no more than 1½ years old taking the morning air in a tea-chest, whereas all the other scholars just passed me by.

These times are returning according to our young Swedish friend that spoke bravely to the United Nations last week. She is a reminder to all of us of how arrogant and wasteful we have become.

Billy McSweeney

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FCA Guard of Honour



I borrowed this photo from the Moyvane website and I posted it with the caption that was attached, i.e. soldiers on Main Street.

Kay Caball recognised her uncle Micheál O’Connor, father of our own Canon Declan, as the soldier escorting the bishop.

Now maybe someone will remember the year and the occasion. Seems to be a big crowd in town for it anyway.



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An Old Favourite



Do you know that in the library they have lots of free books for you to take away? You can also donate books you have read and no longer need.

In this marvellous box of books that the library have taken out of stock I found this treasure. I remember reading it as a child. I loved The Turfcutter’s Donkey and all his adventures. I lived about 2 miles outside of town but I very often cycled in to the library two and three times a day. The library is surely one of the best public services we have.

 In case you have never heard of Patricia Lynch I photographed the flyleaf for you.

These are two of the marvellous Sean Keating illustrations from the book.

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Athea in the News


Bridie Murphy took this super duper photograph of Athea’s very successful fundraising run for the Ronald MacDonald House. David Twomey in the centre of the picture was the winner of the race but the big winner on the day was the Ronald MacDonald House. Well done Athea.

All caught up in ‘er oh-la-la

Clap ‘ands, stamp yer feet, Ye-e-a-y

Bangin’ on the big bass drum

What a picture, what a picture

Um-tiddly-um-pum-um-pum-pum

Stick it in your fam’ly album

Stick it in your fam’ly

Stick it in your fam’ly

In your fam’ly album

Turf cutting, Street lighting, Listowel.ie and an Interview with Brenda Woulfe

Mine, All Mine






Chris Grayson took this marvellous photo in the National Park, Killarney. This is a family group. The huge stag is lording it over his harem of hinds and babies.



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Bord na Móna in the 1930s


 The first All Ireland Turf Cutting Championship was held on 21st April 1934 at Allenwood, Co. Kildare. 

From the late 1600s to the end of the 19th century around 6 to 8,000,000 tons of turf were cut each year for home heating and sale. 

The industry in the 1800s mainly produced moss peat for animal litter and some briquettes. However by the early 1900s the amount of turf cut each year had fallen to around 3,000,000 tons. 

The turf cutting championships were organised as part of a campaign to increase the amount of turf cut and reduce the imports of coal. Eamon De Valera and other Ministers attended each year. The competitions ran from 1934 until 1939. When the war started everybody went back to the bog so the competitions were no longer needed. This photo shows the wing slean competition in 1934.

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Listowel’s Street Lighting


As I was taking a stroll around town with my camera last Sunday, I noticed how we have lots od different forms of street lighting.

These two at The Horseshoe and the Garda Station are a throwback to another era.

These lights are at Allos.

Colbert Street and Upper Church Street

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Listowel.ie


We have a brand new website and it’s shaping up nicely.

Listowel.ie

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Don’t Miss This


Athea will feature on RTE 1 Nationwide on Friday October 11 2019 at 7.00 p.m.


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In Case You Missed this in Yesterday’s Examiner




This piece about Brenda Woulfe of Woulfe’s Bookshop was written by Marjorie Brennan and published in yesterday’s Examiner

It was something I always wanted to do — I’ve been a book-lover all my life, since I was a small child, encouraged by my mother. I’m sure she thought I’d never go to such extremes. I made three attempts to open the shop and on the third one, I said to myself ‘Brenda, you’re getting to an age now, if you don’t do it, you never will’. 

That was it, I just did it. 

What did you do before you bought the bookshop? My family had a pub and restaurant, The Horseshoe, in Listowel, and my brother had it. 

He sold it in 2005 and when he came down to tell me, I said do you have something to tell me because I have something to tell you.

He thought I would be devastated but I told him ‘I’m opening a bookshop’. So it all worked out, nobody was upset.

My other brother Jimmy was the mid-west correspondent for the Irish Examiner, he’s retired now.

I always loved books . Both my parents were book people. 

My dad had a hotel, the Marine Hotel in Ballybunion, and I remember always during the summer, if he had to go to Limerick or Tralee, he would go to Hurley’s [Tralee] or O’Mahony’s [Limerick], and he would have a big pile of books stacked up on the floor to be read during the winter. 

He would sit down on a stool in the bar at night, just the one light on over his head, with his Black and White whisky and soda. He had his book and his pipe, and he was in heaven.

Yes, there is a real love and understanding of books in Listowel.

I remember in the pub as a child,listening to two men talking, this is back in the 1960s, one of them had come home from England, and all he had brought back was a suitcase of books, there was a kind of reverence in the way he said it.

He had no money but he had books. I can’t remember what my first book was but we were always reading something, whether it was the deaths in the papers or whatever.

We were always a newspaper house, we’d get a daily paper, an evening paper and several papers on Sunday, then the local paper on a Thursday or Friday. Bryan MacMahon was my brother Jimmy’s teacher and he gave Jimmy the job of reading the leading article and summarising it for the class.

 I would love to read most of the books I order but I don’t have the time. I was reading an interview with the author Ann Patchett recently, she opened a bookshop in Tennessee. 

She said there were so many books coming in that she was just reading quarter-books. And that’s me exactly, so I don’t feel as bad now, if it’s good enough for Ann Patchett…

But you get a good feel for a book after reading a quarter of it, although you might miss a fantastic ending. But you can’t have everything.

The recession was a struggle but it picked up. I’m just hoping there won’t be too many taxes in the budget but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Everybody struggles so why should bookshops be any different?

And there’s only myself so I don’t worry about dependants or anything like that, which is a big plus. I just keep going.

The book clubs are great to support me, and I give them a 10% discount. All those little things help.

I have quiet days. It’s a challenge, but it’s one that I love. And if it wasn’t a challenge, sure what would we do, we’d get lazy.

Writers’ Week, I wouldn’t be here only for it. That and Christmas. It’s so busy that I don’t get the chance to soak it all up and enjoy the fantastic people who come into me.

I’m out and about, organising books to be sold at the different events. Colm Tóibín is great, he always makes for the antiquarian section.

People like that, they are great supporters and they appreciate that the independent bookshop is a struggling entity. But there is still a good few of us around the country, fighting the good fight.

 I am a people person, absolutely, being reared in a pub. I get a great buzz if I’m walking down the street and someone comes up to me and says, ‘that book you recommended was great’. That to me is worth a million pounds.

My niche is people who come in and they don’t know what they want, I kind of suss out what other books they’ve read, what they watch on television or whatever, and I get a kind of a feeling. 

I pick out a few books and I have two nice comfortable chairs, I say, ‘Sit down there and have a look’. I rarely get it wrong. Mind you, they’re probably too nice to tell me when I get it wrong!

Carmody’s Corner, Listowel, Athea, Patrick O’Mahony and Entente Florale in Listowel

The tennis clubhouse looking flowery for the Entente Florale judges.

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Carmody’s Corner


These wooden wall plaques are on the Charles Street gable of Carmody’s

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Summer Visitors



Bikers at John R.’s

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Athea’s Heritage Trail



I enjoyed a lovely sunny afternoon in Athea, discovering its new attractions. These are soon to be shared with the world on Nationwide.

The Fairy Trail has been completely upgraded and decorated with cute little painted stone installations.

The bug hotel even has a few bugs at the door to welcome guests.

I met some lovely local people.

I met these lovely folk at the garden centre pet farm. They had brought food for the donkeys.

Mrs. Duck was there too.

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Patrick O’Mahony   Dancer


From the INEC facebook page, Meet the dancers

Meet the Riverdance dancers! PATRICK O’MAHONY

Patrick is a native of Rusheen, Ballylongford, Co Kerry. He began his dance training at age two with Rinceoiri Na Riochta. His first of many titles came in 1993, and he became All-Ireland champion in 1995. Moving to the U.S state of Virginia in 2004, he spent eight years dancing with Irish Thunder in Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. Back in Europe, he toured extensively with Gaelforce and performed in the Breandan De Gallai productions Noctu and the Rite of Spring. Patrick joined Riverdance in 2012, and was a principal dancer in Heartbeat of Home in 2015. Riverdance returns to the INEC Killarney for a limited run from Sept 12-16th. Tickets https://goo.gl/AHnRfx


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Archaelogical site Open Day Today, Tuesday July 30 2019



( Source; Tralee Today)


ARCHAEOLOGISTS working on behalf of Kerry County Council have uncovered a number of archaeological sites on the route of the N69 Listowel Bypass, including burnt mounds (prehistoric cooking sites) and charcoal-production pits at Coolnaleen Lower and the remains of a 19th-Century dwelling at Curraghatoosane.

A team of archaeologists from Archaeological Management Solutions (AMS) employed a variety of techniques to determine the presence of previously unknown archaeological remains along the bypass route.

These included a geophysical survey followed by the excavation of exploratory test trenches and then open-area excavations.

The site at Curraghatoosane is located just off the R553 Ballybunion Road to the west of Listowel Town. Here, the remains of a 19th-century building are clearly visible and comprise wall foundations, cobbled surfaces and the remains of a fireplace.

On Tuesday, 30 July, there will be an open day during which the public are invited to visit this site. Archaeologists from AMS will be on hand to discuss the findings and answer questions. The site will be open to the public between 3pm and 6pm.

Access to the site will be signposted from the Sive Walk. Access will be via the R553 Ballybunion Road. There is no parking available at the site so visitors are encouraged to visit by foot. Appropriate footwear is recommended.

Funding for the project is provided by Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the excavation is carried out in accordance with National Monuments Act Directions issued by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.


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Another Jostle Stone




At Church Street






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