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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Sheehy was a great friend of Michael O’Connor. When the committee were putting the beautiful programme together in commemoration of the Listowel pitch reopening in May 1960, Frank got Michael to embellish the cover. This programme is now a collector’s item.
The teams that played on that day, May 15th, were Kerry v Down and Kerry v Glen Rovers (including Christy Ring). There were over 10,000 in attendence, special trains came from Limerick and Tralee. The Artane Boys Band came for the weekend, stayed with host families and played to a packed house at the Super Ballroom on Saturday night.
Years later, May 24th 1980, having completed more improvements, we had a grand reopening, having decided to rename the field, Frank Sheehy Park, our committee replicated the 1960 cover with photo of the great Frank and the wording, Pairc Mhic Shithigh inserted as part of the cover.
Kerry played Offaly in football and Kerry played Limerick in hurling.
This next bit is purely for my family. I was in Ballincollig for a few days for Aisling Darby’s performances.
Monday Dec 5 2022 found me in a long queue for Douglas gym.
That’s Aisling mid tumble in the opening number, The Greatest Showman.
Aisling was a sorority girl in this super TY performance. There were 97 Coláiste Choilm TYs involved in the show in some form or other. I was there on opening night and it ran like clockwork…..the highest of production values. A triumph.
A John B Christmas Story
The story is from this book.
A Few More from The Garda Centenary Celebration
My friend’s daughter in law became a citizen in the ceremony in Killarney on Monday last.
Conall Foynes, Lucia Gomez Foynes and Assumpta Foynes in Killarney at their celebratory meal after the citizenship ceremony.
From an old citizen to a new one, Lucia, I hope Ireland is good to you.
I was in Ballybunion with my weekend visitors when I met the very obliging Imelda Breen, niece of Junior Griffin. She and Junior were enjoying an outing to the beach on a lovely unseasonably sunny November Saturday.
I knew from many conversations with the great memory man, Junior, that he was into pitch and putt at its very beginning in Listowel. Sure enough, Junior had kept the memorabilia.
Junior is a lifetime member of the club. He was given this honour in response to the fundraising he had done in the early days of the course development.
Junior’s membership card confirms that the club was in existence in 1971.
My Ballincollig Bookclub
I spend a good bit of time in Ballincollig where most of my family live. I am a member of the library bookclub. At our last meeting we were honoured to have Tadhg Coakley as our guest. Tadhg’s marvellous book Game is shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year. In my humble opinion, while it is a brilliant book, it may be pipped by Listowel’s own Healyracing Point to Point. I didn’t tell Tadhg that.
Confession time. I am not a reader of Sports’ Books usually so these are the only 2 of the short list I have read. I’d highly recommend both.
David Kissane and the Dublin Marathon
David posted this essay on Facebook as he prepared for another great feat of running.
All bibbed up for this Sunday’s Irish Life Dublin Marathon…now read on…
We Who Are About to Suffer, Salute You
By David Kissane
“Well done on all the hard work” my wife says as I leave the house to head off to the Dublin Marathon on Friday.
“Ah, sure, I have a bit of training done anyway,” I says with great humility, sitting into my van.
“No, well done for all the work around the house you’re going to do next week!” she shoots “now that all the running will be over!”
Very funny she is. Sometimes.
After changing the oil in my van and WhatsApping club business (while under the van) and packing all known items of running gear (all neatly washed for me, I might add!) off I drive past Tubrid Cross and stop to fill up with the diesel in Dillane’s in Abbeydorney. The owner is outside sweeping away the October leaves. A fair athlete himself and he quips “I think ye are mad taking on the 26 miles 385 yards” but adds “but I envy ye all.” I tell him that the nine of us from St Brendan’s AC will do our best and that I will act as sweeper at the back. Hoping to be back south of the Liffey before the gantry is taken down and the Sunday evening silence envelops the city.
As I head towards Lixnaw, I recall the uneasy road of 2022 to Dublin.
It could all have finished for me a few weeks ago.
It was the second week in October and no long runs had been done. I watched in awe as our colleagues in St Brendan’s rattled off the 25Ks and the 30Ks, and over, in single runs. All way ahead of my humble efforts. So I had to up my game. A run of 30K was planned for Ardfert Recreational Centre, a place we’ve grown to love over the year. The perimeter of the magnificent Astro pitch and the pristine grass pitch is around 650 metres. About 60 laps of it would put my marathon train back on the tracks and it would be full steam ahead.
Great place to train. Smooth concrete, no noise pollution, no traffic coming at you, level as a runway, clean as a whistle. “Fair play to you!” says John Kelly, a club founder member who loves walking in the ARC as I have lift off with water nearby on my van (another advantage of the ARC) and my Garmen is purring and the sun is shining and life is good. Earphones pumping “Wild Montana Skies” by John Denver on the Ronan Collins Show on RTE Radio 1 at 12 noon.
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes
Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies
No phone to bother the head and the total freedom of the run. Lengths of the pitches to use for fartleky dashes or closed-mouth-and-breathe-through-the-nose inserts or little Irish dancing steps to add variety for the legs.
I like to absorb the hinterland as I run. Ardfert Cathedral roof could be seen to the north west and the green and manicured undulations of Ardfert Pitch and Putt course were over the fence on the north side of the ARC. A cropped cornfield next door tells the story of a good summer and a rich harvest. The children in Ardfert National School had audibly been let out to play. Their energy flew across the houses to my ears. “Mankind made the school, but God made the schoolyard” said Walter Bagehot, the English social scientist. The energy that would drive the country ahead and secure the future of Ireland and the world. The undeniable energy of the school yard.
Then suddenly a flock of swallows landed on the top of the nets behind the goals in the GAA grass field. Twittering and excited and no doubt the last of the swallows to head off to the sunny climes of Spain and Africa. Their summer done in Ireland. A few took off and came back as if testing the flightpath. Then suddenly they all took off, except one lone swallow who resisted the urge to follow. The rest headed over Station Road
I used to give my Leaving Cert Irish students a homework scéal to do when I was teaching in Tarbert Comprehensive. “Bhí an lá ag dul ar aghaidh go hiontach go dti gur…” The day was flying until… and they were to create a plot and a title. Well, soon the title for me became “The day the music died” as I lost interest in the run after a mere fifteen laps, my legs seized up and the battery went in my radio. And in my heart.
Pointless, I decided. Making a fool of myself going to Dublin. As Mohammed Ali said once about an opponent, “I’m so bad I make medicine sick!”
I restarted, as I had never failed to finish a training session during the year. I tried to think like a coach and encourage myself to keep going as I have done with athletes over many years. I rehydrated and ate a few more grapes and tried to camouflage the pain and mental plonk with thoughts of how lucky I was to have good health and to be still alive at 69 years of age. After all, a brother and a sister didn’t live to be the age I am now. I though of others I could run for also. It worked for a while and I plodded on but then, full stop again! Back into the van and home and goodbye to the marathon. Too slow to keep up with my eight club colleagues who are in a different league. Mentally kicking myself in the backside and worse, admitting that I wouldn’t be physically able to do another marathon ever.
And I didn’t want to emulate the marathon-end of the first man to run a marathon. Poor old Pheidippides dropped dead after bringing news of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC! His last words were “Joy to you!” Fair play to him.
But the sun set and the sun rose and two days later I was back in action on the soft sand in Barrow. Plan? To give up on the long runs and do shorter, more intensive ones. Fartlek, soft sand, hills, twin runs some days, fast walks…not checking the Garmen too often. Survival mode. The culture of the effort is fundamental. Take the chance and you will never regret it. Arthur Lydiard, whose book, Run To The Top, Con Dennehy lent me recently, proposed that one should do a module of speedwork the week of the marathon.
That and more got me on the road to Dublin yesterday.
Autumn leaves dancing in Adare and russet trees getting russeter and streams of traffic coming against me on their way to a long weekend or mid-term break in Kerry. The Silvermines resplendent in the setting sun and then bacon and spuds in the Obama Plaza in Moneygall – great place – and soon autumnal Dublin wraps its arms around the mind. I love Dublin and always have done from All Irelands as a child with my father and later as a resident for eight years and from the early marathon days in the 1980s where I ran 3:12 in my second one. But I had trained for that, and oh yeah, I was a younger man!
I hear the news that Ballydonoghue’s Jason Foley has got his well-earned All Star as the best full back in the country. A great honour for my other parish and Jason is a fine example to all, both young and old. His grandfather was a founder member of the Ballydonoghe Parish Magazine which is entering its 37 year. I have to edit some items in the current upcoming issue before I sleep tonight! Jason will feature much in it.
Then the alarm rings this Saturday morning – I am already awake – and it’s out to the RDS to register. A wettish morning and would be ideal if it was like that on Sunday. Pre-hydrated air. Parked in a nice place near the RDS but the parking meter wasn’t working so had to circle. The usual buzz in the RDS and very efficient in the registration hall and friendly as well. Loads of stalls selling their stuff and of course I couldn’t resist. On duty at his post is Frank Greally, the Irish Runner inspiration whose book, Running Full Circle I finished last night. He exudes passion for athletics. And life. Then to Blackrock where I spent years of weekends at my craft outlet and headed for a lunch of pancakes and syrup – lots of syrup – with extra crispy bacon in The Yellow Fig. Tried to keep my feet on the heels as an hour passed in perfect relaxation.
As I drank a few cups of sweet tea, I sought positivity in the year gone by. A few miles covered in non-marathon-style training. Munster masters indoor walk, national indoor walk (in the beautiful Athlone Arena), British Masters walk in Lee Valley in north east London, a lovely arena also. Then outdoors in Kerry, Munster and Derby for the British masters outdoor walks championships. And then the Athletics Ireland national masters championships. Ah yes, the national championships in a hot hot hot Tullamore in August where three St Brendan’s AC walkers made their national walks debut along with Con Dennehy of An Ríocht AC. With Michael O’Connor (Farranfore Maine Valley AC) and Pat Murphy (Castleisland Walking Club) Kerry masters kept walking to the forefront that beautiful day.
A regular summer chat with John Griffin, Dublin Marathon winner supreme, was always inspiring when I often bumped into him near my favourite Lesotho bookshop in Tralee.
So back through heavy Saturday evening traffic and here I am at 10pm on the Saturday night before the big event. “Not young and not renewable, but human” to misquote the poet Thomas Kinsella who was born a few doors away from the house where I will sleep for a few hours tonight. Then up in the Dublin Sunday morning and across the city to the leafy streets around the Grand Canal to Fitzwilliam Square. The first and second and third waves with the well-prepared pistoleros will be well on their way when we start in the fourth wave. The Purple Wave. The last wave.
Then at 9.45am we will join the river of runners going north over the Liffey and through the Phoenix Park and back to the southside and…who knows.
By the time I might reach the last Purple Mile and the finish in Merrion Square North, the other waves will have reached home, hotel or wherever and will have well started the after-marathon-heaven-is-here level. So will my St Brendan’s AC colleagues. Let the celebrations then begin.
The marathon is a noble thing and deserves respect. It is a strategic enabler if you treat it right. The runners will meet a part of ourselves that lies beneath and is rarely visited. We will question our very core. If the training didn’t go to plan, we will question ourselves even more in the excursion into something different. It ain’t no way to treat a marathon if we don’t prepare properly and we have to pay the price. That is the terrible beauty of the great run. The journey may be the destination for many with the experience of emotional and physical diversity.
We finish and some of us say never again. Then we start training in May. We know the soul-rinsing experience that is there for the taking.
Sure anyway, comfort is the enemy of progress. Let’s make the magic and believe for a while that the myth is the only reality.
The line from Gladiator comes to mind at this moment. It has to be paraphrased.
“We, who are about to suffer, salute you.”
A Few More from the Food and Craft Fair
on Sunday October 31 2022
I bought delicious blackberry jam from this man. He picked the berries and made the jam in Abbeydorney. For me Blackberry Jam is a taste of childhood summers, when I picked the berries in Ballintubber, my mother’s childhood home, and my Aunty Eily cleared all of us children out of the house while she cooked the jam on a Primus stove. Next morning by the time we got up there would be freshly baked brown bread, spread with butter and the newly cooled jam for breakfast.
These two ladies call their business Two Crafty Ladies and they live up to the name.
Pat Murphy, of Woodford Pottery brought examples of his newest range of colourful ware. It’s always great to talk to Pat and hear what he is at.
Woodford Pottery is available directly from Pat in his shop at the pottery or from Kerry Writers’ Museum.
I was completely behind the times on this one. I have just discovered that a friend of mine commissioned such a picture for his fiancee for her birthday.
The picture was done by Van Woof. Isn’t it cute?
If you are stuck for a present anytime soon, here’s an idea.
Browsing through the Newspapers Online
A friend of this blog found these;
THE ST. PAUL GLOBE SUNDAY NOVEMBER 20, 1898
FIVE OF THE MOST SINGULAR RAILWAYS IN THE WORLD
There Is a “single-line railway” now working In Ireland.
The Listowel & Ballybunion railway sounds like the Invention of some mad humourist;
but such a place as Ballybunion really exists. It is a very popular seaside resort in the southwest of Ireland. The distance between this point and the other terminus at Listowel is ten miles, and there is one Intermediate station—that of Lisselton. The system on which this railway is worked is called the Lartigue single rail elevated railway, and was the invention of a French engineer.
This single rail line, it should be explained at once, is not a single track railway, but actually has only one rail for trains to run on. This rail is supported on iron trestle work at the height of three feet three inches from the ground, and the locomotive and carriages are actually balanced on it.
18 Feb 1986
Nyack NY Journal News 1986 01759_1.pdf
By WILLIAM DEMAREST
A retired New York City police officer from Haverstraw has been named Grand Marshal of the Pearl River St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is to be sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Rockland County.
John Scanlon, 57, will lead the celebration of Irish-American heritage down Central Avenue in Pearl River on Sunday, March 23. Honoured three times for bravery during his 25-year career with the New York Police Department, Scanlon is the treasurer of Division One of the AOH in North Rockland. “He has been a dedicated and faithful member and can always be relied upon to get the job done,” said Thomas Keyy, an AOH Division One spokesman, of Scanlon’s selection as grand marshal. A resident of the village of Haverstraw, Scanlon was born in Lisselton, County Kerry in Ireland, where he was educated in local schools. He is a graduate of St. Michael College in Listowel. County Kerry, where he was a classmate of popular Irish playwright John B. Keane.
Before moving to the United States in 1949, Scanlon was a farmer. He served in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1952 in Korea. Soon after his discharge from the Army, Scanlon joined the NYPD, finally retiring in January 1985.
The father of five children, Scanlon is the husband of the former Mary Browne, and they have three grandchildren. He works in the security department of St. Agatha’s Home in Nanuet.
People I Met
I met this lovely couple on the street on Saturday April 30 2022. They were in town for a wedding the day before.
They are from Rossmore in Co. Cork. and they were looking for John B. Keane’s pub. They weren’t in need of a drink. They just wanted to see the place where Sive and so many of the playwright’s famous plays were written.
The name Rossmore may not be familiar to you but for lovers of amateur drama it is the location for a very popular drama festival. Year after year one of the entrants is a John B. Keane play. This year it was Sive.
Pres. Yearbook 1983
Chorus lines were recruited and our gallant first and
+Niall Stack R.I.P.+
I took this photograph a few years ago at Writers’ Week Opening Night. Niall had just met up with his friend Anthony Gaughan.
Niall Stack Passed away on April 29 2022. May he rest in peace.
My lovely daughter in law, Carine, treated me to a wreath making workshop in The White Horse in Ballincollig. Even if I say so myself, we made some lovely creations.
My Christmas wreath 2019
John Paul 2 Cemetery
I put my Christmas wreath on Jim’s grave. The cemetery was looking lonely in the winter sunshine.
The burial ground is expanding rapidly with a whole new section opened up recently.
Colourful Spirits Exhibition in St. John’s
I took the following photo s at the opening evening but the pictures will be there for the month. I’m delighted with my purchase. I’ll leave it hang for a few more weeks but I’ll have it in my home for Christmas.
Viveca Amato’s Santa greeted us at the door.
I think most of the Spirits who were exhibiting are in one or other of these photos. The group does have a few more members but their work is not in this show. The paintings are lovely. Well worth a visit. These artists do commissions as well so if you like someone’s work you could talk to them about doing something more special to you.
This mixed media picture is very eye catching.
This is me with my painting and the artist who painted it. Máire did a bad job on the photograph. I’ll have to take it again when I get it home.
Máire Logue is the new artistic director of St. John’s Arts and Heritage Centre, Listowel. I photographed her in St. John’s with Joe Murphy, the retiring director.
Church Street Girls
Eileen Sheridan shared a photo memory
Clementine Crowley Ann McSweeney, Gertie Kennelly, Mary OSullivan, Eileen Scanlon, Ann Ryan
Mary Fitzmaurice Mary Walsh , Eileen McSweeney, Alice Gleeson.
Sadly three of the girls have passed away.
Owens of Ballyhorgan
Harriet Owen with Tom Fitzgerald and Jimmy Deenihan in The Listowel Arms on one of Harriet’s frequent trips to Kerry to reconnect with her family home in Lixnaw.
Harriet sent me a short version of her family history which I published in Listowel Connection. John Stack of Kildare and formerly of Duagh was interested to see that an Owen had married into the Ellis family of Abbeyfeale. Ellis was a family John had encountered when researching his own family as these Ellises were his mother’s people’s landlords.
He sent us a newspaper cutting
Resurgence of Cycling
In our cities nowadays you have to be struck by the numbers of people cycling to and from work. I took these photos on Cork’s Grand Parade recently. There seems to be bicycles everywhere.
The bike scheme stand was almost empty.
The Theft of The Irish Crown Jewels
A friend lent me this book. The story of the disappearance of the Irish Crown Jewels and its disastrous consequences for North Kerry is a fascinating one.
In Dublin Yesterday
Kerry has survived to fight another day. I don’t know if the supporters nerves will survive another one, though.