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

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Artwork, History and Poetry

Áras an Phiarsaigh in July 2023


Happy Doggie

A very cute local puppy is wagging her tail on the double this week.


Listowel World Centre of Celtic Art

Since attending Stephen Rynne’s talk on July 6 2023, everywhere I look in Listowel I see Celtic influence.

Carmel Fitzgiibbon with her late husband, Paddy Fitzgibbon’s beautiful artwork. There are three pieces of Paddy’s extraordinary celtic artwork on display in Listowel. One piece is in the offices of his old firm, Pierse and Fitzgibbon. This one was kindly lent to Kerry Writers’ Museum for us to see up close on the night,

My photos give only a small insight into this unique design of artwork. Remember there was no template or instructions for this. It is pure genius.


Ballybunion Castle on the Internet

wild atlantic way castle and beach with beautiful reflections

Ireland and Peg’s Cottage


Ballybunion Castle is one of fifteen cliff forts along the North Kerry coast; it was built by the Fitzmaurices in the 1300s. In 1582 the castle was acquired by the Bonyan family, which is how Ballybunion derived its name, but in 1583 William Og Bonyan lost the castle and lands because of his part in the Desmond Rebellion.  By 1604 the castle was back in the possession of the Fitzmaurices and remained so until the mid-18th century. 

Today, the 40 ft high east wall is all that remains of the castle.  An underground passage leading from the cliff face to the castle, was discovered in 1987. 

Pic. iStock, credited to morrbyte


LWW 1974

Wolfgang Mertens kept a comprehensive folder of memorabilia from his sojourn in Listowel for Writers’ Week 1974. He developed a special relationship with Bryan MacMahon, whose work he was studying.

This is MacMahon’s postcard to Wolfgang, accepting his application to join the short story workshop.


A Smile for you


Ballybunion, Sonny Canavan, Bodhrán maker and a Book Launch in Woulfe’s Bookshop

Blennerville, Co. Kerry by Chris Grayson


Ballybunion Castle

Ballybunion has shut up shop for the winter.

Why is this called Bottle Lane? Maybe someone knows the answer.

I met a few of these snails on the beach.


The Bodhrán

John B. Keane with the master Bodhrán maker, Sonny Canavan

Sonny Canavan RTE  ARCHIVE

Sonny Canavan from Dirha West in
Listowel, County Kerry is renowned for making bodhráns, traditional Irish frame

One local bodhrán player extols the virtues of the instrument. He
learned the tin whistle and the accordion when he was young, but he gave them
up when he discovered the bodhrán.

I love playing the bodhrán, I could keep playing it
from night until morning.

Sonny Canavan raises goats to provide the skin for
his instruments and he gave this particular man a goat so he too could make a
bodhrán. The man explains that after he shot and skinned the
goat, the skin was buried for nine days it was then dug up and putting
in on the bodhrán rim.

Listowel playwright John B Keane pays a visit to Sonny’s cottage to check on his
availability to speak to an American author who is writing a book about the
origins of drums. In the ensuing conversation Sonny mentions there is certain
herb in the bog that his goats like and the resulting goat’s milk is great for

There was an old lad there, back there, he was 101
years, and he was so sexy they had to lock him up, after the goat’s milk.

Early productions of John B Keane’s acclaimed play
Sive’ featured Sonny’s bodhráns and he plays the
instrument and sings a verse of a song from the play accompanied by Sonny.

A ‘Newsround’ report broadcast on 13 January 1977.
The reporter is by Brendan O’Brien.

Sonny Canavan in Newsround


Book Launch in Woulfe’s

Fr. William King is a Dublin parish priest. He is also a successful writer. In Woulfe’s book shop he was a bit closer to home and among family and friends to launch his new novel, A Lost Tribe. This novel deals with the changing role of the Catholic church in Irish society and the struggle of an idealistic priest ,finding himself in a new and often hostile environment. I haven’t read it yet but I’ll let you know my verdict when I do.

Fr. William King, the author and Dr. Declan Downey who was the guest speaker at the launch.

Brenda Woulfe, William King, Declan Downey and Mary Sobieralski.

 Mary was helping to keep the party going.

Many neighbours, friends and relatives from Kilflynn and beyond attended the launch.

Maria Sham Remembers Growing up in Listowel in the 1950s

Medieval Style

Mallow Camera Club organised a novel event for its members. Here are two of Jim MacSweeney’s great shots from the event.


Ballybunion Memories

Mairead Gorman found this and posted it on her Facebook page. Sr. Lucy O’Sullivan and some Ballybunion  girls on their confirmation day.


Success for Pres. Girls

Presentation Listowel badminton team who recently won the County schools competition.


If we could turn back time…..

Maria (Canty) Sham grew up  in Listowel in the 1950s. She had a very happy childhood and a few years ago she decided to write down her memories so that her English family would learn something about their Irish heritage.

Maria has very kindly shared these memories and her photographs with us. Her experiences will be similar to many others so I’m sure many in the Listowel Connection community will enjoy this trip down Memory Lane. I will serialise Maria’s reminiscences over the next few days.

I was born on the 1st May 1938to Bridget and Timothy Canty,

the third of their
children and the first daughter. They had moved into 68 O’Connell’s Avenue and
I was the first of the family born there.

 It was May Eve and mam always said the fairies
brought me or maybe Duffy’s Circus which was in town that night. I was
christened Mary Ellen after my grandmother Moloney. My brothers were Neilie and
Paddy. My sister Doreen was born 3 years after, and our brother Junie came
along 10 years later.

 We lived on a council estate, a very close and
friendly neighbourhood. Everyone knew their neighbours and watched out for each
other. The children all went to the same school and the same church. Neighbours
would pop in to one another for a chat or to borrow something. I remember that
we always left our door key on the door. There was never any crime.

I went to the
Listowel Convent School when I was 5 years old and sorry to say hated every
day. The nuns then were very strict and in those days were not allowed outside
the walls of the convent.  I am sure if
they had more patience I could have learned a lot more. My favourite subjects
were History and English which I love to this day and later on the cookery
class. I wish now I had paid more attention and learned to speak Irish; I found
it very hard to get a grasp of.   It
would be nice to be able to speak my own language.

Timothy and Bridget Canty

Maria’s parents, her uncle, Peter and their next door neighbour, Jack Hurley

Christmas in Cork, Ballybunion castle and A living Crib in St. Mary’s

Christmas in Cork

On a recent trip to Cork I photographed a few of the Christmassy features to share with you.

 This is the Tree of Remembrance in Patrick Street. Each yellow ribbon commemorates someone lost to suicide. It is a timely reminder that Christmas is not a happy time for everyone.

 Santa’s giant post box at the entrance to the GPO in Oliver Plunkett Street.

Stylish doorway into a very stylish shop.

A group of carol singing school children were gathering outside the now closed Moderne.

Keane’s jewellers on Oliver Plunkett street looking resplendent


And Then…….

Patrick Street in the 50s and 60s from a site called random Cork Stuff


Job Finished

(photo: Ballybunion Angling and Coastal Views )


Dancing on the Roads

(photo: Thomas Holmes Mason is the photographer and the photo is part of the Irish Archeology collection)

The year is 1909 and the place is a mountain outside Ventry, Co. Kerry.  A group of people is  dancing on the road and another group is watching from the nearby roadside bank.


Daniel and Majella, the Listowel Connection

Jackie and Máire from Listowel Writers’ Week met up with Daniel and Majella at The Irish Book Awards recently. Majella O’Donnell’s book, It’s All in the Head, won the John Murray Show listeners choice award.


In St. Mary’s yesterday

Everywhere I looked there was a shepherd. I was in St. Mary’s for the Youthreach Nativity pageant. The weather was wet and dirty so the parade was curtailed and the children gathered in the church for a lovely Christmas ceremony.

Ballybunion, Lenihan Gathering, troubled Iraq and Lyreacrompane church

 I was in Ballybunion early one morning last week.

 The castle looked majestic as usual. later on the same day I read that Ballybunion has been awarded €80,000 from a heritage fund. The money is to be used on the castle.

The sea was calm as calm could be.

These daisies are growing along the roadside on the Listowel approach. They look absolutely beautiful.

This old boat and anchor are enjoying a new lease of life.

Everyone my age will remember these public water pumps. Oh the bliss of drinking water directly from the spout on a warm day. I think this one is merely ornamental but a lovely piece of history all the same.


Calling all Lenihans with Mountcollins roots

LENIHAN GATHERING:  “Mountcollins Lenihan Gathering” will take place in Mountcollins on the weekend of July 4-7.    Everyone with any Lenihan connection will be very welcome. The weekend will commence on Friday 4 in Tommy Mick’s Bar with a “Meet and greet” session followed by the launch of a 236 page book on the “Lenihans of Mountcollins”.                                                                                 The book will be launched by a well-known personality – and it will be on sale during the weekend and afterwards from the following:  Norma 087 2746399.  Billy 087 7811004    Marie 087 9731846.  Jimmy 087 2303817.   Seamus 087 9552775.  This will be followed by a music session in the bar.  Light snacks will be available.  On Saturday, July 4 we will assemble in the cemetery in Mountcollins and visit the Church of the Assumption, and family graves.  We will then travel to Clonfert cemetary in Newmarket, where Mrs Shiela Sheehy (neeLenihan) will show us the graves of our ancestors.  Shiela will also take us to St Beircheart cemetery in Tullylease and then on to the old homestead in Ballinaguilla..

On our return to Mountcollins we will visit the site of the old school in Caherlevoy and then on to the new school.    From there we will travel to the farm where the first Seán Lenihan settled in Caherlevoy – now owned by Batt Leahy.  At 8.15pm we will assemble in the Community Centre in Mountcollins for a historical talk by Eamon Ó Liatháin.

After we will have some extracts from the Parish Records and Census and Tithes for perusal. All can be discussed over tea and refreshments…Then it’s on to Tommy Mick’s bar for a rousing music session. On Sunday at 12.30 we will have Mass for all Lenihans, past, present and future, with lots of Lenihan participation.   After Mass there will be a barbecue with an open air traditional music session.  Ansin a chaire its slán abhaile le muintir Uí Loineacháin”


We are so lucky!

I usually stay away from politics in this blog but the plight of suffering humanity in Iraq cannot be ignored. Extremist Muslims are making life hell on earth for their enemies. Take a minute to read the following post  and thank God we live far from these troubled parts of the world.

The Middle East’s Besieged
Christians: Déjà vu, all over again

by Michael J.L. La Civita

Today’s headlines are dramatic; the emotion raw:
“Middle East Christians Feel Abandoned.” “Beleaguered Christians Make Final
Stand.” “Christians Wonder if it is Time to Leave.” “Christians Last Journey.”

As the artificial geopolitical construct that is
the Middle East collapses, millions of lives are altered irrevocably and
indiscriminately each day: young and old, male and female, city sophisticate
and nomadic shepherd, Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Armenian, rich and poor. In
Iraq and Syria — by far the largest states in the region created by the Western
Allied powers after their victory in World War I — the pressure cookers once
controlled by strongmen have exploded, unleashing violent forces so extreme
even Al Qaeda has repudiated the bloodletting.

Iraq — once awash in cash thanks to its oil
reserves — has disintegrated, its people exhausted by more than 25 years of
constant war. Syria — once the bedrock of regional stability — has crumbled,
its people displaced and maimed. Meanwhile, extremist militias overrun vast
swaths of devastated territory to restore an Islamist empire akin to those that
dominated the region for centuries.

Middle East Christians bear the brunt of these
brutalities. Though descendants of those who first received the Gospel almost
600 years before the advent of Islam, Christians are perceived by the
extremists as imports from the West and, therefore, as enemies of Islam. Spread
from Egypt to Iraq, and numbering no more than 15 million, Middle East
Christians possess neither powerful allies supplying arms, nor an exclusivist
ideology capable of rallying and uniting a diverse community with distinct
traditions, rites and histories. And so to survive, Middle East Christians do
what they have always done during similar waves of violence in their long
history: they head for the hills.

Observers describe the current wave of violence
in the Middle East, and the flight of its minorities — especially its
Christians — as an existential threat. Can the Middle East survive without its
Christians and other minorities? Sure, but can a region thrive though
overwhelmed by extremist ideologies at odds with mainstream Muslims?

In November, I traveled to one such Christian
retreat on the eastern slopes of Mount Lebanon. The town of Deir el Ahmar, or
Bloody Convent, commemorates the massacre of monks ages ago. Proud hometown of
entertainer Danny Thomas, Deir el Ahmar lies some 20 miles from the Syrian
border in an area that has shielded Middle East Christians since the eighth
century. There, in the nearby village of Bechwat, in a lean-to storage shed
abutting a local Maronite shrine dedicated to the Blessed Mother, I met a
Syriac Christian family of five.

Mr. Yakoub took time from his custodial concerns
at the shrine to recall the danger of traveling on a public bus from his family
home in Hassake, near the Iraqi and Turkish frontiers in northeastern Syria, to
Damascus. For more than 18 hours, and through 17 checkpoints controlled by
militants, extremists, soldiers or criminals, he traveled with all that was
left of his life: his wife and three children, Ulah, Abdalahad and Caesar.
Leaving behind his elderly parents and his younger brother in Damascus, Mr.
Yakoub and family then hitched a ride to Lebanon, undoubtedly the most
dangerous part of their flight.

The children, seated on the floor of their
converted shed and dressed in their Catholic school uniforms, listened
attentively to their father, as their mother covered her mouth to hold back the
sobs. Their lives had been turned upside down, he said, but “thank God we are
safe.” The children spoke about the difficulties of attending a French-language
school — the norm in Lebanon — knowing only Arabic. Ulah, a shy 15-year-old,
quietly asked my host, Good Shepherd Sister Micheline Lattouff, if the sisters
could help her and her brothers with their studies. “Of course!” the spirited
nun replied, beaming at the chance to lend a hand.

Ironically, even as Christian families such as
the Yakoubs are flushed from their homes, the many works of the churches in the
Middle East are recognized and valued by Middle Easterners of all faiths and
communities. Catholic schools teach Alawis, Druze and Sunni and Shiite Muslims,
as well as children from other Christian communities. Hospitals provide the
best of care, especially to the poor, the displaced and the refugee. Priests
and religious sisters are respected as community leaders and allies of those in

Catholic Near East Welfare Association, an agency
of the Holy See founded in 1926 and based in New York, works through the local
churches in the Middle East. Working with partners such as Sister Micheline,
CNEWA works to build up that church — even if in flight —affirm human dignity,
alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope.

I left that shed in Bechwat — now home to a
family of five — smiling as the youngest member of the family, Caesar, climbed
a low wall and onto a homemade swing, constructed of a used tire and frayed
rope suspended from a tree. As he rocked to and fro, his gags brought smiles
and weak laughter from his siblings and his parents, forgetting if only for a
moment their trials.

That particular visit (which is but one of many I
have made to the Middle East in the last 25 years) speaks volumes why it is
imperative Christianity survive and thrive in the Middle East. Through their
schools, shelters, hospitals, clinics and other social service
initiatives, Christians restore dignity, self-respect,
trust and even joy to families robbed of these basic human values by extremists
and their destructive ideologies. And, in doing so, Christians instill and
inspire hope, which defines our faith in the Resurrection.


Lyreacrumpane church

Photos of last Sunday’s mass in the newly refurbished Lyre church from Lyreacrompane Community Development on Facebook


Have you noticed the rise in locally made ice creams? I tasted a raspberry one from

Dairy Delights

of  Kenmare on Saturday and it was to die for.

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