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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Stories from YABF2019, Travellers in Ballyduff and Roger McElligott R.I.P

The Good Old Days?

This photo from Facebook tells a good story. Cows are docile animals and can easily be trained to stand still while being milked. They seem always to have a special rapport with women. This young lady is wearing a headscarf. Cows, because of the terrain they graze are often dirty and have a tendency to swish a tail while standing. The wise milkmaid covers her head to avoid having to smell of cow dung until the next wash.

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Listowel Writers’ Week Young Adult Bookfest 2019

I took lots of photos on the day. Here are a few more.

Bernard enjoyed a coffee from Kettle and Cup. In case you are wondering Damo shared no local gossip with him.

Marcella, David and Joanna are taking a break from proceedings.

Miriam, Seán and Elma were volunteering.

No, Seán Lyons didn’t accompany Stephanie on the guitar. He interviewed her on stage and he is just being a gentleman here and carrying her guitar for her.

Riobard Pierse took us behind the scenes at Ireland’s Fittest Family. In a witty, self deprecating monologue he revealed all the Pierses did to make sure they did so well on this gruelling reality tv show. The winning formula seems to be clean living, lots of strength and conditioning training, lots of practice at the kind of tasks set by the course builders, a keen competitive streak, ability to work well as a team, and, of course, lots and lots of luck.

Riobard and his daughter with Bernard and Shane

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Travellers at Ballyduff


 Irish Travellers have their own distinct customs and traditions. They have certain fairs and festivals that they regularly attend. Traditionally on their way to Puck every year, Travellers camped for a while near Ballyduff. 

The photos below and the caption were shared on Facebook.

Our thanks to Martin Browne for photos: Included are Charlie Doherty, Paddy O’Brien and Roseanne O’Brien. Irish Travellers were officially recognised as an indigenous ethnic minority by the government in early March 2017.

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Death in Sacramento of Roger McElligott




Photo: Vincent Carmody

In October  2011 Roger wrote the following account for Listowel Connection of his family’s emigration from Upper William Street, Listowel to California. It is clear from the story that the McElligott family never forgot their Listowel roots and came back frequently to visit. 

I’m publishing Roger’s account of his family’s Listowel connection again at the request of his good friend, Vincent Carmody.

The house his ancestors came from is now known as Mike the Pies .

Roger passed away in his Sacramento home earlier this week. May he rest in peace

The McElligotts of Upper William Street,

Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland:

The McElligotts, of 28 Upper William Street, my grandparents, were William McElligott and Mary Dillon and their children: Mary (Mae), Michael, Margaret (Rita), William (my father), Patrick and Emmett.  Mae, the oldest, was born in May of 1890.

They operated a pub and a grocery store that shared a tiny triangular vestibule at street level.  In the rear area, where there were a stable and workshops, from which they operated general contracting and funeral undertaking businesses.  But, even with all that variety, they found the times financially difficult.  So, on hearing of the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April, 1906, they decided to emigrate to San Francisco, with the hope that their skills in the construction business could lead them to success in faraway California.

With that, they sold 28 Upper William Street to the O’Connors (Mike-the-Pie) and sailed the Atlantic from Queenstown, now Cobh, County Cork, on the brand new Mauretania, sister ship to the much more famous Lusitania.  Mary (Dillon) did not have her heart in it, but along she went with sixteen year old Mae and a younger Rita in tow.  The three surviving boys Michael, William and Emmett (Patrick had died in some epidemic.) were left at a boarding school in Ireland:  the Cistercian abbey of Mount St. Joseph, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

After the crossing and their 3,000 mile train trip across the continent, they may have gone to San Francisco, none of us knows for sure.  But, somehow, for reasons long forgotten, they ended up in Sacramento, 90 miles east of San Francisco, where my grandfather did find good employment as the supervisor of construction for large multistory buildings, most of which are still standing.  (That speaks well for him.)

My grandfather, William, built a house in Sacramento and, in 1912, when the boys had all finished at the boarding school in Roscrea, he sent for them to make their move to Sacramento.  It was decided, by my grandparents, that a chaperone would be in order and they enlisted Jim Taylor, who was husband to Margaret (Peg) Dillon, my grandmother’s sister.  Jim and Peg were then living at 54 Charles Street, Listowel.  That address was then linked to the Dillon family.

(Peg ended up in Sacramento too, but I don’t know when or how she arrived.)

Jim Taylor lived to be 102 years of age and, to the last, told of the horrors he experienced keeping his three charges in line.  If it was half as bad and he told it, he had experienced a tough-tough time on that long-long journey by ship and by rail.

In the living room of the Sacramento house hung a large photo of the Lartigue monorail steaming through a grove of trees.  My dad, William Ignatius, loved to tell of the mischief he and his brothers perpetrated against the Lartigue,  They  would find an incline along the rail and coat it with axle grease, so they could watch the train struggle to gain traction.

Another of the family stories  has to do with 28 Upper William Street:  That small triangular vestibule was used for what the boys thought was the most fun they could have.  British troops would spend evenings in the pub. After they had put away plenty of pints, the boys would tie a trip-wire across the entry door of the vestibule and then would feign a fist fight in the center of the street.  When the soldiers came rushing out to intervene, they would pile up like cord wood in the doorway. Those troops must have had short memories or there was a lot of turnover.

But, I once told this story to Bryan MacMahon and he said he found it believable. 

I first saw Listowel in 1975, when I was 41 and have been back another seven times to stay at Mount Rivers, attend Writers’ Week, go to the races in September and to just hang around for a few days. With any luck, my wife and I will return soon.  It is truly “Lovely Listowel.”

Roger William McElligott

Sacramento, California

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Raceweek, milk churns and memories of Races past

Chris Grayson

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Revellers in Listowel during a bygone Race Week



Daly’s was where The Risin’ Sun is now.

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Sentimental attachment to milk churns


Dear Mary, 

To add to your milk tank stories, I am attaching a few pictures of milk tanks I brought back from Listowel years ago, painted green to match my front door, and they have travelled with me ever since to my homes in Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, North Carolina, and currently, South Carolina. Jack Scannall delivered milk to us at Skehenerin and always added a “supp” for the cat. As always, thanks for the Listowel Connection. 


MAEVE MOLONEY KOCH, Columbia, South Carolina 




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Memories, Memories



Whether it’s milk churns or pictures, so many things remind us of home.

Here is a letter I got from Bernie Bardsley

 I would like to share a painting I did in 2004 of my mother, Hannah Theresa Bardsley (Grand daughter of Thade Gowran )and my son James Bardsley when he was a baby
He is a strapping 33 year old now
I haven’t painted in a while, but when I do I always sign it Barnaby, ( Another Story some other time, I hope your readers enjoy my painting, maybe inspiring me to paint again.
Bernadette Bardsley



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Ballyduff and Ballincollig Friends at the Races on Sunday




The weather was a bit cold and blustery but it’s great to be outdoors and in good company.

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Article in Image



In case you missed this great essay about Listowel Races in

 Image.ie

The essay was written by one of our own with insider knowledge, Eadaein O’Connell.

Galway may have the hype, but the Listowel Races has the heart


Don’t be surprised if you hear a Listowel expat say they would rather come home for the week of the races than for Christmas. As a child, my parents would take me to the marketotherwise known as the amusementsduring the festival, and on the drive home I would turn to look at the outline of the town behind me as we drove away. All I could see was the sparkle of the funfair rides and I’d think to myself “wow, it can’t get any better than this”.  Side note: years later I discovered alcohol and the races became a whole different level of awe-inspiring.

For one solemn week in September, the town of Listowel illuminates. The land of John B. Keane becomes flooded with the racing elite, and Gypsy Kathleen parks up in The Square to tell fortunes to the unfortunate as punters try to grapple with lost money and dreams. A week on the racecourse, or ‘The Island’ as the locals call it, can ruin a person in the best possible way. They travel in spades from far-flung places like Tarbert to get a taste of the equestrian dream.  In its 160thyear, the Listowel Races is a pure horse racing adrenaline rush. It was my childhood, my teenage years and now my adult chapters. There is a magic in the town that you won’t find anywhere else. Galway may have the hype, but Listowel has the heart.

As a native, I know the tips and tricks to survive the week. You’ll need feeding because the days are long and treacherous and the walk to the Island is a marathon in itself. Be sure to eat your first meal before midday. The Grape and Grain on Church street is like being wrapped up in a warm hug. You’re always sure to be welcomed with a smile and banter from its patrons Martina and Pauchie. Martina makes all her food with a dash of tender love and care and Pauchie is the man to go to for a tip for a horse. The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant and Eabha Jones are two delicious and warm choices post races and if you are feeling Italian inclined, make your way to Casa Mia’s and order the Chicken Milanese. This is so much of a Listowel delicacy you’d swear we invented it.

Before you descend onto ‘The Island’, saying a prayer for the sins you may commit during the week is a respectable choice. The Church is placed alongside the castle entrance so you are in particular luck. The racecourse is the holy land. No negativity will touch you there. Even though you may be considerably poorer by the end of the day, you will quickly find yourself in the middle of a bad episode of Strictly Come Dancing in Captain Christy’s stand and all will be forgotten. The McElligots Honda Ladies Day is always a winner and this year the best-dressed lady will walk away with a new Honda Civic and €3000. The festivities on the course last into the early hours, so stay for as long as your liver allows.

And on your way out, never forget to buy two Toblerones for a fiver.

Navigate the pubs of Listowel with absolute precision. Start the day in Mike the Pies at the top of the town. A Joe Dolan impersonator makes an appearance each year, and is so good he could transport you back to Mullingar. Then make your way to John B. Keane’s for the history and a chat with his son Billy. My family and I have forced a singing session here many times, so if you feel a sudden urge to warble your way through ‘Caledonia’ or ‘Lovely Listowel’ do not fight it. I’m sure Billy won’t mind.

Then to Jet Carroll’s which is the pub equivalent of Cheltenham. Here you will be offered one of three things; a horse, marriage or a farm in Ballylongford. Finally, Christy’s pub in the square is a place where many romances have started and subsequently failed. There are guaranteed laughs, live music and a barbeque. If you happen to lose a loved companion on your travels, check the back of Christy’s. It’s common to overhear, “You’ve lost your friend? Have you checked Christy’s?” The friend is usually exhumed from the smoking area after trying to romance a lovely girl from Limerick. At the end of the night, you have two choices; The Listowel Arms Hotel to witness the population of the town in action, or Mermaids Nightclub if you’re feeling brave.

Listowel chippers are like an apparition at the end of the night. Mama Mia’s has the best chips in Munster and the chicken and coleslaw in Jumbo’s are Michelin star worthy. My advice is to choose both. You will make friends for life, find romance or an afterparty in both restaurants. And as they say, you only live once.

You see, Listowel is the town that raised us and the races will forever run through the veins of its locals. We will always return. And I promise if you make the trip, you will never want it to end. Because you will find yourself sitting in the town square, missing your shoes, with a fistful of Mama Mia’s chips in one hand and a Jumbos’s chicken breast in the other, and you’ll think to yourself, “wow, it can’t get any better than this”.

Carrigafoyle, Dried up River Feale, Chute Family Painters and Tom Doodle Remembered

Carrigafoyle Castle in July 2018

Photo; Ita Hannon

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My Silver River Feale


I took a walk with Molly along the River Walk a few weeks ago and I was shocked to see how the drought had affected our local stream. I’m glad to report that all is changed now.

These extraordinary pictures show how the Feale looks in July 2018.

 The River Walk

This is the river by the bridge to the racecourse. If you were to “throw me down something’ now it would be very easy to find.

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Signs of the Times




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Ballyduff, Moyvane and Listowel according to the Green Guide of 1965


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Painting Listowel

It’ not just Fred. I have to give credit to Frances and Roly Chute for some lovely paintwork in Listowel. It’s a family thing.



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Tom Doodle

Recently we celebrated what would have been John B. Keane’s 90th birthday with a walk led by Vincent Carmody to places connected with the great playwright in Listowel.

We stopped at the statue to remember the great Doodle rally that was held in that very spot during the general election campaign of 1951

Here we are on Saturday July 21 2018.

This was the scene in The Small Square on the night Doodle arrived to give his election address.

“Use your noodle, vote for Doodle” was his catchy slogan.

We had in our midst people who were hearing the story for the first time but we also had people like Jimmy OQuigley who remembered the night because he was there  and Paddy Keane who grew up in Listowel hearing the story of the great night repeated often.

Aidan OMurchú also grew up in Listowel where the Doodle Rally was relived in song and story at an annual reunion ball of the Independent Cologeous Party.

This last photo is from Paul Murphy whose father was a card carrying member of the famous party.

HOYS, Mumming and broadband in Ballyduff

Gurtinard Wood; Early Autumn Morning

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HOYS



The Horse of the Year Show is called Hoys by everyone in the know. It is the pinnacle of achievement for a show horse. I was there last week at the NEC in Birmingham to watch the lovely Sonny Bill make his debut in the big arena, under lights.

These are the old owners: my brother Pat and his daughter Elizabeth with the new owner, Jane Collins. Jane is an MEP but she took annual leave to watch her new Irish hunter perform.

This is the big moment when Sonny Bill made his entrance into the big time. It’s a long way now from hunting with The Duhallows in fields around Kanturk and Kilbrin.

Jane and her daughter, Rebecca had organised VIP seats for the visitors.

There were 22 horses in his class and the judges placed Sonny Bill 8th. This was a very satisfactory outcome for his first time in the big time. I’ll let you in on a secret. Sonny was wearing hair extensions in his tail. It’s all about appearance in showing….a kind of beauty pageant for horses.

Elizabeth was delighted with her rosette from HOYS. Sonny is still showing in her name even though he is no longer hers.

Pat and Elizabeth with Sonny Bill’s new English friends.

Sue Walker and her husband Nigel run the yard where Sonny is liveried. Here Elizabeth is showing them the horse she intends buying next.  They approved.

Hoys is a huge show with 250 retail stands. Unfortunately most of these were equine. There were some really entertaining shows in the arena. One of these was the Clydesdales.

This man was selling  a Mojo. He had them for horses and humans and they are meant to cure all aches and pains. A few of our party fell for his patter. If there is a huge improvement in horse or man I’ll let you know.

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Listowel Square with St. John’s



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Have you ever Heard of Mumming?


At the moment I am continuing my research on Jimmy Hickey’s life in dancing. One of the unusual things that came up was mumming. Jimmy Hickey and his dancers attended the Welsh Eisteddfod on several occasions. The only other representatives of Irish traditions was a group of Wexford mummers.

This is Sheila O’Connell’s photo of the Wexford boys. Sheila was one of Jimmy Hickey’s Sliabh Luachra dancers.

Mumming is an ancient Irish folk dance. The dancers hold sticks in their hands and clash the sticks as they perform the figures of the dance. The tradition is a bit like our wren boys and was often performed at Christmas time. John Kinsella, who hails from Co. Wexford remembers his father mumming.

This is Sheila O’Connell of Ballydesmond in her traditional Irish costume chatting to one of the mummers. Sheila is wearing the traditional hat worn by the mummers. That black one was the leader’s hat. The rest of the dancers wore green and gold and their hats were a bit like a bishop’s mitre.

 The mummers were also accomplished musicians. Here they are giving an impromptu performance while cooling off in the river.

This is Mary Doyle R.I.P. cooling off as she listens to the music. She is wearing a tr.aditional Welsh bonnet which many of the Irish contingent bought as souvenirs.

This is Jimmy Hickey and the Sliabh Luachra dancers. The box player is a very young Liam O’Connor

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The March of Time


These photos are from the Ballyduff Facebook page. The first is rural electrification in the 1950s. The second photo is the laying of fibre optic broadband cable in 2016.




Listowel Writers Week in Los Gatos, Rahela and some Humans






Millenium Arch October 2016





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And Then There Were None


Marc OSé, the third and final OSé brother to play for Kerry has announced his retirement. He and his brothers served their county well.

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Writers Week in Los Gatos


A delegation from our twin city, Los Gatos, came to Listowel Writers Week, loved what they saw and experienced. They resolved, if they could, to hold a Writers’ Week of their own in 2016. 

They asked Listowel Writers’ Week for help and the result  happened last week, with Máire Logue and Seán Lyons of Listowel Writers’ Week on hand to lend advice and every assistance.

Jimmy Deenihan who spearheaded the twinning initiative and has very close ties in that area, was there as well to promote Listowel business and tourism.

Máire and Seán setting up an exhibition of Listowel stuff.

Jimmy with one of the US authors at Listowel Los Gatos Writers’ Week.

The week was a great success. Our Writers’ Week ambassadors networked and mingled. They returned home happy that the ties between these two towns are now bound even more tightly.

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Last Woman Born on the Blaskets passed away last week



Maureen Boland, or Maureen Dunleavy as she was known, was born on An Bhlascaoid Mór on July 4th 1925.

Her father was Muiris Mór Duinnshléibhe and her mother was Cáit Ní Mhainnín, who was the school-teacher on the island.

Maureen went on to become a school teacher herself, teaching in Dublin for much of her career.

She divided her time between Dublin and her home in Cill Mhic a’Domhnaigh in Ceann Trá.

Maureen was an avid Kerry football fan and the Sam Maguire was brought to her 90th birthday in Ventry in 2015.

Gearóid Cheaist Ó Catháin, who was born on the Blaskets, says Maureen was a true woman of the Island.

Vivacious and always full of laughter, he said she will be truly missed.

May she read in peace

(Source: Radio Kerry)

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Rahela Cemetery



This graveyard in Ballyduff is often referred to by the older generation  as County’s Acre. The reason why is explained in a Facebook page called, Anyone from Ballyduff out there.

“COUNTY’S ACRE”


Rahela cemetery had its origin during the Famine when the local landlord made an acre of ground available at Rahela for the burial of famine victims. He also gave one of his employees, a John County, the responsibility of overseeing the burials. Although Rahela cemetery has expanded considerably over the years, some local wits continued to refer to the place as “County’s Acre”

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Humans of Listowel




John Halkettt and Derry Buckley stop for a chat on Church Street.

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