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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In Kildare Village

Dandy Lodge in Winter 2023

Pres. Day in Pres. Listowel

November 21 was always a big deal when I worked in a Presentation school. It was lovely to see Srs. Consolata, Theresa and Eilish back in the school for Pres. Day 2023.

I took the photos from the school’s facebook page.

Kildare Village is No Place for a Two Year Old

The two year old hates wearing coats so the first struggle started before we left the house. When your Nana loves taking photos you just have to wear your beautiful red Christmassy coat.

Second hiccup; We were too early. Gates closed.

Nothing for it but to repair to the nearby coffee shop. Soother had to be unearthed to persuade her to leave the coat on.

To persuade her to relinquish the soother a smoothie is promised.

A piece of tea cake!

Some kind of unhealthy snack is next. The coat is still on but by now the hair bobble has been pulled out and lost.

Next bribe ( inducement) is a story.

Finally, it’s time to return to the shopping village. Coat is still on but by now it’s raining. Photoshoot back on track…kinda!

I’ll leave the story of how it all went pear shaped ’til tomorrow.

In Portlaoise Train Station

Victorian, I think

+ R.I.P. Sr. Helen Hartnett+

Every now and again I have felt that I was in the presence of a saint. If Sr. Helen is not a saint in heaven at the right hand of God, there is no hope for the rest of us.

Sr. Helen’s Listowel connection is strong even though she never lived here for long. Helen’s family moved to Listowel after she had already entered the convent.

Sr. Helen who passed away on December 2 2023 was a Salesian sister who spent her working life in South Africa, living and ministering among the poorest of the poor.

Sr. Helen “never missed an opportunity to do good.” She believed that every child deserved at least two good meals a day and she believed that education was the way to improve the lives of the children she worked with in the squatter camps.

Sr. Helen was frail in stature but she had the heart of a lion. She lived in a very politically turbulent environment in Johannesburg. She lived surrounded by staff and pupils who were constantly being indoctrinated by political activists to believe that she had no place in the school her order had built, and to which she had given her life.

The most frightening day of her life was the day she arrived to school to be met with open revolt. Teachers, parents and pupils met her chanting, “You are stealing our school and our money.” Terrified, she had to barricade herself in her office until eventually the police, through the intervention of a local supporter, allowed her to go free.

Badly shaken and, of course, hugely disappointed by her experience she, nevertheless went on to move to Capetown to revive a school building project post Covid. She was working on this in conjunction with Irish workers when she fell ill with cancer.

Helen’s family and her religious community looked after her well until God called her home.

So, if you were reading the death notices in R.I.P. ie and you saw someone you never heard of before, here is who this humble holy walking saint was.

Sr. Helen’s Listowel family, her brother Dan, sister Carmel, cousin Eddie Moylan and their families are very proud of her and the work she did. They will miss her gentle presence but are happy in the knowledge that she lived a good life of service to the most disadvantaged of God’s children. She was well prepared for death and accepted whatever God had planned for her.

R.I.P. Sr. Helen. “The day thou gavest Lord has ended.”

Another old card

I don’t think this one is an O’Connor one. Symbols are Ballyduff landmarks and the tone is very republican, The Irish greeting reads Nollaig maith suairc duit, roughly I pray/ wish a good merry Christmas to you.

Christmas Long ago in Ballyferriter

Christmas in Boulteens Ballyferriter by Maurice Brick (Facebook 2015)


                            There was a touch of frost, enough to stiffen the grass but it limbered with the noonday sun. The grown ups were in good humor and we were very sensitive to that. The farm work was done and only the cows needed tending. There was an easiness. 

A great day was when Mam and Dad went to Dingle to bring home the Christmas. Dad had rails on the cart. We were bursting with excitement upon hearing the cart coming with its iron band wheels which could be heard for miles. They had a sack of flour, a sack of yellow meal, various foods, wellingtons, some clothes, decorations and most important, sweets and biscuits and icing clad Christmas Cakes. They also had several bottles of Sandiman Port which were presents from Dingle merchants in appreciation of their custom through the year. 

Searching for discarded jam jars which we would wash and fill with sand to hold the candle we put in each window of the house. Holding the ladder for Dad as he retrieved some ivy from the gable end of the house. Going to the Reen, a field on our land that was reputedly a Fairy Fortress and had some scattered Holly Bushes. The house would be spotless and there was a silent buzz as we went about our chores. The turf fire was blazing and added to the glow. 

On Christmas Eve for dinner we had Langa (Ling), a long stringy fish that had hung for weeks from the ceiling. It was salty and boney but Mam’s white sauce with onions, pandy (potatoes mashed with generous helping of butter) and spices made it palatable. After, there was lashings of Christmas Cake with inch thick icing and we made short work of that. 

Going to Midnight Mass to St. Vincent’s in Boulteen was a treat. We went up the Tóchar a Bohereen and pathway through the fields. Dad had a lantern and led the way. At one point we climbed a few steps to climb over a claí (an earthen stone fence that separated fields) and on top you could see all the houses in the Parish with candles in the windows and it was like a glimpse of Tír Na nÓg (Land Of Youth) if such a place ever existed. 

The Church was small and comfortable. It was full and the smell of molten wax permeated the air. And there was a quietness. My Dad sang in the Choir and his cousin Paddy Brick, Riasc played the violin. It was magical listening to them, performing for us a hauntingly soft rendition of Oíche Chiuin (Silent Night) in honor of the Birth of the Baby Jesus. I remember now, I will never forget, Dad singing his heart out & Paddy Brick his cousin on the violin, watching one another with sideway glances making sure each of them was putting out the best. 

After Mass all the people greeted one another and offered Christmas Blessings. All was done in hushed and calming voices and that has stayed with me down through the years. My friend Pad accompanied us once going home by the Tóchar and he was given to speeching all the way. When we passed by the Cemetery he proceeded to name everyone who died in Gorta Dubha for the past fifty years. I shifted closer to Mam and Dad for the rest of the journey. 

At home, we put up our stockings for Santí and reluctantly went to bed. Dad went to the haggard and pulled a gabháll (bunch) of hay which he spread at the front door to feed the Donkey that was bringing the Holy Family for a visit to our house on Christmas Night. 

After a fitful night’s sleep we arose with excitement and checked our Santí stockings. We compared what we got and though at times it wasn’t much we were happy. Off we went running to every house in the the village. We’d get a piece of sweet cake or a bun and sometimes, even a sip of lemonade. We joined the other children and traipsed about joyfully in and out of the houses. It was Gorta Dubha and all the houses were ours. NOLLAIG SHONA……..HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

A Fact

Cheetahs can change direction in mid air while chasing prey.


History and Food

Harp and Lion Antiques, Church Street

In Listowel Garden Centre Christmas Shop

If you haven’t been there yet, do drop into the Christmas shop and be a child for a while.

Stairs are no obstacle to this explorer.

Aren’t these Victorian carol singers only gorgeous?

My first time in a ski lift.

In Kanturk Library

I made my first visit to the beautiful new library in my hometown. This is the children’s corner.

There I ran into my cousin, Donal Desmond. Donal is profoundly deaf. He was joined in the library by Eric Johnson, a fairly recent resident of Kanturk. Eric was a teacher of the deaf in Canada for 27 years. Eric signed for Donal so we didn’t have to do all the usual writing to communicate.

I was back in the library later that day for the launch of Seanchas Duhalla. Here I am with Noreen O’Sullivan of the Duhallow Heritage Society.

Denis Twohig is the chairman.

I met my old friend, Mary Lynch, chatting to Noreen Meaney

I met Mary Corbett for the first time in years.

Catching up was great.

The magazine committee have published the story of my Uncle Bernie and the combine harvester which you read first here on Listowel Connection.

There are lots of great stories in the book. i can’t wait to read them.

A gem from Facebook

Listowel Food Fair Food Trail 2023

Stop number 2 on our trail was in John.R.’s

Jimmy, Pierce and the wine expert.

They certainly believe here that we eat with our eyes. Feast your peepers on this spread.

John Relihan with John Mangan of the organising committee

John and Thalita with our host, Pierce Walsh.

The people who brought us this wonderful feast….John R’s lovely workers.

Having gorged ourselves here we moved on to Daisy Boo.

A Fact

Every known dog, except the chow, has a pink tongue. The chow’s tongue is black.


Sport and an Entertaining Story

Draghunt in Ballyduff….Photo: Bridget O’Connor


An Edwardian Pillar Box

Edward V11

This pillar box in Tralee was put there sometime between 1901 and 1910. It’s at the corner of Day Place. These old postboxes are a valuable part of our history.


On the street for the Garda Centenary Celebrations

November 30 2022


My All Time Favourite Christmas Short Story

The Christmas Coat   

Seán McCarthy  1986

Oh fleeting time, oh, fleeting time

You raced my youth away;

You took from me the boyhood dreams

That started each new day.

My father, Ned McCarthy found the blanket in the Market Place in Listowel two months before Christmas. The blanket was spanking new of a rich kelly green hue with fancy white stitching round the edges. Ned, as honest a man as hard times would allow, did the right thing. He bundled this exotic looking comforter inside his overcoat and brought it home to our manse on the edge of Sandes bog.

The excitement was fierce to behold that night when all the McCarthy clan sat round the table. Pandy, flour dip and yolla meal pointers, washed down with buttermilk disappeared down hungry throats. All eyes were on the green blanket airing in front of the turf fire. Where would the blanket rest?

The winter was creeping in fast and the cold winds were starting to whisper round Healy’s Wood; a time for the robin to shelter in the barn. I was excited about the blanket too but the cold nights never bothered me. By the time I had stepped over my four brothers to get to my own place against the wall, no puff of wind, no matter however fierce could find me.

After much arguing and a few fist fights (for we were a very democratic family) it was my sister, Anna who came up with the right and proper solution. That lovely blanket, she said was too fancy,  too new and too beautiful to be wasted on any bed. Wasn’t she going to England, in a year’s time and the blanket would make her a lovely coat!. Brains to burn that girl has. Didn’t she prove it years later when she married an engineer and him a pillar of the church and a teetotaler? Well maybe a slight correction here. He used to be a pillar of the pub and a total abstainer from church but she changed all that. Brains to burn!

The tailor Roche lived in a little house on the Greenville Road with his brother Paddy and a dog with no tail and only one eye. Rumours abounded around the locality about the tailor’s magic stitching fingers and his work for the English royal family.  Every man, woman and child in our locality went in awe of the Tailor Roche. Hadn’t he made a coat for the Queen of England when he was domiciled in London, a smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales and several pairs of pyjamas for Princess Flavia.

The only sour note I ever heard against the tailor’s achievements came from The Whisper Hogan, an itinerant ploughman who came from the west of Kerry.

“ If he’s such a famous  tailor,” said Whisper, “why is it that his arse is always peeping out through a hole in his trousers?”

Hogan was an awful begrudger. We didn’t pay him any heed. Tailor Roche was the man chosen to make the coat from the green blanket. Even though it was a “God spare you the health” job, a lot of thought went into the final choice of a tailor.

The first fitting took place of a Sunday afternoon on the mud floor of the McCarthy manse. The blanket was spread out evenly and Anna was ordered to lie very still on top of it. Even I, who had never seen a tailor at work thought this a little strange. But my father soon put me to rights when he said, “Stop fidgeting, Seáinín , you are watching a genius at work.” Chalk, scissors, green thread and plenty of sweet tea with a little bit of bacon and cabbage when we had it. A tailor can’t work on an empty stomach.

The conversion went apace through Christmas and into the New Year. Snip snip, stitch, stich, sweet tea and fat bacon, floury spuds. I couldn’t see much shape in the coat but there was one thing for sure – it no longer looked like a blanket. Spring raced into summer and summer rained its way into autumn. Hitler invaded Poland and the British army fled Dunkirk, the men of Sandes Bog and Greenville gathered together shoulder to shoulder to defend the Ballybunion coastline and to bring home the turf.

Then six weeks before Christmas disaster struck the McCarthy clan and to hell with Hitler, the British Army, and Herman Goering. We got the news at convent mass on Sunday morning the Tailor Roche had broken his stitching hand when he fell over his dog, the one with the one eye and no tail. Fourteen months of stitching, cutting, tea drinking and bacon eating down the drain. Even a genius cannot work with one hand.

Anna looked very nice in her thirty shilling coat from Carroll Heneghan’s in Listowel as we walked to the train. Coming home alone in the January twilight I tried hard to hold back the tears. She would be missed.  The Tailor was sitting by the fire, a mug of sweet tea in his left hand and a large white sling holding his right-hand. I didn’t feel like talking so I made my way across the bed to my place by the wall. It was beginning to turn cold so I drew the shapeless green bindle up around my shoulders. It was awkward enough to get it settled with the two sleeves sticking out sideways and a long split up the middle. Still, it helped keep out the frost. Every bed needs a good green blanket and every boyhood needs a time to rest.

The ghosts of night will vanish soon

When winter fades away.

The lark will taste the buds of June

Mid the scent of new mown hay.


A Bit of GAA History

I dont usually stray into the realms of the GAA but when you live in Kerry….

Here is a piece from Monday’s Irish Examiner.

Wow, just wow!

The Advertiser this week was full of local footballing history.

2022 North Kerry champions, Listowel Emmetts and mentors.

Winning teams of the past….


Lilac Time

Mary Nolan sent us this photo from 1979. We had no names. But Dave O’Sullivan scoured the papers for us and he found 2 accounts of the operetta.

This from The Kerryamn

Maybe someone kept a programme!


A Plug

If you are in or around Clonakilty at Christmas, the cousin, Eugene Brosnan, is in de Barra’s on St. Stephen’s Night


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.


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


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.


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


Revellers in Listowel during a bygone Race Week

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


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 


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


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.


Article in Image

In case you missed this great essay about Listowel Races in

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”.

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