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

Tag: Barbara Watts

The Prophet continued, The Garden of Europe in Winter and the Lartigue is 130 this Year

A Chaffinch Hen

Photo taken in Tralee by Graham Davies


The Prophet by John B. Keane (continued)

(The story so far; O’Callaghan, The Prophet and his friend Canavan were found on in a licensed premises)

“All those,” said
the sergeant, “who live by the sword shall die by the sword.”

“My God, my God!”
said Callaghan, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

And it came to
pass that after seven days anointed their outsides with soap and water and
their insides with poitcheen and they came down from the mountains to the
fleshpots of Listowel. In the town was a great circus and multitudes had
gathered outside the doors of the taverns 
when the circus was over. Canavan and Callaghan were refused admission
to all the hostelries so they journeyed to Ballybunion where they had not been
before and they were graciously received and given credit and presented with
cold plates for it so happened that there was an American wake in progress.

Days passed and
Callaghan arrived at the Ballybunion publican’s door with a bag of choice
cabbage and a bucket of new potatoes.

“There’s no need
for that,” said the publican.

“Lo,” said
Callaghan, “I was hungry and ye gave me to eat. I was thirsty and ye gave me to
drink. I was a stranger and ye took me in.”

Once at an
American wake in Listowel Callaghan appeared to be exceedingly drunk. The man
of the house told him that he had had enough when he proffered his cup for more

“You’re full to
the brim,” said the woman of the house.

“I say to you,”
Quoth Callaghan, “all the rivers run into the sea and the sea is not full.”

He was a sick man
the day after and the day after that again but the skies cleared when his
friend, Canavan arrived with the news that there was another American wake in
McCarthy’s in Finuge.

Quoth Callaghan
“As cold water to a thirsty soul is good news from a far country.”


Garden of Europe in Winter


Some Facts about The Lartigue

Photo and text from The Lartigue Monorail and Museum on Facebook


Commemorating 130 years 1888 – 2018

There were 3 stations- Listowel, Lisselton and Ballybunion.

There was also a stop at Francis Road.

Tickets to America could also be brought at all of the above stations.

There were 3 main incentives for building the line;

1. To generate tourist traffic as well as local traffic

2. To bring pupils (male) to the recently opened St. Michael’s College in Listowel (1879)

3. To bring sand to Listowel for the farmers there, and further on the on the main line.

The line carried 74,000 passenger since 1913, this number had halved by 1922. Up to 14,000 passengers a day were carried in summer when the line was at its peak usage. An advertising booklet issued c. 1900 described Ballybunion as “cool and bracing in Summer, mild in Winter and had perfect sanitary arrangements. Ballybunion is recognised by the medical faculty as one of the best health resorts in Ireland – ideal for the overworked brain or this seeking recuperation after illness.”


From my Inbox

Our new friend, Barbara Watts sent us another lovely story from her childhood;

“My mother was in the middle of papering the living room when these cousins –two married couples – arrived unexpectedly.  My mother got in a flap but one of the men insisted that she go to the fish shop to get lunch for them all.  My mother didn’t want to appear rude so she went.  By the time she came back they had finished the wallpapering and put the furniture back! – I love that memory.”

Barbara now lives in Canada but her father emigrated with his family from Listowel to Wales. She has Healys, Hannans and Counihans on her family tree but she is not in touch with any relatives still living in Listowel.


February Programme looking very tempting in St. John’s Listowel

Thur 1st to Wed 28th

Recent Work

A mixed media exhibition of new work by Sean Walsh, Tipperary.

Fri 2nd


A play on the life of Charlotte Bronte, best known as the author of Jayne Eyre, directed by Declan O’Gorman and featuring Sharon McArdle. 

Sat 3rd

Kevin McAleer – Guru

A new show from the master comedian/storyteller covering such topics as tai chi tea, avocado dream therapy, coffee visualization and moon walking with wolves.  His latest book, The Idiots Guide to Low Self Esteem, is now available.  An evening of divine light entertainment not to be missed. 

Tues 6th

In Between – Film Club

Directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, the film tells the story of three Arab-Israeli women who share an apartment in Tel Aviv and try to balance their traditions with the modern world.  In association with Access Cinema.

Wed 7th

The Vanbrugh with Michael McHale

Pianist Michael McHale will join The Vanburgh in a programme featuring works by Mozart, Stanford and Dvořák.

Fri 9th

Pat Coldrick – Classical Gas Tour

With a unique approach to classical music and arrangements of modern music classics and masterpieces, Pat has attracted a whole new audience for his music selling out The National Concert Hall on several occasions.

Thur 15th

Don Stiffe – The Long Overdue Tour of Kerry

A welcome return by the Galway folk singer fresh from his Carribean Cruise with The Ladies. 

Fri 16th

The Best of Traditional

With Donie Nolan – accordion and vocals, Liam Flanaghan – fiddle and Caoimhín ÓFearghail – pipes and guitar. 

Sat 17th

The Golden Years – The Songs We Love To Sing

Irelands most popular tenor, Frank Ryan, will be joined by thrilling young soprano, Sarah O’Mahony, in a melody filled presentation with songs from The Bohemian Girl, The Candy Store on the Corner, The Whistling Gypsy, Josef Lockes “Hear my Song, Violetta” and Whiskey on a Sunday among a host of other golden hits. 

Wed 21st    

Strutting & Fretting

On the last night of a spectacularly unsuccessful tour of Macbeth, the lead actor sits in his dressing room and muses on the pitfalls of the theatrical life. Strutting and Fretting is a hilarious and thought-provoking new comedy from the wicked pen of Chris McHallem. Directed by Michael James Ford and presented by Bewley’s Café Theatre. ‘A cynical look at the acting profession elevated into total charm by a fine actor’ Emer O’Kelly, SUNDAY INDEPENDENT

Fri 23rd

On The Road With Johnny Barrett

A film presentation on one of the best known entertainers in the south west.  Join Johnny on the road to Lisdoonvarna, Killarney, Charleville and Nenagh.  With Kay and George Devlin – Irish and international ballroom dancing champions, Irish dancers and musicians.

Tue 27th

The Man In Black

The No. 1 Johnny Cash show across the USA performed by Terry Lee Goffee and his band from Cambridge, Ohio.

St. Bridget, John B. and The Prophet and Wine from the bog

St. Bridget’s Day, February 1st.

The story is told that, one night, Brigid went to sit with a dying man. He was a chieftain, and members of his household hoped Brigid would speak to him of Christ, and perhaps convert him before he died. However the man was very ill and couldn’t listen to such talk. So Brigid prayed for him instead. As she sat by his bedside, she picked up some of the rushes scattered on the floor. (This was typical of the time, rushes were warm and kept the floor clean). She began to weave rushes into a Cross, and as she did the Chieftain asked her about it. She wove and spoke of Jesus and prayed for the Chieftain. He came to know Christ that night, was baptised and died in peace.  

St Brigid’s Crosses are traditionally made by Irish people around her feast day. Many homes place them over a door lintel or in the thatch of a house.


Greyhound success

Batt and Gertie O’Keeffe accepting a trophy.


The Best Storyteller of Them all

I don’t know if the characters in this story by John B. Keane are real or imaginary. If they were real, Listowel certainly bred some great characters back in the day.

The Prophet by
John B. Keane

Few characters
have appealed so much to my readers as the Prophet Callaghan. He is dead now
with over a score of years but he is fondly remembered by those fortunate
enough to have known him. It’s not because he was such a prodigious drinker of
whiskey and porter that he is remembered; rather it is because he was a dab
hand at quoting from the scriptures and other apocryphal sources.

In fact this is
why they named him The Prophet. His uncanny ability for coming up with apt quotes
at just the right moment first came to light during the war years after he had
cleaned out a pitch and toss school in Listowel’s famous market sheds one rainy
Sunday afternoon. With his winnings of several pounds, a small fortune in those
days, he repaired with his friend, Canavan, to Mickey Dowling’s public house in
Market Street but was refused admission as it was after hours.

It was the same
story in every pub from Pound Lane to the Customs’ Gap. The forces of law and
order, to wit the Garda Síochána were unusually active. The guards would
explain later in their homely way that there had been letters to the barracks
that certain law breaking publicans had been mentioned in dispatches.

As Callaghan went
homeward that night with his friend Canavan, he remarked as he jingled the
silver coins in his pockets “What profiteth it a man if he gain the whole world
and he can’t get a drink after hours?”

Another Sunday
night the guards raided a pub in Upper Church Street. This pub was always
regarded as relatively safe as it was so near the guards barracks. Anyway
Canavan and Callaghan were ‘found on’. When asked by the guard to account for
his presence on a licensed premises after hours, Callaghan replied that he was
only following the precepts of Saint Matthew.

“I don’t follow,’
said the sergeant.

“Ask and it shall
be given,” Callaghan quoted, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be
opened, and lo and behold,” Canavan continued, “I knocked and it was opened and
that is the reason I am here.”

(more tomorrow)


New Follower

I received a lovely email from a new follower in Canada.

Dear Mary,

I have recently signed up to receive your e-mails and I am glad I did. My father was from Listowel (migrating to Wales with his family in 1921 at 8 years old) and sadly I have only visited once – 20 years ago. So, I am catching up on what I should know by reading your blog.

I felt compelled to write after reading the gift from America story.  That brought back memories.  My Aunt became a nun at 17 after being a novice for a few years (I don’t know if this is true but we we told that the nuns came around the doors in the late 19th early 20th centuries asking to take girls off the hands of poor families to give them a better life??).  She then went to Texas.  Every Christmas she would send a box filled with towels and matching face cloths edged with crochet (to make the fabric stronger and therefore last longer), talcum powder and soaps.  These were probably items she saved during the year. We loved receiving and opening the boxes.  However, my mother was mortified each year when the postman deliver the parcel to our door in Wales as the customs’ note in bold lettering was always the same: Old clothes for the poor! 

Keep up the good work,

Barbara Ann Watts

Calgary Alberta Canada

PS The crocheting worked as 50 years later they are still going strong

PPS As you were posting pictures of snowy winters around the world we were experiencing –35C  weather! 


Peat Wine!

Dara O’Briain spotted this on the shelf at Knock airport and posted the photo on Twitter.

Looks a bit steep at €40.. certainly not dirt cheap


A Walk by the Feale with camera

Deirdre Lyons took these photos on the river walk as the flood subsided in late January 2018.


More Famous Needlework

Source: Mark Stedman via

Women have the vote for 100 years now. To celebrate this Vótáil 100 is having various celebrations and sharing of artefacts.

The above buttons were part of a set of 8 which were embroidered by Countess Markievicx while she was a prisoner in Holloway.

This photograph of former Irish female politicians (with some re-enactors) was carried in various media. I saw it in The Journal.


Lord Listowel loses out on The Golden Thimble

Yesterday I posted this newspaper clipping.

Dave O’Sullivan did a bit of research. He found out that the competition which Lord Listowel entered was held in 1925.

I felt saddened to read that it was an initiative to help the “disabled soldiers embroidery industry.

Does it Matter?  by Siegfried Sassoon

Does it matter?—losing your legs?…

For people will always be kind,

And you need not show that you mind

When the others come in after hunting

To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter?—losing your sight?

There’s such splendid work for the blind;

And people will always be kind,

As you sit on the terrace remembering

And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?

You can drink and forget and be glad,

And people won’t say that you’re mad;

For they’ll know you’ve fought for your country

And no one will worry a bit.

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