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: Batt O’Keeffe

Opening Night LWW 18, Gerard Mulvihill, a Living Art competition and Camilla and the Listowel Connection

Feeding Time

Photo; Graham Davies


The Great and the Good arrive for Opening Night, Listowel Writers’ Week 2018

Two lovely Listowel ladies who always love to support Writers’ Week are Nora Sheahan and Betty Stack

Singer/songwriter, John Spillane arrives for Opening Night.

Seamus Hosey of Rte, a regular at Writers’ Week.

Con and Catherine Kirby of Listowel love Writers’ Week.

One of the stars of the festival in 2018 was the great Pauline Bewick. She came to opening night with her daughter, Poppy. The artists were greeted by fellow artist and chair of Writers’ Week Art Committee, Jim Dunn.

Vincent Carmody of Listowel brought some Newcastlewest friends.

Canon Declan O’Connor, whose father was once a chairperson of Listowel Writers’ Week arrived accompanied by Bishop Ray Browne, Bishop of Kerry.

Breda Moore came with her daughter.

Joan McCarthy, Head of Tourism in Kerry County Council, appreciates her native town’s magnificent tourism offering.

Tom McEllistrim was there.

Journalist, Gerard Mulvihill, arrived with family and friends.

Gerard Mulvihill is one of five students from Kildare, Kerry, Dublin and Galway about to commence their summer internships as part of the HRI Student Internship Programme. The interns will be based in HRI’s head office at Ballymany, Kildare in the Marketing and Communications Departments and Tote Ireland and at Leopardstown Racecourse.                  Source; Go Racing on Facebook

Our own Fr. Martin Hegarty came to enjoy yet another Writers’ Week.


Listowel Folklore recorded by children in 1938

Peggy’s Leg

Kevin Sheehy of Church St. interviewed Dan Broderick also of Church Street.

Dan remembered a woman called Peggy Carey who used to make a confection called Peggy’s Leg. It was made from sugar and farmers’ butter. Peggy also sold seagrass. Peggy used to  sell her wares at “Listowel Cross out in Newtown”. I’m presuming this refers to Moyvane.  The Peggy’s Leg cost  two pence. 

Another local confectioner was Bridge Conway. She used to sell penny bars which she made herself. 


Have a go at this novel competition


John Hannon Archive Photos Revisited

I posted this picture of these two handsome devils before and no body could help me with names. The reason no-one had names is because they were not local men at all but apparently came to town with a “Wall of Death” attraction. They rode motorbikes around a cage climbing higher and higher up a mesh ‘wall”.

I met this handsome devil, Batt O’Keeffe and he remembered the occasion well. It was the first date for himself and his now wife Gertie in Banna.


The Duchess, the Silver Bookmark, Presentation 75 Commemorative book, A nun, a poem and The Listowel Connection

On Friday last we had a working meeting for the Presentation Commemorative Book. 

Sr. Mary MacMahon and Sr. Consolata hard at work on choosing photos for inclusion.

People have been really generous with memories and memorabilia and we are in the work of drawing it all together, so if you have promised and haven’t done it yet, time is running out.

One of the contributions was a poem from Sr. Una Harman. You’ll have to wait for the book to read it in full but the theme is around opportunity and the doors that are opened to Pres. girls all thanks to four pioneering sisters who brought education to Listowel girls.

The poem mentions a yearbook which was sent to Sr. Una by her nieces, Darina and Elaine from Ireland in 1994.

“We should find that yearbook,” says I and put it with the poem.

The yearbook cover in 1994 was designed by none other than Eileen Moylan, now a very successful artist in silver, gold and precious stones.

I return from the school and I’m trawling through Facebook as you do, and in a little piece of synchronicity, there is account of the very same Eileen who has designed a piece which was presented to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall by the deputy Lord Mayor of Cork.

This photo was taken as the deputy lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Ian Doyle is showing Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall around the headquarters of Irish Guide Dogs during her visit on June 14 2018

The duchess was presented with a bookmark designed and executed by Listowel silversmith, Eileen Moylan at her studio in Macroom.

This is the bookmark and the translation of the lines by Cork Poet, Seán ORiordáin.

AND Eileen also made the chain of office which is being worn by the deputy mayor.

Watching Rás Tailteann, Iceland Opens and an icon in St. Mary’s

Photo: Chris Grayson


People I met at Rás Tailteann on May 23 2018

Helen, P.J. and Joan stopped on their way from mass to wave the cyclists off.

Eilish, Maria and Sharon popped out of the Writers’ Week office to promote the festival to the race watchers.

Christy, Norita and Joan in The Square

Moriarty family out in force to support Eugene


From the Johnny Hannon Archive

Batt and Gertie O’Keeffe


It’s Open

Iceland Listowel in Mill Lane opened on May 22 2018


In St. Mary’s Listowel


Famous People meet a Blog Follower

Danny O’Connor from Gurtinard met father and son actors, Brendan and Domhnall Gleeson in New York


Woodford Pottery

Pat Murphy gave me a sneak peak at his latest design innovation. He is still making his trademark blue  black and green kitchenware but now his creative juices are flowing in a whole new direction  and he is planning a white with a pop of colour range for the autumn.

I love them. What do you think?

Pat also has a beautiful range of souvenir mugs especially for Writers’ Week. You can pick them up in the craft shop at Galvins in William Street.

Kerry Idioms explained, Two of Listowel’s old stock and Many Young Men of Twenty

Photo: Breda O’Mullane, Malow Camera Club


Was That Summer 2018?

Beautiful sunshine in Ballybunion on April 19 2018


The Kerryman Unbuttoned  Part 2

by Redmond O’Hanlon in Shannonside Annual

…..In those days
rural Kerry was strange to me. I knew even less of the county, if that were
possible, than the Customs man at the six county border post who inspected my
pass on one occasion. “Ah, Listowel! I see” he remarked knowledgeably as he
examined my right to pass from one part of my own country to another, “I hear
they’re all six footers and Irish speakers down there.” Whatever about the
physique, I was soon to find that Irish was a sub stratum of the talk of field
and fair in Kerry.

Of words lifted
bodily from the Irish and first heard in Kerry I like to hear talk of collops.
This is a jewel in its English, a warm mouth- filling word, rounded in its
saying as the calves of which it tells. A satisfying word! Plucks too is simple
and expressive. Here I see a cherubic good humoured face., evidence of years of
lush feeding and rosy with content. Incidentally I can recall a townland called
Collops near The Tory Bush in Co. Cavan. But neither the land nor the people were

When I was first
told that the milk in the muller had cracked, I talked cautiously around the
subject until I learned that the milk that was heating in the saucepan had
curdled. Bread baked on a losset I found to be just as flavoursome as the farls
from the bakeboard of my youth, but only just. Bacon and cabbage from the
skillet came no different from the pot or oven. And the brand, I was to find
out, had nothing to do with the stock round up, but was only a substitute for
the bucket hoop that with us kept the griddle from getting too hot. A gruel
stick has a personality of its own, I always thought, with a higher kitchen
status in Kerry than the potstick came south from stirring the stirabout.
Crocks refer not to ancient motor cars or old wheezy men but merely to jam
jars. The woman of the house darns “broken” socks and in the interval puts down
a couple of eggs for John’s tea. When John comes in he pulls the door in after
him. Some feat this for a tired farmer, and costly in repairs……..


From John Hannon Archive

These men have been identified as Paddy Healy and Jimmy Browne


Another smiling ESB Girl

Her brother, John Antony Hegarty, sent us this photo of his sister, Josephine Hegarty at work in the ESB shop in Church Street in the 1990s.


Many Young Men of Twenty

There is nowhere better to see a John B. Keane play than in Listowel and there are no better interpreters of the great playwright’s work than his own North Kerry folk and you will find nowhere a more appreciative audience than in Listowel.

If one were  to single out one actor in a really strong cast in the latest production in St. John’s,  Batt O’Keeffe put in an outstanding performance as Danger Mulally on Friday’s opening night. I have seen Batt  play many parts over the years. His Michael James O’Flaherty in Synge’s Playboy of the Western World was top class. But it would be hard to find a more professional performance than the one Batt put in on April 20 2018. I am delighted I was there to enjoy it.

Jack McKenna, Jamie Mazzelle, Annette O’Donnell, Sonny Egan, Rebecca Stapleton, Margaret Flavin

Oliver McGrath, Batt O’Keeffe, Barry Francis, Frances Kennedy, Tommy Denihan, Conor Foley and Gearóid O’Connor

Caitríona Dillon is missing from the photograph.

In the interval I met up with three lovely ladies who were remembering John B. with great fondness and I’m sure he was smiling down  on them….Anne Keane, John B.’s grandaughter was with a great Keane family friend, Sally O’Neill and Anne’s aunt, John B.’s daughter, Joanna O’Flynn.

Aileen Hayes/ Scanlon was making a return to Listowel for the weekend. Aileen was a teacher in Presentation Secondary School, Listowel before her marriage. Joanna Keane was one of her star pupils.

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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