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 firstname.lastname@example.org
A gaelic football team from New York, composed entirely of US-born players, won the All-Ireland Junior Championship on July 16 vs. Kilkenny. The captain of the team, Danny Corridan, is the son of Listowel native, Richard Corridan. Rich is the son of the late Dr. Robert & Ella Corridan of The Square, and he emigrated to New York in 1983, where he still resides.
Rich was one of the early members of Shannon Gaels GAA, a Queens-based GAA club which was started in 2004 and for which two of his (now adult) sons have played since they were little. Danny, now 25, has played GAA since he was 6 years old and has played with other New York teams that have travelled to Ireland over the years, including the Feile football team when he was 13, the College team, and the World Games team, in addition to the New York Junior team.
After the big win, Danny and his girlfriend Erin spent a few days in Listowel visiting with aunts, uncles and cousins. He paid a visit to John Bs where Erin was briefly a guest bartender and also fitted in a climb of Carrantuohill, Killarney races, and a visit to Skellig Michael.
Dan is a frequent visitor to Ireland and even spent a semester at UCD while studying for his degree in Civil Engineering.
Rich and his American wife, Marge, have three sons and one grandchild and live in Queens.
New York players and staff celebrate their All-Ireland Junior Football Championship final win over Kilkenny at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
The “county ” anthem on the day was Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York.
Richard is a credit to the Corridan family and their great love and respect for Irish history and traditions. The loyalty and sacrifice of all the families involved in bringing all of these young men to this level of footballing skills is admirable. This is thanks in no small part to Richard and Robert Corridan of Listowel. You have achieved a truly amazing feat.
A Few More Names
Muireann O’Sullivan has been studying the photo of her old classmates and she has a few more names for us.
That class picture is a blast from the past!! Not sure of the year but we finished primary school in 1974!! How time flies! I am definite about some of the identities and those I am no fully convinced of I will denote with an *. Hopefully you will receive lots of replies and definite names.
Front row: Audrey Sheehy, *Eleanor Browne, *Christine O Driscoll Middle row: Marie O’ Halloran. *Avril O Driscoll ……, Eleanor Costello *Ann Kennelly ….. Mary Daly – Margaret Stack ….. Annette O Gorman – Phyllis O Mahony Back row: Norma Doyle, *Kate Kennelly ….. Noreen Canavan, Helen Daly, Máire Óg Hourigan, Dana Mulvihill, *Joan McElligott RIP …. Muireann Moloney, Ann Gammell
Volunteering for Saint Vincent de Paul
The ever smiling Helen, Mary and Eileen were minding the shop on the day I called.
August 15 2023
August 15, always a red letter day in Ballybunion’s calendar. Let’s hope this year is dry.
With Patrice O’Callaghan in The Listowel Arms are Wolfgang and Anita Mertens from Germany. They were last in Listowel 49 years ago. Wolfgang is a Bryan MacMahon scholar. He knows more about The Master and has more of his works than most Listowel people.
I’ll tell you all about Wolfgang and Anita’s Writers Week experience tomorrow. Today I want to tell you the great story Wolfgang told me. It illustrates the kind of people they are.
Wolfgang has had a long love affair with Ireland and Anglo Irish literature.
He came to Ireland as a very young man in 1966 and he and his friend were hitch hiking all round the country.
They found themselves in a place called Kate’s Bridge in Co. Down on a Sunday morning. Cars were passing them east and west going to one religious service or other. No one was stopping.
They had almost given up hope when, in late afternoon, a car stopped. It was being driven by a local man called Danny Doran. Danny had seen then in the morning when he had a car full of his family and no room for hitchhikers. He picked them up and took them to his house.
Danny was a carpenter. He lived in a small house with his wife and 10 children. There was a bedroom for Danny and his wife, one bedroom for boys and one for girls. The weary German hikers were only too happy to bunk in with the boys. In the following days Danny gave then a tour of the area and a lifelong friendship was forged.
Years later Danny’s daughter, Susan, was on a camping trip with her friend on the continent and she decided to visit Wolfgang and Anita.
Susan was an inexperienced camper and she had brought one of her father’s heavy mallets to hammer in the tent pegs. Wolfgang told her that she was foolish to be carrying around something so heavy. He took her big mallet and gave her a light hammer, promising that if he ever came to Ireland he would return her father’s mallet.
Fifty seven years later, he had the mallet with him in his camper van when he was in Listowel last week and he intended taking in Co. Down on his 7 week tour around Ireland.
Out and About with Camera
I call it out and about, Billy Keane called it “on the prowl”.
Three generations, grandfather, father and son/grandson on Saturday May 20 2023. Billy was on his way to the match.
We won’t mention any results, football or rugby.
Thank you Ashley Fitzgerald of Listowel Credit Union for taking these photographs of details on the fabulous Paddy Fitzgibbon Celtic Artwork piece that is on display in the office.
Exciting new Venue for Writers’ Week 2023
What will be happening here on Friday and Saturday of next week?
Answer; A songwriting workshop for absolute beginners with Fiachra McKeever
I’m told that the bar won’t be open and there will be no alcoholic beverages available.
If you fancy you have a latent Phil Coulter or John Lennon in you, I’m told there is a place or two left.
I happened to be in the Bon Secours hospital in Cork on January 24 2023. The hospital was celebrating its anniversary.
Over the years The Bons has been good to me. An anniversary is a time for reflection. Not all my visits there were happy ones!
The Clock of Life is Wound but Once
The song My Grandfather’s Clock dates back to 1876. It tells the story from a child’s perspective of a clock bought for his grandfather on the day of his birth. Mysteriously it stopped working on the day he died. Maybe it was only a mystery to the child. I am old enough to remember the custom of manually stopping the clocks when someone in the house died.
My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf, So it stood ninety years on the floor; It was taller by half than the old man himself, Though it weighed not a pennyweight more. It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born, And was always his treasure and pride; But it stopp’d short — never to go again — When the old man died.
Ninety years without slumbering (tick, tick, tick, tick),
His life seconds numbering, (tick, tick, tick, tick),I
It stopp’d short — never to go again —
When the old man died.
This grandfather clock has stood in The Bons in Cork for as long as I can remember.
They’re Teasing Us
Some of the people coming to this year’s Writers’ Week. Put the dates in your diary. It looks like a good one.
Movie of the Moment
It’s all about the movies these days as the Irish film industry is having a moment.
When I think of films I think of the late Kieran Gleeson. He would be in his element just now, lapping up all the movie news.
I am printing here an old post from 2016. It is Billy Keane’s tribute to Kieran, our man of cinema, published in the Irish Independent after Kieran’s untimely death.
Billy Keane’s Tribute to Kieran Gleeson Irish Independent Jan 25 2016
Kieran Gleeson’s eyes lit up as he explained the background to the film he was showing, and you could see he was excited – excited about sharing all he knew with his audience there in his three-screen cinema in a small country town.
There was always an introduction before his cinema club films on a Thursday night. This was his night, the night when he got to choose the films he loved. Kieran spoke as all the knowledgeable do – in simple, easy-to-understand language.
Kieran has been in love with the cinema ever since he stood up on the piled-high metal boxes that were used for storing magic reels. There, he was the spellbound kid looking out through the porthole in the projectionist’s room with his dad and grandad in their country cinema in Cappamore, County Limerick. Afterwards, he would be full of excitement and full of talk.
Kieran ‘the man’ is still ‘the boy’ in the projection room. Often, we would be kept on after the crowd had gone home for a discussion about the movie he was showing. He knew his stuff, did Kieran. There was no showing off, just teaching and sharing. The soft, gentle but passionate voice, hoarse from too much talk, is gone for good now.
Kieran’s life is a silent movie. He breathes with the help of a machine. Our small town hero’s chest rises and falls with every breath. It’s as if he’s a marathon runner at the end of a gruelling race. Kieran Gleeson who rescued, owns and loves our local cinema here in Listowel – has advanced Motor Neurone Disease.
But he’s still communicating. Kieran writes a little, but only with great effort. He sends text messages, nods in agreement or moves his eyes towards something he wants you to read.
Kieran writes ’29’ on a sheet of paper and hands it to his wife, Teresa. Did you ever notice it when two people feel and read each other’s thoughts? They seem to instinctively know what the other person is thinking. The bond has to be strong, but there’s more than just tuning in. The two must share the dream.
The 29 refers to January 29, 1987 – the day the cinema in Listowel reopened under Kieran’s management.
The cinema had been closed for two years. Kieran was driving by one day with his mother and he noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign up over The Astor Cinema. There and then, he made up his mind to buy the rat-infested wreck. A local businessman told Kieran he was “absolutely mad” – and maybe he was. Small town cinemas were going the way of small shops. There are only a few independent cinemas left in Ireland. The prophesy of failure made Kieran all the more determined to succeed. He worked day and night and, bit by bit, the cinema began to pay for itself. His mother helped out every Sunday when the cinema was at it’s busiest.
Kieran opened three screens and he had the best of films showing at the same time as the big cities. He was one of the first to embrace digitalisation and encouraged Jimmy Deenihan, the then Arts Minister, to provide grant assistance to a number of cinemas.
Hard-up parents were given deals. Kids who didn’t have enough money were never refused. Kieran often declined the big money-making movies if he felt they were bad. He never overcharged for tickets, sweets or popcorn. Director Ger Barrett – who is now about to release his third movie, ‘Brain on Fire’, later this year – was allowed in for free. Ger premiered his last movie, ‘Glassland’, in Listowel – and the night was turned into a tribute to his mentor and friend. Actor Jack Reynor came along and Kieran was so buzzed up that the illness was put into remission for a night. It was like the football coach who sees the player he trained as a kid step o collect an All-Ireland medal.
I was only three, but I remember being brought to The Astor for ‘Summer Holiday’ by Bernie Buckley – who was babysitting me then, and still does. Dad and I cried when Davy Crockett died at the Alamo. It was here I had the first lip-kiss in the back seat.
Sometimes, when our kids were young, we’d be there at the pictures and, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kieran standing in the aisle at the back, taking it all in. He was enjoying the kids enjoying the picture show. The light flickered over his smiling face and, if ever there was man who was happy at work, well, it was him. There and then, and always. After all, he gave up his studies in accountancy to help run the family cinema in Cappaghmore when his dad died suddenly from a heart attack.
There have been tough times and, last year, thousands of euro were stolen from the safe by heartless thieves. Teresa is trying to get to grips with the details of running a cinema, but she’s learning fast. Best of all, she and Kieran are determined to keep the cinema going. “Our staff have been so good to us,” she says.
Kieran had been checking out the possibility of live streaming concerts and sporting events. He had big plans.
The kids come in from school and Kieran gets a smile out. Teresa, I know, struggles to come to terms with how it is that such a decent man suffers so much. She is loyal to him as a full-time carer on a break from her job in the civil service, and loyal to his vision for the family-run cinema. Such is the practicality of true love and mutual respect.
Teresa sent me a link to a Radio Kerry interview with John Herlihy, where Kieran speaks of his love of the sounds of the old cinema projection room with the 35mm reels. “We treasure that now,” she says. “It’s all we have of his voice.”
He shuffles in his wheelchair to attract my attention. He shows me the screen on his phone. This week, Kieran is showing ‘The Revenant’ and ‘Creed’, as well as kids’ movies. Still promoting his cinema as he fights for every movement. There is such a powerful, undefeated will within him. As I leave, I kiss my friend gently on the head and thank him for all he has done for all of us.
Kieran was a lovely kind man. His screen 3 was the only one which was wheelchair accessible. Kieran offered to show any film which normally was showing in One or Two in Screen 3 on a Monday night, just to suit Jim Cogan. All we had to do was ask.
It was an offer we never took him up on but we greatly appreciated the kind gesture.
This lovely doggie was taking a day off from searching and rescuing.
Some well known local faces in the crowd
Tony and Mary Frances watching history being made
Jim, Colette and Liz on Church Street
The Little Cheese Shop
This unusual little shop was where I lunched recently. I was at the consultant in The Kerry Clinic at the Bon Secours Hospital. I had not been in this part of town for years and I was looking forward to a lunch in the lovely Bons Café. Alas the café is no more. Well, it is still there but now it’s for staff only.
Nothing for it but to leg it to town. This was the first eatery I met. As you can see from my picture its by The Island of Geese just down the road from the hospital.
If you are dairy intolerant, don’t be put off by the name. You can have a lovely lunch without a hint of milk, cheese, yoghurt or other dairy produce.
I dined upstairs and I was fascinated by this “side hustle”, coats made from woolen blankets.
The dairy theme was echoed in the improvised furniture. The router sat on an old butter churn.
If you are in Tralee, give it a go. They are very nice.
`Today’s Christmassy piece
A Listowel Christmas card with artwork by Michael O’Connor and verse by Bryan MacMahon.
This is artist Moira Keane and publican Billy Keane. I took the photo in John B.’s on Aug 25 2022 when Moira came from her home in Galway to sign the mural she had painted when she was a young art teacher in town.
Billy put on a great show for her.
We started with Micky MacConnell.
He sang a Galway song especially for Moira. We were back with Mickey and his first love “busking in Eyre Square” having arrived in his old car, Flattery, which got him everywhere.
Then, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, another John B. regular, read a poem or two for us.
In honour of the occasion, the Lartigue Little Theatre Group were staging a special performance of the closing scene in Sive. Denis Mahoney explained to us that it was difficult to adapt it for this small intimate venue, but the cast had pulled out all the stops for this special night.
There is something special about seeing the play performed in the house where it was written.
Con Kirby was excellent in the role of the “withered old lurgadawn of a man”, the lecherous Seán Dota.
Katie Lucey was “the sweet flower of the canavaun” as Sive.
That match was never going to work.
Pats Bacach (Mike Moriarty) put the heart crossways in us as he summoned Carthalawn (Brendan Kennelly) to curse Tomsásheen Seán Rua who had made the match.
When Liam Scuab enters carrying the body of Sive, everyone is chastened.
Those who should have cared for Sive have let their own unhappy situations lead them for a mad moment into believing that this match was the right thing to do.
Sive is a marvellous play. I grew up in an Ireland that had only recently come out of that awful era. I feel sympathy for every one of those characters.