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

Tag: Billy McSweeney Page 1 of 2

books and libraries, more on the Taormina Duomo Fresco and A minute of your Time launch

Pigeon

Not the most popular of our feathered friends

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Listowel Connection in Ballincollig

 Here I am in Ballincollig library with another proud North Kerry woman, Helen Bambury of Ballylongford. Helen and I enjoy a good old natter about North Kerry whenever I am in Ballincollig and we are both in the knitting group.

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Reading A Minute of Your Time

Dave and Mary enjoying a quick peak before dinner.

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That Fresco



Maybe not a woman after all



Nicholas Leonard was convinced it was a woman on Christ’s right hand. This is what he wrote;


That surely is a woman in that fresco- she has no beard, has finer, feminine, facial features (alliteration unintended) has no sandals, has slender arms and small hands, compared to Our Lord and other men.  The usual argument for not having women priests is that none was present at the Last Supper and therefore no woman received the power or authority to consecrate the bread and wine, etc. This apparent lady was obviously not a servant as she was at the right hand of Jesus,and was closer to him than men there, even had her hand familiarly on his arm as if a ‘wife,’ or someone very close, usually would have- the men there did not adopt her close attitude and position. Could it  be Mary Magdalen; she was close to Our Lord; or could it be His Mother, Mary? She was sort of ‘in charge’ of and advising  Him at the wedding Feast of Cana, like a mother would. Maybe she was trying to talk ‘sense’ into Him!!


But Billy McSweeney wrote again with some clarification.

While I was in Sicily I went back to the Taormina Duomo and did a further bit of research, mainly through reputable tour guides. There were not too many people in that “Greek” part of Sicily, on the Eastern coast, that spoke English. I was not aware of the story that unfolded.

I gleaned that nearly all artistic post works based on the Last Supper were interpretations of Leonardo da Vinci’s fantastic fresco in the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan. This latter world-famous art was, in reality, a failed experiment, not a genuine ‘fresco’, having been painted on dry plaster by da Vinci in 1495 as opposed to the tried and trusted tradition at the time of painting on wet plaster, This caused it to deteriorate rapidly but because it was so fantastic it has fortunately been copied many times and attempts have also been made to restore the original fresco with varying success.

The story is that the painting depicts da Vinci’s interpretation of the scene of consternation a moment after Christ dropped the bombshell to the Apostles that he would be betrayed by one of them. Da Vinci’s take on the incident is coloured by many lesser efforts by other people in the previous 1400 years and possibly by his own inclinations.

My interest was aroused by the figure sitting at Christ’s right hand-side in the terracotta relief under the altar in the Taormina Duomo. This particular relief was done by Meister Turi Azzolina of Messina in 2014. Like all the others it has striking resemblances to da Vinci’s painting. Apparently the figure on Christ’s right is that of John the Evangelist, the “Beloved Apostle”, who was the youngest Apostle and was recognized as being effeminate in his looks. Dan Brown, the best-selling author of ‘The da Vinci Code’ (2003) picked up on this and dramatized it by suggesting that the figure was, in reality, that of Mary Magdalene. This makes for a good story for the Sicilian guides and although there is some expert justification for showing Mary Magdalene in the painting the general feeling is of ‘one never knows?’. She was widely venerated in her role as the “Apostle to the Apostles” and was the patron of the Dominican Order, for whom The Last Supper was painted. It was from the Dominican Order that Inquisitors were chosen so they would have been influential enough to silence any attempt by the Inquisition to denounce the painting. 

It is said that the Dominican Abbott, for whom da Vinci was working, complained that the freco was taking too long to complete. Da Vinci is reputed to have replied that he was having difficulty in getting the face and expression of Judas right but, if the Abbott so wished, he would use the Abbott’s face as the model!! The complaint was immediately withdrawn.

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The Launch


Charlie Nolan recorded the whole thing on October 19 2019 and here is a flavour of a great night for you to enjoy

Launch of A minute of Your Time

Wartime Rationing, Bishop in Moyvane and Patricia Lynch’s Grey Goose of Kilnevin and Athea in Stripes

Rutting Season 2019

Chris Grayson took this fellow’s photo as he took a rest from the exertions of The Rut.


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A Listowel Memory of Rationing


The following story about a childhood memory of rationing, the tea chest, and a kindly adult comes to us from Billy McSweeney


The blog today reminded me of the fear of losing the ration book on my way to Mrs Twomey’s shop in the 1940’s. The ration book was kept in a cupboard in the kitchen and was entrusted to one on pain of death, to go to the shops. I still have visions and fear of hunger and starvation attached to that infernal book and the awful responsibility that went with it. I still remember the smile on Mrs Twomey’s face one day when I ordered ½ stone of Tea and  ¼ lb Sugar. Only those of your readers who are of that age or have an appreciation of the old weights and measures will realise that those order  weights were back to front; hence Mrs. Twomey’s smile. The correct order was dispensed naturally and the debit added to the ‘Order Book’ which accompanied the ration book. My mother paid the ‘Order Book’ on a weekly basis. This was really serious business. 

Twomey’s shop was an old-style establishment. The front half was the grocery and the back half was a pub. Today it is the Kingdom Bar, at the top of Church Street. For her part I can still see Mrs Twomey, with Kitty, her assistant, weighing out tea from a tea-chest and sugar from sacks into paper bags which when full were tied with cord, to be ready for sale; tea in ¼ lb bags and sugar in ½ stone paper bags . The empty tea-chest was usually donated to a family with a young child to have the four edges of the top covered with horsehair under a wax cloth for protection; and used as a ‘cot’ to mind a very young child. The cord from the retail bags was saved for future use by the familys. You learned to save everything because it could be of future use. My own earliest childhood memory is being in such a tea-chest at our front door on Upper Church Street and being spoken to very kindly by Joe Galvin, a schoolboy about five years older than myself,  on his way to the  old National school which was no more than 100 metres further up the street probably at 9.00am. One should be very careful of the way you speak to a young child. It could leave a lifelong memory. Joe stopped and spoke kindly to me, a child of no more than 1½ years old taking the morning air in a tea-chest, whereas all the other scholars just passed me by.

These times are returning according to our young Swedish friend that spoke bravely to the United Nations last week. She is a reminder to all of us of how arrogant and wasteful we have become.

Billy McSweeney

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FCA Guard of Honour



I borrowed this photo from the Moyvane website and I posted it with the caption that was attached, i.e. soldiers on Main Street.

Kay Caball recognised her uncle Micheál O’Connor, father of our own Canon Declan, as the soldier escorting the bishop.

Now maybe someone will remember the year and the occasion. Seems to be a big crowd in town for it anyway.



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An Old Favourite



Do you know that in the library they have lots of free books for you to take away? You can also donate books you have read and no longer need.

In this marvellous box of books that the library have taken out of stock I found this treasure. I remember reading it as a child. I loved The Turfcutter’s Donkey and all his adventures. I lived about 2 miles outside of town but I very often cycled in to the library two and three times a day. The library is surely one of the best public services we have.

 In case you have never heard of Patricia Lynch I photographed the flyleaf for you.

These are two of the marvellous Sean Keating illustrations from the book.

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Athea in the News


Bridie Murphy took this super duper photograph of Athea’s very successful fundraising run for the Ronald MacDonald House. David Twomey in the centre of the picture was the winner of the race but the big winner on the day was the Ronald MacDonald House. Well done Athea.

All caught up in ‘er oh-la-la

Clap ‘ands, stamp yer feet, Ye-e-a-y

Bangin’ on the big bass drum

What a picture, what a picture

Um-tiddly-um-pum-um-pum-pum

Stick it in your fam’ly album

Stick it in your fam’ly

Stick it in your fam’ly

In your fam’ly album

WW1survivor, John Moore, Café Hanna , Young Adult Bookfest 2018 and Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine

Photo: Jim MacSweeney

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A Soldier of the Great War and many other wars as well (and with a Listowel connection)



On the centenary of Armistice Day, Tom Dillon, who is our local war expert, gave an entertaining and educational talk on some local aspects of WW1.

Present at that lecture was another local historian, Martin Moore. Martin had contributed some of his family memorabilia to the exhibition that accompanied the talk. On Facebook I found that he had talked to his dad on Armistice Day about the family hero of the war.

Here is what Martin wrote on Nov. 11 2018

“First World War ended 100 years today, one of the greatest conflicts of humankind. This was remembered tonight at a most dignified event organised by historian Tom Dillon and hosted by Cara. It was nice to sit down with my dad who is nearly ninety years. His uncle John served with the New Zealand forces in those eventful years ..from Gallipoli, Egypt and France. He survived the War even though wounded in 1917. One of the lucky ones. John Moore’s army life brought him to the 5 Continents and he was decorated by the King of Serbia along the way!! 

Remembered on this day by his family”

Martin Moore’s picture of his father, Michael holding photographs and medals of his uncle, John.

It sounds to me like there is material for another history talk in that man’s life. 


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Lovely Old Photo


(Taken by Johnny Hannon R.I.P.)


I’m sure there are people who immediately recognise these ladies.

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Listowel Food Fair 2018



Listowel Food Fair is going from strength to strength. This year I had lunch for the over 50s in Allos, brunch in Café Hanna, a demonstration of Lithuanian cooking in Scribes, the food trail to Jumbos, The Listowel Arms, John B.’s and Lizzies and on Sunday I enjoyed the craft and food market. I only got to a faction of the many events organised for this year’s event.

If you like getting dressed up, there was a gala dinner in The Listowel Arms with a kind of Oscars of the food world. There was a grand opening too and all kinds of talks and demonstrations. If you missed it this year be sure to put it on your list of marvellous festivals in Listowel for 2019.

I met Carol and Phil at the brunch in John R.’s Café Hanna.

Cliona McKenna was my dining companion.

This was the super menu. We both had the eggs Benedict and pancakes, me blueberries, she red velvet.

Here is Billy McSweeney telling me yet another tale.

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Listowel Writers’ Week Young Adult Bookfest 2018

This marvellous one day event began life a s part of Listowel Writers’ Week June festival. The timing was not ideal for secondary school students who were usually doing end of year exams at this time. It was decided to change the date and this new stand -alone one day event took place for the first time in 2017. It was such a success that this year’s event sold out in jig time.

On November 16 2018 over 800 secondary school pupils, mostly Transition Year and Fifth Year students gathered in Listowel Community Centre for a feast of educational and entertainment.

Máire Logue is seen here commissioning two of the outdoor volunteers for their traffic duties. As you can appreciate buses and cars had to be marshalled into position to make sure everyone got to the venue safely and on time.

John Kelliher took this photo of the outdoor crew, Jim Dunn, Mike Lynch, Rose Wall and Tom Dillon. They did a great job in fairly showery and cold conditions.

 Liz and Elma were busy directing the audience to their allocated seats.

Seán McCarthy and Joanna O’Flynn helped early arrivals to take a selfie.

 Eilish Wren and Mairead Costelloe were busy meeting and greeting.

Rhona Tarrant was MC for the day. Here she is looking over her notes on the running order.

Teachers, Mary Twomey and Gerard Tarrant were enjoying the day.

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Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine 2018









Saturday morning November 17 2018 and Eason Listowel gets its first drop of Ballydonoghue Parish Magazines



The people behind this magazine have brought us another cracker. Parish magazines are becoming a rarity. It’s hard to find dedicated people to collect the stories, take the photographs, edit, proofread and lay out the journal. And then they have to launch and distribute it. Its a mammoth task. I take my hat off to the great people who keep Ballydonoghue Parish going year after year.

Each year’s publication is eagerly awaited by the Lisselton diaspora. Postage charges have gone through the roof and it means that to buy a magazine and post it is now costs the bones of €30. I beg you to continue sending it. It means a lot to people missing home.

I caught up with the delivery detail again as they made their drop in Flavin’s of Church Street.

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+ R.I.P.  Weeshie Fogarty+




Photo: Radio Kerry

Billy MacSweeney Remembers, Leahy’s Corner, and a Listowel Connection to Ireland’s Fittest Family

A nun and a church…images of Listowel Town Square

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Leahy’s Corner



Before it was Leahy’s it was O’Callaghan’s and it was the first slated house in The Square, Vincent Carmody told me.

Now a trip down memory lane, memories evoked by photos of Leahy’s Corner.

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Billy MacSweeney Remembers the Listowel of his Youth

“Ag dul siar ar m’aistear le solas mo chroí”

This corner of The Square is known locally as Leahy’s Corner. Billy MacSweeney remembers it well as it was when he was a boy growing up in Listowel

When I was a boy it was normal for the children of the town to wander throughout not only the countryside but also the town. I was an 
inveterate wanderer. Listowel was a very safe place to grow up – safe 
that is from everything but climbing and falling out of trees, falling 
into the river Feale when fishing or being poisoned by the things we dug 
up or picked from the hedgerows to eat. We also had to beware of the 
bull in Foley’s field along the banks of the river when heading for the 
‘Diving Board’, the ‘Rocks’ or the ‘Falls’ to enjoy the swimming. We 
accepted that if we did something wrong we were punished by a ‘clip 
around the ear’ from the nearest adult and this was accepted as right 
and proper by all other parents of the area. You learned never to 
complain at home because if you did another ‘clip’ was administered 
immediately by your parents. You thus learned right from wrong.   A real 
Huckleberry Finn existence!

We would ‘attach’ ourselves to adults when they were doing interesting 
things. In particular I remember Jack Leahy who lived at the corner of 
the ‘Big Square’. Jack had a horse and cart that he used to collect 
gravel from the banks of the Feale for local builders. He had to ford 
the river with the horse and cart to access the bends in the river where 
the gravel collected. I used jump up next to Jack and go with him on 
these adventures and he always had a spare shovel on board so that I 
could give a hand. What fascinated me in the evenings is that he would 
unhitch the horse from the cart in front of his shop and lead the horse 
through the front door at the side of the shop, through the hallway, 
into the stable at the back. I remember Jack as a caring and gentle man. 
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam or ‘ Ar ḋeis Dé go raiḃ a anam,  as it was then.

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Cousins at a wedding


I met Junior Griffin at the hotel on the day after a family wedding. He was saying goodbye to his Sharry nephews, Michael and Paul.  Michael is based in Coventry and Paul is in Singapore. To my delight they revealed that they are fans of Listowel connection.


Griffins and Sharrys in Listowel Town Square on Sunday October15 2018

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Listowel’s Fittest Family?




Roibeard Pierse and family are taking part in the TV Show Ireland’s Fittest Family.

All of Listowel is behind this brave young crew.

Listowel Library, a piece of doggerel, a funny picture and a great night out on February 27 2018

Photo: Ita Hannon

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More Library Memories from Billy McSweeney

Billy has shared some more of his family and library memories with us.

Here is what he wrote;
Attached please find a copy of a brochure issued in 1995 about the

opening of the ‘New’ Kerry Co Council Branch Library. You can see that

‘Fake News’ about the burning down of the original Library in the Bridge

Road was still being spread in 1995.



I also include a photograph of my mother Maisie with my Grandparents Ned

and Annie Gleeson (nee Carmody). Annie was the very first Librarian in

the Bridge Road. She was later also Town Clerk.



You may not know that the top floor of the Church St Library was used

extensively as an infant classroom for the National School ; the teacher

was Mrs Scanlon (nee Pierce) from Market St. It was also occasionally

used for putting on ‘Entertainments’ by an adventurous group of locals

which, to my knowledge, included John B. Keane, his brother Eamon (‘The

Joker’) the actor and the Stack brothers of William St, among others.

The members of this group were the forerunners of the ‘Tom Doodle

Society’ of later fame.



Kind Regards,



Billy McSweeney




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Thunder and Lightning Author unknown

The thunder crashed

The lightning flashed

And all the world was shaken;

The little pig curled up his tail

And ran to save his bacon.

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Humour from the late Fr. Pat Moore

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Mill Lane Store has moved


from here



to here


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Night out with the Writers’ Week gang

We had a great team night out for nibbles in Christy’s and the Johnny Cash tribute concert in St. Johns.

Here are a few pictures of the local groupies.

Marie, Jim and Liz

Rose and Seán

Seán with the newly elected head of Kerry Vintners’ Association, Christy Walsh

We were not the only posse of Johnny Cash afictionados in the theatre. The ladies below are from Ballybunion.

I sat beside these lovely enthusiastic music fans who travelled from further afield to enjoy the show and enjoy it they did.

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