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Tag: Blennerville

Blennerville, Tomb of the 12th Knight of Kerry, A Timebomb in Tralee and a Pilgrimage to Knock in 2019

This stunning image of Blennerville comes to us from Eamon ÓMurchú


Burial Place of The Knight of Kerry

(Photo and text from Lixnaw Heritage and Historical Society)

This is the grave of John Fitzgerald, 12th Knight of Kerry.

The knight is buried in Dysert graveyard outside Lixnaw.

The yew trees in the background and the beautiful countryside around it create a very fitting atmosphere.

The Knights of Kerry were also known as the ‘Green Knights’, and it was a hereditary feudal knighthood, established by the Norman lords who invaded Ireland in the 12th century.

Katherine Fitzgerald (nee Fitzmaurice), the 12th Knight’s wife, the 13th Knight and his two brothers, are also buried in this peaceful crypt.


Ah, Sweet!

Christy Walsh and his lovely daughter, Olivia, having a cuppa and a natter in Main Street last week.


Believe it or Believe it Not

A story from The Kerryman of August 2011 and shared on Facebook


ONE of the Crimean War cannons outside the Courthouse was a timebomb until the Army defused it this week.

People walked past the cannon, one of a pair standing outside the Tralee Courthouse in Ashe Street, unaware the five sticks of gelignite, a detonator and a fusewire were hidden inside the barrel.

The explosives had lain hidden there for about 20 years following an abortive attempt to destroy the cannons.

Following a tip-off, an Army disposal team, with Garda back-up, moved in last Thursday and removed the explosives, later destroying them.

It is understood that the gelignite could have exploded; especially as the condition of it deteriorated over the years.

A Garda spokesman told The Kerryman: “Any gelignite found after a numbers of years would almost certainly be in a dangerous condition. And dampness would increase this danger.”

He said he believed the gelignite found in the cannons would be damp, making the situation more dangerous.

The two cannons at the Courthouse serve as memorials to Kerryman who died in the Crimean War of 1854-56, the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and the Chinese War of 185860.

Tralee Courthouse, except for the outer circular limestone walls, has been reconstructed at a cost of £0.5m.

It is due for re-opening within weeks and the stonework was being sandblasted in the cleansing processs. This work included the plinths upon which the cannons are placed.

It is believed that people who became aware of the presence of the gelignite decided to notify the authorities for safety reasons.<<<<<<<<
In Knock

Knockanure, Tarbert and Moyvane pilgrims on their recent trip to Knock.

Kerry in the 19th Century, a new face at Writers’ Week H.Q. and Mary Young of Ballybunion

Chris Grayson took this photo of Blennerville in Winter


Family Historians Read On

If your New Year resolution is to get down to documenting the family tree and if your ancestors come from Kerry, here is the best place to start

Find my Kerry Ancestors

Listowel native, Kay Caball, runs this website which is full of good advice and handy resources for tracing Kerry ancestry.

Here is an example of one of her interesting posts from her very entertaining blog;

A few pointers to life in
Kerry in the 19th century:

         Very few Irish people knew (or even cared about) their exact
year/date of birth. Even when they wrote down a definite date, that was just a
guess.  They weren’t trying to fool anyone or be evasive, it was just
never of any imprtance at home and only on emigration did it become necessary
in the new country for identification purposes.   So rather then
settle on a particular date, take dates in a range, from x to y.

         Most Kerry people married within neighbouring townlands. 
 They met through neighbours, relatives, friends.   In the first
half of the century, Kerry men and women mostly married in their early
twenties.  After the Great Famine 1845-1852, the average age was thirty
and over.   After the Famine,  the more land they tenanted or
eventualy owned, dictated that ‘matches’ were made. These were the middle to
‘strong’ farmers.  To marry into a farm, a girl had to have a dowry which
in turn would provide the means for the husband’s sisters to get married
themselves.   A man marrying into a wife’s farm (known  as a
‘cliamhán isteach), needed to have cash/youth (preferably both) with a view to
keeping and developing that farm.

         For most of the nineteenth century, travel in County Kerry was
walking or by horse or donkey & car.   A person walking will
average 3 – 4 miles per hour, a person riding or on a horse or donkey cart will
average 5 -8 miles per hour. Thus a person could travel up to 12 miles each
day, have time to socialise or conduct business (market day) within a 12 mile


         The nearest port for emigration, with ships mostly to Canada,
was Blennerville, the Port of Tralee
from 1828 until 1867.    The railway came to Tralee in 1859. Stopping
in Rathmore, Killarney, Farranfore and Tralee it was then possible to travel to
Queenstown or Dublin by rail and onwards from there with most ships from
Queenstown bound for New York (some via Liverpool).  Limerick Port was
also used.   Charles Bianconi’s
long cars started to serve Tralee to Cork at first c. 1828 and eventually
called to Killarney, Killorglin and as far as Glenbeigh.  Mail cars also
operated between Tralee, Dingle, Castleisland, Killarney and Listowel. 
These would be used mostly by ‘the gentry’, ordinary folk could not afford


         Taking into account the travel limitations, ask yourself where
they might have attended church, where would they have gone for market and fair
days and to purchase the ticket for their emigration?  Where did they go
for court and legal affairs?  Were there actually roads in their native
townlands?   As late as 1828, the Kenmare to Derrynane road was seven
hazardous hours on horseback and according to Daniel O’Connell, best approached
by Killarney or by sea.  Getting to north Kerry from Limerick was best
acheieved by boat to Tarbert and thence by poor and boggy roads to Tralee.

         Why did your ancestors emigrate?  To get work is the
immediate answer. Opportunities for education, particularly in the first half
of the century,  were very limited, especially if you lived outside the
main towns, and while education was highly prized, it was not always possible
for all the children in large families to avail of it.  There was no
employment for the vast majority, no land available to acquire and absolutely
no ‘opportunities’ as they are now called.

         Who paid the passage and why did they decide on particular
locations?   This is probably one and the same question.  Single
people emigrating got the fare
from relatives already in the emigrant country, which would be paid back after
arrival and employment.  This ‘passage money’ would then be re-cycled on
to the next brother or sister whose turn would come to take the 
boat.   The location was not chosen by the emigrant, he/she choose to
go where there were already relatives, neighbours and friends who would try to
have jobs already lined up on arrival.  Different Kerry parishes are well
known for providing large numbers of immigrants who settled in the same
destinations.  West Kerry and Ballyferriter/Dunquin/The Blasket Island
natives almost all went to Springfield, Massachusetts.   Ballymacelligott
natives went in large numbers to New Zealand and the Beara Peninsula people
went to Montana.   The Five Points, Lr. Manhattan became home to
hundreds of Lansdowne Estate emigrants.


         Why are names of our ancestors all spelled in different
ways?   Standarised spelling was not the norm, poor education meant
that a lot of people could not read or write in English.   A majority
of Kerry people spoke mostly Irish up to the Great Famine with those in the
Dingle Penisula and South Kerry continuing to do so.  If a clergyman or
government official wrote your name down as he heard it and you were unable to
read or write yourself, you just went along with that spelling for the rest of
your life and indeed so did your descendants.   I have just been
tracing a family of ‘Corrigans’ who turn out to be ‘Corridons’ in Kerry and I
could quote many more such examples.  And we won’t get into the Sullivans
(or O’Sullivans)
who ordinarlily went by a ‘branch’ name at home and still used that on arrival
in the U.S., making it very very difficult to find ancestors later.

         Aother query often received.  Yes both ‘Sullivan’ and
‘O’Sullivan’ are the same as well as all the other ‘O’s  – O’Connor,
O’Connell, O’Driscoll, O’Neill, etc.,(Connor/Connell/Driscoll/Neill).

                  Last but not least, if your ancestor seems to have married two
different ladies, or two different men, check that the first has died, or that
the Church marriage register (pre 1864) or Civil Marriage record (post 1864)
denotes widow or widower as No, we didn’t have divorce in Ireland (or Kerry)
until June 1996.


A New Face in Listowel Writers’ Week Office

 Sinead MacDonnell is the new kid on the block. She joins Eilish Wren, Maria McGrath and Máire Logue. This is the team who will be organising the festival for 2018.

Writers Week will run from May 30th to June 3 2018


Who is Mary Young?

On my “Twelve Cribs of Christmas” tour with my Christmas visitors I made it to Ballybunion. Above is the lovely crib in their magnificent church.

This was my first opportunity to see and photograph the new statue of Mary Young. Apart from the fact that the image made me feel cold (it was a freezing day in this exposed space), I’m not at all sure this sculpture is appropriate in its current location.

We are used to statues of saints in the grounds of our churches. It will take me a while to get used to a statue of a rich benefactor, dressed for a ball rather than a trip to mass.

Who was Mary Young?

According to a report in The Kerryman at the unveiling of the statue, Mary was a very generous contributor to the parish of Ballybunion.

She was born, Mary O’Malley, in Kilconly. She married John Young, an English tea planter whom she met in Clare where she was working and they lived in Dublin.

After John’s death, she inherited his great wealth. She came to live in Ballybunion. She lived at Doon Road for 12 years. When she returned to Dublin in the early 1880s she gave her house to the the parish to be used as a school.  The Sisters of Mercy built a convent and ran a school there for over 100 years.

Mary returned from Dublin and built herself a new house in Church Road and she suggested to Fr. O’Connor that they build a new church to be called St. John’s “in memory of her husband”. 

Mary used much of her inherited wealth to build the church. It cost €8,500.  It was built in the style of Pugin which was a style very popular at the time.

The church was designed in 1892 by the Dublin-based architect George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921). Building began in 1894, but Mary Young died later that year before the church was completed, and she is buried with her husband in Kilehenny Cemetery. The first Mass in the church was celebrated on 6 August 1897, when Saint John’s was completed. 

(source: Patrick Comerford )

Her contribution to Ballybunion is enormous and she richly deserves to be remembered and honoured. 

However I wouldn’t have put her on her own in a low cut ballgown on a cold seat outside the magnificent church she helped to build.


New Face of Tralee, 2018

Photo by Dave Curran on Facebook

Ballybunion, Sonny Canavan, Bodhrán maker and a Book Launch in Woulfe’s Bookshop

Blennerville, Co. Kerry by Chris Grayson


Ballybunion Castle

Ballybunion has shut up shop for the winter.

Why is this called Bottle Lane? Maybe someone knows the answer.

I met a few of these snails on the beach.


The Bodhrán

John B. Keane with the master Bodhrán maker, Sonny Canavan

Sonny Canavan RTE  ARCHIVE

Sonny Canavan from Dirha West in
Listowel, County Kerry is renowned for making bodhráns, traditional Irish frame

One local bodhrán player extols the virtues of the instrument. He
learned the tin whistle and the accordion when he was young, but he gave them
up when he discovered the bodhrán.

I love playing the bodhrán, I could keep playing it
from night until morning.

Sonny Canavan raises goats to provide the skin for
his instruments and he gave this particular man a goat so he too could make a
bodhrán. The man explains that after he shot and skinned the
goat, the skin was buried for nine days it was then dug up and putting
in on the bodhrán rim.

Listowel playwright John B Keane pays a visit to Sonny’s cottage to check on his
availability to speak to an American author who is writing a book about the
origins of drums. In the ensuing conversation Sonny mentions there is certain
herb in the bog that his goats like and the resulting goat’s milk is great for

There was an old lad there, back there, he was 101
years, and he was so sexy they had to lock him up, after the goat’s milk.

Early productions of John B Keane’s acclaimed play
Sive’ featured Sonny’s bodhráns and he plays the
instrument and sings a verse of a song from the play accompanied by Sonny.

A ‘Newsround’ report broadcast on 13 January 1977.
The reporter is by Brendan O’Brien.

Sonny Canavan in Newsround


Book Launch in Woulfe’s

Fr. William King is a Dublin parish priest. He is also a successful writer. In Woulfe’s book shop he was a bit closer to home and among family and friends to launch his new novel, A Lost Tribe. This novel deals with the changing role of the Catholic church in Irish society and the struggle of an idealistic priest ,finding himself in a new and often hostile environment. I haven’t read it yet but I’ll let you know my verdict when I do.

Fr. William King, the author and Dr. Declan Downey who was the guest speaker at the launch.

Brenda Woulfe, William King, Declan Downey and Mary Sobieralski.

 Mary was helping to keep the party going.

Many neighbours, friends and relatives from Kilflynn and beyond attended the launch.

Blennerville, Jumbo’s Listowel and some folklore

Pimp my Windmill

(photos :Kiteman)

Blennerville Windmill is undergoing an overhaul and facelift.



Mrs Quill of Derridaff told
this story to an unnamed schoolgirl in 1937.

There was a school in
Meenganare. It was a low thatched building with only one very small window.The
floor was earth and in Winter, when the roof leaked, the children’s feet were
mired in muck. Seating for the pupils
was a plank of wood resting on two blocks of wood.

It was a one teacher school.
The teacher was a Mr. Purcell, a native of Cork. He taught there from 1844 to
1879. Mr. Purcell lived in lodgings near the school and he was paid every

Both pupils and teacher spoke
only Irish. The only subjects that were taught in the school were Irish and English. The
teacher wrote on a large stone flag which rested against the wall and the
children wrote on slates.


Jumbo’s Memories, then and now

(photos; Jumbo’s)


Progress at Lidl

Roof done now. Work will move indoors next week necessitating the closure of the store.


Tidy Towns

Still cleaning Up!!! Well done all!

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