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

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A Listowel Lacemaker

River Feale in July 2023

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Happy Childhood Memories

Listowel Arms today

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Eleanor Belcher remembers

My father was a GP and our house was always busy as the surgery was in the front room. Next door were the Fitzgibbons. Mr Fitzgibbon was a vet and Marie and Joan were in the same age group as my sister Katrina and I. The other half of their house was let to various people. Miss Noonan was there when I was a child. She was a teacher and very popular as she gave us sponge fingers sometimes, a wonderful treat. Then came the Rochfords . both teachers with children Sheila and Eoin. Sheila was actually called Philomena but when Saint Philomena became demoted her name was changed!  They were followed by the Gannons. There were two children Renée and a boy, Barry. The young Hannon family hadn’t moved into the house next to the hotel when I was young though did so later. I do remember Maurice as a child. 

The Listowel Arms was run by Mr Gerald McElligott  and the ballroom hadn’t been built. He had one of the few cars in the Square which he kept in the large yard. It had a running board. On cold mornings we children on our way to school would be asked to push the car . 

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Listowel Lacemaker

This picture was shared on the internet. It was part of a newspaper feature on Listowel’s first Civic Pride Week. No date was given but I’m guessing sometime in the 1950s

Does anyone remember Kathleen MacElligott? Does any of her beautiful lacework survive?

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Cuckoos

Image and story from Radio Kerry

Three cuckoos were tagged in Killarney National Park in May of this year.

One cuckoo, named Torc, was tagged in East Herzegovina – close to the border of Montenegro, while anoher called KP was tagged near the foot of the Italian Alps.

The third cuckoo, Cores, was tagged in the Piedmont area of Italy.

The project is a collaboration between the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

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A Teaser from Brian Bilston

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Things of the Past

O’Sullivan’s Cycle Shop, The Square in July 2023

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Spotted in Listowel Credit Union

Major events in the twenty years since our credit union was formed.

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Remembered with Flowers

When I posted this photo last week, people reminded me that this special walltop garden was referred to in Tidy Town circles as Eileen’s Wall because the late Eileen Worts took special care of it.

Eileen, R.I.P. with fellow Tidy Towners, Jackie Barrett and Breda McGrath. Mary Hanlon tells me that the present beautiful display here this year is planted and cared for by Breda.

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July 6 2023 in Kerry Writers’ Museum

A few more pictures from the evening

Childhood neighbours, James Kenny and Jim MacMahon in Kerry Writers’ Museum

Fr. Brendan O’Connor and Jimmy Deenihan

We were able to see The Book of Kells which was the inspiration for much of Michael O’Connor’s work up close.

It wasn’t THE Book of Kells but it was a facsimile copy

What is the difference between an ordinary copy and a facsimile copy?

Answer; Quality… facsimile looks exactly the same as the real thing with ink stains, water damage and holes just as they are in the real thing.

This is the man, Dr. Donncha MacGabhann who owns the precious facsimile copy and who explained to us what it is all about.

It was a source of fascination to everyone on the evening.

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A Timely Poem

An Post have launched their digital stamp. Before too long a book of stamps or any paper stamp at all will be a thing of the past.

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Artwork, History and Poetry

Áras an Phiarsaigh in July 2023

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Happy Doggie

A very cute local puppy is wagging her tail on the double this week.

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Listowel World Centre of Celtic Art

Since attending Stephen Rynne’s talk on July 6 2023, everywhere I look in Listowel I see Celtic influence.

Carmel Fitzgiibbon with her late husband, Paddy Fitzgibbon’s beautiful artwork. There are three pieces of Paddy’s extraordinary celtic artwork on display in Listowel. One piece is in the offices of his old firm, Pierse and Fitzgibbon. This one was kindly lent to Kerry Writers’ Museum for us to see up close on the night,

My photos give only a small insight into this unique design of artwork. Remember there was no template or instructions for this. It is pure genius.

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Ballybunion Castle on the Internet

wild atlantic way castle and beach with beautiful reflections

Ireland and Peg’s Cottage

BALLYBUNION CASTLE!

Ballybunion Castle is one of fifteen cliff forts along the North Kerry coast; it was built by the Fitzmaurices in the 1300s. In 1582 the castle was acquired by the Bonyan family, which is how Ballybunion derived its name, but in 1583 William Og Bonyan lost the castle and lands because of his part in the Desmond Rebellion.  By 1604 the castle was back in the possession of the Fitzmaurices and remained so until the mid-18th century. 

Today, the 40 ft high east wall is all that remains of the castle.  An underground passage leading from the cliff face to the castle, was discovered in 1987. 

Pic. iStock, credited to morrbyte

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LWW 1974

Wolfgang Mertens kept a comprehensive folder of memorabilia from his sojourn in Listowel for Writers’ Week 1974. He developed a special relationship with Bryan MacMahon, whose work he was studying.

This is MacMahon’s postcard to Wolfgang, accepting his application to join the short story workshop.

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A Smile for you

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Singers and Fundraisers

Library Road in May 2023

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Annual North Kerry M.S. Busking Day

On Friday May 19 2023, Main Street came alive with music. The concert was in aid of an association very close to my heart. I apologise that I can’t include some clips of the great music here but video clips just take up too much of my precious storage space. I have pictures though.

This is a group of morning collectors and musicians. A new crew took over in the afternoon. Some of the morning people were involved in the afternoon as well.

I’ll include a few more tomorrow.

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Mizen2Malin

This epic cycle fundraiser in aid of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind paused in town on Monday May 22 2023.

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Alice Curtayne

This is Alice Curtayne’s panel in Kerry Writers’ Museum. She is the only female writer among the great men of letters.

Alice was actually an extraordinary lady, writing on lots of subjects, many of them religious in nature. She has written on Dante (She lived for a time in Milan in the 1920s) St. Brigid (She lived in Kildare too) and she has written one novel, House of Cards which her family think is largely biographical. She wrote many articles for newspapers and periodicals like the Capuchin Annual.

She was born in Tralee. Her father was a coach furnisher and he had his business in what is now Benners Hotel.

She lectured in America before settling down and marrying a farmer whom she met when he wrote her a fan letter.

Her husband, Stephen Rynne was a romantic. They married in Tarbert on Valentine’s Day. In their garden in Prosperous, Stephen planted snowdrops in a formation which every Spring spelled out Alice.

Alice passed away in 1981. She is under appreciated even in her native Kerry. Her grandson, Niall, is doing much to bring knowledge of her to a wider audience. Some of her books have been republished by an American publisher. I bought the one on St. Brigid. I’ll review it here at a later date.

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Listowel Writers’ Week, Opening Night 2023

What links these two places to opening night 2023?

Special guest on Opening Night will be acclaimed singer /songwriter Jack O’Rourke.

Jack is a storyteller in song. He was fascinated by the story of Michael O’Connor as told to him by Aiden on one of his visits to Mike the Pies.

He wrote this song

Opera on the Top Floor

Michael O’Connor, uncle of Aiden, was an extraordinary man. He was a talented artist, a collector of posters, an opera lover and a book lover. He was also a very private person. His family left his apartment over the pub very much as he left it. A visit to this place of music, art and literature inspired O’Rourke to write the song.

“…And that opera on the top floor
No one knows, it’s under lock and key
The needle hits the vinyl, I’m away on the wind
Every secret needs a sanctuary.”

I hope he sings it for us on Opening Night.

Another treat in store for us at this year’s Writers’ Week is a chance to see some of Michael O’Connor’s great collection of international graphic art in Mike the Pies.

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I Love Paul Galvin

Maybe not Paul himself. I don’t know him but I love, love, love his book.

People who know me here know that I love a good anecdote or story and I love random facts. Paul’s book is full of these. I’ve only dipped into it so far. I’ve only just got it.

Who knew?

Spear throwing! sword fighting!

If, like me you love these little stories, Paul Galvin has lots of them in his great book. He is a great researcher and a great story teller.

Do come along to hear him in

The Listowel Arms at 3.00p.m. on Saturday June 3 2023

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Dolly Day

DollyDay fundraiser for Comfort for Chemo and the Kerry Hospice was launched in Quanes Bar, Blennerville on Thursday evening.

Dolly Day in Listowel is on June 24 2023 and it promises to be a good one. The lady herself has been invited to attend and she is checking her calendar.

You can be part of the fun by buying your wig online Here

There are a few instructions laid down by the Guinness Book of Records people about how you should be dressed. Nothing major.

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Catching Up with Friends

I met my old friend, Dolores O’Connor in The Flying Saucer on Monday. She was enjoying a hot chocolate with her sister, Eileen. When they see me with my camera they know that I will connect them with their family in the US and England. Great Listowel people and supporters of this blog.

I had a great chat with my lovely friends, Liz and Jim Dunn, in Thyme Out café yesterday. Liz is going to be our hostess at Opening Night of Listowel Writers’ Week on May 31st. No better woman for the job.

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Localisms

When I came to Listowel first I found local people had quite a few phrases we didn’t use over the border in my part of the country.

“Will you walk to town or will you carry the car?” asked a new friend.

The image this conjured up came back to me when I read Brian Bilston’s amusing poem:

you took
the last bus home

i still don’t know
how you got it through the door

but you’re always doing amazing stuff

like the time
when you caught that train

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A Fact

The English language syllable “ough” can be pronounced in eight different ways. The following sentence includes all eight.

A tough dough-faced ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough, coughing and hiccoughing thoughtfully.

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Aspects of Listowel

Members of Listowel Folk Group carol singing in the Square at Christmas 2022…Photo: Facebook

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Listowel and Listowel

Remember last week I told you about an email from a researcher looking for a photograph of a Listowel soldier who was killed at Passchendale.

Imagine his surprise when he found he was communicating with Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland when his soldier was from Listowel in Canada.

I think he had already discovered his mistake when I forwarded him Dave O’Sullivan’s find.

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Confraternity

Listowel Confraternity on Retreat. Phot shared by Mike Hannon

Up to the middle of the 20th century confraternities were a feature of Catholic parishes in Ireland.

These all male lay societies promoted personal piety, engaged in charitable undertakings and supported the work of parish clergy.

Religious orders played a big role in the promotion of fraternities. They organised annual retreats to re-enthuse any who may be falling by the wayside. The above picture is of a group of Listowel men attending one such retreat (with the Redemptorists in Limerick, I think.)

In the early and mid twentieth century there was an upsurge in religious devotion in Ireland. When the bubble burst and scandals and injustices within the church exploded into public consciousness, confraternities, almost overnight, disappeared from the face of the earth.

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Pres. Girls at Young Scientist 2023

Photo shared online by Trant’s Pharmacy

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Laoch ar Lár

Seamus Begley R.I.P. spoke three language fluently, Gaeilge, English and the universal language of music.

Only when he was in his beloved fields in Baile na bPoc was Seamus ever alone. He was the ultimate co laborator and accompanist and he always seemed happiest in the midst of the Session.

I encountered Seamus fadó, fadó on tamaill spent in An Carraig as a student of Irish. Halla na Muirí was where the céilithe were. Halla na Muirí was the Tinder of the 1970s. I can still remember our first sashay into the dancehall.

“Anyone here take your fancy?” says one of the cailíní eyeing the row of aspiring woodwork teachers opposite.

” I fancy the lad on the stage in the red jumper.”

The lad on the stage was James Begley. Little did we realise that we were in the presence of greatness.

The world is a poorer place for his passing.

Go gcloise tú ceol na naingeal go síoraí, a Shéamuis.

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A Poem to raise a smile

Odds by Brian Bilston

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