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: Brigid Braden

Knockanure, John B. on Coaxiorum, A Fan Letter and Milk Stands

Corran Tuathail by Chris Grayson


Knockanure 2006


Coaxiorum by John B. Keane

SONNY CANAVAN assures me that the love potion known as Coaxiorum exists and is still in use not far from where he lives. Others have told me that same thing. Willie Finucane and Jack McElligott were offered doses of it but declined to take it on the grounds that natural love was better than artificial. I asked Canavan if he knew what the formula was. He had a rough idea but could not come up with the identity of one ingredient.

“All I know,” said Canavan, “is that it grows in the bog and it’s like a water leaf but it isn’t a water leaf.”

He told me that Coaxiorum was very common when he was a boy but that its use had declined altogether since the Second World War.

“I seen a man to cycle from Carlow on a false account,” Canavan told myself and Professor Phil Deane, who came to see Canavan about bodhráns. Apparently it was 1940 and one evening a man on a bicycle appeared in Dirha West. He asked the whereabouts of a certain woman and he was taken to her. He produced a five pound note, a lot of money in those days, and offered it to her for a dose of Coaxiorum but when she learned he wanted to use it on his master’s wife, she cleared him from the place. So much for Coaxiorum. Maybe some of my readers will have a word or two to say about love potions.

John B. Keane


Warming the Cockles of my Heart

This is the Braden family of Chicago.

I have been overwhelmed recently by the supportive mail and personal approaches I received from people far and near who read the blog. I’m printing one representative one but I am deeply grateful for them all.

Brigid Braden gets the accolade for the best email. I’m posting it here with a big thank you to Brigid for making my day.

Dearest Mary,
Almost every night before I go to bed in Chicago, your email from Listowel Connection pops up in my in-box, and I get the biggest smile on my face. I love to happily check in on Listowel before I go to bed.  Tonight after reading your post with “Unwelcome Letters” I could not go to bed before sending you off a note. 

You bring such joy, to so many.  And the ones with joy sure don’t let you know it enough I’m sure because I should be writing to you every other day to tell you about how a story touched me and made me dwell for quite a time in a happy place.  Not to mention how many times a sister or brother would contact me the next day and say “Did you see (insert story) on Listowel Connection” and want to talk more about it.  

Mary, you are doing wonderful work!  I love the John B. response you put up there.  And don’t you know, I’m sure my siblings will be calling me tomorrow to talk about it.  I will be talking to my young kids as well about it, because it is the world around us we are living in.  Don’t we know about it in the USA for sure now.  The crazies almost feel to outnumber the sane, but in truth they are just shouting the loudest for a time. 

Just know, you are a shining light to many and bringing out the best of us and in us.  Thanks a million.  We love you!! And keep up the fantastic work!  


Brigid Braden
Ps.   I owe you a lunch next time I’m in Listowel. We were coming in with a big family group in July 2016 to Allos and you fell ill.  I’m sorry it has taken so long to get back to you, but have a feeling our paths are sure to cross. Three Cheers!!
A few of your Chicago fans::


Milk Stands

Last week I posted this photo of the milk stand at my old family home in Kanturk, little suspecting what fond memories it would evoke for so many blog followers.

Love the milk-stand-and building- all nicely cared for and painted. Where I come from, milk-stands were often located at crossroads and the farmers would bring their tanks there. The lorry would travel a main route and collect all the tanks at junctions with minor roads.”

When I travel the Nadd road from my home in Kanturk to Cork I pass such a crossroads. It has a sign saying Welcome to Donoughmore beside a piece of roadside art depicting two milk churns on a milk stand. I searched the internet for a photograph of this. I didn’t find it but I did find another piece of roadside art along the same theme.

This photo by a lady who blogs as Irish American Mom is in Kildorrery in Co. Cork


Boyeens No More

My beloved grandsons all grown up and off to secondary school.

William St., Olive Stack’s visiting artists and a visitor from Chicago

Artists at the Olive Stack Gallery

Here are the two artists, Jen and Diane who are currently in residence in Olive Stack’s. They look a bit frozen in their own photo taken on one of their many tours of Kerry. Damien Stack has given them the lowdown on the history of Listowel and North Kerry.

They are giving classes and doing some painting as well. ~You can read all about their adventures in Jen’s blog or  Here on the blog of the residents. 

Here is a sample from Leaving Cert results night last week which they spent in John B.’s

“We ended a very productive day with our favorite pub theater at John B Keane’s.  It is the anniversary of Mary Keane’s passing, but the show went on, “shop face” for everyone.  Mickey MacConnell played a song new to us, “The Leaving.”  Here in Listowel, young men and women receive results of exams today which will determine their futures, many of them leaving to pursue higher education or apprenticeships. Today, my son moves into his dormitory at the University of Florida, and Mickey’s song had me in tears from the first line.

But there were many lighthearted moments as well, including a gregarious Australian whose accent was lovely but a bit confusing amidst all the brogue, a muralist from New York who was enjoying her first taste of Guinness, and a fantastic performance from “The Field” in which the actor, playing the bishop, had Diane and I nearly confessing to a fictional murder.

I’ve rambled on a bit in this blog today.  But let me leave you with this:  we’ve been to pub theater time and again, sometimes to hear the same bits and songs.  And with each telling, the stories get better, the jokes are funnier and the songs more moving.  Because we are changing – becoming a part of the landscape, a part of the story, and because we now know (almost) all the words.  This place has changed me, and I am so grateful.”


Then and Now


Reproofing underway here

L and M Dry Cleaners on William St.

What was Elegance on Lower William Street.


Brigid fell in love with the place of her Kerry ancestors

Before I fell ill, I had had a lovely communication from Brigid Braden from Chicago. Brigid was coming to Kerry to connect with her Irish roots and she was spending a half day in Listowel, researching her Maher line.

Because she is a lovely lady and she appreciates what I do, she invited me to lunch with herself and her family in Allos. I was delighted to accept her invitation and I was looking forward to my treat.

“The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley”. Burns never said a truer word. On the day of the proposed meeting and lunch I was laid low in a Cork hospital……BUT…….Brigid didn’t forget me. Here is an extract from her recent email;

“I wanted to share with you what a tremendous trip we had to Ireland.  I have fallen head over heals in love with Listowel.  I am without a doubt that this is where my ancestors are from when I arrived we all found such love for the town and its people.  We were welcomed with open arms to the farm where the Mahers from 1825 were found farming in the Tithe Applotment books.  The most wonderful lunch at Allos and attended beautiful mass at St. Mary’s. The kids just loved the Seanchai museum and Castle.  Our only sadness was missing you that day and I did think of you often while I was there.  It was thanks to you that I felt familiar and comfortable in Listowel. It is such a blessing to be able to get that from you. Listowel Connection really works!  Before I left the town, I was planning my return.  It was just a few short hours.  And I can’t wait to come spend days and truly soak the town into my soul. 

I’ve attached a picture of my little family, Mike my Husband, Myself Brigid and two of our children, Michael James and Mary.  We are missing my 3yr old JJ. But I promise he will be back with us soon.  And I promise we will be taking you to lunch, celebrating your good health and Listowel!   All my best wishes and thanks to you.  Cheers, Brigid


“Oh, for the touch of a vanished hand

Or the sound of a voice that is still.”

Michael Guerin Listowel Races 1991

The link above will take you to Michael Guerin’s lovely memories of Races 1991 captured on film and remastered by Michael himself. You will want to watch it a few times to identify all the well known local faces, so many of them gone from our streets. R.I.P.

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