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

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Listowel Square is changing

Jim MacSweeney

This rural image is part of the collaboration between Mallow Camera Club and Kanturk Community Hospital


A Mighty Leap

This gem is from Beale School in the Schools’ Folklore Collection.

A Local Hero
The best hurler the oldest people ever remember was James Moriarty.He lived somewhere around Kilconly. One Saturday he and his wife removed to the border of the County of Cork. After going to bed that night his wife said it was better for him to be there than to be going to the “Moneens.” The moneens are in Flahives farm, Bromore. “What is in the Moneens” asked the man. The woman told him that she had received a letter that he should go and attend the hurling match which was to be held there. He made up his mind to go and jumping out of bed he went off to Bromore. When the ball was thrown up he was the first man that struck it and after striking the ball he leaped thirty three feet. There is a mark to this day on the place where he jumped. The place is pointed out above at Dan Flahive’s field of Bog.

Nora Griffin vi
Beale, Ballybunion
June 24th 1938
Information from people at home.


Outdoor Dining and Performance Area

While I turned my back very briefly, work continued apace in The Square.

We got a lovely new standard light with two lamps.

Of course there is a bicycle rest. The people we imagine using this are tourists on The Greenway.

The tables and seating will be put back and then it will all be covered with three tent type structures.

Imagine yourself sitting in the sun, eating your ice cream from the new ice cream kiosk and listening to whatever performance is on offer.

If such pleasure becomes all too much for you, the defibrillator is at hand to jolt you back to life.


Danny would be Proud

In 1972 Danny Hannon fulfilled a dream . He set up The Lartigue Theatre Company. In April 2022 the company celebrated it’s half century with a production of John B. Keane’s Sive.

I was in St. John’s on Sunday evening and I couldn’t have picked a better evening’s entertainment for my return to the theatre. After two years I had almost forgotten how enjoyable an evening of local theatre can be.

(All the photos are from St. John’s Facebook page)

The old hands were excellent, as always. If I were to single out one actor it would have to be Laura Shine Gumbo. Laura played an excellent Mena, with a mixture of good and evil. She brought out the painful conflict within this character, whose awful betrayal of Sive is motivated as much by her misunderstanding of the vulnerability of the romantic teenager as by her desire to improve her own lot in life.

There were new faces among the cast as well. A revelation to us all was Jimmy Moloney who played a blinder ss Mike Glavin. Mike is at heart a good man . He is tormented by the three women in his care. What we in the audience can see and poor Mike can’t is that he has married his mother. Nanna is the mistress of the hard word. She is as devious and manipulative as Mena, full of resentment and bitterness, bullying and taunting where she should lend support. It is a deeply unhappy household.

The final moving tragic scene is played with great pathos and empathy. Sive is let down by all the adults in her life. Such innocence could not survive in a hard mercenary world where love is lost in the hard realities and the poverty of 1950s Ireland. Everyone who should have protected her has a hand in her death.

Sive is a tragedy. Playing it out again in our times shines a light on an unhappy era, thankfully now behind us.

Thank you, Lartique Theatre Company for a great night.


James Moriarty, Hurler, Ultra Marathon Running and a Hurling Hero

Seat in The Garden of Europe


From the Archives

The Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : Wed 26 Aug 1874-Page 3

DEATH UNDER EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES.—The following extraordinary story (says

the Cork Examiner) is sent to us from our correspondent at Listowel, whom, we think it right to say, we have always found trustworthy and accurate:—

A young woman named Murphy aged about 19, the daughter of a farmer in the parish of Abbeyfeale, with a younger sister of about 17 years, had gone to the early Mass at Abbeyfeale, last Sunday, and, it is said, they both received the sacrament that morning. Having returned home, the sisters went out for a walk about twelve o’clock, and proceeded along the bank of a stream which runs adjacent to their residence. They had not gone far, when they observed four men bearing a coffin coming towards them from the fields, and as they approached where the sisters stood they deposited the coffin on the ground. The men then advanced, and attempted to lay hands on the elder sister, who, with a piercing shriek, retreated from them, but the men closed upon her and as they dragged her towards the coffin, she cried out in a piteous tone, ‘Oh leave me until I am better prepared.’ The younger sister ran home in a state of intense alarm. The young girl’s mother, on hearing what occurred proceeded at once with the younger daughter to the place where the latter had witnessed the struggle. On nearing the spot they observed no trace of the men nor the coffin but they beheld the form of the young woman lying apparently lifeless on the ground. On attempting to raise her, they found that she was dead and her features were so altered as to be scarcely recognisable by the bereaved mother.

 Such are the facts, as narrated by the surviving sister and the impression the story has made in the minds of all who have heard it cannot be well described. I have not heard that an inquest was held on the body, though one might suppose this was a case that certainly ought to be thoroughly investigated.


David Toomey and his Ultra Marathon

Many of us in Listowel know David best in his day job as our very talented town horticulturalist and planting expert. What you may not know is that David is also a very keen runner and his latest distance is ultra marathon.

At any time of year marathon running is not for the faint hearted but on the weekend of February 15/16 2020 with Storm Dennis battering the country, anyone with any sense would deem it a day for the fire. Not David Toomey. He was committed to doing the Gaeltacht Mhuscraí marathon.

Here is David’s own account, as posted on Facebook, of his adventure

Sorry about the long post but I felt I’d better share the epic journey of the Slí Gaeltacht Mhuscrái 2020.

We started the run at about 8.20 from Kealkil after a 1hr 30m bus journey. It was raining and cold at the start line. The first few miles went ok. It was actually warm and I felt I was over dressed.

I got about seven miles in when the calf started to play up. After another mile or two I was reduced to a walk with serious pain. At this stage I was gutted because there was nice running conditions, flat and downhill sections which I had to walk. I decided to take it handy, not panic and get to the checkpoint where I could assess the leg.

After arriving at the checkpoint, I think around mile 11 I took some painkillers and after talking with the support crew at the feed station I decided I’d continue to the next checkpoint at Ballingeary which was about 7 miles.

A tough slog over the mountain’s there was wind and driving rain but I got to Ballingeary. On arrival I told the lads my problem and fair play, one of them rubbed out the calf for me. It was very sore and swollen. A big knot had formed at the top of the calf. This was causing most of the problem. I asked them how far to Ballyvourney, the next checkpoint, and they told me about 19kms so I decided to plough on and hopefully make it. 

I had decided to call it a day at Ballyvourney because I was afraid of doing damage and there’s a long year ahead. I’ll never forget the next section. With all the rain the river had burst its banks and we had two crossings waist deep. Also the trail was flooded so we had to navigate that. At one stage I went to the chest in water. All I could think of is God help the lads coming behind us because the river was rising rapidly. The bog sections were very difficult, slippery, soft, wet and ankle deep rough going. 

Ballyvourney came at last. I felt lucky to have made it this far. A pit stop for tea,food and a little chat to myself. 24km to go. So I said I’d struggle now and walk if I had to.  Again tough going, mountain, bog, fire road and lots of water. Long story short I met a few lads on this section and we helped each other. The calf had loosened out a bit so I was able to jog/walk along. 

Finally got to Millstreet I couldn’t believe it when I could see the lights in the distance. The joy I felt is indescribable. I thought at seven miles I was going home, now I’m finished possibly the toughest race I’ve ever done. Thanks everyone for all the lovely comments, messages it really keep me going. Thanks to my love for keeping me going on the phone and finally to the MMRA crew for putting on a fantastic race support and volunteers. 

I’ll be back again on a better day. Storm Dennis no match for ultra runners. 

Ps if someone has a loan of two legs I’d be happy to take them.


The Guardian……A Listowel Connection

When you’re a freelance  photographer getting your photo on the front page of The Guardian is a triumph. This is just what happened to Cathal Noonan. His photo of the MV Alta, grounded off Ballycotton was chosen as the front page picture on Tuesday’s paper. Cathal has two Listowel aunts and many Listowel cousins.


A Local Beale Hero

From the Dúchas Schools’ Folklore Collection

The best hurler the oldest people ever remember was James Moriarty.He lived somewhere around Kilconly. One Saturday he and his wife removed to the border of the County of Cork. After going to bed that night his wife said it was better for him to be there than to be going to the “Moneens.” The moneens are in Flahives farm, Bromore. “What is in the Moneens”asked the man. The woman told him that she had received a letter that he should go and attend the hurling match which was to be held there. He made up his mind to go and jumping out of bed he went off to Bromore. When the ball was thrown up he was the first man that struck it and after striking the ball he leaped thirty three feet. There is a mark to this day on the place where he jumped. The place is pointed out above at Dan Flahive’s field of Bog

Nora Griffin vi

Beale, Ballybunion

June 24th 1938

Information from people at home.

Doodle, Diarmuid and Grania in Bromore and Bill Murphy of Lyreacrompane

Schiller in Listowel’s Garden of Europe in February 2020


From Lyreacrompane to the Streets of New York

Bill Murphy took up my invitation to tell us where he is now and how his life as an emigrant has been.

After mass at the church of the Sacred Heart  in Lyreacrompane, on Sunday January 31st 1965 I traveled to Shannon Airport, There I joined a Pan American flight from Italy to Kennedy Airport for my trip to  New Jersey, U.S.A.   

A young twenty one year, first time on a plane, there was two others from my area on their  way to Chicago. After about three hours flying there was quite a lot of air turbulence, the pilot announced fastened seat belts we are experience  ” some difficulties ‘ I was scared stiff and was on my way to the rest room when a attendant said “You are supposed to remain in your seat.” and I said “What is the difference where I am when this plane crashes. The attendant must have thought I was nuts.

Anyway some hours later I arrived safely in New York and traveled on to New Jersey. Worked a few different jobs until I got citizenship  and joined the Newark, N.J police force, where I served for twenty six years retiring as a detective in 1999. 

I am still living and enjoying my retirement in Ocean County N.J. Had three sons the youngest, passed away almost thirty years ago from Cystic Fibrosis. We have five G-Children.


A Bromore story from the 1938 Schools’ Folklore Collection

Dan Daly got this story from Dan Flahive of Bromore


The names of some of the fields in my townland are Lisheen Rúadh, the Fort field, and Léim na muiche. An important story is told about Léim ná Muiche.

In the time of the Fianna when Diarmuid and Grania were fleeing from the anger of Fionn there is a tradition that they passed by this field. There is a chasm in the cliff side of the field and, when they reached the chasm they found they could not cross. They got on a pig’s back, and suddenly the pig made a leap which took Diarmuid and Grania across to the other side of the chasm and ever since since that time the field adjoining the chasm is called Léim na muiche. The field called the fort field got its name from the fort which is in it.

Dan Daly 23 .6. 38 st.v

Bromore, Ballybunion

Mr. Dan Flahive, farmer, aged 72

Bromore, Ballybunion Co Kerry. (In whose land this field is.) got it from his own father.


An Unusual Election Candidate

Doodle promised to return when his country needed him. Could that time be now?


A Fact

Parrots can live for up to 80 years.

Cows in Knockanure, Hay and Tae in Bromore and a Look Back at some old Systems

Blue Tit, Just Fledged

Photo: Chris Grayson


Holy Cow!

At Knockanure


Meanwhile in Bromore

Danny Houlihan piped them into the meadow at Michael Flahive annual Hay and Tae festival.


Old Feast Day Customs

from the Dúchas folklore collection

Festival Customs
St. Brigid’s Day (1st of February). People make a rush cross and put it outside the door and say special prayers. This rush cross is made in memory of Brigid. When teaching the pagans she made a rush cross to represent the cross Our Lord was crucified on. On St. Brigid’s eve people hang a piece of cloth in the air outside the window. This Brat Bride is supposed to contain a cure by touching the sick or sore.

St. Patrick’s Day (17th March). People wear shamrocks and harps. Little girls wear green ribbons and harps and as much green as possible.

Shrove Tuesday (variable date) being the last day of shrove many marriages take place also match marriages. Shrove Tuesday night is often called Pancake night. A ring is put in the pancakes and it is said who ever gets the ring is the soonest to be married. Eggs are put in the pancakes, because at that time long ago they were forbidden during Lent, the first day of which comes after Shrove Tuesday. The bride who marries on Shrove Tuesday does not go to her husband’s house until after Lent.

On Ash Wednesday (variable date) men are reminded as of old that unto dust they shall return, and the ashes is placed on their brows in the shape of a cross.

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Sunday, Whit Sunday and Whit Monday are either religious or bank holidays, and are observed in much the same way all over Ireland. On Easter Sunday morning children get up early to see the sun dancing. An old custom is to eat a good many eggs, as Lent (forbidden time) is now over.

Chalk Sunday (first Sunday of Lent) was often a cross day long ago, because all the young boys and girls used to chalk the backs of the men of marriageable age, who did not get married during Shrove.

May Day (1st May). People hang a branch of Summer tree in the house to keep away the fairies.
The house, family, outhouses, cattle and fields are sprinkled with holy water to keep away the fairies also.

St. John’s Day (24th June). On the eve of this feast bonfires are lit.
On feast of Assumption (15th August) most people from this neighbourhood go to Ballybunion for the day. No one ventures on the sea that day because the drowning of ’93 took place on August 15th.

For Michaelmas dinner people usually have a “green” goose.

On St. Martin’s Eve it is an ancient custom to kill a fowl and sprinkle the blood around the house. This is supposed to be an unlucky day, so few fishers go fishing.

Hallowe’en (30th October) is the last night of Autumn. Nuts and apples are eaten. Many games are played with nuts and apples, and beans etc. (1) Two beans are put roasting on coals near the fire. One bean gets a man’s name, the other a woman’s name. If both beans jump together, the pair are supposed to be married. (2) An apple is made to hang by a cord from the ceiling. Hands are tied behind the back, and the person tries to bite the apple without putting a hand to it. (3) Three saucers are put on a table, one containing water, one containing earth, and one containing a ring. The players are blindfolded, the saucers are shuffled around,
and if a person puts his hand in saucer containing earth, they say he will be dead before that day twelvemonth. If he touches the ring they say he will be married, and if he touches the water, he will cross the sea. A cake containing many charms is cut for the tea, and much fun is enjoyed.

The Twelve Days of Christmas between Christmas and Little Christmas are supposed to be the twelve months of the year. If these are fine, the year will be fine, and if these are wet, we will have a wet year. The twelve days were fine last Xmas, and every month so far was wet.
St. Stephen’s Day (26th Dec.) On this particular day crowds of boys dress up in fancy conspicuous looking costumes, and go around to the neighbouring districts collecting money “to bury the wren”. Each boy plays a musical instrument and the procession marches in time. One boy leads the procession, he carries a branch of holly with a little dead wren fastened to it, and according as he stops outside the door of each house he says
“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen’s Day he was caught in the furze
Up with the kettle, and down with the pan
Give us some money “to bury the wren”.
Meanwhile, the champion dancer of the crowd gives a dreas rinnce
on the doorstep. One of the wrenboys marches at the side. He carries a bladder attached to the end of a long stick, and he runs after any little boys who interrupt the procession. When the joyful day rambling is ended, the money is evenly divided between the boys who were in one crowd. Some times they hold a wren dance.

Handsel Monday (the first Monday of the New Year) is a day on which people like to get a present of money, no matter how small. It is an omen that he will receive plenty money during the year.

The Epiphany (6th Jan.). On the vigil of this feast everybody likes to be in bed before 12 midnight, at which hour they say water changes into wine. It was the day of the wedding feast of Cana.

All these old fashioned customs are still observed because, as the proverb says, I suppose – “It is not right to make a new custom, or to break an old one”.

Collector- Kitty Lynch- Address, Tarbert, Co. Kerry- Informant Mrs Lynch- Age 78, Address, Tarbert, Co. Kerry


In Namir’s

I met Namir with Kay and Rosa in Ballybunion on Sunday. Lovely to catch up with old friends.

BnaM Peat Machine, Listowel Food Fair 2018, Bromore, more from the Y A Bookfest 2018 and R.I.P. Weeshie

Wintry Tree by the Feale


Bord na Mona Sod Turning Machine

As we approach the end of the fossil fuel era, people are looking back at our relationship with peat and particularly with sod turf. The above picture from Tony McKenna is a 1960s sod turf turner. This machine made light work of that backbreaking job of turning every individual sod in order to dry it all round. It is pictured at work on a Bord na Mona bog, probably in the midlands.


Craft Fair at Listowel Food Fair 2018

The craft and food fair in The Listowel Arms on Sunday November 11 2018 was a great place to visit.

This family took shelter in their car while they enjoyed their crepes .

Margaret and Mary did a great morning’s shopping at the fair.

Lovely Brona was offering us samples of the locally produced chocolate which bears her name.

After meeting these two bee keepers I’m beginning to think that beekeepers are among my favourite people. These two lovely men gave me a free sample of their organic honey and they gave me some seed bombs. These are “bombs’ made up of wildflower seeds which I will scatter in the wild for the bees and other pollinators to feed on.  It’s lovely to meet lovely people who are passionate about what they do.

Next door to my beekeepers was the lovely Orla with her mouthwatering cakes. The neighbours were getting on famously. They gave her honey and she gave them a Christmas pudding.

You meet such lovely people at craft fairs!

Maurice Hannon had enlisted the help of family to man his stall. He is your man for the gluten free Christmas baking. You will find Maurice at the Friday Market in The Square.

lisa and Rena were there promoting Lisa’s book, The Local Food Project. This project came about when Lisa got a wake up call when she purchased a sandwich at a local convenience store and discovered, to her horror,  that it had 40 listed ingredients. These ingredients came from all over the world. Lisa resolved there and then to try to eat just local food. I’m in the process of reading the book and it sure is food for thought. I highly recommend it. You may not go the whole hog but I guarantee you’ll look more closely at what you are eating.

If you are beginning to think that there was a lot of confectionery at the fair, you would be right.

As well as buns and cakes there was also natural gut friendly foods like Kefir.


A Visitor’s Photos

Patty and John Faley took these photos on their visit to Listowel and North Kerry.

Here the visitors to Bromore encounter, Bart, Mike Flahive’s horse.

Patty Faley took these photos on her trip to Bromore Cliffs.


Young Adult Bookfest 2018

Taking part in the panel discussion were Kieran Donaghy and Paddy Smyth.

Kieran discovered at 23 that he was dyslexic. This eventually explained to him why he struggled in school and found exams so difficult.

Journalist and Listowel native, Edaein O’Connell, also told us about her unusual career path to where she is today, in her dream job, writing for Image magazine.

Paddy Smyth has a huge online following. This is where he tells his story. You may also remember him from First Dates Ireland. He allowed himself to be persuaded that it would be good for his image. It certainly gained him a whole new audience.

 Then it was lunchtime and Super Valu, Lizzy’sand Cup and Kettle brought the mountain to Mohammed.


The One and Only Weeshie

There is a saying that when an old man dies a library burns down.  Certainly Weeshie Fogarty’s passing is like the loss of a library.  Weeshie was a repository of knowledge and lore and he was generous in sharing it. He walked with kings yet kept the common touch. I have enjoyed all the memories and stories that have poured into social, broadcast and print media since he died.

Weeshie interviewed me in his “In Conversation with….” slot on Radio Kerry. He was a gentleman and a consummate professional. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

On the subject of media, why not tune in to my Just a Thought slot on Radio Kerry at 7.30 ish and 12.00 noon  ish every weekday next week., starting November  26 2018

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