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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Hearthsong, Brosna and Jumbos

“The trees are in their autumn beauty

The woodland paths are dry……”

Our 2 Final Stops on Food Trail 2023

Our marvellous trek around town during Listowel Food Fair’s Food Trail 2023 ended in William Street.

In Dough Mamma, this lovely lady told us about their offering which is much more than just piazza. She told us that dishes in her native Ukraine are much more complex. Even a simple soup has 10 ingredients.

We got samples of different piazzas and bruschetta.

On to Jumbo’s, another Listowel institution. Jade filled us in on their latest offering , a Listowel burger made completely from local components.

Damien brought us all a sample. I’m not surprised that it sells out every day.

A Second Coming

The Rose and Crown has reopened.

There are some marvellous photos documenting Irish life in days gone by in the Capuchin Archive. Here is one such photo and the caption by the archivist.

Brosna National School, County Kerry, 1944 

A common issue faced by archivists is trying to identify locations and dates for photographs but fortunately there is some evidence attached to this particular image in the form of the placard held by the child in the foreground. The board seemingly reads ‘Brosna / 2nd / R44 / 2’. Brosna is a small village situated in northeast County Kerry, not far from the town of Castleisland. It is located close to the Kerry-Limerick border. The reference to ‘2nd’ on the placard probably indicates that this group is composed of students in the second class of the local boys’ national (or primary) school in Brosna. The mention of ‘44’ is possibly a reference to a year (1944), but this is not certain. However, it is very likely that the image dates to the early 1940s. The Irish for Brosna is ‘Brosnach’ which can be translated as the land of dried wood or firewood. Interestingly, the surname Brosnan, from the Irish ‘Ó Brosnacháin’, is most likely derived from the place name as in ‘a descendant of Brosna’. The image forms part of the photographic archive of ‘The Capuchin Annual’

(It is important to remember that going barefoot in those days did not necessarily denote poverty. In the 1940s and 50s many children went barefoot by choice.)


Heartsong is one of the many anthologies that have been published by John McGrath, either as a collection of work from his writing group or a compendium of the work of one poet or writer. John is an important cog in Listowel’s wheel of creativity, teaching, encouraging, organising and publishing the work of some talented local writers we might otherwise never get to see.

In 2009 the Just Write writing group produced Heartsong.

The writers

Below is an example of one of the lovely essays from Winnie Greaney. As we approach the Christmas season, Winnie’s reminiscences will resonate with many who have experienced emigration.

A Fact

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to improving sanitation throughout the world.

In India, sanitation in some slums is very poor with many people having no toilet so they poo outdoors in open air latrines.

Sometimes tomatoes and watermelon plants grow on these middens. The seeds of these plants pass through the digestive system intact.

Word of advice; If you are in India and you see proof of this phenomenon, you would be very ill advised to eat a tomato or watermelon you see growing in this way.


Adare and Tom O’Donoghue obituary

Photo: Ita Hannon


Adare, a Lovely Village just down the Road

On the day I visited Adare the Friday market was in full swing

This man was making and selling his baskets.

There was a lovely mix of food, crafts, jewellery and garden produce for sale.

This lovely Buttevant man had a beautiful selection of competitively priced ceramics on offer.


Brosna in 1877

(from The Freeman’s Journal New South Wales, Australia)

Passing to the diocese of Kerry, I observe that at a mission by the Franciscans, in the parish of Brosna, 5,000 persons communicated, 2,000 were invested with the scapular of the Blessed Virgin, and 1,200 were enrolled in the Confraternity of the Holy Family. Moreover, six unfortunate persons who had become ‘Jumpers’ made, with their families, a solemn public recantation. I may mention that this place was once the centre of a Protestant proselytising traffic, I doubt if there is any single Protestant there now.

Has anyone any idea what Jumpers were?


Tom O’Donoghue, grandfather of Florida Rose 2017

John Anthony Hegarty and Janet Fisher sent us this account of who exactly Tom O’Donoghue was

St. Moling’s Well, Sue Ryder shop closing and Road Works Continue

Dave Curran took the photograph and he captioned it;  The slower pace of life in west Kerry.


Gurtinard Wood and The Garden of Europe

Tree in Gurtinard Wood

 Fallen leaves edge the path at the fork in the Gurtinard Woodland walk.

 Bat Boxes

 A Lovely corner of The Garden of Europe

 The statue of Schiller through the branches of the weeping willow.


St. Moling’s Holy Well Brosna

 When I was in Brosna lately, I spotted a sign for a holy well. I went to investigate.

The well is accessed by this grassy path beside  the churchyard.

The story of the well

 I then found myself in a field surrounded by cattle. The well is set in the middle of a farm.

The well

 A sign on the way to the well

The well is protected by this mound of stones.

 The entrance

This looked to me like a kneeler. Stones like this were placed at intervals around the perimeter wall. People probably knelt here while they did the rounds of the well.

This is the actual well.


Sue Ryder Shop is Closing

The manager of this shop was a very creative artist. I’ll miss her great window displays. Her last one, with a Halloween theme, complete with creepy clowns, was typical of her topical imaginative approach to window display.


William St. Road Works proceeding apace


Remember the Date and Remember the Fallen

Horse Fair, Brosna, and Jimmy Hickey and his dancers and musicians in the 1990’s

October Horse Fair

Photos by Elizabeth Brosnan


Aspects of Brosna Today


Listowel Musicians and Dancers

This picture was taken outside St. Johns before Jimmy Hickey’s troupe headed off to the Harmonie festival in Germany for the first time. Kathleen McCarthy (4th from left at back) provided me with all the names.

Back, Left to Right: ? , Mary Doyle R.I.P., Phil O’Connell, Kathleen McCarthy, Mary Murphy R.I.P., Jimmy Hickey, Jean Lynch, Brina Keane, Mary Cantillon, Seán Murphy

Front, R.: Martin O’Flynn, Margaret Harrahan, Bob Downey, Richard O’Connell R.I.P. , Kate Downey and Jerry Browne


More Photos from Listowel Garden Centre’s Christmas Shop’s opening

Teresa Hannon was indulging her inner child and picking up a few new ornaments.

One man’s trip to The Island, Brosna and a bypass of sorts

Listowel Handball Alley, October 2016


David Looby is a journalist with The Wexford People. The photo and the essay below recount his experience of his trip “home’ for the recent Listowel Races 2016:

I’ve lately joined the ranks of the school drop parents.

You know the sleepwalking types who are half-human, half school bags and lunch boxes. The ones that look immaculate on the first day, but revert to tracksuits and bearded, red eyed grumps by day two (the men that is!).

My daughter couldn’t wait to get started and barely looked over her shoulder at The Good Woman and I as we left her behind with her wonderful teacher and all her new classmates. 

I had a week off last week and, owing to some convenient amnesia and force of habit, imagined a week of leisure, down at the Listowel Races catching up with friends from my primary schoolgoing days, throwing back pints. 

The holiday got off to a rocky start as I picked up a dose, followed by The Little Fella getting a fever. My plans were falling apart as I came to terms with the reality that I was tied to school drop off and pick up duties every day, along with toilet training and night ‘lifts’ to the toilet. Undaunted, Tuesday saw me arrive at the heart of zen-like peace in the South East, St Mullins, from where I jogged to the second lock gates and continued walking until the third lock but couldn’t make it as far as Graiguenamanagh as I had to be back from the school pick-up (and I was shattered). I drank in the sweeping views under a milk white sky, taking my time on my way back. 

Wednesday was a doctor’s appointment for The Little Fella, followed by a morning enjoying the cafe life of Wexford with him, during which I picked up a new book before going home and lapping up the sunshine. Thursday was a walk from Slade to Hook Lighthouse and CD shopping.

Determined to get away at the weekend I hatched a plan to visit friends in Dublin, my first trip to the city in three years would be amazing, I told myself, only to discover via Whatsapp that said friends were heading to Kerry. 

With a daunting list of work to do around the house ahead of our children’s birthday party this weekend, I started to feel the walls closing in around me. The holiday was half way over and drinks needed to be organised to cap it all off, but where?

For years I’ve been trying to get back to Listowel for the races. Every year growing up in Listowel, the races and Fleadh Cheoil meant a week off school and the arrival of ‘the bazaar’ in town, along with a colourful host of characters, enjoying marathon sessions. Back then the town was buzzing and there was a wonderful atmosphere as you crossed the bridge over the River Feale to the racecourse, to the lilting sound of ‘throw me down something’ from Travellers who enjoyed the good fortune of (some) punters. 

Such sounds could not be heard over the thunderous Feale river on Saturday when, accompanied by my financial turf adviser, (my Dad), I returned to the race track on a glorious Autumn day. My tactic of backing horses with fun, quirky names was abandoned on the advice of my father so I went with ‘good’ each way prospects, all of whom came nowhere. After the races we walked the streets of the lovely north kerry town stopping into the institution that is The Shebeen pub, where people were relaxing in the great company of its owners, chatting about this year’s festival, which had a record crowd for Ladies Day on Friday. I returned to Wexford on Sunday night exhausted after a great escape (and a few too many) in Kerry.

Wexford People



Because a Brosna emigrant was very kind to me when I was sick, I resolved that , when I was well again,  I would visit Brosna and take a few photos to bring her home closer to her. This is for you, Eileen.

St. Moling’s church dominates the square.

This is the square with the bell in the foreground.

I went into the lovely little church and photographed some of the stained glass windows which were donated by parishioners. Brosna must have had some wealthy and generous families at one time.

The view from the church door

Tree in the church grounds

The people of Brosna are ecumenical. They have given this old bell from the Protestant church a prominent in The Square.


Golf View Bypass

If you need to get through Listowel fast during the roadworks there is a bypass from Cahirdown to the bridge through the old golf course. It costs a euro.


Two Humans of Listowel

Paula Hannon and Maurice Kelliher on William Street yesterday, October 13 2016

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