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: Candles

January Horse Fair 2019, Badminton in its Heyday and a bit about Candles

An entrance to town which some older people call the Canon’s Height or The Custom Gap.


January Fair

Jan 3 2019 was the first horsefair of the year in town. I forgot all about it so my photos for you are stolen from Moss Joe Browne’s Facebook page. If you like them, there are lots more where they came from

    Jason Rogers with Tom “Bawn”McCarthy and his granddaughter Saoirse and Pat Fitzgerald at Listowel horse fair.

The O Connor family from Listowel with Seán Hartigan at the Listowel horse fair.

Bernie O Connell with Pat Sweeney and his grandchildren at the Listowel horse fair.

The following account of fairs long ago is from Dúchas, the National folklore collection.

“Fairs are not held in this district nor does anyone remember fairs being held here. They are held in Listowel which is the nearest town to us. Very often before a big fair buyers or jobbers went around to the farmers’ houses to buy calves and sometimes cattle. This is still carried on. There are no accounts of former fairs being discontinued or of fairs being held on hills, near churchyards, near castles, or near forts. In Listowel the fairs are held in the streets, in the square, and in the market place. No toll was collected in the streets but for every cow you’d carry into the square you’d have to pay seven pence and for every pig you’d carry into the market place you’ have to pay a penny. This money was given to Lord Listowel. Luck money is always given. It is called luck money. For every pig or bonham a schilling is given and for a cow half a crown. If prices are high a pound is given as luck money for a horse but if prices are low five schillings is given. When a bargain is made the seller holds out his hand and the buyer strikes it with his clenched fist. A piece of hair is cut out of the cows side to show she is sold. A dab of paint is then stamped on it. This is done sometimes on the cows back.”

Baile an Bhunánaigh (B.) (roll number 16851)
Location: Ballybunnion, Co. Kerry; Teacher: P. Ó Hailin


Ballyheigue Races

December 30 2019  Photo: Moss Joe Browne


Listowel Badminton

I don’t have a date but maybe it’s just as well……

Photo and names from John Junior Griffin

(Many of the ladies would have married in later times but I list the names as I knew them then)

Front row, left to right; 

Katsy Kennelly, Noelle O’Donovan, Evelyn Breen, Marie O’Connor, Marina Behan, Pamela Behan, Mary O’Donoghue, Mary McCarthy, Sharon McAuliffe

Middle row;

Ian Nugent, Martin Stack, Michael Quelly, Mickey Kelliher, Derek Dillon, Liam Dillon, Sean Comerford

Back Row; 

Jnr. Griffin, Jimmy Dore. Brendan Behan, Tom Heaphy, John Dore

( Sadly, as you know, Martin Stack has since passed away. Many of the others are scattered worldwide)



Candles were once a regular item on everyone’s shopping list.

The following was recorded by a child in the Dúchas folklore collection;

My grandmother used make candles out of the fat of cows. She used buy the fat from the butcher and after they killed a cow for their own use. First of all she used put it into a mould and put a cord in the hole at the end of it and knot it. Then she used pull the cord through the mould and pour in the fat and leave it so for a day or two. The candles are about as wide as Christmas candles now.

Collector- Nora Shine, Address, Derreen, Co. Limerick (Kilbaha School)
Informant, Patrick W. Shine. Relation parent, Address, Derreen, Co. Limerick.

Candles were always part of Christmas fare in every house.

Junior Griffin told me this;

Just to follow up on your mention on the one pound Christmas  candles in recent times.

I would have sold a lot of those in my years in McKenna’s and before the age  of the modern electric candles these were very popular.

I used to do both the white and red one pound candle. The red was a bit more expensive than the white. On querying why so from the representive on  one occasion I was told that the white was looked upon as a “household necessity” whilst the red was in what was looked upon as being in the fancy goods department . You would be wondering where our civil servants get the brain storms to make decisions like these.

Ballybunion, Christmas Candles and An Gleann 1978 and Maurice Leonard in Famine time Listowel

The Barrack Corner, Ballybunion


Pres. Listowel girls who represented Ireland in the World Schools’ Basketball Championships

( Someone might tell us the year)

Top left is Louise Galvin who is now more famous as a rugby player. She recently scored a try in Dubai in the Sevens’ World Series which ended in defeat for Ireland at the quarter final stage.


Christmas Candles

Last week I posted this;

In olden days the Christmas candle was the big white one pounder. Anything smaller was regarded with something bordering on contempt., unworthy of the title “Christmas” candle. They were unfavourably described as “little traithníns of things”. Tháithnín being the Irish for a wisp of straw or a blade of grass. When the electric candle arrived in the mid sixties the newcomer was dismissed as being nothing like a rale candle at all.” I vividly remember all those “rale candles” shining in the windows of the farmhouses as we made our way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the nip of frost in the air and the sky “alive with stars.”

And then I read about candlemakers in the Irish Independent. Let me share a few things I learned with you.

Rathbornes of Dublin is the oldest candle making firm in the world. It was founded in in 1488.

In 1488 only the wealthy could do anything after dark for there was no public lighting and only the rich could afford a supply of candles to keep the dark at bay.

Before candles there were smelly oil lamps which often fell over with disastrous consequences.

The first candles made from animal fats were made at home or in monasteries.

The first street lighting was candle light until it was replaced by oil and gas in the 18th century.

Candles were used as devices to keep the time. A timekeeping candle has 12 marked divisions and could burn for 24 hours. These were used to mark the length of work shifts in industry.  Timekeeping candles were used in some coalmines until 50 years ago.

The phrase ‘burning the candle at both ends” has its origins in the days when candles were valuable and used sparingly. Burning the candle at both ends would be wasteful and an inefficient use of energy.


Slander in Kerry

From Patrick O’Sullivan’s A Year in Kerry

A learned professor with an address in Kensington, London, believed that there was enough gossip in Kerry in the year 1935 to make it a proposition for him to publish the following advertisement in The Kerryman: ‘If those suffering as a result of scandal or slander care to send me a postal order for 2s.6d I will give them sound advice to assist them in defeating same with the utmost dignity and prudence.” The professor’s advice did not come cheap; 2s.6d, the old half crown was a considerable amount of money in those days.

Victims might have been better advised to seek out a trusty solicitor. Though, according to an old story, when Daniel O’Connell was asked by a woman to direct her to an honest lawyer, he replied, “I fear your request is beyond me, Madam.”


Those were the Days….Probably 1978

Photo and names from Denis Carroll on Facebook

Back row L-R Gigs Nolan,?, Pa Kennedy, Miley Fitz, Jerry Kelliher, Bob O Brien, Buster Lynch, PJ Kelliher, Jimmy Griffin, Manager Roche.

Front L-R, Denny Carroll, Peter Sugrue, Kempes Kelliher, Kevin Sheehy, Liam Kelliher & Noel Roche.


A Clarification of a Clarification

Just a quick bringing you up to speed on this story. A little boy in the folklore collection in Dúchas recorded a story in his family of how the local mill owner, whom we now know was Maurice Leonard, allowed  people to starve during the Famine while his mill was full of flour.

A blog follower who had read Home Thoughts from Abroad   wrote to “correct” the folk memory and to say that Mr. Leonard was in fact extraordinarily generous to the starving people of Listowel.

Not so according to today’s email;

Hello, Mary.

Always enjoy Listowel Connection — and appreciate the effort and detective work you put into it.

In your latest post, the person who was “happy to put the record straight” about Litstowel mill owner Maurice Leonard actually raises more questions.

On the one hand, W. Keane reported that Leonard had soldiers posted outside his mill during the potato famine to keep the hungry away from the grain. And that the mill owner was willing to let grain that he couldn’t sell go rotten.

On the other hand, the person who wants to set the record straight notes that a T. F. Culhane (in his book Home Thoughts From Abroad) recalls that same mill owner getting “six thousand barrels of flour” to the starving.

‘Recalls’ is the wrong word, as T. F. Culhane was born fifty years after the famine.

W. Keane’s version, which painted quite a different picture of that mill owner, was recorded in the late 1930’s — so that wasn’t a first-hand account either.

There are a couple hard facts in John Pierse’s excellent book Teampall Bán relating to Mr. Leonard’s mill and to the man himself.

First of all, during that time Leonard’s mill functioned as an auxiliary workhouse, which means Leonard benefited from free labour from those reeling from the famine. That was, of course, perfectly in line with the UK government’s quaint economic/moral philosophy at the time.

And as far as any contemporaneous record of Mr. Leonard’s charitable largesse, Teampall Bán notes his donation to the 1846 Listowel Relief Fund. It was two pounds.

It’s only implied through the T. F. Culhane quote that Mr. Leonard freely gave those six thousand barrels of flour to the starving.

Without other evidence, it’s a safer bet that Leonard in fact sold that flour to workhouse officials.

I think six-thousand-barrels worth of charity would have left a far greater imprint in local lore.

I’m interested if any fellow blog readers and any historians out there have any info about whether our local mill owner was indeed a saint, or just a man of his times.

Best regards.

— Dan Murphy

Dan raises some very interesting points. What a pity John Pierse is n’t online! I’ll have to leave it to a few more local  historians to unravel this one.


Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

This is Vincent Carmody’s latest addition to the history of Listowel in print. This book is a tribute to the late printer, Bob Cuthbertson and to the people who worked with him and the printers who came after him until 1970. 

These are a few examples of the material that is in the book. Anyone interested in social history will have a great time feasting on the nuggets in this impressive book. I dont think any other town has such a record. It also has a brilliant introductory essay from Cyril Kelly and an afterword from Fergal Keane.

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