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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Our Library

Carnegie on Sunday Sept. 4 2022

Have you wondered why this building is called the Carnegie Free Library?

Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland but grew up and rose to fame in America. At the time of his death in 1919 he was the richest man in America. He made his fortune in steel.

Andrew Carnegie is most famous today as a writer and a philanthropist. He built swimming pools and laboratories in the U.S. He built Carnegie Hall.

On this side of the world he is best known for his free libraries. He was a believer in the value of education and one plank of widespread free education was access to books.

Carnegie set up free public libraries all over the English speaking world. Listowel was one of the many towns that applied to the Trust, securing a library for the town.

As you can see from newspaper cuttings of the time (sourced for us by Dave O’Sullivan) there was a bit of a local spat that delayed matters somewhat.

The first library was built in Bridge Road.

Denis Quille sent us this photograph a few years ago of the library building on Bridge Road after it was burned down during The Troubles.

The present building that bears Carnegie’s name is no longer a library. Our new free public library is located in the Courthouse Plaza. It is part of the National Free Library service. Carnegie is still commemorated in the name of the fine building in Church Street.


John B. Keane’s Sive

John B.’s famous play is said to have roofed more churches than any other. This refers to its popularity with rural amateur groups.. It is still popular with audiences today.

Back in 1958 when the play was in its heyday and winning accolades all round it, John B. got a local art teacher to paint a mural on the wall behind the bar in John B.’s. The picture was of the final scene in the play, Sive. Liam Scuab comes into the kitchen where Sive’s foster parents are preparing for her wedding the next day. In his arms Liam has the lifeless body of the drowned girl. It is a dramatic moment in the play shocking in its portrayal of the consequences of the actions of all the other characters. Every one on the stage had, through inaction or action brought about Sieves tragic death.

Katie Lucey as Sive in a re enactment of the final scene in Sive.

On Aug 25 2022, the artist, Moira Keane returned to John B.’s pub.

Billy invited her back to sign her work 53 years after she originally painted it. The local drama group re enacted the final scene from the play. We had a great night. It was great to be back at pub theatre after a long absence.


Passing of a Pet

R.I.P. Dinny. I don’t think I have ever mentioned this fellow here before. He was my brother’s 15 year old house cat who passed away last week. The home place isn’t the same without him.

When I called yesterday, I saw this thoughtful card from the vets that looked after Dinny as he came to the end of the road.

Small things mean so much that they are not small things at all.


Summer’s Over

All back at school after a great summer. Time is flying by.


Athea, Green Oranges, Ignorance Dispelled, a Boland Poem and a Walking Tour

Listowel’s Carnegie Library

This is Listowel’s Carnegie Library, now KDYS Youth Centre. Andrew Carnegie was an American philanthropist  who endowed communities all over Ireland with free libraries. Kerry seems to have benefited more than many other Irish counties. This year we are commemorating 100 years since Carnegie’s death. An Post is bringing out a commemorative stamp. The stamp is going to feature Athea’s Carnegie Library.

(Below photo and text are from Athea Tidy Town on Facebook)

Delighted to learn that our Carnegie Library here in Athea will feature on a postal stamp to be released on August 8th to mark the centenary of the Death of Andrew Carnegie who provided the grant to build the Libraries! Stamps will be available to preorder online shortly.


Athea Mural

I finally got to Athes to see the restored mural and all the recent developments.

This Jim Dunn mural is still my favourite. Every time I see it I enjoy it afresh. If you haven’t seen it yet, put it on The Bucket List today.

The other celtic style mural featuring local people, and celebrating Athea talent and legends has been fully refurbished and is looking vibrant and striking. It’s absolutely lovely. It is now preserved from the elements as well.


A Charity Shop Find

I found this gem in the Irish Wheelchair shop in Listowel.  It’s full of interesting pieces of information, stuff most of us get wrong. I’m proposing to drip feed some of my newfound wisdom to you here.

Once a teacher……..

Are oranges orange?

No, is the short answer. In many countries, oranges are green, even when ripe, and are sold that way in shops.

There are no oranges in the wild.  An orange is a cross between the tangerine and the pomelo, which is pale green or yellow. They were first grown in South East Asia. The first oranges were green and Vietnamese oranges are still green. Thai tangerines are green on the outside and orange on the inside.

In Honduras the people eat their oranges green at home and orange them up for export. They do this by blasting them with ethylene which removes the green outer layer, allowing the orange layer to show thorough.

So if you are visiting Vietnam or other really hot country, buy the green oranges. They are fully ripe and delicious. I verified the ‘fact” with Google.


Bob Boland’s Heartfelt Plea

Bob Boland, Farnastack poet and agricultural contractor, lived through World War Two and all the privations of rationing that accompanied it. Here he pleads with the Dept. to give him a permit for fuel so he can do his job and work for the local farmers at the harvest.


Guided Walk, Saturday July 13 2019

These lovely people walked with me on my first guided walk around town on Saturday. They came from Listowel, Duagh,  from Lithuania, from Canada, from the U.S. and the U.K. and there was a brave family from Mayo there too. They heard some stories and I heard some stories too. Great morning!

William Street, Nolan’s, an overdue library book and more from the 2019 Parade

William Street, Listowel


Pat Nolan’s, Charles St.


St. Patrick’s Day 2019


A Patient Dog at Lidl, Listowel


Caught on Camera

I was snapped taking a penalty against Elmo. Thank you Listowel Celtic!


It was Roses Roses all the way

Denis Hegarty was having a whale of a time in New York on St. Patrick’s Day posing with mayors, Roses, gardaí and all

Mr. OShea and Tara who has family in Tralee


Truth is often Stranger than Fiction

Local media this week were all agog about the return to the public library of a book that was overdue by 50 years.

Like all good stories this one is not without an ironic twist. The book was a biography of Andrew Carnegie, the founder of the trust that funded Listowel’s and other libraries around the world. Our library used to be known as The Carnegie Free Library and thanks to funding by the Carnegie trust the library service was free for years and years. Maybe the borrower thought that the books were free too.


Meanwhile in Rattoo on March 17 2019


Just a Thought

My last week’s Thoughts from Radio Kerry are at the link below.

Just a Thought

Carnegie Library on Bridge Road and Listowel folk at 11.00a.m. mass on St. Patrick’s Day 2018

Great photo by Peter Tips of Mallow Camera Club


Listowel’s Carnegie Library…the early days

Denis Quille found this old photo and sent it to me to share with you in Listowel connection. It sparked interest in many of the blog’s followers so, on your behalf, Dave O’Sullivan has been doing some research.

Here are the answers to some of your questions

Who was Carnegie and why did he build libraries?

Around the turn of the century, Scottish businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, decided that the “best gift” to give to a community was a free public library. Carnegie credited his remarkable success to access to library books in his childhood and teenage years and believed strongly that educational opportunities should be free and accessible to all. In 1898, Carnegie put his beliefs into action and started a funding program that would lay the groundwork for the public library system in the US and Canada. By the time his corporation ceased funding the projects 20 years later, over 2500 libraries had been built around the world using the “Carnegie formula,” which provided initial capital for the construction of the building with municipalities committing to carrying ongoing operational costs. 

This is the Carnegie Library in Listowel in Canada.

Why Listowel, Co. Kerry?

Basically because some farsighted local people asked for one. There was also the question of a local contribution and Listowel was willing and able to raise this. Most of the Carnegie libraries in Ireland are clustered around the cities of Dublin, Galway and Limerick but there are a few dotted around elsewhere.

Brendan Grimes is an expert on Carnegie Libraries and as well as writing the book he has recorded a talk on them which Dave found on youtube

Brendan Grimes on Carnegie Libraries , Skerries 2013

Who designed the Listowel library?

Dave found the answer on line and here it is;

Architect and engineer, of Dublin. Rudolf Maximilian Butler was born in Dublin on 30 September 1872, the son of John Butler, a barrister from Carlow, and Augusta Brassart, who came from Schleswig-Holstein.(1) He was educated in Dublin until he was ten, when his father died. At the time of his father’s death in Dublin, Rudolf was on a Christmas holiday with his mother in Germany, with the result that he remained in Germany to finish his education. When he was sixteen he returned to Dublin, where, after a brief spell in the wine business, he became a pupil first, from 1889-1891, of JAMES JOSEPH FARRALL   and then, from 1891 to 1896, of WALTER GLYNN DOOLIN. H  e stayed on as an assistant to Doolin from 1896 to 1899, when he became his junior partner. Following Doolin’s death in March 1902, Butler carried on the practice in partnership with JAMES LOUIS DONNELLY   as DOOLIN BUTLER &  amp; DONNELLY.  (2) Since 1899 Butler had also been architect and engineer to Rathdown Rural District Council, in which capacity he designed some five hundred cottages in Cos. Dublin & Wicklow.(3) In 1902 he was also appointed consulting engineer to the Gurteen drainage board.  

Who built the Listowel library?

Thereby hangs a tale as Dave discovered in the newspapers.

The contract was awarded to Mr. John Sisk of Cork in 1914. But there was a hold up.

So it looks like they all lived happily ever after.

Kerry has the following…..The Public Libraries Act was adopted by Kerry County Council in 1925, making the Local Authority responsible for all libraries in the county, except Listowel (which operated under a Trust until 1953). Prior to this, grants had been received from the Carnegie Trust for the erection of Carnegie Library buildings at Cahirciveen, Castleisland, Dingle, Kenmare, Killorglin, Listowel and Tralee. The Library service in Cahirciveen, Dingle, Castleisland and Kenmare still operates from these original or reconstructed buildings.

In September 1983, the new County Library Headquarters and Tralee Branch Library were opened. This gave a major boost to the Library Service and provided facilities for a modern Library Service to meet future educational, social, cultural and recreational needs of the community.


More Listowel People on March 17 2018

Woulfe’s, Listowel Sporting Ballads, Carnegie Library and Tralee

Woulfe’s Bookshop

This is Woulfe’s Bookshop in Church Street Listowel


Listowel Football and Sporting Ballads

 Vincent Carmody gave us an essay on some of the sporting ballads written by Listowel people. I will serialise it over the next few days.

Listowel and the written word have been synonymous over the years, so it
is of no surprise that many of the town’s penmen have at various times put pen
to paper to record in verse form for posterity the deeds of man and beast.

One of the earliest pieces that I know of is a short unrhyming lament by
a player who had played for Listowel against Tralee. We do not know the result
of the match, nor the name of the writer,

Likewise, the Painach Somers,

Near his eye he got a kick,

Saying, “For we are shamed, lame and blind,

Since we played in sweet Tralee”.

The Somers referred to was a Tom Somers from Convent Street, a local wit
and all-round sportsman. He was once asked if he ever score a point.  “I did once”, was his answer, having paid Mrs
Grady for a pint, she gave me the pint, then after a while, she put up a second
pint thinking I had her paid for it, I sang dumb for once.

At an athletic meeting he won a race for the first time. As he was
congratulated on coming first, his answer was, “I am first at last, I was
always behind before.”  


The Carnegie Library 

 All the talk of the library prompted people to look up the origins of the Carnegie in Listowel. Here is the result of some delving into the archives.

Not great but the best we could do


The Mall, Tralee

The Mall Tralee is pedestrianised. It is now a lovely space.

On the Saturday I visited it even had its own preacher.


St. Patrick’s Day in Listowel

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