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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Photo credit; Tom Quish, Mallow Camera Club


A Postbox

The post box at the corner of Church Street was still out of service last time I was in that part of town.

Mike Hannon shared this old picture of Bryan MacMahon with the very same postbox.


Listowel Cinemas

Tom McElligott and his committee are working hard to save the Classic Movieplex. They have set up a Go Fund Me page.

Save Our Cinema

To realise the dream they need 100,000 euros

Mike Hannon’s picture of the cinema when it was The Astor

Tom sent me this old poster that was sent to him by a great grandson of Michael J. Tighe.

It is from 1925.

Once upon a time there were at least 4 cinema in Listowel. I dont know which one was The Stella.

There was a cinema in the Plaza, one where Quill’s North County is now, one in Tae Lane and one where the Classic was.


Won’t be Long Now

Catherine Moylan, Chair of Listowel Writers’ Week, is looking forward to standing at the podium in person to open this year’s festival.

The 2022 festival will be officially opened by Dominic West.

Writers’ Week 2022 will run from June 1 to June 5


From the Pres. Yearbook 2002/03

Little Known Fact

If Holly (Ilex aquifolium) finds its leaves are being nibbled by deer, it switches genes on to make them spiky when they regrow. So on taller Holly trees, the upper leaves (which are out of reach) have smooth edges, while the lower leaves are prickly


Alice Taylor, Pisheógs, Cotter na Gruaige and Plans for Writers’ Week 2020

A dog who loves the beach  Photo by Bridget O’Connor


A Writers’ Week Memory

It must have been 1988 or 1989, because To School Through the Fields was published in 1988 and its author, Alice Taylor is the subject of my story.

Alice Taylor and me in Philips Bookshop in Mallow at a book signing in

November 2019.

Back in 1988 Alice Taylor was starting out on her literary career and she came to Listowel to attend Writers’ Week. I was a Mammy with a little girl who was anxious to take part in the Writers’ Week fancy dress parade. I thought up the perfect dress- up character for Clíona. Easy peasy as all the props and costume requirements were easy to acquire.

I dressed her up in her school uniform, tied a few old books together with a leather strap/belt and found a sod of turf. Ta dah! Alice Taylor goes To School Through the Fields.

As we were dispersing after the parade the bus with the people on the bus tour was just arriving in The Square. Alice Taylor was alighting from the bus when she spotted the little girl dressed as herself. She called us over, gave Clíona a fiver and posed for a photo. Poor Clíona hadn’t a clue who the lady was but she pocketed the fiver all the same. She didn’t really appreciate the fact that she had just met one of Ireland”s up and coming memoir writers.

Statue of Alice Taylor in her native Newmarket, Co. Cork


Listowel Writers’ Week Art Committee

Jim Dunn, Catherine Moylan, Carol Stricks and Elizabeth Dunn finalising a brilliant Art programme for Listowel Writers’ Week 2020, which will run from May 27 to May 31 2020

I got a sneak peak at what’s in store and its really really good.

I’m on the 50th Commemoration Committee and we are desperately looking for old photos, or stories from the last 50 years of festivals. A big thank you to the people who have sent stuff already but there must be lots of stuff in albums and attics that others would enjoy seeing. Take a look for us, please.


The Bittling Woman of Rathea

Yesterday’s story from Rathea raised many questions. I think we are all agreed that it refers to some kind of pisheóg behaviour. The dead cow at the end is the clue here.

Dave O’Sullivan found the meaning of the word bittling in a dictionary of Scots Gallic

Dictionary to the Scots language

It would appear she was washing clothes and beating them clean. The reference to hearing her is obviously to hearing the beating sound as she pounded the clothes.

Pisheógs were often invoked to bring good luck to one family and bad luck to another. The death of a cow would be a huge stroke of bad luck. Pisheógs often involved the stealing of milk or butter. A man told me that he heard of a family who could work pisheógs. The person casting the spell would come to the cow house of the person to be cursed, would take the spancel and would work it back and forth under the best cow in the herd. That cow would dry up and the pisheogie person’s cow would produce gallons of milk.

Another story he told me was of a man who could work pisheogs.  When he went to mass on Sundays, when it came to the consecration, he would turn his back on the altar and face the congregation behind him.

(the power of pisheogs was thought to come from the devil)


Cotter na Gruaige

A Pied Piper story from Rathea in the School’s Folklore collection

About 74 years ago a most unwelcomed visitor occasionally went past the village of Duagh, as it was the main road from Listowel town to Cork City for carting all farm produce. The name of this visitor was Cotter na Gruaige, he used to set charms, and also curse people for little cause and everybody was afraid to meet him. He was conspicious looking. He wore his hair hanging to his waist at his back and his beard hung to his waist in front. His mode of travelling was a pony about 20 years old and spotted like a magpie. 

He often went without causing any trouble but on one occasion while passing through Duagh the school children were at play in the school.grounds and when Cotter na Gruaige came on they threw puddle on him and his pony. He immediately drove his pony into the school yard to accuse the teacher named (Mr James Dore) who met Cotter in the  yard and ordered him out on the road. When on the road Cotter said to the teacher “I am going now but I am leaving you my army.”

 Master Dore lived 100 yards from the school, in a nice thatched residence which stands to this day. When school was over Dore walked up home, but to his amazement the thatch of his house was torn and thrown down by an immense crowd of rats. He entered the house but could not eat his dinner as the rats came up on the table. He was half frightened and did not know what to do. He went to the Parish Priest Father O Regan and told him his story. The priest went to see the rats and when he saw them he told the teacher, he should find Cotter na Gruaige and pay him to withdraw his charm. 

Next day the teacher set out on search of Cotter and found him in the evening at the house of a man named Nolan of Brosna. The teacher apologised and asked Cotter to come next day and take away the rats which he promised to do. The teacher came home that night and told his story to everybody including Father O Regan. 

Next day about noon Cotter na Gruaige was coming to the village and crowds flocked round him to see what would occur. Cotter rode his pony to the yard in front of the teachers house, put his hand in his pocket and drew out a bugle which he sounded and out came all the rats on the road. Cotter kept playing his bugle and riding slowly on his pony until he came to a small river South of Duagh named Glashamore. When he came to the river bank all the rats were around him, except one which he asked for, and the teacher said one rat remained in the yard. 

Cotter na Gruaige ordered two rats to go for the missing one and they went immediately and brought the largest rat of all which was blind. He walked between his two Guards led by a cord which he held in his mouth. When the blind rat landed on the river bank Cotter ordered all rats to disappear and all the rats jumped into the river below the bridge and were out of sight in a second and from that day to this no rat was seen at Dore’s house.

Dómhnall de Staic
Duagh, Co. Kerry

Duagh, Co. Kerry


A jig saw, Young Adult Bookfest 2019 and a Castleisland sign

Winter is jigsaw time. Here is Cora getting to grips with a big one.


Writers’ Week Young Adult Bookfest 2019

This is always one of the highlights of Transition Year. This year was a superb mix of business and pleasure, some tips for Leaving Cert English spiced with music and comedy. There was also some valuable life advice and some stories from people who reached their goal via the scenic route.

Aimée Keane of Listowel Writers’ Week with Stephanie Rainey, singer songwriter.

A case of two Caseys (no relation), Bernard Casey of Kerry and Shane Casey of Cork, actors and comedians.

Catherine Moylan and Elizabeth Dunn of Listowel Writers’ Week with Mary Sobieralski.

Poet, Ciara Ní É and singe,r Emma Langford

Elaine Kinsella was an excellent MC and Catherine Moylan was first on stage to get the show on the road.


Parking in Castleisland church grounds is only for the prayerful

Be good or be gone!


On the Wall in The Listowel Arms

The coat of Arms which gave the hotel its name

Catherine Moylan, Opening Night Listowel Writers Week 2019 and Listowel Business and Community Alliance

Catherine Moylan, Chair of Listowel Writers’ Week 2019

I have known Catherine Moylan since she was knee high to a grasshopper and it came as no surprise to me that this young lady, who has broken through many a glass ceiling in her career so far, is making an excellent job of what is probably her biggest gig to date, chairing Ireland’s premier literary festival.

Former chair, Mike Lynch gives the new chair a twirl just to calm the nerves before the big opening speech for Listowel Writers’ Week, May 29 2019.

Catherine gave a well crafted, well delivered  and very well received keynote address. She told us how special she felt to have grown up in Listowel where Writers’ Week was a constant every year, where Bryan MacMahon read the children a story at her friend’s birthday party and John B. Keane was someone you could meet any day on the street. She hit the nail on the head when she identified the USP that makes Listowel Writers’ Week so different to other literary festivals. The key ingredient is Listowel and it’s people.

Look at the front row of the audience she addressed undaunted.

In the audience were parents, Helen and Eddie, looking a bit nervous but massively proud.


Pictures from Listowel Town Square on May 29 2019

Politicians, musicians, poets, clergy, businessmen and women, old friends and new were there.


Listowel Business and Community Alliance

Rose Wall has replaced Stephen Stack at the helm of Listowel Business and Community Alliance. She is pictured here with Paul O’Connor and Maeve Queally.

Maeve of Some Studio was giving a morning talk to the local business community on the concept and importance of branding.


David Twomey

Some people know David better as an athlete, but I first met David when he was starting out on his gardening and landscaping career. He is one of the people responsible for the planted environment in our lovely town. When I took this photo last week he was getting Listowel ready for the Entente Florale judging.

Coin Holder, The Sacrament of Confirmation, work at the library plaza and Writers’ Week 2019 draws nearer

Irish Wildlife Photography Competition Finalist

Pine Marten; Kenny Goodison


Remember These?

This is a handy coin purse. They were given to customers to mark the introduction of decimal coinage. That was in the good old days when banks gave little nick nacks to customers, money boxes, calendars, diaries, pens etc. 


The Swallows are late this year

Mike and Sue Nilsson are great supporters of North Kerry in general and Listowel in particular. They spend part of ever year here. It is their second home. They are back just in time for Writers’ Week and the visit of our President to present our Tidy Town accolade.


Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The sanctuary in St. Mary’s with the Confirmation altar cloth

These gifts are in addition to the seven big ones…..wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. ..


The Library Plaza

Lots of work going on here. I’ll keep you posted. You would never guess we are expectoing a very important visitor.


Listowel Writers’ Week 2019

Nearly there now!

Maria, Sinead and Máire  took a minute away from their busy lives to pose for me as I waited for my Ard Curam concert tickets on Wednesday.

Listowel Writers’ Week 2019 opens in The Listowel Arms on May 29th. There is a great festival in store so get booking before it’s too late.

My friends were planning their week when who should pop by but Catherine Moylan , this year’s chair of Listowel Writers’ Week accompanied by Liz Dunn, last year’s chair. Who better to advise  one on the not to be missed events?

And then this happened…….

The Listowel Writers’ Week team won Gold at the Kerry Community Awards in Killarney last evening, May 16 2019.

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