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 email@example.com
You are born in love and pain. Given to us for a short time only. Before we must let you go again, with love and pain. One day you’ll come to know how close they are, one to the other. You are a treasure, a blessing, a prayer’s answer, A jig in my Irish soul. You are me, and I am you. You are both of us, the love of your mother and me. Let me be worthy of you. Let me lead you to truth, to beauty, to the mystery of the universe. You will ask me great questions, and sometimes I will not know the answers. Perhaps we are not meant to know some things. That is life too… a seeking. It may be our only purpose here. All things are changing, always. Yesterday is dust, tomorrow a dream. Our gift is now. And so, my sweet angel, may you know love, and be loved in return. May you know truth, and laughter, and peace, and happiness, And may the great spirit of the universe enfold you in his arms, and keep you safe, for always.
Éamon ÓMurchú sent us this lovely poem by Gabriel Byrne around the time that the nation was in mourning for Ashling Murphy.
Walking Among Ghosts
Gabriel Byrne, one of our most successful actors is also a skilled writer. His recent interview with Tommy Tiernan showed us another side of him.
A story that he told resonated with me. In case you missed it, here is is.
In the old Irish legend Niamh Cinn Óir lured Óisín to come with her to Tír na nÓg. She promised him happiness and eternal youth. He went with her and he was happy and youthful. One day Niamh asked him if he was contented. He replied that he was but he missed his fiends at home. So Niamh granted him his wish to go back to Ireland and see his old country and his old friends.
Alas, the country was changed utterly and his friends were gone. He found himself walking among ghosts.
Byrne was telling us that this is the story of every emigrant.
It is a story I hear often from followers of Listowel Connection.
John Croghan and Autie Galvin being presented by John Joe Kenny with the Joe James Handball shield.
This is part of Dan Hartnett’s collection of old receptacles. I think these were for whiskey or beer. If memory serves me right we used to call them jorums.
Listowel Town Square is changing. Here is something I photographed for you from last week’s Kerryman.
The section of Greenway from Abbeyfeale to Listowel is scheduled to be ready for summer 2022.
Kerry Co. Council have shared this video of progress so far.
Vincent Carmody Remembers Great Times in the Cinema
As someone who grew up quite close to the Astor, the cinema site itself, the adjacent railway property, in and around the Sluadh Hall and around the creamery were play areas for those of us from the top of William Street.
A particular thing that we used to do when in the cinema yard was to pick up pieces of the celluloid film which would have been cut from the reels as the projectionist would splice reels together. We would take these clips home and get real enjoyment if any actors faces appeared on the clips. Another thing that would have been discarded were sticks of carbine. They would have been used in the projection room. This room was attached to the end wall of the cinema and was accessed by concrete steps to the upstairs projection room. Underneath was the boiler room.
Pat Dowling of the Bridge Road was the projectionist. He was a mechanic at Moloney’s Garage in William Street and was also a member of the Fire Brigade. Jeremiah O’Connor of O’Connell’s Avenue was his assistant. Mrs Woulfe of St. Brendan’s Terrace was manageress and worked in the ticket office, while Michael Nolan and John Joe O’Connor were doormen.
There was no shop in situ in our time. Sweets would have to be bought at either Jet Stacks, Quills or Kelly’s from further down the street.
Admission to the gods (hard seats) was four old pence, middle soft seats, I think ten pence and the more up market balcony around would have cost one shilling and three pence.
The Astor would show the same film, at the most, for two nights, whereas the Plaza would usually have the same film for three nights. Both cinemas would have afternoon matinees and and night show on Sundays. There were some in the town who would alternate visits to both cinemas on different nights. One nightly man in particular, was a pipe smoker and he would have two pipes, smoking one until it got hot, then changing it for the second one.
Advertisements for many local shops would appear on screen prior to the shows. Then usually what was shown next was either a serial or shorts, then trailers of upcoming films. If it was a serial, this would continue over a period of weeks. A great favourite at one stage, was a half hour Scotland Yard mystery case. This was presented by an actor called Bruce Seton, (at that time I was not to know that I would get to know him very well when I worked in the Devonshire Arms public house in Kensington London in the 1960s).
At one time, whoever was booking films must have got a bargain in buying in bulk. For about five Sundays in succession, films starring a cowboy by the name of Whip Wilson filled the screen, so much so, one local wit, put it out that Wilson was lodging at a local B & B.
Being at the Astor on Sunday September 11th 1955, is a date I remember quite vividly. The reason for this, is that in that year, both All Ireland semi finals ended in draws on the two previous weekends. Both replays were re-fixed for the 11th, Kerry playing Cavan and Dublin playing Mayo. I remember that the Kerry match was played first, meaning that it did not finish until nearly four o clock. The Astor management, realising this, wisely put back their starting time to facilitate cinema goers who would have been listening to the match on the radio.
Another standout memory is of attending a showing of Angela’s Ashes. I found this a depressing movie, more so, as it seemed to have been filmed in near constant rain and depression. Leaving the cinema shortly after ten o clock that evening, we exited to a lovely bright warm summer evening. It felt great after what we had seen on screen.
Another vivid memory for me is seeing Dead Poets’ Society. At the end of the film, Eamon Keane, recognising a fellow actor, Robin William’s tour de force, stood and applauded for a full five minutes
On occasions (especially before Walsh’s Super Ballroom was built in the 1950s) the Astor was used as a Dance Hall. In the 1940s there were occasional supper dances, with dancing at the Astor and a supper meal been served at the Slua Hall across the road.
I can also recall a variety show sometime in the early 1950s.
I, like many, regret the closure of the Astor, now Classic, as a cinema. However I realise that without a regular substantial audience attendance, a venue like this could not pay its way. Hopefully this fine building will not be pulled down and maybe have a rebirth, as it could be used as a theatre, exhibition space, museum or boutique cinema.
Meanwhile, I salute the late Kieran Gleeson, his wife Teresa and family, for the pleasure which they gave to Listowel cinema goers. I thank them for rescuing the Astor and making it a worthwhile and pleasant location for North Kerry film buffs from January 1987 until its closure in January 2022.
The Astor cinema was built and operated by the Coffey family in the late 1930s. The Coffey family had two cinemas in Tralee. Brendan Coffey ran the Listowel cinema.
Gerard Stack was anxious to see a photo of the scene in Walsh’s toyshop at Christmas time long ago.
Mike Moriarty had just such a photograph
Here is Mike’s email;
In response to Gerard Stack’s post re Toy Shop at Walsh’s I have attached a photo from those days. At the back on the left is yours truly, centre is Marie Keane Stack (mother of the Brogans) and on the right is my brother, Tom. At the piano is Mary Sheehy(nee Shaughnessy). At her left shoulder is Mike McGrath and in the centre is your correspondent, Gerard Stack. We were all neighbours, such a contrast with today where there are no children growing up in William St.
Dave O’Sullivan found some great old ads in The Kerryman. Walsh’s had a Toy Fair complete with film show in 1950.
Another Regular at Christmas Time
At this time of year I like to include familiar seasonal pieces of excellent writing. This is one of my favourites.
A Kerry Christmas Childhood
Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,
As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.
I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,
And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.
We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,
And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,
To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,
And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,
Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,
And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.
From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,
To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,
For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,
To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,
To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,
And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.
The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,
The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,
And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,
Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.
Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire
And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,
Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,
Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights
And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,
And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.
Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,
If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,
And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,
When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,
But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,
To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.
She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.
“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”
The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade
And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.
St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,
To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’
We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,
And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.
Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill
Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.
Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.
Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.
So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,
And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.
Advertisements from another era
Sent to us by Mattie Lennon
So Much has changed
Knitting group in Scribes in 2012
Listowel Christmas 2021
My Christmas Reading
I loved my Woodford Pottery jug and vase so much, I went back and bought the mug to match.
‘Twas the Night before Christmas 2021
By Mary Conlon
Twas the night before Christmas, but Covid was here, So we all had to stay extra cautious this year. Our masks were all hung by the chimney with care In case Santa forgot his and needed a spare. With Covid, we couldn’t leave cookies or cake So we just left Santa hand sanitizer to take.
The children were sleeping, the brave little tots The ones over 12 had just had their first shots, And mom in her kerchief and me in my cap Had just settled in for a long summer’s nap. But we tossed and we turned all night in our beds As visions of variants danced in our heads.
Gamma and Delta and now Omicron These Covid mutations that go on and on I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t get better, I’ll soon be familiar with every Greek letter”.
Then just as I started to drift off and doze A clatter of noise from the front lawn arose. I leapt from my bed and ran straight down the stair I opened the door, and an old gent stood there.
His mask made him look decidedly weird But I knew who he was by his red suit and beard. I kept six feet away but blurted out quick ” What are you doing here, jolly Saint Nick?”
Then I said, “Where’s your presents, your reindeer and sleigh? Don’t you know that tomorrow will be Christmas Day? “ And Santa stood there looking sad in the snow As he started to tell me a long tale of woe.
He said he’d been stuck at the North Pole alone All his white collar elves had been working from home, And most of the others said “Santa, don’t hire us! We can’t work now, thanks to the virus”.
Those left in the toyshop had little to do. With supply chain disruptions, they could make nothing new. And as for the reindeer, they’d all gone away. None of them left to pull on his sleigh.
He said Dasher and Dancer were in quarantine, Prancer and Vixen refused the vaccine, Comet and Cupid were in ICU, So were Donner and Blitzen, they may not pull through.
And Rudolph’s career can’t be resurrected. With his shiny red nose, they all think he’s infected. Even with his old sleigh, Santa couldn’t go far. Every border to cross needs a new PCR.
Santa sighed as he told me how nice it would be If children could once again sit on his knee. He couldn’t care less if they’re naughty or nice But they’d have to show proof that they’d had their shot twice.
But then the old twinkle returned to his eyes. And he said that he’d brought me a Christmas surprise. When I unwrapped the box and opened it wide, Starlight and rainbows streamed out from inside.
Some letters whirled round and flew up to the sky And they spelled out a word that was 40 feet high. There first was an H, then an O, then a P, Then I saw it spelled HOPE when it added the E.
“Christmas magic” said Santa as he smiled through his beard. Then suddenly all of the reindeer appeared. He jumped into his sleigh and he waved me good-bye, Then he soared o’er the rooftops and into the sky.
I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight “Get your vaccines my friends, Merry Christmas, good-night”. Then I went back to bed and a sweet Christmas dream Of a world when we’d finished with Covid 19.
This is the time of year when Listowel traditionally gets a facelift in preparation for the Harvest Festival of Racing. This year, the numbers at the festival will be decimated but Listowel people are determined that our town will look beautiful anyway.
Even the image of Our Lady at St. Mary’s is being cleaned.
A Café for Birds
Chris Grayson loves to entertain birds in his garden. Bertie, his loyal robin, has become familiar to Chris’ Facebook friends from one of Chris’ other hobbies, taking photographs.
Now Chris has set up a bird café in his garden and he has been photographing and sharing photos of some of the clientele.
Chris has captured the many sides of house sparrows, caring, nurturing and just socialising.
Bertie looks a bit like the maitre D.
Believe it or Not
The first female recruits were accepted into An Garda Síochána. Twelve Bean Gardaí (as they were known then) were sworn in at a ceremony in Dublin.
A Feast for the Eyes
My half forgotten Latin suggests that this is on a book from Trinity College Library in Dublin. The art work by Michael O’Connor is truly extraordinary.
Front : Kieran Fitzgerald , Maurice O ‘Sullivan , Mick O’Connell , Tom Lyons , David Kissane .
Middle: John Hynes , Tadhg Moriarty , P J Browne , Timmy Shanahan , Jimmy Deenihan , Pat Stack .
Rear : Eamon O’ Carroll , Maurice O’Connor , Pat Stack , Tommy O ‘Flaherty, John O’ Connell , Jerry Kiernan , Pat Quilter .
Tim Kennelly was also on that team but was missing ( or maybe mitching ) on the day of the photo.
Johnny Flaherty and John Molyneaux Snr. were in charge .
It would probably be hard to believe ,at a remove of 50 years , what St Michaels stood for in those days . It concentrated on imparting a classical education through the medium of Irish with no small amount of disciplinary measures thrown in as a bonus . Teachers took great pride and spoke often on the success of their ‘Alumni’ and , in retrospect , there is no doubt that many a successful career was launched from St Michaels .
I have a couple of photos somewhere of successful college football teams in 1969 /70 . We won both the County and Dunloe Cups which up until then was undreamed of . Our teams included Jimmy Deenihan , Tim Kennelly , Jerry Kiernan , Tommy Fla and younger brother Pat , Tim Shanahan ( who later starred in London ) Eamon Carroll , Gerard Leahy , Maurice ‘Toots’ O’Connor and yours truly . By any standards it was a very talented group which was marshalled firmly by Masters Flaherty and Molyneaux Snr . I will forward the photos if I come across them .
The school was also very successful on the Athletics front at that time . John O’Connell was a wonderful athlete as was Kiernan and all the names mentioned earlier . Success at Provincial and National Level was the norm for a few years . John Molyneaux Snr and Pat Kiernan ( Jerry’s father ) were the driving force . There was even an athletics track in the Sportsfield with lane markings all around , burned onto the Grass . There were jump pits with proper sand and an area reserved for the high jump and pole vault . It was a hive of activity which was not welcomed wholeheartedly by some in the Emmett’s fraternity . Unfortunately I have no photos from that era.
Others I remember as being in the class are Tim Shanahan ( Clounmacon ) , John Neville ( Bedford) , Pat Hayes R.I.P , James O’Donnell ( Ballybunionish ), Timmy Lawlor ( The Square ) but I dont see them in the photo
A Forgiving Poem from Róisín Meaney
For some, it’s all about reading,
For others it’s painting, or kneading,
If it helps you come through itFind time just to do it,
Right now, it’s our souls that need feeding.
Opening of St. Josephs
Photos and story from Patsy Kennedy on Facebook
Opening St. Joseph’s unit in Listowel hospital 1984
First patient Maggie Nolan being welcomed by matron Sr Peter Hudson and staff
Chris Grayson took these photos in the grounds of St. Mary of the Angels. Beaufort