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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cyril Kelly sent the photo to Eamonn Dillon and Eamonn sent it to me. It’s a picture of Church Street neighbours and shopkeepers, Liam Dillon (Eamonn’s father) and Mai Naylor (Cyril’s mother).
Sign of the Times
Lynch’s Coffee Shop is now reopened
New Business on Leahy’s Corner
A Poem of Hope for an End to This
John McGrath (published in John’s anthology, After Closing)
The world has pinned us with a warning glance,
the kind our mothers gave us long ago,
the look that was designed to let us know
that this might be our last and final chance.
So grounded, we can only hope and pray
as, day by day, we inch away from fear
and tiptoe towards a future far from clear
our wounded planet showing us the way,
that voices raised in ignorance and greed
may yet be drowned by kindnesses and care,
together we may rise above despair,
united we will find the strength we need
as, all for one, we reach beyond the pain
and dare to dream tomorrow once again.
The Holy Season closes in St. Mary’s, Listowel
Memories of the Movies
News that the cinema has closed brought up some cinema memories for blog followers.
So sad to see the Astor closing . It was a huge part of growing up for me . Introduced us to a fantasy world where we believe we were Cowboys / Indians ie The Durango Kid, Johnny McBrown , The Lone Ranger or Tonto, Elvis movies always guaranteed a full house . I remember a Chubby Checker Movie where every one was on their feet doing the Twist. Peter Cushing , Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff scaring us to death. What a great time it was. Noel Roche
I accompanied my grandmother to the matinee every Sunday. It was her outing. But for me on Monday at school the question was who went to the cinema yesterday. I had to stand up then my hands were put on the desk palm side down and I got wacked with the bamboo across my knuckles. That was my punishment for watching Hoppalong Cassidy with my gran. Not good memories. Maria Sham
So sad I remember in my day it was a great meeting place and we did not have much else going on in Listowel at night. It is definitely a sign of the times. Frankie Chute Phillips
On the day when The weight deadens On your shoulders And you stumble, May the clay dance To balance you.
And when your eyes Freeze behind The gray window And the ghost of loss Gets into you, May a flock of colors Indigo, red, green and azure blue, Come to awaken in you A meadow of delight
When the canvas frays In the curragh of thought And a stain of ocean Blackens beneath you, May there come across the waters A path of yellow moonlight To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours, May the clarity of light be yours, May the fluency of the ocean be yours, May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow Wind work these words Of love around you, An invisible cloak To mind your life.
Here in North Kerry 2022 is opening with businesses closing, shops having to shut temporarily due to staff absences due to Covid and our streets at times eerily quiet as we are advised to limit social mixing. Our resilience is being tested but we will survive.
I’m back after a longer Christmas holiday than usual. Thank you to all the followers who were worried I had contracted Covid. Thankfully I have managed to avoid it so far even though it is all around me. so hopefully Listowel Connection will continue in some form for a while yet.
John Stack, Dancing Teacher
My friend and former colleague at Presentation Secondary School, Listowel posted a sad message on Facebook in January 2022. He accompanied the message with this photo;
I have informed the Ballydonoghue Cce branch of Comhaltas that It is with regret that I will not be returning as Set Dancing teacher in Ballydonoghue after 43 years. I have put alot of thought into my decision over the Christmas and due to a number of reasons including Covid-19 and the effect it has had on everything and still not knowing when we can return if at all this year.
I started classes in Ballydonoghue in 1978 and during my time I have had some very memorable ventures.
Winning our first All Ireland winners medal in Ballycastle County Antrim in 1999. We also have had much success at County, Munster, as well as other competitions all over the country.
We also travelled to take part in Sean Dempsey International competition in Manchester on several occasions having much success.
In 2008. 23members from the branch did a branch exchange with the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann – O’Neill Malcom Branch CCE in Washington DC. This was a very rare experience and we enjoyed visits to Capitol Hill, reception at the European union offices, also at the Irish Embassy, visiting Baltimore, Virginia, Maryland and seeing places we could only dream off. Finishing our trip with a performance on the Millennium stage In the Washington Dc Kennedy Centre where we were told we would have 200 to 250 attending and ending with over 1300 people watching us for an hour long concert.
Our trips to the RTE Studios for our performances on TG4 was a highlight for all our dancers.
I have to acknowledge the input Liz McNamara had on both Dolly and myself and the dancing class. She was a great support to us and always showed her support to every child regardless whether they won or not as she was always very proud that they had represented the branch.
Again many thanks to everyone in the branch for their support over the last 43 years and we would like to wish the branch much success in the future.
To Ballydonoghue GAA for the use of their clubrooms down through the years and of late their fabulous new building I would like to say thanks to all the officers past and present. Also to Jackie Hegarty and Tom in Tomasinis ye were always willing to help in any way ye could and put yer building at our disposal.
To the parents who have supported Dolly and myself and the class down through the years I want to thank you.
Last but not least to you our dancers wherever you may be. Passing through the doors of Ballydonoghue GAA clubrooms on a Satuday morning and Tuesday evening of late, I thank you all for the pleasure and joy you brought to us. We have made some great memories together and hope you will always remember your dancing days in Ballydonoghue.
It’s for the Children
Our lovely 2021 baby has had her first Christmas, her first Christmas tree, her first visit to a crib and Santa was good to her.
Aoife has brought “hope with her and forward looking thoughts.”
Criostóir Grayson is an excellent wildlife photographer. He is lucky to have this little lady in his garden. Here is what Conserve Ireland says about the bank vole.
Bank voles are very small rodents which are often mistaken for mice. They have small compact bodies generally about 15cm from head to tip including a 5cm long tail and can weigh from 15 to 40 grams, they have small eyes and ears and a blunt nose. Their tails are shorter than mice and are covered in fur with their blunt noses also being the main physical difference between the two. The fur is a chestnut red or brown on the upper body with their undersides being a bluff to grey colour. Juveniles will have a more grey to brown fur colouration. The fore feet have four toes while the slightly larger five toed hind feet leave small tracks up to 2cm in length which are quite similar to the footprints of mice. Bank voles are not a particularly vocal species but will emit a limited range of squeaks when communicating using high frequency ultrasound which humans cannot hear. The bank vole has a well developed sense of smell which is important for receiving information on individuals who have used territorial scent markings in an area.
Join us Online in St. Mary’s, Listowel at Christmas 2021
All masses will be live-streamed on the parish website
Above is advice from a campaign called Don’t Buy It. Apt at Christmastime.
Gerard Stack who wrote to us about Walsh’s shop came from the above shop. Like many other shops in Listowel there was a shop on the street and a totally unrelated business, often run by the man of the house, in the back of the premises.
Now Walsh’s shop was in the premises that is now Chutes’ Stores/ Milano. It used to be Cavendish’s. This was a popular TV and electrical brand. Anyway, Gerard remembers that, at Christmas this big shop sold bikes and toys. They invited the nearby children in to try out the toys and this party was sometimes covered by The Kerryman.
I told this story to Pierce Walsh (no relation). He thought maybe he was too far from the shop to get the golden ticket. He was in Church Street. He did remember, however, that, for one Christmas before he went to South Africa, Xavier MacAuliffe had a toy shop. Does anyone else have memories of that one?
Back in 1920;
Dave O’Sullivan found this great old ad.
Don’t They Know it’s Christmas Time?
I was home in Kanturk when I snapped this picture of Woody looking longingly through the window at his family’s Christmas tree.
Meanwhile thousands of miles away another EPA horse is living the dream. He is to appear in a Hollywood movie with Dwayne Johnson.
His new owner sent a picture of the co stars at their first meeting; The Rock and EPA Cullen.
CHRISTMAS EVE IN KERRY
Butte Independent 1927
“Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the Pooka is at rest
Contented in his stable eating hay;
The crystal snow is gleaming on the mountains of the West, And a lonesome sea is sobbing far away; But I know a star is watching o’er the bogland and the stream, And ‘tis coming, coming, coming o’er the foam; And ’tis twinkling o’er the prairie with a message and a dream Of Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.
‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the happy mermaids croon The songs, of youth and hope that never die; Oh never more on that dear shore for you and me, aroon. The rapture of that olden lullaby: But the candle lights are gleaming on a hillside far away. And peace is in the blue December gloam; And o’er the sea of memory I hear the pipers play At Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.
‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, oh I hear the fairies’ lyre Anear the gates of slumber calling sweet. Calling softly, calling ever to the land of young desire, To the pattering of childhood’s happy feet;
But a sleepless sea is throbbing, and the stars are watching’ true As they journey to the wanderers who roam — Oh the sea, the stars shall bring me tender memories of you
I’m taking my leave of you today for 2021. A big shout out to all my helpers, supporters, my technical support team, my researchers and contributors. There would be no Listowel Connection without you. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me, met me or in any way offered a word of thanks, support and encouragement. It is all appreciated.
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.
Christmas Day Christmas comes but once a year; When it comes it brings good cheer, When it goes it leaves us here, And what will we do for the rest of the year. When Christmas morning dawns everyone is up early and goes to early Mass, and many receive Holy Communion. When people meet on their way to Mass their salutes to each other are:- “A happy Christmas to you” and the reply is – “Many happy returns”. The children are all anxiety to see what Santa Claus has brought them. When Mass and breakfast are over the children play with their toys while the elders are busy preparing the Christmas dinner. The chief features of an Irish Christmas dinner are – roast turkey, or goose and a plum pudding. The remainder of the day is spent in the enjoyment and peace of the home, and the family circle. Christmas customs vary from country to country but the spirit of Christmas is the same the wide world over. It is the time of peace, and it is also the feast for the children, because it was first the feast of the Child Jesus who was born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand long years ago.
Collector Máighréad Ní Chearbhaill
Address, Ballybunnion, Co. Kerry.
Teacher: Máire de Stac.
Some Christmas Windows 2021
Our Perennial Christmas Story
(I never tire of this one).
The Christmas Coat
Seán McCarthy 1986
Oh fleeting time, oh, fleeting time
You raced my youth away;
You took from me the boyhood dreams
That started each new day.
My father, Ned McCarthy found the blanket in the Market Place in Listowel two months before Christmas. The blanket was spanking new of a rich kelly green hue with fancy white stitching round the edges. Ned, as honest a man as hard times would allow, did the right thing. He bundled this exotic looking comforter inside his overcoat and brought it home to our manse on the edge of Sandes bog.
The excitement was fierce to behold that night when all the McCarthy clan sat round the table. Pandy, flour dip and yolla meal pointers, washed down with buttermilk disappeared down hungry throats. All eyes were on the green blanket airing in front of the turf fire. Where would the blanket rest?
The winter was creeping in fast and the cold winds were starting to whisper round Healy’s Wood; a time for the robin to shelter in the barn. I was excited about the blanket too but the cold nights never bothered me. By the time I had stepped over my four brothers to get to my own place against the wall, no puff of wind, no matter however fierce could find me.
After much arguing and a few fist fights (for we were a very democratic family) it was my sister, Anna who came up with the right and proper solution. That lovely blanket, she said was too fancy, too new and too beautiful to be wasted on any bed. Wasn’t she going to England, in a year’s time and the blanket would make her a lovely coat!. Brains to burn that girl has. Didn’t she prove it years later when she married an engineer and him a pillar of the church and a teetotaler? Well maybe a slight correction here. He used to be a pillar of the pub and a total abstainer from church but she changed all that. Brains to burn!
The tailor Roche lived in a little house on the Greenville Road with his brother Paddy and a dog with no tail and only one eye. Rumours abounded around the locality about the tailor’s magic stitching fingers and his work for the English royal family. Every man, woman and child in our locality went in awe of the Tailor Roche. Hadn’t he made a coat for the Queen of England when he was domiciled in London, a smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales and several pairs of pyjamas for Princess Flavia.
The only sour note I ever heard against the tailor’s achievements came from The Whisper Hogan, an itinerant ploughman who came from the west of Kerry.
“ If he’s such a famous tailor,” said Whisper, “why is it that his arse is always peeping out through a hole in his trousers?.
Hogan was an awful begrudger. We didn’t pay him any heed. Tailor Roche was the man chosen to make the coat from the green blanket. Even though it was a “God spare you the health” job, a lot of thought went into the final choice of a tailor.
The first fitting took place of a Sunday afternoon on the mud floor of the McCarthy manse. The blanket was spread out evenly and Anna was ordered to lie very still on top of it. Even I, who had never seen a tailor at work thought this a little strange. But my father soon put me to rights when he said, “Stop fidgeting, Seáinín , you are watching a genius at work.” Chalk, scissors, green thread and plenty of sweet tea with a little bit of bacon and cabbage when we had it. A tailor can’t work on an empty stomach.
The conversion went apace through Christmas and into the New Year. Snip snip, stitch, stich, sweet tea and fat bacon, floury spuds. I couldn’t see much shape in the coat but there was one thing for sure – it no longer looked like a blanket. Spring raced into summer and summer rained its way into autumn. Hitler invaded Poland and the British army fled Dunkirk, the men of Sandes Bog and Greenville gathered together shoulder to shoulder to defend the Ballybunion coastline and to bring home the turf.
Then six weeks before Christmas disaster struck the McCarthy clan and to hell with Hitler, the British Army, and Herman Goering. We got the news at convent mass on Sunday morning the Tailor Roche had broken his stitching hand when he fell over his dog, the one with the one eye and no tail. Fourteen months of stitching, cutting, tea drinking and bacon eating down the drain. Even a genius cannot work with one hand.
Anna looked very nice in her thirty shilling coat from Carroll Hengan’s in Listowel as we walked to the train. Coming home alone in the January twilight I tried hard to hold back the tears. She would be missed. The Tailor was sitting by the fire, a mug of sweet tea in his left hand and a large white sling holding his right-hand. I didn’t feel like talking so I made my way across the bed to my place by the wall. It was beginning to turn cold so I drew the shapeless green bindle up around my shoulders. It was awkward enough to get it settled with the two sleeves sticking out sideways and a long split up the middle. Still, it helped keep out the frost. Every bed needs a good green blanket and every boyhood needs a time to rest.
The ghosts of night will vanish soon
When winter fades away
The lark will taste the buds of June
Mid the scent of new mown hay.
From the Top Shelf
Vincent Carmody has a new book out for Christmas. This one is a collaboration with Limerick historian, Tom Donovan. It is a must have for anyone with a Limerick connection. Even if you have no affiliation to the Treaty City this book is a valuable insight into trade in our part of the country in the recent past.