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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

Tag: Christmas Page 1 of 3

An Old Ballad, Ballybunion RIC and a Toyshop Raffle

Photo credit; Éamon ÓMurchú in Mount Usher Gardens

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Old Listowel Ballad

from Shannonside Annual 1956

I’ve never seen this old song before. Does anyone have an air to it?

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Ballybunion Old RIC Barracks

James Sherman’s photos shared with Glin Historical Society

We have no names for the policemen.

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McGillicuddy’s Toy Shop at Christmas

The late Jackie McGillicuddy and his son Seán …photo from Facebook

McGillicuddy’s Toyshop has been part of Listowel Christmasses for decades.

This year, Seán is holding a raffle with some sought after Christmas prizes. It’s all in aid of Crumlin Children Hospital.

McGillicuddys Crumlin Children’s Hospital Christmas Raffle

Raffle in store or online at https://www.idonate.ie/raffle/McGillicuddysRaffle

1st Prize Rainbow High Dolls House and Doll

2nd Prize Barbie Dreamhouse and Doll

3rd Prize €150 of Bruder Toys

4th Prize Wendy Dolls house

5th Prize Lego Hogwarts Express

6th Prize Hasbro Games Bundle.

This initiative is definitely worthy of support.

Footnote; Now might be a good time for some older readers to share with us their memories of Listowel’s iconic toyshop and its place in Listowel Christmasses past. Memories to listowelconnection@gmail.com please

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Christmas in Kerry Long Ago

From the Schools Folklore Collection in The National Archives

Photo from National Archives. Caoimhín ÓDanachair in Athea, Co. Limerick

Customs and Manners of Christmas.

The people of olden times, when Christmas used come, no matter how poor the people were they tried to honour Christmas the best way they could.

They used always kill a calf for Christmas day and some of them used have a goose roasted Christmas day.

When they used get out of bed Christmas morning they used take three drinks of water and bless themselves after each drink before breakfast. This was a cure for any sudden pain they used get for the rest of the year. There was another custom following it they used keep a piece of the Christmas candle that used be lighting in the kitchen and if they got the pain they used take three drinks and bless themselves as before and they used light the candle and they used make the sign of the cross on themselves with the candle.

They believed that the baby boy who would be born at midnight on Christmas night had a cure on his hand for evil sores by making the sign of the cross on the sores.

The old people said that the night Our Lord was born our Blessed Lady put her hand on the asses back and the ass has a cross ever since.

They brought the holy water from the chapel Christmas morning, because they thought the priest used give it a special blessing for that day. They used eat as much as they could New Years night or if they wouldn’t they wouldn’t eat enough for the rest of the year.


Oidhche Nodhlagh beagh oidhche na trí ríghthe creidhtear go ndeintear fíon de’n uisghe síoda de’n triopall agus airgheadh de’n ghreann.

( On Little Christmas night, the night of the three kings, it is believed that water is made into wine, ………..into silk and ……… into silver)

The child scribe wrote down what she heard. I couldn’t find triopall in the dictionary and greann means fun so maybe it was gcrann as in a tree or wood)

INFORMANT Cáit Bean Uí Shúilleabháin

Address Coad, Co. Kerry

The school is Bunaneer, Co Kerry

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Ballybunion, McCarthy’s Christmas

Ballybunion in Winter


This very unusual picture of Ballybunion was posted on a Twitter site called European Beauty. I don’t know who took the photo.

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I make no apology for printing again this lovely Christmas story from SeánMacCarthy.

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 Heneghan’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.

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Christmas Holidays


I wish all followers of Listowel Connection a very happy Christmas and a lovely New Year. I will be resting for a few weeks over Christmas. God willing, I’ll be back in 2020.

Go mberimid beo ag an am seo arís.

Wren Boys, Listowel shops and Christmas Things

December 2019

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Some Listowel Shops at Christmas 2019



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A Christmas Tradition

Wren boys by Vincent Carmody

The wren-boy tradition on St. Stephen’s Day is unfortunately, now nearly a thing of the past. Now, only a few small groups, or individuals carry on a tradition, the origins of which, are lost in the mists of time. In the time of the big batches of wren-boys, under the leadership of their King, these groups would traverse the country roads all day, and as evening and night approached, they would head for the larger urban areas to avail of the richer pickings in the public houses.

The North Kerry area was well catered for, with two large groupings in the Killocrim/Enismore and Dirha West areas, There was also a strong tradition in the Clounmacon side of the parish.

Some time after the wrens-day, it was the custom to organise a wren-dance. When the date was picked, a house offered to host the dance. The dances were all night affairs, with liberal quantities of food and drink provided. 

In the early 1960’s I spent three years in London,  during which, I worked in a pub, The Devonshire Arms, in Kensington, for a year or so. At this time, The Harvest Festival Committee, under Dr. Johnny Walsh, organised the wren-boy competitions in Listowel. Mr Johnny Muldoon, of London, had met Dr Johnny in Listowel and told him that he would organise two dances in his Dance Halls in London, provided that the Listowel committee send over three or four wren-boys to be in attendance. During their stay in London, Dan Maher, who managed the Devonshire, invited the Listowel contingent to the pub. On the particular evening I was serving in the lounge bar. (the pub was a gathering place for many film and TV actors who would have lived nearby). Suddenly Dr.Johnny threw the double door open, and in came the Listowel wren-boys, led by the leader, Jimmy Hennessy. Jimmy, wearing a colourful pants, had only some fur skin over his shoulders and chest and a headpiece with two horns. The others followed, faces blackened, and wearing similar outfits, all beating bodhrans. To say the least, those present did not have an idea what was happening.  To this day, I can hear the remark which one man, Sir Bruce Setan, (he, of Fabian of the Yard) at the counter said to the other, Christopher Trace (of Blue Peter fame), Blimey, they’re coming in from the jungle. They will kill us all.
There was no one killed, and I think that Jimmy Hennessy enjoyed drinking pints of Guinness and pressing the flesh, surrounded by people he usually saw, only in the Plaza and Astor.

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My Christmas Things

This is my new favourite Christmas thing, a beautiful Jim Dunn Christmas scene.

My second favourite Christmas thing is my Woodford Pottery crib.

And finally my little Judy Greene nativity

Old Tralee, A handmade Christmas craft and a new Phone shop opens

Robin in Full Voice

 Photo; Chris Grayson

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Old Tralee


There is a great page on Facebook

Historical Tralee and Surrounding Areas

They regularly post lovely old photos of Tralee. Here are a few recent ones.

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Don’t be Alone on Christmas Day

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A Christmas Craft



I posted this picture before of Rosie and her Christmas house. Since then I’ve photographed her beautiful creation in more detail for you.

What creative talent!

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New Shop on William Street

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Christmas in Old Ireland


From the School’s Folklore Collection

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.

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On the Beat


Time was when you never saw a Garda patrolling alone and I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a Garda on the beat around my housing estate. I welcome the development though.

Saturday October 19 2019, A Holy Show, Book Promoting and Christmas in Listowel



Photo: Elizabeth Dunn

This is the scene on the stage at St. John’s on Saturday evening, October 19 2019 as we launched “A Minute of Your Time’,

Self praise is no praise but please indulge me for a minute while I wallow in the afterglow of a great night.

“A mighty night for a mighty woman” was one comment I loved.

“The best value I ever got for €20; a book, a concert and a party.”

People often say to me that I have no idea how important this blog is in the lives of some people. If I was in any doubt before, I know now.

Thank you Noelle for the lovely handwritten card and to Lisa for sending me an electronic message hand written with her new Apple pen, to Mary and Dave for the flowers from Texas and to Norah for the apple tarts and buns.

I have been snowed under with good messages and kind words and particularly with praise for the book.

Here is a link to last week’s Radio Kerry’s Just a Thought. I would do well to heed my own advice in Friday’s one…Walk easy when your jug is full.

Just a Thought

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Apparition in Tralee?


This is the image everyone is talking about, and to be honest, I can see why. This is a display cabinet in a Tralee antique shop. It had been in the shop a while as it is used for display purposes and was not really on sale. Then a customer spotted the uncanny resemblance in the pattern of the grain of the wood to common images of the Blessed Virgin. The media got wind of it and suddenly it’s like Ballinspittle 2.

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My Book Tour


A Minute of Your Time is on sale in all the Listowel bookshops and in Super Valu. They are all so so kind to me.

The big boys of the book selling world dont really want self published books and they make the battle to get on to their shelves very daunting and unwelcoming.

I am my own publisher and my own agent and now I am my own book distributor as well. I’m loving meeting all the lovely people in small shops.

 Here I am in Knocknagoshel with the welcoming friendly Kieran in his shop. Kieran plays Radio Kerry all day long in his lovely local shop and he knew my voice from the radio. While I was in town I took a wander around lovely Knocknagoshel and I’ll be bringing you lots more photos of that hillside paradise very soon

One of the highlights of my book tour was meeting the charming Ann and Mary in Ann Lyons beautiful shop in Abbeyfeale.

If you are ever in Abbeyfeale, call in to this lovely shop. You’d never know what you’d find there . It is a gem. It’s next door to The Ploughman




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Christmas comes Early to Listowel


Here are some photos to get you in the Christmas mood. They are of some of the lovely displays in Listowel Garden Centre’s Christmas shop.

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