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

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The Beautiful Kingdom

Molly in The Square, July 2022

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Church Street supporting the team.

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Irishisms by Ronan Moore

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The Kingdom

Beautiful Knightstown pier at evening in July 2022

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Getting behind the Team

Listowel is pulling out all the stops to support Kerry

Listowel Vincent de Paul shop.

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The Ghost Train

Dan Doyle remembers going to an All Ireland final in the bad old days. Dan writes essays about growing up in The Black Valley in what seems like a different age.

Dan Doyle Black Valley All Ireland

So long ago we went to Dublin for the All Ireland final. We went on the Ghost Train from all over Kerry.  We went on the Ghost Train as it was the only way to get to Croke Park before motor cars.  The train traveled through the night and it was packed. 

It started back in West Kerry and men from Portmagee and Waterville and Sneem and Kenmare took the train.  These were the pure men of Kerry, big and tough men of the land and the sea, men who carried parts of pigs heads wrapped in news paper and tied with a bit of binder twine. These men had overcoats and caps on them and big hands from digging the land and pulling in nets with fish that time. 

My mom came home from the village and told me go. She handed me a 10 bob note and to this day i dont know where she got it as we never had much money. So she said go as some of the older lads were going from the village of Milltown.  So down to Rathpook i went at around 7 or 8. 1955 I think this one was and I stepped into the train, They say Calcutta in the back streets are full this Ghost train had them all beat, full to the rafters, men playing 31, men sitting on the toilet playing old beat up melodeons and those great men asked if we were alone and they told us stick together when we got to Dublin. It was easy to pick these men out, they all looked alike. That was before fashion came to Kerry, big grey overcoats and big caps on their head that they put on as babies and never took off i think until God called them home. Some even wore wellingtons turned down at the top, they were a sight but one thing for sure nobody bothered them in the big city, so to say this train steamed through the night would be an exaggeration in fact some times it stopped as if to draw a breath and went backwards and stopped again and seemed to collect itself as if making up its mind if it wanted to go forward or not .

We got to Dublin finally at bright of day  in the morning and we followed the big overcoats to mass. That was the way things were done that time.  W e got to the field early and that day it was a big crowd 82 thousand I think. Kerry and Dublin and our neighbor down the road John Cronin played center half back.  He was a friend to all of us young lads at the cross roads as he came up our road. Walking was his exercise.  He was black headed and big and he was an Army man and he was no one to mess with in that time of tough men.  John Dowling of Tralee was another physical man who didnt know his own strength. 

As the evening sun went down it was over. Kerry won, they beat the Dubs.  The men on the train going home they talked about next year already they had bottles of porter in their pockets of these big coats they still had bits of pigs’ heads and crubeens but by now the wrapping paper was long gone and they shared the last of the grub with us and it tasted great.  Old turn over bread was torn asunder and passed around. We went home to Kerry and the bon fires burned as we crossed the Kerry border. 

We said good bye at Rathpook station and we never saw each other again.  the Ghost Train stopped soon after and the place got civilized but let me tell you all the adventure lives on.  The 10 bob note from my mom makes me remember her still.  She was the smallest in the house.  She was special because she found a way to put us kids first.  My dad was a big tough man but he stood in awe of the job she did raising us. I loved that time of my life  I loved seeing Kerry win but that was only a small part of the story for me. I carry it for a lifetime ,

Good luck to Kerry against Galway on Sunday ,they are carrying on a tradition started long ago. If they win it will carry us through the winter thinking about it ,someone less known on the team will have a big game and thats the way it is.  The ref will throw the ball in and the atmosphere at Croke Park will make your heart beat quickly. It is good to be from Kerry on All Ireland day .  Iwill listen to Ambrose o Donovan on the radio i will listen as that is the way my dad before me did it to Micheal o Hehir and i will pace the floor like he did.

Come on the Kingdom

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John B. Keane dramas

Church Street, Listowel, November 2021

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Did you Know?

The Dandy Lodge, built between 1845 and 1897, was the only house on the Bridge Road. There were no other houses on Bridge Road until 1929. The Gurtenard Estate wall ran along the left hand side of the road and a mud ditch bordering a wood ran along the right hand side.

The Carnegie Library was the only other building on Bridge Road. It was burned down in 1922 during a period of violent civil disturbance in Listowel.

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Sive at 50

To mark the half century of John B. Keane’s Sive, the Listowel Players staged a special production of the play.

These pages from the programme take us back to the glory days of drama in Listowel. We remember all the good people who were involved, some no longer with us.

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A John B. Keane Play in Listowel in 2021

(Photos from Patsy and Frances Kennedy)

From November 25 to 29 2021 St. John’s Theatre Group will present Moll, a drama by John B. Keane in St John’s, Listowel, nightly at 8.00 p.m. Strict Covid guidelines will be followed so capacity will be limited. If you don’t want to miss it, book early

Batt O’Keeffe and Frances Kennedy in character

The P.P. and curates

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Great News

We have free wifi in Listowel Town Square

This is a screenshot from my phone yesterday, November 17 2021.

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From The Advertiser

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Church Street Restoration, Asdee Chapel

Two pictures of Coomeenole in West Kerry taken by Éamon ÓMurchú on the same evening at almost the same time.

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Loyal to the Traditional Facade

Many premises in Listowel are undergoing refurbishment at the moment. In keeping with Listowel’s status as a Historic Town, Kerry County Council’s Heritage Officer is closely involved with the renovations. This house on Church Street is a case in point.

It is being lovingly restored by its present owner who takes her role as custodian of our traditional architecture very seriously.

Since I took the first photo the door has been painted.

This is a picture of the same house one hundred years ago. This picture was taken in the aftermath of the infamous Black and Tan raid in Church Street which saw the next door premises, Flavin’s, completely destroyed and much of Lower Church Street burned and looted.

Note how the present owner has restored the original look of the house and her new windows are absolutely faithful to the old design.

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The Story of Asdee Chapel Continued

From Shannonside Annual 1956

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M.S. Society Busking Day 2010

Musicians and volunteers in Main Street on one of the good old days.

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A Lovely poem from the late John McCarthy

(from John McCarthy’s anthology Hope on a Rope)

John was a passionate compassionate poet who tackled the subject of mental illness before it was fashionable to do so. He was an activist credited with starting the Gay Pride movement in Cork.

He was a great friend of John B. and Mary Keane.

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Nun in India, Jellyfish and the Blue Bag

Eamon ÓMurchú in Skerries

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Jellyfish

This photograph was taken by Martin Moore in Fermoyle. It is the most jellyfish I have seen on one beach so far this summer. There are lots of them on all our beaches, including Ballybunion. I’m told they are not the stinging kind. But I wouldn’t take my chances.

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A Listowel Connection?

Can anyone tell us if this lady was an aunt of the late Canon Leahy of Listowel?

Advocate, Melbourne, Sat 4 Sep 1909

IRISH NUNS IN INDIA

Again the Daughters of the Cross have to record the loss of one of their Sisters, who died at Anand on Sunday, 18th July, after an illness of only a few hours. Sister Agnes Mary was born in Kerry, Ireland, in April, 1865, and joined the congregation at Liege in October, 1884.Two years later she arrived in India, and since that time worked with the greatest earnestness in the convents at Karachi, Igatpuri, Bandra, Panchgani, Dadar, and finally at Anand, of which house she was made Superioress in December, 1908. In the first week of July, cholera broke out in that locality, and some of the orphan children confided to the care of the Sisters; contracted the disease. A few cases proved fatal. However, on Sunday last it was hoped that the epidemic had ceased, an intimation to that effect

having been written by the Superioress herself, little thinking that she would be the next chosen victim. Sister Agnes Mary saw without fear death approaching, and was perfectly calm and resigned to God’s holy will. During the years she spent in India, and in whatever house she laboured, she was ever a subject of the greatest edification to her Sisters in religion and to all with whom She came in contact. Her happy disposition endeared her to everyone, and her loss will be keenly felt. Quietly and religiously she spent her days, and one may truly say: “She went about doing good.” Her death was a fit crowning to her life—a victim to duty, she has fallen at her post.

R.I.P.—Bombay “Examiner.”

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Church Street Art

It looks like this mural may soon be on the move. I hope they find a suitable new home for it not too far from the homes of the two Church Street natives it so fittingly commemorates.

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The Blue Bag

Once upon a time, but not so long ago I don’t remember it, Laundry washing was done by hand in a big tub. Clothes were washed with soap and rubbed on a washboard until clean. Washing was almost always done on a Monday.

For some unfathonable reason, tablecloths, sheets and other big items of household linen were white. Natural white linen and cotton are prone to yellowing, particularly if left exposed to sunlight.

There were no tumble dryers in those days so the washed laundry was hung to dry on an outdoor clothesline.

Enter the blue bag. This was a little muslin bag containing a cube of Reckitts Blue. This whitener/bleach was put into the water for the final rinse and it kept the whites “whiter than white”.

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Nice Gesture from An Post

This is the nearest post box to the Portland Row home of our Olympic champion Kellie Harrington. An Post spray painted it gold in her honour with a message of congratulations as well.

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Carnivals, The Alley and Hannah Mulvihill

Church Street, Listowel, May 2021

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In The Magic Hour

On June 18 2021, Listowel’s handball alley will come to life again with a projected interpretive dance display and interview session at dusk, 9.30p.m..

For many it will bring back the old days and the magic of the handball competitions that were the lifeblood of this place.

Here are some more of Junior Griffin’s memories.

In the days when there were 240 old pence to the pound, we would secure and old penny in some way.

After early morning mass on Sunday we would pay a visit to a lovely lady, Mrs Dowling. She lived about a mile or so out in Woodford and she had an orchard. She would sell us 8 or 10 apples for our penny and we would get back to the alley as fast as possible to sell the apples. The aim was to make four old pence. Anything more than that was a bonus and would ensure the price of the apples for the following Sunday.

When the magical four pence was made, our hearts were aglow. It meant 2 pence for the Sunday matinee and 2 pence worth of Cleeve’s slab toffee “in the fist”.

For the 2 pence 4 squares of slab toffee was purchased from Miss Eily Sheehy (sister of Frank Sheehy) of Upper Church Street. She had a little cutter for the purpose and cut off 4 squares in one piece.

Off we went across the road to the Plaza for the film. We used to break the toffee into four pieces by banging it off the metal chair legs. Inevitably some pieces of toffee would fall to the floor. The word hygiene was not in our vocabulary at that time. A quick wipe off the short pants and into the mouth as soon as possible. Our week was made. we really wanted nothing else….

Hear Junior tell this story in his own words and listen to Charlie Nolan relive the good old days in the recordings made by Coiscéim as part of this project.

In Your Own Words

By chance I passed by the ball alley on my walk on Saturday and there was a sight that would gladden Junior’s heart. A lovely lad who told me his name is Ethan Tritschler was practising badminton.

Remember the name. He looked to me like a very promising young player.

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The Carnival

Do you remember when we used to have carnival? they were a highlight of the urban Ireland summer social calendar. This one was in Kanturk in 1956 but everywhere had them, complete with Carnival Queen and ladies in waiting.

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Hannah Mulvihill, An Exceptional Lady

Hannah with me at the launch of my book, A Minute of Your Time in St. John’s in 2019

Hannah Mulvihill

Hannah Mulvihill has been volunteering with St. Vincent de Paul, Listowel Conference since 2004. Hannah worked at Imperial Stag for 31 years. She was made redundant when the company went into liquidation. For the first time in her life she had time on her hands. 

She was shopping one day in Super Valu when she was approached by Betty Quille. She said that Hannah’s name had been mentioned at a recent meeting of St. Vincent de Paul as someone who may like to volunteer. She attended the weekly meeting the very next week and she joined straight away. She became involved in the St. Vincent de Paul shop on William Street and she has made many friends there over the years.

Hannah has seen many changes in SVP over the past years. Last year, 2020,  has been the most challenging. She is glad that the Meals on Wheels service continued uninterrupted. Two ladies, Val and Martina, who work part-time  prepare and cook the lunches and have them ready to be delivered by a team of very dedicated volunteers. Hannah is very thankful to this dedicated group who worked continuously throughout the pandemic.

The shop on Upper William Street, unfortunately, had to close but is thankfully now re-opened. It has a large stock of lovely clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, bedding, pictures, jewellery. and much more. Much of the stock is new or good as new. It would be well worth anyone’s while to drop in and maybe bag yourself a bargain.

Hannah comes from a family of ten. She is well used to putting a shoulder to the wheel. Growing up in the forties and fifties was difficult. Hannah went to London after her Inter Cert. There she hoped to get a job and so ease the burden for her parents. She travelled to London with her aunt who was returning after a trip home. She lived with her aunt until she got married.

Her first Monday in London, Hannah was at home on her own and decided to set  off and explore her new surroundings. She came upon a branch of Barclays Bank and decided to go in to enquire about applying for a job. They were most helpful. They didn’t have an application form but they promised to ask head office to send her one. The form arrived. Hannah filled it in and sent it back by return post. She was called for interview and was successful. She was offered training. After her training she went to work in Barclay’s Wimbledon Hill branch. Hannah also worked at Kenco Coffee Company for a few years. She met her husband, Martin at a dance in The Hibernian Club, Fulham, Broadway and they were married in 1966. They came back to Listowel in 1973.

Hannah and Martin have one daughter, three grandchildren and two great grandsons in Canada.

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Best Listowel News of the Weekend

Picture tells its own story on June 12 2021. Photo credit: Listowel Pitch and Putt Club

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