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

Tag: Cliona Cogan Page 1 of 3

New York Kerry tean 1926, Covid 19, Writers Week 2019, Finuge and A Song

Statue of Schiller in Listowel’s Garden of Europe in April 2020


Football in New York in 1926

Tom Fitzgerald sent us this great photo of the New York Kerry football team in 1926. His uncle is third from the right in the second row. People may know some of the other players.


Strange times indeed!


If Only!

Mary Fagan holds the microphone for Clíona McKenna during the Saturday morning walk at Listowel Writers Week 2019. Just about now I should be contacting my able assistants and putting this year’s Walk together.


Sheahan’s Cottage, Finuge

A Phoenix from the ashes, Sheehan’s cottage was rebuilt following the devastating fire.

Photo; John Kelliher


Hope in Troubled Times

Mattie Lennon with The Seanchaí, Eamon Kelly

There’s a Brightness

As a child I remember small farmers
Being depressed at some times of the year,
With climatic conditions uncertain
Turning hopes of their harvest to fear.
Whenever they cursed the bad weather
As the elements failed to rescind
My father, with wisdom, would tell them:
“There’s a brightness at the butt of the wind”.

When teenage ambitions got twisted:
My identity crisis would loom.
Rejection and fantasy   mingled,
Resulting in pictures of doom.
Then………the Power of Good to the rescue
To counter each negative trend.
My thoughts would somehow be diverted
To that brightness at the butt of the wind.

When the weather of life it looks hopeless;
And dark clouds with disaster seem twinned,
Remember that God will send sunshine.
There’s a brightness at the butt of the wind.                 

When the storms of anguish are beating
And I’m lashed by the gales of defeat
When the forecast of life holds no promise
It’s still not the time to retreat
A fresh glow appears in my vision
Like a night sky by bright stars sequined.
Then I know then I haven’t forgotten
That brightness at the butt of the wind 

At last when I’ll see the horizon
And that mist (self-deception) has cleared
I’ll ponder the journey before me
And confront all the things that I’ve feared,
Expecting a turbulent crossing
As the Clergy point out that I’ve sinned
But knowing that Salvation is certain
By the brightness at the butt of the wind


(c) Mattie Lennon 2005


Old Papers

Damien Stack found this from 1941 when the carnival was in town.

Lartigue Theatre, Jim Dunn’s Mural in The Square and an old play

Listowel Town Square, June 21 2018


Many Hands Make Light Work

Jim and Liz Dunn work well as a team. But I don’t think Liz would really claim to be an artist. To illustrate that this was a project in which anyone can have a go Liz took up a brush and coloured in a bit.

From the wife of an artist to the mother of an artist, Helen Moylan chanced her arm at painting in a section. She did a good job too.

In between interruptions/assistance, Jim took the opportunity to advance his project a bit.

 Next up was Seán Comerford. Seán displayed an amazing (to me anyone) aptitude for this kind of thing. He is actually a quite good artist.


Listowel’s Millennium Arch in 2018


Friends’ Meeting

Summer in Kerry is a great time for meeting up with old friends


From the John Hannon Archive

The late Eleanor Moore and Mark Walsh

Seán Moriarty

The play was in The Lartigue. Seán told me that he remembers a matinee dress rehearsal for children to iron out any glitches in the production. At one stage Seán’s character tells Getta Grogan’s character that he would like a brandy. As she is pouring the drink, he overhears one child saying to another, “She is giving him whiskey and he asked for brandy.”

Seán also remembers Mark Walsh’s character is shot. In rehearsal they just made a gunshot noise but in this final dress rehearsal, they had a genuine sound effect and Sean says he saw the fear in Mark’s eyes as he feared that the very real looking gun was an actual loaded firearm.

Happy days in the old Lartigue.


Opening Soon

At 53 Church Street


His Dream Job for a Genial Listowel Young Man

Story and picture from Mark Boylan of Racing Post

A familiar voice will greet racegoers in the post-Dessie Scahill commentary era with Jerry Hannon set to become Ireland’s primary racecourse commentator.

Scahill will depart from the commentary box on July 26 following an end to his contract with the Association of Irish Racecourses (Air).

Hannon said: “My dream has become a reality. I’m very grateful to the association for recognising the hard yards and sacrifices made over an 18-year period to get to this point.

“It’s on days like these that my late dad and the late Liam Healy are very much in my thoughts.”

The 37-year-old, who began his commentary career in pony racing in 1999, said of Scahill’s influence: “He’s been an inspiration of mine and I wish him all the best for his retirement.”

Paddy Walsh, chief executive of Air, said of the decision: “The model we have operated off in the past has been with one full-time worker for the association who looks after most of the commentaries and that has historically been Dessie. Jerry has been absorbing that role over the past number of years and he will now take over that function.”

Scahill’s retirement and Hannon’s increased role will lead to opportunities for new faces to join the commentary roster, according to Walsh, with Gary O’Brien expected to feature on the schedule, although plans have yet to be finalised.

Walsh added: “We have a panel of commentators to choose from when we have double meetings, holidays and other events. Peter O’Hehir and Richard Pugh have been members of the panel for a long number of years and they will continue to fulfil roles with us. We hope to be adding another couple of names to that group.

Saturday will mark Scahill’s final commentary of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and the 69-year-old said that although he felt he could have continued on a reduced schedule he had no complaints about the decision.

Walsh said: “I can’t get into the details of arrangements we have with Dessie or any of our other employees but all I can tell you is that arrangements for Dessie’s retirement were all done in full consultation – and agreement – with himself.

“I’d like to wish him all the best on his future as he’s been a great contributor to us for a long time, giving us great service.”

Family Wedding in Listowel

Cliona Cogan on the balcony of  the bridal suite of The Listowel Arms Hotel on her wedding day, May 20 2017. In the background is The River Feale and Listowel Racecourse.

Saturday May 20
2017 was a popular day for weddings. In the U.K. Pippa Middleton, sister of the
Duchess of Cambridge married her fiancé, James Matthews,  in Kenmare Alannah McGurk, daughter of Miriam
O’Callaghan and her ex-husband  Tom
McGurk married former Galway footballer Fiachra Breathnach and in Italy Lottie
Ryan, daughter of the late Gerry, married her husband Fabio Aprile for a second
time (the first time was a low key civil affair which the couple did in
secret). The wedding of the day with a Listowel connection was the McKenna
Cogan wedding in St. Mary’s , Listowel.

Let me tell you
without fear of contradiction that Listowel is the best place in the world to
organize and hold a wedding. St. Mary’s is a beautiful church which can be
downsized to accommodate a small ceremony as well as being the ideal venue for
a huge wedding. The hotel and all the local wedding suppliers are the cream of the crop.

My Kanturk family posing outside the church for the “real” photographer.

I’ll tell you a
bit about the wedding day suppliers we dealt with.

The Listowel Arms
Hotel were a delight to deal with from day one. Patrice, Asyia and all the
staff were super efficient and obliging . The hotel itself is charming, warm
and welcoming.  Asyia took lots of lovely
photos which reached us long before the official  ones. 
Her photos at the hotel entrance show how intimate, local and compact
the place is for a wedding.

The dining room
was stunning. The backdrop of the racecourse and river Feale lent an exotic air
to the snaps of the top table.

 The food was delicious, the service excellent,
the speeches were short and entertaining, the favours of Lily O’Brien
chocolates (from Newbridge) and my book (from Listowel) were appreciated by the

Dancing to Kildare
band Transmitter went on until the wee hours and, in a lovely local touch,
Damien from Jumbos made a late night delivery of some local delicacies beloved
of the bride and her friends and mentioned in the groom’s speech.

Weddings nowadays
are two day affairs. We all decamped to the Cliff House in Ballybunion for our
day 2 and there we had a night of chat, finger food, some music and a few
drinks. The happy couple headed for  a
London minimoon on Tuesday. Highlights of this included 2 afternoon teas which
were gifted to them by wedding guests. Andrea and Alexandra treated them to tea
in The Shard. This is “the height of fine dining”. The restaurant where they ate is on the 32
nd floor and the food is as spectacular as the views.  Alex and Andrea are Erasmus friends of
Clíona’s and their friendship has stood the test of time and distance.

Many years later here they are in St. Mary’s Listowel with Alex’s daughter Aoife .

The second teatime
experience was  in Harrods. They even got
a complimentary chocolate cake for dessert in view of the fact that they were
on honeymoon.

A far cry from Jumbo’s Listowel!

Darkness into light 2017 in Listowel

We Walked the Walk

“Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though it’s breaking….”

Maud Fitzmaurice, Cliona Cogan, Billy Keane and Eleanor Ryan

Jim and Liz Dunn with Máire Logue

All around me on Saturday morning May 6th
2017 at 4.00 a.m. on Listowel racecourse were smiling faces.  Listowel has always lent great support to
Pieta House and to any agency that helps people who have suffered because of self-harm.
Many of the early risers on the Island were thinking back to that awful moment
engrained forever in their memories ; the moment when they heard the
unbelievable news that someone they loved had died by suicide.

A Tarbert choir was on hand to raise our

Cora O’Brien, director of Pieta House, Tralee, sings along with the choir

“Lean on me when you’re not strong,

I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry
on”  we sang as we tried to convey hope
to the sad and lonely souls who sometimes feel very alone.

Tom McElligott

People brought their dogs and their
children. “We are there for you “ was the message. You are never alone. It’s
okay to say you are not okay.

“Hope for the sunshine tomorrow after the
darkness is gone.”

Hundreds of us set off to the strains of
Walking on Sunshine.

We made our way along by the racecourse to
the candlelit bridge and there in the water was the stark word, Hope, reflected
in the waters of the Feale.  Some stopped
to take photos, some caught their breath as they remembered other waters in
another places.

We walked on along the well-stewarded route
through the Square and down Bridge Rd. to the Arch and into the Silent Mile. An
eerie silence fell on the previously chattering hoard. The only sound was the
birdsong as we walked the road beside the Garden of Europe, a path the
organisers had lit with candles and decorated with wind chimes.

We turned the bend for home at Cahirdown and
we walked the eerily deserted streets of our fair town. Many windows were
decorated in support. Candles flickered and everwhere posters and T-shirts whispered
the message of hope, You are not alone.

Up William Street we went, some tiring a
little, others getting their second wind. We rounded the roundabout at the John
B. Keane Rd. and we were in the home straight. There was one more jolt in store
though. Along the railings at the back of the preschool were several banners
with the names of people who should be here with us. This is what it’s all
about. We are all walking and praying that no one who is here today with us
will be named on that banner next year. This was a stark reminder that we were
not on a merry morning jaunt. We were here on a deadly serious mission to try
to stem the tide of suicide.

“Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.”

We ended our walk back at base, at Listowel
Racecourse where so many of us had so many happy September days. As we returned
home we hoped for the sunshine tomorrow. 

We had done our small bit to help
Pieta House deliver its twin aims of  Hope and Consolation.

A Hen Party in Ballyhoura and Kildorrery

A Weekend in Ballyhoura

‘Tis not today nor yesterday
I was last invited to a hen party. But that is where I was recently and without
doubt it was the very best hen party I was ever at.

A hen party with the mother of the bride and the soon to be mother in law of the bride in attendance was always going to be a tame affair, or so we thought.

The hen in question was my
lovely daughter, Clíona, and the party was organized by her two super organized
bridesmaids, Darina and Anne.

The venue was Ballyhoura
country. We stayed in some lovely mountain lodges:

 (Ballyhoura Mountain Lodges) nestled into the hillside.
Ita, who runs the show here was super helpful before the event and was on site
late on Friday evening to settle us in. Think cozy log cabins, roaring fires, toasty
warm rooms and the most comfortable beds ever. (Very poor phone coverage but
who needs a phone when you are having fun?)

 We had some ice breaking
activities, a few drinks and lots of chat and catching up. And so to bed. The above picture is Clíona with two old friends, Fenella and Emily who are soon to be mother hens.

Breakfast over in the hen
house, we headed out for our morning walk. Ballyhoura is famous for trecking,
cycling and horseriding. We didn’t really feel up to these but we took a gentle
walk through the woods. The bride to be was up for a spot of ziplining on the

We stopped to view Castle Oliver
and the hotel where Kim and Kanye West holidayed.

Back in the lodges we ate
quiche for lunch. The quiche was provided for us by the ever dependably
delicious Thatch and Thyme.

Saturday afternoon’s activity
was The Great Ballyhoura Bakeoff. We
were divided into teams and tasked with preparing cupcakes which in some way
described The Hen. Our group made a chocolate and prosecco variety because the
hen is sweet and bubbly.

Because Ballyhoura was
basking in glorious sunshine, we held this activity outdoors.

The Hen sipped on a glass of
prosecco as she oversaw the baking.

We beat and mixed and
weighed and the oven worked overtime.

Soon we undertook the
decorating. This was literally and figuratively the icing on the cake as the
winning group definitely impressed the judge with their hand beaded display
which spelled out her name.

My group fell at the last
hurdle. While my team’s cupcakes were delicious, our icing left a little to be
desired.  But our finished display definitely excelled.

Tasting and judging was
carried out while the bakers pitched a cheesy pitch full of flattery and
sycophancy, in an attempt to sway the judge.

The winners declared, prizes
given and we all fell to eating the spoils. The raspberry and vanilla were
agreed deserving winners with the blueberry buns second. ( I had actually
brought the blueberries for my breakfast, but all’s fair in love and war….)

Washing up done and order
restored, the hens dolled themselves up for a night on the tiles in downtown
Kildorrery, famed in song and story;

“Have you ever been up to Kildorrery

Indeed if you haven’t that’s quare

Sure it’s only five miles from Ardpatrick

And three from the cross of Red Chair

And when at that cross you are landed

You will see a big hill looking down

And on top of that hill bare naked and chill

Stands famous Kildorrery town.”

It’s a beautiful little
town with one of the best restaurants in Ireland. If you are travelling between
Cork and Dublin on the M8 it would be well worth your while to make your lunch
stop in Kildorrery. The Thatch and Thyme is worth travelling for.  Even the city based hens and the ladies who
travelled from abroad declared that it was one of the best meals they had had anywhere.

Down the road is Ollie’s
Bar where the hen party were the VIPs for the night. Those to whom these things
mattered declared that Ollie’s Bar in Kildorrery stocked a variety of gins, (including
Dingle gin) to rival the selection in any city bar. The bar also helped
organize the bus to bring us into town, they laid on music and they announced
to us when the nearby chipper was about to close and they allowed us to eat the
chips in the bar and to wait until our bus came back to collect us even though
the pub was now closed and the washing up done.

What happens on a hen
party stays on a hen party. I can tell you though that our musical entertainment on
the night was Darragh Lee from Youghal. He is a lovely young man and a great musician and singer. He is very tolerant
of numerous requests for songs not normally on his playlist. His claim to fame
is that he had two chairs turn for him on The Voice of Ireland. He made the
wrong choice of mentor but that’s a story for another day.

 The hens joined by some
local folk did a conga down the street from one door of the bar to the other,
sampled the local McDonal delicacy of chips with cheese and curry sauce and
generally had a ball. I think we might
be still the talk of the village in Kildorrery. I hope they didn’t think all those verbal invitations to the wedding were genuine.

The new hen was welcomed into the coop by her lovely mother in law to be  and her soon to be sisters in law.

Back to reality on Sunday,
we tidied up, restored order and sadly left our mountain hideaway behind, vowing
to do it all again in Listowel in May.

“I’ve been to Crosshaven and Youghal
Ballybunion, Tramore and Kilkee
Ballycotton and likewise Dungarvan,
Those famous resorts by the sea.
For my health I have travelied through Ireland
But now I’ve at last settled down
Though lacking in wealth I’ve been gaining my health
Up in Kildorrery town.”

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