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: Coco

St. Patrick’s Day shop windows, 1920s Kerry and La Place now Coco Kids

William Street in February 2019


More St. Patrick’s Day Photos

Listowel shop window displays sometime in the 1980s photographed by Danny Gordon


A Sad and Troubled Time

In the 1920s  Kerry was a violently divided place. Here the civil war was truly a war of brothers and the War of Independence left scars that are only slowly healing today.

Last week The Irish Times published the following article.

‘Pray for me’: The last letter of an RIC officer executed by the IRA

Ronan McGreevy

The poignant last letter of former Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) officer who was executed by the IRA for being a spy has been released as part of the Brigade Activity Reports. 

James Kane, a fisheries protection officer in Co Kerry, was executed on June 16th 1921 on suspicion that he gave his former RIC colleagues details of eight IRA men who were  involved in the shooting dead of the constabulary’s divisional commander. 

Detective Inspector Tobias O’Sullivan was shot dead on January 20th, 1921 outside Listowel barracks in Co Kerry. Some time later men from the 6th Battalion, Kerry North Brigade, kidnapped Kane. They did so on instruction from IRA General Headquarters (GHQ) and interrogated him. 

After a prolonged period of interrogation he was executed on June 16th, 1921. His body was left by the side of the road with a note, “Convicted spy. Let others beware. IRA.”

Before he died Kane composed a letter to his family which is in the newly-released Brigade Activity Reports files of 1 Kerry Brigade. The letter is addressed to his children, one of whom is said to have cried out as the coffin was lowered into the ground, “Daddy, daddy”. 

It beings: “My dear children, I am condemned (to) die. I had the priest today, thank God. I give you all my blessing and pray God may protect you all. Pray for me and get some masses said for me.” 

Kane goes on to list the financial provisions he has made for the family and the money he owes to people locally. 

It is clear that his children will be left as orphans as he requests that he be buried next to his “loving wife if possible”. 

He concluded: “Don’t go to too much expense at the funeral and have no drink or public wake. I am told my body will be got near home. I got the greatest kindness from those in charge of men. 

“Good bye now and God bless you and God bless Ireland. Pray for us constantly and give my love to all my friends and neighbours and thank them for all their kindness.”


Then and Now

The Square, Listowel

Stack’s Arcade, Writers Week 2018 and New Primary Healthcare Centre for Listowel

Swans at Beale

Photo; Ita Hannon


A Nun’s View of Listowel Town Square


A Listowel Shop with a Long Tradition

My great great grandfather, James Stack, born in 1816, had a drapery business where McKenna’s shop now stands, on the corner of Market Street and William Street. James died in October of 1873, and his son, my great grandfather Edward J. Stack, bought the shop known as The Arcade on this day, June 15 1898, having rented the premises for some years before buying it. 

The premises was originally a Ladies and Gentlemen’s drapery and shoe shop and also had a household linens and lace department. The shop had a staff of about 17 people including Stack family members. 

E.J.Stack died in 1910 leaving his widow Bridget and 9 children. My grandfather, Joseph Stack ran the business with his mother. Bridget Stack died in 1938, and Joseph Stack died in 1946. 

My uncle Niall Stack and my father Stuart Stack took over the running of the business and started to sell furniture. Niall started a furniture manufacturing business and my father ran the shop until his sudden death in 1971 atthe age of 41. My mother Mary with the help of the late John Horgan from Finuge continued to run the business. 

I left St Michael’s College in 1972 to start working full time in the shop. Myself, my wife, Joan and my mother, Mary still run the furniture shop. 

In a return to our roots, I opened a bedding and linen department offering quality bed linen to complement our range of fine furniture.

Ten years ago my daughter Jennifer moved in her successful business, Coco Ladies Boutique. We now have 2 businesses in the one premises – Furniture and Interiors and Ladies fashion. 

Jennifer is the 6th generation of a Stack to be in our business and we look forward to serving the people of North Kerry and beyond for many more years to come. “We pride ourselves on our tradition of great, personalized customer service, and in this modern era of internet-shopping, we truly appreciate the support shown to our family-run business. We look forward to the future of shopping in North Kerry”

 On behalf of the Stack Family, we thank you for your much valued support.

Damian Stack.

(Source for photos and text; Stack’s, The Arcade )


A Memory of Writers’ Week 2018

The lady who writes this blog Kate Katharina came to Writers’ Week and this is what she wrote about her experience.

There is something in the air in Listowel. For me, it was the smell of wild garlic and the way the leaves hanging over the River Feale caught the light.

The tiny town located in Ireland’s South-West has a population of under 5000. But it has produced John B Keane, Brendan Kennelly, Bryan MacMahon and a host of other women and men of literary as well as musical note. The writers’ festival was a glorious excuse for a reunion with two schoolfriends.

On the first morning, we took a walking tour. Our guide – a spirited and brilliant man of advanced age (the son, incidentally of the late Bryan MacMahon) – brought us to the Garden of Europe. The grounds, dating back to 1995, feature a monument to John B Keane, as well as Ireland’s only Holocaust memorial.

Gesturing to the impeccably-kept lawns behind him, the guide said: “This used to be a dump. A place you’d come to shoot rats.”

It didn’t matter if it was true or not. It was about the twinkle in his eye and the implication that the town had stayed humble.

The line between fact and fiction is appropriately slippery in Listowel, where the truth lies between the lines. Perhaps this is the reason that so many of the writers who came said it was their favorite literary festival, by far.

Or perhaps they like it so much because it is a place where they are allowed to exalt the ordinary. During a tea party hosted by none other than Colm Tóibín, he described a conversation he had recently overheard between an older person and a staff member in a Vodafone store.

“Now, I don’t want to send texts. But I want to receive them. Now, if I just turn it off, it can’t do anything, can it?  It won’t ring, will it?”  The utter terror of technology, Tóibín said. He wants to put it in a story.

For me, the days in Listowel were characterized not by terror but by awe. There was the surreal moment at a panel discussion when I recognized the shape of Margaret Drabble’s head in front of me. Later she turned around, and the man beside her (my former English teacher, who would be interviewing her later) introduced us. “I taught them very little,” he said, typically self-effacing. “Well you instilled a love of reading if they’re here,” she said, not missing a beat.

I sat beside the extraordinary artist Pauline Bewick during another event. She had a notebook open on her lap, full of striking, colorful sketches. Beside her was her daughter Poppy, herself an artist who, unlike her mother, works slowly and produces work that is startlingly life-like. They were a beautiful pair, gazelle-like, other-worldly and unassuming despite their huge success. I told Pauline about how our English teacher had inspired us to love literature. “You know that leaves me with a lump in my throat,” she said. “It really does.”

Another highlight was the poet Colette Bryce, who – to my shame – I’d never heard of. A Derry-born wordsmith, there was something about the gentle strength with which she read that lured me in. I bought her selected poems and was giddily excited when she looked up after signing it and said in a Northern lilt: “Thanks for coming, Kate.”

Edna O’Brien, of course packed the room out. I couldn’t even see her from where I was sitting. But I could hear her distinctive voice, and felt its warmth. “Enchantment is the novel’s most important quality,” she said. “It’s what matters most.” A literary titan whose work Ireland once banned, she would know.

On our last night, we went to see Forgotten, a one-man show written and sublimely performed by Pat Kinevane. It took place in St Johns, a church on the town’s main square converted into a theatre.

My friend, himself a playwright, was seeing it for the second time. It was an intense, exhausting, brilliant performance. When it was over and we filed out of the church, the sun had gone down and the last of the light stretched across the sky.

I noticed my friend had a certain glow about him; a kind of exaltation was written across his face. “This is what good theatre can do,” he said as we waited for the 11 o’clock bus back to Killarney. “It’s what Edna O’Brien was taking about,” he said. “A piece of art can enchant.”


Primary Health Care Centre planned for Listowel

Valley Healthcare, which is owned by the State-backed Irish Infrastructure Fund (IIF), has acquired two primary healthcare centre sites, in Cork and Kerry, for an undisclosed sum.

The centres in Clonakilty and Listowel brings its portfolio of centres to six. The IIF, which is jointly managed by AMP Capital and Irish Life Investment Managers, established Valley Healthcare last year to invest in primary care centres across Ireland

Clonakilty and Listowel are the first greenfield sites for the fund. Both sites have planning permission and are ready for construction to begin. The sites will be occupied by the Health Service Executive (HSE), GP practices and other health-related services, when operational.

Source: Irish Times

Fr. Daniel O’Sullivan of Listowel and California and World Book Day 2017

Going Over the Cork and Kerry Mountains

Catherine Moylan took this on the Cork/ Kerry border in January 2017


A U.S. Priest with a Strong Listowel Connection

I wonder if this illustrious pastor still has family locally.



The Founding Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was born in Listowel,

Co Kerry, Ireland on March 19,1846, the fourth child of Eugene (Owen)

O’Sullivan and Margaret Nolan.  He was one of nine children, two girls

and seven boys.

He received his first education at Mr Leahy’s School in Listowel and

studied theology at All Hallows Major Seminary in Dublin.  Fr

O’Sullivan was ordained on June 24, 1871, in All Hallows Chapel by

Bishop William Whelan, O.C.D., retired  Vicar Apostolic of Bombay,

India.  Being ordained for the Diocese of Grass Valley, he left for

California in August of 1871.

1871-1872    Pastor of St Joseph, Crescent City.

1872-1878     Founding Pastor of Immaculate Conception, Smartsville, California.

1878-1881     Assistant at St Mary’s in the Mountains, Virginia City, Navada.

1881-1883     Second Pastor of St Mary’s in the Mountains and Vicar

General for Northern Nevada after the first pastor of St. Mary’s,

Father Patrick Manogue, was named Bishop of Grass Valley.

1883-1887     Pastor of St. Anthony, Mendocino, California.

The month of May, 1886, was to have a great influence in his life.  On

May 7 he became a United States citizen in ceremonies in Ukiah

Superior Court, Mendocino County.  On May 28 the Diocese of Grass

Valley was transferred to Sacramento, and all the parishes along the

coast as far north as Fort Bragg became part of the Archdiocese of San

Francisco.  Father O’Sullivan thus found himself a priest of this


1887-1896     Founding Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in

Redwood City.

Father O’Sullivan was appointed Pastor of the Mission San Jose on June

15, 1896.  However, he never served as pastor and there is a gap in

our knowledge of his life until the beginning of 1898.

1898-1928 Pastor of All Hallows Parish in San Francisco.

Father Daniel O’Sullivan died on February 3, 1928 and was buried in

Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, where a large monument stands in his



The Big Fair

A while back I published Delia O’Sullivan’s great account of the big fair in town and then I came across a great poem which brought the fair to life before our eyes.

The poem was written by a man called Tom Mulvihill.  I knew nothing of him.

On World Book Day, March 2 2017 I was in The Seanchaí for a lovely shared reading over a cuppa.

I could hardly believe my ears when I heard Donal O’Connor of Tarbert stand up and recite Tom Mulvihill’s poem from memory.

I enquired of Donal afterwards what he knew of Tom Mulvihill and he told me that he knew him long ago in Ballylongford. He was the son of the parish clerk.

His more famous brother, Roger, wrote Ballyheigue Bay and went on to run The White Sands hotel.

After Tom’s death his family gathered his writings into a little book. Donal has a copy “somewhere”. He’ll share it when he finds it.


 Some of The Writers in The Seanchaí on World Book Day

Susan Hitching, artist and writer

Donal O’Connor, writer and historian

Michael Gallagher

Above are just three of the writers who shared their work with us on World Book Day 2017


Listowel’s Own Outlet Store

You know the way many famous shops in America have outlets where they sell off stock that has been on the shelves a while at reduced prices. Well, Listowel has an outlet too. It’s Coco in The Square.

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