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: Con Houlihan Page 1 of 3


In Marley Park, Dublin Photo: Eamon ÓMurchú


Ramping Up theExcitement a Bit


A Wash and Blow Dry

A horse on washday


Listowel Town Council 1979

Newly elected Council members. Photo shared by Mike Hannon.

May all those who have passed away rest in peace.


A Harrow

Our ancient ancestors used to harrow the soil with tree branches. Harrowing usually follows ploughing.

Does anyone remember Peann agus Dúch, a book of Irish essays we used to have in fourth class? The work of the farmer in spring was treabhadh (ploughing), fuirse (harrowing) is ag cur síol (planting).

Harrowing pulverises the soil.


Con Houlihan’s First Column

In his first newspaper column the great Con celebrated Knocknagoshel. The Kerryman reproduced the column last week.


A lesson, a beauty queen, a Fancy Fair in 1919, Con Houlihan’s Study and a Book story

A Word in Your Ear……. watch out for the young ones.  it’s  All Fools’ Day.

Photo: Chris Grayson


A  Lesson from Listowel’s Garden of Europe

Our Garden of Europe is built on what was the town landfill site. In 2014 when we had the father and mother of a storm a tree was uprooted in the Garden. I posted this photo before in 2016 and the caption is what I wrote then.

Nature and Man; This tree was uprooted by the storm of 2014. It revealed underneath a mass of our discarded plastic waste which will not disintegrate for years and years.  

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.” Native American wisdom.


Beauty Queen with a Listowel Connection

Five years ago Sarah Jane Dunne, daughter of Pecker Dunne reached the final of Miss Ireland. Mattie Lennon wrote this poem celebrating the occasion.


Air; Sullivan’s John

By Mattie Lennon

Oh, Sarah Jane Dunne, ‘though she hadn’t  won, on the nineteenth day of July.

This talented lass,  from the Traveller class, was neither aloof or shy.

“Tinkers daughter”, you’d hear, amid debt-ridden fear in that place that’s called Dublin-four 

She never felt shame but carried the name, as the Pecker had done before.

To the final she went, then felt quite content when her rival Miss Cork took the crown

All set to advance, with a positive stance Sarah didn’t see cause for a frown.

If one doesn’t stop, till they get to the top there’s always a price to be paid

Like Kipling she knows, no matter how  the wind blows, there’s no failure just triumph delayed. 

From the time she was small it was clear to us all,   she was on the road to fame.

At a match or a fair in Cork, Kerry or Clare to busk with her father she came.

Unlike Sullivan’s John, from the road she’s gone but the globe she plans to roam.

She’ll model and teach and great heights she’ll reach; the world is now her home.

She has got this far and her rising star will continue to ascend.

New points she has scored and with critics ignored  begrudgery she’ll transcend

And you can be sure that her Godfather, Moore, will pen her a song bye and bye

As the Pecker sings proud, on his Heavenly cloud,  a new  Tinker’s Lullaby.

© Mattie Lennon2014



(Kerry Weekly Reporter, June 28 1919)

The Fancy Fair in aid of the renovation of the. Presentation Convent Chapel opened on Wednesday in beautiful, in fact, ideal mid-summer weather— but considering the laudable object for which the function has been brought about it must be said the attendance, especially from the rural area, was sparse. However in the evening the townspeople showed up in goodly numbers and business in the different stalls interspersed about the Sportsfield and in the Gymnasium Hall was fairly brisk and led to the hope that the second day’s venture would be enthusiastically supported by town and country and thus bring the function to the happy and successful climax it so eminently merits. 

Every taste is catered for from both the masculine and feminine view and the work on sale of the most intrinsic and artistic order. The fair was formally opened by our highly esteemed Pastor, The Very Rev. D Canon O’Connor, P.P., V.F.; and that great paragon of popularity ,the Rev. Charles O’Sullivan, C.C., who made some useful and artistic, articles as souvenirs of the occasion, at prices that could “defy competition.” 

The Listowel Temperance Brass Band attended and discussed a highly acceptable programme throughout the day.

 The following were stall holders, each and all of whom rendered very satisfactory accounts of their stewardship- Mrs. D. H. Leane, Mrs. Dr. O’Connor, Mrs. W. McElligott, Mrs J. Crowley, Mrs. Foran, Miss Maggie Harnett, Mrs. J. M. Galvin, Mrs. J. Cronin, (Church St.). The following gentlemen formed the Committee, the Hon. Secretary being Mr. R. Tackaberry to whom much credit is due for the excellent manner in which the details of the undertaking had been carried out—Dr. M. O’Connor, U.D.C; Messrs H. J. Marshall, solr; J Macaulay, J.P.; Jas. Crowley, V.S; T. Mortelle, P.Breen, T. F Cronin ; P. Corridan, T. J. Walsh, U.D.C; J McKenna , Co. C ; Thos. Corridan, J. Donnelly , Ed. Boylan. J. Cronin ( Church St.); W Henigan, V.S.; W. McElligott, C.P.S.; E. Bursen, R. A. Macaulay, solr.; D. H Leane, L.P.S.I; J J. Galvin, Dr. Buckley, U.D.C. ; M. Griffin, N.T.; J. Scully, D. B Judge, J Kileen.
The Ladies Committee was composed of Mrs. Dr. O’Connor, Mrs. D. H. Leane,Mrs. T. Mortelle, Mrs. J. M. Galvin, Mrs. T. J Walsh, Mrs. McElligott, Mrs. Dr Clancy, Mrs. Pierse, Mrs. and Miss Macaulay, Miss M. McMahon, Miss Horgan, Mrs. T. O’Brien, Mrs. McKenna, Miss Maggie Harnett, Mrs. Dennehy, Miss Kirby


The Room Where Con Houlihan Wrote

Photo: Ian O’Riordan


A Story for You

I love a good book. On my daughter’s recommendation I was reading a great story called a Spool of

Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. It was unputdownable. Then after a weekend in Cork I went and left it

behind, just as I was getting to the crux too.

I tried the library. No joy there. the lovely librarian ordered it in but it could take 10 days. Can I wait

that long for Denny to find the thread to mend his father’s dashiki?

So I tried the charity shops. The book was published in 2005 and in my experience you nearly have

to go to an antiquarian bookseller nowadays for anything over 2 years old.

I didn’t get A Spool of Blue Thread but take a look at my haul.

………And I only spent €3.00. God bless Marie Kondo!

And Then……….

I got a phonemail from Listowel library to say….ta dah….Martina had sourced a copy of the book for me.

I toddled down as soon as the library opened. I’ve nearly finished the book. I’d highly recommend it….a great read

The influence of Irish in Kerry English and a trip to Castleisland

Chris Howes, Irish Wildlife Photography Competition


The Kerryman Unbuttoned by Redmond O’Hanlon in Shannonside Annual

…..As the years pass
one insensibly makes many of these phrases one’s own. There is a gay
inconsequence about your Kerryman’s talk. Rabelasian at times, he is impatient
of the restraints of a pseudo culture that would seek to shackle his ready
tongue. Conscious of the inadequacies of English, he rifles the rich store of our own tongue to add colour and imagery to his talk. Someone is classified as a
mean bacach and we have him in focus at once. He will refer with feeling to the
shortcomings of a cabóg and we share his impatience with the bosthoon. The
average Kerryman is close to the soil and we are one with him there with this
difference, that his sense of values gives him pride in his background.

Words, accents,
idiom, what a fascinating field for him who delights to listen. In individuality
of speech Kerry is perhaps more rewarding to the observer than any other county
of the thirty two. Listen to the salty arguments of dealing men in fair and
market., to the caustic asides of crusty old lads drowsing over pints in deep
cavernous pubs; to the helpers paying the comhar at the threshing; to the
passionate vociferations of those followers of the green and gold as their
heroes rise with elan to tear balls out of the skies in Croke Park; and listen
again wherever Kerrymen foregather to pay the last tribute to their dead.


Then and Now

John Hannon took this photo of Mrs. Mann at the door of her shop in Main Street.

The same corner of town today


I was in Castleisland

There is lots of history on Castleisland’s Main Street. I was struck by the irony of the name of the pub on  which I saw the above plaque.

The great Con Houlihan is well remembered.

The above three pictures were on display in a shop window.

I have no idea of the era of the post box.

This landmark building was unoccupied last time I was here. I was delighted to see it back in business.

You all know how much I love a charity shop. I met a lovely lovely lady, Nora, in the Vincent de Paul shop but it was in the NCBI shop that I discovered these.

I do a spot of knitting so I know how much time and effort went into these creations. The green and pink doll are one doll.  You turn her over and you have her alter ego. They call her a topsy turvy doll.

The lady who knits these is Jan Wesley and she is 88 years young. She sells her knitwear in aid of the NCBI, so this shop in Castleisland is well worth a visit. The dolls are a snip at €10 and the tea cozy was €12.


Craftshop back in Town (temporarily)

Until June 3 2018 there will be a craftshop in Galvin’s Off licence premised in William Street. Why not pop in and take a look a these Craft Makers wares


Style with  a Listowel Connection

This is Niamh Kenny from Listowel at Punchestown Ladies’ Day last week.

This is the piece in Saturday’s Irish Times. Niamh and her friend, Mary O’Halloran caught the eye of a journalist. Competing at Ladies Day is part of the fun and enjoyment of a day at the Races for many ladies. It’s worth the investment. The prizes are big. As Mary says, “We’re gambling on ourselves.”

Castleisland, Dublin phone boxes and lights in Listowel’s Childers’ Park

Deirdre Lyons took this photo recently in The Garden of Europe. Isn’t it beautiful?



Last week I had occasion to pass a few hours in Castleisland. It is a really interesting town. I sometimes feel that Castleisland people are closer to their rural roots than other Kerry people. I overheard these gems on the street;

” Let me tell you now while I’ve a holt of you…..”

“75? She is in her eye. She’s 85 and she looks every day of it.”

This great likeness of Con Houlihan, one of Castleisland’s most famous sons, stands in the town centre.

This premises is currently idle.

A native of Castleisland informed me that this landmark is called The Fountain. This confirms my belief that people are different in this town. To me this is a pump. I can’t see anything that makes this column a fountain but if Castle Island people want to call it a fountain who am I to differ?

A reminder of Castleisland’s dark history


Phoneboxes on Connell Bridge, Dublin in the 1970s

Photo: Stair na hEireann on Facebook


Lighting our Way through the park

If, like me, you were walking in the park on Thursday March 23 2017, you might have wondered why all the lovely lights that are such a great addition to the park in recent years were still on in mid morning. Wonder no more. On my way through the park I met Conor Moriarty whom I knew would be a likely man to know the answer. He did. It was he who had turned them on in order to identify which ones were faulty. They are all now in full working order.


A Wedding Video from 1962

Wedding of Tommy Murphy and Olivia Featherstone

Paul Murphy sent me this great old video to share. Here is his accompanying email:

My mother was manager of the Arms, hired by Joe Locke, got married in Dublin because she knew people up there.

Listowel people in the video include my Dad’s sisters, Mossie Walsh down the square, with his wife Kats who still lives there, other Walshs, the guy sitting next to the old lady is I think Stephen Stack, the  pharmacist, where The Gentlemen’s Barber is now.

The old lady is my Gran Aunt Ciss Perryman from Beale who ran Mountain View in Ballybunion up until the 80’s. Also from Ballybunion is my uncle Paddy Dowling, who is doing the toasting, his daughter mames was well known in Ballybunion, who died tragically in a freak accident a few years ago. Feel free to ask any questions.


In London on Friday last 

Nancy and Derry Kelly, both from Listowel, celebrated 50 years of happy marriage.


Wedding with Fireworks

John Kelliher just happened to be in The  Square on Saturday April 1 2017. He just happened to have his camera with him so he got a shot or two of the firework display which was put on to celebrate a local wedding.


Don’t Forget

Ballybunion after the storms and George Best in Cork, 1975

Ballybunion in February 2014


I’m going to repost a popular piece from a while back:

 I am going to share with you a piece by my favorite sports writer, Con Houlihan. He is writing about someone who had as much natural talent as any footballer ever, but, unfortunately, mishandled his talents and became more famous for his antics off the pitch than on it. I speak of course of George Best.

Folk memory has forgotten that, towards the end of his career, George had a brief unhappy sojourn on “the banks of my own lovely Lee”.

“George Best, like Brendan Behan, came from a family whose closeness made the arrows of exile all the sharper.

Brendan Behan was the kind of child on whom grannies and aunts and assorted auld wans dote – so  seemingly was George Best.

Such indulgence makes for a pleasant childhood — but when eventually you sail out into the open sea, you may find the going a bit rough.


I have a particular little cause for being ill disposed towards George Best.

It concerns a Christmas week some years ago when I was spending a well earned holiday in the bosom of my family.  (The well earned etc part  is what low-grade correspondents in the Kerryman say about some dosser home for a few weeks from England.  ) 

There I was on Saturday night, 28 December 1975, eating a little piece of Christmas pie and drinking a mug of lemonade, when word arrived over  the electronic wire ordering me to be in Cork on the morrow.

The reason for this dramatic message was the rumoured appearance of wee Georgie in the colours of Cork Celtic in a League of Ireland game.

At that stage of wee Georgie’s career everything was rumour.  But I  turned up — so rather amazingly did he.

And so did the greatest gaggle of small  boys and indeed small girls seen at large since the Pied  Piper of Hamlin turned debt collector.  The winding little lane that leads down from the city to Flower Lodge was almost bursting its banks..

 I find it hard to forgive George Best for his display that day.

Lo and behold — George was back for the next match (against Shelbourne at Harold’s Cross).  A big crowd came to that game too — and went away less than gruntled.

George appeared one more time for Celtic — and people stayed away just because his name was on the team sheet.

An old truth had been illustrated — you don’t pay twice to see the same fat man in the circus sideshow.

The reason I am revisiting George is because I came across a photo from that occasion posted on a website dedicated to old Cork photos. The photo was submitted by Paul Campbell.


I found this photo on the same website. It was posted by Mags O’Sullivan and it shows floods in Patrick Street, Cork in 1961.


Jewels for Cures

The Brian Boru Millennium Crown is being created in commemoration of The High King of Ireland victor of The Battle of Clontarf which occurred on Good Friday 1014.

We are asking the fellow dynasties of Europe and others of European noble stock to contribute a small piece of personal gold jewellery which will be cast into the crown to link their families with our ancient High King.

The Irish people and the Diaspora are being asked to donate items of gold, platinum precious jewels and broken gold jewellery.  For example: a single gold cufflink that has lost its mate, a broken gold ring or chain.

A particle of each person’s gold will be cast into the crown.The names of each contributor will be put on The Crown Brian Boru Heritage Scroll, leaving a legacy for your descendants.

You can follow the progress of this great fundraising venture here;



A WW1 Trench

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