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: Cork Page 1 of 7

Christmas in Cork

The big wheel for Christmas 2023 in Cork’s Grand Parade

Cork at Christmas

My next spot of Christmas travel was to my home by the Lee.

Finn’s Corner, early morning

St. Peter and Paul’s, beautiful old city centre church

This took me back to opening term masses here when I was in UCC. I wonder if that tradition is still observed.

Statue of Our Lady in the grounds of St. Peter and Paul’s.

This was my first sight of the Michael Collins statue.

A great likeness

Just a Thought

Here is a link to my reflections which were broadcast on Radio Kerry in the Just a Thought slot last week.

Just a Thought

Serendipity

Serendipity is the making of unexpected and pleasant discoveries by accident.

Front (faded) and back (vivid) covers of a book discovered in a charity shop and purchased for 50c.

A story from the book… Pail but not Wan

The Wran

I don’t know the year for this one.

With Tambourines and Wren boys

Wm. Molyneaux

(Continued from yesterday…)

But then, about the Wren.  How the wren derived her dignity
as the king of all birds.  That was the question.  An eagle issued a challenge between all birds, big and small as they were-wrens, robins, sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds, jackdaws, magpies, or else.  They commenced their flight this day-Christmas Day-The eagle, being the bravest continues her flight and was soaring first.  All the other birds were
soaring after, until, in the finish, after a lapse of time in her flight, the weaker birds seemed to get weary and could not continue their flight some  ways further. 
But the Wren pursued to the last. 
The other birds got weak and worn out and in the heel of fair  play, the eagle said that she was the king of all birds herself now.  The wren concealed yourself under the Eagles feathers, in the end of  fair play the Eagle got worn out.  The wren flew out from under the Eagles
feathers and declared yourselves the king of all birds.  That is how the Wren derived her dignity as being the king of all birds.  So we hunted her for the honour of it.  

Also, when St Stephen was in prison and as he was liberated the band went out against St Stephen, and it was a daylight performance and the wren, when she heard the music and the band, came out and perched yourselves on the drum.  That’s how we heard the story.

Anyway we made our tambourines.  You’d get a hoop made (in them days) by a cooper.  There is no cooper hardly going now.  You’d get this made by cooper for about half a crown.  I used to make my tambourines always  of goat’s skin.  You could make them of an ass foal’s
skin-anything young, do you see.  How?  I’d skinned the goat, get fresh lime and put the fresh lime on the fleshy side of the skin-not that hairy side but the fleshy side of the skin-fold it up then and double it up and twist it again and get a soft string and put it around it and take it with you then to a running stream and put it down in the running stream where the fresh water will be always running over it, and leave it so. 
You could get a flag and attach it onto the bag, the way the water wouldn’t carry it.  Leave it there for about nine days and you come then and you can pull off the hair and if the hair comes freely you can take up the skin and pull off the hair the same as you would shave yourself.  And then you
should moisten with lukewarm water.  You should draw it the way it wouldn’t shrink. You should leave it for a couple of hours.  You would get your ring and you’d have the
jingles and all in-the bells-you’d have them all in before you put the skin to the rim. You should have two or three drawing the skin to keep it firm-pull it from half-width, that would be the soonest way t’would stiffen.  Let the skin be halfwidth and put it down on the rim and  have a couple  pulling it and another man tacking it with brass tacks. 
That’s the way I used make my tambourines, anyway.  Ther’d be no sound out of it the first night.  I used always hang my tambourines outside.  And then the following morning t’would be hard as a pan  and a flaming sound out of it.  And then after a bit t’would cool down.  T’would be bad to
have them too hard, they’d crack.  Ah, sure I made several tambourines that way.

To be continued…

A Christmas Poem

Christmas

John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
   The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
    Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
    And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
    The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
“The church looks nice” on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze
    And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
    Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says “Merry Christmas to you all.”

And London shops on Christmas Eve
    Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
    To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
    And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
    And Christmas-morning bells say “Come!'”
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? And is it true,
    This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
    A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true? For if it is,
    No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
    The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
    No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
    Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

+ R.I.P. Maureen Sweeney+

As a tribute to a heroine who has passed away, here is her story from a previous blogpost…

Flavin Sweeney wedding  1946

 2nd, lL to R, Maureen Flavin Sweeney Blacksod Bay, 5th L to R Theresa Flavin Kennelly Knockanure, 6th L to R, Peg Connor Moran, Knockanure 

Billy McSweeney told us this story and it appeared in Listowel Connection in 2018

In my Grandparents time, Kerry people understood that they were cut off from the rest of Ireland by a series of mountains; they realized that they were isolated and had to look after themselves. Life was harder in Kerry than in the Golden Vale or on the central plains of Ireland. The mothers of Kerry especially, knew that they had to look to every advantage to help their children and prized education highly to that end. In the mid-19thcentury the people of Listowel welcomed enthusiastically the establishment of St Michael’s College for Boys and the Presentation Convent Secondary schools for Girls, not forgetting the Technical School. The people who read this blog are most likely familiar with the Census’ 1901 and 1911 and will have noticed that many homes in Listowel housed not only Boarders but also welcomed Scholars who came from the villages and isolated farms scattered around North Kerry. These boys and girls spent 5-6 years in the Listowel schools to be educated for ‘life’.

The upshot of this was that from Listowel we sent out many young adults who were a credit to their teachers to take their places in many organizations and many whose names became nationally known for their talents and abilities, especially in the Arts.

Let  me tell you about one such young girl, Maureen Flavin, who was born in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry. When the time came for Maureen to go on from National school she was welcomed into the Mulvihill home in Upper Church Street who themselves had a young girl, Ginny, of the same age. Maureen and Ginny became fast friends and stayed so for life. 

When Maureen finished school in 1930 she wanted a job; couldn’t get one in Kerry because of the times that were in it, so she answered an ad in the National Papers for an Assnt. Postmistress in Black Sod, in North Mayo. Her references and qualifications were suitable and in due course, as she says, to her own surprise she was offered the job. This was to set Maureen on a course where she would be an integral part of one of the most momentous actions of the age. Mrs Sweeney, the Black Sod Postmistress, was married to Ted who was the Lighthouse Keeper, both operating from the Lighthouse building in Black Sod. They had a son, also Ted, who Maureen fell in love with and married in due course. They in turn had three boys and a girl and life took up a normal rhythm for the family; that is until 3rd June 1944.

The WW2 was in full swing at this stage with Gen. Eisenhower as the Allied Supreme Commander and Gen. Rommel the German Commander in Normandy. Rommel knew that an Allied invasion was prepared and imminent. Conventional Meteorological sources at the time for the US and German military said that the coming days would bring very inclement weather so that the invasion would have to be postponed. Eisenhower postponed the action and Rommel left Normandy for a weekend in Berlin based on the same information. The British Chief Meteorologist had however visited Black Sod some years previously and knew the value of Black Sod as the most westerly station in Europe and when a break in the weather was reported by Black Sod on 3rdJune he persuaded Eisenhower that 6thand 7thJune would be clear and to ignore the same conventional Met advice used by both the US and the Germans. Ted compiled the reports for the Irish Met Office and Maureen transmitted them. Maureen remembers receiving a telephone call a short time later from a lady with a ‘very posh English accent’ asking for confirmation of her report. Ted was called to the phone and he confirmed the readings, The rest, as they say, is history. 

(R.I.P. Maureen, who passed away on December 17 2023, aged 100. She was a recipient of the US Congress Medal of Honour)

A Fact

In one week from today it will be St. Stephen’s Day 2023

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Back in the Classroom

Spring 2023 in Listowel Town Square

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I was Back in the Classroom

There I am in the midst of the lovely 6th class girls in Presentation Primary School, Listowel on World Book Day 2023. The girls were dressed as their favourite characters. I came as myself.

I was a VIP guest as part of their Creative Schools’ Cluster project.

I was welcomed to the school by my friend Mrs. Anne Brosnan and the class I spoke to is now being taught by someone I taught back in the day, Miss Julieanne Galvin.

Behind us on the interactive whiteboard is our good friend, Jimmy Hickey. I told the girls about Jimmy’s exploits in The National Concert Hall. They don’t read Listowel Connection so it was news to them. Jimmy is their dancing teacher.

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Alice Curtayne

It’s not all male writers in Kerry Writers’ Museum. This female Kerry writer is there too. She is a little known but very learned journalist and writer, deserving of a wider audience.

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A Little bit of the USA in Cork

When I’m on foot I notice things that were there all the time but I never spotted before.

This happened to me lately when I was walking on Western Road in Cork and I came upon this sign.

Maybe it is my imagination but doesn’t that white car look a bit American as well.

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Something to Look Forward To

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Green Green Gate of Home

Tidy Town seat in Listowel Town Square in summer 2022

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Coming into Cork

My friend took these as the ferry came up the Lee estuary.

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In the Ballybunion Market

I was in the Ballybunion outdoor market on Saturday July 9 2022. I met the lovely entrepreneur, Sarah Fitzgerald of The Green Green Gate.

Sarah was being helped in her enterprise by her lovely Mammy, Peggy Fitzgerald.

I bought elderflower cordial. Delicious!

“Where did she get the name for her business?” you ask.

Here is the answer in Sarah’s words:

The Green, Green Gate was a half way meeting point between my house and the local sports field on my family land.!!! We didn’t have phones to keep in touch back then so my friend, cousins and I would arrange to meet there in the evening or weekends.

The Green Green Gate simply marked the start of many adventures and fun times for us all. It was our Gateway to Fun !!!! The fields, the forest, the bogland, the stream, the trees and the wide open spaces were our computers and phones of today’s children.

How lucky were we !!!!!

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A Few More Irishisms

from this book…

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Church of the Immaculate Conception, Blarney

Blarney is one of those churches where, if you gave a generous donation to the cause you got a plaque on the wall. Other churches put names on windows or pews.

I’m presuming this is the man who set up Blarney Woollen Mills. It used to be known as Mahony’s Mill.

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Town this Week

Flags, bunting, green and gold everywhere and I expect to see much more of the Kerry colours flying in the next few weeks as we near the All Ireland.

Thank you Seán OShea, the Cliffords, Spillanes et al for lifting all our spirits.

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Dress Dance in 1956

In Cromane by Chris Grayson

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A Grand Affair

One of the highlights of the North Kerry social calendar used to be the Teachers Dress Dance.

Kathy Reynolds shared the link to Tony Fitzmaurice’s photographs of the 1956 dance and an abridged version of an essay first published in The Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine 2021 outlining the work of the ballroom photographer and Kathy’s efforts to reunite the photographs with their subjects or their families.

Teachers Dress Dance in Walsh’s Ballroom in 1956

The Ballroom Photographer

Teacher’s Dress Dance 18th Nov ’56 Band; J McGinty.

That was my introduction to the ledger where the late Tony Fitzmaurice (RIP), Ballybunion, kept a record of his semi-professional photography. In the back of the ledger was some headed paper and this introduced me to “Tony’s Photo Service & Kerry’s Youngest and Best Ballroom Photographer”!

Tony was my father’s first cousin and I was familiar with his photography all my life. As a small child his special dark-room partitioned from the bottom of the kitchen was a source of fascination. As an adult I became more aware of his photography as it was a hobby we shared and he was generous with his advice as I developed my interest. On holiday or at any event Tony always had a camera to hand but it was only on his death in 2019, when his widow Madeline asked my family to look after his photography, that I found out about his life as a Ballroom Photographer.

His ledger recorded every detail of his semi-professional photography business which co-existed alongside his job as a Kerry County Council employee. The ledger gives us a look at the work of a 1950/60s Ballroom Photographer.  The Teachers Dress Dance on the 18th November 1956 with music by Joe McGinty was his first professional engagement. A 10 minute video showing photographs from the event can be found at  https://vimeo.com/666457253  Can anyone recognise teachers from their childhood? Looking at some of the posters in the room and as most of the money for the photographs came via Jim Walsh I assume the venue was Walsh’s Super Ballroom, Listowel, where Tony was resident photographer. His card with a unique number given to everyone he photographed tells us that proofs could be inspected at Mr. Jim Walsh’s, William Street, Listowel. Photographs were available in two sizes, Postcard (3.5 x 5.5 inches) or large (6.5 x 8 inches) costing 2 or 3 shillings (10 or 15p). Photographs were relatively expensive back in the 1950/60s when you consider that today a standard 6×4 inch print can be printed for as little as 5p at my local supermarket and the 8×6 for just 15p.

In the 1950s not many homes had a camera and so the Ballroom Photographer had a good market. The accounts for the teacher’s dance show that 70 photographs were taken and 90 prints were sold making a gross profit of £7 3s 9d on the night. Of course the capital cost of cameras, flashguns and darkroom equipment had to be covered as well as a payment to the Ballroom owner. The 1957 Teacher’s Dance was much larger with about 350 people present, 380 prints sold generating a gross profit of £24 13s 8d. In addition to the teachers other groups had annual dances such as The Post Office Staff,  Macra na Feirme and North Kerry Farmers. 

In his 6 years as a semi-professional photographer dances at the Super Ballroom occurred mainly from September to May with the busiest period being Listowel Race week with dances from Sunday to Thursday night with approximately 800 photographs taken.  Over the 6 years the most popular act was Chick Smith with 23 appearances followed by Denis Cronin and Mick Delahunty with 12 and 11 appearances respectively. International stars of the 1950s and 60s such as Eddie Calvert and his Golden Trumpet, Johnny Dankworth, Anne Sheldon and Winifred Atwell also made appearances. Tony’s ledger notes that Bridie Gallagher appeared 5 times drawing audiences of 1,500 to 2,000, indeed on 11th December 1960 Tony notes that the ballroom was too crowded leaving one to wonder just how big the audience was. St Patrick’s night and St Stephen’s night also drew large crowds but not every night was a success.  One such night received the withering comment “poor crowd — hopeless band”.

Although dances at the Super Ballroom accounted for most of Tony’s photography (26,600 negatives carefully stored) during these 6 years he also photographed local events, a few weddings, friends and family. One such event was in December 1959, children sitting on Santa’s lap at McKenna’s, Listowel. This will cover children from across North Kerry and the images can be found at https://vimeo.com/647951277 . It is my intention to try to reconnect the photos with the people or communities they came from. The easiest way for me to share them is as video slide shows, all are or will be titled North Kerry People 1..2..3 etc and they can be found by searching the internet for North Kerry People Vimeo. The 26,000+ Super Ballroom negatives is a very long term project, it will take many long winter days to scan them but I would like at some time to make the archive available in North Kerry for social history purposes.    

Many thanks to those, too many to name, who have already helped put names to many faces.

Autographed photo of Bridie Gallagher

Kathy Reynolds (Fitzmaurice), Oakham, Rutland, UK and previously Moybella, Lisselton.    

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Graffiti or Street Art

(Image and text from Yay Cork)

Asbestos’ mural on South Main Street has been featured in the Street Art Cities’ Top 100 list. The mural has won great admiration since its completion as part of the Ardú Street Art Project in 2021, and is now eligible to be voted for as the best piece of street art in the world.

Tim Marschang, who is the organiser behind the list and the competition, explained how each work was selected, saying: “For the past 12 months Street Art Cities selected some of the best murals across the globe and shared it on their popular Instagram Story polls letting the audience decide.” Over 100,000 votes were counted.

“This resulted in a list of 100 most popular artworks of 2021. And it’s literally a global list with murals from every corner of the planet, from Denmark to South Africa, From Lima to Brisbane, take a look and pick your favourites.” If you want to support Cork and Asbestos, you can vote here. Voting closes on February 6th.

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A Coup for a Writer with a Listowel Connection

Photo of Colm Tóibín by Barry Cronin

Colm Tóibín who is President of Listowel Writers’ Week has been appointed Laureate for Irish Fiction 2022 to 2024. He is a very popular choice nationally and internationally but especially in Listowel.

Isn’t Barry Cronin’s photograph gas?

At Writers Week 2019 I photographed Colm Tóibín with Rick O’Shea, John Boyne and Joseph O’Connor. I hope photo ops like this will come my way again in 2022.

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Craftshop the Méar, Scoil Realt na Maidine



The River Lee, Cork in January 2020

Photo: Chris Grayson



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Feeling Nostalgic


Today Im back in 2013 in Craftshop na Méar in Church Street. Happy Days!

We used to have this mascot pig in the window. The shop owner, Robert Corridan, brought him all the way from the U.S. where he used to be blue and was the mascot for one of Robert’s favourite restaurants,  The Blue Pig. The late Dan Green, who was a great supporter of the shop, named him Crubeen.

Mary Boyer and Una Hayes were looking after the shop on this day, which, judging by the stock, was near Christmas time. The beautiful crochet work on the top left is the work of Brigitta who now runs Scribes.

Maureen Connolly is sitting by the range working on one of her crochet rugs Beside her in his bawneen is Dinny.

One day as we were having a Christmas event, Alice Taylor dropped in to listen to the songs and stories.

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Scoil Realt na Midine 1960



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