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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kerry ladies put up a gallant fight against a superb Meath team.
Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach.
Some of the Kerry Team Support in Listowel
When neighbouring counties win both the hurling and football, there are bound to be some very happy Listowel households.
Ballybunion showing its support in typical Ballybunion fashion.
Tommy Martin of The Irish Examiner holidayed in Ballybunion this year.
Here is how he opened his article on his experience.
For Sean O’Shea’s moment of square-jawed heroism NOT to be the prelude to Kerry’s ultimate deliverance just doesn’t seem to make any narrative sense. It would be stupidly anti-climactic. To north Kerry, in the space between two All-Ireland finals.
Your correspondent finds himself on his annual pilgrimage to Ballybunion this week, the seaside resort town which remains oblivious to global meltdown. While Europe burns, Ballybunion warily slips off its kagoule, not liking the look of those clouds one bit. “Some heatwave!” is the sardonic comment of choice, as two days of hazy pleasantness gave way to temperatures soaring into the mid-teens.
A Meadow Walk
When the gardeners of the local council mow the grass in the town park they leave it tall for the birds, insects and bees and they cut paths through the grass for us to walk and enjoy. A great Idea!
Lest we Forget
This award winning front page will forever be the image of the worst of Covid 19 restrictions. Now that we are at the other side of that awfulness we should spare a thought and a prayer for people scarred forever.
Do you remember this image from last week. It was the Tumbling Paddy, used for gathering the mown hay into heaps for making into wynnds. Things have moved on and no one uses a Tumbling Paddy anymore.
I was at home in Kanturk last week and they were haymaking.
This is the modern equivalent of the Tumbling Paddy.
These are today’s wynnds. Progress!
Covid hasn’t gone away
Our poor little girleen got Covid.
Thank God it was a mild dose. A big fright and a short few hours in the hospital saw her soon back to her old self again.
David Kissane’s Memories of St. Michael’s Continued
The new NCPE (National College of Physical Education) in Limerick was in the thoughts of the sports students in St Michael’s that year but the balance of interest was in teaching, especially primary teaching. While Mrs Murphy and Mr Eggliston (affectionately called “Iggy”) had worked hard to make science popular at Junior Cert level, the uptake of the science subjects by our final year was low and the classical background of the school held sway in our peer year. We did study physics for a while in 5th year as fair play to the school for testing the future waters in that trial. It gave us an insight into the magic of neutrons, the photoelectric threshold and transmutation. The silent secrets of the world around us. When a little digging took place today in old books, the red Leaving Cert Physics by the Christian Brothers was unearthed with a hand-written photo-statted Christmas exam paper still sleeping inside. Comments written on the inside covers by fellow students and Convent girls’ names inscribed in little hearts while Mr Eggliston was busy at the blackboard. I had totally forgotten that we studied physics for a few months – fifty years is a long time – but the formulas and facts and diagrams came flooding back as if they had been close friends all along. The book was closed in LC1 in 1971 and never opened again till today.
While different students left St Michael’s with different attitudes to teachers – friends, frenemies or just no comment – all our teachers had a genuine interest in hoisting the proper sails for the oceans ahead.
Subcultures often define a society. The game of “Pushpenny” was huge in St Michael’s and persisted right up to the final days of the class of 1972. It consisted of a game between two students, played out on the wooden desks with a coin (usually one of the new decimal coins, although the old thrupenny bits were ideal) as a flat football, another bigger coin by each of the two players and a piece of ruler to strike the bigger coins which would in turn strike the “football” and send it flying to the “goal” which was usually a book. There were corners, frees, line balls and penalties, with screamers, banana shots and diagonal bullets. Every lunchtime, or part thereof, was accentuated by Pushpenny games, with leagues, cup-finals and home-and-away fixtures. My desk-mate, Mike Carmody from Lyreacrompane was an expert. Being a Leeds Utd supporter, he was on a high after that first week in May 1972 when Leeds had beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup Final 1-0 in front of a 100,000 people at Wembley. Alan Clarke goal. The only time that Leeds have won before or since. My Man Utd were having a shaky time so all I could do was redeem their fortunes with Pushpenny goals. Now and again, if a teacher was delayed on the way to class, or if a teacher arrived early for class and had a chat with another outside the door, a whole spate of games would break out on every desk. When the teacher arrived, there was a scramble to hide coins and accoutrements and replace with the necessary books and copies. Once or twice, a teacher might confiscate the coins and pocket the lot (obviously to be later donated to charity) but generally a blind eye was turned as the games were quiet and harmless.
Injuries were rare but once I did a metaphorical sliding tackle on the desk with my striking hand and managed to get an inch-long splinter of the desk lodged under my nail. My Lyreacrompane/Leeds opponent went pale and partially fainted. I scored the resultant penalty before he recovered. Man Utd 1, Leeds 0.
A few days before we finished classes, it was announced that Fr long was retiring as president of the college after being in charge since 1954. A gathering of the whole school was organised and Mr Paddy Rochford gave a speech in which he revealed the career of Fr Long. “Danny” had guided the college over the boom in student numbers that had occurred after the introduction of free education in 1967 (our first year) and the introduction of science subjects and French to replace or complement the strictly traditional classical subjects. Fr Danny introduced the black gown for the teachers of our year, giving them a fearful appearance on occasion. The gowns did have a practical value in keeping chalk off their clothes but on occasion some teachers were known to discard the heavy archaic apparel when “Danny” went across the road to his president’s house for his meals.
Towards the last week of class that magical May, a blackboard was commandeered to act as a stadium for lunchtime games and there was a world cup of Pushpenny with a knockout system and a big lead-up to a grand final. A significant incident around the final has grasped a place in the memory. The whole class was assembled in a circle around the two finalists and the town boys had returned early from lunch to witness the end of an era of Pushpenny. At a vital moment of the action, Fr Danny Long opened the door. Gasps. This usually meant trouble and a charge of unstudent-like behaviour and repercussions could follow. We could hear our hearts beating and our eyes looked down. Danny became a legend when he simply said “Carry on!” and walked out, closing the door behind him. In our minds we would respect him forever for that action. To feel valued in our curious pastime was a privilege written in no book and summarised the atmosphere in St Michael’s College in 1972.
In reply to the people who were wondering who “The Twelve Apostles” who, 50 years ago set up Kerry were;
Gerard Stack was anxious to see a photo of the scene in Walsh’s toyshop at Christmas time long ago.
Mike Moriarty had just such a photograph
Here is Mike’s email;
In response to Gerard Stack’s post re Toy Shop at Walsh’s I have attached a photo from those days. At the back on the left is yours truly, centre is Marie Keane Stack (mother of the Brogans) and on the right is my brother, Tom. At the piano is Mary Sheehy(nee Shaughnessy). At her left shoulder is Mike McGrath and in the centre is your correspondent, Gerard Stack. We were all neighbours, such a contrast with today where there are no children growing up in William St.
Dave O’Sullivan found some great old ads in The Kerryman. Walsh’s had a Toy Fair complete with film show in 1950.
Another Regular at Christmas Time
At this time of year I like to include familiar seasonal pieces of excellent writing. This is one of my favourites.
A Kerry Christmas Childhood
Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,
As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.
I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,
And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.
We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,
And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,
To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,
And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,
Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,
And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.
From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,
To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,
For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,
To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,
To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,
And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.
The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,
The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,
And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,
Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.
Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire
And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,
Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,
Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights
And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,
And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.
Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,
If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,
And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,
When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,
But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,
To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.
She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.
“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”
The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade
And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.
St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,
To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’
We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,
And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.
Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill
Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.
Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.
Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.
So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,
And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.
Advertisements from another era
Sent to us by Mattie Lennon
So Much has changed
Knitting group in Scribes in 2012
Listowel Christmas 2021
My Christmas Reading
I loved my Woodford Pottery jug and vase so much, I went back and bought the mug to match.
‘Twas the Night before Christmas 2021
By Mary Conlon
Twas the night before Christmas, but Covid was here, So we all had to stay extra cautious this year. Our masks were all hung by the chimney with care In case Santa forgot his and needed a spare. With Covid, we couldn’t leave cookies or cake So we just left Santa hand sanitizer to take.
The children were sleeping, the brave little tots The ones over 12 had just had their first shots, And mom in her kerchief and me in my cap Had just settled in for a long summer’s nap. But we tossed and we turned all night in our beds As visions of variants danced in our heads.
Gamma and Delta and now Omicron These Covid mutations that go on and on I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t get better, I’ll soon be familiar with every Greek letter”.
Then just as I started to drift off and doze A clatter of noise from the front lawn arose. I leapt from my bed and ran straight down the stair I opened the door, and an old gent stood there.
His mask made him look decidedly weird But I knew who he was by his red suit and beard. I kept six feet away but blurted out quick ” What are you doing here, jolly Saint Nick?”
Then I said, “Where’s your presents, your reindeer and sleigh? Don’t you know that tomorrow will be Christmas Day? “ And Santa stood there looking sad in the snow As he started to tell me a long tale of woe.
He said he’d been stuck at the North Pole alone All his white collar elves had been working from home, And most of the others said “Santa, don’t hire us! We can’t work now, thanks to the virus”.
Those left in the toyshop had little to do. With supply chain disruptions, they could make nothing new. And as for the reindeer, they’d all gone away. None of them left to pull on his sleigh.
He said Dasher and Dancer were in quarantine, Prancer and Vixen refused the vaccine, Comet and Cupid were in ICU, So were Donner and Blitzen, they may not pull through.
And Rudolph’s career can’t be resurrected. With his shiny red nose, they all think he’s infected. Even with his old sleigh, Santa couldn’t go far. Every border to cross needs a new PCR.
Santa sighed as he told me how nice it would be If children could once again sit on his knee. He couldn’t care less if they’re naughty or nice But they’d have to show proof that they’d had their shot twice.
But then the old twinkle returned to his eyes. And he said that he’d brought me a Christmas surprise. When I unwrapped the box and opened it wide, Starlight and rainbows streamed out from inside.
Some letters whirled round and flew up to the sky And they spelled out a word that was 40 feet high. There first was an H, then an O, then a P, Then I saw it spelled HOPE when it added the E.
“Christmas magic” said Santa as he smiled through his beard. Then suddenly all of the reindeer appeared. He jumped into his sleigh and he waved me good-bye, Then he soared o’er the rooftops and into the sky.
I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight “Get your vaccines my friends, Merry Christmas, good-night”. Then I went back to bed and a sweet Christmas dream Of a world when we’d finished with Covid 19.
The above garden is now located beside the side wall of the ball alley. This wall, now covered in ivy and cut off by trees was once the alley where boys who couldn’t get a game in the alley proper practiced their skills.
During Covid restrictions, people were put to the pins of their collars to find polite ways of saying Behave yourself, remember we’re in a pandemic situation. This was just one of the many signs that appeared in shops.
One of the stars of Listowel Handball was Brendán ÓMurchú. Here he is being presented with his cup for winning the Lee Strand competition. John Fitzgerald is on the left, John Joe Kenny on the right.
Breandán has framed this photo of himself and Junior. Breandán is being presented with the shield for winning the town league on November 17 1961. Below the photo is the congratulatory note signed by Bryan MacMahon. Brendan brought handball with him to Dublin as did another Listowel man, Michael Enright.
This newspaper cutting from 1976 tells of the two Listowel men keeping the game alive in the capital.
Getting Ready for Reopening
The Star and Garter on Church Street is getting a Facelift
A Safe Place to Visit
During this pandemic the Council and the Government have wasted so much money on ill thought out initiatives. This is just another. Such is the nature of Covid 19 and its unpredictable course that a safe place to visit today is quite likely to be the very worst place to visit tomorrow. Will these signs go the way of those bollards and pavement overtaking bays that blighted our streets at the beginning of the lockdown?