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

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Cold Turkey

Christmas in Listowel Town Square

Cyril Kelly Remembers

Sunday December 3 2023

In St. Mary’s

Beautiful Advent wreath in place. A candle will be lit on each off the Sundays of Advent.

The Sanctuary

My photo does not do justice to this beautiful Bethlehem scene before the main altar.

A Christmas poem

Martin O Hara   An Exiles Chjristmas

This time last year we posted a poem called the Exiles Christmas, about an old retired Irishman, living in a small flat in London, reminiscing about his childhood days in Ireland in his youth. 

I based that poem on a man called Joe I worked with in England over thirty years ago. He was from county Tipperary, and he was actually living in a one bedroom flat from the time he came to England, up until I came to know him, a period of 22 years. 

He had never been back to Ireland in all that time. When the job finished, I lost contact with Joe, no mobile phones in those days. I often wondered what became of him as he had a fondness for the drink. 

To make a long story short I based that poem on Joe, and as it proved so popular last year, I thought we might post it again. And Joe, if your still out there, a very Merry Christmas to you.


It was Christmas eve in London, 

And an Irishman, called Joe.

Stood by an upstairs window 

That looked on the street below. 

He could see the shoppers passing by,

Their voices filled with cheer.

As they shouted happy Christmas,

And a prosperous new year.

As he looked around the little room, 

That for years had been his home.

He was fifty years in London, 

Since he crossed the ocean foam. 

His youthful days behind him now,

And his working days long gone.

In retirement, his days were spent 

On his own, to carry on.

He could hear a church bell ringing, 

On the street across the way.

Where mass was celebrated, on

The eve of Christmas day. 

Then a choir started singing, and

The strains of silent night,

Came drifting through the window.

Into Joe’s old flat that night.

As he listened to the singing,

He began to shed a tear.

For he always felt emotional, 

On Christmas eve each year.

When old memories came flooding back,

And his thoughts began to stray.

To his childhood days in Ireland, 

Long ago and far away

He could see again the old thatched house,

At the corner of the lane.

Oh what he’d give to be a lad, and be

back there once again.

The candle in the window, 

To light a Welcome way.

For the virgin and the Christ child,

On the eve of Christmas day.

The Holly and the ivy, and the cards 

Around the fire.

And his mothers Christmas cooking, 

That would fill you with desire. 

The boxes left for Santa Claus,

In the hopes that he would call. 

With the toys to play on Christmas day, 

The happiest times of all.

As his memories began to fade, reality 

Set in.

He was back once more in London, 

In his little flat again.

And he drew his coat around him, as he

Sat back in his chair.

And for all those in his memories, he

began to say a prayer.

And he asked the Lord, to grant them rest,

In the land beyond the sky.

All the folks he once shared Christmas with,

In the happy years gone by.

Tomorrow at the center, he will meet his

Old friend Jack, an Irishman just like himself. 

That never made it back.

They will have their Christmas Dinner, 

and a glass or two of beer,

As they join their old acquaintances,

And the friends they love so dear.

Everybody has their party piece, 

To raise a bit of cheer.

At their Christmas get together. 

In the center every year. 

So to all our Irish exiles, in lands 

far off and near.

The blessing of this Christmas time we

wish you all this year.

And although we are divided, by land

and sky, and foam, 

A very merry Christmas, from the Irish 

Folks at home.

Martin O’Hara     ©   29/11/2021

Estuary Rollers

I caught one of the early arrivals rolling into town on their way to the mart field to assemble for their annual Christmas run to the Knockdown Arms. The parade of tractors was a sight to behold. The children loved it.

John Kelliher took this great picture of the assembled tractors

A great new rural tradition.

A Santa Fact

Santa, St. Nicholas, was depicted as a rather austere and saintly figure until 1931

In 1931 Coca Cola hired an illustrator called Haddon Sundblom to create an image of a jolly old man for a magazine advertising campaign. So the image of Santa we are all familiar with today was created; a portly bearded oldish laughing man dressed head to toe in red and with white trim.


Christmas Market

Listowel 2022


Listowel in Times Past

remembered by Cyril Kelly


Christmas Market, Saturday November 26 2022

I was a bit early and the festivities hadn’t started in earnest when I was in the Square. My little visitor had fallen asleep so we were at home before the switching on of the lights which was done this year by Paul Manning. We missed Santa and the school band as well so my photos do not do the event justice.

This is Paul Manning at the festivities in The Square. Unfortunately on the way home, Paul lost the hat he is wearing here. The hat was adorned with 2 badges which are of sentimental value to Paul. If you found it, you could hand it in to John B.s, St. John’s , The Garda Station or Doran’s. Indeed if you hand it in anywhere in town they’ll get it back to Paul.



On Friday I was back in Listowel Library for Tom Dillon’s entertaining talk on folklore. The talk was based on some of the local stories in the national folklore collection.

I was struck that some things that happened during the recent Covid crisis are things that only we know. Not everything is reported in the paper. I resolved to tell my family that Nick and the team at Listowel Garden Centre gave me a present of a plant and a bar of chocolate one day during lockdown. The gift came out of the blue. It meant a lot as did all the other kindnesses I received. I will pass the stories on to the next generation. That’s folklore.

Many stories were collected by schoolchildren in copies like these in the great initiative in 1936/37. Is it time to do it again?

Here is an extract from that great treasure trove;

My great grandfather whose name was Daniel Mangan from Bedford owned a house in William Street but it belongs to a man by the name of Corbet now and he fixes [?] cycles. When the house was owned by my great grandfather it was a latin school and it was taught by a man named Mac Namara My grand father whos name was Pat Mangan was taught Latin there. Mr. Mac Namara aied [?]named man.

They had slates to write on with slate pencils. The black board was a big slate. They had a few stools and planks across two or three boxes.

There was a hedge school in Ballydonohue. It was taught by a man named Relihan. One day they were attacked by English soldiers and Relihan was hanged.
Told by Mrs. Keane, Ashe Street, Listowel.
Written by W. Keane, Ashe Street, Listowel.


What an Improvement


Exemplary Fire Fighters

Photo; The Kerryman online

Proud to see our own John Curtin and John Kelliher rewarded for their long service to the fire service.


Christmas Memories

John Tangney somewhere in Eastern Europe


Christmas Past

Bord na Mona workers Christmas 1944. These turfmen, and they were all men, came from all over Ireland in the 1940s and 50s to harvest turf in the midland bogs. The work was backbreakingly hard, cold, wet and inhospitable. They were accommodated in hostels where they stayed for the season.

From 1942 to 1944 any men who stayed on for the winter were brought into Edenderry and Newbridge Hostels for special Christmas events. They usually arrived on the 24th and stayed until December 27th. St Stephen’s Day activities were usually football games and other sporting events. In 1945, due to falling numbers the event was confined to Newbridge. This photo comes from Newbridge Hostel in 1944.” Bord na Mona Archive


All Ireland Winners

Tim Kennelly, Tony McAuliffe and Gary MacMahon

R.I.P. All Ireland Football medal winners from Listowel


Cold Turkey by Cyril Kelly

Christmas in Church Street in the 1950s


If You are in any way squeamish, DONT read this great Christmas essay by Cyril Kelly.

I warned you. If you read it despite my warning, you may be sorry.


Happy Times in School

I have no date for this but it is a Staff versus Pupils End of Term Match. These were always great fun. R.I.P. Cliff, in school uniform.


Listowel , Sound Town

Today fm has declared Listowel Ireland’s Soundest Town 2022. They hit town on Saturday to kick off the start of the Christmas Season in Listowel.


A Christmas story

Portmarnock photo by Éamon ÓMurchú


A Lost Soul at Christmas

Today’s story is from Cyril Kelly

Apologies for the awful scanning. I favoured substance over style.


Down Memory Lane with the Boys

This photo and the accompanying autographs was shared by John Keane on Facebook. The photo is from 1980, in the days before uniforms in St. Michael’s.

All the names were gathered by William Carroll of William Street. The photo is his.


A Christmas Window


A Present Suggestion

John McGrath’s poems are always food for thought. This lovely new anthology is out just in time for Christmas. I’d highly recommend it for that last minute present.

After Closing”Poetry for Everyman…” Lori De’Molet”Big! Huge, Hearty!” (Catherine White Snr)

Make someone smile at Christmas!

After Closing, my new collection, available at:

Ryan’s Mace. Lisselton,

The Thatch Lisselton,

Seanchaí Writers’ Centre, Listowel,

Brenda Woulfe’s Bookshop, Listowel,

and…via PayPal at


Listowel, Facts and Photos

St. John’s Theatre, November 2021


A Listowel Fact

St. Michael’s College used to be as fever hospital. In the 1940s and 50s it had a massive reputation for the teaching of Latin and Greek. A remarkable number of St. Michael’s past pupils have achieved international eminence.

Hard to believe but the first team game that was played in the college was cricket.


That was Then; This is Now

Another premises looking for a new tenant. The first photo dates back to 2007.


How Much is….?

A Listowel pooch in a room with a view.


Today’s Long Read

Cyril Kelly tells us about the trials and tribulations of an altar boy in November. They were all boys before Vatican 2. No altar servers then.

Cyril brings 1950s Listowel vividly to life in this beautifully crafted essay.


That was Then; This is Now

A then and now picture with a difference…new principal of Presentation Secondary School, Listowel, Katherina Broderick pictured with former principal, Sr. Consolata Bracken in St. Mary’s Listowel on Presentation Day, November 21 2021

(photo shared on school’s Facebook page)

Katherina is the first past pupil to be appointed principal. I wish her every good luck in her new role.


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