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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blackbird, The Rattoo Swan, Government difficulties in 1927 and a better photo of the Dan Keane Variety Show cast

Photo: Chris Grayson


Swans Return

This is Bridget O’Connor’s beautiful picture of Mammy swan with her brood of 2015. Earlier this month the same swan and her husband returned to the exact same spot to build their nest. 

Anyone who knows anything about swans knows that they value their privacy and independence so Bridget kept well back to take her first photo of the returned swans.

Then came the biblical deluge of April 10 2016 and all her friends were worried for Mammy swan as the water rose around her nest threatening to swamp it. Mammy swan became agitated, toing and froing from the nest. Two local friends of the swan staged a quick intervention while she was on one of her wanderings and, using pitchforks, raised the nest to a higher spot. Thankfully, the swans accepted the new higher location and they have now returned to hatch their eggs in their beloved nesting spot.

Don’t go near them. I’ll keep you updated.


Deja Vu all over again

Back in 1927, Ireland was in a similar pickle to today’s shaky political situation.

The Irish general election of June 1927 was held on 9 June 1927. The newly elected members of the 5th Dáil assembled at Leinster House on 23 June when the new President of the Executive Council and Executive Council of theIrish Free State were appointed.

The election saw the establishment of Fianna Fáil as a participant in the Dáil, taking most of the support and many of the members of the abstentionist Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin. The impact of this shift was to remove Cumann na nGaedheal‘s working majority among TDs attending, making the Dáil short-lived. (Wikipedia)

Irish Independent Saturday, 27
August, 1927; Page: 10


The news of the decisive dual
victory of the Government in the Dublin by-elections caused great jubilation
amongst all Government supporters in Tralee. The announcement of the Dail
dissolution and such an early General Election, while creating general surprise,
came as a veritable bombshell to the Opponents of the Government, says the ”
Irish Independent” correspondent. President Cosgrave’s decision has the
unanimous approval of all his supporters there as well as of merchants,
traders, farmers, and all others having a stake in the country. The lead given
by Dublin is taken as ominous, and the belief here is that it will be fairly
generally followed throughout the Saorstat at the General Election. The chances
of Fianna Fail are being freely canvassed, and while many of their supporters
are confident of doing better this time owing to the party having entered the
Dail, the extreme section of followers, confined mainly to the younger
idealists. are so disgusted with the taking of the oath that a big number of these
young voters who worked so hard for the party last June will take no part
whatever in the coming election.


Supporters of the Government are
convinced of a sweeping victory on this occasion. ” If the Government don’t
sweep the country this time,” said one prominent Tralee gentleman, ” God help
the country; but the people have got so sick of political wrangling now that
they will put an end to it for ever.”

An influential member of the
Farmers’ Union Party heartily welcomed the early General Election. His only
regret is that it will not give sufficient time to the farmers to meet and
throw in their lot with the Government party, which they so loyally stood by in
the recent crisis. Their duty, however, he said, was to stand by the Government


Picturesque streetscape on Bridge Road

Hill Top, Bridge Road, Listowel April 2016


The Whole Picture

Betty Stack has sent us the full picture of that cast from the Dan Keane Show in the mid seventies.

Here is the list of names, all except one man,

From back;  Kieran Kelliher,Patrick Flaherty, Seán Ahern, Timmy Leahy, Seán Broderick, Liam Tarrant, P.J. Ryan, Jerry Nolan, …….  ……, Gerard Buckley, Michael Dowling Christy Stack, 

Muriel Dowling, Geraldine Dowling, Kathleen O’Connor, Betty Stack, Maureen Dowling, Honor O’Connor,  Mary RyanPaudie Keane, Timmy Brosnan, Peggy Sweeney, Philomena Dillon and Dan Keane


What a week!

Last week started out for your blogger with a lovely family birthday.

Then was marred by the illness and hospitalization of a beloved grandchild.

The week ended with a feast of great things in North Kerry; Women in Media in Ballybunion, A Hen Night Epiphany in St. John’s, and a celebration to mark Brendan Kennelly’s 80th birthday.

If you are not interested in any of these things you are in for a lean few days on Listowel connection as I intend telling you all about my adventures, complete with pictures.


The Ones to Watch

Padraig O’Connor of Ballyduff is on the far right. He is pictured here with his UCC team who were honoured in Cork for their participation in an international business competition in Canada.

Left to right; Brenda Nestor, JMUCC Coach with the 2016 Cork University Business School team: Jess Griffin, Julian Hoare, Klara Sarkovska and Padraig O’Connor being recognised for their participation in the John Molson University Case Study Competition 2016.

National Savings in 1938, Ballybunion a few more place names

In The Garden of Europe

A lone daffodil at the John B. Keane memorial


Saving Money in 1938

Kerryman Saturday, 05 November, 1938; Page: 26


In Eire, since 1923, approximately
171 million Savings Certificates, cash value £13.5 millions, have been
purchased. There are just 4,000 co-operative Savings’ Associations at work in
the country in schools, Boy Scout and Girl Guide Troops, places of employment,
and in various religious and social groups. These Associations are operated by
over 7,000 voluntary workers, the majority of whom are members of the Irish
National Teachers’ Organisation. In the Post Office Savings Bank, at the 31st
Dec, 1937, there was approximately a sum of £8.5 million standing to the credit
of 325,500 depositors.


Beautiful Ballybunion Easter 2016

I took these photographs on the Cliff Walk. As you can see from the last photograph, the path is succumbing to erosion and in some places the protective barrier is slowly falling away.


Dan Keane’s Placenames 

Placenames meanings from Dan Keane’s Logainmneacha

Clieveragh: Cliabhrach; A framework of ribs. A cliabhrach is the wicker frame of a basket or a boat. In older times if there was a pot hole or soft spot in a passageway, people would place a cliabhrach over it and they would cover it with rushes.

(Maybe there is an idea here for today’s potholed roads of Listowel.

Clounmacon: Cluain Meacan. The meadow of the root or tuber. Meacan bán meaning white tuber is the Irish for parsnip. There is a field close to Dowd’s Road where parsnips were grown during the Famine. This field was known as Clounmacon

Clountubrid:The meadow of the well

Coolaclarig: The corner of the wooden bridge. The wooden bridge referred to spans the river Galey.

Coolagown: Cúl an Ghabhann, the corner of the smith, (probably a blacksmith.)

Chainsaw Art in Kanturk, Life in The Workhouse and the Dan Keane Show in the 70s

Photo: Chris Grayson


Kanturk Arts Festival

Recently I had the good fortune to attend a great weekend of music, poetry, drama and art in Kanturk, Co. Cork.

One of the more unusual events this year was a display of chainsaw art by Will Fogarty of Fear na Coillte. Will is based in Co. Limerick and from his base there he has created beautiful wooden sculptures using a chainsaw or, more accurately, a few different chainsaws.

 When I arrived in the lovely OBrien Street Park, Will had already started to work. We speculated about what he might be going to create. A fish was the most popular guess.

Chainsaw art is a slow process so we left him at it while we repaired to The Vintage for lunch. On our return the sculpture was unmistakably a hare.

Ears were given definition. The animal was given toes and a few finishing touches involving filing and brushing and hey pesto! a moon gazing hare was born before our very eyes. If you are passing through Kanturk it would be worth your while to pop into the lovely park on your right as you pass through on your way to Mallow. The hare is to be set in concrete and put on display there.

 Me with the hare

Isn’t he beautiful? His color will darken over time.


Very Very Sad story from the Irish Examiner Archive

Irish Examiner  Wednesday, 16 January, 1850;
Front page, Page: 1


(“Abridged from the Tralee Chronicle.)

The chair at the opening of the proceedings was occupied by Maurice
Leonard, Esq., deputy vice chairman, but was subsequently filled by
Capt. HOME, the Chairman of the Board.

Mr. Lynch, P.L.C., and Mr. R. E. Duncan, who has succeeded Mr.
Robinson, as Poor Law Inspector, were in attendance.

It appeared that there had been in the fever hospital on last Saturday
no less than 106, and 37 deaths from fever and dysentery. The deaths
this week were seven. The average of deaths, for some
weeks—principally from dysentery—was as high as five a day. The
following report of the Medical Officer was read:—

The Medical Officer begs to call the attention of the Guardians to the
still increasing amount of mortality in the workhouse, an event which
he foresaw some weeks ago, and as a likely means of preventing which
he then recommended a change in the dietary, not then acted upon. He
again wished to bring under the consideration of the Guardians, as
well for the sake of ultimate economy as common humanity, the
importance, during the present epidemic of dysentery of the
substitution of soup, such as that already recommended in December 20,
1849; for what is now in use amongst the paupers, and which consists
almost exclusively of ingredients of a decidedly laxative nature, and
consequently per-disposing to dysentery. Independently of atmospheric
influence, and the foregoing cause, the medical officer cannot but
consider that other causes operate in the development of the present
prevailing diseases, and among the most likely he would enumerate the
intense coldness of the weather, scarcity of fuel, insufficiency of
clothing, and the overcrowded state of every part of the house
appropriated to the sick. The correction of some of those causes the
medical officer respectfully submits is within the power of the

Mr. Leonard—This is a matter of vast importance. Mr. Robinson, in his
place here, induced us to adopt his receipt for soup, and we were thus
led to throw overboard the doctor’s recommendation; and ever since
those deaths have been taking place.

Mr. Lynch—I do not apprehend that it is in consequence of the soup,
which is what is now known as the Roscrea soup. It is used in
Limerick, where we have 2,800 inmates, and there are not half so many
deaths there in a week as here. On going into your hospital, a most
horrible sight presented itself to my notice. I am only surprised the
deaths were more numerous. But, bad as the state of things was, I was
told by the matron, the master and the Catholic clergymen, that there
was a great improvement since yesterday. There were ten children in
one bed, and eleven children in another, suffering under severe
dysentery—actually dying. In the whole course of my experience of
workhouses, I never saw anything like that before. Your hospital is in
a shameful state. It is full of dirt from top to bottom. There was no
straw, no change of linen. I am only surprised that the deaths are not

The doctor told me that there were in the hospital of the
workhouse no less than 222, though it was only calculated to contain
140. But that does not account for ten and eleven in a bed. But he
told me that there was no straw put in the bed, where there were five
children sleeping heads down, and five heads up—and all in a dying
state Surely, you would not put ten children in a healthy state into
the same bed. Several beds had eight, some five, and none less than
four children. Mr. W. Sandes—This literally amounts to a mortality
test. Mr. Lynch—Then there they are left without breakfast till one
o’clock, while there is no less, I am told, than 23 per cent, water in
the milk. Mr. George Sandes’ report, as the acting member of the
Visiting Committee, and the report of the Master described the
infirmary as in every filthy state. The Rev. Mr. Mahony, the Roman
Catholic Chaplain, came before the Board, and said—I went into the
infirmary half an hour ego, and I found the sick paupers without
having had their breakfasts, at half-past one. I told the Master, and
be said he thought that a man named Griffin, who acts under him, had
supplied them with breakfast. He sent for the nurse tender, and she
said that Griffin had stated as his reason—(here we were interrupted,
and lost the remainder of the sentence). The paupers were lying on
their beds without a drop of drink till half-past one.— There have
been forty-five deaths for the last fortnight, and eight yesterday.
The eight days before that, there were thirty-one deaths. In my
parish, where the population in 1841 was 7,072, there were not four
deaths during that time. I do not make this statement in the way of a
complaint against the officers; but I feeI I would not be doing my
duty if I did not state this much—(hear, hear). I believe the Master
was not to blame, because he thought this man did his duty.

(Life in Listowel Workhouse in 1850 was truly awful. The image of 10 dying children in the same bed without even straw for a mattress is beyond appalling)


Something to Look Forward to


This is a photo of the performers at a show organized by Dan Keane sometime in the 1970s. Betty Stack provided the names. Her copy of the picture had a few more people so I hope I have the names right. If anyone has a scanned copy of the full picture, I’d be delighted to post it.

From back;  ………Patrick Flaherty, Seán Ahern, Timmy Leahy, Seán Broderick, Liam Tarrant,

Jerry Nolan, …….  ……, Gerard Buckley,Michael Dowling Christy Stack,

Muriel Dowling, Geraldine Dowling, Kathleen O’Connor, Betty Stack, Maureen Dowling, Honor O’Connor

The copy of the picture I got has the front row missing which is a pity because in it are Timmy Brosnan, Peggy Sweeney and Dan Keane

The Library, Ancestors and descendants, a Dan Keane limerick or two and lifting the North Kerry Railway Line

The Best Free Entertainment in Town

This is the Listowel branch of Kerry County Library. Membership is free for everyone. There are books on every topic, magazines, newspapers and computers to keep you busy for hours. It is one of the most valuable resources we have in town. If you’re not already a member, drop in and join. It’s free.


Another Loss to Church St.

This business has moved on from here.


Seeking Lacey or Hickey Relatives

Every now and again people contact me who are searching for their Listowel ancestors. I am not the right woman for this job at all. Kay Caball of My Kerry Ancestors is the expert in this area.

Kay’s latest blog post about common surnames in North Kerry is worthwhile reading for every family historian.

surnames in Kerry can be the cause of a lot of head scratching when searching
for Kerry Ancestors.   O’Sullivan, O’Connor, O’Connell, O’Donoghue,
Fitzgerald, Stack, McElligott, Murphy, Walsh families are thick on the ground
and when these surnames are combined with the traditional naming patterns of
sons and daughters, identification of YOUR family can be a bit fraught.

Have I any hints to help you identify the correct family?  I have been
giving this some thought lately. I have been researching the family of William
Walsh who was living in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1860[1].
 His descendant Molly had done sterling work going through U.S. records
and found a William Walsh living in New York in 1855[2]. 
This Census stated that William was aged 30, Head of the Household, lived with
his wife Honora (20), his son Michael (0) and his mother Joanna (54) Widow,
 and his brother John (17).  While we would have to discount all
these ages as only approximate (with the exception of Michael, born in N.Y), we
have really good stuff here – William’s mothers’ name and a brother’s
name.  And most importantly, William’s first son is called ‘Michael’, from
which we can almost certainly take it that William’s father’s name was also
Michael.  See
traditional naming practices.
 All are ‘Born in Ireland’ with
the exception of Michael

You can read the rest of this very interesting tale HERE

My quest today is not for ancestors but for descendants or other living relatives.

The request comes from a lady called Tracey Beckley who lives in the Isle of Wight.

Our first person of interest is Henry Lacey from Listowel who married Honora Hickey sometime in the 1920s. Honora died in 1932 leaving Henry with 6 children to raise. The youngest of the family was Mary, Tracey’s mother. Mary was adopted at age 4months and she never met any of her siblings nor did she know what happened to any of them. Henry emigrated to Coventry in England at some point. We know this because Tracey has got his death cert and this is given as his address.

Tracey is anxious to make contact with anyone who might remember this family or know anything about them or where they went. She sent me 2 photos, one of Henry Lacey and another of Edward Lacey, one of his sons.


A Limerick or 2 from The Master ; Dan Keane R.I.P.

An illiterate poor fellow in Cahir

In his whole life had only one prayer

When he went on his knees

It was certain to please

“Dear God, I am here and you’re there.”


A lady whose name is Eileen

Her house it is spotlessly clean

Some years ago

She wed Billy Joe

And their family grew up in Trien.


The End of the Line

Warren Buckley took this photo  1988 as the tracks were being lifted from this stretch of line which is now the John B. Keane Road.

Warren writes,  “My recollection is that it I took the photo near where ALDI is now. The vertical line left of the gate house is the mast that the ESB had in the field opposite Cherrytree Drive.”

Writers’ Week, Dan Keane and Maureen Beasley and a return to the sky garden

Three of Listowel’s great unsung heroes of The Arts; Jet Stack R.I.P., Maureen BeasleyR.I.P. and Jimmy Hickey. These three have played their parts in preserving folk traditions in music, verse and dance and have all done North Kerry and its literary heritage a great service.

Another of the great stalwarts of the North Kerry literary tradition is Dan Keane. He has left us a legacy of poems, ballads and stories and some great memories.

This poem by Dan is a tribute to his friend, Jet Stack:

Mr. Garrett Stack 

If you are out to learn dancing

Take a tip from me,

Go through Listowel and Greenville

Until you reach Scartlea,

Go all the way to Scartlea Cross

Then count two houses back,

There you will find the maestro

That’s Mr. Garrett Stack.

That is his Baptismal title

But he’s never used it yet,

He is no way sanctimonious

He is always known as “Jet”,

He will make you very welcome

With tea and home cooked ham,

And if he is scarce in sugar,

He will give you plenty jam.

He will quickly come to dancing,

It will only take a while,

To show you reels and figures,

In every kind of style,

He will show you steps and polkas,

Like jewels from days of yore,

And he will even demonstrate

He is tasty on the floor.

Now if you ever doubt me

I have witnesses to prove,

That even first class dancers,

He can tutor and improve,

He is not the slightest selfish,

His glory’s greatest crown,

Is his patriotic willingness,

To hand his dancing down.

He is also a musician

And in case you might not know it,

He is good at prose and poetry

A writer and a poet.

He is witty and good humoured,

And a joke he’s good to crack,

So don’t forget three cheers for “Jet”,

That’s Mr. Garrett Stack.

By Dan Keane

I think the lines “His glory’s greatest crown is his patriotic willingness to hand his dancing down.” sum up what Writers’ Week is all about….handing on the torch to the next generation of writers. Who knows? a future John B. or Bryan might be in our midst here on the streets of Listowel this week.


Another old photo from Writers’ Week of times gone by


Mardyke Garden

Do you remember that I went to Fitzgerald’s Park last week to view the Diarmuid Gavin sky garden? This garden cost over a million euros. Well, it took just one week for the children of Cork to wreck it.

Children taking turns climbing on the giant stainless steel spheres.

The plants in this section never stood a chance.

These paths through the garden were lined with blue stepping stones last week.

Yet again, the café couldn’t cope with demand.

The lovely rose beds of old are gone. The colorful roses are replaced by dull drab green plants.

Dead and damaged plants abound.

Dotted throughout the park are lovely gems, like this Oisín Kelly dancer.

In defense of Cork’s children let me say that there was no sign to say that this garden was to be looked at and admired, not treated like a playground. Those big silver sphere’s are far too tempting and they do look like the sort of thing you might see in a playground. I don’t know if the garden can be saved and replanted.  As it stands, it’s a disaster.


D Day is near…. Saturday May 31 2014

Eileen Moylan of Claddagh will launch her beautiful creation in Craftshop na Méar at 7.00 p.m.

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