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: Daniel O’Connell

Ballybunion, Christmas Candles and An Gleann 1978 and Maurice Leonard in Famine time Listowel

The Barrack Corner, Ballybunion


Pres. Listowel girls who represented Ireland in the World Schools’ Basketball Championships

( Someone might tell us the year)

Top left is Louise Galvin who is now more famous as a rugby player. She recently scored a try in Dubai in the Sevens’ World Series which ended in defeat for Ireland at the quarter final stage.


Christmas Candles

Last week I posted this;

In olden days the Christmas candle was the big white one pounder. Anything smaller was regarded with something bordering on contempt., unworthy of the title “Christmas” candle. They were unfavourably described as “little traithníns of things”. Tháithnín being the Irish for a wisp of straw or a blade of grass. When the electric candle arrived in the mid sixties the newcomer was dismissed as being nothing like a rale candle at all.” I vividly remember all those “rale candles” shining in the windows of the farmhouses as we made our way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the nip of frost in the air and the sky “alive with stars.”

And then I read about candlemakers in the Irish Independent. Let me share a few things I learned with you.

Rathbornes of Dublin is the oldest candle making firm in the world. It was founded in in 1488.

In 1488 only the wealthy could do anything after dark for there was no public lighting and only the rich could afford a supply of candles to keep the dark at bay.

Before candles there were smelly oil lamps which often fell over with disastrous consequences.

The first candles made from animal fats were made at home or in monasteries.

The first street lighting was candle light until it was replaced by oil and gas in the 18th century.

Candles were used as devices to keep the time. A timekeeping candle has 12 marked divisions and could burn for 24 hours. These were used to mark the length of work shifts in industry.  Timekeeping candles were used in some coalmines until 50 years ago.

The phrase ‘burning the candle at both ends” has its origins in the days when candles were valuable and used sparingly. Burning the candle at both ends would be wasteful and an inefficient use of energy.


Slander in Kerry

From Patrick O’Sullivan’s A Year in Kerry

A learned professor with an address in Kensington, London, believed that there was enough gossip in Kerry in the year 1935 to make it a proposition for him to publish the following advertisement in The Kerryman: ‘If those suffering as a result of scandal or slander care to send me a postal order for 2s.6d I will give them sound advice to assist them in defeating same with the utmost dignity and prudence.” The professor’s advice did not come cheap; 2s.6d, the old half crown was a considerable amount of money in those days.

Victims might have been better advised to seek out a trusty solicitor. Though, according to an old story, when Daniel O’Connell was asked by a woman to direct her to an honest lawyer, he replied, “I fear your request is beyond me, Madam.”


Those were the Days….Probably 1978

Photo and names from Denis Carroll on Facebook

Back row L-R Gigs Nolan,?, Pa Kennedy, Miley Fitz, Jerry Kelliher, Bob O Brien, Buster Lynch, PJ Kelliher, Jimmy Griffin, Manager Roche.

Front L-R, Denny Carroll, Peter Sugrue, Kempes Kelliher, Kevin Sheehy, Liam Kelliher & Noel Roche.


A Clarification of a Clarification

Just a quick bringing you up to speed on this story. A little boy in the folklore collection in Dúchas recorded a story in his family of how the local mill owner, whom we now know was Maurice Leonard, allowed  people to starve during the Famine while his mill was full of flour.

A blog follower who had read Home Thoughts from Abroad   wrote to “correct” the folk memory and to say that Mr. Leonard was in fact extraordinarily generous to the starving people of Listowel.

Not so according to today’s email;

Hello, Mary.

Always enjoy Listowel Connection — and appreciate the effort and detective work you put into it.

In your latest post, the person who was “happy to put the record straight” about Litstowel mill owner Maurice Leonard actually raises more questions.

On the one hand, W. Keane reported that Leonard had soldiers posted outside his mill during the potato famine to keep the hungry away from the grain. And that the mill owner was willing to let grain that he couldn’t sell go rotten.

On the other hand, the person who wants to set the record straight notes that a T. F. Culhane (in his book Home Thoughts From Abroad) recalls that same mill owner getting “six thousand barrels of flour” to the starving.

‘Recalls’ is the wrong word, as T. F. Culhane was born fifty years after the famine.

W. Keane’s version, which painted quite a different picture of that mill owner, was recorded in the late 1930’s — so that wasn’t a first-hand account either.

There are a couple hard facts in John Pierse’s excellent book Teampall Bán relating to Mr. Leonard’s mill and to the man himself.

First of all, during that time Leonard’s mill functioned as an auxiliary workhouse, which means Leonard benefited from free labour from those reeling from the famine. That was, of course, perfectly in line with the UK government’s quaint economic/moral philosophy at the time.

And as far as any contemporaneous record of Mr. Leonard’s charitable largesse, Teampall Bán notes his donation to the 1846 Listowel Relief Fund. It was two pounds.

It’s only implied through the T. F. Culhane quote that Mr. Leonard freely gave those six thousand barrels of flour to the starving.

Without other evidence, it’s a safer bet that Leonard in fact sold that flour to workhouse officials.

I think six-thousand-barrels worth of charity would have left a far greater imprint in local lore.

I’m interested if any fellow blog readers and any historians out there have any info about whether our local mill owner was indeed a saint, or just a man of his times.

Best regards.

— Dan Murphy

Dan raises some very interesting points. What a pity John Pierse is n’t online! I’ll have to leave it to a few more local  historians to unravel this one.


Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

This is Vincent Carmody’s latest addition to the history of Listowel in print. This book is a tribute to the late printer, Bob Cuthbertson and to the people who worked with him and the printers who came after him until 1970. 

These are a few examples of the material that is in the book. Anyone interested in social history will have a great time feasting on the nuggets in this impressive book. I dont think any other town has such a record. It also has a brilliant introductory essay from Cyril Kelly and an afterword from Fergal Keane.

Miss Ryan, Daniel O’Connell in Abbeyfeale and More from Listowel Races 2018

It’s Official. Listowel is Ireland’s Best Town 2018

It’s been a massive community effort led by a brilliant Tidy Town Committee.

I have rarely seen people so proud of their town as Listowel people are.

Listowel is a beautiful town to call your native place and it’s a beautiful town to blow in to.

We are so blessed!

Here are a few photos to celebrate our big win in the Super Valu Tidy Towns Competition 2018


Do You Remember Miss Ryan?

One of my roving reporters ran into this lady on a trip to Galway. This is what he says about  her.

Miss Ryan of Waterford taught art in Listowel. Remembers well Mr Drummond, Mr Fitzgerald, Mary B’s Hotel. Miss Moloney, Matt Mooney. She had also copper work, very much like Tony O’Callaghan’s work, but had no name for its maker.


 From Echoes of Abbeyfeale

A letter written by Daniel O’Connell in January 1836 to Mr. Leahy, The Square, Abbeyfeale reads as follows: 

I will be at your house about two o’clock on Sunday – have four horses ready for me by twoo’clock – take care that the drivers have mass. I will not arrive until after last mass and will not allow any man to drive me who miss mass. 

Truly Yours
Daniel O’Connell 

On November 4th1 836, Daniel O’Connell had the services of a driver and four horses from Abbeyfeale to Newcastle. The four horses were Jack and Major, Nancy and Grey. O’Connell paid one pound and eight shillings for this service. His driver was paid seven shillings. We
are indebted to the owner of Leahy’s Inn for meticulous book-keeping. He was Mr. David D. Leahy, son to Daniel Leahy. In 1832, at Leahy’s Inn a gentleman got dinner for one shilling; lodging for one shilling; breakfast for one shilling and two pence; livery for two shillings and sixpence; oats and feed for horse eight pence; for the weary traveller a glass of punch cost two shillings.


Friday Sept 14 2018

 Style and more from The Island

This is the colourful scene outside the Budweiser tent as the beautiful ladies wait for the tap on the shoulder to say you are in the top 10.

Fashion is a top to toe thing.

These three beautiful girls could have bagged the three young racers prizes but the lady in the middle had no hat and that’s a requirement. As it was, her two friends caught the judges eye and were rewarded.

Some local men were a day late for the best dressed man competition but they posed with some local beauties anyway.

Those pheasant feathers are surely the work of our best known local milliner.

Good friends, Máire and Keelin were catching up and having a look at the fashion at the same time.

Oh, the stress!

Maud and Eleanor, like myself, chose a ringside seat.

Cliona caught up with her former teacher.

The O’Halloran family were enjoying a return to one of the haunts of their youth. Marie, on the far right, told me that she enjoys Listowel Connection in Sydney.

I was delighted to photograph these, my local friends. 

Bridget came from County Limerick for the day.


Vincent Carmody Sheds Some Light on another photo

I don’t think the photo was taken outside Buckley’s ( It was known as Nora Lynch’s). Sheamus Buckley would have been the photographer.The window is not right for Buckleys, they had a sectioned window, similar to what is there today, with a bar across the front for protection. It may have been Mary Ann Relihans’ or else a bar downtown.


This witty letter writer to The Irish Times seems to have got it right 

Group Cert English, Listowel people at Raceweek and Peggy Rorke’s cure

Robin on bramble Photographed by Chris Grayson


Group Cert English paper 1963

The Group Cert was an exam that was taken by pupils in Vocational schools. There used to be a segregation of pupils into academic schools which taught subjects like Latin and Greek as well as the core subjects, and vocational schools which prepared pupils for the world of work. These vocational schools alone had an exam after two years called Group Cert. Many pupils then left to take up apprenticeships or to go into jobs.


…And Lion

This iconic piece of stucco is being refurbished.


Raceweek Back in the Day

Seamus Buckley’s photos show spectators watching the barmen’s race during race week sometime in the 1950s or 60s

Yesterday’s Raceweek photos brought this response from Gerard Leahy;

Great memories Mary, and you are correct, all of us emigrants cast our minds back to Listowel during Race Week. I loved seeing the old Race Cards. Stuart Stack ( Damian Stack ‘s father) used to distribute bundles of cards to us kids on Race morning and we would sell them up and down the street, the square and the pubs for a shilling, making 100% profit. So many memories of Race Week but Jimmy Hennessy, King of the Wrenboys will always stand out!!!


Did Her Sister make a Miraculous Recovery?

I photographed this headstone in the nuns’ graveyard at the Nano Nagle Centre in Cork. The Nano Nagle Centre, which is well worth a visit, holds the graves of both  Presentation and the Ursuline sisters. It is on the site of the old South Pres. I’ll be coming back to it here because I made a second visit there recently and was fascinated by the marvellous work of preservation and information that The Presentation Sisters have done at this site which is a museum, a peaceful garden and a visitor centre. I’ll have to go back a third time because, by bad timing, I missed the guided tour by Sr. Bride Given, formerly of Listowel whom I am told is an excellent guide.

Back to this child, Anne Rorke of County Dublin who was buried with the nuns.

Dave O’Sullivan did a bit of research for us and the story he found refers to Anne’s sister but sheds enough light for us to  surmise about Anne and her fate.

The Andrew Rorke referred to in this cutting is obviously Anne’s father. In 1840 he belonged to the ‘Friends of Civil and Religious Liberty”,  was a follower of O’Connell’s and obviously wealthy enough to be able to send his daughters to the Ursuline Boarding School  in Cork to be educated.

The next newspaper story is the fascinating one.

For those of you who have difficulty reading the newspaper cutting, here is the gist of it;

Margaret (Peggy) Rorke of Tyrrellstown in Co. Dublin contracted measles while a boarder in the Ursuline Convent School in Cork. This is 1823 when an outbreak of measles could result in deaths in a crowded community. Anyway Margaret was in a bad way, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat,  could only sit in a chair because to lie prone would have resulted in her lungs filling up with fluid.

In this state she is attended by the nuns and is preparing for death, when they send for a famous priest and miracle worker to give her the Last Rites, then called Extreme Unction or Holy Viaticum (Bread for the journey to heaven). 

This priest is Prince Alexander Leopold Franz Emmerich of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst

He performs the last rites on the dying girl, she spends some time in prayer and, lo and behold, she throws off the covers and walks for the first time in three months. She is completely and undeniably cured.

The newspaper comments

“Peggy Rorke’s cure will ne’er be forgot

By those who were there and those who were not”

From this story we can surmise that her sister Anne died of some complication of measles in 1815.  Because they had suffered the loss of one daughter, the family would have done anything to save the life of Margaret, including bringing a miracle priest from Germany. Daniel O’Connell may even have had something to do with it.


Sunday at the Races

Sean and Killian were with me in Kerry for the weekend. We went to The Island on Sunday and we had a great time. Not too much luck with the horses but a good time nonetheless.

There was a great crowd in attendance.

Derrynane, loom band bracelets, Rory McIlroy and a mural in Athea

Tarbert goes west

When I arrived for my break in The Derrynane Hotel I was surprised to see so many Tarbert people in the hotel lobby. It transpired that Joan Murphy was with a Tarbert group on a historical tour of the peninsula when they called in to meet their old friends, David and Mary O’Connor in the Derrynane Hotel before going home.

The hotel is a lovely family run, family friendly retreat in an absolutely beautiful corner of this lovely county.

The view from my hotel room window. The seagull came every morning.

Food miles are kept to a minimum here. This is the hotel’s herb garden. 

The O’Connors believe in supporting local producers and everywhere you looked in the hotel, there were local crafts on display and in use.


Derrynane Fairy Trail

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of the fairy folk and this summer, in the company of my lovely grandchildren, I have enjoyed many fairy related experiences. 

Derrynane is the best.

The woods are dense and the path surrounded by lush greenery. A great habitat for fairies.

The little fairy houses are beautifully constructed and often concealed in the trees. Looking for them was part of the fun.

This is the fairy restroom, a kind of public toilet for fairies who might find themselves short taken while out and about in the woods.

There is a ruined tower in the wood. Nearby a fairy architect has designed a replica for his fairy client.

I have given you just a taste of this magical place. The Fairy trail is in the woods beside Derrynane House. When you are finished visiting the fairies, you can have tea in the tearooms and visit Daniel O’Connell’s chariot. Derrynane beach is also within walking distance so this is an ideal place for a day out with small ones. 


Loom Banding; Summer 2014’s craze

Three year old Cora gets to grips with her loom.

 So many bands, so little time!

You can also make loom bracelets on your fingers.


Garvey’s Super Valu are having a loom banding day on July 25th next with demonstrations and competitions galore.

By the way I could swear that I noticed that Rory McIlroy wore a band bracelet throughout the Open and his mother was wearing one on Sunday. Rory’s Sunday one matched that fashion mistake of  a grey and pink get up that Nike kitted him out in.


Savannah McCarthy

(Photo from Listowel Celtic’s  page)

Savannah and the Ladies U19 Football team will play their semi final in the European Championship on Thursday July 24 2014.


Homeward Bound

Photo: Athea Tidy Towns

Lovely study of  man and  horse. I love the way the absolute trust between man and beast is conveyed…reins loose and hand in pocket, both in working mode yet totally relaxed…perfect harmony  and understanding.

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