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: Delia O’Sullivan

A Mill, a Poem, a Signwriter and a Celtic Illuminator

Schiller in The Garden of Europe, Listowel, September 2021


The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill

…Beneath it a stream gently rippled
Around it the birds loved to trill 
Though now far away 
Still my thoughts fondly stray 
To the old rustic bridge by the mill

Thomas Peter Keenan

While I was in Castletownroche for my family wedding I took the opportunity to visit the most famous spot in the village.

The Mill
The rustic bridge


A President of St. Michael’s (1902)

Death of a Priest.
Much regret will he felt by Kerry priests and Kerry men all over the world at the death of the Very Rev. Father Timothy Crowley, lately president of St Michael’s College, Listowel. Father Crowley was a native of Kilsarken, and received his earlier education at St. Brendan’s Seminary, Killarney. Going thence to Maynooth, he had a distinguished career, and was made on his ordination president of the Kerry Diocesan Seminary. Subsequently he made a tour in America collecting for the O’Connell Memorial Church, and on his return was appointed to the presidency of St. Michael’s College, Listowel. Failing health overtook him, and he passed away in his 54th year, to the great regret of his confreres in the diocese, who deplore the loss of so able a colleague.

New Zealand Tablet, 14 August 1902


Carroll’s Hardware, The Square, Listowel

Martin Chute is doing an excellent job of signwriting on this iconic building in Listowel’s picturesque Square.


A Poem for Poetry Week

This poem by Delia O’Sullivan from her great book It’s Now or Never will give you food for thought.


Michael O’Connor Remembered

Plans are afoot to bring some of the works of this extraordinary but under appreciated Listowel born artist back to his family home at 24 The Square, now Kerry Writers’ Museum.

On today, September 17, the anniversary of Michael’s death, his son, Fr. Brendan O’Connor shares memories of his father with us.

Michael Anthony O’Connor (1913-1969)
Although it is over 50 years since the passing of my late father, on 17th September 1969, I still have fond memories of seeing him stooped over his drawing board in the evenings, with paints, brushes, pens and quills arranged on the table beside him. He would work patiently for hours on end, usually after we had all gone to bed when he would have less distractions.

His concentrated and painstaking artistic work reflected his good-humored and patient manner. He never had to raise his voice.

“What did your mother tell you?” was enough to convey that it was time to obey.

We looked forward to his return from the office every day – his professional work was as an assistant architect in the Department of Transport and Power – but especially on Fridays when he would bring some chocolates for us and a treat for my mother.

We were so accustomed to his artistic creations that we didn’t fully appreciate the originality, skill and dedication he brought to his art. He had the humility to continue working at a very high level of achievement without seeking to be known or appreciated. The completed work was its own reward.

This is shown in particular in the “Breastplate of St Patrick” – a family heirloom which he produced for his own enjoyment in 1961 to celebrate 1,500th anniversary of the national saint. 

He responded generously to requests for illuminated commemorative scrolls and the like. He also completed a number of commissions for official government purposes, but of all of these we have little data.

Although original illuminated artwork and calligraphy in the Celtic style was not much appreciated at the time, a small circle of friends and acquaintances were aware of the quality of his achievements. Prof. Etienne Rynne and Maurice Fridberg have left written testimonies of their appreciation. 
Mr Fridberg, an Art Collector, wrote in a letter to the President of Ireland in 1972 –

“Michael O’Connor was in my opinion the greatest artist of modern Celtic Illumination in this century. “

Although obviously influenced by the Book of Kells, his own individuality comes through every letter.” Prof. Rynne, wrote an article on the revival of Irish Art in an American journal, also in 1972, in which he said “O’Connor, however, produced much excellent work, notably in the form of beautifully illuminated letters. Although a master-craftsman and an original worker he depended somewhat more on the ancient models and on neat symmetry than did O’Murnaghan. … With the death in 1969 of O’Connor, the ranks of first-class artists working in the ‘Celtic’ style were seriously bereft.”

Michael O’Connor was born in No. 24, The Square, Listowel in 1913. He married Margaret Walsh in 1950 and they had four children, Michael, Brendan, Gerardine and Aidan. We used to enjoy memorable visits to the family home on the Square when we were children and were especially proud of the Castle in the garden! 
It would indeed be a very fitting if belated tribute to his contribution to the ancient Irish artistic heritage and culture to have his available works displayed in his ancestral home in Listowel.
Brendan O’Connor (Rev.)


A Heatwave a century ago and a Look at Listowel Primary Care Centre today

Grotto at O’Connell’s Avenue

O’Connell’s Avenue Grotto


From Sr. Consolata’s Scrapbook


One Hundred Years Ago

Listowel was basking in sunshine on June 16 1921 according to this old newspaper unearthed by Dave O’Sullivan.

Could History be about to repeat itself?


Listowel Primary Care Centre

Listowel Primary Care Centre is a purpose built medical services facility in Greenville.

I have never been to the primary care centre. My friend was visiting the dietician and I asked her to take a few photos.

In this photo you can see a section of the old stone wall that divides the centre from the community hospital.


Living Her Best Life

This is Delia O’Sullivan in David Morrison’s picture. This image was used by The Jack and Jill Foundation as part of their fundraising Art sale.

You can still buy the cards as part of a pack on the Jack and Jill website.

Delia chose another picture from the same session for the cover of her new book of creative pieces. The book includes some of Delia’s prizewinning essays as well as new work.

Why the onion? I discovered on reading Delia’s book that her mother called this vegetable an ingin. I thought my mother was the only one who pronounced onion thus. Anyone else encounter this weird pronunciation of this everyday word?

John McGrath was responsible for introducing me to the work of this heartwarming and amusing writer. John has done invaluable work in encouraging and mentoring local writing talent.

I’ll be bringing you a few of John’s own poems soon.


John B. Keane Road , Solidarity from Melbourne and a Picture of Relaxation.

Feale sculpture designed by the late Tony O’Callaghan. Isn’t it lovely to have contributed something lasting like this to your native town.


On the John B. Keane Road 

This is a roadside memorial to the late Michael Dee who died in an RTA on this site. Every time I pass it I am taken back to the day of Michael’s accident. I was working in the nearby Secondary School when news of the accident broke. Many of the girls were friends and neighbours of his, some of them experiencing bereavement for the first time. It was a sad, sad day.  May he rest in peace.

 This is the Parents and Friends Centre.

The junction with the Ballybunion Road

I took this photo on Sunday October 19 2020

A few days later, on October 22 2020 it was a different story.

I spotted a piece of irony in the name of the company doing the felling.

These were the last few still standing.

All gone.


My Little Blip

For those of you who missed it, here’s the context. Last week, I fell into a little trough. Material for the blog was increasingly hard to come by. Town has had the stuffing knocked out of it and there seemed little to write about that was anyway uplifting. I told this to Billy Keane, who I happened to meet by chance, and he persuaded me to keep going.

Now remember I told you material was hard to come by. So I wrote about this encounter in a blog post. I was nearly drowned in the deluge of pleas to keep going even if it was “only two mice running up Church Street” I had to write about .

I am not going to print here all the responses but I’ll give you a typical one, significant because Karen had never written to me before (there were a few of those) and she sent photos.

Hello from Melbourne, Australia!


Thank you to Billy Keane for inspiring you to keep going, but especially thank you to YOU.  I forget how I first came across your blog but I enjoy reading it and do admire you for all your work. 


My father (may he rest in peace) was from Croughcroneen and my mother is from Causeway, so North Kerry is very special to me.  My Carlow born husband and I were married at St Michaels in Lixnaw, with our reception, and many other subsequent family events, at the Listowel Arms. We have had so many wonderful times in Listowel and feel all the more connected thanks to your blog.


You are sharing dog walking photos today so I thought I’d send a couple we took when we participated in the Ireland Funds Remote Global 5k last month. I would prefer if my daughter was wearing a Kerry jersey but the only adult size one we have is Carlow! 


It is Spring time here and we are about 12 weeks into a hard lockdown. It has been challenging, but our case numbers are in single digits now and restrictions are easing. Sending solidarity to all of you going back into a hard lockdown. What a year it has been.


I’ll sign off now, I have meant to contact you before but wasn’t sure how to – it didn’t occur to me to just reply to your email! 


Keep up the great work and thank you!


Karen Kennelly Fogarty

Melbourne (originally from Virginia, USA)


An Artistic Coup

The model is Delia O’Sullivan. The artist is David Morrison and the picture has been chosen to be one of the pictures on a set of greeting cards to raise money for the Jack and Jill Foundation.

If you would like to buy the cards, just go to the Jack and Jill website and the card is included in Incognito Pack 2. The rest of the cards are lovely too.

The Dandy Lodge, Presentation sisters R.I.P. and the big fair remembered

Storm damage at Rossbeigh in January 2014    photo by Margaret O’Shea

Beautiful Rossbeigh last week       photos by Chris Grayson


The Dandy Lodge

This is the Dandy Lodge with the pitch and putt clubroom at the back. Can anyone tell me something about the setting up of the pitch and putt club in Listowel?

The Dandy Lodge was apparently a library, a private residence (of the Hannon family) and a video rental shop before it was moved into Childers’ Park.

 This year I’d love to share with readers of Listowel Connection something of the history of clubs and organisations in the town. But to do this I need your help……please!


Do you remember the nuns?

This year we are embarking on a project to commemorate Presentation Secondary Education in Listowel. We are planning a commemorative book. 

Take a look at the names of these nuns on their headstone and see if you remember any of them. If you have any pleasant memories of these women or if you have photos or anecdotes, please send them to me at

It is chilling to read all these names and to realise that we are witnessing the end of an era. The next generation will not know nuns.


The Big Fair as remembered by Delia O’Sullivan

Last week we had the first of the 2018 horse fairs. To mark that, I am reproducing an account of the big October fairs of long ago as detailed in Striking a Chord by Delia O’Sullivan


By Delia O’Sullivan  in Striking a Chord

The big fair day in Listowel, the October fair, was the topic of conversation among the farmers for weeks afterwards. Exaggerations and downright lies were swapped outside the church gates and continued at the holy water font, to the fury of the priest. It finished over a couple of pints in the pub.  None of them could be cajoled into giving the actual price, always sidestepping with,”I got what I asked for,” or, “I got a good price.” There were tales of outsmarting the cattle jobbers – an impossible task.

The farmers on our road set out on foot for thwe seven mile journey at 4 a.m. It was their last chamce to sell their calves until the spring. Now nine months old, these calves were wild and unused to the road. Traffic confused them, so their only aim was to get into every field they passed to graze or rest. Each farmer took a helper. Those eho had decided to wait until the spring fair would go along later to size up the form.

The battle would commence at the Feale Bridge where the farmers were accosted by the jobbers- men trying to buy at the lowest price. These offers were treated with contempt and a verbal slagging would follow. “You’ll be glad to give them away before evening,” or, more insulting, “Shoudn’t you have taken them to Roscrea?” 

(Roscrea was a meat and bone meal processing plant where old cows that could not be sold for meat were sent for slaughter.)

The shopkeepers and publicans in Listowel were well prepared for the influx; trays of ham sandwiches sitting on the counter of each pub where most of the men finished up. The jobbers, being suitably attired, would have their dinner at the hotel and the farmers who wanted to avoid the pubs would go to Sandy’s for tea and ham. The shopkeepers kept a smile on their faces when calves marched through their doors upsetting merchandise and, sometime, leaving their calling card. The bank manager was equally excited, greeting each man as “Sir”. He found trhis was the safest approach as it was hard to distinguish them. They all looked alike in their wellingtons, coats tied with binder twine and the caps pulled well down on the foreheads.

My father arrived home late. It was obvious he was in a bad mood though he didn’t arrive home with the calves. He said he was cold and hungry and sat in silence at the table, while my mother served up bis dinner which had been kept warm for hours over a pint of hot water. As he was half way through eating his bacon and turnip, he looked at my mother saying, “I’ve never met such a stupid man in all my life.”  The quizzical look on her face showed she didn’t have a clue wht he was talking about and didn’t dare ask. It took the mug of tea and the pipe of tobacco to get him started again.

My uncle Dan, my mother’s brother was his helper. Dan was a mild softly spoken man who had little knowledge of cattle. It was a a sluggish fair; prices only fair. My father held out until he was approached by a man he had dealt with often in the past.  They followed the usual ritual arguments- offers, refusals, the jobber walking away, returning with his last offer. This was on a par with what my father was expecting so he winked at Dan, which was his cue to say, “Split the difference.” . Instead Dan winked back. My father gave him a more pronounced wink. This elicited the same response from Dan. The day was only saved by a neighbor, who, on noticing the problem, jumped inn, spat on his palms and shouted, “Shake on it, lads, and give the man a luck penny.”

Over a very silent pint and sandwich Dan mournfully remarked, “If Mike hadn’t butted in you’d have got a better price for the calves.”


Light a Penny Candle

My lovely grandsons, Sean and Killian, lighting candles in the cathedral, Killarney at Christmas 2017.



This is the word from when two things chance to happen together and they are in some way connected.

Yesterday I told you that Brigita, who is originally from Lithuania, had taken over at Scribes while Namir heads off to concentrate on his Ballybunion businesses.

Well, in a piece of synchronicity, Patrick McCrea, who is descended from the Armstrong family who had the sweet factory in Listowel, sent me this encouraging email;

“Thank you for a brilliant Listowelconnection mail – loved the TS Eliot poem and your report on the Galette des Rois- I lived 45 years in France 🇫🇷!  Now live in snowbound Lithuania 🇱🇹Happy New Year -Patrick McCrea”

Ballybunion, Cameras, a Lenten Story and Listowel’s Plaza Cinema

Rough Seas at Ballybunion 

Photo: Mike Enright


An Old Ciné Camera

Did you watch the old video footage of the frozen river Feale in 1963

This little film was made by a young Jimmy Hickey on the below Kodak Brownie.

The 8 minute film strip ran reel to reel and when you reached the end you rewound it with the winder shown below.

I think you’ll agree that camera technology has come a long way since 1963.


Some Spring Colour in The Garden of Europe


Reminiscences  from Delia O’Sullivan

Lent and Laughing Gas

By Delia O’Sullivan
(published in Lifelines, an anthology of Writing by the Nine Daughters Creative
Writing Group)

In 1950s Ireland Lent was a
time of penance, prayer and self restraint. For forty days and forty nights we
were encouraged by the nuns to give up sweets – a scarce resource anyway.  We were to give our pennies to the missions
instead. The mission box was adorned with pictures of little naked, smiling shy
black children. It was brought out after morning prayers. Each offering was
carefully recorded. The nun said that this was important, as, on reaching the
half crown mark we would then have bought our own black baby. Michael’s mother
was the local maternity nurse and he did well from all her clients, so he was a
clear winner and the only person to reach the target. Michael was told that he
could now name the baby but we were all very disappointed to learn that the
baby would not be travelling. He would stay in Africa. The nun said that maybe
someday Michael would visit him.

When we reached our teens,
we found the dancehalls closed for Lent. The showbands headed for the major
English cities. But every rural village in Ireland had its own dramatic group.
The plays and concerts were not frowned on by the clergy as they brought in
much needed funds for churches and schools. This was a wonderful time for us.
As part of the Irish dancing troupe we travelled on Sunday nights with the
players. We sold raffle tickets, met “fellas” and experienced a freedom that
our parents didn’t even dream of.  We got bolder, inventing concerts in
far-flung area, returning later, saying there was a cancellation.

In 1959 we were student
nurses in London. During Lent we could enjoy the dances and the showband scene
denied in Ireland. But, with only two late passes a week we were restricted.
However we found ways around it – mainly by signing for a late pass in the name
of a fellow student who never went out. One of these was Mrs. Okeke.

As young country girls in
Ireland most of us had never been beyond the nearest small town. In our small
rural Catholic environment, foreigners were the occasional English or American
husband or wife, brought on holidays by an emigrant. They spoke with strange
accents and didn’t seem to understand the rituals of standing and kneeling at
mass. In Ireland I had only ever seen one black person, Prince Monolulu, adorned
with a headdress of feathers and very colorful robes, performing the three card
trick at Listowel Races. We were now part of a multi national society in a huge
teaching hospital. It overlooked Highgate Park where we watched the squirrels
climb trees and nibble at shoots. We also saw a steady flow of visitors to the
grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery. We integrated well, most of us being
of the same age group.

The exception was four
Nigerian ladies who were older and dour. They never smile. One of them, Mrs
Okeke asked us why we stared and , if we laughed, she called us silly girls. Off
duty, they dress in bright robes and huge turbans. They chewed on sticks to
whiten and strengthen their teeth. They cooked spicy foods on the gas rings
which was supposed to be used only for boiling kettles. When reprimanded by the
Home Sister, they pretended not to understand.

It all came to a head on the
day  the anaethestist was giving us a
demonstration of the different types of anaesthetic. We were encouraged to
participate. As Mrs. Okeke’s hand went up for a demonstration of laughing gas,
we all kept our heads down. A small whiff and she was laughing hysterically,
displaying a number of gold teeth. We laughed until our sides were sore.
Suddenly her face took on its usual dour look but by then we were unable to
stop laughing. She couldn’t retaliate with the anaesthetist present.

Some days later we met her on
her way back from the Matron’s office.  She had been asked to explain why her name had
been signed for seven late passes in a row, even though she was convinced that
she had never had a late pass. Her perplexity deepened when one of us suggested
that she was suffering from the after effects of laughing gas.


Help for a Family who have suffered an appalling tragedy


Remembering The Plaza

During the week I posted an old picture of Listowel’s Plaza/Ozanam Centre. Here is the story behind its construction from Vincent Carmody’s Snapshots of an Irish Market Town


Michael Martin met some local people on his walkabout in town yesterday

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén