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A Robin, Listowel’s Carnegie Library Remembered and signs of Spring at last

Ode to a robin

Chris Grayson photographed this robin as it breakfasted on a meal worm.

Dick Carmody wrote his robin a poem.

The Robin……           

            …….companion for a reluctant gardener.

Reluctantly I kneel to tend my garden, derived of some pride, devoid of great pleasure

Painstakingly I toil to keep apace of mother nature, as weeds compete with work rate

Then I am suddenly less aware on my ownliness, a companion ever present at my side

The Robin makes his predictable welcome appearance to distract from my discomfort.

Red-breasted, he sits proud upon the boundary wall to watch my laboured movement

Takes pride in that he fanned the fire in Bethlehem’s stable to keep the Baby warm

And how the flames had burned his then colourless breast to testify his zealousness

Or was it when he pulled the thorn from Jesus’ brow on his way to cross on Calvary

And now carries his blood-stained feathers as if to show his favoured ranking.

At arms length he follows my every move, often playing hide and seek with me     

Standing tall or sometimes with head erect, motionless he stares me eye to eye 

I could believe him God-sent, no other bird in sight in hedgerow or on leafless tree

Or is it just that he sees me as his meal-ticket, as I gather and discard the fallen leaves

Exposing tasty morsels in the unfrozen ground to help him cope with winter’s worst.

I move along, hunched on bended knee, he follows cautiously close behind, beside 

Sometimes out of sight, I seek him out again and know I will not be disappointed

For sure enough he’s back again here, there and everywhere, not taken for granted

Now gardening is less of a chore as I’m gifted a companion, my new forever friend.

© Dick Carmody                                                                                November, 2013.


Listowel’s Library used to be housed in this elegant building. This is how it looked on Saturday February 17 2018. My friend, Helen, is crossing the road in the foreground.

Recent posts about the old library prompted memories for some blog followers.

Michael O’Sullivan sent us this clarification;

Hello Mary,

Everybody blamed the Black and Tans for burning the library in the bridge road in March 1921. But with access to the military witness statements in recent years it was revealed that the Listowel volunteers burned it as they feared the British were going to use it as a base. The great house a mile away in Tanavalla suffered the same fate in 1920,


Michael O’ Sullivan

Mention of the library brought Cyril Kelly back to his boyhood and a memorable visit to the library with his inspirational teacher, Bryan MacMahon. Cyril shares with us this essay which was broadcast on `Sunday Miscellany;

LIBRARY   by Cyril Kelly

was the man who led us, both literally and metaphorically, from the classroom
every day. This was The Master, our Pied Piper, who was forever bugling a
beguiling tune, a tune sparkling with grace notes of the imagination. He’d have
us on the white steed behind Niamh, her golden fleece romping in our faces.
Transformed by his telling we had mutated into forty spellbound Oisíns.
Knockanore was disappearing in our wake. The briny tang of the ocean was in our
nostrils, bidding us to keep a westward course, forbidding us to glance back at
our broken hearted father, Fionn. We were heading for the land of eternal
youth, Tír na nÓg.

the very next antidotal day, we’d be traipsing after him, into the graveyard
beside the school. The narrow paths, with no beginning and no end criss-crossed
the place like some zoomorphic motif. We were on a mission to see who would be
the first to spot a headstone which was decorated with a Celtic design. The
diligent boys leading the line were in danger of overtaking the laggards at the
tail who were hissing that, in the dark recesses of the slightly open tomb,
they had seen, staring back at them, a yella skull.

on very special days, we crossed the road to the Carnegie Library. Master
McMahon told us that it was the most magical building in the whole town. Even
the whole world, if it came to that. He told us that we were so lucky because
Andrew Carnegie, the richest man on earth, had bought all of these books for
us. We were amazed because none of us knew Andrew and we felt sure that he
didn’t know any of us. As a matter of fact, not one of us knew anyone who
bought books, either for us or for anyone else. Master McMahon said that the
Librarian, Maisie Gleeson, was minding the books for Carnegie and, especially
for the boys in 3rd class.

our first day in the library, we all had to line up on tippy-toes at Maisie’s
desk to scratch our names with nervous N-nibs on green cards. Maisie eyed us
all over her spectacles, welcoming each one of us ominously by name, telling us
that she knew our mothers and woe-be-tide anyone who didn’t behave themselves,
particularly any boy who did not take good care of Andrew’s books.

If you have a book,boys, Master McMahon’s voice was echoing around us. If you have a book, boys, you have an exciting friend.

his fingers along a shelf, humming to himself, he flicked one of the books from
its place, tumbling it into his arms. Turning towards us, he held it like a
trophy in the air.

The Clue of The Twisted
Candle. Nancy Drew, boys. She’s a beauty. Blonde, like Niamh Cinn Óir. Solves
exciting mysteries for her father.

Master took his time to scan our expectant faces.

Here, Mickey,proffering the book to Mikey Looby whose father was a detective. Why don’t you sit down there at that table.
Read the first few chapters. See what Nancy Drew is up to this time.

to the shelves again, The Master threw back over his shoulder; Sure if I know anything, Mikey, you’ll
probably solve the mystery before she does.
Mikey, clasping the book in his
arms, stumbled to the nearest chair, thirty nine pairs of envious eyes fastened
to him. Sure it’s in the blood, Mikey
boy. It’s in the blood.

another book, The Master faced us once more. This time he called on Dan

I saw you driving your
father’s pony and cart to the fair last week. Three of the lovliest pink plump
bonavs you had. And what a fine looking pony Dan Driscoll has, boys.

Well, here in my hand I’m
holding Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. This man is a fantastic story
teller. He’ll take you to the frontier lands of America. I promise that you’ll
see and smell the rolling plains of Wyoming more clearly than if you were in
the Plaza cinema down the street. You’ll ride with cowboys, you’ll hear the
neighing not of ponies but of palominos. You’ll meet deadly gunmen, boys, noble
Red Indians. And on the headstones in Boothill, boys, you won’t find any Celtic
And there, in the vastness of the library,
The Master’s youthful tenor voice startled the silence; Take me back to the Black Hills/ The Black Hills of Dakota/ To the
beautiful Indian country that I love.
By the time he was finished he was
besieged by a posse of outstretched hands and beseeching cries of SirSirSir.
Every one of us was demented to get our paws on that book, any book.


Spring 2018…….at last!

A meander around town on June 2 2017

Where they Lived and Where they Lie Tour of Listowel 2017 (continued)

It is Listowel Writers Week 2017 and we are on our Friday walking tour of the town with Vincent Carmody. The theme of the walk is Listowel and its people. Carrying on from yesterday, we are now in The Small Square or more correctly Main Street.

Here at the statue that stands to her father, John B. Keane, Joanna O’Flynn read his poem to his father.

We wandered on to Tae Lane and the premises which was once the restaurant of Sandy Fitzgerald. Here we had poems from John Fitzgerald and Dick Carmody.

Next stop was the entrance to the old mart. Joe Stack read Bryan MacMahon’s account of how he ensured that the bag of spuds he would buy in the market would be the best on offer.

Joe Stack

Paddy Fitzgibbon

Thomas Ashe

A small section of the attentive and appreciative audience.

John MacAulliffe read his own poem about a sad weekend after the Harvest Racing Festival.

Kay Caball deputised for John Pierse and reminded us of a time when it wasn’t all fun and games. She read from John’s scholarly account of The Great Famine in his book, Teampall Bán.

On to William Street and Tony Behan read a poem called The Printer’s on the Tack which Bryan MacMahon wrote about his friend, Bob Cuthbertson who was living through a period of sobriety.

Another Bryan MacMahon came from Ballyheigue to follow the tour.

Eamon Ó Murchú celebrated Tim Enright, a little known Listowel classical scholar and translator.

Paddy Glavin read one of his own poems.

Knockanure Local recorded some of the bits I missed HERE


An Appeal

I missed a great evening in Duagh as Fr. Pat Moore’s birthday was celebrated. Would anyone have a recording of the tributes or the choir to share with people who, like me, would love to have been there but couldn’t.

Family Communion and Some More people I met at Writers’ Week

This is a photo from a Lyreacrompane website of children in Lyre school fadó fadó. I thought people might like to be identifying themselves or others.


Róisín’s Communion

Communions are not what they used to be. My lovely granddaughter made her First Holy Communion in Ballincollig, Co. Cork on Saturday May 27 2017.

She was chosen to sing the responsorial psalm with a tall boy.

She looked sweet and demure and took the whole sacrament part very seriously….and then

Siobhán of Siobhán’s Designer Cakes in Iremore made her unconventional cake featuring her favourite comic character.

The communion loot included fidget spinners, book tokens, Monster High dolls and a Rubix cube

And, of course, some dosh.

We had a communion penata. If you’re not familiar with this communion tradition, it is a hoot. Everyone was on a sugar high after it released it’s bounty of sweets. Then it was time for some Communion Day trampolining with her best friend, Orla.


More People I met in The Listowel Arms at Writers’ Week 2017

Anne and Liam Dillon and visitors

These men were debriefing after the mornings walk.

Eileen Greaney was having a cuppa and a chat.

Some Listowel and Moyvane people were meeting up with old friends.

These lovely folk were starting a singing session and it was only 12.00 noon.

The Fair, the Tarbert Road and Value Centre

Tree in Winter: Listowel Town Park 2017


Top of Bridge Road, Listowel


The Fair

 Dick Carmody in his book  In the Shadow of the School remembered the fairs of his youth.

Another aspect of the Fair

Breaking  in and the training
of farm horses required an experienced and skilful horseman. As with many tasks
relating to farming, there was always one or more recognised experts locally
who would take spirited and untrained animals through all the stages of roping,
harnessing and carting to becoming a sober manageable and contented animal that
could be entrusted to any member of the family. There were exceptions, whose reputations
would soon become known throughout the locality and might not be so easily
disposed of at the next horse fair.

For horse breeding purposes, most
farmers depended on the services of a visiting stallion to place their breeding
mares in foal. This arrangement took place on fair days in Sheehan’s
yard at the top of William Street in Listowel. Though well educated in farm
animal husbandry from a very young age, for this particular event we were kept
a safe distance. The expected arrival of a young foal in about 11 months was
now eagerly awaited.


On the Tarbert Road

This is a section of Tarbert Road outside Listowel. This busy junction leads to the An Post sorting office and Applegreen service station.


Value Centre, Bridge Rd., Listowel

Lovely Listowel, Lawlers’ Cake Shop, and a letter to raise the spirits.

Gurtinard October 2016

Autumn leaves on the path by the Pitch and Putt course



I came to live in Listowel in 1975.  Lawlers cake shop in Church St. soon became my favourite shop. Gigs Sheehy could be seen there early in the morning delivering trays of fresh eggs. Buckets of fresh cream came from the creamery. Lawlers cream sponge was to die for. There is nothing in town nowadays to compare with the mouth wateringly good cream buns which were usually sold out by 4p.m.

Those were the days!


“There is nothing short of dying half as lonesome as the sound

Of the sleeping city sidewalks Sunday morning coming down.”


This Letter Restored my Faith in Humanity a little bit

As I’ve told you, I have been ill recently and I spent a tamall in hospital and a while in a convalescent home. Inevitably my consumption of electricity went down. Last week I received this letter from SSE Airtricity.


A message and poem from Dick Carmody

On the occasion of Marc Ó Sé’s retirement from the Kerry football panel, I am attaching a few lines written the day after the 2009 All-Ireland win when all three brothers, Dara, Tomás and Marc typified the heart, spirit and backbone of Kerry football.

The Brothers Three

Where Three Sisters guard West
Kerry’s coast from the North Atlantic swell

Of the famous Gaeltacht brothers a
football story we will tell

In this year of celebrations in the
annals of our native games

The three O Se’s will feature high
among those Gaelic names

From a long and proud tradition in
our language and our sport

One family bequeathed Kerry with a
gift we must report

Three sons have worn the Green and
Gold with passion and with pride

The backbone of the Kingdom team,
the spirit of this side

From an early age, still in his teens,
Dara was to make his name

With skill and endless stamina he
adorned the midfield game

Majestic jump and fielding were
soon his defining mark

From club on to West Kerry and then
to famed Croke Park

From under age he soon progressed
through senior rank transition

To rightly claim the centre spot,
since his youth a long ambition

For sixteen years he has held sway
against numerous pretenders

And yet finds time to notch up
scores or fill in for defenders

Soon following in his footsteps,
Tomás his younger brother

A stout defender at half back, be
it centre or positions other

Relentless in defending back or in
his sorties up the field

His gift for taking points at speed
was soon to all revealed

Then youngest of the trio, Marc
joined the county team

Another class act from out west, he
is part of Kerry’s scheme

With lightning speed and dummy,
leaves opponents in his wake

Outfield he surges on a run and a
score he will surely take.

We celebrate our 36th this
year, again they have played their parts

They have given every ounce of
strength, every beat of bravest hearts

The crowd respond to their every
move in defence or in attack

As they repel the opposition and
send the onslaught back

So here’s to our Gaeltacht heroes,
to our shining knights in arms

Who keep us in their constant spell
of skill and football charms

May they long continue in the side
to further Kerry’s chances

And from other lesser mortals
receive only envious glances.

Dick Carmody   


Brosnahans of Lacca, Kilmorna in 1988

I posted this photograph of Peter Brosnahan and his two sisters a while back. I can’t remember where I got the photo from. The image caught the eye of a certain lady in the U.S. Peter was her father’s first cousin. She believes that neither he nor his sisters married . She is anxious to make contact with this family or anyone who might know them or remember them. Please email me if you can help.


Guímis Codladh Sámh i measc na Naomh is na nAingeal Dó

R.I.P. Anthony Foley

Anthony Foley & the Sleeping Giant in the distance – during Munster training camp in West Kerry (pic Mossy Donegal).

(Tweeted by Seán Mac an tShíthigh)

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