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: Domhnall de Barra

Flavins Closing, Christmas in Athea and Listowel and A Minute of Your Time

Last Christmas 

In January 2020 a chapter will close in the proud literary history of Ireland’s literary capital, Listowel. Flavin’s of Church Street is closing.

D.J. Flavin of 30 Church Street is a shop and a family woven into the fabric of Listowel for generations.

I will miss Joan and Tony and their lovely shop when this  little bit of local colour and individuality has gone  from our town.

Thanks for the memories.

Joan serving, Christine, one of her regulars on December 18 2019


They’ve Planted a Hedge


Christmas in Listowel

Here are a few images of home for the diaspora.

My friend Rosie painted the lovely scenes on the shop windows here at  Spar on Bridge Road.

Lynch’s Coffee Shop in Main Street always has some of the loveliest window displays.


Christmas in Athea

(From Athea and District Newsletter)

That Time of Year

By Domhnall de Barra

Coming up to Christmas, my mind always wanders back to days of yore when the world was indeed a different place. There are huge changes since those days, most of them for the better, but there are also some good things that have been lost along the way. The biggest difference between the middle of the last century and today  is how more well off we are now. Today, thank God, there is little or no poverty in our area. Back then it was an entirely different story. The years after the 2nd world war were lean ones indeed with no employment and a real scarcity of money. Families were usually big; 9 or 10 children being the norm but some were much bigger. Small farms were dotted around the parish, most of them with 10 or 12 cows to milk, and they barely survived. The farm was handed on to the oldest son so all the other siblings had to find work. The only employment available was to work for bigger farmers, most of whom lived on the good lands down the County Limerick, or working for shopkeepers and publicans in the village or nearby towns.

There was only so much of this to go around so, as soon as they were old enough, the boys and girls from Athea emigrated to England or America to find a better life for themselves. There was many a tear shed at the railway station in Abbeyfeale or Ardagh as young people, who had never seen the outside world, embarked on the long trip to some foreign city, not knowing what they were facing. There was hardly a house in the parish that was not affected by this mass exodus of our finest young people. It was however the saving of this country because those who found work with McAlpine, Murphy, and the likes sent home a few pounds every so often to help the family left behind. The postman was a welcome visitor bearing the letter with the English or American stamp. People would also send home parcels, especially coming up to Christmas. You didn’t have much, growing up in that era. You had two sets of clothes, one for weekdays and one for Sunday, well, when I say Sunday I suppose I really mean for going to Mass because as soon as you got home the clothes were taken off in case they got dirty!.  The ordinary clothes were often hand-me-downs from older brothers and sisters and might have been repaired and altered many times. The mothers, in those days, were deft with sewing, darning and mending. When a shirt collar got frayed it would be “turned” and it looked like a new garment. The socks were made of thick wool and worn all the week. Naturally they got damp in the wellingtons, our main type of footwear, so we hung them over the fire at night . In the morning they would be stiff as pokers and we often had to beat them off the floor or a nearby chair to make them pliable enough to put on. There was no such thing as an underpants in those times or indeed belts for the trousers. A pair of braces did the trick and kept the trousers from falling down. That is why the parcel from abroad was so welcome. The new clothes they contained  transported us into a different world and we felt like kings in our modern outfits.

The food was also simple but wholesome. Bacon and cabbage or turnips was the norm at dinner but sometimes we would make do with a couple of fried eggs and mashed potatoes or “pandy” as we used to call it. The eggs were from our own hens and had a taste you will not find today. Sausages were a rare treat and of course we looked forward to a bit of pork steak and puddings when a neighbour killed a pig.

Education was basic national school level, except for the few who could afford the fees for secondary school so, all too soon, childhood was over and the next group took to the emigration trail. There was great excitement at this time of the year because most of those who emigrated, especially to England, came home for Christmas. Their arrival at the station was eagerly awaited on the last few days before the festive season and we were in awe of their demeanour as they stepped down from the train dressed in the most modern of clothes with their hair in the latest fashion. There was much rejoicing and a nearby hostelry was visited where the porter flowed freely as those who came home were very generous to those who had stayed behind and had no disposable income. It was now time for a change of diet because nothing was too good for the visitors and we gorged ourselves on fresh meat from the butchers and “town bread”.

Midnight Mass was a special occasion with the church full of people all wishing each other a happy Christmas. The crib was a great attraction for the children who  looked in awe at the baby Jesus in the manger. There was a solemnity about it and a sense of celebration at the same time. The Christmas dinner was a real feast with a goose or a turkey  filling the middle of the table surrounded by spuds, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables. Jelly and custard followed and it was like manna from heaven!  I don’t think many of today’s youngsters will be as excited as we were or cherish every moment in the company of family members who would soon take the lonesome trip back across the seas.  Even though, today, we have more than enough I would give anything to go back to that  time when I was a boy and experience the magic once more.


A Poem from Noel Roche of Chicago and Listowel

In Loving Memory of my sister, “ Jack’

I wonder if you’re up there

Irish dancing on a cloud.

I know that when you sing

You’re surrounded by a crowd.

Mam and Dad and Dick and Jim,

And all who passed are there.

I wonder what God’s thinking

Every time he hears you swear.

I know in my heart

There is one thing you will do.

I know you’ll ask Elvis

To sing The Wonder of You.

I know there’s angels laughing,

They all think you’re great.

Heaven has not been the same

Since you walked through the gate.

You left behind a lot of stuff

Clothes, jewellery and rings.

Your daughter got the promise

That you’re the wind beneath her wings.

I know your friends are sad

I know they’re feeling blue.

But I also know they’re grateful

That they had a friend like you.

Your brothers and your sisters

Are going day by day

And trying to accept the fact

That you have gone away.

Your nephews and your nieces

Every single one,

Are struggling with the fact

That their favourite Aunty’s gone.

I’m here in Chicago

Many miles away.

I’ve got a hole in my heart

That will not go away.

I’m trying to get over this

And make a brand new start

I know that I am not alonw

You are always in my heart.


A Heartfelt Thank You

I am truly grateful to everyone who has supported me by buying my book. This publication was a leap of faith for me. It was very different from my previous book which sold well to people who love Listowel.

With A Minute of Your Time I was much more exposed. I let down the crutch of our beautiful town and the huge volume of affection that people feel for it. I had to trust that people would buy me, my musings and my photographs. I am humbled and uplifted by the response.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who bought the book, to people who sent me lovely cards and letters, to people who stopped me in the street to tell me how much they love the book, particularly to the man who quoted, “Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your attitude. Page 77.” Classy, you made my day.”

The book is available in local bookshops. I’m hoping that people home for Christmas will pick it up while they’re in town. If you got a book token for Christmas, maybe you’d think of your hard working blogger…..

Ballybunion Sunset, Richard Cotter and Domhnall de Barra of Athea

Some of my family watch the sun set at Ballybunion  April 23 2016


A Final few Photos from Banna

A History class from Pres Listowel were there.

 I met these two Listowel ladies on my way back to the bus.


Second Year in Pres. Listowel 

This photo from the 1950s has come to light. People who have been recognized are Mary Catherine Sweeney Reidy, Sinead Joy O’Sullivan and Eithne Buckley.

Does anyone recognize anyone else?


The Light of Other Days

In Scribes last week Richard Cotter, grandson of “Tasty” Cotter after whom Cotters’ Corner was called, met up with Eileen O’Sullivan and Mary Sobieralski.

Eileen remembered Tasty as a rent collector who used to call to her house every week when she was a child. Richard is a keen family historian and was delighted to meet someone with memories of his grandfather.

Richard has a puzzle for us. His grandmother’s family were Buckleys from Ennismore.

He has this photograph of four of the Buckley sisters taken at the wedding of their sister in 1910. Richard doesn’t know who is who . His grandaunts were Mrs. Jane Kelly whose husband, Ambrose  was a farmer from near Finuge, Mrs. Paddy Griffin who worked in Cotters shop, Mrs Fitzmaurice who had a daughter  a nun and who had Kearney relatives in Ballyduff and Mrs. Seán O’Brien who worked in Cotters’ shop and whose grave is inside the gate in St. Michael’s graveyard.

Mary and Eileen looking at Richard’s photos of his ancestors.

Richard’s grandparents on their wedding day in 1910. His grandmother was Margaret Buckley, known in the family as Rita.


Athea’s Domhnall de Barra, a Great local Chronicler

Making a Newsletter

Only on Wednesday last did I realise that this issue will be No. 1008.
Somehow we passed the 1000 mark a few weeks ago without marking the
occasion in any way. To be honest I never dreamed, when I first
thought of creating a local newsletter, that it would last for such a
long time. It had its humble beginnings as part of a FAS scheme
sponsored by Cáirde Duchais. Our first publication had four pages
(black and white of course) and it cost 20 pence in old money. Soon
afterwards the FAS scheme ended and I decided to keep the publication
going. In the early days it came out towards the end of the week to
facilitate the inclusion of the Church pamphlet which we printed also.
Lillian and myself sold the newsletter at the Church gates on Saturday
night and the two Masses on Sunday. It was a bit of a commitment every
week but it was great to meet all the people coming from Mass (the
Church was full in those days). Eventually we were in a position to
leave the selling to the two shops, Stapleton’s and Brouder’s  and we
extended our sales to Carrigkerry and Knockdown. The shops did this
for us free of charge and continue doing so to this day. We are very
grateful for this as the newsletter does not make a profit. We were
also very fortunate in securing the services of correspondents,
Kathleen Mullane, the late Pat Brosnan R.I..P., Tom Aherne and Peg
Prendeville who kept our readers abreast of all the local news and

The newsletter gave an opportunity to local clubs and organisations to
publish their events, fixtures, results etc. free of charge.
Publication of small classified ads were also free. Other commercial
advertising was given at a very reasonable rate. As long as we made
ends meet we wanted to be of service to the community. All we asked in
return is that the clubs and organisations who benefitted from the
newsletter would use C.D. Printing  for all their printing needs. Most
of them do so but there are the odd exceptions!  In the early days
there was a lot of typing. Computers were scarce so longhand was the
order of the day. The actual printing process was also very different
to what we do now. As soon as the pages were ready for printing, a
plate was made for each one. These were then printed off individually,
put together and folded by hand. This took a bit of time and the
quality of the printing was not great in comparison to today. As time
went by, more pages were needed as more and more people began to use
the newsletter. This created more labour as the pages had now to be
collated by hand, before folding.

Fast forward to today and things have changed a lot. We are now at 12
pages and in full colour. The biggest change is in the printing.
Plates are no longer necessary with the advance in technology. As soon
as the newsletter is ready for printing it is sent directly to the
printing machine. This prints a whole book in one go and folds it as
well. All I have to do is ensure the setup is correct and count the
copies as they are printed.

Setting up the newsletter for printing is an art in itself. The
process begins with the clearing of items from the past week’s issue,
some items will remain from week to week. Towards the end of the week
I start to create a new crossword. Sometimes it flows to me but there
are other times when I am wracking my brain trying to make words fit.
I try to make the clues not too difficult but I include one or two
“sticklers” to keep people thinking!. If I have time I do my own piece
as well. On Monday morning the e-mails start coming in and Lillian
goes to work, downloading and placing text and treating photographs in
the photo shop. The text has to be resized and put into the correct
font with paragraph headings in the proper size and colour People call
into the office with notices, anniversaries, thanksgiving prayers
adverts etc. All these are typed up and placed in different pages.
Some come in over the phone. Finally, when all the material is
together everything must be placed so that each page is full. This is
where the skill comes in and there are a few little “tricks” to
getting text to fit into available space. Now it is time to collect
the remaining crosswords from the shops and, together with the ones
already handed in to the office, they are checked for accuracy. The
correct ones are put into a box and a winner is drawn. Now the file is
put onto my USB key and I take it home with me. I start up the printer
and do the necessary settings on the computer. A test copy is then
sent to the printing machine and I give a quick look through it. Some
more adjustments are made and another copy is printed. This goes on
until I am satisfied that it is ok. I key in the required number for
each outlet and off the machine goes. Sometimes the paper gets jammed
but eventually all the copies are printed and ready to go to the
shops. Another week gone by and another issue on the shelves. Number
1008; who’d have thought it.

Domhnall de Barra

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