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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

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Eamon Kelly, Seanchaí

Main Street, Listowel

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Eamon Kelly, Seanchaí

This is an extract from a longer article on Storytellers of Ireland website

Eamon Kelly experienced neighbourhood storytelling from an early age and described his carpenter father’s house as being a Rambling House, the local venue for the art of the storyteller in recent centuries. For those who thrilled to his radio and TV storytelling Eamon was the epitome of the seanchaí. There is an inaccuracy here. The term seanchaí described the communal bearer of multi-faceted traditional lore (seanchas). Eamon himself pointed out that he wasn’t a seanchaí – but ‘played the part’ of a seanchaí. Indeed, to be more accurate, he was more of a scéalaí (storyteller) – one of the several functions of the seanchaí. Given the nature of late 20th century Irish society it is questionable if the term seanchaí can now be applied to more than a few. (Some individuals like Paddy Lowry and Paddy Heany in the Slieve Bloom area may well approach that status.) It would certainly be inaccurate to give the term to most modern professional storytellers, given the fact that the traditional seanchaí was defined by the local audience to whom he (and it was usually a ‘he’) imparted his lore.

It is ironic that the technology that did most to displace the traditional seanchaí – radio and television – was the same technology which bestowed the mantle of national popularity upon Eamon as a storyteller.

By the mid 1950’s the Rural Electrification project (begun in 1946) was changing the economic, social and cultural face of Ireland and around this time Radio Éireann began to devise entertainment programmes that approximated, on air, the ‘rambling house’, or ‘ceidhlí house’ format. The hugely popular Take The Floor, which was presented by Din Joe, and famously featured, for the first time, ‘dancing on the radio’ (not as daft as it sounds) began to feature Eamon in storyteller spots. He also guested on CeidhlíHouse Tonight, which featured Séan Ó Riada and his groundbreaking musical group Ceoltóirí Chualann. This led to Miceál Ó hAodha giving Eamon his own programme, The RamblingHouse. While still a member of the Radio Repertory Company, he began to moonlight with some of the CeidhlíHouse cast and present a version of the show in venues throughout the country. This new milieu, no doubt, occasioned a different kind of timing in response to the live reactions. Then, with the advent of the national television station, Eamon was featured telling tales for younger viewers.

He had been pointed to traditional tales by Sean Ó Súillabháin of the Department of Folklore, in University College Dublin. He regularly visited the Gougane Barra region in West Cork to pick up tales and his fast developing repertoire was swelled by stories posted to him by his listeners. He notes that the source of one of his signature stories, The Looking Glass, was a traditional Chinese tale.

Thomás Mac Anna of the Abbey devised with Eamon a full-scale stage entertainment in Irish, featuring dramatised stories, music, mime, song, and dance under the title Scéal Scéalaí.

Eamon went on to bring his storytelling persona to the stage in a series of seven one-man shows – In My Father’s Time, The Story Goes, A Rogue of Low Degree,Bless Me Father, Your HumbleServant, The Rub Of A Relic and English That For Me (several of which he played in London and the U.S.) He christened this form of entertainment “theatre of the hearthstone.” The move from a fireside seat to the stage called for a more active style of telling, one which he achieved with a mastery of ease that did not over-theatricalise the conversational integrity of his tales. Stories from these shows were published by Mercier Press and most of them are included in Ireland’s Master Storyteller: The Collected Stories of Eamon Kelly (1998). 

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Getting in the Mood for Daffodil Day

Daffodil Day 2022 will be on March 25.

Here are a few memories from Daffodil Days of times past just to get you in the spirit.

We’ll do better this year.

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Listowel Shop 1930s

John F. McGuire’s Pharmacy , 6 Church Street

Ironically the advertisement on the window is for Selochrome which was a method of printing photographs from film. This photograph was taken by an unknown photographer on a glass plate.

This image forms part of a beautiful collection of old photographs taken in several Munster towns, including Listowel, in the 1930s.

Images of Munster

are available to view online at the above link.

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Halloween, a New Shop and Eamon Kelly’s Suit

Halloween 2021 at Scoil Realta na Maidine, Listowel

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Halloween, Irish or American Style

I loved this column in Monday’s Irish Examiner. Enjoy!

Explainer;

Sheeple is a derogatory term to describe people who are docile and easily led. It is often used by people who oppose mandatory vaccine certs or any other government imposed restrictions that they disagree with.

“Do your own research” is a slogan used by people who are anti vaccine. Basically they are saying distrust the science and find like minded people on the internet.

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Stylish New Shop on Market Street

Rose and Crowm, Market Street, Listowel

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This poem will take you back to the bad old days.

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Eamon Kelly, Seanchaí

Some of us who were lucky enough to hear and enjoy The Seanchaí in our youth. Mattie Lennon tells us something about the man who was the consummate Irish storyteller

Brendan O’Shea (O’Sheas Tailoring, Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin) told me the following story:

At the end of September 2001, Eamon Kelly brought a suit in to Brendan for some alterations. The suit was fifteen years old. Prior to one of his trips to America, Eamon had it made by another Dublin tailor who left the jacket minus an inside pocket and the trousers without belt-loops or a back-pocket. Now, Eamon, the perfectionist, asked his fellow-Kerryman to rectify the sartorial omissions, which he did.

When Eamon died on 24th October 2001, he had left detailed instructions with his wife, Maura, about the funeral arrangements and which suit he wanted to be laid out in. Yes, you’ve guessed it!

Did the man who wrote so lovingly of Con-the-tailor, who made his first Communion suit, and who had portrayed an unforgettable tailor in “The Tailor and Ansty” want to somehow, bring the work of a Kerry tailor out of this world with him? I don’t know. And neither does Brendan O’Shea.

As his coffin left the church, the Congregation gave a round of applause. The show was over and this time there was no encore. The final curtain had fallen on a one-man show, performed by a man of many parts. Actor, storyteller and writer, loving husband, devoted father and great Kerryman.

Shortly before his death, while lecturing North American Literature and Theatre students in the art of storytelling, he said: “My journeying is over. If the humour takes me, I may appear in some Alhambra, where angels with folded wings will sit in the stalls, applaud politely and maybe come round after and say;’ that was great’ “.

As he walked into that great Rambling House in the sky, can’t you imagine the opening line?: “Ye’re glad I came”.

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Savannah McCarthy, International defender

Photo; The WLN Show
Photo: The WLN Show

Savannah McCarthy of Listowel is establishing herself as a regular in the starting XI for the Irish Ladies Football team.

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A Fact

The Lion King or The Lion Queen

In the time between Disney’s 1994 version of The Lion King and its 2019 remake the world’s population of lions had halved.

Zoologist, Craig Parker, of the lion research centre at the University of Minnesota told National Geographic that lion societies are matrilineal. The lionesses rule the pride while the males come and go. It would have been Sarabi who hand over her dominion to Nala, Simba’s mate.

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Trees on the Pitch and Putt Course, Famous Visitors and GAA field still closed




Canty’s Shebeen and Coco Kids on June 5 2020

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Some Beautiful Trees in Listowel Pitch and Putt Course

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Meeting the Famous


(Photos by Tom Fitzgerald)


 John B. Keane with Charles Haughey

Patrick Sheehan and Eamon Kelly at Sheehan’s Cottage in Finuge

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A Fascinating Tale with a Listowel Connection

Schenectady NY Gazette 1952 

   GAZETTE,   TUESDAY,   AUGUST   5,  1952  

NEW   YORK,   Aug.   4   (AP)—An   ex-GI  explained  for  Ireland  tonight  for    his    first    meeting    with    the    Irish    milkmaid    -who    found     his     name    and    address    in    a    bottle    washed   up  by   the  sea  on  her   village  beach.  It    was    Christmas    night,    1945,    that    Frank    Hayostak,     returning     aboard     ship     after     three     years     overseas,  tossed  the  bottle  into  the  ocean   100  miles  from  New   York.

   THE    LONELY    medical    corps-wrote   a   wistful   note   giving   his    name,   his   address,    184   Iron   street,   Johnstown,  Pa.,  and  a  personal   description.   Breda     O’Sullivan     of     Listowel,     County   Kerry,   now   23,   found    It    near   a   farm   where   she   lived   on   the  southwest  Irish  coast   on  Aug. 23,   1946.   She    wrote     Hayostak,     27,    an    electric  are-welder   In  a  Johnstown  steel  mill,  telling  him   of   her   find.   The  pair  have  exchanged  70  letters.

[This story must ring a bell with someone. I would love to know who Breda is. Was there a happy ever after ending to this romantic story?]

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Emmetts Grounds still out of Bounds


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Out and About (with camera)


As I was having a socially distant picnic with friend in the park I met Marjorie Morkan and Eithne Galvin on their way to the pitch and putt course

North Kerry, Clounmacon boots, Eamon Kelly and Alison Spittle at the Young adult Bookfest 2018

St. John’s, Bryan MacMahon statue and Seanchaí



Entrance to Kerry Writers’Museum

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Visiting North Kerry


Patty Faley took these photos on her recent holiday.

The visitors  were disappointed to find Carrigafoyle Castle closed.

Patty took this on the way to Lislaughtin.

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Clounmacon and Boot wearing



From the schools folklore collection in Dúchas

“Some of people used not wear boots until they were eighteen or nineteen years long ago.”

Some of people used not wear boots until they were eighteen or nineteen years long ago. They used to work in the fields and in the dikes and the frost cracking under their feet. Jack Mahoney used never wear boots and he could walk on any thing and he would not feel it. he used to walk on bushes and on briars and he would not feel it.

Most of the children go barefoot in the summer but they put them on in the winter. They throw the water they use for washing wash their feet if they did not throw out the water after washing their feet they should get up in the middle of the night and throw it out.

Some people used to wear clogs locally. They used to wear them in the winter but they are not worn now at all.

There was a tannery in Listowel about three miles form here. The National Bank is now built where it stood. About fifty or sixty years ago brogues used be worn. They were made of cheap leather and stitched. In Listowel up near the top of church Street lived a man named Johnny the Cottoners or Johnny O’ Connor. He used make brogues and sell them at the big fair in Listowel and Abbeyfeale. In the same street lived two men named Mick 

the Nailer and Jacky the Nailer. They used make the heavy nails that were driven into the soles of the shoes.

Most shoemakers at that time used cut out the uppers themselves and sew them and the boots used hold a long time.

Collector- Martin Kennelly, Address  Dromin, Co. Kerry

Informant  John Shanahan- Age   69- Address,  Dromin, Co. Kerry

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More Local Doors


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A Seanchaí remembered at The Seanchaí



I took the two photos below at The Seanchí, Kerry Writers’ Museum. I grew up listening to Eamon Kelly on the radio. I was a child in pre TV times when people sat down and paid attention to the radio. My mother loved a good story and Eamon Kelly was far and away her favourite storyteller.

BryanMacMahon, John B. Keane and Eamon Kelly



Passing on the stories.


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Young Adult Bookfest 2018


On November 15 2018 over 800 North Kerry and West Limerick second level students gathered  in Listowel Community Centre for a great day of entertainment and education, organised by Listowel Writers’ Week.

Among the inspiring speakers was Edaein O’Connell.

Eilish and Máire met Alison Spittle at the centre.

Alison was a photographer’s dream, willingly posing for all my snaps, with Kay Halpin, Catherine Moylan, Seán Lyons and Joanne O’Riordan.

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1938 Ireland



This story, which I found shared on Twitter, falls into the category of truth stranger than fiction.

Eamon Kelly’s 1920s Christmas Customs, a poem and a photo for Christmas ’17

Love consists not in looking at one another but in looking together in the same direction.

Khalil Gibran

Photo taken in The Gap of Dunloe by Chris Grayson

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Eamon Kelly Remembers Christmas Long Ago


…..Then we’d be
praying for night to fall. for you couldn’t see the right effect until the
candles were lit. The honour would fall to the youngest in the house. The
father would lift the child up saying “In the name of The Father, The Son….”
And when the child had blessed himself, he would put the lighting spill to the
candle, and from that candle the other candles would be lit, and he’s be half
daft with excitement, enjoying the blaze of light, and running fro the rooms
into the kitchen and out into the yard to see what the effect was like from the
outside. When we’d get tired of looking at the candles in our own windows, we’d
turn and try to name the neighbours’ houses as the bunches of lights came on,
two windows here and three windows there, across the dark countryside and away
up to the foot of the hills. And sure as anything, someone would be late and
we’d rush in to my mother saying, ”Faith then there’s no light on yet in
Rossacrew!”

“Go n ye’re
knees,” my mother would say. The time she’d pick for the rosary, just when the
salt ling was ready and the white onion sauce and the potatoes steaming over
the fire. But I suppose there’d be no religion in the world only for the women.
The rosary in our house did not end at five decades. Not at all, after the Hail
Holy Queen our mother would start into the trimmings

“Come Holy Ghost,
send down those beams,

Which sweetly flow
in silver streams.”

She’d pray for
everyone in sickness and in need and the poor souls and the sinful souls who at
that very moment was trembling before the judgment seat above. She’d pray for
the sailor on the seas. “Protect him from the tempest, O Lord, and bring him
safely home.” And the lone traveller on the highway, and, of course, our
emigrants, and, last of all, the members of our own family

God bless and save
us all

St. Patrick,
Bridget and Colmcille

Guard each wall.

May the queen of
Heaven

And the angels
bright

Keep us and our
home

From harm this
night.

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A Christmas Poem




Twinkle Twinkle    by Jane Taylor

Twinkle twinkle
little star.

How I wonder what
you are.

Up above the world
so high,

Like a diamond in
the sky.

When the blazing
sun is gone,

And he nothing
shines upon,

Then you show your
little light.

Twinkle, twinklw
through the night.

Then the traveller
in the dark

Thanks you for
your tiny spark.

He would not see
which way to go,

If you did not
twinkle so.

In the dark blue
sky you keep,

And often through
my curtains peep,

Forr you never
shut your eye

Til the sun is in
the sky.

As your bright and
tiny spark,

Lights the
traveller in the dark.

Though I know not
what you are

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

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A Welcome Return



Jackie McGillicuddy made a welcome return to his old spot behind the counter at Corbett and Fitzgibbon’s. The shop now names McGillicuddy’s Toys is run by his son Seán who is with him in the photo which they posted on Twitter.

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Thought for the Season    from Dr. Suess





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