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: Elaine Kinsella Page 1 of 2

Listowel Races 2022 Day 1 continued

Listowel Town Square


Best Dressed Couples

Listowel Races this year introduced a new fashion event. This saw men and women dressing up as a co-ordinated couple. The venue was sponsored by Lyrath Estate Hotels. This company has a very strong Listowel Connection.

The judge on the day was Elaine Kinsella, a broadcaster with a very strong Listowel Connection.

The llama wasn’t helping her with the judging and since he was on his own he wasn’t eligible for the couples competition so he took a minute off from entertaining the children to allow his use as a prop for Instagram.

Gillian and Raymond Gilbourne were every inch the stylish co ordinated couple. They didn’t win.

A couple with a very strong Listowel Connection (and a Kanturk one too) are Barry and Eithne O’Halloran. They didn’t win either. They came second.

Barry was not actually on the island for the competition. He was presenting a prize on behalf of his company.

And the winners were Jacy Ybanez (Tralee) and Brian O’Connor (Abbeyfeale) with an outfit described by the people in the know as “fashion forward”.


Pres. Girls Reunion

Hard to believe that these lovely ladies graduated from Presentation Secondary School in the early 1960s.

They chatted and reminisced ’til early morning

Miriam Kiely and Mary Sobieralski on their way to the reunion.

Mary and Marlene hadn’t met since they left school.

It was a great night for remembering and reconnecting.


Harvest Festival 1994

Listowel Harvest Festival made a welcome return to town this year. Will it ever match the fun we had on the streets in 1994. Junior Griffin kept the brochure


Hilser Brothers, Jewellers, The Oil Lamp and a Knockane story

I know a dog who loves Ballybunion.



Photo; Chris Grayson

This photo fascinated me because it tells of Cork’s long multicultural history that continues to this day.

On the ground floor of this Patrick Street premises is a Turkish barber shop. The upper floors still have the branding of the last tenant, Hilser Brothers Jewellers who sold rings and other pieces of jewellery to Cork clients for generations.

Hilsers have now relocated to Bandon . I found this account of their family history on the page of Miriam Hilser Foley who now runs the business

Miriam’s great-great-grandfather from Germany, Richard Hilser, was sent to Belfast to further his study in clock making (which was the original Hilser business). 

“Richard returned to the Black Forest region in Germany and fell for a local clockmaker’s daughter but in an attempt to secure the father’s blessing, he was instead directed to a different daughter. We then became the first family to introduce grandfather clocks to Ireland. They also had a son, Henry, who was six or seven when Richard died.” 

While his mother Josephina held fort, a young Henry took trips to the Black Forest region to follow in the line of his father’s profession. 

While there he made a pen pal of another clockmaker’s daughter and over time they became close. In the 1860s they settled in Cork. 

Thankfully, Henry’s mother Josephina rented the Grand Parade property for Henry and the Bandon shop for Henry’s brother, Frank, creating the Hilser Bros. Jewellers name. Frank then moved to England leaving both shops to Henry. This began a decline in the Hilser name. 

Henry had five daughters, who of course, took their husbands’ surnames, ending the Hilser family name’s lineage. With a gap nearing a century, Miriam has bridged both names: “Before she died, my grandaunt Ursula Hilser asked me to continue the name. In her and my family’s honour I took the double barrel name, Miriam Hilser Foley.”


Reality for Dublin Commuters

This picture was posted on Twitter by Eye On Dublin. This is the daily reality for so many in January 2020. It’s 835 a.m in Heuston. The person taking the picture is on the Luas that just went past, full. The next Luas will be along in 11 minutes but it is also likely to be full.

Thank your lucky stars if you live in Kerry.


The Light of Other Days

Junior Griffin who worked for years at McKenna’s Hardware told us a bit about this lamp the last time I posted this picture. I mistakenly called it a ’tilly lamp and Junior set me right.

To me it looks like an ordinary oil lamp. The oil lamp would be lit by a wick and raised and lowered by hand. Both the Tilley and Aladdin (which I have one of) were later versions but were lit by a mantle and were worked by a pump. 

 Thinking back, I would have repaired  hundreds of those, with my mentor, the late Mikey O’Connor, in my days at McKenna’s before the rural electrification. Fitting a washer in the pump and fitting a new mantle, which were as tender as a cobweb, after they were lit were the main repairs to be done. “


Some More Photos from the Launch of A Minute of Your Time

Friends from my college days, Peggy and Assumpta

Robert Pierse

My grandsons, Killian and Sean

Kildare friends, writer, Sinead O’Neill and her husband, Andrew

My old boss and good friend, Sr. Consolata

Sr. Margaret

Teresa Culhane

Tim O’Leary

Vincent Carmody

Former Pupil and now Radio Kerry presenter and writer, Elaine Kinsella


An Cnochán

Noreen O’Connell sent an email when she read about Knockane in the School’s Folklore piece last week. Her husband told her what was a true cock and bull story relating to that place.

Mary, reading Bernie Holyoakes story of the “Cnocán “, John tells me he knows the place so well, having hunted it with his greyhounds and where you always got a good hunt off the “Cnocán. There was a quarry there, surrounded by bogland. Its on Driscolls farm. A story he always heard was that one of the Driscolls had a dream that there was gold buried there. So one night a few of the family went there, carrying a lantern and cock with them. They began to dig a hole but were chased away by a bull. The cock died that night. There is a hole of 4 or 5 feet deep there. I suppose because the cock is a symbol of bravery and alertness is why they took him with them. 

A jig saw, Young Adult Bookfest 2019 and a Castleisland sign

Winter is jigsaw time. Here is Cora getting to grips with a big one.


Writers’ Week Young Adult Bookfest 2019

This is always one of the highlights of Transition Year. This year was a superb mix of business and pleasure, some tips for Leaving Cert English spiced with music and comedy. There was also some valuable life advice and some stories from people who reached their goal via the scenic route.

Aimée Keane of Listowel Writers’ Week with Stephanie Rainey, singer songwriter.

A case of two Caseys (no relation), Bernard Casey of Kerry and Shane Casey of Cork, actors and comedians.

Catherine Moylan and Elizabeth Dunn of Listowel Writers’ Week with Mary Sobieralski.

Poet, Ciara Ní É and singe,r Emma Langford

Elaine Kinsella was an excellent MC and Catherine Moylan was first on stage to get the show on the road.


Parking in Castleisland church grounds is only for the prayerful

Be good or be gone!


On the Wall in The Listowel Arms

The coat of Arms which gave the hotel its name

St. Luke’s Day, St. Mary’s Stained glass, Piseoga and A Minute of Your Time

St. Luke’s Day

Window in Taur Church

Saint Luke the Evangelist, whose feast day occurs today, has many strings to his bow. He is the patron saint of artists, physicians, bachelors, surgeons, students and butchers. In common with some of his fellow saints he is also mentioned in weather lore – 

St. Luke’s Little Summer, summerlike days around 18th October.

St. Luke’s Day did not receive as much attention as St. John’s Day (June 24) and Michaelmas (September 29) and others, so, to keep from being forgotten, St. Luke used his influence to give us some golden days to cherish before the coming of winter, or so the story goes. Sadly, he tried in vain. His feast day is forgotten by all except those on the loony fringe of folklore. Forecast for the weekend isn’t great – heavy rain, hail, thunder and the first widespread frost. Maybe he will prove them all wrong, or maybe he has just given up trying?  

Photo and text: Raymond O’Sullivan


Statue of Bryan MacMahon at The Kerry Writers’ Museum


Stain Glass Windows in St. Mary’s, Listowel


Folklore in the Dúchas Collection

Piseoga gathered by Lyreacrompane schoolchildren from older people in 1936.

51. If the right side of your nose is itchy it is said that someone is talking good of you.

52. If the left side of your nose is itchy it is said that someone is talking bad of you.

53. If you right eye is itchy, it is said that you will be crying.

54. If your left eye is itchy it is said that you will be laughing.

55. If you marry on a Wednesday you will never have a day’s luck.

56. You should never carry a coal of fire out of a sick house.

57. You should never give away money on a Monday because you would be spending money for the rest of the week.

58. Thirteen is an unlucky number because at the Last Supper Our Lord and His twelve apostles were present and one of the twelve apostles betrayed Our Lord.

59. If you were playing cards and to have a dormouse in your pocket you are sure to win.

60. If you put the frame of a dead woman’s hand under a tub of cream it is said that there will be no butter taken.

61. You should never carry a coal out of a house on May Eve

62. If you throw an old shoe after a couple who are getting married it is said that they will be lucky.

63. If you wash your hands in the dew early on May morning it is said that you will be ripping knots for the rest of the year.

64. If you hear an ass braying it is the sign of a person dead. – You should never interfere with a fort. (No 24) (One day a man was crossing a fort and he saw a nice blackthorn stick growing inside in it. He went in & began to pull it. It was a beautiful summer’s day. As he stooped down a shower fell on him. He looked up and saw the sun shining. He stooped again and another shower fell. He looked up again and saw the sun. He stooped again and a shower of blood fell on his clothes so he went away without the stick).

65. If you spill salt it is the sign of bad luck because Judas, before he betrayed Our Lord, when reaching over, spilled the salt.

66. You should never strike a cow with a white-thorn because it is said that the Cross of Calvary was made of white-thorn.

67. If you hear a cock crowing it is the sign of bad luck, because when the cock crew St Peter denied Our Lord.

68. You should never hit anyone with a brush.

69. You should never catch a tongs in your hand unless you want it.


A  Minute of Your Time

Here I am finalising arrangements with Elaine Kinsella of Radio Kerry for Saturday evening’s launch.

Dont forget…7.30 in St. John’s

Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial, Letter Writing and Book Launches

Photo: Chris Grayson


Hugh O’Flaherty Garden

In a corner of Tralee known as The Island of Geese, because that’s what it once was, there is a lovely commemorative garden to the great Mons. Hugh O’Flaherty.


Vanishing Ireland

Here’s a riddle for you.

What do letterboxes, calendars, wall clocks and diaries have in common?

Answer: They are all on the way out.

No  one writes letters any more.

I was in a shop recently when a customer came in wishing to buy notepaper. Do you remember Basildon Bond, Ancient Irish Vellum, that sort of thing? well, the stationery shop didn’t have it. They don’t stock it any more. There is no demand.  

I met the same lady a few days later and I asked her if she had succeeded in finding a shop that sold notepaper. She hadn’t.

The day of the handwritten letter has gone the way of the handwritten diary and the wall calendar. Digitised all.

Here are a few words from John B. Keane on the subject of letter writing from the introduction to an anthology of his famous fictional letters.

“I grew up in a time when there was no alternative to the letter as a means of communication, except, of course, in the case of emergency when the phone in the local barracks of the Civic Guards became an extreme resort. You may say why not a telegram! A telegram is a letter, a stunted one, shorn of embellishment, a sort of Beckett of the epistolary scene and often even more confusing, open to many interpretations, its length dictated by the circumstances or the generosity of the sender. Always less satisfactory than a letter, a telegram left too much to the imagination, often with harmful results. The letter might be slower, but it was safer. The letter writer could expand to his hearts content especially if he was romantically disposed towards the object of his calligraphy….”


A Book Launch

You are all invited to join me for the hooley in St. John’s to launch my latest book.

By way of doing a bit of research on how the experts do book launches I went along to Waterstones on Thursday evening, October 3, the evening we didn’t get a lash of Lorenzo.

Brian O’Connell and I  had a few things in common…non fiction miscellany type book, radio personality to launch, book to sell. That’s about as far as I can stretch it.

Then I realised that I was planning a hooley. We’ll have nibbles and tea and singing and music as well as readings from the book.

Of course we’ll have the book to sell as well and I’ll be signing like billyo.

It will be the first book launch under the new artistic director of St. John’s. Let’s make it a night to remember.

Now back to Brian O’Connell’s book. It’s really good, the kind you dip into every now and again. It’s great to have in the car to read while you are waiting to pick up the children, by the bed for a quick read before you go to sleep. It is ideal for the doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room.

I read it in none of these places. I binged on it, cover to cover in a weekend. It’s full of human interest stories that draw you in. You may have seen Brian O’Connell on Nationwide with the man who was selling the hearse or read him in the Irish Times about the man and the dog.

The stories are often heartbreaking but kind of funny too.


There’s a Listowel connection. I won’t spoil the story for you but the man with the Listowel connection had a burial plot for sale under bizarre circumstances.

If you are buying two books for Christmas, this would be a good one to buy as well as mine.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén