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: Fitzgeralds’ Park

Wren Boys, flooding and an FCA Reunion

Goodbye to 2015

As I resume after my break,  I’ll bring you a few late December memories.

Mourners being transported to Saints’ Island Graveyard, Co Longford, for the burial of Johnny Clarke. Photograph: James Flynn/APX     (

This sad image sums up the disruption to normal life wrought by one storm after another this winter.

We were lucky to escape the worst of it here in North Kerry.

This photo was taken by David Morrissey in Mallow. That is a bus shelter completely submerged.

Killavullen, Co. Cork  (photo; Scan Productions for Cork Flood Alerts)

This is the regional park in Ballincollig. The new path which was only completed this summer and the newly developed pitches were completely covered in water.


I have written before about the costly disaster that was the Diarmuid Gavin garden in Cork’s Fitzgerald’s Park. Well, they have another costly disaster on their hands  at the moment.

This was how the “garden” looked last time I was there.

This state of the art children’s playground cost €600,000. It was opened in June with much fanfare. As you can see from the professional picture, taken by Kompan at the opening, it is designed to look like a ship. It is made almost entirely of wood and is sunken and it has seating all round. The project was co funded by Cork County Council and the Bons Secours Hospital. The playground was designed to be accessible to disabled as well as able bodied children. Today it is accessible to no one.

On Dec 29 2015 my despondent granddaughter looks on at the flooded playground…..flooded not by the nearby river Lee but by rainwater. The clever design does not appear to have any drainage, so it filled up with rainwater in the deluge we experienced in December. Now, because it is all made of wood, it will be completely compromised and probably contaminated. It may all have to come out. What a disaster!

Do I foresee another costly lawsuit?


Hunting the Wran

The wren, the wren  (wren is pronounced wran in the country)

The king of all birds

On Stephen’s Day 

He got caught in the furze.

Up with the kettle

And down with the pan

And give us a penny

To bury the wren.

Ita Hannon took a few photos of 2015 Wren Boys.

Her brother shared a few photos of troupes hunting the “wran” in days of yore:

Asdee in the 1950s 

Listowel in the 1960s


Paul Galvin, Fashion Designer, Weds Louise Duffy

New Year’s Eve bliss for Today FM presenter, Louise Duffy and Kerry footballer, Paul Galvin, as they leave St Tiernan’s Church Crossmolina Mayo where they were married yesterday. 

Pic Conor McKeown

(From: Brides of Kerry)


Cyclists in Duagh

There are strong links between Duagh and Kanturk Cycling Club. These young cyclists, members of Kanturk Cycling Club, are pictured in Duagh after Christmas 2015 by Doreen Buckley


Proposed FCA Reunion

Were you in the FCA in Listowel?

Would you like to help organize a reunion to take place on March 30 2016?

 Jim Halpin and Patsy Curtin would like to extend an
invitation to you to attend a meeting onTuesday
5th January 2016
at 20.00 hoursin the Listowel Arms Hotel.  The meeting will be discussing the upcoming event in association
with the Listowel Military Tattoo Group and hope to form a committee to oversee
the reunion.

Maybe you can’t make the meeting but would like to be involved in the reunion, Jim and Patsy are also seeking out old photos, film and other memorabilia related to the FCA in town.

Jim Halpin’s photo from 1942 shows a fine troop of men in the Sluagh Hall.


No Photos from Listowel’s Panto?

If you are wondering why I am not posting any panto photos, here is the short answer; I was asked not to.

The panto was great. I was there with my grandchildren. We, in the audience, were told not to photograph the performance, so I didn’t.

Irish College 2015 style, some ads and memories of a fleadh cheoil long ago.

Coláiste Bhréanainn, Baile an Buineánaigh

All’s changed, changed utterly from the Irish college experience of old. There are still claisceadail and ceilithe but now the young people get to go surfing, Tae kwando, zumba, limbo, crazy golf and a historical tour of Ballybunion. Judging by Coláiste Bhréanainn’s Facebook page learning Irish has never before been such fun.


New Playground in Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork

Well worth a visit if you are lucky enough to spend some time in the real capital of Ireland.


Listowel businesses in 1960


More of Betty Stack’s old cuttings

This picture accompanied a story about Listowel’s introducing a Seachtain Cheoil in the week of Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. The idea was taken on board and is now an integral part of the Fleadh. In the photo are Muriel Dowling, Geraldine Dowling and Gerard Buckley.


Lovely Day for a Wedding


+ Tragic Death of Benny Collins +

“The death has taken place of Benny Collins, son of Mary Ellen and Denis Collins, Templeathea.  He was living in Swansea, Wales and died on the 28th of July 2015. Survived by his wife Mel, son Harry, parents and brothers Denis, John, and Leo, sisters Catherine and Helena.”

The story behind the news 

“A brave dad drowned while saving his son after he was caught in a rip tide at a holiday beach.

Physiotherapist Benny managed to save Harry, nine, from drowning at popular beach – which has no lifeguard cover.

But he was pronounced dead following the seaside tragedy at Three Cliffs Bay in Gower, South Wales on Tuesday.

Irish-born Benny had been the captain of Gowerton rugby club in his home city of Swansea, South Wales.

The team played tribute to their former player.

A spokesman said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our former captain Benny Collins.

“A true gent in every sense, will be missed by all.”

The dad and son were pulled from the sea by fellow-swimmers at on Tuesday afternoon and flown to hospital.

Benny was pronounced dead while Harry was treated at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, where his father worked, and was later released.

Benny’s friend John Knox paid tribute to him, saying: “A wonderful husband and father. Benny Collins will be with the angels.”

Another friend, Chris Mason, said: “Devastating news about Benny Collins. Loved playing with him for Gowerton RFC, such a great bloke will be missed by so many people.”

His wife Melanie, 42, was being supported by specially trained police officers.

Brave Benny is the latest fatality at the beach which is part of the Gower Peninsula – designated as the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

(Irish Mirror online)

Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork and the Sky Garden and an emigrant’s tribute to his Kerry father

Here comes summer!

Last weekend I took a trip to the real capitol. I took in a gymnastics display, a trip to Fitzgerald’s Park and a day out in Fota.

The display was in the hall of the local Ballincollig Gym club. Over 100 young people gave a world class display.


One of my favourite topics this summer is the Diarmuid Gavin designed Sky Garden in Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork. My regular followers will remember that I was there for the grand opening. I visited again a week later and found that the precious garden had become a playground and all the plants were trampled by children climbing on to the stainless steel globes.

 Now, not even a month after the fanfare that attended the official opening, we have bare earth where plants used to be and we have the big silver globe removed and replaced with a semi globe. 

You have probably noticed that there are no children playing in that space anymore. That is because the steel was hot enough to fry an egg on Saturday last.

In another part of the garden stands this feature.

That’s my granddaughter in front of it trying out her hurling skills. Last weekend there was a lot of talk of hurling in Cork. The three lovely and extremely talented young men from my home town, Kanturk, accounted well for themselves in Cork’s win against their old rivals, Clare.

 When in Rome…..even Rory McIlroy tried his hand at a spot of hurling while he was in Fota for the golf.  (photo; Indosport)

The sky pod of the original design has become a river pod and is very popular with young and old.


Last Sunday was Fathers’ Day. Niall O’Dowd of Irish Central wrote a lovely essay to his own father to mark the day.

The last time I saw him was from the
railway line that spanned the Boyne River in Drogheda. thirty miles from
Dublin. The year was 1978.

He was a speck in the distance,
standing in our small garden waving goodbye for the last time.

He was not an emotive man, but
incredibly protective of his children and the loss of another would go hard on
him. He would not cry, but go quiet, withdrawn for several days.

Moments later the train swept me away
to America, first to Dublin then an Aer Lingus plane across an ocean to a new

I wasn’t lonely, I was full of life
and piss and vinegar and anxious to get going. Life’s vista was opening up and
I was in a hurry to blaze my trail.

Like millions before America was
calling. His wish for me to stay home, stick to a teaching job, marry and
settle down, could never compete.

Now I wonder how he felt that long
ago fine June morning as he watched his third son disappear in the distance,
losing another son to emigration. He knew what it was to say goodbye.

He had grown up one of fourteen in a
three-room house on a small holding in Gaelic-speaking West Kerry. The kids had
scattered to the four winds as soon as they were able, but he had stayed home
and become a teacher.

He raised seven kids with my mother
and at one time five were away, scattered like his own family before him.

We spoke only once after I left
before he died. It was frustrating,he was quite deaf, and I knew he could
hardly hear what I was saying.

A few weeks after I left he was dead
of a heart attack, I was on a Greyhound bus to California at the time, unaware,
stopping off in many American towns on the way on a long mazy trip across

The year was 1978 and there were no
cell phones, only old-style landlines in Greyhound bus stations where calling
Ireland was impossible. I was uncontactable.

I reached a fork in the road in Salt
Lake City bus station. Los Angeles was one bus destination, San Francisco the
other. I felt him urging me to take San Francisco. It was the night he died.

Was he with me on that long journey
across the salt lakes, to the Nevada Mountains and beyond?

I like to think he was. He loved the
stories of the old West and here I was landing in the self-same territory
inspired with the same version of the American dream that drove so many Irish
before me.

Back home he had followed my progress
west on a map, living it vicariously. I wrote to him about Cheyenne, Wyoming,
the badlands and Tombstone City, places that fired his childhood imagination.
He did not live to see the letters.

He was a writer too, I took so much
from him, and today am lucky I can still hear his voice reading his short
stories in Gaelic on the radio long ago.

This Father’s Day I will put on one
of those CDs and for a moment the years will roll back as that powerful Kerry
accent and beautiful lilting Gaelic can be heard again.

Then I will raise a glass to the old
man, with the granddaughter he never knew and for a moment the world will be
full again.


Beautiful, beautiful Ballybunion

Sunset captured by John Kelliher…awesome!



Thanks to everyone who helped identify the people in this old photo. The man playing the harmonica is Jackie Faulkner and the boy is the late Ned Walsh. The photo was taken on the day before the first Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel in the 1970s. The place is Freezers. Ned Walsh passed away in 1989.

The photo stirred a good few memories. Thanks everyone.

Election Day, MS Busking Day in Listowel and a day out in Cork

May 23 2014 ; Polling Day in the local and European elections

Soon the posters spoiling my every picture of the town will be taken down and we can get back to normal.


Friday May 23 2014 is MS Busking Day

These photos were  taken in two of the early years of this annual event: 1996 and 1997.

The weather was beautiful back then!


Lovely entrance to the John B. Keane Road


Mallow Railway Station       (photographs of old Ireland)


Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork

Diarmuid Gavin won first prize in Chelsea for his Sky Garden. Cork City Council bought the garden for a sky high price with the idea of installing it in Fitzgerald’s Park.

“The best laid plans of mice and men……”

Health and Safety issues meant that the crane to support the garden could not be used, so the sky garden fell to earth. Much toing and froing later and the garden was finally opened to the public in the newly refurbished Fitzgerald’s Park on Sunday….and I was there.

The park is looking absolutely beautiful. Apparently Mr. Gavin is not happy with his Mardyke Garden.  He did not come to the official opening.

What did I think? Nice but not worth the money and the hassle involved.

Some of the trees and shrubs

 These reflective stainless steel spheres were especially made. The judges at The Chelsea Flower Show loved them.

The Cork children love them too.

There is a new bandstand and lots of outdoor seating

The newly revamped restaurant struggled to cope on Sunday.

Céilí band on the new bandstand

Some of the huge crowd

A new piece of srtwotk

Some of the old ‘end of the pier’ attractions are still fun today.


Listowel Vocational School 1982  (photo published in The Advertiser)


We have had a lot of rain lately.

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