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

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St John’s from St. Mary’s May 2022


Flavins of Church Street

This is Flavins of Church Street today.

Part of this shop’s history is told in pictures by Maura McAuliffe on Facebook.

“Dan Flavin’s burnt to the ground by the Black and Tans. Dan Flavin was put in jail. They would have shot him only he had an American passport as he was born in New York and brought back as a child to Ireland.”

Martin Moore shared these receipts and this caption.

3 receipts from the 1920s, one is for a contribution to the North Kerry Republican Soldiers Committee, and another is for 200 copies of Irish Independent and is marked as the first received in nearly two months (due to the Civil War).

Dan Flavin

Micheál Flavin

Joan Flavin


New Exhibition in Kerry Writers’ Museum

At the launch of Lifting the Curtain, an installation celebrating amateur drama in Kerry, our own Lartigue Theatre presented a compilation of extracts from Sive.

Billy Keane (standing behind Cara Trant) watches the enactment of extracts from his father’s play.

Liz Dunn of Writers’ Week is in the foreground.

Dr. Fiona Brennan, an amateur drama scholar, presented a brief synopsis of the history of drama in Kerry.


Sr. Dympna R.I.P.

From Pres. yearbook 2002/03


A Thought


Banna , Convent Street and Flavin’s of Church street

Banna by Bridget O’Connor


Convent Street, Listowel

The sign is on the wall at the entrance to the hospital. I’ve discussed this at length on the blog but it still fascinates me to see street signs where the Irish has absolutely no connection whatsoever to the English name. In most cases the English street name is an English Christian name, thought to be named after Lord Listowel’s sons, e.g. William and Charles. In this case however and in the case of Church Street the English name refers to a well known building, a landmark located on the street. The Irish name refers to an older superstition. One didn’t mess with the Púca. He was a wicked spirit who rode around the countryside after dark spiriting away anyone foolish enough to be out late.

The entrance to Listowel hospital grounds

They are making great progress with the dementia day care centre. The organising committee are still looking for volunteer cyclists to do the Ring of Kerry Cycle to raise funds for them. If you can’t do the cycle, please sponsor one of the cyclists.


Bryan MacMahon and  Flavin’s Bookshop

Dan Flavin and his son, Micheál at the door of the shop sometime in the 1950s. The photo appears in Vincent Carmody’s Snapshots of a Market Town.

Flavins is closing tomorrow, Saturday February 8 2020


Famine Poverty and a Kind Landlord

from the Schools’ Folklore Collection

The Quarter field is situated on the side of a hill. It contains nine acres in the begining of the nineteenth century many families lived in this field The field was owned by a Land Lord and he allowed these poor people build houses in it. Each family got a quarter of ground. There was no division between the quarters only paling. They used to set potatoes in the quarter every year and used to get the manure from the neighbouring farmers. These people had no other way of living only when ever they would work for another farmer for small hire. When the potatoes failed in the years 1845 to 1847 all these people died of starvation. When they were gone my grandfather bought this field with more land surrounding it and my father is in possession of it now My grandfather threw the remains of the houses away and it is all one level field at present. If you walk through parts of it on a Summers evening you could see the form of the houses and the little gardens alongside it

Liam Ó Duilleáin
Gortacloghane, Co. Kerry
(name not given)
Gortacloghane, Co. Kerry

A Rathea Story, Flavins and a Plea for Help

Photo: Bridget O’Connor


Just an Idea

Recently I’ve been struggling to find material for the blog. When I put out a plea for help, some of you came to my aid and others wrote to say please don’t stop. One emigrant came up with an idea. Mary O’Rourke suggested that maybe people who read the blog in foreign parts would write a few paragraphs to tell us where they are and how they got there.

I think people would like to hear where other Listowel people are and what they are doing now. So please make a resolution, put a few words down today and send them to Listowel Connection with a picture . Ideally if you had a pic of the old you and one of the new you that would be great. And you dont have to be abroad to participate. Memories of home or pictures or stories from Listowel people are welcome too.


From Lyreacrompane to New York

Bill Murphy with his copy of A Minute of Your Time


Flavin’s Closing

Time to call it a day for Flavins’ of Church Street

In response to my plea for help and in view of the fact that Flavin’s is closing, our friend, David O’Sullivan has trawled through some old newspapers for news of the Flavin family and their long history in Listowel.

Below are two ads for books;

I wonder if either of these books are to be found anywhere.

When I called in last week,  Miriam Kiely/ OGrady, who grew up on Church Street and remembers Micheál’s as the place to buy sweets and comics, was bidding a sad farewell to Joan.


Will O’The Wisp

(A Faustian story from Rathea in The School’s Folklore Collection)

Once upon a time there lived a man by the name of Bill Dawson, a blacksmith by trade. He was what is commonly called a waster or spendthrift. He made good money working at his trade, but Bill could scarcely spare enough to support his wife, who was a good honest industrious little woman but as for Bill as the people used to say the good and the bad was in him.

One evening as Bill was taking his supper of oaten meal porridge he saw an old man approaching his little cabin. The old man entered with a prayer, “God save all here” and asked for something to eat, with all Bill’s faults he was generous and although he had scarcely enough for himself he divided the scanty meal with the old man. The Old man seeing Bill’s goodness was about to leave. He said to Bill I am St       .Ask for any three wishes and they will be granted to you. Bill’s first wish was whoever would take hold of the sledge should hold on sledging except by his leave. His second wish was, anything that went into his purse couldn’t come out of it without his leave. His third wish was anyone who sat on his chair should stay there until he released him.

The Saint thought that Bill would ask for something that would benefit him in this world and the means of his salvation in the next. He left very disappointed at the three wishes which Bill had asked for, and as the story goes you will see how Bill put his wishes into execution.

He worked away as usual and if any person of note called to his forge to get a job done Bill would pretend to be busy and would ask him to take the sledge. The person not knowing Bill’s intentions would take the sledge to oblige him. There he should remain sledging asking Bill for Gods sake to release him but Bill would pay no heed to him, only on condition that the person would give him a large sum of money. It soon went about that Bill had something to do with old Nick and his customers began to leave him. In a short time Bill found himself with very little to do.

It so happened that one day that Bill was strolling leasurely along in a lonely part of the locality in which he lived, he said aloud to himself, “Now is your time Nick I might as well have the gains of you as well as the name of you”. The words were scarcely out of his lips when ould Nich appeared before him “Good day Bill” says Nick, “Good day Nick” says Bill “what do you want me for” says ould Nick “I don’t want you atall” says Bill. “Didn’t you call me” says ould Nick. “What if I did” says Bill “but, as you’re here now we might as well strike a bargain” What shall it be?” says the devil. “Ill leave it to yourself”. Ill give you seven hundred thousand pounds but at the end of seven years you must come with me. It is a bargain says Bill. “There and then” The devil paid out the seven hundred thousand pounds, and disappeared.

Bill now being a rich man as he thought closed his forge and his little house and bought a big mansion. He purchased racehorses. He attended all the race meetings in the country where he made many friends including the nobility. He invited them to dinners and parties and lavished money in a large scale so in a short time he was penniless. When his friends found out that all his money was gone they soon deserted him. So Bill had given up his high life and long before the seven years were up the devil walked into the forge. “Bill Dawson” says he “your time is up and you must come with me”. “Alright” says Bill “take the sledge until I finish this and then I shall be with you”. There and then the devil took the sledge, Bill walked out, locked the door, went to his little house and eat his dinner. When he went back to the forge there was the devil still sledging with beads of sweat running down his face. “Bill Dawson” says he, “release me and I’ll give you double the amount for seven more years. Thereupon Bill released him. The devil counted out the money and disappeared.

Bill, finding himself a richer man than before, went back again to his high life. He soon found himself peniless and long before the seven years were up he was again back working in his forge. The very day the seven years were up the devil came, thinking he would be smart enough for Bill this time. Knowing Bill to be avaricious he placed himself in his path in the form of a guinea,  As Bill was passing by, seeing the guinea, he picked it up and put into his purse. When the devil found himself in the purse and couldnt leave it he shouted at Bill to let him out. “It’s there you are, Nickeen,” says Bill. There and then he turned back to the forge, placed the purse on the anvil and started hammering it. The devil screamed and begged to let him go and he would treble the amount for seven more years, “Done,” says Bill. The devil paid out the amount and disappeared.

Bill finding himself still richer than he was ever before he went back again to his high life and in a short time again Bill was as peniless as ever. Before the seven years were up he was back again working in his forge. The very day the seven years were up, in walked the devil to the forge. “Bill Dawson” says he “your time is up you must come with me”. “Ill be off” says Bill “but come to the house, until we eat something before we start”. Both of them went on to the house. Bill told his wife to get something to eat for them as his time was up and that he should go with the devil. Bill asked him to be seated but the devil taking no chances this time refused to sit down. Naturally Bills wife got frightened at the sight of the devil and also grieved at the thought of losing Bill. 

There and then Bill and his wife set upon the devil, she using the brush until they succeeded on putting him on the chair. Once on the chair he couldn’t leave it. Bill went back to his forge reddened a tongs, brought it back to the house and taking the devil by the nose started to draw it inch by inch until he had the devils nose out the chimney. “Bill Dawson” says he “release me and I will give you four times the amount and have no more to do with you”. There and then Bill clinched the bargain. The devil counted out the money and fled from the house. Bill followed to the door and shouted, “Be gone now Nickeen and I was able for you.

Bill, delighted, turned back again to his high life and spent money as freely as ever and in a short time he was penniless. His wild life soon told on him and he fell ill and died. When Bill appeared at the gates of heaven he wouldn’t be admitted. He was directed to hell. When he appeared at the gates of hell the porter asked him what he wanted. He said he wanted to get in. The porter went to the devil and said there was a man at the gate, “Go” says he “and ask him his name. The porter came back and told his name was Bill Dawson. Dont let him in roared the devil or he’ll kill all the devils that are in hell. The devil went to the gate. “Is that you Bill” says he “you will not come in here”. Bill put his face to the bars of the gate and made a grimace at the devil but as he did the devil caught him by the nose and put it in the fire.

Bill beingr efused admittance to hell or to heaven had to return again to this world and resort to marshy places. The light can be seen to this day quenching and lighting quenching and lighting. While Bill would hold his nose under the water it would remain quenched and when he’d raise it, it would hold lighting. So people call him Will O the Wisp or Jack O The Lantern. The roguery being in Bill in this life followed him in the next. It became a habit of his to put people astray at night.

Seán Treannt
Rathea, Co. Kerry
Seán Ó Catail

Rathea, Co. Kerry


Ballybunion, Launch of a minute of Your Time and a Mad Shoemaker

Sanctuary, St. Mary’s, Listowel


Ballybunion’s old toilet building is Demolished

Photo: Danny McDonnell


What a Night!

If you’re getting a bit tired of photographs from the launch of A Minute of Your Time, you’ll have to help me out. I knew that material for this blog would eventually wear thin and that time has come. I’m struggling to find something to share with you every day so if you have any material that would be of interest to people with a Listowel connection, do help me out please.

Meanwhile here are some more of Breda Ferris’ photos from October 19 2019

Liz Dunne

My lovely neighbour, Michael Salmon

Mike Moriarty

Miriam Kiely OGrady

Some more lovely neighbours and former neighbours, Alice, Eileen and Eddie Moylan

Namir, Kay and Roza Karim


Noreen O’Connell

From Ballyduff and New York, John, Bridget and Pádraig O’Connor

A great supporter of Just a Thought, Pam Brown

Pat Murphy and Vincent Carmody

Pat Galvin

Pat Given

My only brother, Pat Ahern


A Wintry Walk

Nothing beats Ballybunion on a clear day.


Only a Few Weeks left

This photo of Namir Karim and Michael Dillane was taken in Flavins just before Christmas. Sadly all that stock is now sold off and there remains but a few last bits and pieces before Joan locks up for the last time, closing the door on an important chapter in Listowel’s history.


Shoemaking In Listowel Long Ago

From Dúchas, the Schools’ Folklore Collection

About fifty years ago in Listowel in addition to men making boots there was also men who used to make cheap brogues or low shoes. Every time there would be a fair in Abbeyfeale they would take an ass load of these brogues to the fair and sell them in the fair just as people sell second hand clothes now. The best known one of those was called Johnny the bottoner (O Connor) a brother to famous Patsy. Patsy used work hard making brogues up to the time of the fair. On that night he would be mad drunk. Most of the houses at the top of church street at this time were thatched houses. Patsy would roll home about midnight and break most of the windows up on his end of the street. He would take the road the following morning and would not come back again till things were forgotten again. These brogues were stitched by the hand but at that time the shoemakers used work by “lamplight” and often worked well after midnight.

W. Keane
Listowel, Co. Kerry
Mrs M. Keane
Listowel, Co. Kerry

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…..

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