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

Tag: Frances Kennedy Page 1 of 2

Harp and Lion in Sept 2019, Raceweek Memories nd First Storytelling Festival

Harp and Lion, Listowel’s Most Beautiful Shopfront


The next stage in the transformation is the sign painting. Martin Chute, Mr. Signs, is doing a magnificent job.


I took this photo on Sept 5 2019 when there was still some work to be done.

While I was photographing Martin, Liz MacAuliffe came by and stopped to admire the work.

I think both their ancestors would be happy with how it looks today.






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Raceweek Memories



by Vincent Carmody


Apart from the fine fresh air and friendship that you will have in abundance at the races, the only other thing free for the week is the free draw each day, entry forms to be found on the day’s race card.

Race card kiosks are located in several areas of the enclosure.

In my previous lookback, I mentioned Paul Kennelly of Woodford.  He used to be assisted in putting up the decorations by several of his sons. One by one over time, they emigrated to seek their fortunes in England. Like many before them, they worked hard and prospered. Murt, having done well, decided to become a racehorse owner. Among the horses that he owned was Bregawn. In 1983 Murt achieved what most owners and trainers would only dream of, by winning the Gold Cup in Cheltenham. It could not happen to a nicer man and family.

The weekend prior to the races would see an influx of returning emigrants arriving at the Railway Station. The Races was the one time of the year where anyone away would make an big effort to return back to town and meet up with old friends. 

  

Tuesday used be the first day of the three day meeting. Many lads, like myself, would be down early outside the Race Company Office in the Square; our mission, to collect race cards for the day. This was another money making project for us young fellows. Each card would be sold for one old shilling and we would take three old pence for each one sold. On getting the cards, a bee line would then be made to the Railway Station, where each race day morning at least four packed “specials” would arrive.  It used be like London’s Euston station. We used work in teams of three, with one always ready to cycle down to the Square to get fresh supplies. 

Here we were also introduced for the first time to the Dublin fruit and sweet sellers. We used to call them the Molly Malones. Afterwards we got used to their cry, “apples, pears and ripe bananas!”. 

Any cards we had left after the railway station would be sold around the streets. 

One year I decided to go into business on my own, running a bicycle park. A bike would have been the most common form of transport for a lot of country men in the mid 1950s. Each day of the races from mid-morning droves of country men from the northern end of the county would come down the Ballylongford Road to the town. By taking up a position on top of the bridge I could easily canvas likely contenders who would have dismounted and walked up the far side and who wanted their bike parked safely for the day. Having secured a customer, I would take him down to our yard, give him a ticket, get paid and then rush back up to the bridge again. By early afternoon customers would have dried up so it was then off over to The Island. 

Our racedays were spent like most others out in the field opposite the stand. Not like today, where the field is used as a carpark, it was in those days similar to the opposite enclosure, albeit without a stand.  It had  bookies, bars, Tote and every other facility, even including swinging boats. Evening time offered the magic of the market, and for the week the cinemas would run a second film showing. 

Back to the bicycle park. The less said about the bicycle park the better. Having got my sister to help out in the early part of the evening, I then had to take up duty. On that particular night it was after five in the morning before the last bike was claimed. My mother and father said they had no sleep with all the comings and goings, so that finished that idea.

A friend, Dr. Philip O Carroll, now domiciled in Newport Beach in California, reminded me of Bryan McMahon’s classic Listowel ballad, ‘Lovely Listowel’ first printed by Bob Cuthbertson and sold on an original penny ballad sheet. I have a copy and I would like to share it with all of those Listowel people around the world who could not join us this year.

Oh, Puck may be famous and Galway be grand,

And the praise of Tramore echo down through the land,

But I’ll sing you a ballad and beauty extol,

As I found it long ‘ go in the Town of Listowel.

I’ve been to Bundoran, I’ve rambled to Bray,

I’ve footed to Bantry with it’s beautiful bay,

But I’d barter their charms, I would, pon my soul,

For the week of the Races in Lovely Listowel.

There were Bookies and Bagmen and Bankers and all,

Biddy Mulligan was there with a green-coloured shawl,

And a cute little boy pitching pence in a bowl,

Took me down for a crown in the Town of Listowel.

The Hawkers were kissing and bleeding as well,

We had Hoop-La and Loop-La and the ‘oul Bagatelle,

And silver-tongued gents sure I’d bet they’d cajole,

A pound from a miser in the Town of Listowel.

Beyond on the course there was silk flashing past, 

The unfortunate nag that I backed he was last,

When he ran the wrong way sure I lost my control,

And I prayed for the trainer and Lovely Listowel.

Oh night time, how are you-the night sure ’twas day,

And the stars in the sky sure they looked down in dismay,

And they sez to the moon then in accents so droll,

‘You’re done, for the sun shines to-night in Listowel’

And you’d travel the land to see maidens so rare,

With buckles and pearls and grace I declare,

In my troubles and toils there is one can console,

she’s a wife, be me life, from the Town of Listowel.

My rhyming is over, God bless those who heard,

For I’ll take to the roads and go off like a bird,

And before I depart well you all must pay toll,

So three cheers for the Races and Lovely Listowel.

   

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Inaurgural International Storytelling Festival




This is some of the line up of storytellers for a marathon storytelling session in Kerry Writers’ Centre on Sept 7 2019. Missing from the picture are local storyteller Bryan Murphy and balladeer, Mickey McConnell.        

Farm tasks in the 1940s, O’Connell’s Ave. grotto and More from Storied Kerry Meitheal in Killarney

Evening in the Small Square

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Out of the Blue


This is the beautifully repainted Catch of the Day. Blue seems to be the favourite colour of shop owners for 2018.

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Tough Tasks on the Farm

The following extract is taken from Jim Costelloe’s great rural memoir of Asdee in the 1940’s and ’50s


Anyone who has spread fertilizer by hand from a bucket will surely agree it was a horrible task. One’s face, eyes and clothes were covered with the basic slag when finished. The worst part was the taste in the mouth as a lot of it went down our throats. Face masks were never used and our lungs must have been congested judging by the amount that went up our nostrils and into our mouths.

Another unpleasant and tough task in my youth was trying to light the kitchen fire with bad turf and wet sticks on a cold frosty morning. Without the fire there was no heat whatsoever in the house and no way of boiling the kettle for a sup of tea.

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The Grotto


I love it when this happens. I take a picture and I post it on here. It evokes a memory for someone or someone goes and looks up the history and they share it with us here in Listowel Connection. It’s a bit like how Facebook used to work.

Marie Nelligan Shaw wrote; “Remember well when the grotto at the junction of O’Connells Avenue was blessed and dedicated. The yellow house on the right of the photo was occupied by a lovely lady named Mrs Collins. She took very good care of it while she lived.”


And Jer Kennelly found this;  

Kerry Champion 14 August 1954

Consecration of Listowel Shrine erected at O’Connell’s Avenue, Listowel. Erected by voluntary labour. Statue and railings were donated. Subscriptions were mainly from the residents, all the organising committee are from the Avenue. (See paper for full report, blessing on Sunday next)

Kerry Champion 21 August 1954

Beautiful Grotto at O’Connell’s Avenue was blessed by P J Canon Brennan, P.P. V.F accompanied by two curates Frs Dillon and Moore. Windows in the avenue were also decorated. 

Kerry Champion 1928-1958, Saturday, September 04, 1954; Section: Front page, Page: 1

Bishop’s Visit to Listowel

Most Rev. Doctor Moynihan, Bishop of Kerry visited Listowel on Friday evening last and went to O’Connell’s Avenue to see the Marian Year shrine which has been erected there. His Lordship was accompanied by Canon Brennan who blessed the shrine on August 16th last.

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Storied Kerry


Storied Kerry is the brainchild of Frank Lewis. He gathered together a meitheal of Kerry people to start this new story in the life of Kerry on Saturday, October 27 2018.

The stories told  on Saturday were all excellent. They were told in the old style with a one person storyteller and an attentive audience. Above is master story teller, Seán Lyons, who regaled us with a Halloween appropriate tale, set in a graveyard. It was a story about motivation. If you fall into a newly dug grave at Halloween there is no better motivator  to get you out again than meeting up with the previous occupant.



Storytellers, Batt Burns and Frances Kennedy were there.

Part of the North Kerry contingent, Frances, Joe Murphy and Mary Kennelly

Frances told us a tale of smelly feet and smelly breath in her unique and always entertaining style.



Frank and Joe share a funny moment.

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Ireland’s Fittest Families




For people reading this who don’t live in Ireland, Ireland’s Fittest Family is a reality tv show on RTE, in which families of four adults compete against each other in gruelling army boot camp like tasks. Each week one family is eliminated until we are left with Ireland’s fittest family. The families are mentored by well known retired sports personalities.

The Listowel connection is the involvement of Roibeard Pierse and his three children in this year’s contest.

The programme started airing on TV on Sunday October 28 2018 and the Pierse family which the programme calls The Pierses did very well.

The photo above is from the programme’s Facebook page and below is what they say about The Pierses;

From Kerry, the Pierses are making a bid for a win for the Kingdom. Father Riobard (50) works as a solicitor and is a keen runner, focusing on 5ks. He also co-founded the Listowel park run and is the manager of Cliona’s Listowel Emmets u16 ladies team.

His son Oran (20) became the U18 Munster Cycling Champion in 2016. Has also won the Senior Kerry Road Race League and raced internationally for the Munster Team.

His brother Ciarán (18) Plays Gaelic football with UL freshers team and Listowel Emmets seniors. A good leader himself, he captained Listowel to victory in the minor county league in 2017 and has played in two All-Ireland finals in the community games. Cliona (15) does one better, having taken part in the All-Ireland community games finals five years in a row in athletics, Gaelic football, soccer and futsal twice. She also plays soccer with the Listowel Celtic team. 

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A Tender Moment






This has to be one of the nicest photographs from the recent presidential election. I dont know who took it.

In the horrible bruising campaign for the Presidency of Ireland in 2018, when even the candidate’s dogs were dragged into the carnage, Sabina Higgins was the loyal, dignified and loving presence by her husband’s side. She is everything I would want in a first lady.

Listowel Endurance Festival, Ballybunion defibrillator, a St. Michael’s Reunion and Badminton has started

Seán Mac an tSíthigh shared this photo of An Fear Marbh on Twitter

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This event took place in Listowel on the weekend of September 22 and 23. Athletes ran 3 hour, 6 hour 12 hour or 24 hour loops of Listowel Town Park.  Respect!

Photos from Listowel Endurance facebook page. And yes, that runner is barefoot!

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Such a good Idea


This is Ballybunion’s newest defibrillator. Every town now seems to have several of these lifesaving machines which I am told are really easy to use. In Ballybunion they have built a concrete replica of an old phone box and put their newest defibrillator in it. It is a great idea to have it visibly accessible in case of emergency. I’m probably missing something, but it seems to need a code to open the door!

I took three pictures so you could see exactly where the box is.

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1968 Old Boys Reunion


Michael Moriarty sent me a few photos from the recent reunion of the 1968 St. Michael’s class.

 “One of the photos is of our surviving teachers along with the present principal, Johnnie Mulvihill, all of whom were our guests at our dinner on Sat 8th Sept. We had a wonderful weekend. We met up for an informal “meet and greet” on the Friday evening (complete with name tags!). On Saturday morning we were in St. Michael’s where Johnnie Mulvihill gave us a guided tour of the college including the room where we attempted to sit in the same seats we had in our Leaving Cert year. We were also treated to a tasty reception in the college. In the afternoon We had a guided tour of the town led by Vincent Carmody which was very informative both to those of us who are residents of the town and the lads who are scattered throughout Ireland and beyond.”

At the door of Listowel Garda Station Vincent Carmody, their historian guide took this photo during their Guided walk around Listowel;

 Front row: Seamus O’Donovan, Willie Keane, Jerry O’Flaherty, yours truly, my younger brother Tom, Paul O’Brien.

 Second row: Christy Sheehy, Michael Moran, Michael Crowley, Teddy Murphy. 

Back row; Maurice O’Connell, Tadhg Leahy, Ned O’Sullivan, Liam Cummins, Pat Flaherty. 

Mike Moriarty kindly gave me a bit of information on the Listowel connection of the old boys;


Seamus O’Donovan is a brother of Stephen O’Donovan, Upper William St.

 Willie Keane is a brother of Norita Killeen.

Jerry O’Flaherty grew up in the house that was incorporated into Allo’s when that restaurant expanded.

Paul O’Brien is a brother to Carmel Harnett, whose daughter runs the creche at the top of Cahirdown.

Michael Moran is from Billerough out near the six crosses.

Michael Crowley grew up in the house that is now Doran’s Pharmacy.

Teddy Murphy is a brother of Margaret Murphy who works with Dr. Daly.

Maurice O’Connell is a brother of Thomas the builder and is married to Alice Gleeson who grew up where Jumbo’s is now.

Tadhg Leahy is a brother of John (taxi man) and grew up in Leahy’s Drapery in Market St. Tadhg and myself married two sisters!

Liam Cummins is a native of Ballybunion. Came in by bus each morning but had to thumb home. Retired guard now living in Abbeyfeale.

Pat Flaherty, an only child, grew up in the Red Cottages in Cahirdown and comes home frequently from Dublin.

Christy Sheehy of Listowel

Ned O’Sullivan…no introduction necessary

    So there were plenty drapers’ sons in the class; Tadhg Leahy, Ned Sullivan and the two Moriartys.

John Molyneaux Snr., Johnnie Mulvihill, John Flaherty, Billy  Eggleston, Maurice McMahon, Pat Given.

This is a photograph of the official photograph by Liam Kelly

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Leave the Kids at Home




On Oct 19th in St. John’s Theatre, Listowel at 8.00p.m. Frances Kennedy will present her one woman show, The Scandal of the Parish. Expect songs, stories and adult humour.

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You Know it’s Winter When……



Junior Griffin takes to verse to announce the beginning of the badminton season.

Listowel Badminton Club

Serving the Shuttle in Listowel since 1908

Looking to pass the Winter,

Hoping to seek your fame,

For skill, craic and friendship

Then Badminton is your game

              Jnr  Griffin

New Members especially welcome

Join us at 

St.Michael’s Gym

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 

8 ‘til late

Community Centre

Thursday 8pm. to 10pm.

                          Enjoy the worlds fastest Racket Sport


Coaching for Beginners    

                          Contacts; James; 087 7851260; Margaret; 087 9604361;      

                        Cindy; 087  1144802

Tom; 087 8568727. Mark; 087 2119172; Junior; 087 9107929

McKenna’s former staff at the book launch and Wrenboys’ Night in Listowel in September 2018

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To Celebrate Listowel’s win in the Tidy Town Competition 2018



Here are some more photos from our lovely town.

These were  taken last Tuesday by the Feale.

” My heart, tonight, is lonely for my sire land

Though many miles of ocean lie between

My heart tonight is home again Ireland

Upon thy banks, my silver river Feale’

These lines from Bryan MacMahon’s Silver River Feale are a thank you mention to all the emigrants who have contacted me to tell me how they long to be in Listowel to celebrate the town’s victory in the Tidy Town competition.

Listowel has a very proud diaspora.

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At the Launch of Spoilt Rotten


Former staff, former customers, family and friends were on hand to congratulate Jack McKenna on reaching the 100 and on starring in this book about his life, Spoilt Rotten

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Wrenboys Competition, Listowel, Sept 14 2018



As I came out of Allos after a delicious meal in great company following an enjoyable day at the Races, what is making its way down Church Street but a procession of wren boys  on their way to the Square for the annual Harvest Festival Wrenboy competition?

I learned later that this was the Ballybunion troupe who were first up on stage.The spectacle was amazing with the procession being led by 2 men with lighted sods of turf on pitchforks leading the way. The colour, the music and the sheer joy of it all was magical to behold.

A good crowd had gathered on the streets to cheer them on.

The “king’ was resplendent in crown and cape.

Bean an Tí for the night was Frances Kennedy. She played her part to perfection and she and the fear an Tí told stories to beat the band.

It was a joy to see so many talented young people among the dancers, singers and musicians. The future of Irish culture is in safe hands.

Frances won the overall prize for the best individual performance.

Owen MacMahon was an inspired choice as M.C. He did a super job.

The night was wet and cold so I didn’t stay to see the others groups. Kileedy won and they were excellent as were all the performers on a great night in town.


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An Invitation



 In St. John’s on Monday evening next at 7.00p.m. Dillon Boyer is planning an information evening about Palliative Care and the work of the Palliative Care Unit in KUH.

The evening will also feature an exhibition of Dillon’s photographs.

Knockanure, Charles Street friends, Fr. Roger and Doran’s Pharmacy, Church Street

Photo: Chris Grayson

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Knockanure parish church in May 2018

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First Communion, Knockanure May 2018


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Boyhood Friends


Martin Griffin gave me this old photo to share with you.

In front;  Billy Dore, Dominick Scanlon and Richie Chute R.I.P.

Back Buddy Jones and Frank Chute

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Convent Chapel May 2018



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R.I.P.   Fr. Roger Duggan

Last week I attended the funeral mass of Fr. Roger Duggan in St. Mary’s Listowel. It was a small funeral, because, in the words of Fr. John Fitzgerald who celebrated the mass, Roger had become a Kerryman only recently.

Fr. Roger was far from “unknown” and during his life he had travelled and served and sang and had many adventures.

As was fitting for a man who loved music his funeral mass featured some of the most heavenly music I have heard in St. Mary’s, Listowel.

So who was this gentle holy man?

Fr. Roger Duggan was the only brother of Una Hayes, whom I have come to know through our both belonging to the  Knitwits knitting group.

Una and Roger were born in Wales to Irish parents. They moved to Birmingham and it is here that Roger and Una grew up.

Roger worked in Wales, in England and eventually in Australia. His cv is very diverse. He worked in taxation, in sheep shearing, in the hospitality industry and in railway building.

Eventually this very intelligent and well read man decided on a life in the religious order of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.  He was ordained in 1993 and spent his life in ministry in Australia.

When he retired, he relocated to Cork. He took up a new role as chaplain to the local convent and he helped out with the work of the parish.

When he fell into ill health it was decided that he would be happiest nearer to his beloved Una and her husband Liam and so he spent his last years being well looked after in Oaklands Nursing Home.

May he rest in peace

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Doran’s Pharmacy, Listowel opening





I disturbed Norma and staff as they put the finishing touches to her new shop. Outside, the final brush was being put to the paint.

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Things ar Hotting up in the Writers’ Week office




All hands on deck, shoulders to the wheel and noses to the grindstone. Writers Week 2018 is 2 days away.



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Nathan Carter meets a Star and her husband



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