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

Evening in the Small Square


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.

Ads from the seventies a river walk and a few changes in town

Lovely paint job at The Saddle Bar

Martin Chute putting the finishing touches to a lovely sign painting job at The Saddle Bar, Upper William Street.


The River Walk

There is no nicer place for a walk on a summer day than along the bank of the River Feale. I took this walk last Saturday with my 2 grandsons. We went onto the walk from the bridge side. The level of water in the river was really low. Very near the bridge we spotted the crane who lives there.

He was chilling out and surveying his kingdom.

The boys skimmed a few stones and trailed a twig.

The walk is quiet and sheltered from the bustle of traffic.

We came up the road at the back of the Listowel Arms.


McGuire’s Pharmacy new entrance from Main St.


The Light of Other Days

Eamon Keane and Babe Joe Collins with Frank Lewis


A few ads from the seventies

These were the diocesan changes.


In this lovely video by Denis Carroll, Mary John B. talks to her daughter Joanna about Sive and life in rural Ireland in the 1950s….a treasure.

Interview with Mary Keane

What a wise woman she was. There was no poverty when we were all poor because we were all the same.


A Cycling Crusade through Ireland

Kerry Crusaders Cycling Club members are currently cycling from Malin to Mizen in aid of The Irish Red Cross, The Jack and Jill Foundation and Listowel Hospice. You can support their great fundraising venture by clicking HERE


Johnny Buckley, one of the stars of yesterday’s win over Tyrone, has a Listowel mother.

Saturday Supplement and The Royal Munster Fusiliers in WW1 and Pigott Poetry Prize

Don’t Miss This

On Saturday morning next, Feb 22 2014 Radio Kerry will broadcast Frank Lewis’ Saturday Supplement  at 9.00 a.m. This programme is inspired by Vincent Carmody’s book, Listowel: Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850 to 1950.

Vincent’s walking tour of the town is something every Listowel person should experience at least once. If you haven’t done it, put it on your Bucket List.

Now, Thanks to Frank Lewis and Radio Kerry, you can experience this tour at one remove, by listening to it on the radio.

I am honoured to be part of the tour. I was invited by Vincent to read from Listowel greats like D.C Hennessey, John B. Keane, Joseph O’Connor and Seán Ashe. On Sunday morning, when we recorded the programme, I was in the company of illustrious natives like Jim MacMahon, Kay Caball and Gabriel Fitzmaurice. They all had individual and interesting tales to tell. There also were ordinary people, whose voices we are  less used to hearing on the airwaves like Martin Griffin, Liam Grimes and Diane Nolan. What all these people have in common is that they are North Kerry born and bred. While my love for Listowel is undoubted, my pedigree is not pure. I only made my way to the Kingdom in 1975. But I think people are willing to forget that now and I am proud to take my place among native Listowellians.

Chalk it down: Radio Kerry, Feb. 22 2014 9.00 a.m.

Below are some photographs I took on the day of the recording, Feb. 2nd 2014

The gang are gathered at Jet O’Carroll’s, across the road from Galvin’s off licence and Vincent is telling the listeners the story of the mosaic shop front.

We called to this house, a few doors up from the post office in Upper William Street. In the front room, for we were expected, a candle burned before an icon of De Valera and the walls were adorned by memorabilia from the White House. This house was once the home of Kathy Buckley who, along with 2 other North Kerry girls, worked in the kitchen at The White House during the reigns of 2 presidents.

Back on the street, Brian MacCaffrey, who was married to Kathy Buckley’s niece, told Frank Lewis all about her and her adventures.

Martin Griffin, Brian MacCaffrey and his son, John listen intently while Vincent tells another story.

On Church Street Vincent told us about the place where it was easier to write then not to write. We heard the story of John B.s lovely poem, The Street. Several others of the street’s pantheon of writers were also mentioned.

You will not be able to see this on radio but we got to admire the work of Patrick MacAuliffe and The Cement God and the beautiful handiwork of The Chute Family, Listowel painters for 5 generations.  Vincent told us what John B. used to tell visitors who asked him to explain the significance of the inscriptions in three languages.

Gabriel Fitzmaurice sang, recited and told stories to beat the band.

At John B.’s statue in The Small Square I got to read John B.s account of the Tom Doodle adventure. Liam Grimes was actually there on the night of the great Doodle rally.

We finished our tour at the castle where Diane told us the history of the castle and Joan Mulvihill, who had entertained us with song all along the route, sang one final local ballad. I’m delighted that I recorded it for you.

So here it is again:


This recruiting poster is one of many photographs on a website devoted to Irish regiments in WW1.

Eternal Fame? I don’t think so.


Who is this?

This is Mark Pigott

What is his Listowel connection?

His family roots are in Listowel.

Why is he in the Listowel news right now?

Wait for it! This man is a very very successful business man in the U.S. His company is called Piccar. Read all about it here

AND he has just endowed Listowel Writers Week with a huge poetry prize. This man is a lover of the arts and a philanthropist. He has decided to share some of his vast wealth with poets. He has decided to do this in the form of a prize at Writers’ Week.

Read all about it here:

This huge prize, along with Kerry Group’s  long standing sponsorship of the Book of the Year puts Writers’ Week right up there with the big international Arts festivals.


Weather photographs and Frank Lewis’ Listowel Walk

Today I’m going to bring you some idea of our recent weather as captured by the cameras of better photographers than me.

 Clogher Head by Peter Cox

Fasnet lighthouse by Peter Cox

Flood outside Adare golf club by Jessica Hilliard

Valencia by Valerie O’Sullivan


Meanwhile Jim MacSweeney and Timothy John MacSweeney (no relation) were out photographing birds


N.B. A date for the diary

Last Sunday I went walkabout with Vincent Carmody and Frank Lewis. The programme, a walking tour of Listowel, will be broadcast on Radio Kerry on Feb 22 in Frank Lewis’ Saturday Supplement. The entire 2 hour programme from 9.00 to 11.00 will be from Listowel. I think you will enjoy it. I certainly did.

Here are a few photos I took on the day

Frank Lewis interviewing Vincent as we set out on the walk

Gabriel Fitzmaurice is a programme maker’s dream. He had anecdotes, stories, poems and songs and was quick on his feet when thrown a curve ball question. Nothing on this tour was rehearsed…well prepared, yes, but the first take was the last take.

 Frank interviewing Kay Moloney about the Famine in Listowel

Martin Griffin told stories of local characters a few Lartigue anecdotes.

Jim MacMahon talked of Church Street then and now.

Joan Mulvihill gave a vituoso performance of the songs of the local bards. She also reminisced about her childhood in The Gleann.


If any Irish parish wants to know how to put together an heirloom of a community magazine they should look to Ballydonoghue, Co. Kerry. This year’s publication is a triumph and the committee are to be congratulated on a job thoroughly well done.

If anyone wants to know how to do a launch, again Ballydonoghue gives a master class every December.

I was in Tomáisín’s on Friday night and it was a great hooley.

Frank Lewis of Killarney and Radio Kerry did the honours on the night. He has been a regular in Ballydonoghue over the past few months where he has been talking to the parish raconteur, Mick Finucane, who, unfortunately, could not make it to the launch. Mick has become a star on Radio Kerry with his tales and stories. Frank Lewis understands the value of recording people like Mick Finucane and future generations will be grateful to him for the work he is doing in this regard.

James Finnerty is the chairman of the magazine committee and he paid just praise to all his fellow workers.

Bhí rogha gach bia is togha gach dí on the night and here are two of the ladies who greeted me at the door and made me welcome with a warm cup of tea on a very cold night.

Sean Lynch and John Stack recorded the night in photographs and John McGrath was everywhere taking informal shots.

The walls were adorned on the night with the artwork of Eamie Kissane. Jimmy Deenihan was there  to launch this art exhibition. Jimmy paid tribute to his friend who was an artist by nature but also a football man and, above all, a doggy man. Though Eamie did not share Jimmy’s political views it was clear that Jimmy had a deep respect and admiration for the man. His widow, son and family were there in Tomáisín’s on the night to share in the celebration of a local great.

Vincent Carmody is a contributor to the magazine. Here he is in chat with Jimmy.

Yours truly is also a contributor. Here I am receiving my prize for my winning photo.

Entertainment on the night was provided by Stevie Donegan. No better man….

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