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: Frozen River Feale

The Gallant Greenville team, Namir Karim and Blackbirds

Zebra in Fota

Photo by Chris Grayson


There is nothing like a bit of local rivalry to inspire a poet.

The Gallant Greenville Team 

by John B. Keane

Come all ye true born

From here to Healy’s Gate

And I’ll sing for you a verse
or two

As I my tale relate.

You may speak about
Cuchulainn bold

Or the mighty men from Sneem,

But they wouldn’t hold a candle

To that Greenville team.

“Ha-ha!’ says Billeen

“Sure I’ll tackle up my ass

And I’ll put on my brown suit

That I wear goin’ to mass.

I’ll hit the road to Listowel

By the morning’s airy beam,

And I’ll bring home Berkie’s

For the gallant Greenville

“The dry ball won’t suit

Said the pundits from the

But they pulverized the Ashes

and they mesmerised the

Next came the famous Boro,

Their fortunes to redeem,

But they shriveled up like
autumn leaves

Before the Greenville team.

“’Twas the white trout that
done the trick,”

John L was heard to say.

“We ate them morning, noon
and night

In the run-up to the fray.

They hardened up the muscles

And they built up the steam

Until no power on earth could

The gallant Greenville team.”


Dear Old Athea

From; Born in West Limerick on Facebook


This is Namir Karim with his friend and work colleague, Brigitta pictured in Scribes of Church St. Listowel

From Iraq to Listowel

(a love story)

There is nothing ordinary
about Namir. Just one of the extraordinary things about him, is that he is an
Iraqi Christian. Above and beyond that he is a Christian, a living example of
Faith Hope and Charity. His latest Christian act is to start a Friendship Club
in his restaurant in Ballybunion. Twice a week he  hosts a kind of men’s
shed for everyone. He  provides the venue and people can come and sit and
talk and just enjoy a bit of company. Everyone is welcome and if people would
love to come but have no way of getting there , Namir will do what he can to
solve that problem too.

So who is Namir Karim and how
did he find his way to North Kerry?

Namir met his wife who was
then his girlfriend in Iraq. Namir’s mother was very seriously ill and she was
being cared for in a hospital which was run by an Irish organization on behalf
of the Iraqi government. Kay Carr was nursing in this hospital and she grew
fond of her very ill patient and maybe a little fond of her son as well. Kay
advised the Karim family to take their mother home to die. She told Namir that
his mother would go straight to heaven. She had done her suffering on earth.
Namir remembers that as his mother left the hospital, Kay had tears in her
eyes. “ I wondered if the tears were for my mother or for me. Either way it
made me feel good.”

Namir contrived an excuse to
return to the hospital to see Kay. He said that he was having trouble with some
of his mother’s equipment. Kay offered to come to help the family sort it out.
Kay took a big risk in visiting an Iraqi home. Fraternising with the local
people was forbidden for the staff at the hospital. Kay stayed for dinner at
the Karim home that evening . Both she and Namir knew that this was more than
good friendship.

When Kay returned from a
short visit home to Ireland, Namir asked her out. They began seeing each other in
secret and they pledged their love to one another. All students in Iraq at the
time had to spend at least two years in the army. Namir was doing his
compulsort service in the army. He was in his final years of training to be a
civil engineer. A fellow soldier told a superior officer that he had seen Namir
with a ‘foreign’ girl. He got five days
in jail for the offence.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait
Namir’s national service was extended by a year. Initially Kay and the other
Irish citizens were not allowed to leave. Saddam Hussein’s regime was at its
height and it was very dangerous to flout any of his laws. Eventually Kay and
the others were allowed to leave. She bad a tearful farewell to Namir and they
promised they would find a way to be together once the war was over.

When the Gulf war started in
January 1990 all communication with Baghdad was stopped. Namir wanted no part
of the war and he devised a plan to escape active service. There was a rule
that if a soldier donated blood, he was given a week off. During this week,
Namir escaped with his family to a Christian area in northern Iraq. Due to a
very happy coincidence, his disappearance went unnoticed as the office building
based in Baghdad was bombed and destroyed and all records of who should or
should not have been present were destroyed.

When the war ended, Namir
returned to the city and gave a Red Cross worker he met a letter to get to Kay,
who he knew would be worried sick about him. Namir began to plot his escape. He
planned to get over the border into Jordan and if Kay still wanted him he would
sell up what he had in Iraq and fly to her.

Easier said than done. Iraq
did not want skilled engineers leaving at a time when it was trying to rebuild
the country after the devastations of war. Kay still loved him but getting to
her proved very tricky and involved a lot of lying. Love found a way and Namir
and Kay were reunited at Dublin airport on November 5 1992, a day before Kay’s
birthday. They married in a registry office when Namir’s visitor’s visa ran
out. They had their proper church wedding in Kerry in June 1992 with lots of
music, dancing and celebration.

Namir lost no time in assimilating into the Kerry community in which he now lived. He built on the skills he had learned from his mother who was a great cook and crafter. Namir started work in his brother’s restaurant, The Captain’s Table. Since leaving there he has gone on to own his own restaurants and  shops. Nowadays in 2017 Namir has two restaurants, Scribes in Listowel and Namirs in Ballybunion. He also has Craftshop na Méar in Listowel.  Namir has played badminton with the Listowel club and soccer with Lisselton Rovers.

Namir and Kay have two lovely adult children, Roza and Peter. Roza is named after Namir’s beloved mother who was the Cupid who brought Namir and Kay together.

Namir and Roza

More tomorrow


 Blackbirds singing in the Garden of Europe


Mea Culpa

Frozen River Feale 1963

Totally my fault that the link to this great video didn’t work previously.  I have now made the video public. I am grateful to  Charlie Nolan for alerting me to the problem.

This short video was shot by Jimmy Hickey and digitised by Charlie Nolan. It shows some local people walking and skating on the frozen river. Charlie has accompanied the track with the heavenly voice of Joan Mulvihill, who is far too young to remember the frozen river, singing My Silver River Feale.  It’s well worth a watch. Sorry again for messing it up the first time.

Ballybunion, Cameras, a Lenten Story and Listowel’s Plaza Cinema

Rough Seas at Ballybunion 

Photo: Mike Enright


An Old Ciné Camera

Did you watch the old video footage of the frozen river Feale in 1963

This little film was made by a young Jimmy Hickey on the below Kodak Brownie.

The 8 minute film strip ran reel to reel and when you reached the end you rewound it with the winder shown below.

I think you’ll agree that camera technology has come a long way since 1963.


Some Spring Colour in The Garden of Europe


Reminiscences  from Delia O’Sullivan

Lent and Laughing Gas

By Delia O’Sullivan
(published in Lifelines, an anthology of Writing by the Nine Daughters Creative
Writing Group)

In 1950s Ireland Lent was a
time of penance, prayer and self restraint. For forty days and forty nights we
were encouraged by the nuns to give up sweets – a scarce resource anyway.  We were to give our pennies to the missions
instead. The mission box was adorned with pictures of little naked, smiling shy
black children. It was brought out after morning prayers. Each offering was
carefully recorded. The nun said that this was important, as, on reaching the
half crown mark we would then have bought our own black baby. Michael’s mother
was the local maternity nurse and he did well from all her clients, so he was a
clear winner and the only person to reach the target. Michael was told that he
could now name the baby but we were all very disappointed to learn that the
baby would not be travelling. He would stay in Africa. The nun said that maybe
someday Michael would visit him.

When we reached our teens,
we found the dancehalls closed for Lent. The showbands headed for the major
English cities. But every rural village in Ireland had its own dramatic group.
The plays and concerts were not frowned on by the clergy as they brought in
much needed funds for churches and schools. This was a wonderful time for us.
As part of the Irish dancing troupe we travelled on Sunday nights with the
players. We sold raffle tickets, met “fellas” and experienced a freedom that
our parents didn’t even dream of.  We got bolder, inventing concerts in
far-flung area, returning later, saying there was a cancellation.

In 1959 we were student
nurses in London. During Lent we could enjoy the dances and the showband scene
denied in Ireland. But, with only two late passes a week we were restricted.
However we found ways around it – mainly by signing for a late pass in the name
of a fellow student who never went out. One of these was Mrs. Okeke.

As young country girls in
Ireland most of us had never been beyond the nearest small town. In our small
rural Catholic environment, foreigners were the occasional English or American
husband or wife, brought on holidays by an emigrant. They spoke with strange
accents and didn’t seem to understand the rituals of standing and kneeling at
mass. In Ireland I had only ever seen one black person, Prince Monolulu, adorned
with a headdress of feathers and very colorful robes, performing the three card
trick at Listowel Races. We were now part of a multi national society in a huge
teaching hospital. It overlooked Highgate Park where we watched the squirrels
climb trees and nibble at shoots. We also saw a steady flow of visitors to the
grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery. We integrated well, most of us being
of the same age group.

The exception was four
Nigerian ladies who were older and dour. They never smile. One of them, Mrs
Okeke asked us why we stared and , if we laughed, she called us silly girls. Off
duty, they dress in bright robes and huge turbans. They chewed on sticks to
whiten and strengthen their teeth. They cooked spicy foods on the gas rings
which was supposed to be used only for boiling kettles. When reprimanded by the
Home Sister, they pretended not to understand.

It all came to a head on the
day  the anaethestist was giving us a
demonstration of the different types of anaesthetic. We were encouraged to
participate. As Mrs. Okeke’s hand went up for a demonstration of laughing gas,
we all kept our heads down. A small whiff and she was laughing hysterically,
displaying a number of gold teeth. We laughed until our sides were sore.
Suddenly her face took on its usual dour look but by then we were unable to
stop laughing. She couldn’t retaliate with the anaesthetist present.

Some days later we met her on
her way back from the Matron’s office.  She had been asked to explain why her name had
been signed for seven late passes in a row, even though she was convinced that
she had never had a late pass. Her perplexity deepened when one of us suggested
that she was suffering from the after effects of laughing gas.


Help for a Family who have suffered an appalling tragedy


Remembering The Plaza

During the week I posted an old picture of Listowel’s Plaza/Ozanam Centre. Here is the story behind its construction from Vincent Carmody’s Snapshots of an Irish Market Town


Michael Martin met some local people on his walkabout in town yesterday

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