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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Listowel Races 2016 and Smalltown

It’s Raceweek 2016

I went to the island on Sunday Sept 11 2016. The crowd was small. The weather was cold and very windy and there is a long week ahead so many people found something else to do. The attendance at the Ballyduff Kilmoyley hurling replay was massive. Lots of reasons why people stayed away but I enjoyed having the place to myself to explore.

You’d never know who you’d run into on the island.

Bishop Ray seemed to be enjoying himself with his Listowel hosts, Shane and Jim.

Jimmy Hickey was there with friends. He has promised to give us a real treat very soon. He is going to give me some old footage of Listowel dancers on trips abroad. When I get my hands on it I’ll be sharing it with you on Listowel Connection.

The Sheahan family have a long association with Listowel Races.

These fellows were there to keep the children entertained. They were very popular.

This is the parade ring. Every year it gets a bit of a facelift. This year it is looking particularly spruce.

If your horse is first pat the post next time round, the parade ring is the place to be to see him coming in and his jockey dismounting. Then follows the debrief with the trainer and connections.

If you are lucky enough to get a ringside seat, you also get to see the winner being presented with his prize. Ringside seats were easier than usual to come by on Sunday.

I never knew there were so many different bridles available for racehorses. From my seat at ringside I observed that practically every horse that passed was sporting a different bridle. I think we used to call them winkers.


The Custom Gap

First glimpse  as you come into The Square for Listowel Race Week 2016


Did you watch Smalltown? It is the most gut wrenching show you will see in a long time. It is absolutely brilliant and it was made by a Listowel man.

It is a story about family, a rural Irish family who love one another but can’t express it in words. They don’t talk to one another much and when they do, it is often the wrong words that come out.

The two things that unite them are preparing food for one another and watching TV together.

Conor, the prodigal son, comes home to be present with his family in the final weeks of his mother’s life. Everything in his home town is the same and everything has changed. His awkwardness is so well captured we all know a Conor and we’ve all felt some of Conor’s feelings at times.

The family is breaking up, mother is dying in “the room”, Tom is out with his cattle and his farmyard chores, Conor is eating alone at the kitchen table and Timmy is watching other families resolve their problems in shouting matches on The Jeremy Kyle Show.

Conor cooks a meal for the family in a ham fisted effort at drawing them together. Funnily, just like these things happen in real life, the exposure to foreign “culture” works and the family eat the “shit” together in the bedroom while laughing together at some stupid show on TV. We just know as they do that this will probably be their last meal together and maybe their last happy memory as a family.

“For love, all love of other sights controls, 

And makes one little room an everywhere. ” John Donne

There is a scene in episode two when Tom, stripped to his bedtime attire of vest and boxer shorts,  slowly quenches the candles that light the room and climbs into the cold hospital bed beside his dying wife. She tries to comfort him as he tries to draw strength from the shell who once was his rock.  The scene is so well done, I challenge anyone to watch it without a tear.

There is loads more to Smalltown. I can’t wait for this Thursday when the mother will inevitably die. Will the English girlfriend come to the funeral? How will that go down?

I have never seen a Gerard Barrett film through to the end. Pilgrim Hill was so heart breakingly gloomy that I gave up. I didn’t venture to Grassland. Smalltown has won me over. I’ll definitely be at the next Gerard Barrett movie.

TV Licences, Console

He’s Come a Long Way

 Pat Shortt is in the centre of this RTE photo. That was back in the day when he was part of the hugely successful D’Unbelievables. Now Shortt has  become known as a serious actor. His latest venture is Gerard Barrett’s Smalltown. Apropos of that, a little birdie tells me that Miriam O’Callaghan might have a few guests we will all know on Saturday night.

This contraption was supposed to detect if you had a TV so that the TV licence inspector could call and frighten the life out of you if you didn’t have a licence


They Haven’t Gone Away, You Know

 Spotted this week in Ballincollig


Question in Parliament 1899

From this exchange in parliament in June 1899 it would appear that the idea of Muckross as a National Park was mooted well before the Bourne Vincent bequest 

Mr Lough asked the First Lord of the Treasury whether £90,600 had been realised by the sale of Quit and Crown rents in Ireland between the years 1891 and 1897, and since 1864 nearly a quarter of a million had been obtained from this source; and whether these monies were being used for the purchase of estates in Great Britain; if so whether the Government would be prepared to appropriate a portion of this Irish fund, which is being withdraw from Ireland at the rate of about £2,000 a year for the purchase of the Muckross demesne at Killarney as a national park ?

Mr A J Balfour—The statement of figures is, I believe, quite accurate, but I do not think this can be made a question a between the expenditure of Imperial money in Ireland and expenditure of Imperial money in England. None of the money which has come from the sources referred to has been expended in England upon parks outside the metropolitan area. The policy of purchasing public parks so far from great centres of population, and which would not be of great value to the public during many winter months, seems very doubtful, indeed.

Mr MacNeill-Is the right hon gentleman aware  that a good deal of this money has been expended in connection with the Royal palaces ?

Mr Balfour—I was not aware of that. It may be so, but I have made no inquiries on that point.

Church St., Poverty in Kerry in 1898 and The Manly Barber on Charles Street

Church St. Listowel Sunday August 14 2016


Now and Then



When Times were Hard

Kerry Sentinel  Wednesday, February 16, 1898


Speaking on the distress in Kerry on Friday night, Mr. Flavin said he did not desire to needlessly prolong the debate, but at the same time he might say that he had little hope of obtaining anything like generous treatment or anything in the nature of a remedy from the Chief Secretary (hear, hear). 

He had made complaints before about the condition of the poor people, and he received no response from the Chief Secretary. He appealed to the right hon. gentleman last year at a time when most of the labouring population in the Listowel Union were in want of work, but nothing came of it. They were told to fall back upon the union for relief. But the fact was that the poor rates now in the Listowel Union were as much as 15s. in the pound, and the ratepayers could not bear any additional burden. 

Unless the Government stepped in to prevent it, there would be great distress in Kerry. There were no seed potatoes and no seed oats, and what seed there was in Kerry and Munster had come from the North of Ireland and from Scotland. So long as the Chief Secretary preferred the statements of his own inspectors to even those of the landlords in Kerry, and the representatives of the people, there was little hope of anything of a beneficial character being done for the people of the poorer districts (hear, hear)


I Met him on William St.

Pat Walsh favours pedal power. Pat was cycling before it became a fashionable means of transport.


Manctuary is now The Manly Barber

This shop has pinned its colours to the mast. In case there was any doubt; It is now clearly men only.


Strange Things in the Sea off Kerry this year

First it was jellyfish, now this is reported in Afloat Magazine

A miniature unmanned
sailing boat has been reported off the Kerry coast after nearly three years in
the North Atlantic.

The boat, named
West, is part of the Educational Passages project
by the Middle
School of Westbrook in Maine, USA and is one of five boats the Sebago School
Alliance sent out in the autumn and winter of 2013-14.

West was launched off
Georges Bank along with one other boat by Bro Cote, a lobsterman out of
Hyannis, Massachusetts. Several others were launched about the same time off
the Mid-East coast of the United States and off the Canary Islands for the marine science

“We had hoped the boat
would make the complete circle of the Atlantic Ocean. It has and then some,”
say the project organsiers about West, which has been spotted 32 nautical miles
from the Kerry coastline.

West could arrive in
the Kerry area over the next few days or, depending upon weather conditions,
may go further northwards towards the Galway coast.

Previously West made
landfall in November 2014 when it crashed on rocks in rough seas off Portugal,
where it was recovered by local authorities and repaired with the help of local
companies and relaunched from Lisbon in June last year.

Four months later, it
was recovered entering the Mediterranean, refurbished again and put on a cargo
ship to Madeira and relaunched from there on 28 January this year.

The project
co-ordinators have asked for assistance to help rescue the boat when it arrives
in the coming days

“It would be great if
the boat could be recovered at sea or shortly after landing to avoid


Coming Soon to a small screen in your living room

Gerard Barrett’s Smalltown promises to be one of those close to the bone series. It will be the rural equivalent of Love Hate, holding the mirror up to  aspects of today’s Ireland we may all recognise.

I heard about Smalltown first from Fr. Pat Moore who wrote about it in his very thought provoking blog. Read it here:  Strength within, Support without


Knockanure Vintage Day 2016

Knockanure Local went to the vintage day and here are his photos

Hollywood wedding, Closure of Mai Fitz’s and an Athea play in rehearsal

Kanturk Hillwalkers climbed Mangerton this week.


Celebrity Wedding in Listowel

Photo: The Listowel Arms Hotel

Duagh film producer, Gerard Barrett wed Gráinne O’Sullivan of Listowel in St. Mary’s on January 3 2016.

Fr. Pat Moore gave a beautiful homily which Billy Keane shared with us all in his Irish Independent column

“None of us comes to a relationship with empty hands. We are all formed in homes, whether in Bedford or Carrueragh. We carry in the blood or in the mind the images of those who have loved us and whom we have loved. We carry damage, too, wherever we are wounded.

“These images we have carried for years, they are set in the mind, they are the lenses through which we view things. So often we can’t see through the net of these patterns. The magic of love is what Grainne and Ger have. It releases an energy.

“New thresholds have opened up. And the grace of new beginnings. Life quickens with new possibilities, fresh invitations, when a couple sense the complexity and delight of it all.”

Read on Here


Another One Bites the Dust

After trading on William Street for the past six years, Mai Fitz’s closed its doors last weekend.  

Photo: John Kelliher


Lartigue’s Ingenius design

Photos: Nicky Leonard


Something to Look Forward To

“Rehearsals are progressing very well for Athea Drama Group’s upcoming production of ‘The Hen Night Epiphany’ which will be staged in late February. Directed by Oliver McGrath, this is a heart lifting tale that tells the story of five women who meet up for a night of fun and laughter that ultimately leaves their lives turned upside down. The cast features Annette O’Donnell, Angeline O’Donnell, Nora Hunt, Louise Ahern & Ria Browne.”         (source:Athea Limerick)


Little Piece of Heaven

Photo:Ballylongford Snaps

The Battery, Carrig Island, Ballylongford, Co.Kerry


Rallying the troops in 1901

West Coast
Times , Issue 11877, 17 April 1901, Page 4

According to Lord Roseberry, as
quoted by the Saturday Review,” two most queenly acts

 of  Queen Victoria’s life were her visit to
London in the dark days of Colenso and

Spion Kop when Ladysmith, Kimberley,
and Mafeking were all invested, and her visit to Ireland in the following

By coming suddenly to London during
that terrible winter

of 1889-1900, the aged Queen bade
the citizens of her capital be of good cheer, and reminded them that she had
lived through the Indian Mutiny.

According to newspaper accounts at the time  Nine miles of decorations have been erected between Kingstown and Phoenix Park in Dublin, and £10,000 spent in illuminations, in honour of the Queen’s visit. “

 “By crossing over to Ireland, in a state of health that was already infirm, she personally thanked the Irish for the bravery of their countrymen on the field of battle.”

The queen was, of course, Victoria, whose long reign has now been surpassed by the present queen, Elizabeth.

Spring, A Night of Terror and Ballybunion Nuns’ Beach and Drama in St. John’s

Spring is Late in 2015

Timothy John MacSweeney took this photo of mother and baby last week.


Listowel’s Underworld!

While searching on for something entirely different I came across this great story from Vincent Carmody

“An older friend once told me of a true incident which he witnessed along with 5 other locals, while drinking after hours in a candlelit bar belonging to Griffins (afterwards Toddy O’Connor’s and now Hy Brazil boutique in Church St. ) The weather had been bad and the night wet and windy. The local men were discussing the topics of the day, when there was an almighty noise and an ashen faced Mr. Griffin started shouting, “It’s an earthquake”. Pandemonium set in. Three hit for the front door and the others jumped the counter to rescue the boss. What they saw on the floor was a hole which my friend said you could fit a donkeyload of turf into. Into this and down into a torrential stream had fallen two firkins of stout which had been stored under the counter. Mr. Griffin, who was in a state of shock, saw two months profit vanishing in front of him. He made several efforts to go down after the barrells, (At this time they would probably be sailing under The Freezers) only to be restrained by those present. An enquiry found that the roof of the Church St. drain had caved in. It was said afterwards that a sober rat was not to be found near Tae lane.”

(Note: The premises in question is now closed and Freezers is now Lynch’s Coffee Shop)


Ballybunion Nuns’ Beach

( Photos: Mike Enright)


The Cancer Bus

“This problem may not be yours today but it could be someday.” If you live in Kerry and you are diagnosed with cancer and require treatment, more than likely you will have to travel to Cork at least once a week for your treatment. This is where this marvelous service comes in. The bus travels all over Kerry collecting people and taking them to Cork hospitals for chemo, radium or other cancer treatments.

The service is completely free, no need for a medical card.

Cork Kerry Health Link Bus


The best part of this service is that people who are traveling with you are all in the same boat. It is like a traveling support group. People help and support one another. They chat and gossip and I am told that at times they even have a sing song. For many it is an invaluable part of their cancer journey.

The Irish Examiner had a great article on this service on Saturday April 4 2015.

Take a Lesson in Life on the Kerry Cancer Bus


A Very Successful North Kerry man

(photo and story from The Galway Advertiser)

Galway Advertiser

Driving home to County Kerry, to help his father with some
cattle farming, was not the time Gerard Barrett expected to receive a call from
Hollywood A-lister Charlize Theron, asking him to script and direct a film she
is producing.

Glasslandtells the story of John (Jack Raynor
), a young man from a rough and terribly disadvantaged working class estate in
Dublin. A former drug dealer and criminal, he has turned his back on crime and
is now trying to earn an honest living as a taximan. Yet, freed from one
struggle he now faces another – his mother’s alcoholism has got out of control,
and he has to resort to desperate measures to both get her to quit and get her
treatment. The inspiration for the film came from Gerard’s experience of moving
to Dublin.

“When I moved from Kerry to Dublin, I saw the impact of
addiction on families, on friends I had made, and on children,” he says. “Rural
Ireland has addiction problems too, but not to the same extent. In cities it is
much more concentrated so it is more visible. I wanted to look at that, but not
in the usual way. Stories of addiction tend to look at it from the addict’s
point of view. I wanted to do something different, to look at it from the
children’s point of view, how they can be victims of those suffering addiction,
and the impact that has on them.”

Low key and restrained, yet powerful, and at times harrowing, Glassland
is a superb drama, where the essential humanity and decency of John aids his
struggle against all that life throws at him, imbuing the story with hope, and
never lapsing into sentimentality.

“There is always one person in a family who holds it together, a
child who can take on the parent’s role if they need to, and that is John in
this film,” Gerard says. “I think that is quite uplifting. Every uplifting,
positive story, has very dark elements to it, but to get light you have to put
up with the nighttime. John is the firefighter in the family, he keeps the
fires down. People like that never get thanks, but they are important. It was
an interesting subject I wanted to explore, that role reversal, where kids have
to look after the parents, who may often not be much older than them.”

Gerard is already at work on his next project, an
adaptation of Susannah Cahalan’s memoir Brain On Fire: My Month Of Madness,
which he will write and direct. The film will star Dakota Fanning, while
actress/model/producer Charlize Theron will co-produce. “It’s very
exciting,” says Gerard, of what is sure to be his initial move into the big
leagues. “It is about a girl with a mystery illness. It’s a very scary place,
having something that no one can understand. That can be lonely and isolating.
I was attracted to it for that as it is a theme I explored on Pilgrim Hill.”

So how did South African superstar Theron come to involve
Gerard in the project? “She rang me,” he replies matter of factly. “I was
on the road to Kerry to my father, I was going to help him with dosing cattle,
and I was looking forward to it. The phone rang and it was Charlize Theron on
the other end. A while later I was in a cow shed dosing cattle, back in
reality. That’s the thing about my career, you can get swept away, but I don’t
step too far from reality. It’s nice to keep your feet on the ground.”

Glassland will screen at The Eye from next week. For more
information and booking see
www.eyecinema.ieor call 091
– 780078.
Brain On Fire is due for cinema release in 2016.


Pull the Other One

We have had a feast of drama in Listowel lately, with Memory of Water, a rather gloomy play with sad undertones, Blythe Spirit, a spirited romp presented to us with really high production values and finally this week’s offering, Pull The Other One. Like its title the play itself was full of double entendres. We got a great laugh from all the misunderstandings, local references, particularly to the real lives of the actors involved and some blatant advertising. All great fun. I remember many moons ago Olivia Treacy came to St. Johns in a play which involved nudity and there were protests. We have grown more sophisticated since then. Danny Russell’s “nude” posing did not even raise an eyebrow.

Some of the proceeds of the play are going to Listowel Laundry for the Elderly and some committee members were helping out with front of house on the night.

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