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: grotto

Tales Old and New, Far and Near

Friday in The Square in February 2024

A Poem

Memories of Childhood.

We had neighbours one time,
That lived under the hill.
In my prayers I remember, 
And think of them still.
And sometimes I think, it was just yesterday. 
But it fact it is really, 
A lifetime away. 

Two brothers, two sisters, 
A dog and a cat, 
There was Katherine and Celia,
And Tomas and Pat.
All single, unmarried, 
Their name is long gone. 
And its sad there was no one, 
To carry it on. 

The sisters kept house, 
It was neat as a pin. 
And a welcome was there,
For whoever went in. 
The brothers they worked, 
On the farm every day. 
And at nightime together, 
They knelt down to pray.
While auld Ringo the dog,
By the fire lay quiet. 
Where himself and the cat, 
Settled in for the night.

Now Pat could play music, 
And Tomas could sing.
At parties in old times
Great joy they did bring.
Celia sang also, and Kate
In her chair, 
Read stories for children, 
From Kitty the Hare.

Old customs, old fashioned, 
Indeed this was true.
And the ways of today’s world,
These folk never knew.
No modern components, back then
In the day,
Their work was all done in the old fashioned way.
And I can remember when nightime would fall,
Their light it then came, from a lamp
On the wall.

With the turf from the bog on an
open hearth fire,
All the cooking was done, that your
heart would desire. 
And a fine soda cake, it was baked as a rule,
And left on the window sill, outside to cool.

To see this house now, it would make
Your heart sore,
For the weeds and the briars grow up
through the floor.
No windows or doors, and the roof has
Caved in,
Never more to be lived in, in this life again. 
A fine happy home, one time back in the day.
Taken over by time, as the years passed away.

God be good to them now, 
There all gone to their rest, 
To the place that the good lord
Reserves for the best.
But my memories of childhood, sometimes 
let me see,
The old ways of life, that one time used to be.
And sometimes I think back, 
And remember them still, 
Our auld neighbours one time, 
That lived under the hill. 

Martin O’Hara   © 12/9/2022

Elizabeth Stack and Mary O’Rourke

News from New York

“On Saturday , at a reading of JB Keane’s hilarious and sometimes poignant  Letters of a Matchmaker, are  Elizabeth Stack PhD  William street Listowel ,  and Mary ORourke  R.N.C  of  Church Street Listowel at the Irish Historical Society NY.

Elizabeth is the new appointed Executive director of the IHS and hosted a wonderful gathering.”

Interesting Artefacts

While visiting family in Ballincollig I attended a great night tripping down memory lane. Ten members of the society each brought an artefact and they got 5 minutes each to tell us about the item they brought.

A good crowd gathered for the meeting, mostly people of my own vintage but I did meet Niamh who had just done her Pre Junior Cert.

First up was Rod McConnell. Even though he is Scottish his family artefact was from Northern Ireland. It was a Repeal card. It dates back to Daniel O’Connell and the move to repeal the Act of Union in 1831.

Rod’s great great grandfather, James Gallagher, worked in a mill owned by the Leslie family. He said they were the same Leslies as the Ballincollig Leslies who lived in Wilton in an estate later owned by the SMA and now Wilton Shopping Centre. I wonder if they are the same Leslies as the Tarbert family of the same name.

Rod’s card had a map of Ireland on one side and some facts about Ireland on the other side.

Ireland had a population of 8.5 million people. It now has about 5.1 million so I don’t think we are “full” .

Ireland had 2.5 million acres of bog according to this 1844 artefact.

A Marian Grotto

Marian grottos are dotted all over the countryside in Ireland. This one is in the carpark of the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork.

A Fact

The population of Ireland is around 5 million. There are 80 million people around the world with Irish passports or Irish roots.


Ballybunion’s Marian Grotto and Listowel’s Charlie Nolan

A gate in Howth by Éamon ÓMurchú


Ballybunion Grotto

At Ahafona cross there is this lovely secluded grotto. It is beautifully kept and a great credit to all who look after it.

In front of the grotto is a row of seats remembering the people who loved this place very much.


Charlie Nolan

A while ago when I was doing my bit about handball in Listowel, I published this picture of Charlie Nolan with the Joe James trophy he won 50 years ago. To promote that post I also published the picture on Facebook.

Some people, seeing the photo, thought that Charlie had won some recent accolade. He hadn’t but he deserves one, so here goes.

This is Charlie Nolan in his happy place beside his Silver River Feale, photographed by Paddy Fitzgibbon.

Very often it is only when someone spends years away from their native place that they truly appreciate it. This is not true in the case of Listowel’s Charlie Nolan. Charlie was born and bred here and has spent most of his adult life in and around his beloved river Feale.

John Lynch and Charlie Nolan, Listowel historians

In a town famous for writers and composers, Charlie is a doer, a local historian who chronicles Listowel life not in words but in video pictures. He worked for a long time with his great friend and fellow videographer, John Lynch. They went out in all weathers to document significant happenings in town. They made a great team. When John stepped back, Charlie continued on his own to record life in the town he loves so well.

Charlie with fellow local historian, Jer Kennelly

He spends hours of his time editing his videos and putting a soundtrack or captions to them. Then, most importantly, he shares them with everyone.

Charlie on the reviewing stand recording a St. Patrick’s Day parade

Charlie grew up in O’Connell’s Ave, and many of his childhood neighbours and friends are scattered throughout the globe. These are the audience that most appreciate his videos of Listowel life as they remember it. He is doing them a great service and they appreciate it. 

Charlie Nolan and his sister, Eileen Worths

Charlie is also hugely supportive of what I do. He is one of the greatest promoters of Listowel Connection.

Charlie Nolan recording my walking tour of Listowel Town Square during Writers’ Week 2018

Charlie is up for learning new things too. Here he is on a Googling trip with Damien O’Mahoney.

Charlie is happiest outdoors, whether in Gurtinard Wood or on The Feale.

To a whole other audience, Charlie Nolan is a wildlife videographer. He has a deep knowledge of Kerry wildlife and he has an unequalled knowledge of the River Feale. He has captured on film all the native birds and animals of North Kerry and he has introduced them to an audience that may never have got to see them otherwise. Spending hours by the river is no hardship to Charlie but he uses his time there to patiently video the wildlife.

Charlie, second from left with Seán Treacy, Billy Galvin, John Maguire and Seán Comerford

Recently was the first time I heard about Charlie, the champion handball and squash player.

This man is nothing if not modest. He “can walk with kings but keep the common touch”. Charlie has only a small appreciation of the high regard in which he is held locally. He is part of the fabric of Listowel and one of the town’s  noblest sons. He deserves the freedom of the borough or any other lifetime accolade that can be bestowed on him.

Charlie Nolan is a local treasure and Listowel is very lucky to have him.

Athea, Tralee and Ballybunion and Kilflynn and Kanturk

Deer in Killarney National Park in January 2018

Photo; Mary Mac on This is Kerry


Tralee in 1967

Photo: RTE archive


Ballybunion in Winter 2018

My family were visiting last weekend. We took a trip to Ballybunion on a bitingly cold Saturday, January 20 2018

We practically had the beach to ourselves.

The sea was rough.

Bobby, Carine and the boys are always happy in this place.

Lovely to see someone who loved the beach commemorated with a seat.

Mario had been busy earlier in the day. His beach art is now a feature of the beach in winter.


Athea, Co. Limerick

This is Athea’s Marian Grotto. It is in the grounds of the parish church.

Why are there so many Marian grottos dotted about the land?

Here is why: 1954 was declared a Marian Year by the Pope Pius X11. 

Marian years are decided on and declared exclusively by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. In Church history, only two Marian years were pronounced, by Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II. (Wikipedia)

This was to encourage devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Many girls born in 1954 (and a few boys) were called Marian or Mary.

Marian shrines or grottos were erected in nearly every parish in Ireland. Many of these depicted the Lourdes scene with a statue of Mary in a high alcove in a stony grotto and a statue of Bernadette kneeling before her.

Athea’s grotto does not have a Bernadette. Neither does the grotto at O’Connells Avenue, Listowel.

O’Connell’s Avenue, Listowel Marian shrine.

There is also a calvary in the grounds of the church in Athea.


Kilflynn Bridge January 27 2018

Photo: Radio Kerry on Facebook

Relentless heavy rain over the past while has caused part of the bridge wall at the entrance to Kilflynn to collapse. Luckily no one was injured. The bridge is closed to traffic. Kilflynn is accessible through Abbeydorney or Lixnaw.


They won!

Ceann Toirc Abú:  Hurlers from my native Kanturk are into an All Ireland club final on Sunday next. Big day for the club; big day for the town.

This is my excuse to post a photo of myself with Kanturk and Cork’s goalkeeper, Antony Nash, taken in town in summer 2013.

No, of course I don’t know him. I just know people who know people.

Some shops then and now

Dan Paddy Andy Festival

What are John and Noreen up to?


Grotto in O’Connell’s Avenue last week.


That was then; this is now


Horan’s Fruit and Veg

Can you have too many signs?


St. John’s

I took the opportunity recently to photograph the stained glass window in the chancel of St. John’s.


Regenerating Tralee town centre

A disused food factory site is to become an attractive public market area in the centre of Tralee, Co Kerry.

The former Denny bacon plant — seen as a catalyst for the regeneration of the centre of the town — was handed over earlier this year to the local town council, by the Kerry Group, without preconditions.

The 2.5-acre site, vacated in 2008, is to be cleared in the coming months and plans are to develop a facility similar to the Milk Market area in Limerick.

While plans are still at an early stage, the idea is it will include a farmers’ market, an area for new businesses and crafts and a performance area for entertainers.

Tralee mayor Jim Finucane said the development would rejuvenate the centre of Tralee.

The full story is in yesterday’s Examiner  HERE

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