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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Scullys, Armstrong Wedding and spectators at Juvenile Tennis finals in the 1980s

Then and Now


Armstrong Marriage

This handsome couple are Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Armstrong of Gurtinard House, Listowel. Theirs was the society wedding of  March 7 1905 and the whole thing was reported in The Kerry Evening Post.


Watching the Tennis

When he was photographing the juvenile tennis tournament in the late 1980s, Danny Gordon turned his camera on the spectators who were engrossed in the action on the courts.

Veronica Corridan, Una McElligott, Maurice O’Sullivan, Josephine and Paul Henry and three children whom I can’t name.

Anne Cogan, Helen and Alice Moylan, Mary and Clíona Cogan and Maureen and Denis O’Connor.


Look Up

When you look above street level, sometimes what you see shocks you and sometimes surprises. Pictures taken on Church Street, Listowel in January 2019

Mayor’s Award for LWW, Garda John O’Donnell R.I.P.. Auction at Gurtinard House and changes on Charles Street

Listowel Garda Station in 2019

Church Street, Listowel, January 2019


Mayor’s Award for Writers’ Week

The great literary festival that is Listowel Writers’Week was recognised last week at the presentation of the Mayor of Kerry’s awards,

If ever there was a definition of blue sky thinking, Writers’ Week is a living example. The literary festival goes from strength to strength. Now it is expanding outside a short week in summer into a year long engagement with other festivals and events. The visionary committee well deserves this award.

Accepting the award on behalf of everyone in Listowel Writers’ Week are;

Left to Right; Eilish Wren, Joanna O’Flynn, Máire Logue, Norma Foley (Mayor)

 Madeleine O’Sullivan, Miriam Griffin and Elizabeth Dunn


The Late Garda John O’Donnell

I told this story before in 2012 but I think it’s worth telling again.

Garda John O’Donnell who was in his early thirties was stationed in Kanturk, Co. Cork.  In the summer of 1940 he was on holiday in Ballybunion with his wife and three young children.  He told a relative that he would have preferred to holiday in his native Burtonport but petrol was rationed during the war  and he couldn’t secure enough fuel for the journey.

On the evening of July 20 1940 he was swimming near Castle Point when a freak wave swept him and other swimmers on to the rocks. John drowned while attempting to rescue two local girls, Vera and Patricia O’Carroll. The girls were eventually rescued by others who were present.

Listowel’s Dr. Joseph McGuire was the coroner who presided over the inquest which was held on the following day. The jury commended Mr. Jack McGuire, then a medical student, for his bravery in taking out a life buoy into rough seas in a vain attempt to  save John O’Donnell who was being dragged out to sea by the strong current.

In an extra tragic twist, the body of John O’Donnell was formally identified by his brother who was then only 17 years old.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, letters were published in The Kerryman calling for life guards on Ballybunion beach and the presence of a rescue boat and a competent crew to man it.

Garda O’Donnell was remembered in Kanturk, where he had been living for six years, as a quiet, unobtrusive, helpful brave man. 

He was posthumously decorated by the state for his bravery. 

This courageous man was the grandfather of the very talented artist, playwright and composer Mike O’Donnell.

Dave O’Sullivan found a few newspaper cuttings relevant to the awful tragedy.


Auction at Gurtinard House in 1868

In June of 1868, Lord Listowel’s agent, James Murray Home sold everything in Gurtinard House in an “unreserved auction”. The notice was published in the Evening Post of May 23 with a list of items to be disposed of. It makes interesting reading


Then and Now

Charles Street, January 2019

William Street, Bridie Gallagher and The Armstrong family of Gurtinard House

Then and Now

William Street


A Big Night in Town

Liam O’Hainín on Facebook


North Kerry Sweet Factory

Dave O’Sullivan found this in the old newspapers

Before he opened the sweet factory and gave employment to so many “respectable girls’ Mr. Armstrong had not been in favour with the local community. Before he bought Gurtinard House, he lived in it as a tenant of Lord Listowel. 

During his tenure he closed the demesne (now the town park) to the local people who during Lord Listowel’s time were free to roam it at will.

The Armstrongs, a short time after opening the factory suffered a tragedy with the death from T.B. of Armstrongs young wife .

Dave discovered on that Mrs Katherine Armstrong was only 38 when she died, and, contrary to what is stated in the newspaper, she is registered as having died in Dublin.


Greenville, January 2019

Work has begun at this site on the Greenville Road.


Listowel Man Features in Off The Scale, Ireland’s Leading Angling Magazine

Fisheries Officer:  Darren Halpin

From:  Listowel, Co. Kerry

River Basin District (RBD):  Shannon River Basin District

How did you become a Fisheries Officer? 

I was always fishing as a young fella. My uncle was in fisheries for over 30 years so I was always intrigued about what he did. He was a good influence in my life and I followed his footsteps right into my career.

What does an average day look like?

I go into the office in the morning, meet the Assistant Inspector and go through any emails that have come through. Then we plan out our day and what we’re going to do – it might be a spawning patrol, estuary patrol or coastal patrol.

What is your favourite part of the job? 

There’s a lot to be said about getting up in the morning and wanting to go into work. You’re outdoors, out walking, you’re allowed work on your own initiative a lot of the time, too, which is great.

I’m interested in nature and wildlife. I love walking the banks of the rivers just to see the fish and wildlife along the river. There is such variety in the job – you could be doing boat patrols, estuary patrols, jet ski or kayak patrols. There is always something different.

What is the most challenging thing about the job?

Sometimes dealing with the public can be challenging. You could be dealing with a pollution incident on a farm – one farmer might be very accommodating and there is no issue and then another farmer could be argumentative or confrontational. You have to be able to handle that.

You do a lot of unsocial hours, too. But you get used to it.

What do you think are the most important skills needed for the job?

Communication skills are important. You are dealing with the public all the time. Every situation can be different – there are different ways in how you communicate and react to situations.

Teamwork is also a big thing, you are working as a team all the time so you need to be comfortable with that.

What would you say to someone considering a job in fisheries?

If you’re really into the outdoors and fishing, then it’s definitely the job for you. You will get as much out of it as you put in.

Source; Off the Scale Magazine online

RTE DJs, The Armstrongs of Gurtinard House, Rev. Robert Ronayne and Writers Week at The Rose Hotel

The Base at Listowel Community Centre in 2019


This Rte Guide cover from 1984 appeared on Twitter to mark Larry Gogan’s move to RTE Gold. Can you name all the Radio 2 DJs? I can’t.


Old Photo of Gurtinard House

This house which is now a guesthouse was once owned by the Armstrong family who ran the sweet factory by the river.

Patrick McCrea who is the grandson of the Armstrongs who lived here sent us this photo of the house and the following photo of his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong of Gurtinard House, Listowel.

This is an old postcard with the sweet factory on the right.


An illustrious Corkman who married into the Sandes family


Great New Initiative by Listowel Writers’ Week

Morning Walk in Writers’ Week 2018, Craftshop na Méar and Listowel Visual Arts Week 2018

Feeding Time photo by Graham Davies


My Walking Tour of the Square during Writers’ Week 2018

Ger Holland’s photo tells its own tale. I was totally overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up at 9.30 a.m. on Saturday June 2 2018 to take the walking tour of Listowel Town Square with me.

At the door of The Listowel Arms I met Dave O’Sullivan, Paddy McElligott, Cliona McKenna and Mary Fagan, four of my able assistants.

 Mary was getting into character as Mena in Sive as she met Thomasheen  Seán Rua, the matchmaker, played by David O’Sullivan.

“Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch….”

Local historians, Michael Moore, Liam Grimes and Vincent Carmody were taking the tour.

Clíona’s parents in law, Mary and Tony McKenna, great supporters of Writers’ Week, were looking forward to a leisurely walk in the early morning sunshine and to maybe learning a thing or two about Listowel and Listowel people.

Musician and singer, Mary Moylan and Mike Moriarty, singer and historian, two more of my able assistants, were ready for the off.

I mounted the podium, aka the Tidy Town’s seat, and the tour began.

Paddy and Mike Lynch did a great job on Goodbye to the White Horse Inn.

On the steps of Listowel Castle we had history, songs and drama.

At Gurtenard House we had more history, more songs, an anecdote or three. Eamon ÓMurchu was hastily press ganged into being an able assistant but acquitted himself like the trouper he is.

We stopped at the beautifully restored Butler Centre, where Antoinette Butler told us what happens nowadays in this historic edifice.

We finished up our walk on another stage in the Town Square where we all sang a few verses of Lovely Listowel by Bryan MacMahon.

The morning walk was a great success, thanks to all the hard work put in by everyone involved.

Most of these photos were taken by able assistants, Tony McKenna, Breda Ferris and  Elizabeth Brosnan.

Follow the link below for some of the highlights of the walk recorded by Charlie Nolan;

Saturday Morning Walk 2018


O’Connor’s Pharmacy with weighing Scales

Photo: John Hannon


My Time in 53 Church Street Remembered

As 53 Church St. prepares to reopen as a barbers’ I’m looking back at the early days of Craftshop na Méar.

Namir Karim opens the door to Craftshop na Méar

Namir gets a weaving lesson

Some of the early crafters

Crafters with the late Dan Green who was

 a great supporter of the shop in its early days. At the far right in the picture is Miriam Kiely who knew 53 Church Street as her family home.


First Ever Listowel Visual Arts Week

It’s Visual Arts Week and the shopkeepers of Listowel are getting behind Olive Stack in her new venture.

Then in the Square, local artist, Jim Dunn is showing us how. He is crafting a beautiful celtic style mural before our very eyes. He worked on it for hours and hours today and he’ll be back tomorrow.

He has to work through all the distractions, people chatting to him, photographing him and having a go at helping him.

Will you look at the state of his hands? And let me tell you he is an exceptionally neat worker.

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