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: Halloween Page 1 of 3

Halloweens of Old

Old Presentation Convent chapel in October 2023


Remembering a Great Athlete


Just a Thought

Link to my last week’s reflections on Radio Kerry;

Just a Thought


Halloween in the Old Days

Mick O’Callaghan reminisces about Halloween nights during his Kerry childhood.

I remember in school we were reminded to pray for all the saints that had no special day assigned to them on the calendar. The church had set November 1st aside as a special day for this remembrance and they called it All Hallows Day with the day before that called All Hallows Eve or Halloween. November 2nd is called All Souls Day .We really prayed for these saints and visited the church. This was very much part of our formative years.

My father and uncle told us it was a pagan festival from Celtic Ireland. Samhain was the division of the year between summer and winter when the other world and ours were closest and it was the time when the living and dead were closest. Druids dressed up as spirits to avoid being carried away during the night in case they met spirits.

This is where all this dressing up at Halloween comes from with children and adults dressing up in scary costumes.

When I came to the east coast in 1967, I was amazed at this dressing up tradition when everyone dressed up and went out on the town with children doing Trick or Treat. I had never experienced such a massive Halloween community event during my childhood in Kerry.

     The big event there was the celebration at home with the barmbrack taking centre stage. Barry’s Bakery did a huge trade in these. They were rich curney loaves made with the fruit soaked in barm, the left over from fermenting beer and ale giving it that rich taste. There is probably a newer recipe nowadays. Each brack contained a rag, a coin, and a ring or a pea. If you got the coin, you were in for a rich year ahead. The rag was an omen of a poor year ahead while the ring designated love or happiness and the pea meant that you would not get married that year. It was all good fun. My mother was always so careful when cutting the brack to warn us about checking each piece carefully.

      My father used cut out a turnip and placed a candle in it. This was to remember the light given to Stingy Jack by the devil to guide him around in the darkness because he would not be allowed into heaven or hell after he died because he tricked the devil, and he was not in favour with the good lord above either.  At least that is what I told the children every Halloween during my teaching years. The Jack o’ Lantern tradition is also mixed up in this area. The Irish brought this tradition with them when they emigrated in their millions to the USA during famine years, I believe, but because the USA is more pumpkin than turnip country the pumpkin took over from the turnip. The carving of the pumpkin was also very much part of American Halloween and Thanksgiving Festival with pumpkin pie and soup and whatever else you can think of.

Now we too have pumpkins everywhere and ne’er turnip in sight.

In my youth we enjoyed snap apple at home, and this was great fun also. An apple was tied on the door jamb with a string, and we had to try and slow it down and bite it. It was such a hygienic game, I don’t think.

     My uncle would arrive every Halloween with his sack of lovely eating and cooking apples. He told us that in times past apples were offered as sacrifice to the gods in thanksgiving for a good harvest. He got a big basin, filled it with water and put apples in. Our challenge was to dunk in and get out an apple by biting into it while our hands were tied behind our backs. 

     He also placed some coins which naturally fell to the bottom of the basin so there was quite a lot of water splashed about in our efforts to get the dosh, but it was all good innocent fun. Could you imagine doing that now with covid and sanitiser. No thank you very much.

     My father always grew Kale or curly cabbage and was forever hoping for a blast of frost pre-Halloween so that the cabbage would be ready for the colcannon. This was a special favourite meal. The potatoes were taken from the pit and the fresh onions were brought in from the shed and my grandmother Curran always sent in the proper home-made salted country butter to add to the mash. The eventual colcannon meal was scrumptious. I still love colcannon.

Then there were the ghost stories when my father would emerge with a white sheet thrown over him and with the light down told us exaggerated stories of the banshee with a bit of wailing thrown in which scared the living wits out of us.

Nowadays things seem to have changed with the sweet companies producing millions of small bars and sweets to fill the bags of the Trick Or treaters. We now have Halloween lights and baubles to equal Christmas.

Nuts come with an allergy warning; I was asked last year if I had gluten free sweets.

Mick O Callaghan


More from Walkabout , a 1980s guide to Listowel


In Tattoo Shop Window

Church Street, Listowel


Bridget Ryan, Listowel to Sydney in 1850

Sue Greenway, on the left, came to Listowel from her home in California to learn more about her ancestor, Bridget Ryan, who travelled from Ireland to Australia in 1850.

Kay Caball has the whole story in her Kerry Ancestors blog today.

Here is the link;

Bridget Ryan

What a story!


A Fact

Listowel Emmets football team scored 22 of their 24 points from play in Sunday’s defeat of a higher ranked Ballymacelligott team in the County Junior Championship 2023.


A marathon dance in 1889

St. John’s Listowel in October 2022


GAA is Family

Anthony Nash, former Cork goalkeeper has retired from club hurling. His emotional decision was covered in the sport website The42.

I met Anthony Nash in Strand Street, Kanturk in 2014 when Kanturk hurling was in its heyday and Nash’s career with Cork was flourishing.

Eight years later, he has made the hard decision to leave the pitch.

Here is the 42 article.

ANTHONY NASH HAS decided to call time on his club hurling career after South Liberties were beaten in the Limerick SHC semi-final 1-23 to 0-9 by Na Piarsaigh. 

The two-time All-Star transferred to South Liberties in 2021. The club secured their spot in Limerick’s final four after a stunning 1-13 to 0-14 win over Patrickswell before suffering defeat in Kilmallock last Saturday. 

“It was sore in a way, you are living in fairytale land going into a game but I thought the lads were exceptional,” Nash said, speaking on The42‘s GAA Weekly podcast.“After 35 minutes we were three points down, just the difference in class pulled through. There is no point saying otherwise, a far better team beat us.” 

Nash spent 16 years representing Cork at senior level. After his inter-county retirement, he transferred to the South Liberties club due to strong family links.

His parents hail from the parish and his uncles, former South Liberties players Declan and Mike Nash, won two Munster medals with Limerick and played in two All-Ireland finals during the 1990s. His cousin is player of the year nominee Barry Nash. 

“I’m done. I kind of made a decision last year that I wasn’t going to play on. Christmas time came, I was saying what will I do and I felt ok. I still feel ok, thank God.

“I referenced this in the dressing room after, I came out of a county career and a club career with a few injuries, but nothing major. Disks in my back and neck but I’m able to walk and talk, play golf. I consider that a successful career. 

“As I said to the lads in the Kanturk WhatsApp, I am hanging up that beautifully designed Aidan Walsh hurley once and for all. Leading into it I was saying, ‘can’t wait to be finished. Hoping it would be a county final. How tough it all was, sick of it etc.’

“Then I took off my boots for the final time and got emotional. That is it. Memories of a child, family driving you everywhere and anywhere. 

“I’d thank everyone who helped me get what I did. I’ll never forget the help. I think a lot of umpires will be delighted, I won’t be nagging about wide balls! I am very honoured to have represented Cork, captained Cork, played for the club where I was born and finished my career with my family.” 

Nash said getting to finish in the famed green and gold was the perfect ending to his playing career.

“At the time of the transfer, 90 per cent was positive including Kanturk. there is always ten per cent negativity. ‘A disgrace for transferring, all that stuff.’ People just don’t understand my story. I’d never apologise.

“My grandfather was there after the game the last day, he was crying. My uncle was crying.

“It was an emotional day for me to be able to hang up my boots with the Liberties jersey on. I got to go to Croke Park and win a club All-Ireland with Kanturk. Everyone says, ‘one club, one county.’

“It was a dream to be able to finish my career with my cousin on the field, my uncle as a selector on the sideline. All my family standing around, hugging and embracing. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. 

“In fairness, all my Kanturk friends wished me the best. I turned 38 last week and I was getting congratulations and happy birthdays from Kanturk. I’d hope to get involved in that club in a few years’ time.

“For me, I know a fairytale ending seems like a county final but it was a fairytale ending that I get to wear the green and gold of South Liberties after growing up with them during the summers.

“Hard to take, Sunday was a tough day but look, I will be fine. I am very grateful to hurling as a sport. Very grateful to the GAA.”

To listen to the full episode, go to


Collopy ‘s Bar and Hotel

Remember Collopy’s Corner?

It was a lively place in 1889 according to this newspaper clip that Dave O’Sullivan found in the Kerry Evening Post.

I wonder do any of the local Kissane’s know anything of this legendary ancestor?


Danny’s Halloween Window


Some Holy Things

The Presbytery, Listowel October 2022


Jerry Kennelly Remembers

Some North Kerry churches remembered by Jerry Kennelly in Shannonside Annual 1959


A Leftover from Another Age

This image of the grotto at Lourdes in a window on Church Street took me back to my childhood. This image was everywhere, in pictures and in little cards we used to have in prayerbooks. It was also very popular in memorial cards.


De Valera and a Forest in Israel

This 1965 picture shows representatives of the Irish Jewish community presenting Eamon de Valera, Uachtaráin na hEireann, with a “Book of Honour” in thanksgiving for his work for peace during the second world war. The book was illuminated and written in calligraphy by Michael O’Connor of Listowel.

On Dev’s right as you look at the picture Professor Mervyn Abrahamson, chair of the Eamon de Valera Forest Committee.

So where is this forest?

Éamon de Valera Forest (Hebrew: יער איימון דה ואלירה) is a forest in Israel, near Nazareth. It was planted in 1966 and named after American-born Irish politician and statesman Éamon de Valera.

“It has 10,000 trees planted by the Jewish community of Ireland in tribute to President Eamonn de Valera. To be known as the Eamonn de Valera Forest at Kfar Hanna near Nazareth, the project is the latest in a series of similar forests named to honor the late President John F. Kennedy, Jan Christian Smuts and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

The 10,000 tree forest is till flourishing today.


Greenway Mural

I met this lovely young man in the Neodata carpark.

He is Garrett Joyce and he is busy finishing his mural in time for the official opening of our Greenway.

Looking good!


Today’s English lesson


Getting Ready for Halloween

My dotey granddaughter in her pumpkin outfit is all ready for Halloween. She has no clue what is all about but she knows excitement when she sees it.


Halloween, a New Shop and Eamon Kelly’s Suit

Halloween 2021 at Scoil Realta na Maidine, Listowel


Halloween, Irish or American Style

I loved this column in Monday’s Irish Examiner. Enjoy!


Sheeple is a derogatory term to describe people who are docile and easily led. It is often used by people who oppose mandatory vaccine certs or any other government imposed restrictions that they disagree with.

“Do your own research” is a slogan used by people who are anti vaccine. Basically they are saying distrust the science and find like minded people on the internet.


Stylish New Shop on Market Street

Rose and Crowm, Market Street, Listowel


This poem will take you back to the bad old days.


Eamon Kelly, Seanchaí

Some of us who were lucky enough to hear and enjoy The Seanchaí in our youth. Mattie Lennon tells us something about the man who was the consummate Irish storyteller

Brendan O’Shea (O’Sheas Tailoring, Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin) told me the following story:

At the end of September 2001, Eamon Kelly brought a suit in to Brendan for some alterations. The suit was fifteen years old. Prior to one of his trips to America, Eamon had it made by another Dublin tailor who left the jacket minus an inside pocket and the trousers without belt-loops or a back-pocket. Now, Eamon, the perfectionist, asked his fellow-Kerryman to rectify the sartorial omissions, which he did.

When Eamon died on 24th October 2001, he had left detailed instructions with his wife, Maura, about the funeral arrangements and which suit he wanted to be laid out in. Yes, you’ve guessed it!

Did the man who wrote so lovingly of Con-the-tailor, who made his first Communion suit, and who had portrayed an unforgettable tailor in “The Tailor and Ansty” want to somehow, bring the work of a Kerry tailor out of this world with him? I don’t know. And neither does Brendan O’Shea.

As his coffin left the church, the Congregation gave a round of applause. The show was over and this time there was no encore. The final curtain had fallen on a one-man show, performed by a man of many parts. Actor, storyteller and writer, loving husband, devoted father and great Kerryman.

Shortly before his death, while lecturing North American Literature and Theatre students in the art of storytelling, he said: “My journeying is over. If the humour takes me, I may appear in some Alhambra, where angels with folded wings will sit in the stalls, applaud politely and maybe come round after and say;’ that was great’ “.

As he walked into that great Rambling House in the sky, can’t you imagine the opening line?: “Ye’re glad I came”.


Savannah McCarthy, International defender

Photo; The WLN Show
Photo: The WLN Show

Savannah McCarthy of Listowel is establishing herself as a regular in the starting XI for the Irish Ladies Football team.


A Fact

The Lion King or The Lion Queen

In the time between Disney’s 1994 version of The Lion King and its 2019 remake the world’s population of lions had halved.

Zoologist, Craig Parker, of the lion research centre at the University of Minnesota told National Geographic that lion societies are matrilineal. The lionesses rule the pride while the males come and go. It would have been Sarabi who hand over her dominion to Nala, Simba’s mate.


A Poem, School Milk and a Night in St. John’s

The Big Bridge, Listowel in October 2021


The Pebble

Remember Liz Chute’s story that inspired a Bryan MacMahon short story?

It also inspired a poem by Listowel born poet, Noel Roche.


Halloween 2021

This year Halloween seems to be a bit low key. We seem to be skipping straight to Christmas. Maybe it’s time to abandon the Trick or Treating and fireworks and return to remembering instead our dead loved ones and visiting family graves instead.


School Lunches!

Photo from Vanishing Ireland website

Did you bring milk to school in a Chef Sauce or YR bottle? If you did you’ll probably be about my age and you’ll be cringing in horror at this sight. No matter how much you washed and scoured, getting the smell of sauce or salad cream out of one of these bottles was impossible.

Don’t even mention breakages! These bottles were glass and broke easily. I remember the first Thermos flasks and their innards broke easily too.

Schooldays were the best days of our lives?


Ballylongford in 1910

1910 Main Street, Ballylongford, Co.Kerry.

L to R John Thomas Carrig Sr. John Thomas Carrig Jr. M Mahoney, ? Dalton, The Kelly sisters.

Thanks to Geraldine Brassil for photo and information.

Ballylongford Snaps on Facebook shared this image and caption


A Very Different theatrical Experience

There was something for everyone in the audience in St. John’s on Saturday night. We all got a taste of ” one he made earlier”.

Manchán Magan was our entertainer for the evening. Dressed in a tailored tweed trousers, grandfather style shirt and what looked to me like homemade pampooties, he told us in Irish and English about the connectedness of everything, about history, etymology and our close connection with the fairy world, all while baking a sourdough loaf and churning some butter.

It was an extraordinary evening’s entertainment brought to us by an extraordinary man. Manchán’s depth of knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for his subjects are a sight to witness.

After the show, he chatted, signed books and shared his sourdough starter and his delicious bread and butter.

It was my first night back in St. John’s since Covid.

What a show to return to!


Believe it or Believe it Not

Once Gillette recalled 87,000 disposable razors because, thanks to a manufacturing error, they posed a cutting hazard.


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