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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More Handball Memories and Listowel is opening up again

Listowel’s Community herb fruit and nut garden.

The above garden is now located beside the side wall of the ball alley. This wall, now covered in ivy and cut off by trees was once the alley where boys who couldn’t get a game in the alley proper practiced their skills.


Don’t Touch!

Sign of the times; Even if you’re tempted, refrain.

During Covid restrictions, people were put to the pins of their collars to find polite ways of saying Behave yourself, remember we’re in a pandemic situation. This was just one of the many signs that appeared in shops.


Handball Memories

One of the stars of Listowel Handball was Brendán ÓMurchú. Here he is being presented with his cup for winning the Lee Strand competition. John Fitzgerald is on the left, John Joe Kenny on the right.

Breandán has framed this photo of himself and Junior. Breandán is being presented with the shield for winning the town league on November 17 1961. Below the photo is the congratulatory note signed by Bryan MacMahon. Brendan brought handball with him to Dublin as did another Listowel man, Michael Enright.

This newspaper cutting from 1976 tells of the two Listowel men keeping the game alive in the capital.


Getting Ready for Reopening

The Star and Garter on Church Street is getting a Facelift


A Safe Place to Visit

During this pandemic the Council and the Government have wasted so much money on ill thought out initiatives. This is just another. Such is the nature of Covid 19 and its unpredictable course that a safe place to visit today is quite likely to be the very worst place to visit tomorrow. Will these signs go the way of those bollards and pavement overtaking bays that blighted our streets at the beginning of the lockdown?


From Saturday’s Examiner

I enjoyed this so I’m sharing


Handball and Brightening Air, William Street and Newtownsandes Creamery and Some Writers’ Week Windows

Listowel Town Square, May 2021


Another on on the Move


Listowel Handball Alley June 1 2021


Brightening Air

Ten Days of incredible arts experience in surprising locations June 11 to 21 2021.

Listowel’s turn is on June 18 and our surprising location is the handball alley. We are part of In the Magic Hour series of dance and interview events in handball alleys around the country. Only a limited number will be able to attend the free event because of Covid restrictions but we can all see it online on June 19.

In tandem with these arts in the alleys events Coiscéim sent a project manager around the country collecting the story of handball in Ireland. My appeal encouraged a few people to talk to her and share their stories and over the next days you will be seeing lots on Listowel Connection about handball and handballsers.

Junior Griffin has compiled a history of hand balling in Listowel and most of the information that follows if from Junior.

It would appear that the site for the alley was given by Lord Listowel and the alley built in the early years of the twentieth century. The front wall of the alley is part of the big bridge. Wire netting was placed on top of this wall to prevent the ball going out on to the road above. The side walls had a railing on top. This railing was part of rail track of the `Lartigue. The Lartigue closed in 1924 so we can assume that the ball alley was built shortly after.

In a message written for the match programme to celebrate the opening of Frank Sheehy Park on May15th 1960, Seamus Wilmot, Registrar of the National University of Ireland, wrote ” When I recall the Listowel I knew before the First World War, two places come immediately to my mind, The Ball Alley and The Sportsfield….

They were the only two places where we enjoyed freedom, unrestricted in the case of the Alley, conditional as to the Sportsfield….”

This newspaper story tells us that the court was upgraded in 1954.


Newtownsandes Creamery staff

Old Newtownsandes creamery staff


Some Writers’ Week Windows

The theme of the children’s festival was Out of This World

Matt Mooney’s poetic tribute to the late John Lynch beautifully illustrated in Lynch’s Coffee Shop window.


I was Forest Bathing

It was great to be part of a live event at Listowel Writers Week 2021. Forest bathing was badly named on this occasion because we weren’t in a forest and we weren’t bathing ins the usual sense of the word.

We were in Listowel’s Garden of Europe and we were bathing in the feast for the senses in this beautiful spot.

We were “high on our own supply”, mindfully concentration on our 5 senses and letting nature heal us. This was a guided experience and most enjoyable and renewing even if I was well outside my comfort zone.

Saturday June 5 2021 Guided Forest Bathing in Garden of Europe as part of Listowel Writers’ Week 2021.

Feeling Creative after my treat for the senses I wrote this little poem

A Sense of Place

I am in Kerry, a carpet of green and gold before me.

I am in Europe, Schiller and all that is best in Europe to my right.

The Holocaust and all that is worst in Europe to me left

All around me is all that is most beautiful in Nature

Forty shades of green to see,

Birdsong to listen to

Scents of flowers

A taste of summer all around

Here I can touch all that is beautiful in Creation.


Exciting Times in Pres. Primary School, Listowel

Girls from the Presentation Primary School were delighted to be invited by the office of the Minister for Education, Ms Norma Foley to be involved in the launch of the BLAST initiative for schools. This took place on Friday June 4th in Listowel.The girls had a lovely experience and enjoyed their chat, while remaining socially distanced, with the minister. It certainly looks like an exciting programme for schools, one which the Presentation Primary Listowel will certainly be participating in.


Listowel Connection First with the News!

Straight from the horse’s mouth

I met Lizzy slaving away to be ready in time for the grand opening. She really really really hopes to open in Church Street on June 15 2021. The extra good news is that she will have outdoor seating for 40 patrons in her new place. Lots of food related news from Church Street lately, all good.


Moriartys, Handball Memories , Pres. memories and Listowel Brownies

Spring 2019


Then and Now on William Street


Down Memory Lane to the Ball Alley

A man called Enda Timoney is compiling a history of handball in Ireland. His research brought him to Listowel Connection and Junior Griffin’s account of hand balling in Listowel in the 1940s and 50s.

Here is another memory from Junior;

“By all means Mr. Timoney can use my few words, in fact I would feel honoured. I think it is great that he is contemplating  writing a history on the handball alleys.  There was a time when we literally had nothing in our pockets and handball was our main sporting outlet as it really cost us nothing. 

In fact as young boys during the war years some of us in the Bridge Road made a bit of money out of the handball.

On a Sunday morning the alley was packed with many young, and not too young, men awaiting their game of handball.  No emigration.  A few of us budding  entrepreneurs from the Bridge Road would have picked up one old penny somewhere, when there was 240 pence to the old pound, and we would make our way to  lovely old lady named Mrs Dowling about a mile outside Listowel and buy apples from her and then go back to the alley and sell our apples. Our aim was to make a profit of 3 old pence, 2 pence for the Sunday matinee and the one penny left would buy us 2 squares of the old Cleeves slab toffee. Our week was made, we wanted nothing else. The two squares were joined together and we would break them by hitting them against the metal leg of our seat in the local cinema. More than likely a square, or maybe both, would hit the ground, but the word hygiene was not on our dictionary in those days. What a lovely, carefree life it was.

The end of the war changed all that, as most of the hand ball young men of that era emigrated to different corners of the world. As I got older I played a lot of handball myself and gave many years as secretary of the local club.. The game of handball meant a lot to us in those days and I honestly believe that as young boys and then as young men it kept us out of harm’s way as the game of handball was such a brilliant game to play.”


I can’t Imagine for what this was prescribed


A Facebook Memory

This photo was shared by Anne Marie Healy and Gillian Finucane on Facebook.

First class , Presentation Primary, Listowel in 1970. I think someone did a spot of colouring!


Another One for the Girls

I think the year is 1982

Murhur School, Corn Dollies and Organ Donation

Murhur School in the late Eighties

 Photo from Moyvane Village on Facebook

Teachers in Murhur NS in the late eighties. 

Marie O’Callaghan, Ena O’Leary, Patricia Houlihan, Gabriel Fitzmaurice.

Mary Madden, Nola Adams and Anne Prendiville


Listowel Handball Alley as it looks nowadays


A Corn Dolly

The late Seamus Heaney knew these corn dollies well. In his childhood he saw them being made in his native Mossbawn. He captures the memories and associations of these ancient amulets better than anyone else.

As you plaited the harvest bow

You implicated the mellowed silence in you

In wheat that does not rust

But brightens as it tightens twist by twist

Into a knowable corona,

A throwaway love-knot of straw.

Hands that aged round ashplants and cane sticks

And lapped the spurs on a lifetime of game cocks

Harked to their gift and worked with fine intent

Until your fingers moved somnambulant:

I tell and finger it like braille,

Gleaning the unsaid off the palpable,

And if I spy into its golden loops

I see us walk between the railway slopes

Into an evening of long grass and midges,

Blue smoke straight up, old beds and ploughs in

An auction notice on an outhouse wall—

You with a harvest bow in your lapel,

Me with the fishing rod, already homesick

For the big lift of these evenings, as your

Whacking the tips off weeds and bushes

Beats out of time, and beats, but flushes

Nothing: that original townland

Still tongue-tied in the straw tied by your

The end of art is peace

Could be the motto of this frail device

That I have pinned up on our deal dresser—

Like a drawn snare

Slipped lately by the spirit of the corn

burnished by its passage, and still warm.


Ladies’ Day Just got Better

This is the bus the kind folk on Listowel Race Committee is going to hire to take ladies to The Island on the Friday of the Races. I’m not sure if you can avail of it if you are not wearing high heels and if you would just like a lift.


A Sermon and a story for you

While I was in Asdee church I picked up their August 2016 newsletter and I read this story. I’m cutting it short here but it is attributed in the newsletter to Tom Cox;

In 2013 a Brazilian millionaire announced that he was going to be like the Egyptian pharaohs and bury his treasure with him. His greatest treasure was his Bentley.

He was lambasted in the media for this ostentatious show of wealth and foolishness so he called a press conference at his house. The media turned up in big numbers to see if he would really carry out his promise. Diggers were at work in the garden digging a big car sized hole.

But Mr. Scarpa didn’t bury his beloved car.

Instead Mr. Scarpa delivered this message, “I didn’t bury my car, but everyone thought it was absurd when I said I would. What is more absurd is burying your organs, which can save many lives. Nothing is more valuable than life. Be a donor and tell your family.”

Now the story

Regular readers will know that my only sister died in 1964 of kidney failure. She had been ill for a year before she died and she was in and out of hospital frequently. Her best friend was a girl called Marion and they were thick as thieves. If kidney donation was an option, they would have given one another a kidney in a heartbeat. For that year while they were apart they wrote regular letters to one another and they invented a secret code to write private things about boys just in case the letters fell into the wrong hands. All very innocent girly stuff. They were only 15.

Marion kept all the letters and has treasured them all these years. Her friend’s death had a profound effect on her and she has never forgotten her. 

Recently she took one of these letters to a tattoo parlour and the tattoo artist scanned my sister’s signature along with the coded message and Marion had it tattooed on her forearm.

Emigration, Bunny Dalton and the final chapter of the handball history

These figures tell a sad story.

Many of their descendants now are out there looking for their roots and they are learning these 5 golden rules of genealogy:

#1 Leave no stone unturned, unless
it is a headstone.

#2 Handwriting legibility is
inversely proportionate to a document’s importance.

#3 The further away a cemetery or
library is, the more awkward the opening hours will be.

#4 The relative you most need to
talk with is the one whose funeral you are currently attending.

#5 Wherever you find two or more
siblings, there also will you find two or more surname spellings.


Good blog about emigration “by the last guy left”.


 It was not unusual for newspapers in far flung places to report a bit of Irish news. The above comes from New Zealand Tablet, June 5 1855.


The book that everyone is talking about!

This is how the 2 sequels were displayed in Dubray Books in Dublin.


An old picture from Ballybunion of the Bunny Dalton Band.


Handball…the final installment

Membership dropped over the following years but there
was one notable development

 that took
place roughly around 1969/1970.

The committee were approached by Mr. Bill Kearney who
asked would the club allow

a few pitch and putt holes to be placed in the Alley
ground. He wanted a base in

which to commence a pitch and putt club for the town.

Mr. Kearney himself acted as secretary, Mr. John Joe
Kenny as Chairman and Mr. Jnr

Griffin as treasurer.  

It proved to be dangerous area for pitch and putt as
many golf balls were struck

over the wall on to the main road.  If the traffic then was as heavy as it is
now, serious

damage could have been done.

However, Mr. Kearney used this to his advantage when
he approached the Town

Council to include a pitch and putt course in the
Town Park (Cows Lawn). A nine hole course was granted to  Mr. Kearney 
and thus, the Listowel Pitch and Putt Club was formed. Indeed, two men,
John Joe Kenny and Kevin Sheehy who were stalwarts of the handball club for
years gave wonderful service to the Pitch and Putt Club for

many years to follow.

A new generation off handball lovers came on the
scene including the likes of Denny

O’Connor, Eddie and Mike Broderick, Charlie Nolan,
Tony Stack, Jerh Loughnane,

Con Gorman, Tony O’Neill, Jimmy Canty and others  but the building of the new

community centre in the town park in the mid eighties
“drew” away from the old

Alley and handball ceased to be played there.

The new centre which had an enclosed 40ft by 20 ft
handball alley did cater for

handball enthusiasts 
but as there was no structure of a club it never really took

off so both the handball and squash courts were
utilised for other purposes.

In the years of 2008-2009, John Griffin (Junior),
being the only surviving trustee,

 and with no
handball committee formed for many years, and following the  advice

from former members, decided to sign over the alley
ground, which was purchased

by the handball committee in 1962, to the safe
keeping of the Listowel Town

Council.  This
was done through the good offices of Pierse-Fitzgibbon, Market

Street, Listowel with the one request that if at any
time in future years the

handball club will be reformed that the Council will
facilitate the committee in

every way possible if they are looking for a site to
build a new handball alley. 

Strangely, though the Alley ground was legally signed
over to the Town Council three

or four years ago, this transaction has still to be
acknowledged by the Council or the

Council office

(Junior) Griffin)

The above is a brief history of the Listowel Handball Club. As I was
engaged in

compiling the history of another sporting organisation over the past
two years I

had not the time to research as much as I would have liked to of the

Handball Club.

My sincere apologies if I have omitted names of people who would
have given

their time to the club, before or after my years.

As mentioned there was but the one minute book available which
happened to be in

my own possession.

Just to advise that I have all the above saved and if
anyone can add more to the club’s

history please feel free to contact me.

Hopefully, the wonderful game of handball will return
again in all it’s glory to the

town of Listowel.


 Our very sincere thanks is due to Junior for compiling this history and for sharing it with us. I know that many people enjoyed it  and would love to hear more. If any reader has any stories about handball or indeed about anything else of interest to people with a Listowel connection I would only be too delighted to post it here. 

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