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: Harp and Lion Page 2 of 5

Kingfisher, A jockey fatality, a Fancy Dress Parade and the Harp and Lion is finished

Takes more Than a Sign to stop Him

Photo: Chris Grayson

This lad is not called a Kingfisher for nothing.


A sobering thought from John O’Flahery’s great book about Listowel Races

First jockey to be killed in Listowel. The year was 1896.

The man in question was a 21 year old jockey from Fedamore, named Michael Prendergast who was tragically killed during the last race on the second day when his mount “Castlequarter”, crashed into a corner post after jumping the last fence. 

The accident happened when Prendergast was trying to drive Castlequarter inside the eventual winner, Tantalus, as they approached the final corner post. As they neared the post, Castlequarter swerved to the right and would have gone inside the post if Prendergast had not snatched him up. This momentaery delay cost him his life, for, when he straightened his horse, he found that the gap had almost been closed by Tantalus and his rider. 

Courageously, Prendergast tried to squeeze through the tiny space, but, instead, he only succeeded in driving the horse on to the post with shattering force. He was propelled from the saddle and struck the ground violently with his head, knocking him unconscious. 

He was removed to Feale View Hotel, the home of the Hon. Secretary, Michael O’Connor, with blood streaming from his ears. Despite being attended to by a number of doctors, he died without regaining consciousness, at 7.00p.m. on Friday August 29. His young wife, whom he had married only a few months before, was at his bedside. 

The terrible accident, which prematurely ended a very promising career, was all the more pathetic, because, up to then, Prendergast had been enjoying an outstanding meeting, during which he had notched up three winners, including the two feature races. 

Perhaps the accident might not have happened at all had the stewards not disqualified the winner of the first race that day, Antelope, because he had come inside one of the posts.  In trying to avoid the same fate, Prendergast earned the unenviable distinction of being the first jockey to be killed at Listowel. Incidentally, his mount, Castlequarter broke his neck in a fall at Croom the following year.


Down Memory Lane

Eileen Sheridan sent us this good one.

Front row.

Babe Joe Wilmot,Tadgh Brennan, Maisie McSweeney

Back row

Maureen Horgan Ethel Ryan

At the side Jerry Flaherty


The Sign is done. The Harp strings are painted and while he had the ladder up,

 Martin gave the Lion’s face a cat’s lick. Passing pigeons are a menace.

Harp and Lion in Sept 2019, Raceweek Memories nd First Storytelling Festival

Harp and Lion, Listowel’s Most Beautiful Shopfront

The next stage in the transformation is the sign painting. Martin Chute, Mr. Signs, is doing a magnificent job.

I took this photo on Sept 5 2019 when there was still some work to be done.

While I was photographing Martin, Liz MacAuliffe came by and stopped to admire the work.

I think both their ancestors would be happy with how it looks today.


Raceweek Memories

by Vincent Carmody

Apart from the fine fresh air and friendship that you will have in abundance at the races, the only other thing free for the week is the free draw each day, entry forms to be found on the day’s race card.

Race card kiosks are located in several areas of the enclosure.

In my previous lookback, I mentioned Paul Kennelly of Woodford.  He used to be assisted in putting up the decorations by several of his sons. One by one over time, they emigrated to seek their fortunes in England. Like many before them, they worked hard and prospered. Murt, having done well, decided to become a racehorse owner. Among the horses that he owned was Bregawn. In 1983 Murt achieved what most owners and trainers would only dream of, by winning the Gold Cup in Cheltenham. It could not happen to a nicer man and family.

The weekend prior to the races would see an influx of returning emigrants arriving at the Railway Station. The Races was the one time of the year where anyone away would make an big effort to return back to town and meet up with old friends. 


Tuesday used be the first day of the three day meeting. Many lads, like myself, would be down early outside the Race Company Office in the Square; our mission, to collect race cards for the day. This was another money making project for us young fellows. Each card would be sold for one old shilling and we would take three old pence for each one sold. On getting the cards, a bee line would then be made to the Railway Station, where each race day morning at least four packed “specials” would arrive.  It used be like London’s Euston station. We used work in teams of three, with one always ready to cycle down to the Square to get fresh supplies. 

Here we were also introduced for the first time to the Dublin fruit and sweet sellers. We used to call them the Molly Malones. Afterwards we got used to their cry, “apples, pears and ripe bananas!”. 

Any cards we had left after the railway station would be sold around the streets. 

One year I decided to go into business on my own, running a bicycle park. A bike would have been the most common form of transport for a lot of country men in the mid 1950s. Each day of the races from mid-morning droves of country men from the northern end of the county would come down the Ballylongford Road to the town. By taking up a position on top of the bridge I could easily canvas likely contenders who would have dismounted and walked up the far side and who wanted their bike parked safely for the day. Having secured a customer, I would take him down to our yard, give him a ticket, get paid and then rush back up to the bridge again. By early afternoon customers would have dried up so it was then off over to The Island. 

Our racedays were spent like most others out in the field opposite the stand. Not like today, where the field is used as a carpark, it was in those days similar to the opposite enclosure, albeit without a stand.  It had  bookies, bars, Tote and every other facility, even including swinging boats. Evening time offered the magic of the market, and for the week the cinemas would run a second film showing. 

Back to the bicycle park. The less said about the bicycle park the better. Having got my sister to help out in the early part of the evening, I then had to take up duty. On that particular night it was after five in the morning before the last bike was claimed. My mother and father said they had no sleep with all the comings and goings, so that finished that idea.

A friend, Dr. Philip O Carroll, now domiciled in Newport Beach in California, reminded me of Bryan McMahon’s classic Listowel ballad, ‘Lovely Listowel’ first printed by Bob Cuthbertson and sold on an original penny ballad sheet. I have a copy and I would like to share it with all of those Listowel people around the world who could not join us this year.

Oh, Puck may be famous and Galway be grand,

And the praise of Tramore echo down through the land,

But I’ll sing you a ballad and beauty extol,

As I found it long ‘ go in the Town of Listowel.

I’ve been to Bundoran, I’ve rambled to Bray,

I’ve footed to Bantry with it’s beautiful bay,

But I’d barter their charms, I would, pon my soul,

For the week of the Races in Lovely Listowel.

There were Bookies and Bagmen and Bankers and all,

Biddy Mulligan was there with a green-coloured shawl,

And a cute little boy pitching pence in a bowl,

Took me down for a crown in the Town of Listowel.

The Hawkers were kissing and bleeding as well,

We had Hoop-La and Loop-La and the ‘oul Bagatelle,

And silver-tongued gents sure I’d bet they’d cajole,

A pound from a miser in the Town of Listowel.

Beyond on the course there was silk flashing past, 

The unfortunate nag that I backed he was last,

When he ran the wrong way sure I lost my control,

And I prayed for the trainer and Lovely Listowel.

Oh night time, how are you-the night sure ’twas day,

And the stars in the sky sure they looked down in dismay,

And they sez to the moon then in accents so droll,

‘You’re done, for the sun shines to-night in Listowel’

And you’d travel the land to see maidens so rare,

With buckles and pearls and grace I declare,

In my troubles and toils there is one can console,

she’s a wife, be me life, from the Town of Listowel.

My rhyming is over, God bless those who heard,

For I’ll take to the roads and go off like a bird,

And before I depart well you all must pay toll,

So three cheers for the Races and Lovely Listowel.



Inaurgural International Storytelling Festival

This is some of the line up of storytellers for a marathon storytelling session in Kerry Writers’ Centre on Sept 7 2019. Missing from the picture are local storyteller Bryan Murphy and balladeer, Mickey McConnell.        

Gleeson’s now Jumbo’s, Garden of Europe, Fitzmaurice ancestors and The Harp and Lion

Property House, Grand Parade, Cork


Jumbo’s Then and Now

Eddie Gleeson and Edward Gleeson at the door of Gleeson’s, now Jumbo’s

photo: Eileen Sheridan


Garden of Europe in August 2019

View from the entrance

 New flower border




Guide to the Garden by Amy Sheehy


 Holocaust Memorial

John B. Keane


Old and New

The newly restored and painted stucco looks a bit different to the old one.


In Search of Fitzmaurice Ancestors

Carol Burns wrote to us following her visit to Kerry;

We visited the Fitzmaurice castle in August. 

There were 10 of us from the United States. 

My husband’s grandmother was Johanna Fitzmaurice. 

This is some of what we know about the family. 

The name begins with Walter who was a Norman 

and royal officer for William the Conqueror who invaded

England in 1066.  They were invaders of Ireland in 1169. 

Johanna’s parents were Michael Fitzmaurice, born in 1834 in Ardagh and died in Renfrew, Canada in 1910.  Her mother was Johanna Culhane, born in 1836 an died in 1920.

Johanna’s grandparents were John Fitzmaurice born in 1807 in Ardagh  and died in Renfrew, Canada.  Her grandmother was Johanna Holly born in 1797 in Ireland and died in Renfrew, Canada. 

Our Fitzmaurice ancestors lived in Rylane, Duagh.

Members of the Fitzmaurice family were blacksmiths and moved 

to Renfrew, Canada in around 1860. 

A few of the Fitzmaurice ancestors attended St. Brigid’s church 

in Duagh, County Kerry. 

Is there more information about members of this Fitzmaurice ancestors?


Were you a Basketballer?

A Pres. Listowel winning basketball team. I need help with names and dates.


My Last Guided Walk of 2019

Only four lovely English visitors for my walk on August 31 2019. Small but mighty as they were interested and engaged and we had a lovely stroll around town. I think they will return home to install some jostle stones at the entrance to their London home.

Visitors, Locals,Frederick Chute, Cobweb’s Glory, a Thurles milestone and Work in Progress at The Harp and Lion

Visitors in Athea, Co. Limerick in July 2019


Two Listowel Men Taking it Easy in Summer 2019


Frederick Chute


Frederick was born in Listowel, Co Kerry in 1944. He was the eldest of six children to parents Arthur and Betty Chute. Some of his fondest memories were of growing up playing Gaelic football and learning to swim in the River Feale.  He loved the seaside and Ballybunion was the scene for many a happy day at the beach.

He was educated at Listowel Primary School and later at Rockwell College, a prestigious boarding school in Co. Tipperary.    Frederick was athletic as well as academic and did well at school but was also prone to mischief and was caned often by the Priests who taught at the school, for not turning up in time for morning mass.  In fact he was caught a number of times sleeping in the dormitory cupboard during morning mass.    Despite these incidents he enjoyed school and did well in his exams, ultimately taking a place at Trinity College Dublin, where he studied Economics.  

In Listowel as a young man, he was very well known for his football ability and he played in the position of Right Half Back for Listowel and North Kerry.   This led to a lifelong interest in sports and especially football. 

He met his first wife, Irene, at Trinity College and they married and moved to London.  They spent many happy holidays in their camper van in France, Portugal and Cornwall.  The family grew when Charles was born in 1980 and Rachel in 1981. Family meant a lot to him and he absolutely idolised his children.

Frederick trained as a teacher in London and his first permanent position was at the Jewish Free School in Camden, where he taught economics.  The pupils loved Mr. Chute and his innovative way of teaching which was lively and entertaining.  He greatly enjoyed this job and was very popular with pupils and staff.

He went on to teach at Greenwich University and the London School of Economics and completed a part time course at Birkbeck College, London, gaining a Masters Degree in Economics in 1989. Unfortunately his marriage ended in the same year and he lived on his own in Ealing for the next 10 years.

With his additional degree, he gained his next and final job teaching in the City of London School for Boys. He taught sixth form boys, who were extremely challenging and intelligent. Frederick’s commitment to teaching was such that he always prepared well for class.  His creed was that he had to be quite a few steps ahead of the game. He was much beloved by his students and had a particular talent for preparing them for interviews with detailed notes and good coaching.  Many of the boys gained places at Cambridge, Oxford and the London School of Economics.    The boys set up the Mr Chute Appreciation Society on the Internet, with many of his well-known phrases and quirky stories and they even videoed his lessons on their mobile phones in secret!

Frederick met his wife, Judith in 1999. The following year they moved to their present house in Queen Anne’s Grove.     He had many happy years there, and enjoyed numerous hobbies, especially bird keeping, fishing, carpentry, picture framing and after his retirement in 2007, his wonderful allotment where he developed a great passion for getting his hands in the soil and growing fruit and vegetables.   He so enjoyed having his own parsnips and carrots for Christmas dinner! He was also passionate about hard landscaping and completed several patios and fences on his two allotments.  Judith and Frederick also enjoyed travelling, driving from the East to West Coast of America, visiting family in the US and Canada, friends in Egypt and challenging driving and camping all around France, Italy and Switzerland for three months at a time. 

He was always busy, even in retirement, he always wanted to learn, being interested in the Arts, History and Philosophy.  He decided to study part time via the Open University and in his spare time he spent many hours in his study doing research and reading.  Seven years later he was awarded another degree, a Batchelor of Arts in History in 2015.  He proudly collected his degree with Judith in Milton Keynes at his graduation.

However his greatest love was football and he has supported Queens Park Rangers for over 40 years, going to as many games as he could.  He also loved Gaelic football and the highlight was going to the All-Ireland Semi Final and Final in Dublin, especially when Kerry were playing. 

 He enjoyed having his holiday home in Ireland and looked forward to spending time there every summer. He was determined to add joy to his life by acquiring a famous breed of Irish dog, the Kerry blue terrier.  Thus “Fritz” the dog entered our lives and brought Frederick a new dimension.  He was warned that these dogs “take you over” as they like to be the boss and needed strict training.  Frederick gave Fritz plenty of love, not so much discipline and the saying “Kerry Blues don’t have owners, they have staff”, became true.  Despite that, he was so happy with his beautiful dog.

Frederick’s health deteriorated over the last 4 years.   He had suffered with asthma and TB in his youth.  The condition was irreversible and little could be done to help him breathe. He had the most wonderful doctors at the Royal Brompton Hospital who looked after him.  He bore his illness bravely, not talking about it very much but just doing as much as he could with his limitations.  He still enjoyed life but at a slower pace.

In his last Christmas card to Judith, he wrote, “We have been together for a long time and for me it has been a wonderful and loving journey”

 Judith Chute


An Old Playbill

Liam OHainnín found this old programme

I wonder if anyone remembers the performance or knows a date.


A Milestone

This stone at Thurles railway station puzzled me. Two very kind readers helped me out. They both recognised it as a milestone. 

John Lenehan wrote from sunny California  “Hello Mary I believe the stone marker in Thurles indicates the number of miles to Dublin.  I often watched them go down in numbers as we got closer to Dublin on the train.”

John had the right idea but he was going in the wrong direction.

I think Michael O’Sullivan is more likely correct. 

Michael wrote, “The milestone post at Thurles station is the distance from Thurles in miles from Thurles station to Kent station in Cork city.”


Coming along Nicely

Harp and Lion, Tuesday August 20 1019

One word; WOW!

Carmody’s Corner, Cough syrup, some Weekend events and Freddy Chute R.I.P.

 Carmody’s Corner

This was always the pick up point for Listowel Celtic players on their way to a match. 

Across the street is Jerome Murphy’s now All Regions

Maybe its time to take down the sign for the golf club.


This will soften your cough

A blog follower checked this out and found that it is not all it was cracked up to be.

According to Neatorama, One Night Cough Syrup was the subject of a legal case from 1934 in which the FDA ruled the drug’s “claims of its therapeutic properties” were misleading — because, you know, most of its main ingredients are highly addictive, harmful substances.


Busy Weekend in Store

Ballybunion has the usual star studded line up of guests for Women in Media 2019


Over the road a bit in Lixnaw there is a great free local event

The Drama Festival continues in St. John’s


+  Fred Chute R.I.P. +

The radio has been silent for a while now. Today, April 26 2019,  we bury the radio’s owner. Fred was a familiar face on the streets of Listowel as he went about his business of beautifying our town and playing his part in making it the artistic gem it is.

I took these photos of Fred as he did one of his last painting jobs, when he was already ill.

Fred was my neighbour and friend. I had huge respect for his work and he had huge respect for mine. He loved my piece on him in my book and he loved to see himself on the blog.

He would drive slowly by me and roll down the window to tell me that he had heard me on the radio and he loved what I said. We were like Nancy Pelosi and Bono:  from different worlds but massive fans of one another. This is why I dared to interrupt him in his work to ask him to smile for his relatives in the U.S. who follow the blog.

Listowel is the poorer for the passing of one of its great visual artists. He has left a great legacy of colourful paintwork to Listowel. I hope that future generations will respect and preserve it.

I extend here my deepest sympathy to his devoted partner, Teresa, to Priscilla and Hunter, to my friend, Roly, Fred’s brother,  and to all who loved Fred.

Rest in peace, my friend.

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