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: Ireland’s Tidiest Town 2018

McKenna’s of Listowel, Culture Night 2018 and a Statue to Big Tom McBride

I don’t know the name of this bush but the butterflies absolutely love it.


Lovely Listowel, Ireland’s Tidiest Town 2018

Photos taken in Listowel’s Garden of Europe and Gurtinard area on September 25 2018

These men truly loved their native town. This win would have meant so much to them. No one was ever prouder of Listowel than Martin, Michael and John Sheehy.

The MacMahon Bay tree has grown really tall.


Dick Kiely’s Retirement

At the Seanchaí for the launch of Jack McKenna’s memoir, Spoilt Rotten, Junior Griffin met Miriam O’Grady. Miriam’s dad, Dick Kiely, spent many happy years working in McKenna’s, many of those years beside Junior Griffin, one of his younger colleagues.

Miriam brought along a few old photos taken on the occasion of her dad’s retirement. Miriam told me that McKenna’s employees were very loyal and very versatile, equally happy whether selling or delivering. Speaking of delivering, she remembered Seán Walsh, later of Ballybunion Golf Club making the deliveries when he worked for McKenna’s.

Dick Kiely retired at the same time as his brother in law, Tim Shanahan.


A Tree Read me a Poem on Culture Night in Listowel Town Square, September 21 2018

For the past few years Culture Night coincided with the Friday night of Raceweek. Traditionally that was Wrenboys night and since this involved a huge part of Irish culture, that was Culture Night in Listowel sorted. This year we got to enjoy the wren boys earlier in September and we got a whole packed programme for Culture Night.

It started with an insight into the life of a working artist in the Olive Stack Gallery. I missed that.

In the Kerry Writers’ Museum I met the Writers’ Week crew doing a great “me to you” event. Everyone who called by got a present of a book.

Eilish was down on her knees busily wrapping books.

There was even a bit of child labour going on. They were loving it.

Maire gave me my book.

Well, it certainly sounds different to my usual fare. I’ll let you know how I enjoy it.

As well as the book we got a bookmark with very important dates for the diary

On that very evening, children’s programme co ordinators, Miriam and Maria were on their way to  Dublin to the  Children’s Books Ireland book fest seeking out authors and performers to bring to next year’s festival.


“Four Country Byeways to my Heart”

Photo: Julie Healy

On September 23 they unveiled this statue of the country singer,  Big Tom McBride in Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan. The likeness is striking.

Big Tom was an Irish phenomenon. The timbre of his big voice had the ability to move so many of his listeners to tears. He was so ordinary, equally at home at the wheel of his tractor as behind a dancehall microphone, so unstarlike that everyone knew someone like him. When he sang of the Four Roads or Gentle Mother, we were all at our own crossroads or in a lonely churchyard with him. His songs had a particular appeal to emigrants, among whom he had thousands of fans.  I think there will never be such a star again.

McKenna’s former staff at the book launch and Wrenboys’ Night in Listowel in September 2018


To Celebrate Listowel’s win in the Tidy Town Competition 2018

Here are some more photos from our lovely town.

These were  taken last Tuesday by the Feale.

” My heart, tonight, is lonely for my sire land

Though many miles of ocean lie between

My heart tonight is home again Ireland

Upon thy banks, my silver river Feale’

These lines from Bryan MacMahon’s Silver River Feale are a thank you mention to all the emigrants who have contacted me to tell me how they long to be in Listowel to celebrate the town’s victory in the Tidy Town competition.

Listowel has a very proud diaspora.


At the Launch of Spoilt Rotten

Former staff, former customers, family and friends were on hand to congratulate Jack McKenna on reaching the 100 and on starring in this book about his life, Spoilt Rotten


Wrenboys Competition, Listowel, Sept 14 2018

As I came out of Allos after a delicious meal in great company following an enjoyable day at the Races, what is making its way down Church Street but a procession of wren boys  on their way to the Square for the annual Harvest Festival Wrenboy competition?

I learned later that this was the Ballybunion troupe who were first up on stage.The spectacle was amazing with the procession being led by 2 men with lighted sods of turf on pitchforks leading the way. The colour, the music and the sheer joy of it all was magical to behold.

A good crowd had gathered on the streets to cheer them on.

The “king’ was resplendent in crown and cape.

Bean an Tí for the night was Frances Kennedy. She played her part to perfection and she and the fear an Tí told stories to beat the band.

It was a joy to see so many talented young people among the dancers, singers and musicians. The future of Irish culture is in safe hands.

Frances won the overall prize for the best individual performance.

Owen MacMahon was an inspired choice as M.C. He did a super job.

The night was wet and cold so I didn’t stay to see the others groups. Kileedy won and they were excellent as were all the performers on a great night in town.


An Invitation

 In St. John’s on Monday evening next at 7.00p.m. Dillon Boyer is planning an information evening about Palliative Care and the work of the Palliative Care Unit in KUH.

The evening will also feature an exhibition of Dillon’s photographs.

Listowel, Ireland’s Tidiest Town 2018, Spoilt Rotten, Dancing in INEC and more photos from Listowel Races 2018

The last of the 2018 butterflies


The Day after Listowel’s Big Tidy Town Win

The sun was shining so I took the camera and off I went. Here are a few of today’s snaps from Ireland’s tidiest town

 In the Square I met some tourists and I dragooned them into posing on the Tidy Town seat. They knew about our win  and they had just arrived in town and were beginning to explore.

Our community fruit and nut garden was looking smashing.

Nearly warm enough for a picnic, if one had a picnic.

This is a tad worrying. This apple tree is in bud…in September!

This man who had come to pick up the branches of a fallen tree posed for me with these lovely roses.

He helped out this granny on a mission to collect conkers for her Cork grandchildren.


Jack McKenna at 100

Family, friends, McKenna’s retired and present staff, historians and  admirers came to the Kerry Writers’ Centre in Listowel Town Square on Sept 19 for the launch of Spoil Rotten, the memoir of a local business man, pioneer and philanthropist who has reached the age of 100.

Did you know that this man gave the site for the restored Lartigue railway AND he gave €250,000 to set up the Lartigue Museum?  In keeping with this spirit of generosity to his native town, his family took on themselves all the publishing costs of his memoir with all the profits from the sale of the book going to Áras Mhuire, the local retirement home.

 On the night of the launch Jack McKenna  signed copies of the book and even took the microphone to thank us all for coming and to wonder what he had done to deserve such a turn out.

At the top table were Jimmy Deenihan whose Kerry Literary Trust published the book and who is a friend and admirer of Jack McKenna, Jack’s daughter, Louise, who brought the whole project to fruition, continuing on a labour of love set in train by her late mother, and Fr. Anthony Gaughan who was the guest of honour who launched the book.

This book is an important piece of the jigsaw of Listowel’s history.


Learning from A Master

This photo was shared on Facebook by Scoil Realta na Maidine. These little boys are taking their first  lessons in Irish dancing from Jimmy Hickey.

Among them maybe there is a Justin Walsh or a Patrick O’Mahoney. Both these men are former pupils of Jimmy’s and both have gone on to dance on the world stage.

As part of an ongoing project to produce a film documenting Jimmy Hickey’s life in dancing, Jimmy went to the INEC to see his former pupil, Patrick O’Mahoney dance the lead role in Riverdance.

Before the show, Jimmy got to show Patrick and some of the troupe a step or two and both Patrick and Jimmy were delighted to dance together on the INEC stage.

Jimmy and Patrick dance together on the INEC stage, Killarney in September 2018

Jimmy teaches Patrick a few steps.

Members of the troupe, who were watching in the wings, join in for a lesson as well.

Patrick thanks his former teacher for dropping in to see him. There is a mutual respect between these two men, both masters of the dance .

 The Colour and the Winners at Ladies Day 2018

Waiting for the results of the best dressed competition

The judges, Aoibhinn Garrihy and Marietta Doran, interviewed one another for a bit first.

Then it rained.

David Moran, Kerry footballer, picked the best dressed grooms.  This lovely lad came second and the  groom below won. He wore a suit he had bought for a wedding and very smart he looked too.

This lady came second in a dress her family didn’t like but the judges loved. Her hat is by Aoife Hannon. I thought I was being a very clever photographer by photographing her face and keeping the full shot in someone’s mobile phone in the picture. Didn’t quite work.

I was too far away from the stage to get a full length shot of this second runner up but her hat was gorgeous .

And the winner is…..

And her prize is …€3000 and this car for a year.

This is the winner from the back. I didn’t actually get a good photo of her because I didn’t think she would win. That’s all I know about fashion!

Meanwhile the business of racing went on, Presentations were made in the parade ring, People watched the horses and the men had a chat.

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