In January 2020 a chapter will close in the proud literary history of Ireland’s literary capital, Listowel. Flavin’s of Church Street is closing.
D.J. Flavin of 30 Church Street is a shop and a family woven into the fabric of Listowel for generations.
I will miss Joan and Tony and their lovely shop when this little bit of local colour and individuality has gone from our town.
Thanks for the memories.
Joan serving, Christine, one of her regulars on December 18 2019
They’ve Planted a Hedge
Christmas in Listowel
Here are a few images of home for the diaspora.
My friend Rosie painted the lovely scenes on the shop windows here at Spar on Bridge Road.
Lynch’s Coffee Shop in Main Street always has some of the loveliest window displays.
Christmas in Athea
(From Athea and District Newsletter)
That Time of Year
By Domhnall de Barra
Coming up to Christmas, my mind always wanders back to days of yore when the world was indeed a different place. There are huge changes since those days, most of them for the better, but there are also some good things that have been lost along the way. The biggest difference between the middle of the last century and today is how more well off we are now. Today, thank God, there is little or no poverty in our area. Back then it was an entirely different story. The years after the 2nd world war were lean ones indeed with no employment and a real scarcity of money. Families were usually big; 9 or 10 children being the norm but some were much bigger. Small farms were dotted around the parish, most of them with 10 or 12 cows to milk, and they barely survived. The farm was handed on to the oldest son so all the other siblings had to find work. The only employment available was to work for bigger farmers, most of whom lived on the good lands down the County Limerick, or working for shopkeepers and publicans in the village or nearby towns.
There was only so much of this to go around so, as soon as they were old enough, the boys and girls from Athea emigrated to England or America to find a better life for themselves. There was many a tear shed at the railway station in Abbeyfeale or Ardagh as young people, who had never seen the outside world, embarked on the long trip to some foreign city, not knowing what they were facing. There was hardly a house in the parish that was not affected by this mass exodus of our finest young people. It was however the saving of this country because those who found work with McAlpine, Murphy, and the likes sent home a few pounds every so often to help the family left behind. The postman was a welcome visitor bearing the letter with the English or American stamp. People would also send home parcels, especially coming up to Christmas. You didn’t have much, growing up in that era. You had two sets of clothes, one for weekdays and one for Sunday, well, when I say Sunday I suppose I really mean for going to Mass because as soon as you got home the clothes were taken off in case they got dirty!. The ordinary clothes were often hand-me-downs from older brothers and sisters and might have been repaired and altered many times. The mothers, in those days, were deft with sewing, darning and mending. When a shirt collar got frayed it would be “turned” and it looked like a new garment. The socks were made of thick wool and worn all the week. Naturally they got damp in the wellingtons, our main type of footwear, so we hung them over the fire at night . In the morning they would be stiff as pokers and we often had to beat them off the floor or a nearby chair to make them pliable enough to put on. There was no such thing as an underpants in those times or indeed belts for the trousers. A pair of braces did the trick and kept the trousers from falling down. That is why the parcel from abroad was so welcome. The new clothes they contained transported us into a different world and we felt like kings in our modern outfits.
The food was also simple but wholesome. Bacon and cabbage or turnips was the norm at dinner but sometimes we would make do with a couple of fried eggs and mashed potatoes or “pandy” as we used to call it. The eggs were from our own hens and had a taste you will not find today. Sausages were a rare treat and of course we looked forward to a bit of pork steak and puddings when a neighbour killed a pig.
Education was basic national school level, except for the few who could afford the fees for secondary school so, all too soon, childhood was over and the next group took to the emigration trail. There was great excitement at this time of the year because most of those who emigrated, especially to England, came home for Christmas. Their arrival at the station was eagerly awaited on the last few days before the festive season and we were in awe of their demeanour as they stepped down from the train dressed in the most modern of clothes with their hair in the latest fashion. There was much rejoicing and a nearby hostelry was visited where the porter flowed freely as those who came home were very generous to those who had stayed behind and had no disposable income. It was now time for a change of diet because nothing was too good for the visitors and we gorged ourselves on fresh meat from the butchers and “town bread”.
Midnight Mass was a special occasion with the church full of people all wishing each other a happy Christmas. The crib was a great attraction for the children who looked in awe at the baby Jesus in the manger. There was a solemnity about it and a sense of celebration at the same time. The Christmas dinner was a real feast with a goose or a turkey filling the middle of the table surrounded by spuds, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables. Jelly and custard followed and it was like manna from heaven! I don’t think many of today’s youngsters will be as excited as we were or cherish every moment in the company of family members who would soon take the lonesome trip back across the seas. Even though, today, we have more than enough I would give anything to go back to that time when I was a boy and experience the magic once more.
A Poem from Noel Roche of Chicago and Listowel
In Loving Memory of my sister, “ Jack’
I wonder if you’re up there
Irish dancing on a cloud.
I know that when you sing
You’re surrounded by a crowd.
Mam and Dad and Dick and Jim,
And all who passed are there.
I wonder what God’s thinking
Every time he hears you swear.
I know in my heart
There is one thing you will do.
I know you’ll ask Elvis
To sing The Wonder of You.
I know there’s angels laughing,
They all think you’re great.
Heaven has not been the same
Since you walked through the gate.
You left behind a lot of stuff
Clothes, jewellery and rings.
Your daughter got the promise
That you’re the wind beneath her wings.
I know your friends are sad
I know they’re feeling blue.
But I also know they’re grateful
That they had a friend like you.
Your brothers and your sisters
Are going day by day
And trying to accept the fact
That you have gone away.
Your nephews and your nieces
Every single one,
Are struggling with the fact
That their favourite Aunty’s gone.
I’m here in Chicago
Many miles away.
I’ve got a hole in my heart
That will not go away.
I’m trying to get over this
And make a brand new start
I know that I am not alonw
You are always in my heart.
A Heartfelt Thank You
I am truly grateful to everyone who has supported me by buying my book. This publication was a leap of faith for me. It was very different from my previous book which sold well to people who love Listowel.
With A Minute of Your Time I was much more exposed. I let down the crutch of our beautiful town and the huge volume of affection that people feel for it. I had to trust that people would buy me, my musings and my photographs. I am humbled and uplifted by the response.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who bought the book, to people who sent me lovely cards and letters, to people who stopped me in the street to tell me how much they love the book, particularly to the man who quoted, “Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your attitude. Page 77.” Classy, you made my day.”
The book is available in local bookshops. I’m hoping that people home for Christmas will pick it up while they’re in town. If you got a book token for Christmas, maybe you’d think of your hard working blogger…..