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Ladies’ Day at Listowel Races

Friday was always a day I loved to be on The Island. Sadly I won’t be there this year. So I’m going to relive happier times before we ever heard of Covid.

I am going to bring you a few photos of local people enjoying themselves in Septembers past.

Bishop Ray Browne came one year in the company of a some members of our parish council.

Collette and Seamus Stack are regulars at the races.

Simon and Lilly O’Flynn

Helen Kenny, Joan Kenny and Helen’s sister, Maisie

Sarah and Monica Quille with Madeleine O’Sullivan and Eilish Wren

Billy and Ursula O’Conor with Judy and Owen MacMahon

Maura Carmody and family

Noelle Hegarty and Bridie O’Rourke

Joan and Orla O’Connor

My friends John and Bridget O’Connor

Eileen Worts and Joe Broderick


Sights I hope to see again in September 2022

Pat Power and his marionettes outside Footprints

Traveller children in The Feale calling “Throw me down something.”

Race cards will cost a bit more than €3

Youngsters dressed up to the nines doing what youngsters do.

My friends Maria and Anne and maybe even a man with a daft hat.

Famous people like Jerry Hannon and Dáithí ÓSé

Interesting headwear

More famous people

Vintage Day.


Library Rd., Jerry Hannon and Some photos from Listowel Races on Friday

I snapped these ripening conkers on the horse chestnut tree at the entrance to Gaelscoil Lios Tuathail.


Race Week in Listowel, Early Evening

Live Music in Market Street


Jerry Hannon,  Voice of Irish Racing

Jerry posed for me with his great friend, Marietta Doran

Here is a  article by Colm O’Connor about Jerry from last weeks’ Irish Examiner.

Almost 20 years after beginning his career at a pony meeting in Athea, Jerry Hannon became Ireland’s primary racecourse commentator in July following the retirement of his ‘inspiration’, Dessie Scahill.

Q: How did it all start?

A: “The seed was planted in my hometown of Listowel. It seemed that all of North Kerry would grind to a halt for the annual festival every September. People who might never step inside a racecourse from one year to the next would be there. 

My first memory of the races down at ‘the island’ was when I was about seven or eight. I had a black and red BMX that I would park up at the finishing post — but then I would turn my back on the racing itself.

Instead of watching the horses, I would watch Dessie Scahill who was the course’s racing commentator. He was my inspiration. I was just in awe of him and what he was doing. 

I’m not from a big racing family but my late dad, Joe, would have been into it and I would travel with him to race meetings like Killarney and Galway as a child. The more I went, the more interested I became.

People might remember that Sports Stadium used to have racing highlights back then. I would sit in front of the TV on Saturday afternoons and record the commentary sections on cassette and play them back over and over again. When I got older I had this impression I would do of Micheal Ó Hehir’s famous commentary of Foinavon’s win in the 1967 Grand National. 

The Racing Post had a transcript of what he had said that day and I learned it off by heart. I used to do it for friends and family but I’d be so shy that I would only do it if I was behind a door or under a table. Liz Horgan, who was from Listowel, heard it and was really impressed.  Her dad, James, was hugely involved in the pony circuit at the time and she twisted his arm to let me commentate on some races one day. 

And so I did on October 17, 1999, in Athea in Limerick. I can remember the day clearly — Chris Hayes, Nina Carbery, Billy Lee, and Davy Condon were all there that afternoon, starting out, just like me.

And look where we all are 19 years later.

Q: But you were more than just a commentator?

A: My dad was very good friends with Liam Healy, the legendary racing photographer from Listowel. I used to go up to his office as a child and soon started to help out, numbering and indexing the pictures. From there I progressed to being his bagman at race meetings throughout my teenage years. Then he gave me a camera — he always said I had a great eye for a photo! Would you believe that I had visited every Irish racetrack by the time I was 17 in my work with Healy Racing. So when I finished secondary school at St Michael’s College I went straight to work with him on a full-time basis. He had a huge influence on my career and I’m eternally grateful to him for the support and advice that he gave me. So when I started doing more and more commentaries at the point-to-points, I’d often be double jobbing. I’d call a race and then sprint down to take pictures of the winning connections in the parade ring afterward.

Q: Your progress was remarkably quick?

A: It was. A few months after that pony debut in Athea I started out working at point-to-points which was a very big career step. But the connection with the Healys was perhaps a help as I wasn’t a complete unknown around the circuit (in fact my first racecourse access card read Jerry Healy, not Jerry Hannon). I started off doing point to points in Askeaton and Bruff in Limerick and it took off from there.

Q: And then came a slice of luck?

A: I was up in Downpatrick in May 2000 taking pictures for Healys. It was a two-day meeting and on the Friday night we were out for dinner with the Polly Family and it turned out their dad’s memorial race — the Willie Polly Memorial Handicap Hurdle — was on the next day. I did one of my commentary party pieces that night and they enjoyed it so much that they asked me to do the commentary on their dad’s race the following day. The racecourse manager Iain Duff and the inhouse commentator Neville Ring happily acceded to their request and that is how I got my break into racecourse commentary. Neville stood down from the role a few months later and asked me if I would like to take over. Needless to say I’ve had a soft spot for Downpatrick ever since.

Q: So you were up and running, if you pardon the pun, but it wasn’t an overnight success?

A: It has been a hard slog to get to where I am. I grafted very hard and made a lot of sacrifices. I missed so many family occasions like weddings, communions, birthdays because of racing commitments. I also had to hold down other jobs as well because the number of racing commentaries I was doing simply wasn’t enough to keep me going alone. So I had stints working with Cadburys and Paddy Power over the past 19 years.

Q: What’s more important — talent or hard work?

A: I’d say hard work first and foremost but you still need a sprinkling of talent as a foundation.

Q: What is the secret to a good commentator?

A: The soundest piece of advice was from Pat Keane (former Irish Examiner racing correspondent). He told me to ‘keep it simple and don’t add anything that is unnecessary.’ And I’ve worked to that mantra since then. And my Dad used to tell me that I should treat every single race like a Derby or a Grand National. And those are words that I never forget. I’m a bit of a traditionalist, I’m not paid to be a comedian or have these flashy one-liners. My job is to call it like I see it. That is what I aim to do with every race I commentate on.

Q: Has technology made your life easier?

A: Yes, nowadays all the racecards are in colour so it is easier to work out the jockeys and so on. When I started out in point-to-points the cards would be in black and white so I would bring my own pencils to add the colours!

Q: Technology is a double-edged sword. Is your job more difficult in the social media age?

A: Yes. You are very exposed and quite vulnerable to keyboard warriors. It is a bit like being a jockey, you are only as good as your last performance. Nowadays your commentary is more than just at the racecourse. T

his week gone by. I was working at Listowel but that commentary was going out on At the Races, SIS, on Radio Kerry, on phonelines. It means there’s no room for complacency if you are doing a midweek meeting or the major weekend race. You have to be thick-skinned in that regard and for the most part I stay away from forums and the like. But thankfully I’ve never had any issues in terms of trainers, jockeys, or owners.

Q: Your toughest commentary?

A: A 30-runner, five furlough maiden up the Curragh. Which is all done in less than a minute. Now that is a challenge.

Q: Your favourite commentator in any sport?

A: Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh.

Q: What does this new role mean to you?

A: I’ve been lucky in life, not everyone’s dream becomes reality. I’m 37 and landed the senior racecourse commentary role through nearly 20 years of hard work and hard graft. The Association of Irish Racecourses are my employers and they realised and rewarded me for my loyalty over the years. I have to punch in 220 racing days from July to July around Ireland. I completed the full set the week before last, with my commentary at Laytown meaning that I’ve commentated at every racecourse in Ireland. It is an honour and a privilege every day and hopefully there are more wonderful days ahead.”


Style on Ladies Day 2018

I met Dick Carmody and his friend at the parade ring.

Stylish couple, Sharon and Antony

The Tg4 crew were looking resplendent.

Barbara and Gerard Mulvihill and friends were out in style.

Betty McGrath and her friends are always eye-catching on Ladies Day.

This fabulous sunflower creation did not win the prize for the jazziest hat. It would appear that that prize is decided among the 10 finalists in the best dressed lady competition.

I think, maybe,  they should rethink that one.

  Mother and daughter, Lorraine and Maria were beautiful.

I spotted this really well turned out groom in the parade ring and I wondered if he had been roped in to lead out the horse at short notice. Not at all. The next time I saw this man he was on the stage being presented with a prize for being the best dressed groom.  It’s great to recognise the hard work of these men and women who work away behind the scenes preparing the horses for racing and hosing them down afterwards. I think next year they might all be throwing on the suit they bought for a wedding.

I recognised a famous North Cork musician among the crowd. The last time I saw Liam O’Connor he was moving the mourners to applause amid the tears at the funeral of my great old friend, Peggy Keane of Freemount. What a musician!

For people who were there as much for the fashion as for racing, there was a roving Tote service to make sure you didn’t miss out.


Culture Night

Tonight, Sept 21 2018 is Culture Night and Listowel has great things in store for us . Call in to the Seanchaí after 6 and Listowel Writers’ Week will give you a present of a book. That’s it…no Ts and Cs, just a book for nothing.

St. John’s and the Kerry Writers’ Centre have great programmes planned and at 9.00 outside St. John’s we are the get a light show, a foretaste of what’s in store at the upcoming Féile an tSolais. Great night in store. Don’t miss it.


That Photo

Denis Quille recognised Dan Lou Sweeney in the front and his son, Billy confirmed it.

Billy MacSweeney had a few more names as well;

Looking at the Doodle photograph I recognize my father Dan Lou McSweeney

seated right at the front, Tom O’Connell right behind him. Mick Carey on

Tom’s right next to ‘Stackianus’ with Sean Grogan on the latter’s right.

Dermot Tatten is front left. That could be Chuck Roche behind Mick

Carey. That’s all I can make out.


Buttevant, Bridge Road, a tip for Town Planners and Rás Tailteann 2018

 Photo: Chris Grayson


 I was in Buttevant

Butevant is a very historic town in North Cork. I was there recently and I made a few observations.

Isn’t this a good idea? They have  seats celebrating local families and the history of the family in a notice close by.

There are lots of old shopfronts left unchanged.

Just like us they have a castle in the middle of the town. Ours is in better nick though.

The convent in Buttevant has been sold.  The identity of the buyer was a topic of speculation on the day I was in town.

This old graveyard is in the grounds of the church. It is ironic that the man whose funeral brought me to the town would be the very man who could have told me all of the history.

The church had an ancient feel to it too. The galleries, there were three, are accessed by a stairs from the outside.


Bridge Road

Prompted by Derry Buckley’s account of Bridge Road houses, Kay Caball who also came from Bridge Road, wrote the following;

“…..In connection with Derry Buckley’s photo of  the Bridge Rd.,  my parents rented one of the three houses built and owned by his grandfather, facing the river.  Then they moved to the left hand side of the bridge to what must have been new houses in the early 1940s.  We lived in the second from the stone wall – I think it was owned by Mrs. Murray who had a shop in Main St., selling religious goods – rosary beads, holy pictures, scapulars etc.  (The Murray also must have had the ‘franchise’ for holy goods at the missions in all the north Kerry churches. They would have covered stall in the yards of the churches at .mission time’ selling all these good like hot cakes.

Other people who lived down our (left hand side) of the Bridge Rd., were the Nielsens (Hilary Nielsen taught in the tech), the O’Sheas (Fr Kieran O’Shea), Mr. O’Sullivan the Creamery Manager, (we called everyone Mr. or Mrs. then, had no idea of their christian names). the McElligotts (I think Mr. McElligott sold encyclopedias) and the Woulfes (Mr Woulfe worked in McKennas).   Accross the road we the Griffins (Juniors people) the Kennys, Hassetts, Rita Purcell and her lodger Dan Daly, the Callagys and at the top of this side there were two shops- beside the road going down to the track – Bolsters who sold lovely Lucan Ice Creams and Moloneys (no relation) who had a large shop selling everything, tea, sugar, meal  and shoes.”

Peggy Brick who also lived in Bridge Road remembers a Mulligan’s shop as well.


Seen on Twitter

A picture paints a thousand words


Neighbourly chat in Charles Street

I met Jerry and Violet on a sunny morning in May 2018


Rás Tailteann in Listowel May 22 2018…a little known Listowel Connection

It’s May 22 2018. There I was on Market Street waiting for the Rás to hit town and filling my time by taking a few snaps of the locals when………

who do I spot across the street but my old school friend from Scoil Mhuire, Kanturk? 

Why was Mary Kiely (now Corkery) in Listowel at the Rás finish?

This is why. Her lovely grandson is riding in the race. Here is Dylan Corkery with three proud grandparents.  

And here is the Listowel connection or, to be more precise, the Duagh connection. Dylan’s grandfather is an O’Keeffe from Trienireach, Duagh. Dylan at 19 is one of the youngest riders in Rás Tailteann.

(More from the Rás to come)

NKM in Listowel, Johnny O’Leary and Ladies’ Day at Listowel Races 2017

Photo: Chris Grayson


NKM in Listowel

Recently I got this email from a new blog follower.

Just back from a trip to Dublin I was thrilled to come across your blog and discover a note on the opening of the NKM sweet factory by my maternal grandfather Tom Armstrong- thank you so much for creating your blog .I now live in the Baltic States and its wonderful to have a contact with Listowel where my mother was born – Patrick Armstrong McCrea

I put Patrick in touch with Vincent Carmody and they have had some very productive email correspondence since.


Sliabh Luachra Music

This lovely memorial to the great Johnny O’Leary is in Killarney


Ladies’ Day 2017

 RTE and TG4 were out in force and beautifully presented

Daithí OSé was ultra obliging and posed with anyone who asked

Two Kerry legends, our own Jerry Hannon and Carrachán’s Daithí ÓSé

Beautifully turned out local ladies

Just one more Rose for 2017


Good News from Ottawa

Listowel was awarded five blooms, which is the top award in Communities in Bloom competition in Canada. Listowel also got a special recognition for its community fruit and nut garden.

Hopes are high for September 25th when the results of the Tidy Town competition will be announced. Listowel is hopeful of another gold medal. We all agree we deserve it. Everyone has worked so hard.

A return to Convent Street, Jim Reeves in Listowel, a local winner at Listowel Races 1982 and Jerry Hannon

Bird on a Wire

Such a sweet photo by Chris Grayson


Andy Griffin takes a trip back to his roots

Andy Griffin follows listowelconnection from his home in England. Recently he made a trip to Listowel, Ballybunion and Dingle with his dad and his children. For dad it was a trip down memory lane. Daniel Griffin, now in his seventies, grew up in Convent Street. For the young people it was a chance to get acquainted with their Irish heritage. Andy sent us some of their holiday snaps.


This premises at the junction of William Street and O’Connell’s Avenue was once The Las Vegas Ballroom

Jim Reeves in The Las Vegas, Listowel

Last week I brought you Jim Sheahan’s memories of his time as a musician in The Las Vegas Ballroom, Listowel. He told me about a phenomenon called All Night Dances which drew huge crowds and went on until 3.00a.m. Sometimes these nights had a huge star as the main attraction. Bridie Gallagher of The Boys from the County Armagh fame came.

Mary O’Rourke, formerly of Church St. wrote to say that she thought that Jim Reeves had played there. She did a bit of research and she found that, sure enough, on Sunday June 2 1963 the great Jim Reeves played for a full hour from 10.00 to 11.00.

Incidentally her source, Jim Reeves, The Untold Story, reveals that, after he had finished his gig in Listowel, he was driven to The Majestic in Mallow for his next gig, appearing on stage at 12.30 a.m.

For those of you interested in learning more about this country singer’s time in Ireland, I found the following in the Mayo News blog from 2010;
NEARLY 50 years on, the Jim Reeves tour of Ireland in 1963 still has the power to rekindle old memories. As I reported last August, a new 26 page booklet by James Reddiough from Attymass takes a look-back at that nostalgic time and commits to print memories and reflections of a tour that captured the headlines way back then. The booklet, ‘Jim Reeves Tour of Ireland 1963’, was launched on Monday night last, September 27, in the Welcome Inn, Castlebar.
Reeves was one of the true superstars of the era. The velvet tones of the tall Texan filled the airwaves on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Here in Ireland, his songs held magnetic appeal. He played a huge role in cultivating the roots of country music among the Irish nation.

A year after his visit to Ireland, Jim Reeves died in a plane crash south of Nashville on July 31,1964. News of his passing made front page news around the globe. The singer was in the prime of his career with a string of No 1 hits in the American and UK charts.
As with Buddy Holly and others, his early and tragic death added even further to his iconic status. His classic country songs still cast a spell and retain a timeless appeal, especially in Ireland where he was always huge.
Jim’s first Irish date was in Drumkeen, Co Limerick on May 30. It was after a show in the Atlantic Ballroom in Tramore that he made the long journey from the south east across Ireland to Kiltimagh. That probably contributed to the moody form that led to his non-appearance on stage in the Mayo town.
What happened or did not happen in Kiltimagh on the night of June 6, 1963, can still generate plenty of talk. Journalist James Morrissey, a native of Kiltimagh who has resided in Dublin for many years, recalled the event in ‘The Swinging Sixties’, which was edited by John Coughlan, the founder of Spotlight magazine. “I can well remember the night Jim Reeves did not play in Kiltimagh. A crowd of us – trousered schoolboys congregated outside The Diamond Ballroom, waiting for the singing legend to arrive. Not since Walt Disney visited the town, at the invitation of a local businessman, had there been such a fuss about a stage or screen personality in the town.
“Car loads of couples arrived from all over the towns around and how we envied their adult status to have been able to gain admission for ten shillings. As it transpired we were not the only ones to be disappointed because Jim Reeves never performed in Kiltimagh. He claimed the piano was not properly tuned.”
Leo Diamond Jnr, son of the late Leo who owned the hall at the time, is quoted thus: “I understand that he was not aware that he had to do two shows that night it seems. He threw a tantrum when he found out he was down to perform at another show 40 miles away in Sligo. He came in the back door of the hall and didn’t stay long. He refused to do the two shows. Jack Higgins shot down the hall and said to Leo …‘he’s gone’.”


Today’s Racing Memory

This one was shared on Facebook by Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine

Flashback to Listowel Races 1982: presentation to the Keane family of Ballylongford after their horse ‘Yer Man’ had won the Central Hotel Handicap. Pictured are Val O’Connell (jockey), Noel Keane, Kissane Keane, Carmel Keane (nee Kissane, Lacca), John Byrne, Andrew McNamara (trainer) and Michael Keane (NT, Listowel).


Jerry Hannon; Horse Racing Commentator

Photo and text from website

Listowel Race week is very special for so many reasons. For me, it’s all
about coming

 home to work, I’m killing two
birds with the one stone.

I’m playing to a home crowd for seven days and I love it.

I’m an exile now. Dublin has been my base for the past five years.

They thought I’d never leave my mother’s side! Teresa is the best in the

For her, Listowel week is all about keeping me fed, breakfast, lunch and

She’d butter the bread if I’d let her! Saturday is locals’ day and 

she’ll come down to the ‘island’ for the races. 

The family, including my
sisters Emer and Paula, will all meet up for a drink

afterwards and maybe Mam will tell me I did a good job for the week.

 Deep down, I know she’s very
proud of me.

We lost our dad Joe back in March of 2009. It was a huge blow to us all.

He was my biggest fan. He once told me to treat every race as if it was
the Derby

or the Grand National and if I get a little excited at times, well
that’s why.

I miss him all the time but especially this week. Yesterday’s winner

Youceeyouceecee is owned by Eamon O’Carroll and his family.

He was a great friend of Dad’s and when Eamon’s Tom Doodle won at

Listowel in 2007, Dad stood in for the photo in the winners’

One of my earlies memoires is of Dad getting the late Liam Healy to take a

 of me with Charlie Swan. Charlie
was easily my favourite jockey

 when I was growing up. Liam stood
me up on the steps of the stewards’ stand beside

 the weighroom at Listowel and
Charlie stood in beside me. A big moment

 I can tell you. Dad would have
brought me to the Listowel in my very early days

 and as I grew up I would have
cycled down to the track on my black and red BMX

. I went everywhere on that bike!

Liam and his family only lived around the corner from us and we have known them

 all our lives. I honestly don’t
know what I’d be doing without Liam. He was

 a sound advisor and claimed me as
the son he never had. He even taught m

e how to drive! I loved helping him out and he even said that I had “the

 for photography. The best picture
I ever took was of Stroll Home and

 Paul Carberry on their way to
winning the Galway Plate in 1997.

Liam had sent me down to the second last fence and that’s where

 I got the snap. I had seen every
racecourse in the country with Liam

 by the time I was 16 or 17.
Laytown completed the full set at the time and

 it remains the only course I
haven’t done a commentary at.

It seems like everything that happens this week brings back memories.

 Calling the Liam Healy Memorial
Lartigue Handicap Hurdle on Tuesday

was a trying task. I’m close to all the Healys, Pat, Liam Og, Lisa and

 and their extended families. I’d
do a good bit of the travelling with the lads,

 car-pooling remains a big thing.
Brendan Sheridan is part of that gang,

especially when head north to Downpatrick and Down Royal.

Another big influence has been the great Dessie Scahill. I’ve been doing

the course commentaries on a full-time basis since July of last year and

I’m delighted to be sharing the duties with the man that has been an
idol of mine

 for close to 30 years. I freely
admit that when I went racing in the early days,

the action was going on behind my back. Everyone would be watching

what was happening out on the track and I’d be looking up at Des with my
mouth open.

 A treasured possession is a photo
I have of me standing in the commentary box

 of the old Corrib stand at Galway
watching him calling a race. It was taken in 1996.

 He was top of the pops back then
and he still is to this day. A remarkable talent

and in a class of his own on the big days.

My first commentary on the track was at Downpatrick in May, 2000. I started off

 with pony racing and in
point-to-points. When I left school, I worked in the office

 for the Healys for a year and a
bit. Pat was in Australia at the time and I held

 the fort while the two Liams
worked the tracks. I was on the sales team

  • for Cadburys for a few years. I worked all over Munster. It was the
    easiest sell of all time. 

    Who doesn’t like Cadburys chocolate!

    I spent eight years with Paddy Power, starting off as a cashier in Tralee

     and working around the county
    before moving to Dublin where I worked in their offices

     in the south of the city and
    spent three months in the head office in Clonskeagh.

    Everyone that knows me knows that I’m at my happiest now. Calling the horses

    has always been a dream. And to be able to do it in your own home town
    is brilliant.

    There will be a big crowd on the ‘island’ for the Kerry National this

    and we’ll top that on Friday for ladies’ day. I’ll be giving it my all

    the best seat in the house. Tell Mam I’ll be home for dinner at 6.30.

    She’ll be waiting at the door for me!

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