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: Jill Friedman

Old Photos, Nora Relihan and A Bridge that no one was allowed to cross

Photo; Christopher Burke


Jill Friedman’s North Kerry Photos

I don’t know whose  funeral is in the first one is. If you know, tell me. I think I recognise the man in the second photo. He is a fisherman from Finuge.  I have posted the last one before. I think the man with the harmonica is Faulkner.



In those heady days before the lockdown, Marie Moriarty went walking in The Maherees. Here are a few of her photos.


Nora Relihan as Mena in Sive

Prize giving at Scarriff

Photo; Paul O’Flynn
Nora Relihan played Mena in the original Listowel Amateur Drama Group production of ‘Sive’. This production won the all Ireland drama award at the Athlone Drama Festival in 1959. When the play was produced by the Southern Theatre Group in June 1959, Nora Relihan was asked to reprise her role. Eibhlis MacSweeney later replaced Nora Relihan in the role of Mena until the end of the production. This production played in Fr Mathew Hall for 6 weeks, then travelled to the Olympia to play for 4 weeks before touring Munster

(photo and text from Cork County Library local studies section)


The Forbidden Bridge over the River Feale

In the House of Commons on 1st April, 1898, Mr. Flavin, M.P., (N. Kerry),  Listowel, Co. Kerry, raised the following issue and asked the following questions of Gerald Balfour, Chief Secretary: 

“I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,

(1) if he is aware that the Grand Jury of Kerry erected a bridge at a cost of £3,496 10s. over the River Feale, between Duagh and Islandanny, and that three-fourths of the total cost is now repaid out of the public rates to the Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland), but that the general public are not allowed to use the bridge, although it has been completed and maintained for the past seven years; and 

(2), what steps will be now taken to obtain access for the public to pass over the bridge?”

Mr. Gerald Balfour: “I am informed that the facts are correctly stated in the first paragraph. The line of railway from Tralee to Limerick crosses the road or approach, at one side of the bridge, and no proper crossing has been provided by the railway company at this point. The grand jury, moreover, state they have no power to employ a person to look after the gates at what appears to be a farm crossing. I am advised there is no legal provision under which the railway company or the grand jury can be required to provide a crossing, and the Board of Trade inform me they have no power to intervene.”

Mr Flavin, M.P.: “I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why the grand jury constructed this bridge—[Mr. SPEAKER: Order, order!] 

Mr. Flavin:  But, Sir, arising out of the question, I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that a large number of people in the district are prevented from using this bridge.” 

Mr/ Speaker: “ Order, order! The hon. Member is continuing to argue a question which has already been fully answered.” 

Mr. Flavin: “I wanted to point out, Mr. Speaker-”  

Mr Speaker: “Order, order!” 

It would appear that no-one thought of the need for access to the bridge by those it was intended to carry across the river!  Could the bridge really have stood idle for seven years as a result of such incompetence? 

Jill Friedman’s Listowel, poet John McGrath, Lord Omathwaite and Spanish Flu

Still Working

A KWD refuse truck passes Listowel Garda Station on March 26 2020


Local poet, John McGrath shared this poem on Facebook. I know it will resonate with many of my emigrant readers.

The Week after St Patrick’s

The week after St Patrick’s, my mother

pressed his suit and packed his case,

Then drove him to the station for the early train

from Ballyhaunis to the crowded boat,

Then on to Manchester and solitude

until All Souls came slowly round again.

I don’t remember ever saying Goodbye.

At seventeen I took the train myself

and saw first-hand my father’s box-room life,

the Woodbines by his shabby single bed.

I don’t remember ever saying Hello

Just sat beside this stranger in the gloom

and talked of home and life, and all the while

I wanted to be gone, get on with mine.

Westerns and ‘The Western’ kept him sane,

newspapers from home until the time

to take the train came slowly round once more.

Lost in Louis L’Amour, he seldom heard

the toilet’s ugly flush, the gurgling bath

next door. Zane Grey dulled the traffic’s

angry roar, outside his grimy window.

Back home the year before he died we spoke

at last as equals, smoked our cigarettes,

his a Woodbine still, and mine a tipped;

My mother would have killed us if she’d known.

The phone-call came as Winter turned to Spring

I stood beside him, touched his face of ice

And knew our last Hello had been Goodbye.

John McGrath March 2018


Jill Friedman’s Kerry

Internationally renowned photographer, Jill Friedman took these photographs on trip to The Kingdom.


Lord Ormathwaite

Lord Ormathwaite was mentioned in one of the old stories last week. Kay Caball has come across him in her research.

In 1770, John Walsh  (uncle-in-law of John Benn Walsh, Lord Ormathwaite) had purchased land from Francis Thomas Fitzmaurice, 3rd earl of Kerry, in both Clanmaurice and Iraghticonnor for £15,230, and again, in 1774, for £5,944.  John Walsh, was a wealthy nabob, born in Madras, who returned from India to Britain after the battle Plassey.  He became an MP, with a country estate in Berkshire.  He bequeathed his Irish estates after his death to his niece Margaret Benn-Walsh in trust for her son, who became Lord Ormathwaite, owning  9,000 acres in north Kerry at the time of the Great Famine.[1]

Sir John Benn WLSH (later Lord Ormathwaite) visited north Kerry in 1823 -1864 and kept a journal relating  these visits to the different [named] tenants.     Excerpts from this journal are published in John D. Pierse’s book Teampall Bán: Aspects of the Famine in north Kerry 1845-1852, p. 241

[1] Kay Caball, The Fall of the Fitzmaurices: The Demise of Kerry’s First Family.


North Kerry and The Spanish Flu

The last great pandemic was the Spanish flu, which ravaged the world in the years after World War 2

Photo from Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine 2018 shows workmen wearing masks.

This magazine has a very informative article about the pandemic.

 North Kerry was particularly hard hit, with many deaths.

In 1918 532 deaths were reported in the Listowel district. As well as the flu, people died of TB and  natural causes and many had lingering injuries acquired on the battle front.

Irishgenealogy,ie has a database of civil and church records that hold fascinating information. If you want to know how your ancestors fared during this last pandemic you could search the death records. Each entry records the cause of death and the duration of the final illness. If you make any interesting discoveries, we’d love to know.

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