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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

Tag: Jim Costelloe Page 1 of 2

Farm tasks in the 1940s, O’Connell’s Ave. grotto and More from Storied Kerry Meitheal in Killarney

Evening in the Small Square

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Out of the Blue


This is the beautifully repainted Catch of the Day. Blue seems to be the favourite colour of shop owners for 2018.

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Tough Tasks on the Farm

The following extract is taken from Jim Costelloe’s great rural memoir of Asdee in the 1940’s and ’50s


Anyone who has spread fertilizer by hand from a bucket will surely agree it was a horrible task. One’s face, eyes and clothes were covered with the basic slag when finished. The worst part was the taste in the mouth as a lot of it went down our throats. Face masks were never used and our lungs must have been congested judging by the amount that went up our nostrils and into our mouths.

Another unpleasant and tough task in my youth was trying to light the kitchen fire with bad turf and wet sticks on a cold frosty morning. Without the fire there was no heat whatsoever in the house and no way of boiling the kettle for a sup of tea.

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The Grotto


I love it when this happens. I take a picture and I post it on here. It evokes a memory for someone or someone goes and looks up the history and they share it with us here in Listowel Connection. It’s a bit like how Facebook used to work.

Marie Nelligan Shaw wrote; “Remember well when the grotto at the junction of O’Connells Avenue was blessed and dedicated. The yellow house on the right of the photo was occupied by a lovely lady named Mrs Collins. She took very good care of it while she lived.”


And Jer Kennelly found this;  

Kerry Champion 14 August 1954

Consecration of Listowel Shrine erected at O’Connell’s Avenue, Listowel. Erected by voluntary labour. Statue and railings were donated. Subscriptions were mainly from the residents, all the organising committee are from the Avenue. (See paper for full report, blessing on Sunday next)

Kerry Champion 21 August 1954

Beautiful Grotto at O’Connell’s Avenue was blessed by P J Canon Brennan, P.P. V.F accompanied by two curates Frs Dillon and Moore. Windows in the avenue were also decorated. 

Kerry Champion 1928-1958, Saturday, September 04, 1954; Section: Front page, Page: 1

Bishop’s Visit to Listowel

Most Rev. Doctor Moynihan, Bishop of Kerry visited Listowel on Friday evening last and went to O’Connell’s Avenue to see the Marian Year shrine which has been erected there. His Lordship was accompanied by Canon Brennan who blessed the shrine on August 16th last.

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Storied Kerry


Storied Kerry is the brainchild of Frank Lewis. He gathered together a meitheal of Kerry people to start this new story in the life of Kerry on Saturday, October 27 2018.

The stories told  on Saturday were all excellent. They were told in the old style with a one person storyteller and an attentive audience. Above is master story teller, Seán Lyons, who regaled us with a Halloween appropriate tale, set in a graveyard. It was a story about motivation. If you fall into a newly dug grave at Halloween there is no better motivator  to get you out again than meeting up with the previous occupant.



Storytellers, Batt Burns and Frances Kennedy were there.

Part of the North Kerry contingent, Frances, Joe Murphy and Mary Kennelly

Frances told us a tale of smelly feet and smelly breath in her unique and always entertaining style.



Frank and Joe share a funny moment.

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Ireland’s Fittest Families




For people reading this who don’t live in Ireland, Ireland’s Fittest Family is a reality tv show on RTE, in which families of four adults compete against each other in gruelling army boot camp like tasks. Each week one family is eliminated until we are left with Ireland’s fittest family. The families are mentored by well known retired sports personalities.

The Listowel connection is the involvement of Roibeard Pierse and his three children in this year’s contest.

The programme started airing on TV on Sunday October 28 2018 and the Pierse family which the programme calls The Pierses did very well.

The photo above is from the programme’s Facebook page and below is what they say about The Pierses;

From Kerry, the Pierses are making a bid for a win for the Kingdom. Father Riobard (50) works as a solicitor and is a keen runner, focusing on 5ks. He also co-founded the Listowel park run and is the manager of Cliona’s Listowel Emmets u16 ladies team.

His son Oran (20) became the U18 Munster Cycling Champion in 2016. Has also won the Senior Kerry Road Race League and raced internationally for the Munster Team.

His brother Ciarán (18) Plays Gaelic football with UL freshers team and Listowel Emmets seniors. A good leader himself, he captained Listowel to victory in the minor county league in 2017 and has played in two All-Ireland finals in the community games. Cliona (15) does one better, having taken part in the All-Ireland community games finals five years in a row in athletics, Gaelic football, soccer and futsal twice. She also plays soccer with the Listowel Celtic team. 

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A Tender Moment






This has to be one of the nicest photographs from the recent presidential election. I dont know who took it.

In the horrible bruising campaign for the Presidency of Ireland in 2018, when even the candidate’s dogs were dragged into the carnage, Sabina Higgins was the loyal, dignified and loving presence by her husband’s side. She is everything I would want in a first lady.

Central Hotel, the next Sonny Bill, Looking after the potatoes in Asdee and a Meitheal to launch Storied Kerry




William Street Upper


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Maid of Erin, Main Street





This building in Listowel’s Main Street has one of Pat MacAulliffe’s best known works on its shopfront. Hardly a day goes by without some tourist stopping to photograph this symbol of Listowel.

Below are some of the details on this intrinsically Irish stucco.

Irish wolfhound

Shamrocks and celtic knot work surround the slogan which translates as Ireland forever.

A round tower

Under the rising sun the bare chested maid is resting on an Irish harp, the official symbol of Ireland. The rising sun at “Fáinne Geal an Lae” is an often used republican symbol of the dawn of a new day for Ireland. A warrior woman as in Dark Rosaleen or Caitlín Ní Houlicháin is also a frequently employed symbol for a free Ireland.

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Do You Remember Sonny Bill?


If your answer to the above question is no, move right along, please. Nothing to see here.

If the answer is yes, Sonny Bill was that beautiful horse that they had at my home place in Kanturk and who was eventually sold on to an English buyer. He is now enjoying a stellar career across the Irish Sea.

This beautiful foal, seen above running with his mother, is Sonny Bill’s last full brother. Sadly, their dad has passed away so there is a great weight of expectation on these young shoulders. 

He is still with his birth family but will be coming to his new home soon at the EPA stable . It’s not really possible to tell if he will be as good as his brother but watch this space and I’ll update you if he begins to realise his potential.

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 Looking after the Potato Pit

The following extract is taken from Jim Costelloe’s great rural memoir of Asdee in the 1940’s and ’50s

The potatoes were stored in long pits in the kitchen garden beside the house when I was young. There were Kerrs Pinks and Golden Wonders for human consumption in a small pit, but the long pit was of Aran Banners for the farm animals and the domestic fowl. These pits were covered with straw and rushes to protect the potatoes from the winter frost. With the coming of Spring growth, the potatoes began to sprout and if left untouched they would grow long stalks, get soft and lose their nutrition. To prevent this from happening they would have to be turned. The work was done by hand and it entailed stripping the cover off the pit and rubbing the sprouts off each potato individually before repitting the whole lot.

The job is always done on a day following a night of grey frost. That was always a sunny day with a bit of drying and also, there was generally no threat of rain. Down on one knee handling thousands of potatoes on a frosty date is not the most exciting of jobs. The cold east wind and the damp semi hard ground added to the discomfort. The only exciting thing about it was the stripping of the rushes and straw where we suspected rats were hiding. The scurrying of the rats and our attempts to kill them with pikes  are memories now. How those same rats would destroy a pit of spuds if left unhindered is amazing. Rodine was a rat poison in those days and was very effective.

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Storied Kerry



Storied Kerry is a movement you will be hearing lots more about from now on. It is a drive to preserve and celebrate our stories, all our stories and all forms of story telling to all kinds of audiences.

On Saturday last, October 27 2018 Frank Lewis, the founder of Storied Kerry gathered together a Meitheal in Killarney to get this show on the road.

This man is Rory Darcy, a school principal, a philosopher, a story teller and, as we discovered later, a marathon runner.  Rory welcomed us to his school, St. Oliver’s national School, Ballycasheen, Killarney.  St. Oliver’s has pupils from many different countries on its rolls. It welcomes and celebrates them all. There were flags of all the countries behind Rory as he spoke to us and he told us of an initiative started in St. Oliver’s and now practiced in many Killarney schools were the parents of the children, some of them from refugee centres help out with meals in the school and the children get to talk to and interact with a diverse group of parents as well as fellow pupils.

Behind Rory also there was a fish tank. This tank is a kind of symbol of what St. Oliver’s stands for. There are fish of all shapes, colours and sizes in the tank. There are big bubbles helping to keep them alive. These are big acts of kindness but there are also lots of tiny bubbles, standing for small little acts we do to help each other out. The story of St. Oliver’s was a lovely way to start the day.

The next treat for us was a performance from Siamsa Tíre’s seminal show, Fadó, Fadó. It was pure magic. I’m definitely going to see the full show the next time it’s on in Siamsa.

The dancing and singing told the story of the meitheal oibre who came together to reap the harvest as it was done by our ancestors long ago.

This multitalented performer edged his scythe with a whet stone. He also played the fiddle and sang the most moving rendition of “Ar Bhruach na Carraige Báine” I’ve heard in a long time.

This man brought the corn to thresh.

This implement is called a flail and it was used to beat the corn from the ears.

Every action was accompanied by dancing and the rhythmic music of the farm work as well as more traditional music played on the fiddle, the accordion and Uileann pipes.

A familiar face in the front row.

( more from Storied Kerry tomorrow)

A Robin, a smile, new windows at Listowel Garda Station and the Christmas parcel from America remembered

A Kerry robin in a Christmassy setting photographed by Chris Grayson

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This Spike Milligan poem is doing the rounds on Twitter.

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A Card and a Caption from the National Library’s Collection




Nat Library Ireland @NLIreland  59m59 minutes ago

An example of a 1918 Christmas card An example of a 1918 Christmas card for you today, issued by the Royal Army Medical Corps, [Great] Northern Central Hospital, for a Christmas social evening. The front of the card reads “Keep Smiling in Ardus Fidelus”- some sound advice!”. you today, issued by the Royal Army Medical Corps, [Great] Northern Central Hospital, for a Christmas so

<<<<<<cial evening. The front of the card reads “Keep Smiling in Ardus Fidelus”- some sound advice!”.

Listowel Garda Station, Christmas 2017

Notice the lovely new windows in the same style as the old ones to fit in with Listowel Garda Station’s status as a heritage building.

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Christmas in Rural
Ireland in the 1950s…….The parcel from America

from Jim Costelloe’s  Asdee  A Rural Miscellany

I remember when
the first sign of the festive season was when the letter from my Aunt Nell in
New York arrived with the news that she was posting a “package” to us. The
parcel was being sent by “ordinary mail” and would take about 6 weeks to
arrive. It was being posted on the same day as the letter which was sent by
airmail. When the package arrived there was great excitement as we waited
patiently to see what each one had got. The label read “old clothes” and the
ritual of opening the parcel kept us in suspense as himself very carefully
opened the knots in the twine, so that none of it would be wasted.

He had a habit of
keeping everything that might come in useful so the twine was carefully made
into a ball and put in his waistcoat pocket. The brown paper which wrapped the
parcel was folded and put away before we might see what was in the package. We
all got some items of clothing. These were duly allocated by my mother. Some
articles were rejected because they were not suitable for wear here and people
would know they were American. The anticipation of what would be in that parcel
was the start of the excitement of Christmas in my youth.

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Meanwhile in Germany 



Philomena Moriarty Kuhn now lives far from her native Listowel. One of the differences this loyal follower of Listowel Connection will experience this year is a white Christmas.

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Slán Tamall



I’m signing off for 2017. I’ll take a short break to recharge the batteries. 

See you back here in 2018, le cúnamh Dé

A Poem, Athea, old Cork and generosity personified at Christmas 2017

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Forget Elf on the shelf. Chris Grayson’s robins are up to morning adventures as well.

Ballylongford in Winter 2017     Photo by Ita Hannon

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The Wind         by James Stephens

The wind stood up
and gave a shout

He whistled on his
fingers and

Kicked the
withered leaves about,

And thumped the
branches with his hand.

And said that he’d
kill, and kill, and kill

And so he will!
And so he will!

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Athea’s Local Chronicler



Domhnall de Barra does his local district a great service by bringing them a regular update soon local happenings in his 

Athea and District News

Here is some of what he has to say in Christmas 2017

The Festive Season 

Domhnall de Barra


Christmas time is upon
us again and the buying frenzy has already started. In trying to understand
why, I googled Christmas and found a lot of information about the origins of
the feast and how it developed over the years. You can do this yourselves so I
won’t go into it except  for the following passage:

The celebratory customs associated in various
countries with Christmas have a mix of 
pre-Christian,
Christian, and 
secular themes
and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include 
gift giving,
completing an 
Advent calendar or Advent wreathChristmas music and caroling,
lighting a 
Christingle,
viewing a 
Nativity play,
an exchange of 
Christmas cardschurch services,
special meal,
and the display of various 
Christmas
decorations
, including Christmas treesChristmas lightsnativity scenesgarlandswreathsmistletoe,
and 
holly.
In addition, several closely related and often interchangeable figures, known
as 
Santa ClausFather ChristmasSaint Nicholas,
and 
Christkind,
are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and
have their own body of 
traditions and
lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival
involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant
event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact
of Christmas has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of
the world.


That passage sums
up  in a few sentences what Christmas is about but it does not tell the
whole story. With all the ballyhoo, the real meaning of Christmas can easily
get lost. It was created to  celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, an event
that is central to Christian beliefs. December 25th may not be the real date of
the Lord’s birth but it was chosen because it was the shortest day of the
year in the Roman calendar and marked the beginning of the longer days  to
come and more light. When people celebrate they often do so by eating together
so the Christmas dinner began. It was, and still is, a great family occasion
and a time for loving and sharing…..

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Cork in 1920




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A Heartwarming Story

This is Eunice Perrin of Duagh. Eunice loves to knit and every evening she knits little hats for premature babies as she watches her favourite TV programmes.

I met her in Scribes on Saturday where she was meeting up with another very generous soul. Namir Karim is closing down his craft shop in Church Street and he gifted Eunice twenty balls of knitting yarn for her charity knitting. Maureen Connelly agreed to be the liaison person to deliver the yarn and collect the caps.

Three kind people

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Getting Ready for Christmas in Asdee in the 1950s

by Jim Costelloe in his book…Asdee a Rural Miscellany

Whitewashing the
dry walls around the house was one of the jobs that had to be done for
Christmas. The outer walls of dwelling houses had to be lime washed also. The
lime had to be prepared a few days beforehand and I have a memory of rocks of
lime in the bottom of a bucket being covered with boiling water as the mixture
stewed a combination of steam and lime into the air,  Some blue dye which was also used for
bleaching white clothes on washday was also added to make the lime wash brilliant
white. The yard and the bohreen near the house were also brushed and a general
clean up was done.

There were no
commercial;l Christmas decorations for sale in the shops, or, if they were,
they were not bought by most rural householders. Holly and ivy were the only
decorations I remember with the odd simple crib. We were aware before Christmas
of the holly with the “knobs” was as we would have been hunting and searching
the fences for plums and sloes during the autumn.

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Well deserved Cultural Archive Award for Listowel’s Lartigue




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The sea gives up its secrets




As Noelle Hegarty was taking her morning walk on Beale strand yesterday, she noticed that the tide  had washed clean the sand that usually covers the old slipway.



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A Poem for Christmas 2017



sent to us by Mary McElligott



Mountcollins, The Spinning Wheel and Sex education on the farm.

Jonathan Fleury of Carrigaline for The Rebel Cup Photographic competition.

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Ballybunion May 11 2017


Photo: Catherine Moylan

Mario Perez did a sand art tribute and we all gathered round to say another farewell to our friend Fr. Pat Moore. I’ll post more photos next week

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Artist at Work in Listowel Town Square




Monday May 8 2017

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The Church at Mountcollins


Here are a few more photos from my recent visit to this chapel on the hill.



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Do You Remember The Spinning Wheel?


Where Footprints now stands there once was a successful restaurant called The Spinning Wheel. James Scanlon, whose family owned this business shared with us some photographs from the 70s and 80s.

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Learning about the birds and the bees in the fifties



( from Jim Costelloe’s Asdee)

Taking a hen turkey for service was a job
for women, but, unfortunately, in our house the males had to do it. The bird
was put into a canvas bag a hole was cut in the bag so that she could stick her
head out in case she smothered. Dedending on the distance away to the cock, she
was transported either by hand, on one’s back or on one’s arm, or taken by
donkey and cart. Either way, it was a very embarrassing situation for us as
boys to be seen by our school pals taking a hen turkey to the cock. We often
went through the fields, which was a much harder journey, rather than meet one
of the school peers. Being seen taking a hen turkey to the cock was nearly as
bad as being accused of ‘trying” hens for eggs.

In general, the service did not take very
long, but sometimes the cock would be slow, especially if it was a busy time
and business was brisk. A cock turkey has very long claws and all breeddoing
cocks have their claws trimmed, otherwise they would damage the hen turkey’s
back during service. A well feathered hen would have some protection, but
breeding hens are inclined to lose some of their feathers during the laying season.
To protect them, a piece of a man’s jumper was often tied on their backs during
mating. The male turkey, always referred to as a cock and not a cockerel often did
a lot of prancing on the female during service so protection on her back during
service was essential.

As a hen turkey generally laid fifteen to
twenty eggs, she would have to be serviced three or four times to make sure all
the eggs were fertilized. This meant more embarrassing trips for us. It
happened that an odd young turkey, in her first breeding season, would not lie
first but would lay without lying and consequently the egg would not be fertilized.
That egg would be eaten by the man of the house. Turkey eggs are larger than
duck or hen eggs, though smaller than goose eggs and they are speckled.

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