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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The dance tradition of North Kerry has extended its influence far beyond its borders, to different places around Ireland, across Europe, and over the Atlantic to America.
Dance has been part of the culture in this region for centuries, passed down through the generations by the Dance Masters, like O’Ceirín in the 1700’s to Mooreen, Ned Batt Walsh, and to the great Geramiah Molyneaux, affectionally known as Munnix, who passed on the dance, to the young girls and boys, of the area.
The Dance masters travelled, often on foot, from town to town, village to village,
such was their love of, and desire to pass on their art to the younger generation.
Munnix pupils like Jack Lyons, Jerry Nolan, Sheila Bowler, Liam Dineen, Liam Tarrant, Paddy White, Phil Cahill and many more would perform the old steps with great pride.
Long live the dancers! Long live the dance!
Featuring Dance Master Jimmy Hickey, Musician Greta Curtin.
Devised and choreographed by Jonathan Kelliher, Artistic Director, Siamsa Tíre, The National Folk Theatre of Ireland.
Celtic Artist, Tony O’Callaghan
When your grandad is an artist, you are lucky enough to have some marvellous bespoke piece of his work made especially for you and celebrating your name.
Few nameplates are as beautiful as these pieces that Miriam brought to share with the audience on July 6 2023.
Tony O’Callaghan, among many of the prestigious commissions he did, designed the logo for Listowel Writers’ Week.
This information comes to us from Wolfgang Mertens’ 1974 LWW memorabilia.
My latest summer visitor, Aoife McKenna, from Kildare loves, loves, loves Listowel library.
My little granddaughter, Aoife McKenna in Ballybunion in June 2023
Writers’ Week 2023
I’m back in the saddle after a little blip. In this picture, Saturday, June 4 2023, my younger daughter Clíona is addressing the audience at my Writers’ Week walk. In the forefront right hand side is my older daughter, Anne. My son, Bobby, is beside her in the picture.
The event this year became a family and friends affair as I was temporarily indisposed. They did fine without me.
I was sorry to miss this highlight. The legendary Jimmy Hickey, with his past pupils and fellow dancers, Jonathan Kelliher and Patrick Brosnan delighted the crowd with dancing, before the castle and beside the memorial to a man who would have appreciated this event more than most, the late Michael Dowling.
Michael O’Connor, Illuminator
Stephen Rynne shared these two pictures. They are both pictures of &.
The top one is the work of an unnamed monk. It is in The Book of Kells and the bottom one is from Michael O’Connor of Listowel.
O’Connor took what he saw in the Book of Kells and elevated it to a new level.
Plans are afoot; On July 6th Stephen Rynne, our Michael O’Connor expert will give a talk in Kerry Writers’ Museum to an invited audience. The talk will be on Michael O’Connor and all the other Listowel artists working in different branches of art but all with a Celtic ambiance. I’ll be telling you more about this in the coming days. It is hoped that the talk will be live streamed and we’ll all be able to hear it.
Remembering Luke Kelly in Ballybunion
I got a lovely email from the U.K.
…I grew up in the Square in Listowel and my father Dr Johnnie Walsh was a GP. He was called to Ballybunion one night where the Dubliners were playing. Luke Kelly had dislocated his shoulder. My father put his shoulder back in but demanded payment first. He had not been paid often as a young doctor and had learnt that you got the money when ‘the tear was in the eye’!
Thank you for all the pleasure I am getting from the blogs.
Best regards, Eleanor
A Great Night in The Tinteán
I hadn’t been in the Tintean in years until last week when I went there with my visitors.
One of the main attractions (for me anyway) was Elle Marie O’Dwyer. On the left of my picture is Elle Marie’s mother, Catherine, who comes from Kanturk, with Breeda Ahern, my sister in law, Sheila Cronin, my cousin, and in the front Lil MacSweeney.
Elle Marie with Frances Kennedy, also from our parts and another friend.
Elle Marie on stage. You could hear a pin drop as she sang, unaccompanied, Garry MacMahon’s beautiful Land of the Gael.
A slightly bigger name on the bill was Sean Keane, always a joy to listen to.
Crystal Swing came out of retirement for the night and Derek threw his legs east and west in his inimitable style. We loved it. If an act wasn’t to your liking, you knew that there would be another one on in just a few minutes. My visitors loved their night’s entertainment.
I posted this picture of Listowel men on a confraternity retreat a while ago. I had hoped to spark some memories of that all male institution but I haven’t got very far. The Confraternity was essentially a prayer group to keep men on the straight and narrow. It met for “meetings’ once a month. These were held in the church and consisted of prayers and sermons. Once a year they all headed off to Limerick for a retreat.
Locally some sceptics regarded them as “Holy Joes” A while ago I got this missive from an unnamed local man;
Regarding the Confraternity and the Sodality; these were gone or on the way out when I was a nipper. I do remember a crude put-down that was used in those days against someone that was, in the common perception, ‘ró-mhór leis an gcléir,’ and involved in every religious event and occasion- this put-down was as follows: ‘Jaysus, that fellow is stuck in everything! He’d be in the Children of Mary as well, if they could find a knickers big enough for him.
Looking Forward to St. Patrick’s Day
Some stalwarts of St. Patrick’s Day parades in the past.
Dandy Lodge Story Continued
This is a photo in the National Museum of Bridge Road, Listowel in 1903. You can see the Dandy Lodge on the left.
There it stood until 1997 when it was moved brick by brick into Childers’ Park to be looked after by Listowel Pitch and Putt Club.
You can see from the press release that Adare Co. Limerick had an interest in purchasing the lodge. We have to thank the foresight of Listowel Pitch and Putt Club members who made sure it remained in Listowel.
The late Tom O’Halloran took these photos of the relocation.
The following pictures were taken at the opening.
A presentation to Tom and Eileen OHalloran
Joe Dillon, Jerry Brick and Cathal Fitzgerald
Bill Walsh, Paul O’Dowd, Jerry Maher, Dr. Corridan and Joseph Dillon, previous owner of The Dandy Lodge
Richard Moriarty of San Diego is a blog follower. His friend, Judy Alexander sometimes helps him by typing the occasional poem to send to us here.
She sent me this last week
On the occasion of her 100th birthday, Friday, January 23, 2023, dedicated to Eileen Moriarty,
born in Ballydonogue and living now in Dublin
( The birthday was on Friday Jan 20th. but a typo in the first email led me astray and then it took a bit longer for the ladies to get the tributes together and for Dave O’Sullivan to help me convert the pdf image they sent to one I could use here. Apologies Eileen, birthday girl, and all her family for missing the big day)
WHILE WE’RE TOLD IN SONG AND STORY
OF PEOPLE OF RENOUN
BE THEY WRITERS POETS OR CONGRESSMEN
OR KINGS WHO WEAR A CROWN
IT’S INSCRIBED THERE IN THE PAGES
THEIR NAMES AND WHERE THEY’RE FROM
BUT I BELIEVE THE UNSUNG HERO
IS THE PERSON KNOWN AS MOM
SHE’S THE ONE WE ALWAYS TURNED TO
WHENEVER THINGS WENT WRONG
THE GENTLE HAND THAT DRIED OUR TEARS
WHILE SHE HUMMED SOME SILLY SONG
SHE WAS ALWAYS THERE TO GREET US
AND HELP US ON OUR WAY
WITH THAT SPECIAL TOUCH
THAT MEANT SO MUCH
AND A GENTLE WORD TO SAY
AND THERE WERE TIMES WHEN
WE CAUSED YOU PAIN
AND TREATED YOU UNKIND
BUT ALL THE WHILE YOU’D SOFTLY SMILE
OH, HOW COULD WE BE SO BLIND
BUT YOU ARE THE ONE WE DO ADORE
AND LOVE LIKE WE COULD NO OTHER
WE THANK YOU FOR GIVING US
SUCH A SPECIAL CARING MOTHER
By Richard G. Moriarty of
and San Diego California
I wrote back to ask if Richard had a photo or a story or something to give us a better picture of his mother. It is not everyday someone reaches this big milestone birthday.
Richard hasn’t mastered technology at all and Judy and his wife, Molly, are not too adept at it either but they put a lot of effort into sending us the following.
I am Molly Moriarty, married to Richard, son of Eileen Moriarty. I am very glad to be able to wish my mother-in-law a happy 100th year birthday. I met Richard and Eileen in 1980 when visiting Ireland and having just met Richard was invited to their home for a Sunday dinner. I was immediately welcomed and the dinner was delicious. After all these years I have realized how important family is to Eileen. She is very interested in all things around her and always seems to know all the news. I soon learned that if I wanted to know what was going on, just have a seat, and soon I would be better informed than watching the news. She always looked far younger than she really is and is a beautiful lady. Her faith has always buoyed her up as she has had more than her share of troubles. I feel I could not say the same, and I truly respect her courage and strength and think of her as a role model. There is so much in 100 years of telling that only a book could do her justice. With that in mind, I feel proud to know her and, again, wish her a happy 100th birthday.
DR. KILDARE WOULDN’T GET A LOOK-IN
One of my treasured memories of my Mom I guess would be when I was about seven years of age growing up in LISSELTON. A good- natured local man entrusted me with a fullsize RALEIGH BICYCLE! Him, not knowing I wasn’t qualified to operate such an advanced piece of equipment and I wasn’t going to make him any the wiser. I was doing great on the straightway but when I came to Lyre Cross the stopping power just wasn’t there. With Johnny Cash it was the mud the blood and the beer, but with me it was the mud the blood the gravel and the Furze bushes. Now what to do? My wails became more pronounced with each trickle of blood oozing from the scalp and even more so at the sight of the two gravel embedded kneecaps. But that wasn’t the worst of it, oh no, not even the road rash to the KEESTER. The worst would be the Mom. As I laid there in that stream that autumn evening, I could hear her, “Why are you doing this to me, who do you think you are, haven’t I enough to contend with besides you coming in here with this?” But, not “Oh my God what happened to you (son)?” Between sobs and sniffles hiccups and heaves, “Mom, I was helpin’ Mrs. Foley fill her water barrels over at the river, and I fell off the donkey cart onto the BIG stones (YERRI)!” “Sure. You’re always tryin’ to help people.” Growing up in rural Ireland in the ‘60’s, where each household had eight or nine children, you had to think fast, REAL fast. For the next two weeks the Mom was my primary doctor, night nurse, neurologist, and just like all moms, whatever roles needed to be filled. The upshot of it all I made a LHOUBAWN of the ROTHAR but for two whole weeks I got loads of TLC and lots of TCP. Thank heaven for moms.
JANUARY 20, 2023
HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY
Richard G. Moriarty
As a friend of the family, I’ve heard many fond reminisces about Eileen Moriarty, although I never met her. She is a true woman of her times, a farmer’s wife and mother of eight children. She could (and did) awaken in the middle of the night to help birth a calf, and still manage to put a hot breakfast on the table for her husband and children, pack their lunches, and see them off to the fields and school before she headed out to do laundry, tend her veggie patch and all the other chores women of her time did that made them super heroes to their families. Then it was back to the kitchen to prepare another home-cooked meal. I’m sure her prayer was to manage a full night’s sleep without being called out to help another farm animal. Eileen is a woman of faith which, along with her stoic nature, has seen her through the tragedies that are a part of living. She has always been a beautiful woman, taking pride in her appearance and her representation of her family. There must be a portrait in the attic, growing old instead of her. This week she received congratulations from President Higgins for reaching one hundred years of age. Well deserved congratulations! Eileen lives at home now in Dublin with her daughter Margaret. God bless them both, and happy birthday to Eileen!
Greetings from Judy Alexander of San Diego, CA USA
The Real Child of Prague Statue
Kathleen Griffin sent these to us.
The Infant of Prague statue is located in the Church of Our Lady of Victories of the Discalced Carmelites, in Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic (Czechia). The statue is only about 19” tall and has an extensive wardrobe of garments! Photographed by Kathleen Griffin on 10th Sept., 2019.
The icon we are familiar with here bears very little resemblance to the real thing. It is a tradition in some countries to dress statues in actual clothes. This seems to be what happens here.
Thank you, Kathleen, for those images of The Infant of Prague in Prague. The little statue surely is magnificent.
Listowel, The Celtic Art Capital of Ireland
We pride ourselves here on being the literary first town in Ireland. The more I look into Celtic Art in town the more I am convinced that Listowel is at the forefront of this art form as well.
This magnificent piece is in Listowel Credit Union office . It is the work of the late Paddy Fitzgibbon.
Dave O’Sullivan found the relevant article in The Kerryman of May 28 2008.
I’ve enlarged the text a bit. I hope you can read it. There is nothing that I know of anywhere in the world to match this for artistry. The influence of the Book of Kells is obvious.
There is another Fitzgibbon piece in Scoil Realta na Maidine. I’ll bring you that tomorrow.
I love to run into my friend, Jimmy Hickey, when I am in town. I met him last week at the St. Vincent de Paul Day Centre where he was collecting meals to deliver to people in North Kerry. Jimmy told me that people get a delicious meal from this Meals on Wheels service and he is only too happy to help with the delivery.
Jimmy told me that he had lost a friend over the Christmas holidays.
Poet, Anne Hartigan and Jimmy have been good friends since they first met at Listowel Writers’ Week in 1996.
Jimmy gave a talk on the history of Irish dancing. He had some of his dancers on hand to demonstrate the steps. Jimmy invited the audience to dance with the local dancers. Jimmy was dancing with the poet, Anne Drysdale, who enjoyed herself so much she wrote a poem about it. Another poet present was Anne Hartigan. She admired Jimmy’s dancing and proposed that he compose a dance to which she would write a poem.
The dance and the poem were duly composed and Jimmy and Anne practiced their performance in Ballygrennan, with Anne reciting and Jimmy dancing on an old half door.
“My feet were the music to her poetry.”
Later that year the Kerryman’s Association in Dublin were organizing a big £100 a ticket fundraiser. They asked Jimmy and Anne to perform their unique dance to poetry. There were 1,000 people in attendance and Dan Collins was the M.C.
The audience were spellbound by the rhythmic taps of the dancer to the cadence of Anne Hartigan’s poems, What Way the Wind Blows which Jimmy choreographed in jig time and Little Lord of Death which he danced in reel time.
Jimmy wrote out the steps in the old Gaelic notation with seimhiús and síne fadas.
This unique performance was greatly appreciated by the audience.
As far as Jimmy knows this has never been done before or since.
Jimmy and Anne remained friends. When she passed away on December 29 2022, her family informed Jimmy and he flew to Dublin for her funeral.
Thus closed an extraordinary chapter in Jimmy’s very colourful life.
Jimmy Hickey is a dancing teacher in a direct line from the old masters. Here is a paragraph from an article by Edaein O’Connell in last week’s Irish Independent. The Kelliher referred to is Jonathan Kelliher of Siamsa Tire.
Jonathan is videoing Jimmy dancing the steps and so preserving them for the next generation.
Here is a link to part two of the recent video about the dancing tradition in North Kerry.