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

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Jerry Kiernan Commemorated

Photo credit; Éamon ÓMurchú in The Silent Valley, Co. Down


Jerry Kiernan Plaque

Jimmy Moloney, Mayor of Kerry unveiled a plaque to Jerry Kiernan. The late Jerry was probably Listowel’s greatest athlete.

Jerry Kiernan’s sons with Jimmy Moloney, Mayor of Kerry
Family and friends who attended the unveiling.


Morning has Broken

by David Kissane

Memories of the summer of 1972 concluded


There were a few breakout occasions in those last days in St Michael’s College. There was one Saturday, never talked about “publicly” since, which brings a smile to the eyes even now. Especially now. A week before the curtain came down on our classes. A history lecture was announced for Leaving Cert students and it meant a trip to Tralee. A bus was organised and the craic was good. Freedom was in the air. We arrives a bit early for the afternoon lecture and someone suggested that a visit to a pub to get a sandwich might be an idea. A sub-group of us headed that way. Others went a more reliable direction. 

A sandwich was the extent of food service in most pubs in those days. Unfortunately Perri crisps were the only item on the lunch menu that Saturday and someone said that his mother took Guinness for nourishment. A nod was as good as a drink so glasses of Guinness were ordered nervously. The barman considered all of us to be of reasonable age. Which most of us were in those days. It is reported that a clear liquid like Poitín was produced at some stage but history does not record that fact.

Suffice it to say that we were a little late for the lecture. It was a very good lecture though, on early modern Irish history, and history took on a new and stirring atmosphere that afternoon. Under the influence of alcohol on tender brains. The Nine Years’ War was never fought so clearly and the Great O’Neill became greater. When the lecture was over and questions were solicited, the standard of questioning by some of our group was exceptional. What did the wives do while the men were away fighting the English? What would an Irish leader say to rev up his men before a battle? Did Queen Elizabeth really fancy Grace O’Malley? And Henry the Eight…well we went to town on him!

In the end, the lecturer praised our corner (at the back of the room) on the quality of our interest in history and the depth of our knowledge. He said history was safe in our hands. We nodded and embraced the applause.

Some of us took notes on the lecture. They were written in a script not known up to then. Like thorny wire that had been over-run by a mad bull.

The sting in the tail came when the pub gang missed the bus home – in those days, five o’clock was five o’clock – and it was very late that night when I staggered in home.

My father had a look at me the following noon and commented that another great battle had been lost in Irish history. I appreciated his analysis. 

On the following Monday, our history teacher likewise praised our interest in the lecture and wryly added, with a trademark wink, “And I’d say Kissane and friends learned a bit more than history on Saturday last!”

I recalled with gratitude that comment when I attended his funeral thirty years later. Rest in peace Mr Molyneaux Junior.

Earlier, during the Lent of that year, there was the trip out to the annual retreat to the Redemptorists in Limerick. Always a good occasion for discussions and evaluation, the few days were a welcome break from class routine and we never felt that religion was being forced on us. Well it was 1972. A visit downtown one evening, perhaps without permission by a group of us, caused a bit of a stir but was handled positively by the brothers, who engaged with us and our moderate rebellistic intentions.

But again we missed the bus home and had to thumb the coast road on a wet and cold March afternoon. Light in the soul but heavy in the body.


No awards night in 1972. No graduation ceremony. We ended classes on the Friday before the exams began and there was a guarded feeling of “yahoo!”. After all, the big test was yet to come. But as a group of us walked freely down Church St for the first time with no classes around the corner, I recall Neil Brosnan singing “Mammy Blue” and there was a lyrical quality in our gait. We were sailing to Byzantium with a new version of ourselves and when the Convent girls passed us going the other direction – how come the Convent girls always seemed to be going in the other direction! – a vague and exciting hope was dripping from the Listowel air.

Then the isolation of the few days before the first exam and the worry of have we done enough and where are my maths notes and I’ve forgotten all my Keats quotes and steel guitar strings pinged nervously in our backbones and huge butterflies grew in our stomachs and soon the exams were over and then an explosion out the gate and down into town. 

A few of the previous year’s Leaving Certs had adopted the fashion of getting their hair permed. I decided to go for it after a lot of “willIwontImaybeIwill” indecision. Eventually I made up my mind to have the perm done that last day of second level education. My then flowing locks (where are they now!) had gone wild in the daily cycle to the school bus and back. It’s amazing the amount of flies and midges that could get stuck in long hair. The only challenge was it had to be done in a hairdresser’s  – ie, a women’s hairdressing salon. No barber would do that sort of thing. In fact, barbers didn’t like fellas who let their hair grow. For obvious reasons. 

I excused myself from the gang and headed into a hairdresser’s in Church Street to have the hair-curling experience. Opened the door and four women turned towards me from their perming and locked me in their gaze. A variety of curlers on their heads. Their eyes went right through my resolve. I felt like Moses at a disco. “What can I do for you?” the hairdresser asks, with a wink at her customers. “Ah, I have the wrong shop!” I blurted and made a hasty retreat back to the boys outside Flavin’s Bookshop, making some excuse to them about no bookings available. Hallo real life. Gulp.

I was going to retain the fuzz for that summer of ’72 and for some summers afterwards. With the help of hairspray it learned to lie down for short periods but more often than not, it retained a spirit of its own and ran free around the ears. And beyond. Upwards and outwards. It was a hairy time indeed to be alive in 1972. 

We went in somewhere for a bite to eat and didn’t seem to hang around town too long. For a classmate, Mike Bambury and myself, it was down to Kennelly’s travel and book tickets for the boat from Dún Laoire to Holyhead for two days later. No other students were doing anything like that and it was a magic feeling. I had a sister in Birmingham who would put us up for the summer. I had already spent two summers working there so the confidence cup was brimming and the teaspach was high. 

                                                  Bridge Between Two Worlds

And so the very next day the two of us started thumbing a lift in Listowel, right outside St Michael’s College, our Cape Canaveral of take-off. We looked in the gate, past the apple trees then in their June bloom and up the window of the classroom most of us would never see again. Funny old feeling it was. We didn’t realise it fully then, but in that moment, looking in at the College, we were standing on a bridge between two of our worlds. The world behind us, of being a student and the world ahead of being an alumnus. There were already bridges crossed, and many more to come. Sometimes these bridges are hidden from us as we cross them and don’t reveal themselves for years. Crossing from the early morning cycle down the hill and the yellow bus and walks up Church Street and Roly Chute’s shop and  the old wooden desks and the sport and the ambling lunchtimes and the return home and the chat on the bus and the walk up the hill and the homework and the notes.

In that moment of tranquility we were subsumed inwards to the echoing stairs, to the ring of the hand-bell that was rung between classes, to the buzzing classroom, to the teachers who had kept the faith of believing in the art of teaching life through subjects and sport and activities. The five years spent in the college concertina-ed together in one packaged ball of memories. The fusion of the dark days when we went to school with burdens with the days of illumination and progress. The search-for-identity days and the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnell days. And the nights in between. All flowing together now and ready for the next stage over the Moon River we crossed at that moment. The mundane and routine were to become exotic and special. 

I don’t know if we said goodbye or thanks to any of our teachers in the weeks before, on the final day of either class or exams. If we didn’t, we quietly thanked them now in our minds for being educational ambassadors to us.

While we were trying to resolve the paradox of these rushing feelings that June day, one of the teachers came walking past, enjoying his summer holidays and asked us where we were off to. “Birmingham!” we declared in unison. He checked if we were serious and when the truth dawned, he said “Fair play to ye. Good luck lads!” and walked on down past the sports field and the graveyard. 

We thought of our class-mates who had walked out the gates of the College for the last time that June of 1972 who visualised their own pathways ahead. We had a hierarchy of individual needs and expectations as all students finishing their second level classes this week of June 2022 have: a secure career, to walk on the Great Wall of China, to own a house, to build a business, to own a castle, to create something fulfilling, to win an All Ireland medal, to find love…

We would be tumbled and humbled and rebuilt many time in the years ahead but for the first time in our lives, the town and the College seemed like a small place. 

It was that day we left the Listowel and the St Michael’s that we had known for five years. Forever. 

                                                              Thumbs Away

Thumbs out and we got a lift quickly and were in Limerick in a few hours. God be with the days of thumbing lifts! The stories and the characters and the legends. 

Into Limerick and searched the streets knocked on a bed and breakfast door and got a double room to save money and on with the bell-bottoms and orange shirts. Combed the fuzzy hair as best we could and out on the town with a couple of girls whom we had met in the Gaeltacht the previous summer and a rocking night was had by all. 

Train to Dublin the next day with fuzz inside the heads as well as outside and the “boat” to Holyhead that night.

And then came the summer of our lives. Morning had broken indeed all of fifty years ago.


A Few More from Writers’ Week 2022

This is the team who kept the show on the road at LWW 2022

Claire Keegan won the big prize at this year’s festival. Her lovely little book, Small Things Like These won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year.

Gabriel Fitzmaurice accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award from Evan Mc Auliffe on behalf of the sponsor, Lyrath Estate


Then and Now on William Street

Wangs 2007

Moloney McCarthy Accountants


Listowel Moments

Upper Willian Street, May 2022


Lovely Listowel Shop Fronts


The Bohemian Players

One of the boards in Kerry Writers’ Museum exhibition, Raise the Curtain; The Story of Amateur Drama in Kerry, tells the story of The Bohemian Players.

This travelling drama troupe was based in Castlegregory. They travelled the length and breadth of the country with their entertainment offerings.

These descendants of medieval strolling players were much loved in the Ireland of the 1940s, 50s and 60s before the advent of television.

They came to town, set up shop and offered a new play every night. East Lynne and The Colleen Lawn were favourites. There were talent shows and raffles as well. The show usually ended with a comic sketch so the audience went home laughing.

I met these lovely people at the launch of Raise the Curtain. They are Bridie and David Costello. David’s father Robert owned The Bohemian Players and David’s mother was the leading actress.

David is a family historian and he has carefully kept memorabilia of his parents’ company.

In the above photo Bridie and David are listening to David’s account of his family travelling show. This account is in the oral history part of Kerry Writers’ Museum.

David showed me this marvellous piece of history. It’s his fathers ledger from 1949. It lists the takings for the week and the wages paid to the actors.

You will note that they worked 7 nights of the week. The Costellos themselves took no wages. Of course there were other expenses like food and maintenance, fuel for the lorry, costumes, props and running repairs.

It was a precarious enough living but performing was in their blood and their arrival was eagerly awaited in towns up and down the country.


Pound Lane Children

Picture and caption from Bernard O’Connell

The Mid 60’s Poundlane Gang

From far left Agnes Sullivan, Donal Sullivan, Ben Holyoake, Joe Holyoake, Its me, Katrina Lyons,Martina Lyons, Mary Lyons, Mary Brosnan, Noreen Holyoake, RIP Mary Carmody, Kevin Donovan, Noelle Donovan


I Love a 99

Here I am at the door of Mahony’s of The Square enjoying my first ice cream of the season.

The ice cream was delicious.

This was a training day before the real launch of this new venture, opening on June 1 2022.

I think they will do really well. We miss Dominick Moloney’s cones. Now we have a great replacement.


All Ireland Rosary Rally

In Listowel Town Square on Saturday May 14 2022


Only in Listowel

Yesterday I brought you the story of a morning in the life of Jimmy Moloney, Mayor of Kerry and thespian.

On Sat. May 7 2022, at Kerry Writers Museum Jimmy spoke at the launch of Raise the Curtain , an exhibition celebrating amateur drama in Kerry.

Minutes later, he reprised his recent role as Mike Glavin in The Lartigue’s Sive.

In the audience was Gabriel Fitzmaurice, poet.

Gabriel celebrated the occasion in a poem which he sent to Jimmy.

Jimmy and Gabriel kindly shared it with us in Listowel Connection.

Only in Listowel, “the Literary Capital of the World” would you have an occasion where a mayor goes from performing mayoral duties to acting in a play and in the audience a poet is writing a poem about it.

Two photos from the same event ; Jim and Frankie MacMahon with poets, Seamus Barra OSuilleabháin and Gabriel Fitzmaurice.

Éamon ÓMurchú, Owen MacMahon and Gabriel Fitzmaurice at the statue of Bryan MacMahon.


Amateur Drama

Photo, Kieran Cogan, Mallow Camera Club


Do you Remember these calendars?

Photo: Mike Hannon

Time was when every business worth its salt gave their customers a wall calendar. It was a great way of keeping your shop or agency in the forefront of people’s minds.

I lived in a house where we had a kitchen and a back kitchen and a storehouse attached. Each of these rooms had at least one calendar in it. I remember consulting the calendar for the phone number. We co ordinated it with Old Moore to mark in fair days.


Scoil Realt na Maidine staff

Photos and caption shared by Mike Hannon


The Mayor of Kerry Plays Two Roles

On Saturday May 7 2022, Jimmy Moloney, Mayor of Kerry was in Kerry Writers’ Museum for the opening of the exhibition honouring Kerry’s amateur dramatic heritage.

The Moloney family connection with amateur drama goes back a long way.

Jimmy’s grandmother, Mrs. Margaret Moloney, here on the right, was chairperson of Listowel Drama Group and took part in many of their productions.

With her in this picture, shared with us by Kay Caball, are Cecile Cotter, Harry Geraghty and Rex Coolican.

Jimmy’s grandfather, Dan Moloney T.D. greeted the cast of the first production of John B. Keane’s Sive in Dáil Eireann after they had won the first All Ireland Drama festival.

Margaret Dillon who played the part of Sive sent us this picture a few years ago.

Dan Moloney T.D is on the right.

Jimmy Moloney in his role as Mayor of Kerry at the opening of the exhibition.

Then after a short interval look at what emerged from the “dressing room”.

The usually dapper Jimmy, in a jacket that looks like he slept in it a few times, in his role as Mike Glavin in John B. Keane’s Sive.

Denis O’Mahoney’s Lartigue Players gave us an entertaining sample of the best of Kerry amateur drama today.

The cast of the award winning first production of the play by The Listowel Players.


Top Storey

I love it when the streetscape takes your eye above shop level.

O’Donovan’s in Church Street has impressive upstairs window surrounds.

Lizzy’s Little Kitchen has decorated the upper stories of her premises in keeping with the downstairs decor.


Listowel Square is changing

Jim MacSweeney

This rural image is part of the collaboration between Mallow Camera Club and Kanturk Community Hospital


A Mighty Leap

This gem is from Beale School in the Schools’ Folklore Collection.

A Local Hero
The best hurler the oldest people ever remember was James Moriarty.He lived somewhere around Kilconly. One Saturday he and his wife removed to the border of the County of Cork. After going to bed that night his wife said it was better for him to be there than to be going to the “Moneens.” The moneens are in Flahives farm, Bromore. “What is in the Moneens” asked the man. The woman told him that she had received a letter that he should go and attend the hurling match which was to be held there. He made up his mind to go and jumping out of bed he went off to Bromore. When the ball was thrown up he was the first man that struck it and after striking the ball he leaped thirty three feet. There is a mark to this day on the place where he jumped. The place is pointed out above at Dan Flahive’s field of Bog.

Nora Griffin vi
Beale, Ballybunion
June 24th 1938
Information from people at home.


Outdoor Dining and Performance Area

While I turned my back very briefly, work continued apace in The Square.

We got a lovely new standard light with two lamps.

Of course there is a bicycle rest. The people we imagine using this are tourists on The Greenway.

The tables and seating will be put back and then it will all be covered with three tent type structures.

Imagine yourself sitting in the sun, eating your ice cream from the new ice cream kiosk and listening to whatever performance is on offer.

If such pleasure becomes all too much for you, the defibrillator is at hand to jolt you back to life.


Danny would be Proud

In 1972 Danny Hannon fulfilled a dream . He set up The Lartigue Theatre Company. In April 2022 the company celebrated it’s half century with a production of John B. Keane’s Sive.

I was in St. John’s on Sunday evening and I couldn’t have picked a better evening’s entertainment for my return to the theatre. After two years I had almost forgotten how enjoyable an evening of local theatre can be.

(All the photos are from St. John’s Facebook page)

The old hands were excellent, as always. If I were to single out one actor it would have to be Laura Shine Gumbo. Laura played an excellent Mena, with a mixture of good and evil. She brought out the painful conflict within this character, whose awful betrayal of Sive is motivated as much by her misunderstanding of the vulnerability of the romantic teenager as by her desire to improve her own lot in life.

There were new faces among the cast as well. A revelation to us all was Jimmy Moloney who played a blinder ss Mike Glavin. Mike is at heart a good man . He is tormented by the three women in his care. What we in the audience can see and poor Mike can’t is that he has married his mother. Nanna is the mistress of the hard word. She is as devious and manipulative as Mena, full of resentment and bitterness, bullying and taunting where she should lend support. It is a deeply unhappy household.

The final moving tragic scene is played with great pathos and empathy. Sive is let down by all the adults in her life. Such innocence could not survive in a hard mercenary world where love is lost in the hard realities and the poverty of 1950s Ireland. Everyone who should have protected her has a hand in her death.

Sive is a tragedy. Playing it out again in our times shines a light on an unhappy era, thankfully now behind us.

Thank you, Lartique Theatre Company for a great night.


D Day Heroine, Tralee and listowel

Blossoms in Howth

Photo: Eamon ÓMurchú


Tralee had finished their pedestrianisation just in time for outdoor dining regulations. Quinlan’s looks particularly attractive.


Our New Public Toilet

Necessary but ugly


The Big Bridge at Night

I was by the big bridge at night for the first time recently. It is beautiful. My photo doesn’t do it justice.


Famous lady with a Listowel Connection

This is the Western People story about Maureen Sweeney who was in all the papers recently because she was awarded huge honour by the U.S. Congress

Maureen Sweeney was 21 years old when she took weather readings at Blacksod weather station in June 1944. Her actions influenced the D-Day landings and changed the path of the war. Her data threw General Dwight D Eisenhower’s meticulously planned invasion strategy into chaos. It forced him to mediate between opposing US and UK weather advisors and generals, and ultimately left him alone to make one of the most difficult decisions in the entire war. Maureen’s readings were the first to point out an impending storm which led to the postponement of the invasion.&nbsp; Her readings were used to pinpoint a short window of opportunity that Eisenhower needed to launch, thereby altering the course of the war.

When John J Kelly, who led the design and production of the modern landing craft, which has been used in military and humanitarian roles worldwide, heard the story of Maureen Sweeney, he was fascinated.

John approached the World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, of which he was a director, and requested official recognition of Maureen and the Sweeney Family by the museum. The World War II museum has sent a letter to Maureen that John J Kelly will read during the tribute on June 19. John will also read a personal note to Maureen from US Congressman Jack Bergman (Michigan First District) who is the highest-ranking veteran to ever serve in Congress. A distinguished award, rarely given, and obtained by Congressman Bergman will be read and presented to Maureen and the Sweeney family by John.

Now aged 98, Maureen beat Covid-19 last year.

Now the Listowel Connection

Billy MacSweeney told us this story and it appeared in Listowel Connection in 2018

In my Grandparents time, Kerry people understood that they were cut off from the rest of Ireland by a series of mountains; they realized that they were isolated and had to look after themselves. Life was harder in Kerry than in the Golden Vale or on the central plains of Ireland. The mothers of Kerry especially, knew that they had to look to every advantage to help their children and prized education highly to that end. In the mid-19thcentury the people of Listowel welcomed enthusiastically the establishment of St Michael’s College for Boys and the Presentation Convent Secondary schools for Girls, not forgetting the Technical School. The people who read this blog are most likely familiar with the Census’ 1901 and 1911 and will have noticed that many homes in Listowel housed not only Boarders but also welcomed Scholars who came from the villages and isolated farms scattered around North Kerry. These boys and girls spent 5-6 years in the Listowel schools to be educated for ‘life’.

The upshot of this was that from Listowel we sent out many young adults who were a credit to their teachers to take their places in many organizations and many whose names became nationally known for their talents and abilities, especially in the Arts.

Let me tell you about one such young girl, Maureen Flavin, who was born in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry. When the time came for Maureen to go on from National school she was welcomed into the Mulvihill home in Upper Church Street who themselves had a young girl, Ginny, of the same age. Maureen and Ginny became fast friends and stayed so for life. 

When Maureen finished school in 1930 she wanted a job; couldn’t get one in Kerry because of the times that were in it, so she answered an ad in the National Papers for an Assnt. Postmistress in Black Sod, in North Mayo. Her references and qualifications were suitable and in due course, as she says to her own surprise she was offered the job. This was to set Maureen on a course where she would be an integral part of one of the most momentous actions of the age. Mrs Sweeney, the Black Sod Postmistress, was married to Ted who was the Lighthouse Keeper, both operating from the Lighthouse building in Black Sod. They had a son, also Ted, who Maureen fell in love with and married in due course. They in turn had three boys and a girl and life took up a normal rhythm for the family; that is until 3rd June 1944.

The WW2 was in full swing at this stage with Gen. Eisenhower as the Allied Supreme Commander and Gen. Rommel the German Commander in Normandy. Rommel knew that an Allied invasion was prepared and imminent. Conventional Meteorological sources at the time for the US and German military said that the coming days would bring very inclement weather so that the invasion would have to be postponed. Eisenhower postponed the action and Rommel left Normandy for a weekend in Berlin based on the same information. The British Chief Meteorologist had however visited Black Sod some years previously and knew the value of Black Sod as the most westerly station in Europe and when a break in the weather was reported by Black Sod on 3rdJune he persuaded Eisenhower that 6thand 7thJune would be clear and to ignore the same conventional Met advice used by both the US and the Germans. Ted compiled the reports for the Irish Met Office and Maureen transmitted them. Maureen remembers receiving a telephone call a short time later from a lady with a ‘very posh English accent’ asking for confirmation of her report. Ted was called to the phone and he confirmed the readings, The rest, as they say, is history. 

Ted Sweeney died in 2001.  Maureen is still alive.


Who is the New Mayor of Kerry

Repro Free – CLLR JIMMY MOLONEY ELECTED CATHAOIRLEACH OF KERRY COUNTY COUNCIL Historic meeting of Kerry County Council at Austin Stack Park Jimmy Moloney from Listowel has been elected Cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council at a historic meeting of the local authority which was held at Austin Stack Park in Tralee. To facilitate a physical gathering of elected councillors and management and to ensure adherence to public health guidelines, the main stand at Austin Stack Park was used for the meeting to elect a new Cathaoirleach and Leas-Cathaoirleach for the coming year. Photo By : Domnick Walsh © Eye Focus LTD .

Jimmy Moloney is the grandson of the late Dan Moloney T.D. and Senator. He comes from a family steeped in politics. The Kerryman of July 6 1963, in a full page obituary to Dan Moloney described him as an outstanding public figure.

This is an extract from one of the many tributes paid to Dan Moloney.

So young Jimmy has big boots to fill. At his installation in Austin Stack Park on Monday, Jimmy undertook to do his best for Kerry and for the country. We wish him the very best in his big year.


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