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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Dress Dance in 1956

In Cromane by Chris Grayson


A Grand Affair

One of the highlights of the North Kerry social calendar used to be the Teachers Dress Dance.

Kathy Reynolds shared the link to Tony Fitzmaurice’s photographs of the 1956 dance and an abridged version of an essay first published in The Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine 2021 outlining the work of the ballroom photographer and Kathy’s efforts to reunite the photographs with their subjects or their families.

Teachers Dress Dance in Walsh’s Ballroom in 1956

The Ballroom Photographer

Teacher’s Dress Dance 18th Nov ’56 Band; J McGinty.

That was my introduction to the ledger where the late Tony Fitzmaurice (RIP), Ballybunion, kept a record of his semi-professional photography. In the back of the ledger was some headed paper and this introduced me to “Tony’s Photo Service & Kerry’s Youngest and Best Ballroom Photographer”!

Tony was my father’s first cousin and I was familiar with his photography all my life. As a small child his special dark-room partitioned from the bottom of the kitchen was a source of fascination. As an adult I became more aware of his photography as it was a hobby we shared and he was generous with his advice as I developed my interest. On holiday or at any event Tony always had a camera to hand but it was only on his death in 2019, when his widow Madeline asked my family to look after his photography, that I found out about his life as a Ballroom Photographer.

His ledger recorded every detail of his semi-professional photography business which co-existed alongside his job as a Kerry County Council employee. The ledger gives us a look at the work of a 1950/60s Ballroom Photographer.  The Teachers Dress Dance on the 18th November 1956 with music by Joe McGinty was his first professional engagement. A 10 minute video showing photographs from the event can be found at  Can anyone recognise teachers from their childhood? Looking at some of the posters in the room and as most of the money for the photographs came via Jim Walsh I assume the venue was Walsh’s Super Ballroom, Listowel, where Tony was resident photographer. His card with a unique number given to everyone he photographed tells us that proofs could be inspected at Mr. Jim Walsh’s, William Street, Listowel. Photographs were available in two sizes, Postcard (3.5 x 5.5 inches) or large (6.5 x 8 inches) costing 2 or 3 shillings (10 or 15p). Photographs were relatively expensive back in the 1950/60s when you consider that today a standard 6×4 inch print can be printed for as little as 5p at my local supermarket and the 8×6 for just 15p.

In the 1950s not many homes had a camera and so the Ballroom Photographer had a good market. The accounts for the teacher’s dance show that 70 photographs were taken and 90 prints were sold making a gross profit of £7 3s 9d on the night. Of course the capital cost of cameras, flashguns and darkroom equipment had to be covered as well as a payment to the Ballroom owner. The 1957 Teacher’s Dance was much larger with about 350 people present, 380 prints sold generating a gross profit of £24 13s 8d. In addition to the teachers other groups had annual dances such as The Post Office Staff,  Macra na Feirme and North Kerry Farmers. 

In his 6 years as a semi-professional photographer dances at the Super Ballroom occurred mainly from September to May with the busiest period being Listowel Race week with dances from Sunday to Thursday night with approximately 800 photographs taken.  Over the 6 years the most popular act was Chick Smith with 23 appearances followed by Denis Cronin and Mick Delahunty with 12 and 11 appearances respectively. International stars of the 1950s and 60s such as Eddie Calvert and his Golden Trumpet, Johnny Dankworth, Anne Sheldon and Winifred Atwell also made appearances. Tony’s ledger notes that Bridie Gallagher appeared 5 times drawing audiences of 1,500 to 2,000, indeed on 11th December 1960 Tony notes that the ballroom was too crowded leaving one to wonder just how big the audience was. St Patrick’s night and St Stephen’s night also drew large crowds but not every night was a success.  One such night received the withering comment “poor crowd — hopeless band”.

Although dances at the Super Ballroom accounted for most of Tony’s photography (26,600 negatives carefully stored) during these 6 years he also photographed local events, a few weddings, friends and family. One such event was in December 1959, children sitting on Santa’s lap at McKenna’s, Listowel. This will cover children from across North Kerry and the images can be found at . It is my intention to try to reconnect the photos with the people or communities they came from. The easiest way for me to share them is as video slide shows, all are or will be titled North Kerry People 1..2..3 etc and they can be found by searching the internet for North Kerry People Vimeo. The 26,000+ Super Ballroom negatives is a very long term project, it will take many long winter days to scan them but I would like at some time to make the archive available in North Kerry for social history purposes.    

Many thanks to those, too many to name, who have already helped put names to many faces.

Autographed photo of Bridie Gallagher

Kathy Reynolds (Fitzmaurice), Oakham, Rutland, UK and previously Moybella, Lisselton.    


Graffiti or Street Art

(Image and text from Yay Cork)

Asbestos’ mural on South Main Street has been featured in the Street Art Cities’ Top 100 list. The mural has won great admiration since its completion as part of the Ardú Street Art Project in 2021, and is now eligible to be voted for as the best piece of street art in the world.

Tim Marschang, who is the organiser behind the list and the competition, explained how each work was selected, saying: “For the past 12 months Street Art Cities selected some of the best murals across the globe and shared it on their popular Instagram Story polls letting the audience decide.” Over 100,000 votes were counted.

“This resulted in a list of 100 most popular artworks of 2021. And it’s literally a global list with murals from every corner of the planet, from Denmark to South Africa, From Lima to Brisbane, take a look and pick your favourites.” If you want to support Cork and Asbestos, you can vote here. Voting closes on February 6th.


A Coup for a Writer with a Listowel Connection

Photo of Colm Tóibín by Barry Cronin

Colm Tóibín who is President of Listowel Writers’ Week has been appointed Laureate for Irish Fiction 2022 to 2024. He is a very popular choice nationally and internationally but especially in Listowel.

Isn’t Barry Cronin’s photograph gas?

At Writers Week 2019 I photographed Colm Tóibín with Rick O’Shea, John Boyne and Joseph O’Connor. I hope photo ops like this will come my way again in 2022.


Cahirciveen with Family, Boston Listowel Talk, Writers in Town and Diarmuuid and Gráinne


I recently spend a lovely weekend in Cahirciveen with my whole family. Here we are in Kells Bay Gardens on a wet and windy Saturday.

We all did the rope bridge crossing.


Listowel Comes to Boston

If you live anywhere near Boston this will interest you.

If you need to know a bit more about Vincent, here is a recent video from

Vincent Carmody


Writers at Writers’ Week

Movers and shakers of the Irish book world at Listowel Writers’ Week 2019;  Rick O’Shea, Colm Tóibín, John Boyne and Joseph O’Connor.

This year the festival runs from May 27 to May 31.


Obituary to a Priest from a Family of Priests in Australia

Catholic Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW)- Thu 29 Jun 1939

One of the oldest and best known Priests in the Archdiocese of Melbourne Rev. John Joseph Gallivan, died at Northcote early on Friday week in the eighty-third year of his age. On the previous Tuesday morning he attended the Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph’s Home, Northcote, and was one of the assistant deacons to his Grace the Archbishop of Melbourne. 

The announcement of his death caused deep regret throughout the Archdiocese, and especially at Northcote and Sunbury, where he had laboured untiringly for many years in the priesthood.

 Born in Listowel. County Kerry, Ireland, on February 8 1856. Father Gallivan entered All Hallows College, Dublin, and was ordained on June 24, 1880.   Had he lived another fortnight he would have celebrated his 59th year as a priest. He arrived In Melbourne on November 1 of the same year, and his first appointment was that of curate at Old Kilmore to Rev. M Farrelly. In May. 1886, he was appointed parish priest at Gisborne. twenty-five years later, Sunbury, with Bula attached, was made a separate parish, with Father Gallivan in charge and he remained there until 1923 completing forty-three years’ service in the Kilmore, Gisborne and Sunbury districts —six years as curate and thirty-seven years as Parish Priest There was great regret in Sunbury when Father Gallivan left there to take charge of St Joseph a Parish, Northcote. This was in April, 1923. 

In 1906 he revisited his native land after an absence of twenty six years. In June, 1930, he celebrated his sacerdotal golden jubilee, and his fellow-priests tendered him a dinner and

presented him with an address. A jubilee concert was held in the Northcote, Town Hall, and  celebrations were also in Sunbury and  Gisborne, where the jubilarian was most enthusiastically


The obsequies of the deceased priest took place at St. Joseph’s Church, Northcote, his Grace Archbishop Mannix presiding and preaching the panegvric.

Among the priests who attended were Rev. P. Galvin. P.P of Katoomba, N.S.W.  Rev D. Galvin, P.P. of Springwood, N.S.W. and Rev M Calvin, P.P.. of Footscray, nephews.


The Fianna in Beale

Local Historical Landmark

In a place near the cliffs three fields from our school there is a mound of earth which is locally called “Darby’s Bed” Leaba Diarmada. It is said that Fionn expected Grania’s hand in marriage but instead of she marrying Fionn she married Dermot. Dermot and Grania had to fly from the wrath of Fionn. They travelled round the cliffs from Ballybunion and they crossed a chasm on a pig’s back. This place is called Léim na Muice. On their travels they rested on a place only three fields from this school and ever since this lump of earth is locally called “Darby’s Bed”. We find on the Sopers’ and Miners’ maps that the right name for this place is “Diarmuid and Grania’s bed”. This place is in the townland of Kilconly.

Michael Lynch, VII, Doon, Ballybunion

June 27 1938

Information from people at home.

Listowel Square, Knitwits, Writers’ Week in the 1970s, March 17 2019 and a Marconi Centenary

Trees in Listowel Town Square



Knitwits, Listowel knitting group meet in Scribes in Church Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 11.00a.m.


Listowel Writers’ Week , The Early Days

John Pierse has this photograph of  a very early Writers’ Week Committee. 

Recently Aidan OMurchú donated a copy of Reality magazine from 1975 to the present Writers’ Week committee.

Aidan’s dad, Luaí OMurchú was an early chair of the committee. Under his pen name, Redmond O”Hanlon, he wrote an article for Reality about the  early days.

He quotes Seamus Wilmot’s definition of Writers’ Week as “A showing of the man to the boy, the writer to the aspirant, an examination and an evaluation.”

Bryan MacMahon saw it as “a bit of impertinence on our part.”

Hugh Leonard proclaimed it “a Kerry Baccinalia”.

“An orgy of sociability”  John Boland.

Listowel Writers Week is still all of these things and more. I popped into the office recently and I got a glimpse of the storyboard of this year’s festival. It was filled with “big names”. Everyone who is anyone in Irish writing today seems to be coming our way sometime between May 29 and June 3 2019.

I have just finished reading John Boyne’s Ladder to the Sky. Brilliant! My book club has read Kit de Waal’s The Trick to Time, a book that stayed with me long after I had put it down. I am reading a brilliant new Irish writer at the moment. Anne Griffin reminds me a lot of Donal Ryan. Her book is When all is Said and it is a great read. I can get to meet all of these writers in my own home town this summer. What’s not to love about Listowel Writers’ Week?


Listowel St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2019


Centenary Commemoration of Marconi Station in Ballybunion

One hundred years ago this was the Marconi Radio Station in Ballybunion. Today it is Coláiste Bhréanainn. On Tuesday March 19 2019 Ballybunion looked back at the historic day when the first east to west voice message was broadcast across the Atlantic.

Above are some of the artefacts which were on display on the day. I took my photos in black and white as a medium befitting the occasion.

This man was teaching the children how to send a message in Morse Code. He favoured the mobile phone himself.

There is a great video of the unveiling of the commemorative plaque here

Marconi Centenary

Mrs Quinn’s, Moyvane Church Builders and Anew McMaster in Listowel

 Photo: Chris Grayson


We’re in lockdown

You’ve heard and seen all the jokes about the bread crisis and the overreaction of some people to a few snowflakes, So I’m just going to bring you a few photos I snapped from the internet. The March 2018 blizzard is the stuff of legends.

Barbara Walsh took this at the Conor Pass. Yes, the river is frozen.

Mario Perez posted this photo of stalactites in Ballybunion

Jason ODoherty took this photo of snow on the beach and the sea without a wave in Ballybunion. spotted this snowman in Inchicore, Co. Dublin.

Conor O’Sullivan just looked out his window in Co. Clare.

But the brave parishioners of Lyreacrompane braved the elements on Wednesday to attend Family Day at their parish retreat.


A Mrs. Quinn’s Coffee Morning

These local ladies were holding a coffee morning in aid of the Mrs. Quin’s charity. They are Angela, Anne, Theresa and Lesley and the two ladies on the right I can’t name.


I Love to do my Homework   (Anonymous)

I love to do my homework,

It makes me feel so good.

I love to do exactly

 As my teacher says I should.

I love to do my homework,

I never miss a day.

I even love the men in white

Who are taking me away.


Moyvane church builders 1957


From my kitchen table

I persevered with John Boyne’s book even though I hated the glib, almost Ross O’Carroll Kellyesque, style of narration for the first two thirds of the novel. Then I read the epilogue and everything made more sense. It gives an insight, only slightly exaggerated, into an Ireland some aspects of which are best forgotten.

I’ve loved my new mug from day one.


Anew McMaster in Listowel

I consulted a few Listowel men of a certain age to enquire if they remembered Anew McMaster in the Plaza or The Carnegie Library. Here are three of the replies I got.

Billy McSweeney says:

On checking as much as I could, Anew McMaster toured Ireland between

1925 and 1959 and could have visited Listowel a number of times. Eamon

Keane was born in 1925 and would have been 15 in 1940, before my time.

The McMaster week I remember in the Plaza was during the 1951/52 tour

when Harold Pinter was a member of the troupe.

Jim McMahon says;  

Mary, I do recall some performances upstairs in the library..yes it may well have been the Church St performers. I think my brother Garry may have sang there as a young boy of maybe about 8 years   Also a youth called Will Regan from upper Church St.. I was about 6 or 7 then, probably in the late  1940s. Much more clearly I recall Anew Mc Master’s travelling actors doing Othello and other plays in the Plaza. There must be written records of these around.

Cyril Kelly says:

I too have an atmospheric image of Anew McMaster bestriding the stage of the Plaza like a colossus declaiming iambic pentameters, though about the words he speaketh, I have not the slightest memory. My image of him is something akin to the willowy W.B. Yeats caricature by Max Beerbohm.

And no, I was not among the superior script writers of the day but I do remember paying a precious ‘lop’, complete with copper hen and chicks, to gain admittance to similar back shed productions as Billy.

I was with John Boyne in Knocknagoshel and in Athea with the fairies

In Knocknagoshel with John Boyne

My regular readers may remember that I visited Knocknagoshel some time ago. I was on a recce mission for my job during Listowel Writers’ Week 2014, i.e. to escort John Boyne of Boy in Striped Pyjamas fame to talk to his fans in their own community centre in a glorious corner of North Kerry.

It is one of the triumphs of Writers’ Week and particularly The National Children’s Literary Festival  that it brings big name authors to small places to meet their readers.

This year Knocknagoshel hosted two authors, Alan Early and John Boyne. They talked to an appreciative audience of children from local schools.


While we were in Knocknagoshel I met two busy local ladies. One of them was making 21 dinners for her Meals on Wheels friends and the other lady was busy in the laundry beside the hall where we had our event. This local community is exemplary in its efforts to care for its vulnerable people  and to look out for everyone.  

Arise Knocknagoshel, Take a bow; A truly inspirational place. 

I’m glad I got to go there.


Out and About in Listowel

While Michael Guerin was in town with his camera during Writers’ Week he took a few snaps of local people.

He also recorded a few good memories at Kay Caball’s launch


Some Fairy lore

Fairies have to be 12 years old and they have to sit three exams before they are responsible enough to collect baby teeth. Our baby teeth contain all our childhood memories, dreams and wishes.

Animals can see fairies and talk to them

Fairies are nocturnal.

They love shiny things.

Fairies are multilingual.

These and other fairy “facts” I learned from The Irish Fairy Door Co

When I was at the Kingdom County Fair I met a man from Sneem who was making lovely fairy and elf doors, but any half handy carpenter could make you a door for your very own fairy. I’d recommend you get one. They are great fun.

Here are some more photos from my trip to Athea, home of ten fairies:

Entrance to The Giant’s Garden
Flags of many nations
Sign on a seat along the walk
Fairy post box; you can leave a letter for the fairies here.

Rustic paths through lush undergrowth.

Lú is the local Athea fairy. It was she who helped the giant in his distress after the accident with his mother’s remains on the way to the graveyard which lies at the top of Fairy Mountain.

looking down from Fairy Mountain
Some of the Tidy Town Committee who developed the project

A fairy loving birthday party group from Duagh ready to investigate the fairy trail

Our M.C. for the day
Our story teller


Magnificent White Lion

Source; Get inspired


Listowel Celtic U14 Premier League Champions & Cup Finalists 2014    (photo; John Kelliher)


Ah, lads!

This is not funny. Someone has stolen this sign from outside Asdee.

These signs are expensive, informative and decorative. They advertise our pride of place and are meant for everyone visiting the area.

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