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Tag: John McCarthy

Carroll’s, Peppa Pig, Eamon Kelly and a Big Win for Asdee

Dún Chaoin by Éamon ÓMurchú


Another Lovely Restoration Job

Work is in progress at Carroll’s of William Street. Lovely job!


by John McCarthy


A Fact!

Parents in the U.S. noticed that their children were talking with British accents. They took to social media to describe what they called the Peppa Pig Effect. Not only were the children speaking in English accents, they were using words like lorry and petrol instead of truck and gas.

Linguists pointed out that saying a few words in a different accent doesn’t mean you have acquired the accent. The effect wears off when the kids start interacting with other children.


Asdee, A Village on the global Map

Photo of some of the committee by Dominick Walsh and background story from every news outlet in Kerry.

Karol Kissane, Lorraine McElligott, John Kennedy, Eoin Kennedy and Mary Mulvihill of the Asdee Community Development Association. Picture: Domnick Walsh 

“We’re absolutely over the moon really, we’re ecstatic. It’s a huge honour for a small village in North Kerry, and it’s recognition of what the committee and wider community have done over the years as part of the Asdee Development Association,” said John Kennedy, chairman of the association.

Mr Kennedy said the secret ingredient of the winning plan was buy-in from everyone in the community.

So what have they won?

They have won gold in an international competition for their five year community development plan, all done by consultation and facilitation with the local community.

Well done, Asdee. Check out their great website at Asdee Village


Memories of Wirelss Days

Talk of the old days and old Radio Eireann programmes reminded Mattie Lennon of a piece he wrote once about one of the most familiar and best loved voices on radio in the 1950s and 60’s, Eamon Kelly, The Seanchaí.

It was 1959. The National Council for The Blind of Ireland gave my visually impaired mother a wireless. It was our first radio. At the time my contemporaries were clued in to the highlights of Radio Luxemburg and the Light Programme. But, always one to live in the past, I had a preference for the folk programmes on Radio Eireann. My adrenalin was really let loose by the prologue to one in particular:

The rick is thatched
The fields are bare,
Long nights are here again.
The year was fine
But now ’tis time
To hear the ballad-men.
Boul in, boul in and take a chair
Admission here is free,
You’re welcome to the Rambling House
To meet the Seanachi.

The Seanachi was, of course, Eamon Kelly.

I was to follow Eamon’s stories, on the air, and later in Dublin theatres, through his one-man shows, for decades.

His trademark introduction was: “In My Father’s Time” or “Ye’re glad I came.” In between tales of “The King of England’s son” and “The Earl of Baanmore” he would tell his own life-story.

And those who knew his style could always differentiate between the fact and the fiction.

He was born in Rathmore, Co. Kerry, in March 1914. In his autobiographical work “The Apprentice” he tells of how the family moved when he was six months old. He was brought to Carrigeen on Maurice O’Connor’s sidecar. (Of course when he’d be wearing his Seanachi’s hat he’d tell you he remembered it).

Eamon grew up in a Rambling House and in later life said: ” … my ears were forever cocked for the sound that came on the breeze. It wasn’t the Blarney Stone but my father’s house which filled me with wonder”.

He was only a child when this country gained independence but he had his Kerry ear cocked long before that to accumulate stories such as this: ” ‘Will I get in this time’ the sitting MP said once to one of our neighbours, coming up to polling day. 

‘Of course you will’ the neighbour told him. ‘Didn’t you say yourself that it was the poor put you in the last time and aren’t there twice as many poor there now?’ “

Eamon didn’t lick his storytelling ability off the ground. He said of his father that he was ” … a friendly person, a good talker. Neighbours and travelers were attracted like moths around a naked flame into his and my mother’s kitchen”. Their kitchen had ” … all the rude elements of the theatre; the storyteller was there with his comic or tragic tale, we had music, dance, song and costume”. When he left school Eamon became apprentice to his father who was a master carpenter and wheelwright.

The young apprentice missed nothing; seventy years on he could mimic a verbose mason who described how to put a plumb-board against the rising walls to “ascertain their perpendicularity”.

He also began taking a correspondence course with Bennett College in England. Then it turned out that the architect of a hotel enlargement project that he was working on was the craftwork teacher at the local Technical School. Eamon enrolled for a night course. The teacher’s name was Micheal O’ Riada and, in his autobiography, Eamon told how he ” … was the means of changing the direction of my footsteps and putting me on the first mile of a journey that would take me far from my own parish. He taught me and others the craft of wood and in time we passed examinations set by the technical branch of the Department of Education in carpentry, joinery and cabinet making. He taught the theory of building and how to read plans: he taught solid geometry which holds the key to the angles met with in the making of a hip roof or staircase”.

No matter how far from home Eamon was working he cycled two nights a week to Tech. He was soon to learn that Micheál O’Riada’s interests were not confined to sawing and chiseling. He introduced his pupils to books, writers and the theatre. On the head of this Eamon went to see Louis Dalton’s company, at the town hall, in “Juno and the Paycock”.

“It was my first time seeing actors on a stage and the humour, the agony and the tragedy of the play touched me to the quick”.

He was mesmerized by the actors and ” … their power to draw me away from the real world and almost unhinge my reason long after the curtain had come across”.

Micheál O’Riada was impressed with Eamon’s reaction to the theatre. He discussed O’Casey, Synge and Lennox Robinson with the young carpenter and advised him if he ever went to Dublin to go to the Abbey Theatre.

Mr. O’Riada also told him that if he kept making headway in his studies and passed the senior grade in the practical and theory papers he would enter him for a scholarship examination, to train as a manual instructor, in Dublin. Since Eamon had left school at fourteen, he also had to do additional study in English, Irish and Maths. He passed his scholarship examination, and the interview in Dublin, with flying colours.

He trained and worked as a woodwork teacher for years until he became a full time actor. His first acting role was as Christy Mahon in “The Playboy of the Western World” along with the Listowel actress, Maura O’Sullivan. He would later marry, and spend the rest of his life, with Maura.

They moved to Dublin and Eamon was employed by the Radio Eireann Repertory Players and later by the Abbey Theatre Company. He drew large audiences in villages during the ’50s as he traveled around Ireland with his stories. He was to spend more than 40 years as a professional actor. Working with the top actors and leading producers of his day, he performed in New York, London and Moscow.
As a storyteller, his vivid and evocative descriptions are unsurpassed. Whether it was about an emigrant-laden train gathering speed before fading from view at Countess Bridge or sparks flying when the blacksmith struck red hot iron, nobody could tell it like Eamon. Once, in the Brooklyn Academy, while telling one of his famous stories he mentioned an Irish town and drew a graphic word-picture of emigrants at the station. From the audience he heard; “Divine Jesus” and a man crying. Ever the professional, Eamon instantly changed gear, swung to comedy and in seconds had the homesick exile laughing.

Watching him on the stage, the Paps-of-Anu and Dooncorrig Lake almost materialized around you. There was a temptation to look up for the rising ground above Barradov Bridge.

In the Peacock Theatre in the 1980s, you were standing beside the young Eamon Kelly as he made a Tusk Tenon at the workbench beside his father or walked barefoot on the submerged stepping-stones with his first-love, Judy Scanlon.

As Anette Bishop described it in the Irish American Post:
“It’s a case of the past returning to raise a charming blush on the cheek of the present”. Everything Eamon Kelly did was tried, tested and honed to perfection. And he always expressed appreciation of the crafts, skills and talents of others. “The correct actions of a craftsman sawing, planning or mortising with the chisel were as fluid as those of an expert hurler on the playing field”.

When rehearsing for Seamus Murphy’s “Stone Mad”, which he adapted as a one-man show, he spent days observing stonecutters at a quarry in the Dublin mountains. In the course of the show he “lettered” a stone on stage.

With little or no interest in money himself, he was always on the side of the underdog and the marginalized. He was playing S.B. O’ Donnell in “Philadelphia Here I Come” on Broadway, in January 1972, when he heard the tragic news of Bloody Sunday. There and then he decided to play his part in trying to rectify man’s inhumanity; he became a vegetarian.

Eamon was shy, by nature. And even in his eighties he would be, by far, the most nervous artist backstage. This was because he was a perfectionist. A year before he died I saw him in a hotel about to do a piece he had performed hundreds of times. With the utmost humility he asked a staff member about facilities to do a last minute rehearsal: “Do you have anywhere where I could talk to myself for a while?”

More tomorrow…..


Church Street Restoration, Asdee Chapel

Two pictures of Coomeenole in West Kerry taken by Éamon ÓMurchú on the same evening at almost the same time.


Loyal to the Traditional Facade

Many premises in Listowel are undergoing refurbishment at the moment. In keeping with Listowel’s status as a Historic Town, Kerry County Council’s Heritage Officer is closely involved with the renovations. This house on Church Street is a case in point.

It is being lovingly restored by its present owner who takes her role as custodian of our traditional architecture very seriously.

Since I took the first photo the door has been painted.

This is a picture of the same house one hundred years ago. This picture was taken in the aftermath of the infamous Black and Tan raid in Church Street which saw the next door premises, Flavin’s, completely destroyed and much of Lower Church Street burned and looted.

Note how the present owner has restored the original look of the house and her new windows are absolutely faithful to the old design.


The Story of Asdee Chapel Continued

From Shannonside Annual 1956


M.S. Society Busking Day 2010

Musicians and volunteers in Main Street on one of the good old days.


A Lovely poem from the late John McCarthy

(from John McCarthy’s anthology Hope on a Rope)

John was a passionate compassionate poet who tackled the subject of mental illness before it was fashionable to do so. He was an activist credited with starting the Gay Pride movement in Cork.

He was a great friend of John B. and Mary Keane.


Listowel Castle, Aoife Hannon, Milliner, a poem for the late Mary Keane and a Broadway star with a Listowel Connection

At Listowel Castle, May 2016

Bryan MacMahon statue in the castle grounds.

The Master with his beloved Square in the background. Bryan MacMahon walked around this square practically every night that he spent in town.

Listowel Castle


Flowers at The Kingdom County fair 2016


Aoife Hannon Hats and Headpieces on Display in Main Street


Second Anniversary for Mary

The late John McCarthy, poet and mad pride activist wrote this poem for Mary Keane as she approached the second anniversary of John B.’s death.

She was always

backstage, producing

keeping it all together,

pub, finances, royalties.

enquiring when writing

their final draft as to

who would exit first?

She replied laughingly,”Sure

that was always my part, all

he did was sit in

the night and write.

They were a perfect

pair, a buttress foreach other.

The gentle character

lines of her face spoke

volumes, of how she had

survived the pregnant pauses,

the standing ovations of

what had gone before

handled the  traumas and

joys from behind the scenes

while he had taken

the bows at the curtains of

life but still when asked

“How are things?” she replied wistfully,

“Aragh, I’m fine, but I’d be better

if John was here.”


Ballerina with a Listowel Connection

Hennessy Sheehan is the daughter of Broadway singer/actor Ciarán Sheehan whose ancestors hail from Upper William Street Listowel. Hennessy is now blossoming into a star in her own right.

County Fair, Con Colbert and a thought for the day

Bluebells and Wild Garlic

These 2 photos were posted on Facebook by Mallow Camera Club. They were taken by a club member on their Bluebells and Wild Garlic outing recently.


Kingdom County Fair 2016

At the County Fair on Sunday I ran into Fear na Coillte, Will Fogarty who was carving a horse.

Michael Healy Rae dropped by for a chat and to admire the work.


Listowel Ladies

These three lovely Listowel ladies were on their way home from mass on Monday when I met them. Anna, Dolores and Mary were in great form, full of praise for the fine weather and only delighted to pose for me. Some people could take a leaf out of their book


Con Colbert Remembered


Just a Thought

Ignorance  (By John McCarthy R.I.P.)

There is no greater ignorance

Than educated, well informed prejudice.

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