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

Tag: John McGrath Page 1 of 7

Market Street

Raised bed on Market Street in August 2023


Our New Public Convenience

Our new public toilet is less conspicuous than the old one and less costly. It is also more user friendly. It is in the same location as the old one.


Jet OCarroll’s of William St. or Pearse Street

This popular bar is located at 32 William Street.

Or Uimhir 32, Sráid an Phiarsaigh. It is one of the quirks of Listowel that the street names in English hark back to times before independence. The same streets have Irish names that honour the signatories of the declaration of Independence.


A Poem for late August 2023

Leaving (July 1st, 1966)

by John McGrath

Seventeen, no fear, no hesitation

A young boy smiles and wipes away his tears

July morning, Ballyhaunis station

His mother cries and curses emigration

That takes away her boy of tender years

Seventeen, no fear, no hesitation

Young mind filled with hope and expectation

The rhythm of the rails is all he hears

July morning, Ballyhaunis Station

Boarding school a feeble preparation

For Sixties’ Manchester, a web of snares

Seventeen, no fear, no hesitation

Climbs on board his future with elation

Anticipation ringing in his ears

July morning, Ballyhaunis Station

His farewell kiss a meagre consolation

She turns away as through the glass he peers  

Seventeen, no fear, no hesitation

July morning, Ballyhaunis station


An August Visitor

Carine loves Ballybunion.

She was impressed by this litter picking initiative.


Can you help a Listowel Emigrant?

I would love to get a copy of A Gift of Ink. I vividly remember listening to Eamon Keane’s magical voice the night it first broadcast. I am a neurologist in Newport Beach California but born and raised in Cahirdown, a mile outside the town. My 14 brothers and sisters lived in the Soldiers Cottages ,a gift of the British government to its WW1 veterans. My brother Louis was in love with his town and was immersed in every aspect of Listowel life. He died too soon but he died in the place closest to his heart.

I wait for your blog every week. It makes me feel connected to the past and to family. Please let me know how to access or purchase A Gift of Ink. I will be very grateful
Dr Philip O’Carroll

(A Gift of Ink is no longer available to buy but maybe someone who has a vinyl copy could copy it to cd for Philip.)


A Fact

Bedouin feasts, celebrating weddings or other significant life events may include roast camel.

Whole roast camel is a delicacy in Dubai restaurants. A good sized camel can feed 80 to 100 people.

Whole camel stuffed with a sheep’s carcass, which is stuffed with chickens, which are stuffed with fish which are stuffed with eggs is not a thing.

This is a myth.


Road Signs and Civil War Disruption

St Patrick’s Day 2023

Canon Declan O’Connor and his neighbours enjoying the 2023 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Listowel Town Square


Another String to his Bow

Dave O’Sullivan found us this in The Kerryman archive from 1961. These beautiful signs were designed by the great Michael O’Connor.

Would anyone know of the whereabouts of one of these or does anyone have a better photograph of one?


The Civil War and the Lartigue

Story from Mark Holan’s Irish American Blog

Civil War Toll on The Lartigue

Mark Holan

Anti-government forces in the Irish Civil War attacked the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway several times in early 1923. Damage to the rolling stock and stations of the 9-mile monorail between the two Kerry towns, and the impracticalities of operating such a unique line in the newly consolidated Irish rail system, forced its permanent closure in October 1924.

Passengers and mail on the LBR had been targeted by Irish republican forces during the Irish War of Independence, 1919-1921. In January 1923, during the civil war, armed men forced the Ballybunion stationmaster to open the line’s office, goods store, and waiting room, which they doused with petrol and paraffin oil and set on fire. Within an hour a similar attack occurred at the Lisselton station, about halfway between the two terminuses.

Such destruction is generally attributed to the IRA forces opposed to the Irish Free State. These “irregulars” also cut down about 1,700 yards of telegraph wire and six poles between Listowel and Ballybunion, matching attacks along other Irish rail routes.

Nicknamed the Lartigue after inventor Charles Lartigue, the monorail was “suspended indefinitely” in early February 1923 due to the sabotage. Nearly 40 employees lost their jobs, impacting about 100 family members and ancillary businesses.

With the train out of service, a char-a-banc and motor car service began operating between the two towns, but it also came under attack in March.Once the civil war ended later that spring, the Lartigue was repaired in time for the busy summer season at Ballybunion, a seaside resort. By mid-July, the Freeman’s Journal reported the Lartigue “has already, particularly on Sundays, been taxed to almost its fullest capacity in the conveyance of visitors.”

Like the Lartigue, however, the national newspaper also would have its run ended in 1924.


Then and Now

2007 and 2023


Friends Reunited

Mary Sheehy met this lady twenty years ago on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. They met last week by chance in The Flying Saucer café, Listowel.


A Poignant Poem of Family Love

The Week After St Patrick’s

John McGrath

The week after St Patrick’s, my mother

pressed his suit and packed his case,

drove him to the station for the early train

from Ballyhaunis to the crowded boat,

then on to Manchester and solitude

until All Souls came slowly round again.

I don’t remember ever saying Goodbye.

At seventeen I took the train myself

and saw first-hand my father’s box-room life,

the Woodbines by his shabby single bed.

I don’t remember ever saying Hello,

just sat beside this stranger in the gloom

and talked of home and life, and all the while

I wanted to be gone, get on with mine.

Westerns and The Western kept him sane,

newspapers from home until the time

to take the train came slowly round once more.

Lost in Louis L’Amour, he seldom heard

the toilet’s ugly flush, the gurgling bath

next door. Zane Grey dulled the traffic’s

angry roar outside his grimy window.

Back home the year before he died we spoke

at last as equals, smoked our cigarettes,

his a Woodbine still, and mine a tipped.

My mother would have killed us if she’d known.

The phone call came as winter turned to spring.

I stood beside him, touched his face of ice

and knew our last Hello had been Goodbye.


St. Mary’s

Sunset in Norway, Photo; Margo Anglim


Listowel Parish

Fr. Kieran O’Shea’s account of Listowel Parish (Continued)

Mosaic in St. Mary’s Listowel


Kilflynn Fairy Festival Postponed

After all the preparations and excitement the fairies had to cancel again this year.

So as not to disappoint all their fairy loving followers they promise to be back brighter and better in August 2022.


Old Tarbert

Photos: Pat Kelly

This photo from 1940s is of a horse drawn hearse.

Tarbert Regatta some time in the 1940s.


A Book Launch at Writers’ Week 2022

One of the problems about Writers’ Week is that there are constantly hard choices to make. In an ideal world I would have loved to go to everything but that would have required the power of bilocation. That one is not in my repertoire of super powers.

I had decided to see all the drama on offer this year. This meant that I inevitably had to forego a few events I would have loved to attend.

One such event was John McGrath’s launch of his Closing the Circle poetry anthology.

Two poets, John with Gabriel Fitzmaurice in Kerry Writers’ Museum before the launch.

Generously all the money raised by the launch was being donated to help the victims of the war in Ukraine. Noelle and Kate were on the door.

Radio Kerry’s Saturday Supplement presenter, Joe McGill with Catherine Moylan and John McGrath at the launch.


Brent Geese

Gap of Dunloe by Chris Grayson


Brent geese feeding at Ceanndaoithe photographed by Ita Hannon.

Once upon a time brent geese were considered to be more fish than bird and the clergy were known to eat them in a Tralee hotel on fast days during Lent.


This is one of my favourite poems from the bad old days of Covid 19.

I Want To Go On

By John McGrath

I want to go on looking in

when they let us out again.

I like what I found there.

Alone I was afraid at first

but then I realised

Searching for what matters

Was what we’re meant to do

How we’re meant to be

Nothing to fear but fear, and me.

Don’t get me wrong

I miss the hugs, the friends,

the buzz of conversation

But I love the contemplation,

So now and then I’ll look back in

when we get out again. 


Culinary Delights for Hard Times

(Health warning; If you are eating your breakfast or if you are of a delicate constitution, you may need to leave these next cuttings until later in the day)

Eddie Moylan found this great old gem in a sale and he knew just the person to give it to….me

The book was first published in 1852. It was reprinted in 1977 which doesn’t seem that long ago to people like me. It purports to be a guide to cheap and nourishing dishes for cash strapped people. The author was once the maitre d’hotel and chief cook to her majesty the queen but I doubt very much if he served her many of these dishes.

You will notice that many of the recipes include terms not in today’s vocabulary. Have fun looking them up. You will also notice that some of the recipes sound a bit naughty. Words like faggot and cocky leeky wouldn’t have given rise to sniggers in Victorian England.

If your stomach isn’t well and truly turned as you contemplate that, how about this for a use for an old hen or cock.


Bridge Road, February 2022

This is Bridge Road these days as the new paths are laid and the cycle lane is completed.


Then and Now

Ballybunion; Photograph by Sharon of Simple Snaps by Sharon



Purtill Solicitors has relocated from The Square to Church Street



In 1983 the secondary school was extending its footprint. another extension is planned soon.


The Land

by John McGrath

I stand in fields where my forefathers stood once

And feel the dreams of those who’ve gone before me.

I tramp through damp and half-remembered pastures,

The folds and features of the land that bore me

All around.  Above the sound of lark’s song,

Below the spring of earth beneath my feet,

The green and gold of April in the hedgerow,

The purple haze where sky and heather meet.

Where mighty men have thought to mark their passing

The furze creeps back to mock the spade and plough,

Those futile epitaphs of generations

In Folk Museums condemned to moulder now.

Where men have raised a fence or tilled a furrow

The land, as if to scorn their simple gains,

Erases each proud trace until tomorrow.

The men have gone; the land alone remains.


A Timely Song

Here we come a wassailing

Among the leaves so green

Here we come a wassailing, so fair to be seen…..

So what exactly is wassailing?

  • Singing and drinking, usually associated with Christmas time.
  • Going around orchards at the beginning of a new year, blessing the trees and praying for a fruitful year.
    • <<<<<<<<<<<

Listowel Technical School Hurling and Football teams back in the day.

The late Tom Galvin posted this photo on Facebook and Marie Shine supplied some of the names;

Back row, left, 2nd – Tim Hartnett.Ennismore, 6th: Danny Fealey, Ballygologue Road.

2nd Row left: Now Garda Tim Reidy, Lixnaw, 3rd: Roger Connor (Mike The Pies), 5th: Billy Walsh Greenville 7th: Gerry Carey Convent Street 10th: Michael Nagle, Ballybunion Front Row: Right of Tod Nolan (RIP): ? Costello Ballybunion.


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