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 5

Cinema Memories

Ballybunion Photo: Simple Snaps by Sharon



Paul Johnson shared with us a link to the wonderful film about the cinema from a few years ago

A Window in Heaven’s Gable

“A documentary about the love affair between a town and its cinema. The town realizes how lucky it is to have a cinema, as most small towns in Ireland have lost theirs. The Classic Cinema in Listowel is one of the last of the small family-run independent cinemas on this island. It is also the story of Kieran Gleeson, the man who rescued the cinema from dereliction over thirty years ago and ran it with love until his recent passing. In defiance of the odds, his wife and two teenage children continue to keep the flame of cinema alive in the town.”

Sadly, despite their trojan efforts the cinema has had to close its doors in January 2022


Opening an Old Page

I discovered this old magazine lately. It’s like looking into another life. Here is one of the short articles written by the girls. looks like Listowel was vibrant with industries and festivals thriving.


A Man who Plants a Tree touches the Future

We’re getting a facelift down my way. David Twomey and the outdoor staff of Listowel Municipal Area of Kerry County Council are brightening up a little corner we used to refer to as the outside farm. We’re getting trees and shrubs on a pebble carpet. Lovely!


A Poem

In Ballyegan Bog

By John McGrath (In After Closing)

In Ballyegan bog the cuckoo’s tune

has changed to mark the turning of the year.

Through summer’s haze the lark sings loud and clear

and soars above the dancing ceannabhán.

Where lines of neat turf-teepees strut and seem

to mock neglected neighbours with disdain,

sad strips of black spaghetti wait in vain

for willing hands. The bog-land trampoline

beneath my feet springs back as I march on,

remembering those summer days long gone

when life was sweet as heather-scented air

and feet were bare and fleet as children’s are,

when time endured and even work was play

and skylarks sang the live-long, lark-song day.


Cinema Closure

Portmarnock by Éamon ÓMurchú


My girleens are all grown up now. It was lovely to spend Christmas with them.


St. Stephen’s Day 2021 in Youghal


The Last Picture Show

Message of thanks from all at the Classic.

The final programme

Listowel’s ‘Classic’ Cinema has been in operation for almost 70 years, first as The Astor from 1949 to 1985 and then with the Gleeson family from October 1987 to January 2022.

Our lovely cinema closed its doors for the final time on Thursday January 6 2022.


A Poem about Land and Legacy

John McGrath’s anthology, After Closing, is full of lovely poems to dip into. Here is one I like.

Foley’s Field

Dan Foley dug his field but not for gold,

Though long ago his father showed him how.

Plant trees! he said, The ground’s too poor to plough.

But sons don’t always do as they are told.

Dry summers gave a glimpse of buried store

And so Dan dug where mighty trees had grown,

Where cows had grazed and summer crops were sown

And men had thrived two thousand years before.

Great golden roots of long-dead deal he found.

Dan raised them one by one from acid ground,

And as he filled their void with fertile soil,

He knew the field would soon repay his toil,

For land is like a poem, it draws men back

To write another line and leave their track.


A Christmas story

Portmarnock photo by Éamon ÓMurchú


A Lost Soul at Christmas

Today’s story is from Cyril Kelly

Apologies for the awful scanning. I favoured substance over style.


Down Memory Lane with the Boys

This photo and the accompanying autographs was shared by John Keane on Facebook. The photo is from 1980, in the days before uniforms in St. Michael’s.

All the names were gathered by William Carroll of William Street. The photo is his.


A Christmas Window


A Present Suggestion

John McGrath’s poems are always food for thought. This lovely new anthology is out just in time for Christmas. I’d highly recommend it for that last minute present.

After Closing”Poetry for Everyman…” Lori De’Molet”Big! Huge, Hearty!” (Catherine White Snr)

Make someone smile at Christmas!

After Closing, my new collection, available at:

Ryan’s Mace. Lisselton,

The Thatch Lisselton,

Seanchaí Writers’ Centre, Listowel,

Brenda Woulfe’s Bookshop, Listowel,

and…via PayPal at


Coolard, Ballylongford, Wasps and a Flag

St. Mary’s August 2021


Ballylongford Mill

Construction of the Mill was started in about 1846 by William Blair of Co. Clare and ceased during The Famine We think he got as far as the stonework for the ground floor. Building recommenced in about 1850 and the structure appears on an 1851 map of Ballylongford, and was fully completed by 1852.T

he Mill was originally built as a grain drying store, a unique agricultural building for drying bags of green oats which were later shipped down the river in sailing barges and on to a Corn Mill in Limerick for milling.This was at a time when most local tenant farmers lived in shocking poverty and didn’t have their own barns to dry the crops. It also explains the extremely heavy timbers used in construction to carry the weight of bags of green oats and the narrow width of the building and the numerous casement windows on both sides; the windows were used to control cross flow draughts to dry the oats.

William Blair got into some financial trouble and sold the building to Ryan’s from Kilrush, who then sold it to the Bannatyne family who had a large Corn Mill in Limerick which is still standing.

There’s then a big gap in details about the use of the building and it’s owners between the 1850’s and when O’Sullivans converted it into an electric mill for milling stock feed in the 1930’s.

Photo courtesy of Helen Lane and historical information courtesy of Padraig O Concubhair.

The new owners of the mill are planning a blacksmithing Fair for September.


Coolard School and Grotto


A Nostalgic Poem from John McGrath

(from John’s anthology Blue Sky Day)

Once in the Long Ago and Far Away

Once in the Long Ago and Far Away

I ran barefoot along bright boreens,

Dashing through pools of morning blue.

Over the dry-stone walls I flew,

Crashing through cobwebbed meadows,

Dew-drenched; phlegmed with cuckoo-spit.

Paused to wish by the whitewashed well.

Fished in its never-ending silver stream

For shining silver treasures.

All through the ringing fields I ran

All through the live-long, lark-song day,

Tireless as Time

‘Til time and hunger called me

Back to buttermilk lamplight, Banshee dreams,

Once in the Long Ago and Far Away.


A Plague of Wasps

2021 is a bumper year for wasps. I looked them up and they do have a vital role to play so leave them alone and just stay out of their way.

Wasps are pollinators. Wasps are also important in the environment. Social wasps are predators and as such they play a vital ecological role, controlling the numbers of potential pests like greenfly and many caterpillars. … A world without wasps would be a world with a very much larger number of insect pests on our crops and gardens.


The Flags are out

Moran’s of Church Street

Two different views of the same beach, An Clochar in Corca Dhuibhne. Photo: Éamon ÓMurchú


Moran’s Hotel

I’ve had a few suggestions as to who the girls in Luaí ÓMurchú’s photo might be but no more definite than the leading three.

Miriam Kiely who lived in that part of town remembers her neighbours on the street well.

The building with the upstairs bay window was Moran’s Hotel, then Quirke’s and now Fitzpatrick’s. Various different catering enterprises operated in this premises.

Miriam remembers that the gardaí used to come there for their meals. The hotel is located opposite the guards’ barracks and back in the day the gardaí used to live in the barracks. Listowel often had a cohort of handsome young gardaí who made quite a stir as they made their way across to Moran’s every day for their dinner.

On First Holy Communion Day, the girls got their communion breakfast in the convent and the boys from the nearby Scoil Réalt na Maidine went to Moran’s for their repast.

For many years Morans did the catering on The Island for Listowel Races.

Eileen Moran married Joe Quirke. They bought Chute’s chip shop and added a fast food outlet to their catering offerings.

Miriam also has a theory about the car in the picture. She thinks it may have belonged to a Moriarty, a bookie. She remembers many trips to Ballybunion in Moriarty’s car and it looked very like this one.


More from the Michael O’Connor Collection

Some more of the intricate, detailed works of art, painstakingly drawn and illustrated by the late Michael O’Connor of The Square.

I’m looking forward to seeing these marvellous works in reality. Hopefully they will soon return to their artist creator’s home in Kerry Writers’ Museum.


A Poem by John McGrath

from his anthology, Blue Sky Day

A Time For Dancing

Our lives proceed in rhythms of their own,

Sometimes in waves that dash from stone to stone,

Sometimes a soothing, softly murmuring flow,

A ride to cherish, be it quick or slow.

A river by a highway, river-paced,

Not rushing by as if by demons chased,

With time for wine and dancing in the night

Or fiddle fit to put the moon to flight –

But lest you perish in the deafening din,

Life trades her fiddle for a violin,

Soft lights, sweet music and a moon that lingers,

Eyes that are smiling just for you, and fingers

To soothe your soul just like the murmuring stream.

A time for dancing and a time to dream.


The Last of the Islanders

This photograph was republished in The Irish Examiner this week. It shows the boat carrying the men of The Great Blasket to their new homes in the mainland in 1953.

An Blascaod Mór was like a little independent republic for many years. Despite the many many hardships and deprivations, its people loved the island and they grew strong and resilient there. A corpus of literary work in size out of all proportion to the little scrap of land, grew out of that sparse but contented lifestyle.

Eventually the islanders relented and could take the harsh life no longer when the illness and death of a beloved local boy was the last straw for them. The death occurred during a storm when they couldn’t cross the sound. This proved a test too far. The islanders were getting old and less well able to take the hardship any longer.

They sent this famous telegram to De Valera “Storm bound, distress, send food, nothing to eat.”

The government heard their plea for help and they were uprooted from the only life they knew and relocated inland. The picture tells its own story. These men are being rescued but they look far from happy.


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