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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Two different views of the same beach, An Clochar in Corca Dhuibhne. Photo: Éamon ÓMurchú
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.
This photograph will bring back memories to many of you. The four men are almost certainly neighbours because haymaking required manpower and that’s when comharing came into its own. You helped the neighbours in their meadow and they came and helped you in yours.
Fine weather was extremely important when you had “hay down”. This is the time when the hay is mown and lying flat in the meadow. It is at its most vulnerable. Heavy rain at this juncture meant the hay was drenched and had to be tossed and turned to try to dry it. Wet hay would rot and sour and the cows would refuse to eat it.
Two days of sunny weather after the hay was mown was ideal as on the first day the hay could be turned and raked into rows and on the second day the wynds could be made. Once the hay was in wynds, the farmer could relax as even if it rained then it would run off the cock of hay without damaging it.
I hadn’t seen my friend, Liz Dunn since the first lockdown. Ansence makes the heart grow fonder but I’m glad to be reunited.
Nature Takes its Course in 2021
Crabs (at Carrigafoyle)
By John McGrath
By Carrigafoyle I found them on the shore,
catastrophe of crabs at Shannonside,
a hundred thousand corpses, maybe more,
abandoned high and dry by ebbing tide.
So small and white like pebbles by the sea,
I wondered what disaster had ensued,
what plague or poison shaped this tragedy
that wrought misfortune of such magnitude.
No massacre, I learned, but nature’s ways.
Somewhere beneath the wild Atlantic swells
these tiny creatures shed their carapace,
together they cast off their outgrown shells
and then, on cue, the mating games begin,
those age-old ecstasies of skin on skin.
Listowel has been chosen as one of Ireland’s Poetry towns.
Here is what it says on the website;
“The people and communities of each Poetry Town will celebrate poetry in their everyday lives and surroundings, create communal experiences, and celebrate the pride, strength and diversity of each town. Watch this space for more, including the announcement of each town’s Poet Laureate in mid-August, and upcoming details on events. Poetry Town is an initiative of Poetry Ireland in partnership with Local Authority Arts Offices and is made possible with funding from the Arts Council of Ireland’s Open Call funding, and is also supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.”