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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Old People and Old Ways

Rainbow over Listowel on November 1 2021


Last Week’s Visitors

Three generations


An Unusual Knitting Pattern in last week’s Woman’s Weekly

The mind boggles.


In Athea

This lovely old fireside scene was posted on a site called Vanishing Ireland. This traditional fire is in Batt’s Bar in Athea, Co. Limerick. From firesides long ago I remember the crane and the bastable and kettles . I also remember the bellows you activated by turning a wheel.

Echoes of the past.


Great Memories here for Old Asdee Families

From Shannonside Annual 1§956


From an Old Presentation Secondary School Album

Looks to me like a Parents Council group, since it has parents and teachers in it.


The Man of the Moment has a Listowel Connection

Every newspaper this weekend had copious coverage of rugby player, Jonathan Sexton, who played his 100th international game on November 6 2021.

My photograph is from my Saturday newspaper where Jonathan’s proud godfather, Listowel’s Billy Keane, brought us the man behind the legend.

Jonathan’s Listowel Sexton family travelled in numbers to the match. They and everyone in Listowel are proud of him.


WW1 remembered, some Lithuanian cooking and a Few Photos from Young Adult Bookfest 2018

Photo: Chris Grayson


Remembering WW1

Below is an example of some of the many heartbreaking lines written by the poets of The Great War

Then in the lull of midnight, gentle arms
Lifted him slowly down the slopes of death,
Lest he should hear again the mad alarms
Of battle, dying moans, & painful breath.

And where the earth was soft for flowers, we made
A grave for him that he might better rest.

Francis Ledwidge

On Sunday November 11 2018, Tom Dillon, war historian, gave an excellent illustrated lecture on Kerry and the Great war. He concentrated on the local men who fought.

Tom is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the war and he imparts his knowledge in an accessible and entertaining way. He told us stories which brought the men to life and he enlivened his account with little anecdotes that kept his audience hanging on his every word.

He told us about Armistice commemorations that went on in Kerry until the 1960s. He told us of an act of neighbourliness that saved a man’s life amid the carnage in Messines. Another story concerned a Kerry soldier who saved a German officer’s life with a blood donation.  We learned about two brothers who died within 24 hours of each other . This meant that a Kerry mother received the dreaded telegram on two consecutive days. A Clieveragh family sent seven sons to the front and miraculously all seven returned. The family attributed this miracle to their mother’s prayers.

Tom showed us photos and pictures of Fr. Gleeson blessing the troops and saying mass for them. Tom showed us how the German trenches differed from the Allied ones. The German ones were superior. But when it came to the war graves the Allies took the prize. We are all familiar with the War graveyards with the rows and rows of uniform gravestones only differing in the inscription the families were allowed to add at their own expense. Tom showed us a poignant one of these inscriptions, “If love could have saved him, he would have lived.”

The German authorities buried their dead in mass graves. One such grave holds the remains of as many as 25,000 soldiers.

The lecture shone a light on “the world’s worst wound”. where everyone was an unknown soldier. It was enlightening to listen to Tom make them known.

The lecture was accompanied by memorabilia lent by Kerry Library and local families, including  the Hennessy medal which has only recently been unearthed (literally) in Lixnaw.

This is the Death Penny that was issued to the next of kin of everyone who died as a consequence of war. These plaques which were much bigger than a penny were issued right up to the 1950s to the surviving relatives of men and women who died as a result of war. They had the name of the dead soldier but no rank. It was believed that everyone was equal before God. It was the same thinking that led the war graves people to decree that every soldier’s grave, regardless of his rank would be exactly the same. There is a great sadness in this sameness. It makes them into an army again, robbing them of individuality and keeping them from their families, even in death.

The glories of our blood and state
  Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
  Death lays his icy hand on kings:
        Sceptre and Crown          
        Must tumble down,
  And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.

From Death the Leveller by James Shirley

This is a Princess Mary Christmas box. In 1914 every soldier and sailor got one of these. They were paid for by donations from the British public.

The funding was used to manufacture small boxes made of silver for officers and brass for all others.[4] Each was decorated with an image of Mary and other military and imperial symbols and typically filled with an ounce of tobacco, a packet of cigarettes in a yellow monogrammed wrapper, a cigarette lighter, and a Christmas card and photograph from Princess Mary.[6] Some contained sweets, chocolates,[7] and lemon drops. (Wikipedia)

It is estimated the 2.5 million of these boxes were distributed.

Remember the story about the German officer who had a rare blood group and whose life was saved by a blood donation from a Kerry soldier. He gave him his pipe as a reward.

Brian and Martin were among the attendees at the talk.

These people are relatives of the men who fought. They helped Tom with his research and were there to hear the stories on November 11 2018, one hundred years after the ending of the war.


Listowel Food Fair 2018

I started the day with brunch in Café Hanna and then it was off to Scribes where Brigitta was giving an excellent demonstration of Lithuanian cuisine.

 A good crowd had gathered in Scribes to see Brigitta’s first ever cookery demonstration. She aced it. Considering that English is not her first language and she was dealing with a subject which she always thinks about in her native language she did a brilliant job.

 Brigitta showed us how to make cheese an easy peasy way and she made some dishes using the cheese. I loved the mixed veg salad she made . All of the dishes were very dairy rich and pork is very popular as the meat ingredient in Lithuanian cooking.

 She had lots of support from family and friends.

Some local ladies enjoying the demo.


Young Adult Bookfest 2018

Catherine Moylan is the new chair of Listowel Writers’ Week. This was her first big gig. She did the meeting and greeting and warming up the audience like a pro. She echoed what we were all feeling when she said she wished there had been days like this when she was a pupil at Pres. Listowel

Bernard Casey is very successful comedian. The young people loved him. He made several appearances during the day and got a rousing cheer every time.

Gary Cunningham loves Listowel and Listowel loves him. All he has to do is tell his life story  and he has audiences eating out of him hand.

Gary gained many new fans among the pupils and the teachers.

Sarah Crossan is Laureate na nÓg. She involved the audience in her show with poetry and rapping blending in and out of one another. Sarah is a great believer that poetry is a performance art.

The other poet who is part of Sarah’s travelling show is Colm Keegan. as well as performing they met with a focus group of local young people.

Máire Logue took a quick minute to pose for me with Colm. The great success of the day is due in no small part to the organisational abilities of this extraordinary lady.


A Legend with a very proud Listowel Connection

Johnny Sexton helped Ireland to win against The All Blacks in the Aviva in Dublin on Saturday, November 17 2018. This is the first time EVER that an Irish rugby team beat the New Zealand team in Ireland in front of an adoring home crowd.

Jumbos on March 17 2018, Presentation memories and a big Listowel moment in Twickenham

Ballybunion Castle, Easter 2018


From my Archive

Photo: John Stack

John  Stack took this photo at my retirement party in The Listowel Arms in May 2010. I include it today to remind past pupils that we are still looking for photos or stories from you.


A last few from St. Patrick’s Day 2018 in Listowel

I finished the day in Jumbos with my visitors. Jumbo’s is an iconic Listowel institution with much more mouthwatering fare than many of its big name competitors.


Meanwhile in Twickenham

We all saw the picture. Billy Keane in his “famous blue raincoat” and his beloved godson, Jonathan Sexton embrace after Ireland’s victory over England to win the Six Nations competition.

Listowel is not known as Ireland’s literary capital for nothing. Local poet, Micheál Gallagher and photographer Paul Manning came together to create this artistic memory of that famous hug. I found it on the John B. Keane Bar’s Twitter feed.


A Fact Stranger than Fiction

On display in Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral are the mummified remains of a cat and a rat. It would appear that the cat was chasing the rat when both became trapped in an organ pipe. Their mummified remains were later found and put on display.


For One Week Only…starting tonight

The Beamish Family Memorabilia in Listowel, Kennedy’s Pet Farm and NCBI official opening

Greenfinch at Beal

photo: Ita Hannon


NCBI Official Opening

The lovely ladies in the NCBI shop on Church Street threw a party to mark their official opening.


Summer on the Way!

The days are getting finer. I enlisted some help to prepare my summer transport.


Pet farm Revisited, Sunday April 24 2016

I love visiting here so much that the Kennedys are now our friends.

 The setting is absolutely idyllic.

Mrs. Hen was brooding in the midst of it all.

Bambi feeding from Sean’s hand.

 Christmas is months away.

 This is one of the many cocks I saw. They seem to live and let live at Kennedy’s.

They had a nice young pot bellied pig.

 All of my boys loved the guinea pigs.

Cupboard love; Bambi is following Killian everywhere not because he loves him but he is watching for an opportunity to steal his food.

 Carine loves the puppies best.

 All of the animals at Kennedy’s live in harmony.

Sean tried his hands at the milking.

Posing with a rabbit

 Posing with a goat

They had an 8 week old litter of puppies on the day we visited.

It’s always hard to say good bye to Kennedy’s


Presentation Secondary School, Listowel

Photo taken on Proclamation Day and posted on Twitter


Beamish Exhibition in The Seanchaí

An event that happened at Listowel Military Tattoo 2016 was the display in The Seanchaí of the sporting and aviation memorabilia of the Beamish family of Dunmanway.

Here are just a few of the exhibits I photographed. The artefacts are on permanent display in Britain but were kindly brought by the family to Listowel for the Tattoo


Darkness into Light

Next Saturday is the morning when all of Ireland walks into the dawn of a hopeful new Ireland without the pain of suicide and self harm.

Billy Keane is doing his bit to promote the walk by persuading all of his celebrity visitors to try on the T-shirt.

Actor, Patrick Bergin

Rugby player, Jonathan Sexton

Bryan MacMahon’s Clounmacon memories and KnitWits


R.I.P. Garda Adrian Donohoe killed in the line of duty. Unspeakable tragedy: the loss of a lovely young man while guarding Credit Union workers.

Sadly he joins The Garda Roll of Honour


Looks like victory in The Australian Open meant a lot to Victoria Azarenka.


KnitWits News

Our first consignment of caps is on its way to the U.S. to

for distribution to children undergoing chemotherapy.

Visit our KnitWits page to see our knitters at work


This lovely tribute to Clounmacon was written by the late Bryan MacMahon for inclusion in the journal published to celebrate the opening of Clounmacon’s new football field.

The Clounmacon of my Mind by Bryan McMahon

I have nothing but the loveliest and liveliest memories of Clounmacon as a community, a fact significantly underlined by the opening of a new Gaelic pitch today.

As a matter of fact, Clounmacon School was the first school I ever attended. I was no more that three years of age when I first entered its classrooms. My mother, God rest her, who had been teaching in Lancashire for almost ten years returned home to marry and take up an appointment as an assistant teacher in Clounmacon-then the only outlying school in Listowel parish.

The school was a new one and spic and span in every particular. The paint on the partitions was bright and shining and the atmosphere was excellent. Even as a child could appreciate that.In the winter of 1912 (that’s how far back my first contact with Clounmacon goes and I have verified the date in an old family diary), a small pony, a trap and harness was bought for my mother. Off she went up Dromin Hill, the pony trotting, the brass glittering and the little silver bells on the harness gaily ringing.I was in the vehicle. I was dressed in a dark blue velvet suit with a lace collar as befitted the son of a schoolmistress!

After we passed Charlie Nolan’s of the Pound-that’s the name of the house opposite the gate of the Sportsfield-and waved to Paddy Evans at the fountain and to Kiely’s just beyond it-I spied something that attracted my full attention. It was a tall woman with a galvanised bucket of water balanced on her head. With a slight inclination of her face she saluted me with dignity.

Our next stop was at the closed railway gates where the thunder of the passage of a passenger train made the pony restive. After a greeting from Hannie Jones (mother of all the O’Connell’s) and a chat with the neighbours, we faced the hill. A stop was made at O’Sulllivan’s to see if berries were appearing on the tall holly tree beside a house. Then there was a word to Old Jack Leahy, a mine of folklore, who witnessed the last duel fought in Listowel square and who, I believe, worked as a clerk in Michael Davitt’s office in Dublin, and a God speed from Margaret O’Riordan (Conway to you) we were now passing Raymond’s. There was a beautiful little well just across the low demesne wall where on our journey home the housekeeper would have a bucket of apples for us.

On the crest of the hill and in a little distance from the road was Kennelly’s. Later I entered the kitchen to find an elderly pair conversing in fluent Irish as capably as one would find in Ballyferriter today.  With Jer, a brother in Bedford, this family comprised the last natural Gaelic speaking family in North Kerry.On the brow of the hill there was a pause to chat with several neighbours. Here it was at a later date that our pride came to grief as I shall explain presently.

Downhill then the pony trotted merrily to reveal houses in Knockane and Clounmacon I came to know as well as my own. After a chat with Son O’Donnell we came to a halt at Murphy’s. There we were royally received, the pony untackled and left there until the afternoon.

“Across the Fields to school” is a fitting title for what I recall as a first impression of the school area. I realise later that girls and boys were making their way cross-country to the school from the Mail Road area. Sometimes they had to walk along the tops of the fences as the dykes, as we call them, were flooded.

The schoolmaster greets me- a fine old timer called Thade O’Flaherty. There are assistant teachers also: memory betrays me at this point as I am not sure whether the assistants were Tom O’Connell, Michael Griffin or Patrick O’ Farrell. But all of those were there in the early days of Clounmacon School.

As I enter the building, and my mother’s hand leaves mine. I am engulfed by the senior girls. They crush me to their bosoms and admire my velvet suit, my lace collar and my little Duke shoes with the buckles. It was my first major encounter with the opposite sex. I wasn’t aware of the full ramifications of their embraces but, young as I was, I knew that something pleasurable was going on. They even fought one another for possession of me. Later, when the cookery classes were over, they bribed me with tarts and queen cakes.

Given into the custody of one of the older boys who was seated beside me, I too demanded a pen and a sheet of paper. I then peeped over his shoulder and cogged from him- this though I had never been taught to write. The teacher was amused when he took up my handiwork. What I had done was to cog faithfully the name and address of the senior boy beside whom I was seated.

Lunchtime came and again the senior boys took charge of me in the playground. The school master stayed inside in the school with the door locked while he ate his luncheon. When he emerged he wiped his face with his handkerchief and seemed in good humour. A trio of my custodians, the bigger lads, hustled me into the open door and right into the empty classroom. One of them knelt on the floor and putting his nose to a tiny pool of dark liquid on the boards looked up and said “Tis porter all right lads”.

Some time later, on spying a similar pool of spilled liquid on the kitchen floor in my own home. I knelt and sniffed it deeply then looked up and said  ‘Tis porter all right mother”. When I was cross examined on this antic the whole story came out. “ Well, could you beat the Cloubmacon lads?” was my mother’s comment of the affair.

What else do I recall? The girls gathering ceannabhán or bog cotton to stuff pillows, also collecting wild flowers to win a competition in the old Gymnasium Hall at the North Kerry Show in Listowel. I recall too many of the girls coming to my house to seek advice from my mother before they set out for the United States of America.

But most of all I recall the pony under our trap who, taking fright on the crest of Dromin Hill, drove one of the wheels onto the fence and capsized the vechicle. I was dragged out bespattered with mud and blood. My velvet suit was in tatters, I recall being comforted in a neighbours house (Shanahans?) and later sitting shivering with shock in front of Murphy’s big fire where a cup of tea steadied my shaken nerves and the fire dried my sodden clothes

These memories of a school and a gracious community are renewed and reinforced by the opening of a new Gaelic football ground today where thrilling contests will adorn the Ireland of the future.

Above all, my memories focus on a very lovely community, which although the school as a school is gone, the building lives on in sterling service to the people. This pitch and the splendid players Clounmacon of the future will produce, as it has done in the past, will also forge a fine link in the chain of tradition.




DEATH has occurred of Joseph Vincent Buckley age 72, of Massapequa Park, NY and Main Street Moyvane, on January 21st  2013, father of Kelly O’Boyle (Carl), Michael, Sean and Ryan. Also survived by his brother  Fr. Michael and sister Marie.  Joe was a restaurant owner on Long Island for the past 40 years of The Jolly Tinker (Rockville Centre); Katie Daly’s (Massapequa) and Molly Malone’s (Bay Shore).  Mass for Joe on Friday 25th 2013 at St. Rose of Lima  Church, Massapequa, NY. Interment to follow at Grace Cemetery Massapequa. Joe Buckley was son of Michael Buckley and Nora Shine both of Moyvane Parish, he was predeceased by his parents and siblings, Liam who died in 2009, Fr Denis, Con, John, Donie, Paddy, Ned and Kit.


This atmospheric photo was taken in Serre in 1917, during WW1. It shows troops of The Manchester Brigade heading out to dig trenches.


Our Special Olympics winter games team head off to South Korea. Hope they have a ball!


Au Revoir

Billy Keane’s article in Saturday’s Irish Independent about his godson, Jonathan Sexton’s move to Racing Metro is here.

A lovely read!


Another  Irish short film has won an award at The Sundance Festival

The Summit tells the story of Ger McDonnell

On August 2008, twenty-four climbers from several international expeditions converged on High Camp of K2, the last stop before the summit of the most dangerous mountain on earth. Forty-eight hours later, eleven had been killed or had vanished, making it the worst K2 climbing disaster in history.

At the heart of The Summit lies a mystery about one extraordinary man, Ger McDonnell. By all accounts, he was faced with a heart-breaking dilemma– at the very limit of his mortal resources, he encountered a disastrous scene and a moral dilemma: three climbers tangled up in ropes and running out of time. In the death zone, above 8,000 metres, the body is literally dying with each passing second. Morality is skewed 180 degrees from the rest of life. When a climber falls or wanders off the trail, the unwritten code of the mountain is to leave them for dead. Had Ger 

McDonnell stuck to the climbers’ code, he might still be alive. 


Shoes in Auschwitz

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day. 

Every single one of these shoes belonged to someone like you or me.


Some great photographs here of the storm in Ballybunion yesterday. It’s dangerous out there! 

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