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: Joseph O’Connor

Dress Dance in 1956

In Cromane by Chris Grayson


A Grand Affair

One of the highlights of the North Kerry social calendar used to be the Teachers Dress Dance.

Kathy Reynolds shared the link to Tony Fitzmaurice’s photographs of the 1956 dance and an abridged version of an essay first published in The Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine 2021 outlining the work of the ballroom photographer and Kathy’s efforts to reunite the photographs with their subjects or their families.

Teachers Dress Dance in Walsh’s Ballroom in 1956

The Ballroom Photographer

Teacher’s Dress Dance 18th Nov ’56 Band; J McGinty.

That was my introduction to the ledger where the late Tony Fitzmaurice (RIP), Ballybunion, kept a record of his semi-professional photography. In the back of the ledger was some headed paper and this introduced me to “Tony’s Photo Service & Kerry’s Youngest and Best Ballroom Photographer”!

Tony was my father’s first cousin and I was familiar with his photography all my life. As a small child his special dark-room partitioned from the bottom of the kitchen was a source of fascination. As an adult I became more aware of his photography as it was a hobby we shared and he was generous with his advice as I developed my interest. On holiday or at any event Tony always had a camera to hand but it was only on his death in 2019, when his widow Madeline asked my family to look after his photography, that I found out about his life as a Ballroom Photographer.

His ledger recorded every detail of his semi-professional photography business which co-existed alongside his job as a Kerry County Council employee. The ledger gives us a look at the work of a 1950/60s Ballroom Photographer.  The Teachers Dress Dance on the 18th November 1956 with music by Joe McGinty was his first professional engagement. A 10 minute video showing photographs from the event can be found at  Can anyone recognise teachers from their childhood? Looking at some of the posters in the room and as most of the money for the photographs came via Jim Walsh I assume the venue was Walsh’s Super Ballroom, Listowel, where Tony was resident photographer. His card with a unique number given to everyone he photographed tells us that proofs could be inspected at Mr. Jim Walsh’s, William Street, Listowel. Photographs were available in two sizes, Postcard (3.5 x 5.5 inches) or large (6.5 x 8 inches) costing 2 or 3 shillings (10 or 15p). Photographs were relatively expensive back in the 1950/60s when you consider that today a standard 6×4 inch print can be printed for as little as 5p at my local supermarket and the 8×6 for just 15p.

In the 1950s not many homes had a camera and so the Ballroom Photographer had a good market. The accounts for the teacher’s dance show that 70 photographs were taken and 90 prints were sold making a gross profit of £7 3s 9d on the night. Of course the capital cost of cameras, flashguns and darkroom equipment had to be covered as well as a payment to the Ballroom owner. The 1957 Teacher’s Dance was much larger with about 350 people present, 380 prints sold generating a gross profit of £24 13s 8d. In addition to the teachers other groups had annual dances such as The Post Office Staff,  Macra na Feirme and North Kerry Farmers. 

In his 6 years as a semi-professional photographer dances at the Super Ballroom occurred mainly from September to May with the busiest period being Listowel Race week with dances from Sunday to Thursday night with approximately 800 photographs taken.  Over the 6 years the most popular act was Chick Smith with 23 appearances followed by Denis Cronin and Mick Delahunty with 12 and 11 appearances respectively. International stars of the 1950s and 60s such as Eddie Calvert and his Golden Trumpet, Johnny Dankworth, Anne Sheldon and Winifred Atwell also made appearances. Tony’s ledger notes that Bridie Gallagher appeared 5 times drawing audiences of 1,500 to 2,000, indeed on 11th December 1960 Tony notes that the ballroom was too crowded leaving one to wonder just how big the audience was. St Patrick’s night and St Stephen’s night also drew large crowds but not every night was a success.  One such night received the withering comment “poor crowd — hopeless band”.

Although dances at the Super Ballroom accounted for most of Tony’s photography (26,600 negatives carefully stored) during these 6 years he also photographed local events, a few weddings, friends and family. One such event was in December 1959, children sitting on Santa’s lap at McKenna’s, Listowel. This will cover children from across North Kerry and the images can be found at . It is my intention to try to reconnect the photos with the people or communities they came from. The easiest way for me to share them is as video slide shows, all are or will be titled North Kerry People 1..2..3 etc and they can be found by searching the internet for North Kerry People Vimeo. The 26,000+ Super Ballroom negatives is a very long term project, it will take many long winter days to scan them but I would like at some time to make the archive available in North Kerry for social history purposes.    

Many thanks to those, too many to name, who have already helped put names to many faces.

Autographed photo of Bridie Gallagher

Kathy Reynolds (Fitzmaurice), Oakham, Rutland, UK and previously Moybella, Lisselton.    


Graffiti or Street Art

(Image and text from Yay Cork)

Asbestos’ mural on South Main Street has been featured in the Street Art Cities’ Top 100 list. The mural has won great admiration since its completion as part of the Ardú Street Art Project in 2021, and is now eligible to be voted for as the best piece of street art in the world.

Tim Marschang, who is the organiser behind the list and the competition, explained how each work was selected, saying: “For the past 12 months Street Art Cities selected some of the best murals across the globe and shared it on their popular Instagram Story polls letting the audience decide.” Over 100,000 votes were counted.

“This resulted in a list of 100 most popular artworks of 2021. And it’s literally a global list with murals from every corner of the planet, from Denmark to South Africa, From Lima to Brisbane, take a look and pick your favourites.” If you want to support Cork and Asbestos, you can vote here. Voting closes on February 6th.


A Coup for a Writer with a Listowel Connection

Photo of Colm Tóibín by Barry Cronin

Colm Tóibín who is President of Listowel Writers’ Week has been appointed Laureate for Irish Fiction 2022 to 2024. He is a very popular choice nationally and internationally but especially in Listowel.

Isn’t Barry Cronin’s photograph gas?

At Writers Week 2019 I photographed Colm Tóibín with Rick O’Shea, John Boyne and Joseph O’Connor. I hope photo ops like this will come my way again in 2022.


Cahirciveen with Family, Boston Listowel Talk, Writers in Town and Diarmuuid and Gráinne


I recently spend a lovely weekend in Cahirciveen with my whole family. Here we are in Kells Bay Gardens on a wet and windy Saturday.

We all did the rope bridge crossing.


Listowel Comes to Boston

If you live anywhere near Boston this will interest you.

If you need to know a bit more about Vincent, here is a recent video from

Vincent Carmody


Writers at Writers’ Week

Movers and shakers of the Irish book world at Listowel Writers’ Week 2019;  Rick O’Shea, Colm Tóibín, John Boyne and Joseph O’Connor.

This year the festival runs from May 27 to May 31.


Obituary to a Priest from a Family of Priests in Australia

Catholic Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW)- Thu 29 Jun 1939

One of the oldest and best known Priests in the Archdiocese of Melbourne Rev. John Joseph Gallivan, died at Northcote early on Friday week in the eighty-third year of his age. On the previous Tuesday morning he attended the Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph’s Home, Northcote, and was one of the assistant deacons to his Grace the Archbishop of Melbourne. 

The announcement of his death caused deep regret throughout the Archdiocese, and especially at Northcote and Sunbury, where he had laboured untiringly for many years in the priesthood.

 Born in Listowel. County Kerry, Ireland, on February 8 1856. Father Gallivan entered All Hallows College, Dublin, and was ordained on June 24, 1880.   Had he lived another fortnight he would have celebrated his 59th year as a priest. He arrived In Melbourne on November 1 of the same year, and his first appointment was that of curate at Old Kilmore to Rev. M Farrelly. In May. 1886, he was appointed parish priest at Gisborne. twenty-five years later, Sunbury, with Bula attached, was made a separate parish, with Father Gallivan in charge and he remained there until 1923 completing forty-three years’ service in the Kilmore, Gisborne and Sunbury districts —six years as curate and thirty-seven years as Parish Priest There was great regret in Sunbury when Father Gallivan left there to take charge of St Joseph a Parish, Northcote. This was in April, 1923. 

In 1906 he revisited his native land after an absence of twenty six years. In June, 1930, he celebrated his sacerdotal golden jubilee, and his fellow-priests tendered him a dinner and

presented him with an address. A jubilee concert was held in the Northcote, Town Hall, and  celebrations were also in Sunbury and  Gisborne, where the jubilarian was most enthusiastically


The obsequies of the deceased priest took place at St. Joseph’s Church, Northcote, his Grace Archbishop Mannix presiding and preaching the panegvric.

Among the priests who attended were Rev. P. Galvin. P.P of Katoomba, N.S.W.  Rev D. Galvin, P.P. of Springwood, N.S.W. and Rev M Calvin, P.P.. of Footscray, nephews.


The Fianna in Beale

Local Historical Landmark

In a place near the cliffs three fields from our school there is a mound of earth which is locally called “Darby’s Bed” Leaba Diarmada. It is said that Fionn expected Grania’s hand in marriage but instead of she marrying Fionn she married Dermot. Dermot and Grania had to fly from the wrath of Fionn. They travelled round the cliffs from Ballybunion and they crossed a chasm on a pig’s back. This place is called Léim na Muice. On their travels they rested on a place only three fields from this school and ever since this lump of earth is locally called “Darby’s Bed”. We find on the Sopers’ and Miners’ maps that the right name for this place is “Diarmuid and Grania’s bed”. This place is in the townland of Kilconly.

Michael Lynch, VII, Doon, Ballybunion

June 27 1938

Information from people at home.

Nuns, The Opening of the Lartigue and Ballybunion public phone boxes

Another Great Shot by Healyracing photographers

Ruby Walsh was walking the course at Clonmel when this prize shot was taken.


A First Hand Account of the official opening of the Lartigue

Vincent Carmody alerted me to
a chapter on The Lartigue in Joseph O’Connor’s Hostage to Fortune. Joseph
O’Connor is an almost forgotten Listowel writer. Vincent endeavours to keep his
work alive by always including him in his walks around town.

I’m going to reproduce here
most of that chapter.  The author’s  father worked on the railway and they lived in
Listowel before his father took up his job in Dingle.

 This is his account of the
official opening of the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway better known as The Lartigue.

It was Jubilee Year in
celebration of Victoria’s fifty years on the throne, and her loyal Protestant
lieges who owned and exploited her realm in Ireland, decided to turn the
opening ceremony into a miniature jubilation and make the infant railway pay
for it. They ordered their tenants to fly Union Jacks from their upstairs
windows; their wives frequented the schools to teach the children God Save the
for the ceremony, and they sent to France for the great Monsieur
Lartigue, so that they might have a central figure to justify the extraordinary

Alas! Like the forty ducks,
the function fell flat. The tenants hummed and hawed but flew no flags. The
schoolchildren got the croup and the whitewash man was so slow on the town
walls that the streets were cluttered with ladders and buckets all through the
day. But Monsieur Lartigue played up like a man and so did the Crown Forces
both civil and military.

All this excitement got into
Patsy the Cottoner’s blood. Patsy was the town reprobate, the only son, on the
wrong side of the blanket, of a darling old lady whose natural goodness had
long since retrieved her one and only fall from grace. Patsy had reached his
fiftieth year without reaching the age of reason, He had a double squint, a
string-halt in his left leg and a scurrilous tongue and yet, the town loved
him. He was unique, he was honest, and, above all, he stood to his given word.

Patsy would sell his mother
for a pint, but would wade through fire and water to carry out a promise he had
given to get that pint. The bright boys of the town knew that and often played
on it. They got him to kiss Minnie Lyons, the town beauty, coming out from the
crowded twelve o’clock mass on Easter Sunday, and bribed him with a quart of
Guinness to welcome the judge of the Assizes on the steps of the courthouse on
the morning of a packed trial of political prisoners. This antic reduced the
proceedings to ridicule and got Patsy a month in jail for contempt. But the
triumphal reception on his return and a gallon of stout in eight pint glasses
was ample recompense for all. The bright boys kept Patsy in mind for Lartigue

It was a great day. From noon
onwars, coaches, broughams and landaus issued from the mansions of the county
families within easy reach of Listowel. They brought Sandes and Dennys and
Kitcheners, Crosbys and Hares and Gunns, brilliant in army red and navy blue,
their chests full of medals and their sleeves full of chevrons. Monsieur
Lartigue  and Madame had a carriage all
to themselves, just behind the brougham reserved for the Chief Secretary, who
did not come and sent an Equerry to deputise for him. Balfour had tired of his
practical joke and feared, perhaps, that the intractable natives might return
the compliment, if he appeared in person.

I got myself a good view of
the proceedings from the top of the engine shed and watched the celebrities
take their places in order of precedence. The Frenchman and his wife, a man in
a top hat sat in the front row beside the equerry, saying little and bowing a
lot. There was a great to-do when the Tralee Garrison Artillery band played God
Save the Queen. The notables rose and stood self-consciously to attention, but
the scrabble of townsmen whom circumstances had forced to be there looked on
with blank faces and heads covered until the alien anthem was finished. Then
the proceedings began.

Brindsley Fitzgerald, a
descendant of The Vesey, who “out of his bounty built a bridge at the expense
of the county,” spoke first. Then the Equerry introduced Monsieur Lartigue in
the effete public school English which sounded so washy beside our own strong
home-made speech. The Frenchman got a rousing welcome from the townsmen. It was
enough that he was French and the French had a fine military record against the
English. No one cared if he looked small, podgy and foreign with his needle
moustache and his little goatee on his chin. He was a godsent to release the
holiday feeling without boosting the lordlings who brought him there.

Lartigue’s speech was short.
No-one knew whether he spoke in English or French and we only knew he was
finished when he bowed himself backwards and bumped into the man in the top hat
who had sat with him. Tophat raised his head for the first time and limped his
way to the edge of the platform. Waving the hat on high, he yelled The
Cottoner’s well known cry-‘ haha dee, haha dee.” The crowd craned forward,
doubting their eyes and their ears. Patsy gave them no time to burst into
cheers, but went on to declaim the verse of doggerel the playboys had drilled
into him.

“Good neighbours all, of the
County Kerry,

Where’s the cause to be
bright and merry?

Balfour sent ye th…the…the..

The Cottoneer forgot his
lines and improvised “Ah to hell with Balfour and Mary Collins and the whole
bloody lot of ‘em.  God save Ireland!” He
scrambled down into the crowd and was bustled away to safety.

The Lartigue Railway was a
weird contraption. The tracks ran on triangular trestles, four feet high and
six feet apart, the main track on top of the balancing tracks on each side.The
general appearance of the line was of a low roof of interminable length. On
this the carriages rode astride just like young boys riding a gate. The
passengers sat back to back, as on the Irish jaunting car, but with a wooden
partition between each half compartment. Their ears, being within six
inches  of the top driving wheels, were
deafened by the rumble so that conversation was almost impossible.
Nevertheless, its curiosity value made it popular during the holiday season.

But it couldn’t last. The
journey was too short and when the original rolling stock called for
replacement, there was none to be got. France was far off, Lartigue was dead
and the British had other notions and preoccupations to bother with a freak
child of theirs. It closed down and was sold as scrap to Wards of Leeds.
Nothing remains but a memory and a few abutments and idle bridges to worry
antiquarians of future generations.

I think O’Connor would be surprised to see the beautifully restored replica which is soon to open to tourists for the 2017 season.


Kerry Nuns

When I posted this photo a few weeks ago I captioned it Listowel sisters. Well that set some people thinking and naming. Margaret Dillon was the first to spot that the good sisters were not Presentation nuns at all but Mercy. This set us thinking in terms of the hospital although some felt that there were far too many sisters with his lordship, Bishop Moynihan to be from the hospital. 

Then came a voice from Dubai to clear up all confusion. Alan Stack recognised a face beneath a wimple.

He wrote;

Greetings from Dubai. With regard to your recent posting of the photograph “Listowel Nuns” – the sister on the far right is Sr. Maria Stack, my aunt, who died last September. She taught in school in Ballybunion and I believe this photo may have taken outside the front steps of the adjacent convent, so these may be Ballybunion nuns as opposed to Listowel? 


Kiosks still standing Empty

In Ballybunion Eir have removed the phones but left behind the phoneboxes. Will they be put to good use?

Meanwhile in Athea;

We are delighted to announce that we have decided to go ahead with the Defibrillator project for the village in conjunction with Athea Community First Responders Group which will be known as ‘Heart of Athea Project’ or ‘Croílár Ath an tSleibhe’. This will be a fantastic project for our community and one that will demonstrate our commitment towards the health and wellbeing of our community. This will be the first of its kind for the county but it is hoped that there will be a national rollout of defibrillator phone boxes in the coming years. This will make the locations of the boxes instantly recognisable and has the potential to save many lives. Anyone interested in training on how to use a defibrillator, please contact any member of the Community First Responders. We have secured the support from local Councillors – Browne, Galvin, Sheehan and Collins for the project but we are also left with a shortfall of funds to raise. Anyone interested in supporting this project and having your name/ business mentioned on the phone box, please get in touch.

Source; Athea Tidy Towns on Facebook


Wisdom from my Calendar

In a matter of principle, stand like a rock, in a matter of taste, swim with the current.

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