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A Piper, A Wireless Ball and an old Craftshop

Listowel Garda Station 2023


Ballybunion Piper

Across the Shannon Estuary, in North Kerry, lies the small coastal townland of Doon East. It was here in 1799 that the piper pictured here, Thomas McCarthy, or Tom Carthy, was believed to have been born. Tom learnt to play the uilleann pipes in his youth. He spent many hours walking the cliffs near his homeplace, about a mile from the seaside town of Ballybunion, practising on the pipes. The sound of the water and the wonderful view across the estuary to the Loop Head Peninsula in Clare is said to have inspired many of his tunes. With his haunting Irish airs and lively dance tunes he was a welcome figure in the houses of the gentry, and a well-known character in Ballybunion. No wedding or country dance in the area was complete without Tom and his pipes. For sixty-five years he entertained the crowds on Fair Days and Sundays in his favourite spot at Castle Green in the town. This was written about him in the Kerryman in 1934:

‘Through the long summer days, with his back to the old castle, he sent the notes of his music among the clouds or away across the ocean waves at Ballybunion, until he almost became part of the old ruin itself, his weather-beaten, age yellowed coat fitting perfectly with the grey-lichened ruins of the once lordly keep of the O’Bannins. In North Kerry still people speak of “Carthy’s Reel,” and often a musician is asked to play that dance tune which, through constant repetition by the old piper, came to be associated with him as his own composition, but is in reality the well-known “Miss McLeod’s Reel.” ‘

When Tom died in 1904 it was said he was 105, although he is listed in the 1901 Census as being 88. He had requested to be buried with his pipes but instead they were sold by a relative for £1. The buyer soon returned them, claiming they had started playing of their own accord in the night. These ‘enchanted’ pipes were then taken to London by a member of Tom’s family but eventually ended up, years later, with Comhaltas – I wonder where they are today?

( Shared online by Ballybunion Tourist Office)


Birthday Boy

He wanted no fuss. However his friends in the Listowel Arms got a tip off. He doesn’t look a day over 60.

I never told you it was his birthday!


A Great old Junior Griffin Story

Told first in 2007 but well worth repeating

In its early years Listowel Badminton Club was a mens club only and Eddie Faley, Mortimer Galvin, J. Farrell and others were members at that time.  Ladies applied to be admitted but to no avail.  It is said that Eddie Faley considered the females to be “A bloody nuisance”.

However he was prevailed upon to admit the ladies and grudgingly condescended,  and in his first ever mixed doubles game his
partner was one Aileen Cronin, and lo and behold, she became his life partner for many years to follow.

Indeed, it leads one to ponder on the seemingly unending number of romances that have blossomed through Badminton, and one feels that that the figure of Cupid should be depicted with a racquet and shuttlecock and not with the customary bow and arrow.

Listowel is very fortunate that yet another dance ticket  was found in an old Library Book giving details of yet another dance ball but more importantly for the benefit of historians, the officers and committee of that time was listed.This dance, known as a wireless ball coupled with a fancy dress parade, was held also in the Gymnasium on Saturday March 1st 1924 .

The committee is listed are as follows;

President; Mr Seamus Wilmot;

Hon Sec; Mr. P.V. Fahey;

Hon. Treas; Mr. R.I. Cuthbertson

Committee; Messer’s C.Tackberry, M.Hannon, T.Moore, J.Farrell, M.Naylor, J.O’Sullivan, J.Medell, J.Walsh and T.P. Cotter.

It is interesting to note the data on this card such as the admission price where the men had to pay an old shilling more than the ladies, 8/6 pence compared to 7/6 pence.

There is  nice line stating that “Mr. Dunne’s Orchestra is personally conducted”

The back page gives information on the Wireless Concert. (To the young people of today a wireless is now known as a Radio).

It states that “Subscriber will be entertained to a programme Broadcasted from the following stations; London; Paris; Bournemouth; Manchester and Glasgow.

Detailed Programme can bemseen in the Irish Independent of Saturday March 1st.

The set is fitted with the latest and most up-to-date-Loud Speaker”

With the IT technology that is available today the world has certainly come a long way since those updated loud speakers of 1924.

It is interesting to note that whilst Listowel had a wireless on March 1st, some days later, on March 6th, 1924, that Pope Pius XI had a wireless
installed in Rome for the first time.

One wonders did he have some contact in Listowel who told him about this new form of communication, and did he, per chance, purchase it from McKenna’s of Listowel?


Then and Then

Church Street memories.


Christmas Reading

Christmas 2022


Memory Lane (from The Advertiser)


A Seasonal Poem from 1927

Butte Independent, Saturday, June 11, 1927;

“Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the Pooka is at rest
Contented in his stable eating hay;

The crystal snow is gleaming on the mountains of the West,
And a lonesome sea is sobbing far away;
But I know a star is watching o’er the bogland and the stream,
And ‘tis coming, coming, coming o’er the foam;
And ’tis twinkling o’er the prairie with a message and a dream
Of Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.

‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the happy mermaids croon
The songs, of youth and hope that never die;
Oh never more on that dear shore for you and me, aroon.
The rapture of that olden lullaby:
But the candle lights are gleaming on a hillside far away.
And peace is in the blue December gloam;
And o’er the sea of memory I hear the pipers play
At Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.

‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, oh I hear the fairies’ lyre
Anear the gates of slumber calling sweet.
Calling softly, calling ever to the land of young desire,
To the pattering of childhood’s happy feet; 

But a sleepless sea is throbbing, and the stars are watching’ true
As they journey to the wanderers who roam —
Oh the sea, the stars shall bring me tender memories of you



Oh Lord, when we give this Christmas time,

Do teach us how to share

The gifts that you have given us

With those who need our care,

For the gift of Time is sacred~

The greatest gift of all,

And to share our time with others

Is the answer to your call,

For the Sick, the Old and Lonely

Need a word, a kindly cheer

For every precious minute

Of each day throughout the Year,

So, in this Special Season

Do share Your Time and Love

And your Happy, Holy Christmas

Will be Blessed by Him above

Junior Griffin



Christmas in an Irish house in Kentish Town in the 1960s

Maurice Brick  Irish Central December 2021

I was wiping the mud from a 20-foot length of half-inch steel reinforcing bar with a wire brush and cursing the frost from the night before, which made it harder. I had, by then, passed the “barra liobar” (frozen fingers) part and the blood was circulating well despite the freezing cold. Steel is about the coldest thing you can handle in freezing weather.

It just didn’t seem like Christmas at all. I received a card from home the day before and Mam said how they were looking forward to Christmas and going to Dingle for the day with Dad. The lads were fine, she said, and they were wondering why I wasn’t coming home and she told them work was tight in England and maybe I wanted to put a bit of money away. Poor Mam, she always thought the better of me.

Today was payday; at least there was something good about it. Tomorrow, Friday, was Christmas Eve, so we had money for a good booze-up if nothing else for the weekend. There were six of us staying in a boarding house in Kentish Town and since we were all from the other side the mood, to say the least, was somber.

There were two from Donegal and they worked in the tunnels and made tons of money. The work was hard but, I’ll tell you, they were harder. There were three of us from West Kerry and we worked straight construction – buildings, shuttering (concrete formwork) and the like. That was hard work, too, but not as tough as the tunnels with the compressed air. The other fellow was from Clare, a more respectable sort of chap and he worked for British Rail as a porter.

I tried the tunnels myself once. I persuaded one of the Donegal fellows to get me a start and to tell the truth it was the money that enticed me outright. But my venture was a disaster. I started and descended into the tunnel and while there the compressed air hit me like a shot after an hour and my ears screamed with pain.

They were worse again when I entered the decompression chamber and I couldn’t wait to get out. I gained a great deal of respect for the Donegal fellows after that. They both wore a medal-type apparatus around their necks that gave the address of the decompression chamber of their tunnel.

On Christmas Eve, we worked half a day. The foreman was a sly bastard. He was as Irish as we were, but when the “big knobs” from the Contractor’s office appeared on site he affected such a cockney accent that you’d swear he was born as close to “Petticoat Lane” as the hawkers plying their trade there on Sunday.

Anyway, we all chipped in and gave him a pound each for Christmas. This gesture did not emanate from generosity but rather preservation. Our erstwhile foreman could be vindictive and on payday, he would come by and ask for a light and you would hand him the box of matches with a pound note tightly squeezed in there and all would be well with the world.  Not a bad day’s take as there were twenty in our gang. But the job paid well and no one complained.

When I got to the house on Christmas Eve, I paid the landlady and took a bath and dressed in my Sunday best. I waited for the others and we all sat down to dinner. It had some meat and lashings of mashed potatoes, “Paddy Food” they called it. It didn’t bother us much for we knew we would have steak in a late-night café after the pubs closed anyway. The six of us were dressed and ready to go at half six and we headed straight for the “Shakespeare” near the Archway.

After a few pints, there we went to the “Nag’s Head” on Holloway Road. However, we encountered a group from Connemara there and rather than wait for the customary confrontation – for some reason there was animosity between those from the Kerry Gaeltacht area and those from Connemara, which was also a Gaelic speaking area in Galway – we decided to forego it on Christmas Eve. But we assured each other that the matter would be taken care of in the very near future. Just as I was leaving one of the Connemara chaps said, “láithreach a mhac” (soon, my son) and I responded, “is fada liom é a mhac” (I can’t wait, my son).

We ended up in the “Sir Walter Scott” in Tollington Park and I barely remember seeing a row of pints lined up on the bar to tide us over the period between “time” called and when we actually had to leave. This period could last an hour depending on the pub governor’s mood.

We ambled, or rather staggered, into the late-night café sometime after midnight and the waitress gave us a knowing glance and said, “Steak and mash Pat, OK” and we all said “yes.” Some of us said it a few times just to make sure we had said it. It was then I thought, Jesus, I never went to Midnight Mass. That bothered me. I had always gone to Midnight Mass, but it was only last year I started drinking and it went completely out of my head.

We had our feed of steak and left and we decided to walk to the “Tube” at Finsbury Park and that would bring us to Kentish Town Station. Somehow, we made it and truthfully I don’t remember a moment on that train.

We arrived home at two and as quietly as possible reached our rooms. One of the Donegal fellows pulled out a bottle of Scotch and passed it around and we just sat on the beds and took turns taking swigs descending deeper and deeper into the realm of the absence of coherence of any sort.

I remember thinking again about missing Midnight Mass and I must have voiced my disgust a number of times to the annoyance of the others and one of them asked me to “shut the hell up.” I approached him and hit him right between the eyes and he crumpled to the floor and fell asleep.

The others struggled and lifted me onto the bed and everything just blanked out and I remember awakening on Christmas Day and the fellow I hit was nursing a bruised cheek by the window. I asked him what happened and he said he didn’t know and that he thought he bumped into something in his drunken state. I told him that I thought I hit him and that I was sorry.

He came by my side and sat there and I thought I detected a tear or two in his eyes. He looked at me and said, “You know, this is no friggin’ way to spend a Christmas, is it?” And I said, “You’re right” and I shook his hand for I thought he was a better man than I. 


A Christmas Poem from an Emigrant


GRANDPAW,  Will you tell me the story, of how Christmas came to be

About the baby Jesus, the presents, and the tree 

Why the stars all seem to sparkle, up yonder in the sky 

And why there’s so much laughter, amongst every girl and guy 

Can you tell me why the candles, seem to have a beacon light 

Will it be like this forever, or is this a special night 

Cometo me my little sweetheart, and climb up on my knee 

And I’ll tell you the story, just the way ‘twas told to me 

It started back many years ago, in a land far, far away 

In a little town called Bethlehem, or so the people say 

By a manger in a stable, so cold and all forlorn 

There on the hay, that December day, Jesus Christ was born 

You ask me of the presents, and what meaning they may hold

I guess it’s called affection, should the truth be ever told 

They’re little gifts that are bestowed, and we all understand 

On that special day we just want to say, God bless the giving hand 

Now, I know what you are thinking, by the way you look at me 

You want to hear the story, about the Christmas tree 

Well, every day in His own way, God sends us from above 

Some hurt, some joy, some strength and pain, but He does it all with love 

He gave us gifts like mountains, the deserts, and the sea

And mankind enhanced this beauty in the form of a tree

My little girl with golden curl, about the candle glow 

Should we get lost, by day or night, as on through life we go 

When we’re in doubt, as we sometimes are, as on and on we roam

It’s the twinkling stars and candlelight, that will lead us safely home

Well, now I believe I’ve come to the end, I have no more to say

So go to sleep my sweetheart


By Richard Moriarty of

Ballydonogue, Lisselton

and San Diego, California

Christmas 2022


Christmas Holidays

I’m taking a little break to enjoy the festival with my family. Thank you everyone who sent me Christmas messages and a big thank you to everyone who helped Listowel Connection in any way during the year.

I’m looking forward to doing it all again in 2023.

Slán tamall agus beannachtaí na féile oraibh go léir.


Junior Griffin, a Fisherman and a Poem

Sugar Loaf, Co. Wicklow

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú


Junior Griffin, A life in Badminton

Junior Griffin a true ambassador for the game

An Irish Independent article contributed by Éamon ÓMurchú

April 19 2001 12:11 AM

SURELY the most surprised person in the hall at the recent 30th annual Listowel Open Badminton Week tournament was Junior Griffin ‹ the genial Listowel man who writes the weekly badminton notes in this newspaper. Totally unannounced, he was presented with a specially designed copper plaque to mark his involvement with the prestigious tournament since its inception in 1972. The plaque is the work of Listowel man, Tony Callaghan.

“I had a piece of glass put in my hand and I thought it was only a committee photograph that was being taken without realising that I was being set up,” said Junior. “It really is a lovely plaque.

“I got the Open tournament going in 1972 and gradually we brought in other counties. Unfortunately this year a lot of them didn’t come because of the Foot and Mouth restrictions. Tipperary in particular have been really great supporters of ours over the years. They make it a kind of a social weekend. The tournament has grown over the years.”

Strangely enough, Junior Griffin’s first love was handball and he excelled at it in the old alley which is still to the good and which immediately catches the eye as you pass over the bridge on your way into Listowel from Tralee.

“The handball court was the place that kept us out of harm’s way,” he said.

Junior recalled how he became involved in the game of badminton.

“Eric Browne, the bookie, called me one night in 1964 and asked me would I go up to the badminton hall, which I did, and I became involved in it there and then. As I remember it, Eamon McSweeney,, of the ESB, and Louis Quinlan, of Tralee, collared me in 1975 and asked me would I go forward as chairman of the County Badminton Board. Then, in 1980, I became secretary of the Munster Badminton Council. Junior still holds both offices to the present day.

“Unlike the GAA, it is awful hard to get people to work as far as badminton is concerned,” he said.

Of course, Junior has been immersed in the GAA since he was a youngster. Badminton may take up most of his time, but he still manages to work as a stilesman at venues all over the county, as well as at all the big Munster championship games in football and hurling.

Junior works in the fancy goods department at McKenna’s in Listowel and is due to retire this year. 

“I started in McKenna’s on the Monday before Kerry played Armagh in the 1953 All-Ireland football final,” he recalled. “I started in the workshop. Now I’m in the Fancy Goods section where we sell everything from Waterford Crystal to pots and pans.”

At one stage he was secretary both of the handball and badminton clubs in Listowel. But then the man’s capacity for work and his organisational ability is second to none.

He loved his game of badminton himself “Unfortunately the old back has kicked up’.

He candidly admits that badminton has lost some ground of recent years.

“Indoor sports have gone down,” he said. “People today have far more choices. You have the leisure centres and then people like to play the Internet. You also have the Play Stations and all these keep people in at night when they would be better off at the badminton court. Like I said, people have far more choices today.”

Illustrating the point, he revealed that where there were 24 badminton clubs in the county nine years ago, today there are only 13 clubs. But the game is still thriving in Listowel, Tralee, Dingle, Castleisland, Killarney, Moyvane, Cahersiveen, Causeway, Ballyheigue and Sneem.

“Teresa Broderick from Tralee won the first tournament in Listowel in 1972 and she was back to win the Veterans title last week,” he said. “She has given great service to the game.

“A lot of places have built parish halls over the years and badminton always fitted in nicely with that kind of a set-up.

“We are after a very good year in Kerry. We won the Class 3 title for the first time since 1985 and that’s a really good achievement. Lorna Keane, who won the Supreme Sports Star Award a few years ago, was the manager of the team. Her mother, Sheile Hannon, is secretary of the County Board.

Reflecting on bygone days in the sport, Junior recalled such well-known names in Kerry badminton as Louis Quinlan, Paul Skuce, Paddy Drummond, Vincent Freeman, Mrs Kelliher (County Badminton Club), Jo O’Donoghue, Carmel Fleming, Angela O’Sullivan, Phil Moriarty and Dominick Foley.

The industrious Listowel sportsman intends keeping the momentum going in his efforts to keep badminton to the forefront in the sporting life of the county.

“A lot of towns are getting new houses which means that people are coming to work in these towns.

“You can walk on the beach in Ballybunion in the summer, but in the winter you need something to do,” he said. “Badminton is the perfect game for the winter and it also has its social side.”

Keenly aware of his long and faithful involvement with the game of football, I asked him what he thought of Kerry’s chances in this year’s championship.

“I’m always afraid of Cork and this year will be no different,” he said. “Of course, Kerry had a very hard campaign last year. But the four trips to Croke Park were wonderful.

“I remember my first trip to Croke Park. It was back in 1951 for the All-Ireland semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo. That was won by Mayo and they went on to win the All-Ireland ‹ the last time they won it, in fact. 

You had men like Sean Flanagan, Paddy Prendergast and Paraic Carney playing with Mayo and the likes of Paddy Bawn (Brosnan), Eddie Dowling, Jackie Lyne and Jim Brosnan playing with Kerry.

“My next trip was for the ’53 final,  the week I started work. I was there again for the ’54 final in which Kerry were beaten by Meath. Then in ’55 we went up thinking we hadn’t a chance against Dublin and we all know what happened. One of my great favourites on those Kerry teams was John Cronin.

“I would give Kerry a good chance in this year’s championship and especially if Maurice Fitzgerald is fit. It’s the coolness with which he takes the frees and who can forget the first match against Armagh last year. The way he put the ball down forty yards out and booted it over the bar. It was absolutely wonderful.

“Mick O’Connell and Eamon O’Donoghue were able to read each other’s game. It’s the same with Maurice Fitzgerald and Mike Frank Russell. It was marvellous the way O’Connell could deliver a pin-point pass to Eamon. “He’d land the ball right in his hands.”

But Junior has a word of advice for Páidí Ó Sé and his players: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” he warned. “Kerry are there to be shot at.”

Meanwhile, Junior Griffin is happy that he has overseen another successful year for badminton in the county.

“We hope to see even greater honours come our way in the years ahead,” he added.

A great sportsman who has given a lifetime of service to his county in every one of the sports he has espoused.

He’s known to a huge number of people as the genial person manning the stiles at various GAA venues around Kerry and indeed Munster. But in the more intimate milieu of the badminton fraternity he is regarded as a doyen. A man with a passion for anything he puts his mind to.

It was a fitting tribute from his club in Listowel to honour him in the manner they did at the recent Open Week.

Junior Griffin a true ambassador for the game of badminton.


An Old Post box

This picture of an old unused box was shared on Facebook by Vanishing Ireland. It’s location is somewhere near Milstreet in Co. Cork.


Gone Fishing

Photo credit; Paddy Fitzgibbon


A Poem that will strike a Chord


by John McGrath

I wondered why the box

was so much bigger than the book;

why the book the poet sent to me

was so much smaller than the box.

Then I opened the book

that was filled with love and lore,

with longing and laughter

and weeping and rivers

and oceans and pain,

so much wisdom and wonder and joy

and so many people and stories,

that I marvelled at the miracle

of how a box so tiny

could hold so great a book.


Listowel Town Square, July 22 2021


The Beginning of the Pitch and Putt Club, O’Rahilly Family and Childers’ Park

Millenium Arch in summer 2021


Handball Ups and Downs

During the 1960s the handball club grew from strength to strength. John Joe Kenny was chairman for most of this time.

In 1964 Listowel won its first County Championship. It was a Novice Championship. It was played in Listowel for the first time. Breandán ÓMurchú won the minor singles title and partnered Richard Galvin to win the minor doubles. Tom Enright and Junior Griffin won the senior doubles title.

Aidan ÓMurchú ran a National School Tournament in these years.

At the AGM in 1996 John Joe Kenny stepped down from the chair and Aidan Keane was elected chairman.

At this meeting arrangements were put in place to run a Town League. Teams were to represent Bridge Road, E.S.B., Garda, The Boro and The Gleann.

Membership dropped off towards the end of the 60s.

In 1970 a move was afoot to establish a Pitch and Putt club in town. Bill Kearney approached the Handball Club with the view to persuading them to allow a few pitch and putt holes to be placed on the Alley ground.

A Pitch and Putt Club was formed with John Joe Kenny, chairman, Bill Kearney, secretary and Junior Griffin, treasurer.

It was decided that the area around the handball alley was too dangerous for pitch and putt and an approach was made to the UDC to include a pitch and putt course in the town park. Permission for a 9 hole course was granted.

John Joe Kenny and Kevin Sheehy who had been stalwarts of the handball club went on to give sterling service to the pitch and putt club for years after.


O’Rahilly Family of The Square

This house in Listowel Town Square once housed one of the most famous academic families in Ireland.


From The Advertiser


Childers’ Park

Childers’ Park wildflower meadow in June 2021

The council have helpfully mowed paths through the field. It is a joy to walk there.

Marsh Marigolds, Vetch, clover and scutch grass are all around.

I met a pigeon on my walk through the park as well.


In The Magic Hour

Jo Jordan was helping get everyone seated for The Magic Hour show in Listowel Handball Alley on Friday June 18 2021. On the right of the photo is young bilingual poet, Siobhán Ní Dhomhnaill who was to be the local interviewee.

We’re gathered on the slope opposite the handball alley and we are waiting for the promised incredible Arts experience. This man from Coiscéim is waiting to play his part.

This is local bilingual poet, Siobhán Ní Dhomhnaill. She is also waiting to take part.

Now this is what happens. Your man (Sorry, I dont know his name ) interviews Siobhán. His questions and her answers are not broadcast to us. We are asked to observe her body language. He videos her responses. This video is broken into individual images and the troupe of dancers in the Dublin studio, observe these images and translate them spontaneously into dance moves. The video of their dancing is then projected for us onto the back wall of the alley by the magic of technology.


Trees, Handballers Fundraising for an upgrade

Carrigafoyle Castle by Breda Ferris



Listowel is home to hundreds of beautiful trees and this leafy environment is reflected in many of the housing estate names. Here are two.

Cluain Doire literally means meadows of oak.


A Carpet of Daisies in Listowel’s Garden of Europe

Our new awareness of the role of wild flowers has led to sights like this, hundreds of daisies and buttercups among the grasses.


If we only had a four walled court

(Junior Griffin)

Scoil Realt na Maidine as we know it today was opened in 1959 and Halla Bhriain Mhic Mhathúna, the school hall. was built on the site of the old school and opened in 1961.

The Handball Club was one of the first customers to use the hall. They ran a series of Whist Drives on Sunday nights. They also secured a Sunday night to run a “monster” whist drive in Walsh’s Super Ballroom during the season of Lent. The committee of those years was very active in fundraising with the burning aim of raising sufficient funds to build a four walled handball court in Listowel.

Between 1961 and 1965 the club held 27 meetings and 5 A.G.M.s. They also held one EGM.

The one recurring theme in all of these meetings was the hope and ambition to build a a four wall championship handball alley in Listowel.

The minutes of these meetings record many details of fundraising, deputations to the the local government T.D. , a meeting with Listowel UDC, letters to the National Handball Organisation and to the GAA.

Promises were made and encouragement given but the heartfelt dream of a new alley for the members of that time was never realised.

The sale of membership cards to player and “social” members continued.

In 1961 124 cards at 2/6 each were sold, 77 in 1962, 103 in 1963 and only 63 in 1964 as the dream of ever achieving the championship court was fading.


Greenway Bridge

Emma O’Flynn took this photo for us of the new bridge at Kilmeaney.


One to Ponder


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