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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

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Ballybunion, Listowel and Kanturk

Ballybunion in early summer 2024

A Friday Laugh

In Kanturk

This premises in Kanturk is now the home of Yumm café but when I was growing up it was the home of Sarah and John O’Connor. This couple were the salt of the earth, Sarah, in particular, was involved in everything in town. She was in the Legion of Mary, Comhaltas, every play and show in the Edel Quinn Hall, the youth club, the bible study group and more.

Importantly, in the days before internet, emails and Zoom, Sarah typed up a twice yearly newsletter that was eagerly anticipated and much appreciated by Kanturk people who lived far from home. England was far in the days before cheap air travel. Sarah gathered all the news of births, marriages and deaths and anything else of interest . She was journalist, typist and post woman.

Whenever I met Sarah away from Kanturk she was always good for the “stand”, a selfless generous saint of a woman. May she rest in peace.

By the way the 1900 over the building signifies that it was a national school, the first in Kanturk.

From 2007

The Farmers Market was busy on Fridays in 2007

Dillon Boyer R.I.P, Pat and the late Mrs Walsh met up with Junior Griffin.

Nettle Soup

Yesterday I told you that it is recommended we eat nettle soup twice a day in May. Yesterday too I met up with my friend, Liz Dunn, and she had a story for us about nettle soup.

Liz and Jim watch Clarkson’s Farm. This TV programme which they watch on Amazon Prime follows Jeremy Clarkson’s adventures on his farm.

One of the workers on Jeremy’s farm is Lucca Allen, son of Rachel Allen. Lucca, one day, made nettle soup for Jeremy and it is now a staple on the menu on Clarkson’s Farm.

A Fact

The San people of southern Africa use a set of tools that dates back 44,000 years.

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A Successful Emigrant and A Memory of a Success

The Square , February 2024

Elizabeth Stack, Listowel and the U.S.

Story from Kerry’s Eye, Joe OMuircheartaigh

Basketball in Pres. In 1986

Firstly I must explain why I keep posting the cover of the yearbook every time I post an extract from it.

Many people come to Listowel Connection through a search engine, some months or years after the post they land on was uploaded so, for them, I treat every post as if it was one off.

Unity Stone in Kanturk

Things to look forward to

I photographed these from The Advertiser

A Fact

The official name of Ireland is Republic of Ireland and the official name as Gaeilge is Éire.

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A Sunday in Kanturk

Church Street in February 2024

An Spideog..continued

By David Kissane

Homeward Bound

I’ve already told the story of Torun 2023 and my 11th place finish which still hurts (in the ego).  

A long taxi-drive to Bydgoszcz airport and arrived at my most unfavourite place on a return journey. Especially with no medal. The waiting area. If purgatory exists, it is a waiting area in an airport on the return journey. Time moves like my legs on a Monday run. Treacle on the surface of mars. The queue for the Empire State Building. Tuesday morning traffic on the M50. The traffic to Banna on a July Sunday.

Luckily, some of the Irish athletes were returning from Torun on that flight and when they gathered, the clock picked up. One of them was after running in the cross country a few days before and had an interesting tale to tell.

Martin McEvilly had competed in the M70 cross country. He didn’t look stirred or shaken.

Martin started his athletics career in October 1968, inspired by a relative. His first cousin ran in the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. He was Mick Molloy who was a hardy man who lived on his own. The nearest house was about a mile away. Mick never did any team sports…always kept to the individual ones. 

He had four brothers who were all into running. He represented Ireland in the marathon in 1968 in the high altitude of Mexico. His training in the build-up included 120 miles per week on the road. And he was a nocturnal runner. Rarely trained before 11 o’clock at night. He worked on the farm during the day, all day and so darkness was his companion.

Hallo darkness, my old friend.

Mick Molloy was happy enough with his performance in Mexico but it was the altitude that got to him mostly. He wore a new pair of Tiger Cubs for the big day but threw them off with about 10 miles to go and ran the rest in his bare feet. Different days. 

After that he ran in the 1969 Athens marathon and had a respectable finish in that. Then he broke the world record for 130 miles on the track a few years later in Walton Track in Surrey in London. That’s an unusual one. He had already won quite a few cross country titles in Ireland but once he got hooked on the marathon he never went back to cross country. 

Martin McEvilly started running around the age of 21. If not a late starter, a mid-term starter, he says! He joined Galway City Harriers at the request of one of his friends and there was lift-off.

His first big break in the marathon was when he ran 2:16.4 in London in the mid 1970s. He had been living there for a while by then. He had gone to London for a weekend and met a few lads from a running club there and joined them. He stayed for fifteen years. “That was a long weekend!” Martin quips.

Like his cousin Mick Molloy, he could train only at night after a long day’s work in London. He became a nocturnal runner like his cousin. There was no other option and even London could be a pleasant place to train at night. Ten million people sleeping and dreaming their dreams around you. The sound of your own footsteps on the pavement. A few people wandering home after a night out. A cat scurrying over a wall. Quiet streets where old ghosts meet.

When he returned from London in 1986, he joined the masters ranks at the O40 stage. That went “all right”. Got on teams and trained a bit harder. Onward and upwards. In 2015, the GCH athlete won silver in the M65 2000m steeplechase in the World Masters in Lyon in France. Other successes followed. 

(to be continued)

Sunday Mass in Kanturk

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Kanturk is where I received my First Holy Communion and Confirmation. I was married in Castlemagner but that’s a story for another day.

I was back there lately on a visit home.

This beautiful window is behind the altar. I must make enquiries about it but it seems to me to depict maybe the annunciation and the assumption.

I associate this custom with Protestant churches. In Kanturk, the celebrant priest exits first and stands at the door greeting the massgoers.

From the Presentation Yearbook 1086

And they are still going strong..a great service!

A Fact

Ireland’s national symbol is not a shamrock. It’s a harp.

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Memories of Christmas Past

Pit stop on Flesk Greenway, Killarney on January 6 2024

Inchydoney at Christmas

A kind of temporary madness infected my grandchildren at Christmas. People who wear wetsuits on mild summer days went into the freezing sea in swimming togs in December.

Their Dutch visitor, Lotta, joined in the madness.

A Moving Christmas Farewell

Sean Carlson shared with us his poem in memory of a famous Boston Irishman.

Here is the poem and the introduction from the online literary magazine Trasna

A Celtic Sojourn

For over twenty years famed Boston radio host Brian O’Donovan spread holiday cheer with his annual production of “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn.” From an oversized, red chair, O’Donovan presented to American audiences the Christmas traditions of Ireland through a mix of music, dance, poetry, and storytelling.

Born and raised in Clonakilty, Cork, O’Donovan emigrated to Boston in 1980. Six years later, he joined GBH radio and began producing a weekly radio show featuring traditional Irish music – A Celtic Sojourn. The three-hour show became a Saturday afternoon staple to GBH listeners across New England; and it made O’Donovan a beloved public figure. In 2017, then-Mayor Marty Walsh declared 14 December Brian O’Donovan Day, “in recognition of his contributions to immigrant communities in Greater Boston.” 

O’Donovan died on 6 October after a long battle with brain cancer. This year, as we mourn the voices lost, let us fondly remember a man who brought so much of Irish music and culture to those in his adoptive home of Boston. He was indeed ‘a man you don’t meet every day.’

To our readers and writers, we wish you happy holidays and all the best in the new year. We leave you with this fine poem by Seán Carlson.The Sojourn

in memoriam: Brian O’Donovan, 1957-2023

The seat on stage sits empty

before the reels and ringing

bells, alert to remembrance

brief light of emigrant song

Snow swirls in wind sweeps

salt spread on sidewalk ice

a knit vest, unwound scarf

drape of red curtain lifting

His book opens to Bethlehem

the nativity laid, refuge within

bursting breaths of concertina

tension found in fiddle string

My father played the melodeon

My mother milked the cows—

Touches of Kavanagh haunt

the theatre halls of memory

on the wireless in Boston

West Cork, the world

Window candles flicker there

stables set with summer’s cut

wrenboy clamors at the door

ghosts now around a table

That voice echoes, beside me

my mother, my father

and the drift of one

into another, then

We listen to the eulogy on radio

grace the night already fallen

with a child’s Christmas still

on the tip of our tongues:

I said some words

to the close and holy darkness,

and then I slept.

The Night of the Big Wind

(Post on Facebook by The Painter Flynn)

It’s that time of year when people look back. Here is another account of the fateful night in 1839 which lived long in the memory of people who lived through it.

Today in 1839  the Night of the Big Wind, “Oíche na Gaoithe Móire”, the most damaging storm in 300 years, sweeps across Ireland, damaging or destroying more than 20% of the houses in Dublin, 4,846 chimneys fell, and waves topped the Cliffs of Moher,  The wind blew all the water
out of the canal at Tuam.
It knocked a pinnacle off Carlow Cathedral and a tower off Carlow Castle.
It stripped the earth alongside the River Boyne, exposing the bones of soldiers killed in the famous battle 150 years earlier.

Kanturk, My Hometown

Kanturk is in the diocese of Cloyne. Unlike the practice in the Kerry diocese where all the priests of a parish live together, in Cloyne each priest has his own house. The Canon, or parish priest lived in a lovely old house across the road from the church in Kanturk. He had an orchard beside his house and a wood just up the road. The name, The Canon’s Wood has stuck. Nowadays it’s a small amenity with artwork and plants. It has a place to shelter in a downpour as well.

These two “boars” are the work of a local artist. Legend has it that the last wild boar in Ireland was killed outside Kanturk and that is how the town got its name. In Irish Kanturk is Ceann Tuirc.

That box high on a pole is a starling nest box.

A Fact

Girls have more taste buds than boys do.

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Cafés and Coffee

in Daisy Boo Barista on Church Street

Listowel Food Fair Food Trail

Jimmy Deenihan lead us from café to restaurant to take away on Saturday as he showcased one of his pet passions, Listowel food.

My friend, John Relihan, internationally renowned chef and meat expert was also on the trail. I was documenting it for you.

John brought his womenfolk, Mary Ann, proud mother, and Talitha, proud wife.

At each stop (there were 5 ) a member of staff told us a bit about what they do. My friend, Anne Marie ORiordan told us all about Thyme Out Café at Listowel Garden Centre.

It was a super start to the trail. we got a cuppa while we were waiting and then we got samples of all their wares, savoury and sweet. I heeded the lesson of former years and held back at the first stop. The food was lovely and the staff are so efficient and welcoming.

Here I made the first of my new friends. This couple travelled from Dromid to enjoy the delights of Listowel eating.

We drank the coffee and things got better and better.

On to John R.’s tomorrow.

A Listowel Legend Remembered

I took this photo of the late Toddy Buckley and Noreen a few years ago.

Toddy was remembered by the Pitch and Putt Club in a post lately.

Photos and text: Listowel Pitch and Putt Club

Brilliant photo by Brendan Landy shared by the club.

This month marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of Toddy Buckley. Toddy Buckley shot a course record of -13 (41) in June 1982, a record that holds to the present day. Toddy was more than just the course record holder at Listowel Pitch and Putt Club. He was part of the fabric of the place and worked hard on and off the course to further the cause of the club. He took a particular interest in juvenile pitch and putt and acted as a mentor to many juveniles in the 1980s/90s. A big thank you to Mary Buckley, daughter of Toddy, for presenting the club with this lovely memento of Toddy’s remarkable achievement. 

PS: for the eagle-eyed of you, the card was signed by Willie Enright. The course of time has meant that Willie’s signature is now barely visible.

Kanturk’s Newest Success Story

On my recent visit home I called in to Catch Up Café. You may have read the story or heard Jack on radio. But for those who don’t know this great story here it is.

In my photo are Jack Tobin and his mother, Sonia, who run Catch up café in The Square.

This quirky little café has grown in popularity since its opening in April.

Above are some of the jokey signs that set the tone for the place. The decor is black and it looks like a city café.

Now the reason Catch up Café is in the news is because Jack launched his very own Coffee there on Friday evening, November 10 2023.

Jack is 24 . He has lost 10 years of that 24 to drug addiction. He was born in Cobh where he started smoking cannabis at a young age. He spiralled downwards into addiction until a day in 2021 when he knew it was make or break.

His family had relocated to Kanturk hoping to take him away from his drug taking suppliers and companions. He found new contacts and new suppliers and he was worse than ever.

He had been introduced to catering at the Cork Life Centre where he completed his education. His mother gave up her job as a Home Ec teacher, Jack went through rehab. and together they opened Catch up Café under Jack’s management.

A landmark event in the story of Jack and the café was the launch of “The Recovery Blend” of coffee blended especially for the cafe by Soma in Cork.

An exemplary young man from an exceptionally supportive family. I hope Kanturk continues to be good to them.

A Fact

Roy C. Sullivan of Virginia USA was struck by lightning seven times in his life.He suffered a burnt left shoulder, legs, chest and stomach, burnt hair (twice) and lost a toenail and both eyebrows.

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