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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Jill Friedman’s Listowel, poet John McGrath, Lord Omathwaite and Spanish Flu

Still Working

A KWD refuse truck passes Listowel Garda Station on March 26 2020


Local poet, John McGrath shared this poem on Facebook. I know it will resonate with many of my emigrant readers.

The Week after St Patrick’s

The week after St Patrick’s, my mother

pressed his suit and packed his case,

Then drove him to the station for the early train

from Ballyhaunis to the crowded boat,

Then on to Manchester and solitude

until All Souls came slowly round again.

I don’t remember ever saying Goodbye.

At seventeen I took the train myself

and saw first-hand my father’s box-room life,

the Woodbines by his shabby single bed.

I don’t remember ever saying Hello

Just sat beside this stranger in the gloom

and talked of home and life, and all the while

I wanted to be gone, get on with mine.

Westerns and ‘The Western’ kept him sane,

newspapers from home until the time

to take the train came slowly round once more.

Lost in Louis L’Amour, he seldom heard

the toilet’s ugly flush, the gurgling bath

next door. Zane Grey dulled the traffic’s

angry roar, outside his grimy window.

Back home the year before he died we spoke

at last as equals, smoked our cigarettes,

his a Woodbine still, and mine a tipped;

My mother would have killed us if she’d known.

The phone-call came as Winter turned to Spring

I stood beside him, touched his face of ice

And knew our last Hello had been Goodbye.

John McGrath March 2018


Jill Friedman’s Kerry

Internationally renowned photographer, Jill Friedman took these photographs on trip to The Kingdom.


Lord Ormathwaite

Lord Ormathwaite was mentioned in one of the old stories last week. Kay Caball has come across him in her research.

In 1770, John Walsh  (uncle-in-law of John Benn Walsh, Lord Ormathwaite) had purchased land from Francis Thomas Fitzmaurice, 3rd earl of Kerry, in both Clanmaurice and Iraghticonnor for £15,230, and again, in 1774, for £5,944.  John Walsh, was a wealthy nabob, born in Madras, who returned from India to Britain after the battle Plassey.  He became an MP, with a country estate in Berkshire.  He bequeathed his Irish estates after his death to his niece Margaret Benn-Walsh in trust for her son, who became Lord Ormathwaite, owning  9,000 acres in north Kerry at the time of the Great Famine.[1]

Sir John Benn WLSH (later Lord Ormathwaite) visited north Kerry in 1823 -1864 and kept a journal relating  these visits to the different [named] tenants.     Excerpts from this journal are published in John D. Pierse’s book Teampall Bán: Aspects of the Famine in north Kerry 1845-1852, p. 241

[1] Kay Caball, The Fall of the Fitzmaurices: The Demise of Kerry’s First Family.


North Kerry and The Spanish Flu

The last great pandemic was the Spanish flu, which ravaged the world in the years after World War 2

Photo from Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine 2018 shows workmen wearing masks.

This magazine has a very informative article about the pandemic.

 North Kerry was particularly hard hit, with many deaths.

In 1918 532 deaths were reported in the Listowel district. As well as the flu, people died of TB and  natural causes and many had lingering injuries acquired on the battle front.

Irishgenealogy,ie has a database of civil and church records that hold fascinating information. If you want to know how your ancestors fared during this last pandemic you could search the death records. Each entry records the cause of death and the duration of the final illness. If you make any interesting discoveries, we’d love to know.

New Potatoes, A Book launch remembered and train Station memorials

A Cottage Window

This is one of the lovely traditional sash windows in Sheahan’s Thatched House in Finuge.


The Humble Spud

(Photo and text from Raymond O’Sullivan on Facebook)

Midsummer’s Day and the first of my own new potatoes. Modern potatoes mature much earlier than their antecedents which were not ready until around Lá Lughnassa, 1st August. In the time of our grandparents and great grandparents, when potatoes were the staple diet of the Irish people, it was a very fortunate family who had enough to last from one harvest to another. By the middle of June the potatoe pit would be empty or whatever was left uneatable. ‘The bitter 6 weeks’ they called the period from Midsummer’s Day to the 1st August. ‘Iúil an Ghorta’, hungry July, that’s what they called it, when all they had to eat was kale, cabbage and onion dip (if they were lucky). I count my blessings on this Mid Summer’s Day. 


Launch of Robert Pierse’s Book

Robert Pierse lunched his memoir, Under the Bed, on the same evening as President Michael D. Higgins and Sabina Higgins came to town. So I was late to the party. There was a great crowd gathered in the back bar of the Arms and a lively and entertaining launch was in full swing. I took a few pictures and then forgot all about them. Here they are at last.

Eibhlín Pierse and friend

Old friends, Kay Caball and Danny Hannon

Section of the large crowd

Billy Keane who launched the book, Cyril Kelly who read from it and Jeremy Murphy who edited it.


Train Station Memorials

In Cork

In Portlaoise

Fitzmaurice of Old Court, Lixnaw, lartigue Theatre Company, Listowel

The Mermaids nightclub, formerly The Three Mermaids and before that Fealey’s shop


The Fall of the Fitzmaurices of Old Court, Lixnaw

The first notable date in the Fitzmaurice calendar is 1280 when the first Lord of Kerry founded a convent in Lixnaw. In 1614 The Lord of Kerry was deemed Premier Baron of Ireland. This will give you an idea of how old and how prestigious the Fitzmaurice were.

The newly formed Lixnaw Heritage and Historical Society held a great event in The Ceolann, Lixnaw on Sunday April 28 2019.

We were treated to informative and entertaining presentations and we got great insight into how the other half lived. This family owned huge tracts of land acquired through purchase and marriage, they built lots of houses here, in the UK and in France. They amassed and squandered fortunes and they had their fair share of scandal and court appearances to their name.

 Ballyheigue historian, Bryan MacMahon with Kay Caball who was one of the speakers. Kay’s tale was spiced with accounts of lavish spending fuelled by the sale of many of the family assets.

“After a gather comes a scaterer”

Rosemary Raughter gave us a presentation on the very interesting life of Arabella Denny who married into the Fitzmaurice family and redeemed it for a while. She is pictured here with Mairead Pierse of Listowel and Joe Harrington of Lyreacrompane.

Listowel folk came to hear about the antics of their Lixnaw neighbours.

Jeremy Murphy, Patrick Gilbert and Kay Caball

Kay’s book on the Fall of the Fitzmaurice is due out in November.

Below are a few Lixnaw stories from the Dúchas collection.

Tom Foley
Mrs Kate Lovett

There are the ruins of the Old Courts near my district. The castle was built by Thomas Fitzmaurice in the year 1200. It is derelict since the 1780. It is situated in the townland of the Old Courts, in the parish of Lixnaw and in the barony of Clanmauricce and in the County of Kerry. Thomas Fitzmaurice was the some of Maurice Fitzgeraldd and Maurice Fitzgerald for Lixnaw from Raymond Le (Gos) Gros. The Lady of Kerry once said there were no places worth living in but London and Lixnaw.

The Castle long ago was an important and majestic building. There were grand rooms in it with beautifully decorated offices and there were costly paintings on the walls and a beautiful, ornamental entrance. There were beautiful gardens near the castle. They gave banquets and parties at night to their friends. They gave entertainment of music and song and dance. A huge bullock and fat sheep and dozens of wild fowl were brought to the various tables

Willie B. Lawlor
Mr Beasley

There is an old ruin in Lixnaw and another in Listowel. They belong to the Norman times. The Fitzmaurice family lived in Lixnaw Castle 1215-1582. These two castles Lixnaw and Listowel were built about the same time as the castles around this district and they were destroyed about the same time also. If you go to Lixnaw the old people would show you the “Cockhouse” and the Hermitage and the “old Court”. Lixnaw was the seat of the Geraldine family in Munster. There was a young child in the Listowel castle, he was brought out dressed in rags in order to save his life. He was taken secretly to England and educated there. He was allowed back in later years and in changed times and made governor of Kerry.

Lixnaw Monument

Michael Lynch

Lixnaw Monument
The Monument of Lixnaw was built about the year 1692. It was erected by Fitzmaurice. He got married to a protestant lady called Constance Long and Fitzmaurice preverted after his marriage. Fitzmaurice was the 20th Baron of Lixnaw and the 22nd in descent to Raymond le Gros. When his wife died in 1685 his people who remained Catholics did not want her to be buried in the family tomb in Kiltomey near by. He buried her outside the tomb but this did not satisfy them fully, however she was not disinterred. Fitzmaurice did not want any further trouble so he built this Monument for himself and his successors. He and his son and grandson were buried in this Monument. Fitzmaurice died in 1687. McCarthy Mor owned these lands first and he gave them to Fitzmaurice and they later came into the hands of Lord Listowel who sold them to his tenants under the Wyndham Act of 1903.
Micheal Lynch,
Soon, Ballybunion
Note_ This Fitzmaurice 21st Baron married Anne, daughter of Sir Wm Petty of Down Survey fame, who had 50,000 acres. Her dowry was the Petty estate in South Kerry. The late Lord Lansdowne was a descendant.


An Old Lartigue Theatre Group programme


A Map of Listowel by Amy Sheehy

from the programme of the Acting Irish Theatre Festival 2019

Boy at the Window, Killarney at Christmas and the Launch of Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

Killarney, December 2018


A Winter Poem


Old Post Box in Killarney


Christmas in Killarney

I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in Killarney recently and they are pulling out all the stops to make it a Christmas destination.

The jaunting cars and horses were converted to sleighs and were filled with children singing carols.

The bollards were converted into tin soldiers.


Launch of Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

We had a great night in The Listowel Arms on Dec. 9th for the launch of Vincent Carmody’s book.

Finbarr and Cathy Mawe were helping out with the selling of the books.

Mary and Joe Hanlon came early on their way to St. John’s for Mike O’Donnell’s Goddess of Lust.

John Pierse is adding another book to his library of Kerry history books.

Gerald Fitzgerald with his book

Declan Downey and Paddy Keane exchange a word .

Kay and Arthur Caball with John Pierse

Derry and Marie Reen with Kathleen Carmody

Tim O’Leary and Michael Guerin

Ruth O’Quigley buys her book from Kathy Mawe.

Kerry Ancestors, Sheehys of main Street and Altered Images

Bridge Road, July 2018


My old Friends Remembered

There is a lovely little shady corner in Listowel Town Park dedicated to the memory of three great Listowel brothers. I first came to know Martin, Michael and John Sheehy through the internet where I came to know them as men who retained a great love for their native Listowel even though they all had spent more years away from it than in it.

I “met” John first when I started contributing to the Listowel thread of My contributions to that forum were very much an early form of this blog. I used to post photographs and snippets of news and John invariable replied and encouraged me. There was a time when he used to return “home’ every year but that time had passed by the time I knew him so we never met.

John still retained a great grá for his hometown. His time growing up in Main Street and summering in Ballybuinion held very special memories for him. Of course his twin brother Jerry still lives here and once when I posted a photo of Jerry, John emailed me to tell me to urge him to wear his cap because it was getting very cold.

I kept up a correspondence with John right up to his untimely death. He shared many stories and photographs with me over the years and I regarded him as a friend.

The Sheehy brothers were one of those extraordinary Listowel families who raised bands of really intelligent men. Marty was probably the brightest of them. If I recall correctly he achieved a first in Ireland in Leaving Cert Greek (or was it Latin?). He went on to forge a very successful career in medicine and later medical insurance in the U.S. I met him often on his annual trips home. He was very appreciative of what I do and gave me every encouragement to keep going with the news from home.

Michael used to come every year for Listowel Races. He and his family were regulars every day on the racecourse. He told me once that Listowel Connection was one of the highlights of his day.

They have all passed to their eternal reward now. Whenever I am in the park I will sit on their seat now and remember them and say a prayer. I think they’d like that.


Beautiful Paintwork at Altered Images

I was delighted last week to spot Fred Chute back painting again. This beautiful painting of the plaster work of Pat McAuliffe is done best by a Chute and Fred is the best of them all.

I hear that we are going to see many more of these old facades preserved, repaired and repainted in the future. They will add greatly to the overall beauty of our lovely town.


Strange Tales from the Petty Sessions

Did you read lately how Stormy Daniels was arrested for allowing a person to touch her while she was performing in a skimpy costume?

She broke an Ohio law that says that nude employees cannot touch or be touched by patrons other than family members while on the premise of a “sexually-oriented” establishment where they appear on regular basis.

The charges were later dropped.

Believe it or not our ancestors were very quick to take to the law to sort out their disputes and Kay Caball found some very interesting cases when she read through some of the transcripts of the Petty Sessions courts.

Nothing as ludicrous as the Ohio law but some interesting cases nonetheless and you can read about them in Kay’s very interesting Kerry Ancestors’ blogpost:

“Did your Kerry Ancestor pawn a coat, own a wandering pig, or ‘commit a breach of the Sabbath’?  While Genealogy in its purest form is defined in the English Dictionary as ‘a line of descent of a person or family from earliest known ancestor’, my training in Family History and Genealogy goes much further.  We don’t just concentrate on the dry details of date of birth, marriage and death without trying to find out how the person lived, in what circumstances, what was going on in their lives around their Kerry location at the time they lived and/or emigrated.   And lots more – if we can get a flavour of their personality, all the better.

One way of doing this is checking the Petty Session Registers.

The Petty Sessions handled the bulk of lesser legal cases, both criminal and civil. They were presided over by Justices of the Peace, who were unpaid and often without any formal legal training. The position did not have a wage, so the role was usually taken by those with their own income – in practice usually prominent landowners or gentlemen. Justice was pronounced summarily at these courts, in other words, without a jury.”

This is just a flavour. Read the full post here;   

Kerry Genealogy in The Courts


Molly at Convent Cross

One of the advantages of having a dog is that it forces you to get out and walk. While Molly is with me for her Kerry holiday she obligingly poses for me at local landmarks. Here she is on the seat beside one of the oldest postboxes in town.

A Fun Fact about a postbox

For three weeks in 1979 Ballymacra, Co Antrim had the world’s most inconvenient post box.

In March 1979 workmen replaced the telegraph pole to which the pillar box was affixed. The workmen did not have the keys needed to release the clips that held the box in place so they raised the box over the top of the old pole and slipped it down the new one. 

The new pole was thicker than the old one and the box came to rest 9 feet above the ground. It remained there for 3 weeks and in that time people using the post box accessed it by stepladder.

Source: Foster’s Irish Oddities by Allen Foster

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