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Tag: Kevin O’Malley

Summer 2017, Ciarán Sheehan celebrates Kathy Buckley and home remedies in the 1950s

In Listowel Town Square


Sign of Summer

Putting merchandise on the pavement outside your shop is an age old tradition in rural towns. This sight in the Square recently lifted my spirits. It heralds the arrival of summer.


At Olive Stack’s Gallery

Olive’s artists in residence bring a touch of the exotic to Listowel’s streetscape. This beautiful window display and street installation cheered my morning on March 30 2017.


Remember these?

Photos; Joe Downes

These two bottles were in every mammy’s arsenal of remedies when I was growing up. The taste of cod liver oil is so embedded in my memory that looking at the bottle I can taste it again with all the revulsion it always engendered. Even the name is distasteful!


When Broadway came to William Street

Kathy Buckley, late of William Street Listowel worked in The White House. During the Listowel Food Fair of June 2015, Kathy was honoured in a ceremony attended by the then U.S. ambassador, Kevin O’Malley and his wife. One of the highlights of the day was the singing of the Irish and U’S. National Anthems by Ciarán Sheehan, a very successful Broadway star with strong ties to Listowel and William Street.

You can listen him here;   Ciarán Sheehan sings anthems in William St.


A Sign of things to Come?

I felt a shiver of premonition when I read this in Saturday’s paper

Beano, The Bog,The River, The Courthouse and the Ambassador

The River Walk in January 2017

Photo by Deirdre Lyons


Goodbye Ambassador

Kevin O’Malley has returned to the U.S. and the new ambassador, a Kerry man will be the next to take up the post.


Listowel Courthouse


Some Things are Timeless

I have someone in my family who loves nothing better than a session with her Beanos and she has a good few. Whenever I see an old Beano annual in a charity shop I buy it for her.

The photo shows her on Christmas Day 2016 when she abandoned all her other presents to read her Beano first.


Maria Sham Remembers the Races and The Bog

The railway was very exciting during The Races, which fell at the end of September. It was the Harvest Festival when all the farmers would have finished the harvest and come to town. It would go on for 3 days and well into the nights. The horses would be transported onto the train for the races. The town would be decorated with buntings and music played into the early hours of the morning.

All the country people came to town and you would see them walking through the streets eating crubeens [pigs feet]. They would be displayed in all the shop windows in large dishes, steaming hot. The streets would be strewn with bones . I can’t remember any rubbish bins then. Another special treat at that time and still is!! mutton pies, all the restaurants would sell them in soup plates covered in soup.

Mam would make dozens for us and there would be a big pot of bone broth left on the range the whole of The Races so we could pop in a pie anytime. Nothing spoiled as there were no onions in anything.

But for us children it was not about horse races, but the market. It was a delight with bumper cars, swinging boats, chair planes, the wheel of death, and lots more, games to win anything from a doll to a set of saucepans. My favourite was at the entrance to the market with the tinkers, now called Travellers’. They lived in horse drawn caravans then. They would have fires lit and do their cooking outside, selling heather and telling fortunes, I am sure I can still smell the smoke. As I got older I got a job for the days of the races from 9am to maybe 10pm a £1 for the day.

Another big occasion for our family and for all the people at that time was the cutting of the turf and bringing it home. The turf would be cut with a slawn and would be allowed to dry. Well the bringing home was a great effort and in those days all the neighbours helped each other. On one occasion one of the men fell into a bog hole and had to come home without his trousers only a sack tied around him. We had a great laugh.

That morning the men would set off early with bread and ham and the makings of tea,

On arrival back with a lorry full of turf mam would have a grand dinner ready for everyone, meat, potatoes and a pigs head. We all helped to draw in the turf and stack it in the shed in the back.

There was also a big field called Jack Thornton’s where we also played. We had to be careful and watch out for Jack as he would chase us with his big stick. He also had a shop on the Ballybunion road and we could buy a tosheen which was just a piece of paper rolled up in cone shape, full of sweets for a penny or a Peggy’s Leg or slab toffee which was a favourite of mine. A big treat was if we met dad at his local, Sheahens. Then it was a bottle of lemonade and a big cake.


A Clarification Re Listowel Badminton Tournament 

When I asked Junior for a photo of the first presentation of his trophy, he asked Tom Bourke to send me one. Now, I presumed that Tom was the photographer but, in fact, he is the winner of the trophy. When I asked about the whereabouts of the trophy I was told that it was on its way to Cork so I presumed the winners were a Cork partnership.

I was all wrong. So here is the photo again and the correct story from the horse’s mouth;

Thank you so much for printing that photo of the first presentation of the cup that the Listowel club commissioned and named after me.

Just to advise that Tom Bourke is not a Cork man. Whilst he is Clare native he is stationed in Kerry and has represented the Kingdom in Badminton for many years, being a winner of numerous Munster singles and doubles titles.

I commenced our mixed doubles event in 1972 and Tom is the leading winner, after his first win in Listowel in 2003  with Dublin’s Helena O’Sullivan , he won his 7th title this year with Cork’s Niamh O’Driscoll who competed in Listowel for the first time. Tom’s 7 wins includes a treble from 2011 to 2013, his partners being Brid Murphy and Peggy Horan, both Kerry, and Patricia O’Herlihy of Cork.

Thanks again Mary


Well done, Tom from Listowelconnection


R.I.P. John Hurt

This photo shared on Facebook by John Keane was taken when John Hurt came to Listowel. The two Johns had a great respect for one another and everyone agrees that John Hurt was a brilliant interpreter of the character, Bird O’Donnell, in John B’s The Field. 

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamnacha araon.

Kathy Buckley event at Listowel Food Fair 2015

First Year at the New Date

What used to be an Autumn event has moved to June this year. A marvelous array of events is lined up for the weekend but the show I attended yesterday was a great opener to the festival. The official opening with the traders bake off was to happen later but this was a lovely solemn ceremony coming at a poignant time in Irish American relations.

The ceremony, which took place on William Street was in honour of Kathy Buckley who was born in William Street, Listowel and went on to serve as a cook in The White house under three U.S. presidents. U.S ambassador, Kevin O’Malley unveiled a plaque at the house where she lived before she emigrated and to where she retired when her stint in the U.S came to an end.

5.00 p.m. and William Street Upper was closed to traffic and a nice crowd had gathered outside the ancestral home of Kathy Buckley.

 Two bands from local schools greeted the ambassador on his arrival. People living and working nearby came out to see the spectacle.

Listowel people and particularly William Street people were well represented.

Security was discreet but visible.

Billy Keane was the master of ceremonies.

In his introduction, Billy referred to the recent tragedy in Berkeley. Billy, himself was very touched by this accident as he lost his first cousin’s son, Niccolai Shuster. Another young victim, Aoife Beary, is in hospital in a critical condition. Aoife is the daughter of Mike Beary of Listowel. 

Our two countries have rarely felt closer as Irish American people and people with no Irish connection have opened their hearts and homes to the families of the young people killed and injured in California.

Billy introduced, local historian, Vincent Carmody, whom he described as the keeper of the flame. Vincent has kept the story of Kathy Buckley alive and he is in no small way responsible for today’s ceremony. He told a story of Kathy who, in her retirement, cooked for her Listowel relatives. One day she made homemade custard and, as was her custom in The White House, she laced it with cream. It was far too rich a taste for her Listowel relative who declared, “I don’t like it”.

Kathy replied, “If it was good enough for three U.S presidents, it’s good enough for you.”

 U.S ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, is the son of Irish emigrants. He is very proud of his Irish heritage. He too mentioned the links between our two countries and the recent tragic event which took the lives of 5 J1 students and one Irish American. He is well aware of how much the US has given to our Irish diaspora and how contact with Ireland and Irish people has so enriched “the land of the free.” He hoped that seeing the memorial to Kathy Buckley might inspire people to achieve great things.

Then he unveiled the plaque.

Next up was Ciarán Sheehan, relative of Cathy Buckley and son of an Irish father who emigrated from Upper William St. Listowel to seek a better life in the U.S. I had met Ciarán earlier in the day with Vincent and as a result of that meeting I booked my ticket to hear him sing in St. John’s as guest of the Willis Clan.

 Ciarán sang the Irish and U.S. anthems. He is a well known name in the U.S.  Recently he sang at the funeral of Beau Biden, son of the vice president of the US and he has taken part in over 1000 performances of Phantom of the Opera.

Listen to him here;  Ciaran Sheehan sings in William St. Listowel June 18 2015

Then it was time for photographs. The ambassador and his wife were most generous with their time and willing to pose with anyone who wanted.

A pint was produced from next door by Aidan O’Connor. The ambassador posed with it but refused to take a sip.

Then it was time for the neighbours who remembered Kathy to look at the plaque and remember her.

We had a laugh, a bit of a chat and a few more photos to remember the day by and we all agreed the day was a great success.

My holiday snaps!

This is Kevin O’Malley, the recently appointed  U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

What is his photograph doing introducing my holiday photos?

Simple! He comes from St. Louis, Missouri and that’s where I went for my holidays this year.

That’s the very tenuous Listowel connection.

There is another very tenuous connection you will see later on.

If you have no interest in learning about St. Louis, go on to reading your emails now, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

 I had never been to the U.S. before September 2014. St. Louis might seem a strange location to choose. It is not exactly a holiday resort and not one that appears on The Bucket List too often. But it is a lovely place and it is where my lovely nephew, Philip, resides with his lovely American girlfriend., Anna.

One thing to remember when visiting St. Louis is that local people pronounce the final s. In fact they pronounce all their French place names (and they have many) as if they were English.

I am not going to bore you with all the details of my visit but I’ll give you some highlights.

The reason for the plane photo is that my experience of air travel was a nightmare. I travelled with my sister in law on the day a poor tormented man chose to set himself alight in the air traffic control tower at O’Hare Airport. This was the hub through which we wished to travel on our journey from Shannon to St. Louis. All the air space around Chicago was closed for four hours with all the attendant delays and cancellations……..

Surprisingly, St. Louis has a chess quarter. It has the world’s biggest chess piece, outdoor chess, indoor chess, chess lessons, chess tournaments and a chess Hall of Fame. You can take your photo with the giant “king” and post it on Facebook on a page called The King and I.

I didn’t, because I’m not 18 and besides, I can’t even play chess.

From everywhere in downtown St. Louis you can see their arch. It is a magnificent structure, about 50 times the size of Listowel’s Millennium Arch. You can go up to the top in a glass viewing elevator. I didn’t,  because the elevator was tiny and it was 32 degrees of heat. The climate in St. Louis is one of extremes. Temperatures in mid summer can get up to an unbearable 40 degrees.

At the right of this photo is the base of the arch.

The skyscrapers in the background give you an idea of the size of this magnificent engineering achievement.

 By the time I had finished reading the instructions for crossing the road, the lights had changed and I had to wait again. Traffic was very light in central St. Louis on a Saturday, but it pays to be careful.

St. Louis is 250 years old this year and to mark this milestone they have placed 250 birthday “cakes” around the city. They have customized each one to match the building or area outside which it stands. I photographed lots of them. I’m just giving you a flavor of the venture. Some schoolchildren have taken on a project for the year to photograph themselves with every one of of the cakes.

 The ultimate selfie challenge!

That’s me above on a very warm day about to escape into the imposing public library of St. Louis.

I took this photo in a very stylish shop in a shopping mall policed by armed guards. The shops were stylish and expensive and the clientele mainly white.

St. Louis is a very racially divided city. Ferguson, of the recent infamy, is one of its suburbs.

These signs are all over The Metro. They are even more scary when it is pointed out that the key word is concealed. It is okay to carry a legally held weapon in plain view.

Anna, our lovely hostess and a native of St. Louis, teaches in one of the poorer neighborhoods. She drove us through some of these disadvantaged areas. We saw lots of boarded up houses and shops and everywhere signs of hardcore poverty.

Recently Anna set her class a task to write a poem modeled on George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From.

Here is what one of Anna’s pupils wrote:

I’m from Divorces and Step Parents
From the oldest of 5 and only one blood sibling
I’m from a Paramedic and a nurse
An Architect and a poet
From a certified genius.

I’m from glorified opinions
From, “Shut up I’m playing the game!”
And from, “You may be older…but he’s taller.”
I’m from attempted rape and 1st degree depression
From self inflicted wounds and never ending nightmares.

I’m from the cliche boy jock and girl nerd relationship
From, “You may need an education, but you need to get sunlight too.”
From the people who will never understand…
But will always listen….


Not too far from the poorer areas is the breathtaking splendor of the Catholic basilica. Heating this nine stories tall vault of a place in Winter and cooling it in summer must cost what it would take to feed the poor of the nearby areas for a year.

Poor Box in the basilica

The basilica was built by an Irish born archbishop  of St. Louis, Fr. Glennon.

 Glennon was a controversial figure, very anti women and he promoted racial segregation in Catholic schools, even in the teeth of opposition from his own priests and from the Loreto order who ran the Catholic school.

Glennon was promoted to cardinal, aged 82, and, after some hesitation, decided to make the trip to Rome for his investiture in the winter of 1946. Since he was so near to his native Westmeath, he decided to make the trip home with his new cardinal’s hat.  He was received by  President, Seán T. OCeallaigh and  Taoiseach, Éamon De Valera.

Unfortunately the trip was all too much for the elderly man. He got a flu and died. His body was brought back to St. Louis and he  is buried in the cathedral.

This building near where my nephew lives looks a bit like the U.S. embassy in Dublin. Could they have the same architect?

Everywhere preparations were going ahead for Halloween. I took the photos of the glass pumpkins and the real ones in the very beautiful Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.

This is a praying  mantis. This and the nighttime sound of the cicadas are strong symbols of St. louis for this visitor.

There is a fad in St. Louis for drinking out of jam jars.  When in Rome….

While I was in town I handed over a consignment of caps, knitted by the ladies of  Knitwits Listowel for the charity, Hats from the Heart.  In the picture with me is Sabrina Wagoner. Sabrina is the lab. manager in the laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis, where my nephew works. She is also  founder of the charity which provides knitted caps to children undergoing chemotherapy in hospitals in the St. Louis area. I was delighted to be part of this Listowel connection.

Farewell Philip and Anna. (I knitted the tea cozy and Philip’s mom provided the mugs from home) 

After our trip to St. Louis, we moved on to Chicago where we spent three happy days exploring that city. 

Farewell, St. Louis, lest I never pass this way again.

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