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 email@example.com
On Friday July 7 2023, Tánaiste Micheál Martin was in town to officially open the new Fuchsia Centre at Árd Chúram.
This wonderful facility for older people who suffer from dementia will mean that more and more people are enabled to stay in their own homes for longer and the task of caring is eased for the family.
The committee who worked so hard to bring this project to fruition will leave an invaluable legacy to the area.
The celebration of the opening was planned for outdoors but poor weather forecast for the day meant that we were entertained indoors at the Árd Chúram Day Centre.
The HSE is a vital partner in the delivery of services to the older people in the community. Caroline Doyle of the HSE is here with Mike Moriarty of the Árd Chúram committee.
Caroline Doyle, HSE with Helen Moylan of Listowel Laundry for the Elderly and Marie Reen of Árd Chúram
Some of the friendly welcoming people who work in Árd Chúram.
Micheál Martin and Norma Foley enjoying the Cork/Kerry banter
(More photos tomorrow)
Modern Celtic Art in Listowel
Stephen Rynne had no connection with Listowel until he began studying the work of Michael O’Connor, illuminator.
When he came to town and discovered the many many local artists working in the celtic genre, he fell in love with the town.
In Kerry Writers’ Museum on July 6th he made his first foray into opening our eyes to the treasures around us.
On the left is Stephen Rynne and on the right is a great friend of Listowel Connection, our super researcher, David O’Sullivan. Dave has uncovered many stories related to Listowel artists and their prestigious commissions.
The local connection; Fr. Brendan O’Connor, son of the artist, was delighted to meet up with his Kerry cousins on the evening.
This beautiful piece, Michael O’Connor’s alphabet, was handed over to Kerry Writers’ Museum. It is not clear to us which alphabet it is, certainly not English, maybe Irish or Latin. Any insight would be gratefully welcomed.
Cara Trant on behalf of Kerry Writers’ Museum, accepts the piece from Stephen.
One of the dreadful results of the Famine was the devastation of the population due to deaths and emigration.
Worse was to follow in evictions and forced emigration.
Maybe your ancestors emigrated on The Nimrod or another of the ships that took so many of our fellowmen to the U.S and further afield.
Opposite the school in Kiskeam they have a little history park with its own stone circle.
Fr. John J ÓRiordáin on Walsh
Ogham stones, the salmon of knowledge, history and myth remembered.
Now that the Dust has Settled
Here is a piece that Stephen Connolly wrote for The Irish Times before Writers’ Week 2023.
It was still daylight on January 4th when I left Dublin on my way to Listowel, but dark by the time the budget flight arrived into Farranfore. Until I got the job as the first ever festival curator at Listowel Writers’ Week, I didn’t know that there was a flight from Dublin to Kerry. It was the first of many things I was going to learn.
It’s a bizarre thing to have a new job announced in the national press, more so if it comes with a tag to say that your appointment “follows controversy”: a controversy I knew nothing about when I sent in my application. It’s even more bizarre to then walk into a town where you know nobody at all, but for whatever reason I wasn’t nervous. My love for Listowel was immediate and the first thing I noticed was the intricate plasterwork on the lintels above the windows of the buildings around the town with the names of business owners past and present: O’Connor, Molyneaux, Carroll, Keane.
I was living a few miles out of town on a road where a bus runs twice a day: if you got the second bus into town you would have already missed the last one back out again, so I was making the most of my time in Listowel itself getting to know as many people and places as I could. Mike the Pies, the amazing pub and even better music venue, was recommended to me by my friend Paul Connolly from The Wood Burning Savages and it was one of my first stops.
What really caught my eye, though, was a framed old poster with ‘IMPORTANT AUCTION of a modern two storied LICENSED HOUSE’ in beautiful, eccentric wood type: the kind of thing that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Paula Scher’s work for New York’s Public Theatre. It was marked with “Cuthbertson, Machine Printer, Listowel” at the top and the word Listowel itself appeared at least five times on the single poster. There was something about the various weights for the letterforms in the old wood type and the idiosyncratic syntax of it all that sparked something in me, and I knew immediately that it would influence the festival’s artwork.
I got talking about it to the owner, Aiden O’Connor, and before too long he told me about his uncle Michael O’Connor, a previous landlord and son of the eponymous Mike the Pies, who “collected posters, and made posters himself”. He told me that Michael had donated “quite a lot of them to a gallery in Limerick”. When I had a look online, I found that there was an archive of almost 3,000 posters from various cultural institutions across Europe spanning several decades that formed a permanent collection in the Limerick City Gallery of Art. “There’s more of them,” Aiden said. “Give me a minute and I’ll show you.”
I couldn’t believe what was hidden away above the pub, but it’s going to form an exhibition during Writers’ Week called The Uncollected Posters of Michael O’Connor. The singer-songwriter Jack O’Rourke had been amazed by Michael O’Connor’s story, too, and wrote Opera on the Top Floor about him: Jack will be playing at the opening night of Writers’ Week, when the winners of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award and the Pigott Poetry Prize will be announced and the John B Keane Lifetime Achievement will be presented to Stephen Rea.
Mike the Pies was the first of many incredible discoveries during the first few weeks in the Kingdom and it was easy to see why this heritage town has been a cultural centre for decades. I’d read as much as I could about the history of Writers’ Week, particularly the ethos on which it was founded, and it resonated with what I’ve been trying to do since I was a teenager. I knew that if I was programming acclaimed best-sellers like Liz Nugent and Louise Kennedy, I’d have to be thoughtful in my approach to debut writers (there will be events with Michael Magee, Nithy Kasa and Fergus Cronin, to name a few). When I was inviting Paul Muldoon to read poems and have a conversation with Paul Brady, I knew that inviting emerging talents like William Keohane and Jess McKinney would be as important to the continuation of what the festival is all about.
In Kevin’s bar on William Street there’s another Cuthbertson poster, this one from 1937, advertising “the first all-night DANCE”: the dance was organised by local undertakers and the room used to store coffins became a cloakroom for the night (through to dawn, presumably). This kind of thing wasn’t a one-off, and I felt like it gave me a certain permission to make use of some slightly less-conventional spaces. Among the prestigious names in fiction and poetry, we’ll be putting on an event with the authors of Bad Bridget: Crime, Mayhem and the Lives of Irish Emigrant Women (a best-seller in the non-fiction charts) in the historic but working courthouse in the town; we’re putting on an event in Kevin’s bar where anyone called Kevin can turn up and do a turn (Kevins in Kevin’s: an Omnium Gatherum of Kevins); we’re putting on a performance of Minimal Human Contact, the play in Irish by Kneecap’s Naoise Ó Cairealláin, in Mike the Pies. I can’t wait to see all of this unfold in Listowel.
Rain has delayed work on the painting of The Harp and Lion. So far so good, looking great!
Newly appointed cattle adviser with a Listowel Connection
(Story and photo Agriland)
Teagasc has appointed a new cattle specialist, Niall Kerins, who will be based at Teagasc Moorepark, Co. Cork and will cover the south west of the country.
Niall Kerins is from a drystock farming background based in Co. Kerry.
He is currently a Teagasc business and technology drystock advisor in the Kerry or Limerick advisory region. He previously worked as drystock advisor based in Kilrush, Co. Clare, and as a dairy advisor in Listowel, Co. Kerry.
I was visiting Kiskeam as a tourist and this charming little north Cork village has a tourist offering out of all proportion to its size.
A dear friend gave me a present of these two treasured books. They contain a comprehensive insight into the history of this lovely corner of North Cork.
These murals by Paddy Ronan depict a way of life that is now just a memory.
This extract is from Fr.ORiordáin’s book. It describes lovely old customs like boolying, the infield and the outfield and the meitheal.
This is the local brass band back in the day. So many of the men (they were all men) are identifiable, I’m sure their descendants love to see them immortalised here.
The Kiskeam Brass Band was legendary. Here is Fr. O’Riordain’s explanation;
“Kiskeam Brass Band will attend ” was a kind of coded message.
In 1918 an anti conscription rally in Newmarket was led by The Kiskeam Brass band. A vicious unprovoked attack by RIC men saw the poor unarmed musicians beaten mercilessly and all their instruments smashed.
It took three years to recover from that loss and to have all the instruments replaced.
It struck me that all the imagery depicted on the walls is of a bygone time.
I am one of those people who likes to look back.
The is my father, Bill Ahern, on a wynnd of hay some summer in the 1950s.
If you like to look back too, Kiskeam is well worth a visit.
Another Chute, Another Master Painter
Francis Chute at work on Footprints on June 1 2023
Meanwhile her forever family are basking in sunny Florida.
Local people still refer to The Church of the Sacred Heart as “the new church”.
The parish of Boherbue/ Kiskeam is one of nine Kerry parishes in Co. Cork. The parish used to be called Kilmeen. Ballydesmond, which used to be named Kingwilliamstown broke away in 1888 and Boherbue Kiskeam continued to be called Kilmeen until the mid 1900s.
The parish church in Kiskeam is old fashioned and cozy. It is obviously well loved by its parishioners. There is very little stained glass and the candelabra has real penny candles of the kind rarely seen in churches nowadays.
The windows are sponsored and, because they are clear, the church is light filled and gives a feeling of bringing the outdoors indoors.
This is a nice touch. In 2016 they printed this page with all the names from the baptismal register for 1916
The marriage register for the same year when Kiskeam was thriving.
A beloved priest remembered
Visitors are a good excuse to dine out. Phil and I enjoyed a lovely lunch in Lizzie’s.
The day was sunny but the newly opened door had a very cooling effect.