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
In November 2010 a knitting group met for the first time in Off the Square Café. We met in response to an ad. that Isobel Barrett had placed in a shop window. The ad looked for interested people to meet to knit and natter.
We originally called our group Knirvana, conjuring up images of knitting heaven. This name proved a bit problematic in online searches so we changed to Knitwits.
In 2011 two things happened that changed the direction of the group.
Off the Square café closed and we moved shop to Scribes on Church Street.
We met Namir Karim, himself a crafter and a great supporter of crafting.
We were usually 8 to 18 knitters and crocheters knitting and chatting in our lovely sunlit window haven. Soon we extended operations to a second day, Tuesdays . All the while another group was meeting in The Family Resource Centre on Thursday evenings. Some people were now knitting three times a week.
We were knitting for family and friends, for charity and some were knitting for sale at craft fairs or to fulfil orders.
The next big development came in 2013 when Namir suggested we open a craft shop. No. 53 Church Street was available to rent. The landlord, Robert Corridan, is a big believer in history and heritage. He believed in what we were doing. Namir was willing to back us by paying the rent and the costs involved in setting up the enterprise.
We adopted Robert’s life size yellow pig as our mascot. The late Dan Green won the competition to name him and with Crubeen in the window we were in business.
Mary Keane performed the grand opening on December 10, Namir’s birthday, Rosa sang and we had a bit of a party.
Canon Declan blessed the venture
In the following years we had craft classes, Cois Tine events, product launches and celebrations.
Alice Taylor at one of our hooleys
In 2017 the shop closed its doors for the last time. The venture had run its course.
One of the early days, crafters with Dan Green R.I.P and Miriam Kiely, whose family lived in No. 53.
Friendships were made and memories banked for future reminiscing.
I hope this little history has brought back some memories for the lovely crafters who worked together in and for the shop.
May the sod rest lightly on those with whom we shared those good times and who are now gone from us.
Remember Phone Boxes?
Daffodil Day 2023
Some of the lovely people I met on Friday morning out in the cold and wet collecting for Daffodil Day.
Gerard Stack was anxious to see a photo of the scene in Walsh’s toyshop at Christmas time long ago.
Mike Moriarty had just such a photograph
Here is Mike’s email;
In response to Gerard Stack’s post re Toy Shop at Walsh’s I have attached a photo from those days. At the back on the left is yours truly, centre is Marie Keane Stack (mother of the Brogans) and on the right is my brother, Tom. At the piano is Mary Sheehy(nee Shaughnessy). At her left shoulder is Mike McGrath and in the centre is your correspondent, Gerard Stack. We were all neighbours, such a contrast with today where there are no children growing up in William St.
Dave O’Sullivan found some great old ads in The Kerryman. Walsh’s had a Toy Fair complete with film show in 1950.
Another Regular at Christmas Time
At this time of year I like to include familiar seasonal pieces of excellent writing. This is one of my favourites.
A Kerry Christmas Childhood
Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,
As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.
I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,
And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.
We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,
And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,
To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,
And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,
Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,
And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.
From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,
To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,
For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,
To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,
To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,
And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.
The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,
The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,
And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,
Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.
Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire
And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,
Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,
Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights
And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,
And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.
Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,
If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,
And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,
When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,
But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,
To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.
She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.
“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”
The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade
And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.
St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,
To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’
We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,
And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.
Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill
Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.
Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.
Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.
So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,
And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.
Advertisements from another era
Sent to us by Mattie Lennon
So Much has changed
Knitting group in Scribes in 2012
Listowel Christmas 2021
My Christmas Reading
I loved my Woodford Pottery jug and vase so much, I went back and bought the mug to match.
‘Twas the Night before Christmas 2021
By Mary Conlon
Twas the night before Christmas, but Covid was here, So we all had to stay extra cautious this year. Our masks were all hung by the chimney with care In case Santa forgot his and needed a spare. With Covid, we couldn’t leave cookies or cake So we just left Santa hand sanitizer to take.
The children were sleeping, the brave little tots The ones over 12 had just had their first shots, And mom in her kerchief and me in my cap Had just settled in for a long summer’s nap. But we tossed and we turned all night in our beds As visions of variants danced in our heads.
Gamma and Delta and now Omicron These Covid mutations that go on and on I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t get better, I’ll soon be familiar with every Greek letter”.
Then just as I started to drift off and doze A clatter of noise from the front lawn arose. I leapt from my bed and ran straight down the stair I opened the door, and an old gent stood there.
His mask made him look decidedly weird But I knew who he was by his red suit and beard. I kept six feet away but blurted out quick ” What are you doing here, jolly Saint Nick?”
Then I said, “Where’s your presents, your reindeer and sleigh? Don’t you know that tomorrow will be Christmas Day? “ And Santa stood there looking sad in the snow As he started to tell me a long tale of woe.
He said he’d been stuck at the North Pole alone All his white collar elves had been working from home, And most of the others said “Santa, don’t hire us! We can’t work now, thanks to the virus”.
Those left in the toyshop had little to do. With supply chain disruptions, they could make nothing new. And as for the reindeer, they’d all gone away. None of them left to pull on his sleigh.
He said Dasher and Dancer were in quarantine, Prancer and Vixen refused the vaccine, Comet and Cupid were in ICU, So were Donner and Blitzen, they may not pull through.
And Rudolph’s career can’t be resurrected. With his shiny red nose, they all think he’s infected. Even with his old sleigh, Santa couldn’t go far. Every border to cross needs a new PCR.
Santa sighed as he told me how nice it would be If children could once again sit on his knee. He couldn’t care less if they’re naughty or nice But they’d have to show proof that they’d had their shot twice.
But then the old twinkle returned to his eyes. And he said that he’d brought me a Christmas surprise. When I unwrapped the box and opened it wide, Starlight and rainbows streamed out from inside.
Some letters whirled round and flew up to the sky And they spelled out a word that was 40 feet high. There first was an H, then an O, then a P, Then I saw it spelled HOPE when it added the E.
“Christmas magic” said Santa as he smiled through his beard. Then suddenly all of the reindeer appeared. He jumped into his sleigh and he waved me good-bye, Then he soared o’er the rooftops and into the sky.
I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight “Get your vaccines my friends, Merry Christmas, good-night”. Then I went back to bed and a sweet Christmas dream Of a world when we’d finished with Covid 19.
I took a look inside for you. It’s such an improvement on the old toilets. Our visitors will be delighted.
Where there is a will there is a way!
The old story about Irishmen and the great regard they have for their mothers is fully proven in this newspaper report from a U.S. newspaper, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, of 12.2.1842. This exiled Irishman was prepared to stretch mathematics beyond all possibility in order to look after his mother in Ireland – even before the terrible Famine struck!
“A Job for Judge Bermudez. An Irishman who died recently in this city made his last will and testament after this fashion: – “I order and direct that one half of the property of which I am now possessed – whether in moveable property, real estate, or otherwise – be given to my loving wife, one half to my only son, William, and the other half to my mother, in Ireland.”
Now the difficulty with his executors is this: after giving one half of the property to his loving wife, and another half to his only son, they are at a loss to scrape up a third half, the proceeds of which is to go to his mother, in Ireland! Here is a knotty case for the Court of Probates.”
One presumes that his loving wife and son would settle for one-third apiece!
Remembering Happy Days in Scribes
In August 2012 this group met and knitted and nattered in Scribes of Church St. Much has changed since. Sad it’s over but glad it happened.
One of Listowel’s Living Legends
Look who I met when I was out for a walk in Listowel Town Square on Sunday afternoon, May 30 2021. None other than a man I greatly admire, Danny Hannon, looking fit and dapper, was returning home after a visit to the church.
A Long Shot
In 1990 a St. Michael’s Listowel football team played CBS Dingle in the final of The Dunloe Cup. The game was recorded but we don’t know by whom. Searches in the two schools and the home of the losing trainer proved fruitless. Maybe, just maybe, someone out there has a copy of that precious recording. John O’Flaherty tells me that games were sometimes recorded by pupils, some with commentary. We’d welcome a loan in any format.
These lovely Christmassy displays are in the foyer of the Killarney Great Southern.
A Poem by Noel Roche
Noel’s sister, Dolores has shared a few of Noel’s poems with us.
When I arrived in Heaven
I wondered what I’d see
As I stood before the pearly gates
In all their majesty.
Then I saw God standing there
With his arms open wide
And he said, “Come on now,, child of mine,
You’re home now. Step inside.”
And then I saw my mother
She was weeping tears of joy.
She took me gently in her arms
Saying, “There’s my baby boy.”
Then my father, he was standing there
The first time I saw him stand.
He said, ‘Son take a walk with me,
And he took me by the hand.
So I walked with dad in heaven
I could not be more proud.
People jpoined us as we walked
Until it became a crowd.
But its not a crowd of strangers
That I plainly see.
All the faces in that crowd
Were faces known to me.
All my brothers and my sisters
And good friends that passed away
They were all here to greet me
In heaven on this day.
I met grandparents, aunts and uncles
That I never knew
But as I looked into their eyes
I said “Yes, I know you.”
I talked with all the people there
And it went on and on
And, as we talked, it seemed to me
Like they were never really gone.
They were all really happy
And that was no surprise
I saw contentment and serenity
When I looked into their eyes.
Then Jesus walked amng us
Oh, what a sight to see
My whole being filled with love
As he placed his hand on me.
His perpetual light was shining bright.
We were all filed with His grace
Right then I prayed and hoped
That we would never leave this place.
Then the darkness it came over me
As day turned into night.
And I groped around frantically
Looking for the light.
When I put the light on,
I saw my bedroom wall.
I realized that
It was just a dream
I wasn’t in heaven at all.
Jostle Stones on William Street
2019 was the year when I learned what a jostle stone was. Since I learned about them I’m seeing them everywhere. Here are two on our own William Street,
These are at either side of the lane by Jumbo’s that runs behind McKenna’s.
These are just a little further up the same street.
Knitwits at Christmas 2019
We had a good crowd at knitting club on Dec 14 2019 so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures. It was freezing cold so we were wearing our coats, but still having the chat as we knitted and crocheted.
What Talent, Patience and Skill
This is Kathleen McCarthy. Kathleen was given this tapestry picture to complete after the lady who started it was unable to finish it. Kathleen is a multitalented craftswoman. She can turn her hand to any project and she welcomed this challenge.
Kathleen sewed this tapestry before she had her cataract operation and working under the other challenge that the lady who started the work was left handed, so Kathleen had to do all the stitching in a direction not familiar to her.
The finished project is magnificent. My photo does not do it justice. Kathleen had it framed and is now handing it back to the original owners.
A Kindness at Christmas
I have a secret Santa. I received this lovely gift in the post this week. People are so kind! Thank you, Dan, for making my day!
I love, love, love the book. I highly recommend it!
Isn’t the cover photo the most gorgeous loving capture ever?
Brigita Formaliene, the new proprietor of Scribes in Church Street, did not forget her friends when she reconfigured the seating in her new café. She put Knitwits centre stage in a cozy intimate location.
Our numbers were down on Saturday January 13 when i took my photo but there will be plenty of room for us all when we are all back from our holidays and winter breaks.
A New Book of Newcastlewest History
My friend, Vincent Carmody, gave me a present of a lovely book last week.
Newcastlewest in close up is a sister publication to Vincent’s splendid, Listowel, Snapshots of a Market Town. It is full of old photos, billheads, posters and history…another collector’s item.
Athea in the 17th Century (Continued)
as described in an account in The Kerry Reporter in 1933
.……During all this time (Penal Times in Ireland) the people were obliged to hear Mass secretly and by stealth, for if anybody was discovered openly exercising his religion, they were ruthlessly slaughtered on the spot. After some time, however, when the rigours of the penal laws abated somewhat. Bishop De Lacy managed to have a modest church put on that piece of ground where the national schools were afterwards erected. Up to this period, and ever since the burning down of the old church in Temple Athea, many years before, Mass was usually celebrated in the cave or hollow in Colbert’s Hill, where a Mission cross now stands. Particular place was selected for the celebration of Divine Service, this sheltered position protected the Mass candles, and its elevation prevented the priest hunter from stealing unawares on the congregation. The church which Bishop De Lacy put up on the site lately occupied by the old schoolhouse continued to serve the people as a place of worship until the present very fine structure was put up in 1864. Bishop De Lacy’s remains were interred in a tomb in the churchyard at Ardagh. Portion of the slab which guards the entrance to the tomb has been broken for many years, and through the aperture thus formed it is possible to see the coffin which encloses all that Is mortal of this, sainted and patriotic churchman.
Athea’s fairy trail is in a wooded area beside Con Colbert Memorial Hall. The signs are all first as Gaeilge and then in English
In Bishop De Lacy’s time, the people of Athea spoke only Irish, and it was this language that prevailed amongst them nearly right up to the middle of the last century. The village at the time was a very different place to what it is now, consisting as it did for the most part of a number of isolated thatched buildings, and shops, as we understand them at the present time, did not exist in the place. In the Gaelic tongue the name of Athea signifies the “ford of the mountains.” As already stated, in former days the Gale must have been a much larger stream than it is today, and this appellation means that people were able to get across it at Athea without undergoing the risk of being swept away by the current.
Athea continued to be merely a collection of thatched houses until about the middle of the last century, when better and more pretentious buildings began to make their appearance, and gradually the place began to assume its present neat and somewhat picturesque appearance. The village is situated, as it were, in the lap of the mountains and lies at the base of a range of low, purple hued hills. During the past quarter of a century It has grown considerably in size and is now a place of considerable business importance in the district. Athea possesses concreted streets and asphalted footwalks, and has in addition, an abundant water supply. The houses and shops are well built, and there Is a plentiful growth of timber about the village, which imparts to it a very pleasing and picturesque aspect.
People who visit the Fairy Trail may leave their worries behind with Cróga, the brave fairy who takes on board everyone’s troubles.
This footbridge runs beside the river and offers a great view of the native ducks and wild birds.
To this day , the remains of the dense woodland of old can be seen around Athea.
One of Athea’s most famous families, the Ahern brothers is commemorated in this sculpture.
One of today’s most famous residents is Jim Dunn, whose stunning artwork is one of the main attractions in Athea today.