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

Tag: Knockane

Hilser Brothers, Jewellers, The Oil Lamp and a Knockane story

I know a dog who loves Ballybunion.



Photo; Chris Grayson

This photo fascinated me because it tells of Cork’s long multicultural history that continues to this day.

On the ground floor of this Patrick Street premises is a Turkish barber shop. The upper floors still have the branding of the last tenant, Hilser Brothers Jewellers who sold rings and other pieces of jewellery to Cork clients for generations.

Hilsers have now relocated to Bandon . I found this account of their family history on the page of Miriam Hilser Foley who now runs the business

Miriam’s great-great-grandfather from Germany, Richard Hilser, was sent to Belfast to further his study in clock making (which was the original Hilser business). 

“Richard returned to the Black Forest region in Germany and fell for a local clockmaker’s daughter but in an attempt to secure the father’s blessing, he was instead directed to a different daughter. We then became the first family to introduce grandfather clocks to Ireland. They also had a son, Henry, who was six or seven when Richard died.” 

While his mother Josephina held fort, a young Henry took trips to the Black Forest region to follow in the line of his father’s profession. 

While there he made a pen pal of another clockmaker’s daughter and over time they became close. In the 1860s they settled in Cork. 

Thankfully, Henry’s mother Josephina rented the Grand Parade property for Henry and the Bandon shop for Henry’s brother, Frank, creating the Hilser Bros. Jewellers name. Frank then moved to England leaving both shops to Henry. This began a decline in the Hilser name. 

Henry had five daughters, who of course, took their husbands’ surnames, ending the Hilser family name’s lineage. With a gap nearing a century, Miriam has bridged both names: “Before she died, my grandaunt Ursula Hilser asked me to continue the name. In her and my family’s honour I took the double barrel name, Miriam Hilser Foley.”


Reality for Dublin Commuters

This picture was posted on Twitter by Eye On Dublin. This is the daily reality for so many in January 2020. It’s 835 a.m in Heuston. The person taking the picture is on the Luas that just went past, full. The next Luas will be along in 11 minutes but it is also likely to be full.

Thank your lucky stars if you live in Kerry.


The Light of Other Days

Junior Griffin who worked for years at McKenna’s Hardware told us a bit about this lamp the last time I posted this picture. I mistakenly called it a ’tilly lamp and Junior set me right.

To me it looks like an ordinary oil lamp. The oil lamp would be lit by a wick and raised and lowered by hand. Both the Tilley and Aladdin (which I have one of) were later versions but were lit by a mantle and were worked by a pump. 

 Thinking back, I would have repaired  hundreds of those, with my mentor, the late Mikey O’Connor, in my days at McKenna’s before the rural electrification. Fitting a washer in the pump and fitting a new mantle, which were as tender as a cobweb, after they were lit were the main repairs to be done. “


Some More Photos from the Launch of A Minute of Your Time

Friends from my college days, Peggy and Assumpta

Robert Pierse

My grandsons, Killian and Sean

Kildare friends, writer, Sinead O’Neill and her husband, Andrew

My old boss and good friend, Sr. Consolata

Sr. Margaret

Teresa Culhane

Tim O’Leary

Vincent Carmody

Former Pupil and now Radio Kerry presenter and writer, Elaine Kinsella


An Cnochán

Noreen O’Connell sent an email when she read about Knockane in the School’s Folklore piece last week. Her husband told her what was a true cock and bull story relating to that place.

Mary, reading Bernie Holyoakes story of the “Cnocán “, John tells me he knows the place so well, having hunted it with his greyhounds and where you always got a good hunt off the “Cnocán. There was a quarry there, surrounded by bogland. Its on Driscolls farm. A story he always heard was that one of the Driscolls had a dream that there was gold buried there. So one night a few of the family went there, carrying a lantern and cock with them. They began to dig a hole but were chased away by a bull. The cock died that night. There is a hole of 4 or 5 feet deep there. I suppose because the cock is a symbol of bravery and alertness is why they took him with them. 

Glenteenassig, Europe on William St. and Listowel Primary Care Centre and Knockane


Photo Credit:  Gosia Wysocka on This is Kerry


Clounmacon GAA


Polish Restaurant

Sometimes I regret not putting dates on photos. Listowel people will recognise this as Lower William Street and the premises that is now Lizzy’s little Kitchen. For a short time this restaurant was a Polish restaurant called Europe.


Entrance to new Primary Care Centre


Hidden Treasure

This is from the Dúchas folklore schools collection. I’m including the original manuscript because the handwriting is so beautiful.

This is what it says in case you are finding it hard to read. Cnochán is Knockane.

There is a hill in the townland of Listowel and it is called the Cnocán. This is a fairly large hill and it covers about two acres of ground. It is composed of a mixture of sand and clay. It is supposed to have been drawn in bags by the Danes. The hill is situated midway between two Rivers – the Feale and the Gale and according to local legend the Danes drew the sand from both rivers on their backs. At the south end of this hill which is about twenty feet high there is a beautiful well continually overflowing with clear water and which never runs dry even in the most prolonged periods of drought. But the most remarkable thing about this hill, is that it was raised up in the middle of a flat boggy plain and was supposed to command a view of the River Feale and the River Gale.

B. Holyoake
Listowel, Co. Kerry
Michael Holyoake
Listowel, Co. Kerry

Jumbo’s, Serendipity, Kennedys in Ireland, a Mantila and Pipelaying in Knockanure


Jumbo’s of William Street looks lovely with its new paint job and its new sign.



Serendipity is making a good discovery by accident. This is what happened to my niece recently when she was on an Aer lingus flight to the US.

Christine was scrolling through the onboard entertainment on her seatback screen when this popped up.

There before her eyes, thousands of mile from home, high among the clouds, she beheld a photograph of her late grandmother, my mother, Kathleen Ahern.

It would appear that a man who made a film about Listowel Radio Museum uploaded it to Vimeo and now it is widely available in lots of places including Aer Lingus planes to America.

The photo of my mother and her first cousin, Jo O’Riordan was taken in 1927 by Jo’s dad at their home in Summerville South in Cork. I donated the photo to the Wireless Museum as photos of radios from back then are rare. Not many people had radios as 2RN, now Rte, had only started broadcasting in Cork and not too many people had cameras either. So a man who took a photo of his radio was definitely a rarity. Such a man was my great uncle, the late Eugene O’Riordan.


Rare Kennedy Photographs

These photographs of Joseph Kennedy in Ireland have turned up recently. They are now in the JFK Archive.

Joseph Kennedy at the Giants Causeway

Joseph Kennedy in Killarney

Kennedy children on horseback in The Gap of Dunloe


Do you Remember the Mantilla?

(Photo and text from The National Treasures Facebook page)

Mantilla. This is my mantilla headscarf that I wore to church when I was young. The tradition at the time was that all women had to cover their heads going to mass. When I wore it, I thought I was very grown up. It was a very beautiful object and I thought I was very mature, just like the older ladies. I remember my aunt in particular, Noreen Ennis, having a nice mantilla with some very fine lace work. In a way, the mantilla was a way to express yourself in that there were degrees of sophistication in the headscarves and mantillas that women wore. I didn’t really understand why I was wearing it and, much like everyone else, I wouldn’t have understood what was said during the mass as it was in Latin, but we just accepted it for what it was. After the Second Vatican Council (Pope John XXIII), young women no longer had to cover their heads anymore. Priests could say mass in the vernacular as well, and the laity could be more involved. Despite being relegated to the bottom of the drawer, I’ve kept my mantilla for over 50 years.”

Thanks to Mary Ennis


Pipelaying in Knockanure


All Ireland Champions 2019

Thy danced for us in The Square on the day of the Entente Florale judging .

Last week they danced for the judges at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2019 in Drgheda and they won.

Ballydonoghue Under 12 set dancers with their very proud teacher, John Stack.

Surfing in Ballybunion, William St. in the sixties and Knockane

Sign of summer?

Surfing in Ballybunion: April 2015

Photo: Ballybunion Prints


Upper William Street in the great bye and bye

A previous posting of this photo on the internet drew this response from our great local historian, Vincent Carmody.

“The old home town looks the same

As I stepped down from the train,”

This is  part of Upper William Street (or as real
townies would call it, Patrick St. or Pound Lane). I have a good idea that
Neddy, the ass, tied to the pole belonged to a really nice lady from Dirrah East
called Han Synan. The pole was (and is) situated outside the late
Nora(Lynch)Buckley /the late Lil Mai O Sullivan’s houses.

On the other side or the road the
house with the brown door was Dr.Tim Buckley’s surgery (he lived with his two
sisters Mollie and Delia across the road in a public house and which was
subsequently the Listowel Post Office). Above the surgery was a back lane which
serviced the rear of Upper William St. and Charles St . Up this laneway also
was the Powerhouse which served as headquarters for the local E.S.B. Up there
also were 2 forges, one belonging to the late Jackie Moore and the other to the
late Val Moore. On the other side of the laneway is St Patrick’s Temperence Hall
which was built in the 1890s. The hall had a major reconstruction makeover
1999-2002. At this time the house above the hall was occupied by an O’Sullivan
family who afterwards moved to Charles St. Next door, which at the time was
derelict, belonged to the late Mike Joe Hennessy of Ballyduff and formerly of
this street. The two houses above these belonged to Mary Moore who used let
them to various tenants. At this time the lower one was let to the town jubilee
nurse, a nurse Anne McDonagh, the upper house to Tom and Peggy Lyons, the two
remaining houses in the photograph belonged to John Francis and Maurice
Carmody. Hopefully this gives a little insight into part of the street of 40
years ago.


Honesty at The Fair

Marina Stack contacted me after watching the Radharc film Honesty at The Fair

She says

Re the Radharc programme Honesty at the Fair , at 14 mins 13 in is John Stack,  brother of Bob Stack, Maurice Stack, Pat Stack and Mai Stack.  All originally born in Moyessa, Listowel. John later married in Castelisland.



Today I return to the lore I learned when I visited the school children’s contributions to the National Archive’s Folklore collection in Kerry County
Library , Tralee. One category of the project concentrated on placenames and their

It is important to remember that the boys and girls recorded the
stories as they heard them from their elders. As we all known, folklore is a mixture
of fact and fiction distilled through the memories of generations who passed on
the information.

There is a townland in Listowel called An Cnochán or
Knockane and this is what an old man told an unnamed schoolgirl. Knockane is a
fairly large hill, made up of sand and clay. The hill is situated between the
rivers Feale and Gale. The story goes that the Danes brought sand from both
rivers to form the hill. The hill is located in a flat boggy plane. It commands
views over both rivers.

To the south of the hill is a spring well, continually
overflowing with clear spring water. This spring never runs dry, even in
periods of extreme drought.

One night a local man dreamed that there was gold in the
hill. He went in the morning to the spot indicated in his dream. He dug and dug
until he came to “the flag”. As he was about to dig up the flag, a bull came charging
towards him. He escaped with his life but he never again meddled with Knockane

Sin é mo scéal agus má
tá bréag ann, bíodh


Green Shoots of Recovery in Church Street

New beautician’s opening on Church St. shortly. My mole tells me that Carmel’s in Bridge Road will also open as a beautician’s very soon. We’ll all be looking gorgeous!


Women in Media 2015

I’m heading to Ballybunion at the weekend for this great event


Snapped on Church St.


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