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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Cocooning, St Patricks Day 2001 and the Roche family and an American take-away in China

NEWKD William Street, Listowel


Women in Media 2016

This is the time of year when, under normal circumstances,  I would be looking forward to WiM in Ballybunion.

Claire Hickey, Keelin Kissane and Anne Darby in Kilcooley’s in 2016


When this is all over…..

The agony and the ecstasy of lockdown in Mike O’Donnell’s incisive cartoons.

Hi Granny

Below is a link to the very best lockdown poem, in my opinion.

This Will all End


Knockanure in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2001


The Road to Recovery

Noel Roche grew up  in O’Connell’s Ave., Listowel.

This photograph was taken at a family reunion in 1970. Three of the Roche children died in infancy and this is the clan as it was in 1970. Sadly they have lost a few more siblings since.

Noel gave me the names;

Front left to right. Dolores, Eileen, Peg, Jacqueline, Val and Dolly. 

middle l to r; John, Noel, Paddy, Jim, Mike and David. 

back l to r; Dick, Eamonn and Tom. 

Dolly was the oldest. I’m the youngest

Noel is a recovering alcoholic. He is proud to say that he will be 40 years sober this year. He used poetry as one of the tools to help him through the hard process of rehabilitation. I hope that hearing his story may help others who are struggling at a time that is hard for everyone but especially hard for anyone in the grip of addiction.


A Covid Fact

In China a McDonalds delivery includes temp. check of food preparer, packer and delivery driver.

(Source; Greg McDonough on Listowel Covid 19)

Cows in Knockanure, Hay and Tae in Bromore and a Look Back at some old Systems

Blue Tit, Just Fledged

Photo: Chris Grayson


Holy Cow!

At Knockanure


Meanwhile in Bromore

Danny Houlihan piped them into the meadow at Michael Flahive annual Hay and Tae festival.


Old Feast Day Customs

from the Dúchas folklore collection

Festival Customs
St. Brigid’s Day (1st of February). People make a rush cross and put it outside the door and say special prayers. This rush cross is made in memory of Brigid. When teaching the pagans she made a rush cross to represent the cross Our Lord was crucified on. On St. Brigid’s eve people hang a piece of cloth in the air outside the window. This Brat Bride is supposed to contain a cure by touching the sick or sore.

St. Patrick’s Day (17th March). People wear shamrocks and harps. Little girls wear green ribbons and harps and as much green as possible.

Shrove Tuesday (variable date) being the last day of shrove many marriages take place also match marriages. Shrove Tuesday night is often called Pancake night. A ring is put in the pancakes and it is said who ever gets the ring is the soonest to be married. Eggs are put in the pancakes, because at that time long ago they were forbidden during Lent, the first day of which comes after Shrove Tuesday. The bride who marries on Shrove Tuesday does not go to her husband’s house until after Lent.

On Ash Wednesday (variable date) men are reminded as of old that unto dust they shall return, and the ashes is placed on their brows in the shape of a cross.

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Sunday, Whit Sunday and Whit Monday are either religious or bank holidays, and are observed in much the same way all over Ireland. On Easter Sunday morning children get up early to see the sun dancing. An old custom is to eat a good many eggs, as Lent (forbidden time) is now over.

Chalk Sunday (first Sunday of Lent) was often a cross day long ago, because all the young boys and girls used to chalk the backs of the men of marriageable age, who did not get married during Shrove.

May Day (1st May). People hang a branch of Summer tree in the house to keep away the fairies.
The house, family, outhouses, cattle and fields are sprinkled with holy water to keep away the fairies also.

St. John’s Day (24th June). On the eve of this feast bonfires are lit.
On feast of Assumption (15th August) most people from this neighbourhood go to Ballybunion for the day. No one ventures on the sea that day because the drowning of ’93 took place on August 15th.

For Michaelmas dinner people usually have a “green” goose.

On St. Martin’s Eve it is an ancient custom to kill a fowl and sprinkle the blood around the house. This is supposed to be an unlucky day, so few fishers go fishing.

Hallowe’en (30th October) is the last night of Autumn. Nuts and apples are eaten. Many games are played with nuts and apples, and beans etc. (1) Two beans are put roasting on coals near the fire. One bean gets a man’s name, the other a woman’s name. If both beans jump together, the pair are supposed to be married. (2) An apple is made to hang by a cord from the ceiling. Hands are tied behind the back, and the person tries to bite the apple without putting a hand to it. (3) Three saucers are put on a table, one containing water, one containing earth, and one containing a ring. The players are blindfolded, the saucers are shuffled around,
and if a person puts his hand in saucer containing earth, they say he will be dead before that day twelvemonth. If he touches the ring they say he will be married, and if he touches the water, he will cross the sea. A cake containing many charms is cut for the tea, and much fun is enjoyed.

The Twelve Days of Christmas between Christmas and Little Christmas are supposed to be the twelve months of the year. If these are fine, the year will be fine, and if these are wet, we will have a wet year. The twelve days were fine last Xmas, and every month so far was wet.
St. Stephen’s Day (26th Dec.) On this particular day crowds of boys dress up in fancy conspicuous looking costumes, and go around to the neighbouring districts collecting money “to bury the wren”. Each boy plays a musical instrument and the procession marches in time. One boy leads the procession, he carries a branch of holly with a little dead wren fastened to it, and according as he stops outside the door of each house he says
“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen’s Day he was caught in the furze
Up with the kettle, and down with the pan
Give us some money “to bury the wren”.
Meanwhile, the champion dancer of the crowd gives a dreas rinnce
on the doorstep. One of the wrenboys marches at the side. He carries a bladder attached to the end of a long stick, and he runs after any little boys who interrupt the procession. When the joyful day rambling is ended, the money is evenly divided between the boys who were in one crowd. Some times they hold a wren dance.

Handsel Monday (the first Monday of the New Year) is a day on which people like to get a present of money, no matter how small. It is an omen that he will receive plenty money during the year.

The Epiphany (6th Jan.). On the vigil of this feast everybody likes to be in bed before 12 midnight, at which hour they say water changes into wine. It was the day of the wedding feast of Cana.

All these old fashioned customs are still observed because, as the proverb says, I suppose – “It is not right to make a new custom, or to break an old one”.

Collector- Kitty Lynch- Address, Tarbert, Co. Kerry- Informant Mrs Lynch- Age 78, Address, Tarbert, Co. Kerry


In Namir’s

I met Namir with Kay and Rosa in Ballybunion on Sunday. Lovely to catch up with old friends.

Blennerville, Tomb of the 12th Knight of Kerry, A Timebomb in Tralee and a Pilgrimage to Knock in 2019

This stunning image of Blennerville comes to us from Eamon ÓMurchú


Burial Place of The Knight of Kerry

(Photo and text from Lixnaw Heritage and Historical Society)

This is the grave of John Fitzgerald, 12th Knight of Kerry.

The knight is buried in Dysert graveyard outside Lixnaw.

The yew trees in the background and the beautiful countryside around it create a very fitting atmosphere.

The Knights of Kerry were also known as the ‘Green Knights’, and it was a hereditary feudal knighthood, established by the Norman lords who invaded Ireland in the 12th century.

Katherine Fitzgerald (nee Fitzmaurice), the 12th Knight’s wife, the 13th Knight and his two brothers, are also buried in this peaceful crypt.


Ah, Sweet!

Christy Walsh and his lovely daughter, Olivia, having a cuppa and a natter in Main Street last week.


Believe it or Believe it Not

A story from The Kerryman of August 2011 and shared on Facebook


ONE of the Crimean War cannons outside the Courthouse was a timebomb until the Army defused it this week.

People walked past the cannon, one of a pair standing outside the Tralee Courthouse in Ashe Street, unaware the five sticks of gelignite, a detonator and a fusewire were hidden inside the barrel.

The explosives had lain hidden there for about 20 years following an abortive attempt to destroy the cannons.

Following a tip-off, an Army disposal team, with Garda back-up, moved in last Thursday and removed the explosives, later destroying them.

It is understood that the gelignite could have exploded; especially as the condition of it deteriorated over the years.

A Garda spokesman told The Kerryman: “Any gelignite found after a numbers of years would almost certainly be in a dangerous condition. And dampness would increase this danger.”

He said he believed the gelignite found in the cannons would be damp, making the situation more dangerous.

The two cannons at the Courthouse serve as memorials to Kerryman who died in the Crimean War of 1854-56, the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and the Chinese War of 185860.

Tralee Courthouse, except for the outer circular limestone walls, has been reconstructed at a cost of £0.5m.

It is due for re-opening within weeks and the stonework was being sandblasted in the cleansing processs. This work included the plinths upon which the cannons are placed.

It is believed that people who became aware of the presence of the gelignite decided to notify the authorities for safety reasons.<<<<<<<<
In Knock

Knockanure, Tarbert and Moyvane pilgrims on their recent trip to Knock.

Listowel Toilets, Halls in Knockanure, More St. Patrick’s Day Photos and Daffodil Day 2019

Market Street, Listowel in March 2019


More Photos fromThe Parade 2019


Spending a Penny In Listowel

This public convenience is in Market Street, Listowel. It is costing us a fortune in maintenance and it is rarely used. We are all half afraid of it and it appears to me that visitors to town are the only patrons.

Michael Guerin posted an amusing video on Facebook detailing the locations of previous toilets.

Listowel Toilets


Knockanure Dancehalls


Now and Then

Same corner but without the public phone kiosks


Daffodil Day 2019

I missed Daffodil Day in town this year but as you can see from these photos posted on Facebook, the hard working volunteers covered every corner of town and had another very successful fundraising day.

Knockanore Graveyard, A Mattie Lennon Story and An Gleann took the Honours in 1971

Incomparable Stucco Detail at McKenna’s

Understated timeless elegance well worth preserving


Knockanore Then and Now

Photo; Kerry Archeological Magazine

Knockanore Today

This lovely hill top burial place has within its confines the ruins of an old church. Since graveyards were originally churchyards it is quite common to see the remains of the old church still standing in today’s cemeteries. It is not usual to see graves within the wall of the church.


A Mattie Lennon Story with a Listowel Connection


By Mattie Lennon

“Les bons pauvres ne savent pas que leur office est d’exercer Notre gererosite.” (The poor don’t know that their function in life is to Exercise our generosity.)

Jean-Paul Sarte.

Isn’t it wonderful that the stupid law (The Vagrancy (Ireland) Act 1847) has been found to be unconstitutional.

It reminds me of the first time I met the late John B.Keane in Grafton Street, in Dublin. He was being ushered Brown-Thomas-ward by his spouse. And cooperating fully: unusual for a husband. I accosted him to say thanks for his prompt reply when I had written to him shortly before requesting information for an article I was writing.

We were about thirty seconds into the conversation when an adult male with a lacerated face and looking very much the worse for wear approached me. The polystyrene cup in his outstretched hand proclaimed that he would not be offended by a donation.

I contributed 20p (I think). Ireland’s best-known playwright turned his back, (I’m sure he picked up the gesture in the Stacks Mountains as a young fellow) extracted a substantial amount and gave to the needy. I then thought that a man who had written about everything from cornerboys to the aphrodisiac properties of goat’s milk could enlighten me on an enigma, which I had been pondering for decades.

You see, dear reader, if I were talking to you on a public thoroughfare anywhere in the world and a beggar was in the vicinity he would ignore you as if he was a politician and you were a voter after an election. But he would home in on me. I don’t know why. Maybe, contrary to popular opinion, I have a kind face. Come to think of it that’s not the reason. Because I have, on many occasions, been approached from the rear. Many a time in a foreign city my wife thought I was being mugged. When in fact it was just a local with broken, or no English who had decided to ask Mattie Lennon for a small amount of whatever the prevailing currency was. Maybe those people have knowledge of Phrenology and the shape of my weather-beaten head, even when viewed from behind, reveals the fact that I am a soft touch.

However, a foreman gave a more practical explanation to the boss, on a building site where I was employed many years ago. The site was contiguous to a leafy street in what is now fashionable Dublin 4 and those from the less affluent section of society used to ferret me out there. Pointing a toil-worn, knarled, forefinger at me the straight-talking foreman, Matt Fagen, explained the situation to the builder, Peter Ewing, a mild mannered, pipe-smoking, kindly Scot. “Every tinker an’ tramp in Dublin is coming to this house, an’ all because o’ dat hoor……because dat hoor is here…an’ they know he’s one o’ themselves.”

 I was relating this to John B. adding, ” I seem to attract them.”

 To which he promptly replied;” (calling on the founder of his religion). You do.”

 The reason for his rapid expression of agreement was standing at my elbow in the person of yet another of our marginalized brethren with outstretched hand.

 So the best-known Kerryman since Kitchener left me none the wiser as to why complete strangers mistake me for Saint Francis of Assisi.

 And salutations such as “hello” or “Good morning” are replaced by “How are ye fixed?”, “Are you carrying” and, in the old days, “Have you a pound you wouldn’t be usin’ “?

 I do not begrudge the odd contribution to the less well off and I am not complaining that I am often singled out as if I was the only alms-giver. Come to think of it, it is, I suppose, a kind of a compliment.

 Sometimes I say ; “I was just going to ask you”, but I always give something and I don’t agree with Jack Nicholson who says; ” The only way to avoid people who come up to you wanting stuff all the time is to ask first. It freaks them out.” Those unfortunate people are bad enough without freaking them out.

Of course there are times when it is permissible not to meet each request with a contribution. I recall an occasion in the distant, pre-decimal days when a man who believed that, at all times, even the most meagre of funds should be shared, approached my late father for five pounds. When asked ; ” Would fifty shillings be any use to you?” he conceded that yes, half a loaf would be better than no bread.

Lennon Senior replied; “Right. The next fiver I find I’ll give you half of it.”

 Of course none of us know the day or the hour we’ll be reduced to begging. In the meantime I often thought of begging as an experiment. But I wouldn’t have what it takes. Not even the most high powered advertising by Building Societies and other financial establishments can restore my confidence, to ask for money in any shape or form, which was irreparably damaged when I asked a Blessington shopkeeper for a loan of a pound nearly forty years ago.

 He said; I’d give you anything, son….but it’s agin the rule o’ the house.”

 I wonder was he a pessimist. It has been said that you should always borrow from a pessimist; he doesn’t expect it back. Well recently I was in a restaurant when a work colleague texted me asking to borrow a small amount of money……he was seated two tables away.

 As JFK said in his inaugural speech: ” If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

I don’t know about the rich but I have learned one thing about the poor;



An Gleann, Winners of the Street League in 1971

John Kelliher posted this old one on Facebook and here are the names as he had them with a little help from his friends.

Jerry Kelliher behind Tony O’Donoghue then John Driscoll , I think that’s Pete Sugrue alongside J D. Richard Connor back holding the pup and Tony Donoghue beside him. 

Front Left Vincent O Connor, Eileen Kelliher holding the cup. I think that’s Fongo in front of Tony Donoghue 

 Bendigo next to Vincent and I nearly sure it’s Donal Brown next RIP. Donal Brown was captain.

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