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Tag: Lar Buckley

No. 24 Upper William St.

Vincent has provided us with a final chapter in the Lar Buckley story for now.  

Number 24 Upper William St.,the premises where Lawlees have their flower shop was also built (along with number 26 where he lived and had his cooperage) by Lar Buckley.  He had moved to Upper William Street from Upper Church Street to continue his trade as a cooper. For a good number of years he had no. 24 rented to various people. From Sept.1895 the tenants were Michael and Kate (Mulvihill) O’Connor, newly returned North Kerry folk. They had been in America for some years and were now anxious to start a business in Listowel. In the agreement their rent for this house was £14 per year, to be paid in two instalments, £7 on both the 3rd of March and the 3rd of September. The agreement also stated that Lar. Buckley would pay half of the yearly poor rate, with O’Connor paying the other half along with the county cess and town rate.

The O’Connors soon had a good business. They sold groceries, flour and meal. To supplement their growing family’s income, Kate, started baking and selling mutton meat pies especially on Market days and at race time. This was the time the name Mike the Pies became synonymous with Upper William Street. The O’Connors’ business continued to grow. When the Mc Elligott family, who ran a multiplicity of businesses out of the house two doors up (these busineeses included, grocery and public house, funeral undertaking, general contracting and joinery)  decided to seek further fortune in faraway California to help in the rebuilding after the earthquakes in 1907, the O’Connors were immediate purchasers of this property. The rest is history, with the family having a presence in the street since then.

Another family renting Buckley’s after this, was a Sheehy family, The father, Edward was an insurance agent, a son also Edward (nicknamed Sac) was involved with the Free State forces during the Civil War. He had the sad distinction of being the first fatal casualty of this misguided period. In a ironic move, both sides, Free State and Republican, put down arms at the time of his funeral, and both sides marched side by side, as a guard of honour, accompanied by local bands, until it left the town on its last journey to Gale cemetery (a photograph of the funeral, taken in the the Square, can be seen in Carmodys, “North Kerry Camera” ) 

After the tenancy of the Sheehy ‘s had lapsed, no.24 was again opened as a grocery shop by Tessie Buckley. She continued running this on her own until she was joined by her sister Nora in the mid 1940s. Prior to this, Nora had assisted a maiden aunt, Minnie Kearney in the running of a grocery shop, in the old Kearney family home in Church Street.

Tessie and Nora sold basic groceries and had a loyal band of customers. It was to this house that Kathy Buckley returned in retirement after her many years in America. After Tessie’s death in 1976 it was left to my first cousin, Eileen McCaffrey, who subsequently sold it to the Lawlees.  

Another successful scion of the Buckley clan

This is Upper William Street today. The Buckley home is between Lawlees (in yellow) and Mike the Pies.

Now to a story sent to me by Joseph A. Boyle, a great-grandson of Lar Buckley

Lar’s great grandson, Joseph A. Boyle, Esq. of Basking Ridge, New Jersey has been selected to be included in the 2011 Irish Legal 100, which is a publication comprising some of the most accomplished and distinguished attorneys of Irish descent nationwide. Joe will be attending the awards dinner in Washington, DC on October 13th at the residence of the Irish Ambassador to the United States, M.E. Collins.  Joe’s mother Regina is a granddaughter of Lar.  Joe is married to Jennifer and they have two children Jessica and Charles.  He lives in the same neighborhood in Basking Ridge as John Carpenter author of a recent Listowel Connection posting about Regina’s sister, and John’s mother, the late Mary Elizabeth Carpenter.

Thank you, Joseph and congratulations.

Listowel’s own link to the oval office

Vincent’s story today is a cracker. The subject of this story is a daughter of Lar Buckley’s, cousin of Vincent’s and grandaunt of John Carpenter. Some lady!  Enjoy her story

From Upper William Street, Listowel to the White House

Kathy Buckley was born on the tenth of March 1885 at 26 Upper William Street, Listowel. She was the eldest of a family of seven, born to Lawrence and Ellen  Buckley. Her father worked as a cooper in his workshop at the rear of the house. Her mother’s family Kearney’s, were a long established Church Street family of grocers and shoemakers.

Some time after Kathy had finished her formal education at the Convent Primary School in Listowel she secured employment from the Huggard family at the renowned Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville. It did not take her long to find her feet as a trainee cook and in a short time was held in high regard by both management and senior kitchen staff.

In the early years of the 1900s the hotel played host to an entourage of wealthy Americans led by the famous banker and financier J.P. Morgan, not only were they impressed by the natural beauty of the area but they were equally impressed with the quality of the cuisine prepared in the kitchen. Morgan at this time was seeking an assistant to his own chef at his mansion in Hartford, Connecticut and shortly before leaving he offered Kathy this position. She however told him that he would first have to speak to her father. Shortly after he returned to America he was in touch with Lawrence Buckley and permission was secured, however with conditions, one of which was a guarantee to send Kathy home if she was unhappy or unable to settle.

Arriving in Hartford she soon settled in as she had done previously in Waterville and busily engrossed herself in learning new culinary skills. During her time there, the head chef, a Frenchman succumbed to severe alcoholism and Kathy was his ready made replacement. She thrived in her new position and the lavish banquets which herself and her staff prepared and served for J.P Morgan and his influential friends and guests were legendary.

One man who did not forget Kathy was an incoming President, Calvin Coolidge, a personal friend of J.P. Morgan and a frequent visitor to Hartford. He invited her to become head of the White House kitchens, an offer which she gladly accepted. She retained this position during his and the subsequent terms of Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt. After leaving the White House she worked in the Seaport City of Providence, Rhode Island with an American family for some years. She finally returned in retirement to Listowel in the early fifties.

Because of family connection and as we lived quite close I got to know Kathy quite well during these years, however when one is younger as I was at the time one does not always appreciate a sense of history or indeed the historical significance of what someone so close and from our own street had achieved.

I can recall being with my cousins in their father Paddy’s cooperage when Kathy would come to the back door and call out, ‘Come in while the meat pies are warm’.  These particular pies are a local delicacy in the area and would have been widely baked and eaten especially during the Listowel Races. The recipe she used, at one time she recalled, came from publican’s two doors up the street, appropriately called Mike (the Pie) O’Connor. She first got this recipe in 1907 when the O’Connor’s bought the public house from the departing McElligott family who had decided to seek fortune in California in the aftermath of the earthquake. Kate O’Connor would have baked these pies especially for fair and market days. Over one hundred years on, this public house is still known as Mike the Pies.

As in Washington, Kathy dominated Buckley’s small kitchen, her two sisters Nora and Tessie relegated to the role of, as it were domestiques, albeit happy ones. When one entered her domain the smell of cooking was ever prevailing and one never left hungry. 


During a radio review of the Vincent Carmodys book, North Kerry Camera, well known Listowel short story writer Bryan McMahon was asked by the presenter if he had a memory of Kathy. He replied as follows:

‘When I was young, my mother, who would have grown up in the same street as Kathy, would send me up to see had Kathy White House come on her holidays. Asking my Mother how she got that name, she replied, “Bryan , because she works in the White House in Washington, the home of the President of America.” Thereafter I would listen. One day my mother asked Kathy had she seen any world crises during her time in the White House, Kathy’s immediate reply was ,’ Joanne, if my sandwiches came back from the Oval Office uneaten, I knew then there was a world crisis’

Bryan told the presenter that Kathy Buckley saw world politics with eyes glazed by gastronomy.

In the same interview Bryan recalled that Kathy had told his mother that once the White House staff had lined up to greet the new incumbent. When Kathy was introduced as head of the kitchen, she stepped forward and said, “Mr President, I have something to tell you”, and he said “yes Madame, what is it?”, and she said,” Sir, I have never voted for your party and I never will”, to which the President replied, “Madame, that is your right as an American citizen”.

In a further recollection, my first cousin’s husband, Brian, recalled been told the following, Once when Kathy was about to enter the lift to take her to the dining room floor level, a senior member of the executive who already was in the lift and who had a distain for members of the household staff advised Kathy to wait for the lift on its return. Like a flash, she replied, “That’s fine.  I will share it with the President.” who was coming up the corridor to use the lift as well. She was a strong woman, never afraid to speak her mind.

In 1969, Kathy fell and broke her hip. Having spent some time in St. Catherine’s Hospital in Tralee she was transferred to a nursing home in Listowel. Her condition deteriorated and on many an evening, as I sat by her bedside in a darkened room, her mind used travel back to earlier days as she used bid me light a fire in the Oval Office or collect a tray from the Rose Garden.

Kathy Buckley, cook extraordinaire, to three American Presidents died on July 19th 1969. From various anecdotes she appeared to have a good personal relationship with the Presidents, the very fact that Coolidge invited her to head the kitchen staff during his time when he took over on the sudden death of Harding in 1923 and again on his election in November 1924.

 On a personal note I have in my possession the key which President Coolidge got when he was given the freedom of Fort Worth Texas. This he gave as a gift to Kathy on his return from that city. I received the key as a gift from the family of Kathy’s niece, my first cousin, after her death in 2007. I also have correspondence to Kathy from Lou Henry Hoover, wife of Herbert Hoover. There is a clear depth of warmth shown to her in this letter, It is also my belief that Herbert Hoover was the incoming President mentioned in the previous story of the interaction when the staff had lined up to meet the incoming President. 

As a lifetime Democratic supporter, one would imagine that the advent of Franklin Roosevelt to the White House would have pleased Kathy. No evidence of this survives as such, however a conversation with her niece some years ago on her recollections on this period has given me some insight. While her relationship with the President himself was more formal than with the previous incumbents it seems she had a less than warm relationship with Eleanor, the President’s wife. This may have stemmed from Kathy’s Irish ethnic background. Early Irish emigrants to America congregated and lived in the same neighbourhoods. As time moved on coloured families started to come into these same neighbourhoods. This resulted in the Irish having to move to new areas. Because of this an inbuilt snobbery or elitism developed among the Irish emigrant population. Kathy Buckley though a very devout Catholic and a great benefactor of the poor throughout her long life possibly was an unintentional victim of this syndrome. Eleanor Roosevelt was a committed civil rights advocate all her life and during her time in the White House, 1933/1945 she was very much in favour of the employment of a greater number of non-whites especially in the area of household staff. This is where I think that Kathy Buckley had her difference with Mrs Roosevelt. Sadly we will never know the real story.


Thank you Vincent for sharing this great story with us




Lar Buckley of Upper William St.

Good morning, folks.

This week’s posts are going to have a theme. The theme is the man mentioned above and some of his descendants. One of these descendants, Lar’s great-grandson, John Carpenter of Basking Ridge in New Jersey has sent me a lovely post to share with you.

But, before we go on, if anyone has any other stories related to this theme, particularly stories about Lar himself, we would love to hear them. Email as usual is

This is what John carpenter wrote

This morning we laid to rest the ashes of my mother, Mary Elizabeth Carpenter.  She passed away in January of this year at the age of 90.  Due to a blizzard on her funeral day we postponed her interment – until today.  It worked out for the best as autumn was always her favorite season.  

Mary Elizabeth was born a Moore in New York City to William Moore of Port Henry, NY and Johanna Buckley of Listowel.  Johanna was the daughter of Laurence “Lar” Buckley and Ellen Kearney.  Johanna and William Moore had 4 children, William, Mary, George and Regina.  Only George and Regina remain.  Both Johanna and William died relatively young and both had passed by the end of 1940.  Mary Elizabeth was predeceased in 2001 by her beloved daughter Mary.

After a brief service graveside under clearing skies, we adjourned to my house in Basking Ridge, NJ for a typically lively exchange of stories and memories of my mom and the family.

Pictured below are just a few of the “Buckleys of Northern New Jersey” who gathered in honor of Mary Elizabeth.

Left to right:

   Joe Boyle                   Gr Grandson of Laurence Buckley

   Jennifer Boyle             Joe’s wife

   John Carpenter            Gr Grandson of Laurence Buckley, son of Mary Elizabeth

   Tommy Carpenter        Gr Gr Grandson of Laurence Buckley, son of John and Lauren

   Sarah Carpenter          Gr Gr Granddaughter of Laurence Buckley, daughter of John and Lauren

   Rick Shea                           Husband of Ann Carpenter

   Ann Carpenter             Gr Granddaughter of Laurence Buckley, daughter of Mary Elizabeth

   Peter Carpenter           Gr Grandson of Laurence Buckley, son of Mary Elizabeth

   Regina Boyle              Granddaughter of Laurence Buckley and mother of Joe, Mary, Robert and Jean pictured here plus John, Thomas and Jane all absent.

   Maureen Carpenter      Peter’s wife

   Mary Rauch                         Gr Granddaughter of Laurence Buckley

   Robert Boyle                        Gr Grandson of Laurence Buckley

   Jean Boyle                          Gr Granddaughter of Laurence Buckley

   Lauren Carpenter                  wife of John Carpenter

Ann’s 3 children and (absent) Jane’s 8 children are the Gr Gr Grandchildren of Laurence Buckley.  All live in Basking Ridge.  John and Lauren’s daughter Hannah (named after Johanna Buckley) is absent.

All four of Johanna Moore nee Buckley’s children are in the second picture; Regina, Mary Elizabeth, Bill and George.

On this bittersweet fall day we remembered my mother Mary Elizabeth and our forbearers here and in Listowel with love, respect, humor and gratitude.

John Carpenter

October 1, 2011

Basking Ridge, NJ

Thank you , John.

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