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
Stewarding, policing and commentating are important jobs on the day of the parade.
Some of the participants in the 2023 parade
Card Game in the Pitch and Putt Clubhouse
(Photos by Tom O’Halloran R.I.P.)
Card playing was enjoyed by members of Listowel Pitch and putt club.
In Tom O’Halloran’s photo Denis O’Donovan R.I.P., Con Whelan, Jerry Brick, Brendan Kenny, Bill Hartnett R.I.P. and Peggy Brick.
Reggie’s Guide to Social Climbing
I enjoy Reggie from The Blackrock Road on Facebook so my family knew I’d enjoy him live. We saw him in his one man show in The Everyman in Cork. It was a great laugh, a snob’s guide to “bettering yourself”.
I was early for the show in The Everyman so I explored a bit nearby. These lovely murals were done during the pandemic.
Upper William Street
Bernard O’Connell once shared this old photo on his Facebook page. Bernard grew up on this street in the house with the TV aerial. The two donkeys on the way home from the creamery are probably waiting for their owners to pick up a few messages in the nearby shops. The railings and wall lead to the railway bridge that used to be over that part of the street.
It is interesting to note that the houses in this historic part of town are still very much the same today as they were back in the 1970s.
Ten Years Ago
The late great Mary Keane officially opened Craftshop na Méar ten years ago. The lovely little craft shop traded on Church Street for seven happy years thanks to Namir Karim.
Two local festivals are back in full swing next weekend. Here are the details.
The GAA is all about Family
There are some families that are steeped in GAA lore. Football is in the DNA of OSés, Griffins, Cliffords etc etc. But Pat Spillane’s farewell speech has to be the most poignant reminder of how much winning an All Ireland medal can mean even to families who have biscuit tins full of them under beds.
“My father never saw us play. The three sons have 19 All-Ireland medals and his two grandsons today, Killian and Adrian, have two more. He would have been a proud man, 21 senior All-Ireland football medals brought in to his house. It’s just a special day. A special day.”
Stephen Fernane in this week’s Kerryman tells us why he also remembers his father on Ireland final day.
Ogie Clifford in the Sam Maguire cup with his father, David, and his uncle, Paudie in Croke Park on Sunday, July 24 2022.
“…Oh, for the touch of a vanished hand,
Or the sound of a voice that is still….”
This lovely photo is from The Irish Examiner archive. It was taken in a meadow in Wilton in Cork but it could be anywhere in Ireland in the 1950s and 60s.
I remember the gallon of tea and the sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper from a sliced pan.
Obituary to a Man who Kept Lartigue History Safe
by David Kissane for The Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine
The Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine was saddened by the death recently of one of its original members, Mick Barry of Ballingown. Mick was an advertisement for mental and physical vigour, with a curious mind and a challenging nature.Well into his 90s, he had a long and interesting life, spent mostly on his farm in Ballingown where his father had passed away when Mick was quite young.
He was well rooted in his own townland and parish, and knew every inch and every person in the locality. He fulfilled many roles in his long lifetime, from farmer to enginerer to mechanic to historian to taxi driver to husband to father to grandfather to philosopher to much more.
He was a fear iol-dánach, a man for all seasons of human life. He was a valued companion of his friend John B Keane, a writer who valued the Kerryness of Mick. Mick contributed this Kerryness to his work with Listowel Writers Week and the Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine. His creativity was displayed on many occasions in his membership of the latter, creating the concept of the photo-story where he took an old photo and generated an article about the people in it, the time it was taken and the latent emotive potential around it. In times of doubt and division at a meeting, he could unentangle the algebra of issues and cast light on the possible road ahead.
An hour spent in Mick’s company always became three hours as he had the ability and nous to draw one into the fresh pastures of his tales, memories and histories. He was also, of course a humorous man and a rogue when it suited! A twinkle in his eye at the start of a story meant that his listener was going nowhere fast.
He was inspired by many things in the parish around him, not least the sulphur green and the bottle green and the lime green and the sea green of the Hill that looked down on him sometimes under a cobalt blue sky. He had the sunny side of that Hill as his first vista every morning, drawing a deep energising breath as he indulged his eyes over its raw and changing face for over 90 years. It was under that Hill that he recreated a section of the Lartigue Train to relive the Lartigue experience of the late 1800s and early 1900s, to the amazement and delight of neighbours like Páidín Roche and Joe Kennelly.
To see Mick in the company of his late wife Sheila at a meeting or on a night out was to experience a team of two who worked well together. They added a colour and texture to many a Lisselton night. Together they rinsed the mundane from many a flat ordinary occasion and rendered it special with a half smile, a knowing nod or a ripened word.
The BPM offers its sincere sympathy to the Barry family.
Text and photo are from Limerick Leader’s Nostalgia Column published on June 30 2022
By Tom Aherne
NEWSPAPERS HAVE always been a part of my life even from a very young age, and each week a few were brought into the house. They included the Limerick Leader, Sunday Press and a few daily papers for the sports reports and previews. As soon as I was able to read, I was attracted to their contents with sports a main interest. One became familiar with the writers’ names and the topics they covered and eagerly looked forward to their weekly contributions. John B Keane the man from Listowel in north Kerry was one of those writers. His weekly column in the Limerick Leader ‘Out in the Open’ was a must read from an early age. This came about because of the connection with my father and John B Keane, who were corresponding with each other. John B had a number of people from different areas who he would feature in his column. The news from their area he would use to form the contents of his weekly offerings with his own observations and twists. For a person or place to feature in his wide-ranging column gave a lift to all back in the dark days of the 1960s and 1970s. Being a pub owner he also found material from his interaction with his customers. Talk in the bar often provided inspiration for him, with stories colourful language and phrases straight from the tongues of his customers finding their way into his plays and books. John B in his writings immortalised many characters from around the locality including Dan Paddy Andy, the matchmaker, Sonny Canavan and his talking dogs, the Ballaugh bachelors, Joe Quaid from Athea, who rose from the dead, Jackie Faulkner, Paddy and Ruckard Drury and the events around Listowel north Kerry and West Limerick.
When John B was 17 and a student in St Michael’s College he wrote his widely renowned poem, The Street. At a class in his Leaving Certificate year the students were asked to recite a poem by the teacher, and he recited The Street. When asked who wrote it, he received a beating because the teacher who had a violent temper did not believe him. The poem was included in his book The Street and Other Poems published from Progress House Dublin in 1961. Verse one: I love the flags that pave the walk I love the mud between The funny figures drawn in chalk I love to hear the sound Of drays upon their round Of horses and their clock-like walk I love to watch the corner-people gawk And hear what underlies their idle talk.
John B Keane was born in Listowel to William Keane, a teacher in the local school and Hannah Purtill on July 31, 1928. His mother, Hannah, came from a nationalist family and worked as a draper. During the Civil War, Hannah was a member of Cumann na mBan and ran messages for the IRA. He was the fourth eldest of a family of ten, among five brothers and four sisters including RTE and Abbey actor Eamon who died in 1990. He attended Listowel National School and St Michael’s College Listowel. The initial ‘B.’ stood for Brendan, a name taken on confirmation after St Brendan the Navigator. He worked as assistants to Chemists William Keane Stack, WH Jones and O’Donovan’s Chemist Rathkeale for a short time. He emigrated to England in 1951 and worked in a ball-bearing factory in Northampton. In 1955 he returned to Listowel, buying a public house for £1,800 and married Mary O’Connor, whom he met at a dance in the Astor ballroom during the Listowel Races in 1945. They did not get married until six years later and they had four children, Billy, Conor, John and Joanna.
In 1959 John B’s first play, Sive, was produced by Listowel Drama Group. The production won the All-Ireland Drama Festival in Athlone and toured with it throughout the country. He followed with a yearly succession of plays that included Sharon’s Grave, The Highest House on the Mountain, The Man from Clare, and the Year of the Hiker. The first production of The Field was staged at the Olympia in Dublin in 1965, with Ray Mc Anally as the Bull and Eamon Keane as the Bird. This work was inspired by the murder of north Kerry farmer Moss Moore in 1959.
The first production of Big Maggie was staged in 1969 and his first novel The Bodhran Makers was published in 1986. In 1990 Jim Sheridan adapts The Field for the big screen , with Richard Harris as the Bull, Brenda Fricker as his wife Maggie and John Hurt as the Bird. The first production of Moll was in 1991, and a year later Durango A Novel was published and later adapted for television with Brenda Fricker. On May 30, 2002, John B died, aged 73, after a long battle with cancer at home in Listowel. Noel Pearson said that John B was unique and connected with people. He was a literary master, but his gift wasn’t just that he had a way with words, he had a way with people. Niall Tóibín who played the Bull Mc Cabe in The Field remembered John B for his wit and the pleasure he gave to people across the country. John B said I was the smallest Bull he had ever seen but that I’d scare the ‘shite’ out of the devil. It is probably one of the best compliments anyone has ever paid me in all my years on stage. Brenda Fricker said I am honoured to have worked with his beautiful words , so full of music, sadness and joy. Brendan Kennelly poet and close friend paid him a hand -written tribute which can be seen in John Bs bar. The last verse follows: God bless your heart God bless your pen God bless your spirit free I thank the God Who gave my world? The spirit of John B.
A portrait of the late John B Keane was unveiled in the bar of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin on May 29, 2014. The porcelain blue and white painting depicts writer and playwright John B at various stages of his life, with his wife Mary standing in the background watching him. ‘’ Sure, isn’t it a grand place to be keeping an eye on the man himself’’ Mary Keane said. ‘’ I am absolutely delighted with it – It’s a kaleidoscope of his life as it captures everything about him. It was painted by renowned artist Cian Mc Loughlin and commissioned by MCD’s Caroline Downey and Denis Desmond.
It is now twenty years since the death of unquestionably rural Irelands greatest spokesman John Brendan Keane, playwright, novelist and essayist. Gone but not forgotten he continues to entertain the Irish people through the performances of his plays by drama groups throughout the land, plus his books and vast number of writings. When it came to wit , humour, and a way with words, he was definitely the daddy of them all.
Here is the latest picture and statement from the committee.
Update: Following advice from the Department of Rural and Community Development and Minister Heather Humphreys, Friends of Listowel Cinema in collaboration with a well known businessman in the town submitted a proposal to Kerry County Council yesterday under what is known as The Town and Villages Renewal Scheme.This scheme funds projects that “bring vacant and derelict buildings and sites back into use as multi-purpose spaces. This includes former state owned property that is no longer being used and is made available to the community. Multi-purpose use includes enterprise spaces, arts, tourism, youth hubs and other community uses” as part of Our Rural Future – Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021 – 2025 and the Government’s recently published ‘Town Centre First’ policy.Our proposal seeks funding for a multipurpose tourism and arts venue in Listowel to include a 60 seat cinema, military museum and community cafe.And just like in Top Gun: Maverick it requires two miracles, the second one entirely dependent on the first. We will know by July 22nd if KCC have forwarded our proposal to the Department who will have the final say.
Thank you for your continued support.
Back on Track
The train will run for the summer on weekdays, 1.00p.m to 4.30p.m. Last train at 4.00 p.m.
Dave O’Sullivan unearthed this story in the Evening Echo of July 13 1921. Thomas Murphy, butcher of this parish had been interned for his part in the civil disobedience that had taken place some time previously.
Here again is an account of that skirmish;
PLOUGHING THE COWS LAWN
One hundred years ago this week, a remarkable event took place in Listowel. A courageous action by a group of leaders in the town, armed only with hurleys, struck a non-violent blow on behalf of the people of the town to be masters of their own destiny, and to ‘walk their own land’.
The event itself was the ploughing of the Cows Lawn, the property of Lord Listowel which was eventually to lead to the provision of probably the best loved amenity in the town – the present Town Park.
While a group of people ‘ploughing’ might seem a harmless enough activity, this ploughing was anything but harmless. It led to a number of clashes and confrontations between the police and a number of local men, thirteen of whom were sentenced to 12 months in Cork and Belfast Gaol
To understand what a momentous occasion it was we have only to see the headlines in The Kerryman the following week:
As World War I raged, shortages of food and rising prices in 1917 started to cause distress in the town. The British Ministry of Food set up a food control committee for Ireland on 31 August 1917 and many of its regulations, in theory, applied to this country. Sinn Féin established Food Committees throughout the country and started to organise local markets, distribution of local food at fair prices and arrangements for the poor of the town to get small areas of land or allotments to grow their own food.
In February 1917, Listowel Urban Council Chairman Jack McKenna had been involved in a fruitless exchange of letters with Lord Listowel looking for permission to use 15 to 20 acres of vacant land
to be distributed among ‘artisans, labourers and small traders of the town … on which they could raise food to supplement their small earnings’. While a number of small unsuitable fields had been suggested, these were not acceptable to the Urban Council.
The two fields identified as the most suitable for the purpose were called at the time the Back Lawn and the Front Lawn . These fields were at that time leased from Lord Listowel by two local men and ‘negotiations’ were opened with them to give up their tenancies. John Keane held the front lawn and was willing to give up his tenancy.’Mr Keane was prepared to forego his right for the purpose of enabling the Council to proceed with the scheme, provided that Lord Listowel was satisfied’.
Mr. Kenny who had the grazing of the back lawn was not keen to give up his title. He had a butcher shop – it was absolutely essential to enable him to carry on his trade as a butcher in the adjoining Church St. However he was persuaded to ‘do the right thing’.
On 25th February 1918, tired of waiting for permission, the Sinn Féin Food Committee with the help of the Irish Volunteers from Moyvane, Knockanure, Finuge, Rathea, Ballyconry and Ballylongford marched into the town ‘all armed with hurleys and headed by bands, while ploughs and horses brought up the rear. They were cordially received by the Listowel Company of Irish Volunteers with their brass band. The whole procession, composed of some eleven or twelve hundred Volunteers, marched to the estate office in Feale View at 1.30 o’clock where the above mentioned waited on Mr. M. Hill, who is Lord Listowel’s chief clerk’.
Although Messrs. Kenny and Keane had given up possession, Mr Hill refused to hand over the keys as he had not got orders from Lord Listowel. The Volunteers then broke open the gates leading to the back lawn near the National School house. The ploughs and ploughmen started operations and another section of Vounteers took over the front lawn. Over the following two months, local people continued with tilling the land despite visits from the R.I.C., and the threat of court proceedings which culminated in the imprisonment of thirteen of the ‘offenders’ in Cork and Belfast Gaols.
Mr. Thomas Murphy was one of these 13
This was just the start of an endeavour that fifty years later culminated in the acquisition of the two lawns for the people of Listowel. It had taken from the twelfth century, firstly with the Fitzmaurices and then with earls of Listowel as overlords, to put the lands back into the hands of the people of the town.
Missing The Lartigue
A trip on the restored Lartigue used to be a feature of Listowel summers.
Turning the sod at the new Dementia Care Unit in Greenville
Mike Moriarty addressing the invited guests.
Musicians and singers, Mile Moriarty, Denis O’Rourke, Batty Hannon, Caitriona O’Neill and John Kinsella
Committee Members and dignitaries turn the first sod.
VISIBLE in Pres
VISIBLE is an initiative for Mental Health week which aims to acknowledge and include people of all sexual orientation. Here are the staff of Presentation Secondary school Listowel raising the LGBT flag as part of this.
Ballincollig Active Retired folk at the Lartigue
A minute of Your Time
When I went to Tralee on my book promotion tour I met a lovely past pupil, Sandra Lynch. Sandra is th store manager in Super Valu Tralee and the answer is yes. They will stock A Minute of Your Time.
It is available in Listowel bookshops and Super Valu and i’m slowly spreading the word.