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: library Page 1 of 2

Books and Men and More

The Square, Sat. Sept 10 2022


A Womanless Library?

My story of Andrew Carnegie and Listowel Library prompted Mattie Lennon to send us an account of a man who was no Andrew Carnegie. Here is the strange tale of Towsend Murphy Zink.

 A total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  66 were built in Ireland of which 62 are still in operation today.

  And if another benefactor, had got his way September 11 2022 would be the 17th anniversary of the turning of the first sod for the construction of a library of a different kind.

  When Iowa attorney T.M. Zink died on September 11th  in 1930, aged 72, he disinherited his wife in his will  and left $5 to his daughter.  The will, which had been drawn up on July 18th.   He left a sum of $50,000 to be invested for 75 years, when he calculated it would total about $4 million. This would be used to endow a rather unique library:  “A Woman free” library, where,  “No woman shall at any time, under any pretence or for any purpose, be allowed inside the library, or upon the premises or have any say about anything concerned therewith, nor appoint any person or persons to perform any act connected therewith.”

 He also stipulated that “No book, work of art, chart, magazine, picture, unless some production by a man, shall be allowed inside or outside the building, or upon the premises, and this shall include all decorations for inside and outside the building.” And over each entrance there would be a sign carved in stone bearing the words, “No Woman Admitted.”

 He said that his intention was,” . . .  to forever exclude all women from the premises and having anything to say or do with the trust estate and library. …”

 He went on to explain his  considered decision, “My intense hatred of women is not of recent origin or development nor based upon any personal differences I ever had with them but is the result of my experiences with women, observations of them, and study of all literatures and philosophical works within my limited knowledge relating thereto.”

 At the end of the seventy-five-year period, in 2005, no more than 25% of the estate was to be used for the purchase of the site and for the construction of a non-circulating library. He added that an additional 25% should be “invested in the best, most reliable and authentic books, maps, charts, works of art, magazines, and other authentic works containing all known information and knowledge of science, literature, geography, religions, and all known knowledge of the world.”

The document continues, “no book, work of art, map, or chart shall be excluded therefrom on account of any theory, philosophy, ethics, religion, or language; it being my intention and purpose to establish a library in which all known human knowledge may be found by any man wishing the same.”

  Townsend Murphy Zink was born on December 28, 1858, in Hillsboro, Ohio. While he was still a young child, his parents, James and Clarissa, picked up and moved to Jasper County in Iowa, not far from the county seat of Newton. Not one for the farm life, Zink opted to study law at the State University of Iowa. He received his degree in June 1883 and moved to Le Mars, where he would practice for the remainder of his life.

    Having been such a prominent member of the Le Mars community, his death was front-page news in all the area papers. Hundreds attended the funeral services that were held at his home at 112 Third Street, SE, which looks amazingly similar today to what it looked like back in 1930.

    On September 15th 1930 a piece in the Le Mars Globe Post stated that, “In the passing of Mr. Zink, this city and the members of the bar of this community, lose a real, honest man of high standing and ideas.” An editorial in that same day’s paper said, “If T.M. Zink had been able to attend his own funeral, he would have been touched by the evidences of affection and esteem which his fellowmen have held him.” The author continues, “There were many who sensed in a greater or less degree his underlying goodness; many to whom he had been kind in his unobtrusive way; many who had cause tosee his passing with regret.”

Today there is no Womanless Library as a tourist attraction in Le Mars.  Mr Zink’s will was successfully challenged and she got everything. Dr. George Donahoe from the state mental hospital in Cherokee. He testified, “Mr. Zink was suffering from a classic case of sexual paranoia, which is a form of insanity that is chronic, progressive and incurable.”

One way or another the “honest man of high standing” was no Andrew Carnegie.


Two Books and a Correction

I called to Woulfe’s to pick up In Our Day, It’s a great collection of first hand recollections of old Dublin.

While I was in the shop I spotted this poetry book that I had seen advertised. It’s lovely, a collection of poems for those times “when you can’t find the words.”

Now the mug Sean brought me from France…..I made a big mistake last time I posted about it. The mug is from Brittany not Normany as I said. Eagle eyed people will have recognised the Brittany flag.

Brittany and Normandy are kinda frenemies. There is a belief in Brittany that Normandy ‘stole” their Mont Saint Michel.

Apologies to my Brittany family, especially Sean.


New Business on Bridge Road


Parking is about to Change

These men, or men like them were at every parking meter yesterday.

They came to town in these vans.

I didn’t ask but I’m guessing they were adjusting our parking meters to take cards


A Fact ( and a warning)

Drinking too much coffee can be lethal. Ten Grams (100 cups) over four hours can kill the average human being.

Remember that next time you are dying for coffee


At The Races, Ballylongford a New Library Experience

Howth by Éamon ÓMurchú


A Poem from a Week of Poetry in Poetry Town

From the 10 to 18 September 2021 Listowel was one of Ireland’s Poetry Towns. Here is another of the poems that were available to collect all over town.

Great idea! I hope we get to do it again.


Ladies Day at Listowel Races 2021

A few more of Bridget O’Connor’s photos

The winner of Race Three; Game Catch

Patsy Dowling and John O’Connor

Christy O’Connor and his grandaughter

Margaret Kearney, Ballyduff

Maria Stack and Anne Leneghan


Blacksmithing Festival, Ballylongford Sept. 25 2021

The festival was part of the fundraising effort to revive and restore the old mill.

I parked in the church carpark and walked to the venue for the festival. At the bridge I came upon this group being given a guided tour of the architecture of Ballylongford by Dr. Declan Downey. Had I known that was on I’d have taken part in that too.

Declan Downey is a thorough researcher and an excellent guide.

At the corner I met these three heroes. I think they may be from Asdee. After a bit of good natured caffling they pointed me in the right direction.

I obeyed the sign and found my way to the displays.

There was a nice little crowd gathered around the exhibitions.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about what I saw of the fun of the fair.


The Public Library is Changing

I hadn’t visited the library in person in ages until a few weeks ago. I have been listening to audio books on Borrowbox and I have been reducing my “to be read” pile slowly.

I made my return with my granddaughter in Ballincollig.

Cora showed me how the system operates now.

It’s a DIY job now. You put your library card and then your book, whether you’re returning or borrowing, under a barcode scanner and all the information is digitised and recorded on a computer. No need for any interaction with a librarian any more.


Kerry Thanks

A full page ad in Irish Examiner, Monday September 27 2021


Just a Thought

My reflections, broadcast last week on Radio Kerry are at the link below;

Just a Thought


Courthouse and Ballybunion’s Geographical Sea Features

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú


Courthouse Plaza

Looking towards the courthouse and library from Courthouse Road

Listowel Courthouse in June 2021

Áras an Phiarsaigh in June 2021

Planting and Seating in the Courthouse Plaza


What to look for on The Cliff Walk, Ballybunion

Everywhere to your left as you walk along the cliff edge you will see signs of erosion. The sea has eaten far into the cliffs and the coastline is indented and rugged.

This is the legendary blow hole, known as the Nine Daughters Hole. The legend says that around 800A.D. the local chieftain, O’Connor, had nine daughters. A Viking ship sailed up and the nine Vikings on board fell in love with the nine O’Connor girls. Daddy was having none of it. He lured the girls one by one to the edge of the blowhole, by telling them that he had dropped his valuable torc (a piece of jewellery) into the chasm and he sent them to look for it. He then tossed the poor girls one by one into the hole.

I don’t believe a word of it. Would all nine girls fall for the same ruse? Not any O’Connor girls I know anyway.

Anyway the legend has it that he tossed the nine Norse boyos in after them so a kind of rough justice was done.

This is a sea arch. It is such a perfect example that it is often the one used in geography textbooks. It is known locally as the Virgin Rock. I couldn’t find the legend behind this one but I think before it was cut off and as eroded as it is today monks lived on it.

This structure is more recent than the others. I think it is for dipping sheep. The sheep went in one by one into a trough of disinfectant to get rid of lice and ticks etc.



When I was in Ballybunion, who did I meet but regular North Cork visitors, Tony and Joan Boyce. They were in their home away from home for a few days. Tony and Joan are my cousins.


John O’Halloran R.I.P. Remembered

Junior Griffin has been in touch to tell me of the passing of another old handballer.

John (also known as P.J.) O’Halloran was a neighbour of Junior’s in Bridge Road. He was one of the many young men who loved the handball alley and spent many happy hours there.

John lived in Killarney where he was a teacher in the Community College. Like Junior he went on to play badminton and was very involved with the Killarney club. Junior met him on an almost weekly basis during the badminton season. He says the chat was rarely about badminton, but about handball, Bridge Road and Listowel in general.

John passed away last September. May he rest in peace.


One Hundred Years Ago



A Minute of Your Time, Listowel Courthouse Plaza and Turf Cutting

Walking in The Regional Park, Ballincollig in January 2020


St. Bridget, Muire na nGael

These are actually Wren boys but in the same tradition of mumming Biddie boys traditionally came round at the feast of St. Bridget on February 1 bringing with them a Biddy or effigy of St. Bridget.

Her cross woven from rushes was thought to protect against fire.

There was an old proverb that predicted good weather until St. Patrick’s Day

Gach re lá breá ó mo lást amach


The Courthouse Plaza in January 2020

Listowel Courthouse

New seating in front of the courthouse

Arás an Phiarsaigh with new planting in the foreground

Listowel Public Library

New planting and seats outside the library


Another Kerry Winner in Dublin this Weekend


More Photos from my Book Launch

From Dunmanway, a friend from my schooldays, Elizabeth McCarthy

We three; with Geraldine O’Connor and Bridget O’Connor

Jerry and Annette

Hannah Mulvihill

Helen Lane McPhillips

The best neighbour and friend any one could have, Helen Moylan

Helena Halpin and  Sheila Horan

Jimmy Deenihan

Jimmy Hickey

Joan Kenny

Joe Murphy

John and Tina Kinsella


Definitely not Lyre

Remember this poor man cutting turf. I posted this photo last week and I didn’t know on what bog it was taken.  I got this response from Joe and Kay in Lyreacrompane.

Great photo Mary but not Lyreacrompane. Bord na Mona cut only machine turf in Lyreacrompane and also the horizontal style of sleán cutting was never used in Lyre.  The Lyre style is displayed by Kate Ahearn from California in this photo. Kate and her father Bob had discovered their roots in Lyreacrompane and while on a visit, a few years ago, joined our annual Dan Paddy Andy Bog Walk which always includes a chance to try out cutting turf in the old style.

Joe and Kay in Lyreacrompane

Sextons, A Minute of Your Time and a Writers’ Week memory

Kerry County Library, Listowel Branch


Changes at Sextons

This well known William Street facade is changing. The overhanging canopy is gone.


More Photos from St. John’s at the launch of A minute of Your Time

A lovely former pupil and now teacher herself, Julieaane Galvin.

Support from the North Cork contingent, Breeda, Margaret and Gael

Kay Landy

Keelin Kissane, former pupil and chair of the Dublin Kerry association

Anne Darby and her nephew, Killian Cogan

Lily Nolan

From Kanturk, a stalwart of Kanturk Arts Festival and friend, Lisa Egan

Lisa Whelan

Liz Dunne

Madeleine O’Sullivan

Máire Logue

Margaret O’Connell

From Galway, my old friend, Margaret O’Sullivan

From Kildare and Castlelyons,  a loyal friend, Margo Spillane

Doreen came from Ballyduff to buy a book for her sister in England

Marie Lucid

Mary Catherine Sheahan

Mary Dillon

Mary Fagan

Mary and Mairead meeting Cora

Another old friend and former colleague, Mary O’Connor

Clíona’s Kildare family who now regard Listowel as their second home, Tony and Mary McKenna


A Writers’ Week Memory

I’m still welcoming memories or photos of Listowel Writers’ Weeks past. Here his a lovely memory all the way from sunny South Carolina

I’m Robert Koch, the husband of Maeve Moloney of Skehenerin. We are retired and live in Columbia, South Carolina. I read your Listowel Connection regularly, as does Maeve, and she explains to me all the details about people and places in her beloved Listowel. 

I want to relate to you my fondest recollection of Writers Week. We attended Writers Week events in the 1970s and 1980s during our visits with our two sons to Maeve’s parents from our home in Washington D.C.  My fondest recollection relates to a conversation Maeve and I and the children had with the well-known, now deceased, Offaly-born, professor and literary critic, Vivian Mercier. 

During the 1960s in NewYork I had met and studied under Professor Mercier, but I had not seen him again until his appearance at Writers Week circa 1980. The moderator who introduced him mentioned that Dr. Mercier had retired from his professorial position with the University of California at Santa Barbara and that he and his wife, the well-known Irish novelist and author of children’s books, Eilis Dillon, were living in London and Dublin.

 At the conclusion of his presentation, I reintroduced myself to him and introduced him to Maeve and our sons.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, he actually remembered me! We talked for several minutes about our lives, and he was very much the friendly down-to-earth conversationalist with Maeve and the children. 

I then remarked how the climate in Santa Barbara was so lovely-warm and sunny- that I wondered how he could have possibly abandoned living there. At that point his demeanor changed. He became very professorial, pointing at me with his index finger, and he said what I have never forgotten and have been ever heedful of since: “Yes, but what about the intellectual climate.” “Enough said”, remarked Maeve, and we all smiled, talked for a few minutes more, and then parted.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén