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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Long Ago Christmasses

Photo: Eamon ÓMurchú in Portmarnock in December 2021


Christmas in Ballybunion

From the Schools’ Folklore Collection 1937/38

Christmas Day
Christmas comes but once a year;
When it comes it brings good cheer,
When it goes it leaves us here,
And what will we do for the rest of the year.
When Christmas morning dawns everyone is up early and goes to early Mass, and many receive Holy Communion. When people meet on their way to Mass their salutes to each other are:- “A happy Christmas to you” and the reply is – “Many happy returns”. The children are all anxiety to see what Santa Claus has brought them.
When Mass and breakfast are over the children play with their toys while the elders are busy preparing the Christmas dinner.
The chief features of an Irish Christmas dinner are – roast turkey, or goose and a plum pudding. The remainder of the day is spent in the enjoyment and peace of the home, and the family circle.
Christmas customs vary from country to country but the spirit of Christmas is the same the wide world over. It is the time of peace, and it is also the feast for the children, because it was first the feast of the Child Jesus who was born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand long years ago.

Collector Máighréad Ní Chearbhaill

Address, Ballybunnion, Co. Kerry.

Teacher: Máire de Stac.


Some Christmas Windows 2021

Taelane Store
Coco for Kids
The Gentleman Barbers’


Our Perennial Christmas Story

(I never tire of this one).

The Christmas Coat   

Seán McCarthy  1986

Oh fleeting time, oh, fleeting time

You raced my youth away;

You took from me the boyhood dreams

That started each new day.

My father, Ned McCarthy found the blanket in the Market Place in Listowel two months before Christmas. The blanket was spanking new of a rich kelly green hue with fancy white stitching round the edges. Ned, as honest a man as hard times would allow, did the right thing. He bundled this exotic looking comforter inside his overcoat and brought it home to our manse on the edge of Sandes bog.

The excitement was fierce to behold that night when all the McCarthy clan sat round the table. Pandy, flour dip and yolla meal pointers, washed down with buttermilk disappeared down hungry throats. All eyes were on the green blanket airing in front of the turf fire. Where would the blanket rest?

The winter was creeping in fast and the cold winds were starting to whisper round Healy’s Wood; a time for the robin to shelter in the barn. I was excited about the blanket too but the cold nights never bothered me. By the time I had stepped over my four brothers to get to my own place against the wall, no puff of wind, no matter however fierce could find me.

After much arguing and a few fist fights (for we were a very democratic family) it was my sister, Anna who came up with the right and proper solution. That lovely blanket, she said was too fancy,  too new and too beautiful to be wasted on any bed. Wasn’t she going to England, in a year’s time and the blanket would make her a lovely coat!. Brains to burn that girl has. Didn’t she prove it years later when she married an engineer and him a pillar of the church and a teetotaler? Well maybe a slight correction here. He used to be a pillar of the pub and a total abstainer from church but she changed all that. Brains to burn!

The tailor Roche lived in a little house on the Greenville Road with his brother Paddy and a dog with no tail and only one eye. Rumours abounded around the locality about the tailor’s magic stitching fingers and his work for the English royal family.  Every man, woman and child in our locality went in awe of the Tailor Roche. Hadn’t he made a coat for the Queen of England when he was domiciled in London, a smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales and several pairs of pyjamas for Princess Flavia.

The only sour note I ever heard against the tailor’s achievements came from The Whisper Hogan, an itinerant ploughman who came from the west of Kerry.

“ If he’s such a famous  tailor,” said Whisper, “why is it that his arse is always peeping out through a hole in his trousers?.

Hogan was an awful begrudger. We didn’t pay him any heed. Tailor Roche was the man chosen to make the coat from the green blanket. Even though it was a “God spare you the health” job, a lot of thought went into the final choice of a tailor.

The first fitting took place of a Sunday afternoon on the mud floor of the McCarthy manse. The blanket was spread out evenly and Anna was ordered to lie very still on top of it. Even I, who had never seen a tailor at work thought this a little strange. But my father soon put me to rights when he said, “Stop fidgeting, Seáinín , you are watching a genius at work.” Chalk, scissors, green thread and plenty of sweet tea with a little bit of bacon and cabbage when we had it. A tailor can’t work on an empty stomach.

The conversion went apace through Christmas and into the New Year. Snip snip, stitch, stich, sweet tea and fat bacon, floury spuds. I couldn’t see much shape in the coat but there was one thing for sure – it no longer looked like a blanket. Spring raced into summer and summer rained its way into autumn. Hitler invaded Poland and the British army fled Dunkirk, the men of Sandes Bog and Greenville gathered together shoulder to shoulder to defend the Ballybunion coastline and to bring home the turf.

Then six weeks before Christmas disaster struck the McCarthy clan and to hell with Hitler, the British Army, and Herman Goering. We got the news at convent mass on Sunday morning the Tailor Roche had broken his stitching hand when he fell over his dog, the one with the one eye and no tail. Fourteen months of stitching, cutting, tea drinking and bacon eating down the drain. Even a genius cannot work with one hand.

Anna looked very nice in her thirty shilling coat from Carroll Hengan’s in Listowel as we walked to the train. Coming home alone in the January twilight I tried hard to hold back the tears. She would be missed.  The Tailor was sitting by the fire, a mug of sweet tea in his left hand and a large white sling holding his right-hand. I didn’t feel like talking so I made my way across the bed to my place by the wall. It was beginning to turn cold so I drew the shapeless green bindle up around my shoulders. It was awkward enough to get it settled with the two sleeves sticking out sideways and a long split up the middle. Still, it helped keep out the frost. Every bed needs a good green blanket and every boyhood needs a time to rest.

The ghosts of night will vanish soon

When winter fades away

The lark will taste the buds of June

Mid the scent of new mown hay.


From the Top Shelf

Vincent Carmody has a new book out for Christmas. This one is a collaboration with Limerick historian, Tom Donovan. It is a must have for anyone with a Limerick connection. Even if you have no affiliation to the Treaty City this book is a valuable insight into trade in our part of the country in the recent past.


Outdoor Dining, Knitting, a Mural and a Limerick

Bridge to Listowel Racecourse


Outdoor Living in Summer 2021

Flanagans of Church Street with a well co ordinated outdoor on the pavement seating area.


Some Premises getting an upgrade


Knitting is having a Moment

An English newspaper caption writer came up with the best one for this. Olympics 2020 when Tom Daley came out…as a knitter.

He may have won a gold medal for diving but he has won even more plaudits for his knitting. While waiting between dives, Daley chilled out by knitting himself a cardigan.

We were ahead of the curve in our family. Here I am eleven years ago teaching Killian, aged 4, to knit.


A Laugh

There once was a man of Bengal

Who was asked to a fancy dress ball;

He murmured “I’ll risk it-

And go as a biscuit.”

But a dog ate him up in the hall.



Update on the Mural

The latest mural in the Listowel Characters project is on Mill Lane. The quotation is from Maurice Walsh. The final piece of the quotation seems to me to say that Kerry is a small place too.

I returned later yesterday and this is how it looks now.

The artists, Mack Signs, were putting the finishing touches to the letters.

“and you can put your finger on the village and the river, if you are able.” I’m still puzzling it out.

You can see the remains of the doodle grid. That will all be covered up in the end.

This gives you an idea of the scale of the mural in situ.


Butterflies, Michael Collins, Hurling and Anonymous Letters

A picture, A Botany lesson and some philosophy from Raymond O’Sullivan on Facebook

Buddleia, the butterfly bush (Irish: tor an fhéileacáin), divides gardeners into two warring factions: to the ecologically minded it is a noxious, invasive weed, and to the other it is a colourful perennial shrub, which, just as it says on the tin, attracts butterflies. Personally speaking, although the buddleia in my garden is c. 20 years old, it has yet to reproduce itself and every August it isfestooned with flowers and butterflies.

In many cultures around the world butterflies are associated with the souls of the dead. The transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly provides a perfect model to explain the concept of the soul leaving the body, of life after death. Some people believe that if a butterfly lands on your shoulder it is the soul of a deceased loved one making physical contact with you again. A nice thought, but, be that as it may, no garden truly blooms until butterflies have danced upon it and I would not be without my butterfly bush.

“May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun, and find your shoulder to alight on
To bring you luck, happiness and riches today, tomorrow and beyond.”- Irish Blessing.


There’s Something about Hurling

Ivan O’Riordan took this awesome picture of the victorious Limerick hurlers returning home on August 20 2018

The country has gone mad for hurling this week but in some places it was ever thus.

A photo from The National Archive of Michael Collins throwing in the slioter at the start of the 1921 All Ireland Hurling Final.

A Short Year Later


Unwelcome letters

Recently I received some “warning letters” which upset me. They weren’t anonymous, but nevertheless, upsetting. I took consolation from this article by John B. Keane in The Limerick Leader Archive.

ANONYMOUS letters again this week. This week there is a long one, a poison pen epistle from London. I gave it away after the first two pages. It must have been twenty pages long. It was a deliberate attempt to misinterpret a statement I made recently on television.

With regard to poison pen letters, I have this to say. Those who write them are in dire need of medical treatment and the letters, instead of being frowned upon, should be given to one’s local doctor.

He will find men in his own field who may be helped in their study of mental problems by such letters.

This latest letter sent to me is only one of hundreds I have received down the years. Whenever I receive good publicity at home or abroad in newspapers, magazines or television, these letters never fail to arrive. At first I would be worried but as time went by I realised that the unfortunate people who write the letters are not really to blame.

Envy, jealousy, annoyance, resentment and hatred are in the makeup of every human being and when these fester or turn sour the result is often the nasty anonymous letter.

The first one I ever received was after I wrote Sive. The letter was posted in Listowel and it had a clipping from the Catholic Standard enclosed.

It was a very vicious letter and the clipping was attached in a futile endeavour to support the claims of the writer. My wife and I were very upset at the time and spent a few sleepless nights over it.

I was so upset that I decided to find out who sent it. A tall order one might think. Not really.

The fact that the letter was posted in Listowel did not necessarily mean that the writer was a native of Listowel. However, I had a hunch that the person was from Listowel.

At the time, quite a number of people in the town received the Standard every week. I was one of them. I found out who many of the others were and I proceeded to investigate.

It was simplicity itself. A woman friend, on my instruction, would borrow a Standard in an effort to trace the writer.

Eventually, a Standard turned up with a piece missing. The piece I received fitted perfectly into the vacant space.

I, therefore, found out without difficulty who the writer of the letter was. I got the shock of my life, so much so that I never want to know the identity of any poison-pen author again.

The woman was a stout churchgoer and avowed goodie.

All I did was to hand her back her clipping and letter. She accepted without a word and I recalled a number of good turns I had done her down the years.

The moral here is this. If you receive an anonymous letter tomorrow or the day after or any other day do not be upset. Rather be concerned for the sender.

St. John’s, old Limerick, a Ballymacelligott memoir and a street céilí

Moon over St. John’s in February 2018


Limerick 1940’s

Photo from a site called European Beauty on the internet


Being a Teenager in Kerry in the 1950s

This is an extract from a great memoir by Jerry Savage R.I.P.. You can read the whole memoir on

Find My Kerry Ancestors

Growing up at home in our school days we helped at home on the farm.  We were never bored.  In winter time we helped tend the cows and horse and clean out the stalls.  We also learned to milk the cows.  In the springtime we helped to set the potatoes and sow the oats and other crops.  In summer time we helped to save the hay and then draw it to the shed.  The oats and wheat were cut and saved in August and threshed in September.  That was the day we loved the most and a lot of the neighbours, called a ‘meitheal’ came to help on the day and we had a day off school.  We also cut and saved the turf.  It was hard work and we travelled eight miles on a horse and cart to do it. We also drew it home on a horse and cart.  There were no oil fires then but all these jobs prepared us for our experiences later in life.

Starting school in Tralee Technical School was an experience.  We had to cycle five miles to and from school, in winter and summer, rain or shine but we got used to it.   We made new friends and we took on new lessons to learn new subjects.  After two years I was selected as an apprentice to a garage in Rock Street in Tralee in 1942.  Motor cars were scarce then. There were only lorries and tractors.  The hackney men, teachers, doctors and parish priests had cars.


Seachtain na Gaeilge 2018

I happened to be in Tralee during SnaG 2018 and there was a street céilí in full swing in the square.

Providing the music was that great Kanturk balladeer and musician Tim Browne. I taught Tim a cúpla focal many moons ago


Doran’s Corner?

There is a tradition in Listowel of calling a corner after the shop that stands there. I wonder will this corner come to be named after the new pharmacy.


Looking for Flavin Family

I have been contacted by Stephen Flavin who is looking to make contact with any of the Irish side of his family, particularly anyone who may remember his late father.

“My name is Stephen Flavin. My father (deceased) was Michael Joseph Flavin who was possibly named (or even related to ) Michael Joseph Flavin Nationalist MP. 

My father was born in Listowel Dhirah West in 1917. I am trying to find anyone who may have known him when he was a boy/young man before he emigrated around 1946 to Corsham in Wiltshire. I would love to find a (school) photograph of him. He attended a local national school in the area around Listowel. He may have been mentioned in the school register/log book. 

Anyone from your group who can help in anyway would be fantastic.  

I realise that my father’s name was fairly common. I have seen a picture of Michael Joseph Flavin related and connected to FLAVINS book shop but this is a different man and family. 

My grandfather was Patrick Flavin and he married Julia nee Quirk and they lived with their children 4 sons (my father was the eldest) and 1 daughter called Sheila who married Frank Galvin who continued to live in the family cottage in the middle of a peat bog in an area called Dihra  West which is off the Ballybunion Road. You probably know that area well. “

Mary Gore, Centenarians in Limerick, and children enjoy a day off school

St. John’s Arts and Heritage Centre, Listowel in October 2017


The Late Mary Gore

Some time ago I posted a small tribute to Mary. I couldn’t for the life of me find the few photos I had put together to accompany such a tribute when I got round to doing it. As often happens, I came upon them when I was searching for something else so here they are.

Mary with a beloved granddaughter, Leigh in The Square at the Friday Market some years ago.

Mary chats to Eileen Greaney at a book launch in The Seanchaí.

Mary’s daughter, Helen and Mary’s lovely husband, Cliff

Three generations of Kellys.

Mary with her neighbour of many years, Georgie Molyneaux.

Fond memories of a lovely Listowel lady.


Some Limerick People who lived to a great age

Old age in Limerick

First, Archdeacon Patrick Lyons was born in Kilmallock on 16 March 1893 to Jeremiah Lyons, a farmer, and Bridget O’Keeffe. In 1911 he was a boarding student in St Munchin’s College, which was on Henry Street at the time. He was ordained as a priest nine years later. He has served as the parish priest to Ballingarry for 42 years. Patrick passed away on 1 January 1999, aged 105 years and 291 days. Next, Bridget O’Malley was born in Cappamore on 24 May 1883. In 1905, she entered St Leo’s Convent in Carlow as a postulant and was professed as a nun, becoming known as Sr Bernardine two years later. She spent over eighty years in the convent, passing away in 1989 aged 106 years 196 days. Finally, Bridget Cagney was born in Croom on 2 July 1876, the second youngest of Patrick Cagney and Ellen Irwin’s twelve children. She joined the Presentation Order in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 1895 when she was only 19 years old and became known as Sr Berchmans. She became a teacher in the convent primary school and taught music into her eighties. Two of her sisters and a brother had also taken religious orders. She passed away in 1981, aged 105 years and 160 days.

Get Fresh Air!


A Warning to Anglers in The Feale

I photographed this sign on the river walk. It is warning about the dangers of the spread of crayfish plague.


Schools Out for Ophelia

Last week schoolgoers had two days off due to Hurricane Ophelia. Day 2 of the hurricane, October17th was a balmy summer like day and it was lovely to see families making the most of the unexpected holiday.


At the NeoData Car Park

I snapped this yesterday. I don’t know what’s happening here. Are they extending the carpark?

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