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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Charles Street junction with Mill Lane

Great plans for Listowel Community Centre

Photos from Listowel Community Centre on Facebook.

A Black Diamond

Image and story from

Black Diamond – Funeral Custom 

Here are some original black diamonds given to me by an undertaker from Kilmuckridge, Co. Wexford a few years which he had left over from the 1960s. 

For those of you who don’t know, there was once a tradition of wearing black diamonds on your left arm for a year after someone close to you died. This was to show you were in mourning and people claimed that it had to be on your left arm as it was closest to your heart. These were sewn onto you jacket and given to you by the undertaker at the time of the funeral.

I was showing a group of older people these today in a day care centre and they brought back many memories and naturally many did it. Interestingly there was one older man from Herefordshire in England and he remembered it too from his youth. It appears to have lasted longer here in Ireland but was mostly gone by the 1970s. You’ll still see the diamond on peoples arms in old photos and many people will still have the diamond in with the their memory (memorial) cards.

Flowers in Town

One of the first signs of summer is the return of flowers to our streets.

Here are a few from last week.

From My Yearbook Archive

A Fact

When humans first set foot in Iceland the only native land mammal they encountered was the Arctic fox.


Back to Base

Listowel Garda Station in February 2023


Nearly There


Brompton Cocktail

This old medicine bottle turned up a few years ago. It was dispensed in Keane Stack’s Pharmacy so it definitely had some medicinal intent.

Liam Grimes solved the mystery for me. This is a Brompton Cocktail. It was given to relieve the pain of terminally ill patients. It got its name from the fancy London hospital where it was first dispensed.


In the Garden of Europe

The statue of Schiller is looking fairly bare these days. Not too long now until it will be surrounded by yellow roses.

At the other end of the Garden is the Holocaust memorial. Chains and iron bars surround railway sleepers, a horrible reminder of Europe’s dark days.

Rough translation; Will remembering help?

If you stand with your back to the holocaust memorial you can see Schiller, author of Ode to Joy.

This is a good spot to sit and ponder. Listowel Tidy Town’s have obliged us with a seat.


The Honan Chapel, UCC

When I visited UCC recently I made my way to the Honan chapel. In my day there used to be daily mass in the Honan and it would be packed. That was when we had a resident chaplain and Tigh an tSagairt was a meeting place for anyone in need of company.

The beautiful stone carving around the door has featured in many a wedding photo.

The lighting on the day had this pink tinge which made photographing difficult. Above is just a small detail of the magnificent carving on the pews.


Writers Week 2007, St. Patrick’s Day 1961 and an old class photo and Helen O’Connor R.I.P.

We were never more conscious of the truth of this statement on the Listowel Community Centre gable than now in March 2020 at the height of the Covid 19 crisis.

Greg McDonough of Listowel and China who has just come out of quarantine set up a Facebook group for us

Listowel Covid 19

Here you can find up to date information about shop closures, services and who to turn to for help.


Listowel Writers Week

Plans for a big birthday celebration are frozen for the moment but hope springs eternal….

In the meantime Mattie Lennon, a great of friend of Writers’ Week and a great friend of this blog has been reminiscing. Here are his memories of the 2007 festival. His essay is a long diary like text so I’ll give it to you over a few days.

Once again I paid my annual visit to the most prestigious literary festival in Europe, if not in the world. On Wednesday 30th May Writers’ Week 2007 was officially opened  by renowned writer Joseph O ‘Connor. The author of such masterpieces as Star Of The Sea and more recently Redemption Falls, as well as many humorous works, complimented the Kerry people on their organising skills, literary and artistic prowess, footballing ability and of course . . . their great humility.

He later gave an example of Kerry wit when he told about meeting a friend of his who was on his way to meet Carlo Gebler and Joseph was asked, “Will you follow me up to Carlo?”Prize-winners were announced (Roddy Doyle won the €10,000 Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award for Paula Spencer). Pauline Scanlon who spent three years with the Sharon Shannon Band provided music, to a packed house.

On Thursday a full schedule started with a recording of Sunday Miscellany in Saint John’s Theatre where local writer Cyril Kelly regaled us with the story of how he had been in that particular venue when it was a mortal sin (Saint John’s was a Protestant Church at the time).

Through the day readings by Joseph O’Connor, Colm Tobin, John McGrath (whose book of poetry Blue Sky Day was launched), Roger McGough, and others stimulated the literary minds of the visitor.

Food for thought was in plentiful supply at Amnesty Event with Fergal Keane, Gerard Stembridge and Zlata Filipovic. Next Door by Listowel man John McAuliffe was launched and Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion read from his autobiography In The Blood; A Memoir of My Childhood.

Poets, essayists and others got a chance to perform their own work at the microphone at Poet’s Corner where the Master-of-ceremonies was the inimitable George Rowley.

(I’ve just read that and marvelled at the star studded lineup of visitors in 2007.)


St. Patrick’s Day Pageant 1961

Máire MacMahon found these among some old Drama Group stuff. Does anyone remember this?


Mr. Kenny’s Fourth Class sometime in the 1980s


+ R.I.P. Helen O’Connor +

Helen O’Connor, who passed away at the weekend was very happy  and proud on this summer Sunday in her beloved Duagh as she introduced me to her godson, John Relihan, who had brought a taste of international outdoor dining to her little corner of the world.

Helen had a gifted pair of hands. Her name will live on in the many many crochet and knitted pieces that she made for clients all over the world. If you have one of Helen’s creations, keep it and treasure it and tell your family that it was made by a lovely lady, who was one of the best crafters in Kerry in her time.

I took this photo of Helen with our knitting group in Scribes  the last time I met her. She was in good form and breathing a sigh of relief that she was free of treatment for a while. Helen told us that she had done something while on chemo that she hadn’t done before. She knitted a sweater for herself. It was beautiful. Helen was pleased with it and was planning to knit the pattern again in another colour. She had lost a lot of weight but Helen was seeing this as a positive and was determined to keep her weight down in future.

Because of the present Covid 19 restrictions, Helen’s grieving family are deprived of the comfort of a funeral. We, her many many friends are deprived of a chance to tell Tom and all her family how much we loved her and we will miss her too.

Helen’s busy hands are now still, A huge wealth of talent and skill has gone into the grave with her. I count myself among the many who were blessed to have known this humble and kind lady. 

May she rest in peace.

Garden of Europe, Festival of Kerry, Statues in St. Mary’s and more from the stars of Brendan of Ireland

It was Roses, Roses all the Way


Festival of Kerry…A Thought

Source: A Year in Kerry by Patrick O’Sullivan


Listowel Community Centre Looking Good


Garden of Europe in August 2018

This seat is placed opposite The Tree of Hope

This is what you are reading if you are seated here.


Moving Statues

St Theresa has been restored to a new position in St. Mary’s.

And St. Padre Pio has got company on his altar.


More from Brendan of Ireland

The purpose of the series of books was to educate children about the cultural differences between people in different countries.

Brendan, as a typical Irish child, wears jumpers knitted by his aunt, short trousers held up with braces and Robin sandals.

He walks to school and he plays hurling, pitch and toss and card games. His life is an outdoor one of turf and water from the well, feeding hens and investigating birds’ nests.

Brendan fishes for tráthníns and he keeps them in jam jars and changes the water every day before he releases them back into the stream.

Brendan finds a bird’s nest and cannot resist taking a look at an egg.

Frank Greaney remembers this well near the family home. You had to bend down to draw the cool water. Here Brendan is carrying a bucket of water home for drinking and cooking.

In the story the house has no electricity or running water.

Here Grandpa Jack is telling Brendan a story by the fire. Most people remember Paud Carey as a quiet reserved man, with little to say for himself. People might have thought him aloof or shy but Frank, who knew him well, remembers an extraordinarily generous man who waited at the gate of the  Technical School to give Frank 2 shillings when 2 shillings was a fortune.


Deer, Oh deer!

Christopher Grayson took this awesome shot in Killarney National Park.


My Pick

This is Saoirse McGrath, the 2018 Meath Rose contestant.

Why is she special?

Because she bought 16 of her 25 day dresses from her local St. Vincent de Paul shop.

So if he Roses are down your way keep an eye on her style.

The Kerryman Unbuttoned, Healy Father and son, Listowel Community Centre revamp

Photo: Paul Tips, Mallow Camera Club


The Kerryman Unbuttoned, (Part 3) by Redmond O’Hanlon

The strange idioms of North Kerry speech

Nettles do no
stink in Kerry. They burn or scorch. A prick is a pinch and soup is called
broth. Leggings to the Kerryman are gaiters and it is only with difficulty he
conveys the distinction between boots and shoes. Shoes and low shoes mark
weekdays from Sundays. Mud is puddle and puddles are locks. The Kerryman wears
his short coat, indifferent to the stranger’s perplexity as to the whereabouts
of the counterpart. Surely, I reasoned, when I first heard the expression, there
must be a long coat in his wardrobe. This does not follow at all. With a
characteristic disregard for logic, your Kerry man, and still more your Kerry
woman and most of all your Kerry girl will speak of a half twin when they mean
a whole one, and a square of crackers hot from the oven when they mean a

Let us take a walk
through the fields. See the bullock “itching” himself against the gatepost,
when in actual fact he is scratching his hide. That horse standing at the fence
may be false and one has to learn that this trait has reference not to a
vicious disposition but to the animal’s uncertainty of foot while under a cart.
Admire the riot of saffron buchalawns proclaiming at once the fertility of the
soil and careless husbandry.  In early
spring one may get a malicious satisfaction 
from the Kerry farmers attempts to convey in words the distinction
between freshly springing oats, barley and wheat. He lables the lot grasscorn
and thinks you a purist if you insist that barley and wheat are neither grass
nor corn.

(more tomorrow)


Father and Son from the John Hannon Archive

 This is yesterday’s picture of Jimmy Browne with Paddy Healy on left.

On the right of this photo is a young Liam Healy, son of Paddy. Any ideas who the lady and child are?


Forget Clouseau, Poirot, Miss Marple and the No. 1 Ladies detective agency. When the Listowel Connection network gets working on the case they leave no stone unturned. Many people identified A.T. Chute and Violet McCarthy but the second man and the two ladies were a mystery. The grapevine has gone into overdrive and through the intervention of Beta Whelan, Junior Griffin, and the super sleuth when it comes to identifying Listowel people, Margaret Dillon, we can now say with certainty that the man behind on the right is Charlie McCarthy. His son, Danny, confirmed his father’s identity. The fact that he wasn’t wearing his glasses threw most people but not Margaret.


Listowel Community Centre Revamp

When I visited last week the front of the Community Centre was painted and there was scaffolding all round the side.

The reception area was gutted and the shop is relocated. I was delighted to see the same smiling face, Mike Molyneaux,  behind the counter .


Hard Working Tidy Town Volunteers

I was in The Square at around 7.00 p. m. last evening and I met this happy crew setting out on their weekly tidy up. Years of relentless hard work and dedication is what it takes to win a gold medal.


Nearing Completion

This corner of town is completely transformed. Listowel’s newest pharmacy is looking well.

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