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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St. John’s Ballybunion

Listowel Courthouse


St. John’s Church, Ballybunion

St. John’s is an astonishingly beautiful church.

This lady, sitting frozen outside the door, is who we have to thank.

Mary O’Malley Young was a very pious lady. She settled in Ballybunion after her millionaire husband died. She befriended Fr. Mortimer O’Connor who was the parish priest. She built the church and the convent for the Sisters of Mercy. She built two houses in Ballybunion but ended her days in the convent she had built. Mary Young invested all of her inherited wealth in Ballybunion. She did not live to see St. John’s completed. Fr. O’Connor was very ill but dragged himself from his sick bed to bless the church on opening day in August 1897.

Fr. Mortimer O’Connor is buried before the side altar in St. John’s

According to Danny Houlihan’s great book, Ballybunion an illustrated history, the original Ballybunion Parish Church was in Doon. It was a much smaller, simpler church than St. John’s.

Doon church fell into decline as the mass goers moved to the more convenient St. John’s. Doon was located about a mile from the town . St. John’s was completed in 1897 and gradually the congregation moved to the Church in town. St. John’s was first intended as a second church as the Doon one was small but the arrival of the Lartigue railway in 1888 meant that there was demand for a church that could be easily accessed on foot.

St. John’s today is a must see visitor attraction if you are in Ballybunion. It is, of course also a busy place of worship.


In Vincent’s

Listowel’s Vincent’s, the retail outlet of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is located at Upper William Street. These are some of the lovely volunteer customer assistants that you may meet there any opening day.

Vincent’s is open on Thursday and Fridays from 11.00 to 5.00 and on Saturdays from 2.00 to 5.00


A Butter Box

I grew up in Kanturk , a town famous for it’s delicious butter.

It is now called Ór but in my day local people just called it Kanturk butter.

I worked for a summer in the creamery offices. It was my first introduction to a telephone exchange…nightmare!

As well as answering the phone we had various callers to the office with various queries. I remember a consignment of butter destined for an African country and so made with some kind of preservative to keep it fresh on the long boat journey. The preservative coloured the butter dark brown. The ship broke down and couldn’t sail. The butter was returned to Kanturk and a decision made to sell it in the local shops. One lady called to the office demanding to see the manager to complain that her husband wouldn’t eat the butter. We told her the story of why it was that colour and we reassured her that the taste was exactly the same. Unmollified she demanded to see the manager. He was duly brought to her and his solution to her dilemma was “I suggest, ma’am, you blindfold your husband.”

The sight of a butter box in the window of The Horseshoe brought me back to that time.


Listowel Library

It’s well worth keeping an eye out for great things happening in the library.

For instance a Creative Writing Group Write Lines, meets on Tuesdays from 10.30 to 12.00.


A Fact

It is against the law to leave a restaurant in Italy without a receipt. Apparently this is not because they have so many diners doing a runner but because so many Italian restaurants were avoiding tax by doing cash- in -hand customer transactions.

So when in Rome, be sure to ask for a receipt and keep it on you.


TCD, The White House and Church Street

Taelane Store, Church Street, February 2023

The Taelane Store isn’t in Taelane. It’s on Church Street.



The new owners of the Iceland chain have had a change of heart. Iceland, in Mill Lane, Listowel is staying open.


In Listowel Library

Vincent Carmody and Kathy Buckley’s niece, Orla Buckley.

On Friday February 24 2023, local historian, Vincent Carmody introduced us to one of Listowel’s most illustrious emigrants. Kathy Buckley of William Street, Listowel was the White House cook for three U.S. presidents.

Kathy’s Listowel home

Plaque unveiled by the US ambassador during Listowel Food Fair a few years ago.

Sections of the audience as we listened in fascination to Vincent’s story of this formidable lady who represented us so well in the U.S.


Uplifting poem


A Bookplate

This is another chapter in the MichaelO’Connor story. The Cork Examiner account found by Dave O’Sullivan explains this novel fundraising initiative by Trinity.


Fact of the Day

Butterflies smell with their antennae and taste with their feet. The monarch butterfly’s feet (proper name tarsi) are approximately two thousand times more sensitive than a human tongue.


Just a Thought

My last week’s reflections as broadcast on Radio Kerry

Just a Thought Feb, 20 to 24 2023


Old Library and Young Ladies

Tarbert; Stephen Brennan


Carnegie Library

Listowel’s Carnegie Library

Denis Quille found this old photo of The Bridge Road. In it, on the right hand side, you can see the remains of the old library.

Quick recap on the history of that building.

In 1910 local leaders recognised the need for a library in town. They passed a motion at the UDC meeting to approach Lord Listowel for a site. They proposed to approach The Carnegie Trust for money to fit it out and then to pay for the upkeep from an extra penny on the rates.

The story dragged on a bit with approaches to Crosbie, Lord Listowel’s agent, to the Carnegie trust, a bit of a local kerfuffle when a Cork firm got the contract etc. until 1915 when the library or Hall as it was known was finally opened.

Listowel’s own Carnegie Hall was the town hall, a concert venue, a classroom and meeting room as well as a free lending library.

It thrived and served the people of the town well until one Sunday night in 1921 at the height of The Troubles, the building was gutted by fire. Fearing that the dreaded Black and Tans, who were on their way to town, would set up headquarters there, the local IRA burned the building. The UDC records as well as the books and equipment were all lost. A notice posted on the burned out shell claimed that the IRA had saved it from “the army of occupation”.

The ruin of the building remained on Bridge Road, a grim reminder of a troubled time until it was eventually levelled to make way for a store.

Derry Buckley who knows Bridge Road well has done a bit of research for us.

Derry has circled the houses which were built by his grandfather.

“Jerry Buckley, my Grandfather built a house, and then lived in it while he built another. He moved home to the next house as he went along, Dad was born in 37 Bridge Rd. in 1932. The twins who died were born in another then Beatrice and Toddy in the corner house 51 in 1938. The end houses which are in the photo 53 and 55 were built after this so pic is about 1940.”

Another piece of evidence that the photo is younger than I thought is the presence of electricity wires. Listowel had electricity before rural electrification. 

The below quote is  

Listowel Electric Light and Power Co. Ltd. was in operation before 1927. It supplied 336 homes and businesses in 1929, and was acquired by ESB in September 1929. 

 Source: ESB Archive


Old Photo from the Pres Class of the early sixties.


Ladies Day 2022

There was a prize this year for the most creative hat. I have a suggestion for next year. I think there should be a prize for the best hat made by an amateur. I saw lots of brilliant hats which were works of art but really didn’t stand a chance competing against the professionals.

Barbara Mulvihill looked so good in a hat made by her mother.

The model’s Mammy made this one too.

This Galway lady told me she made her own chapeau.

This creation won the prize on Ladies Day 2022. It was worn by Breda Butler, from Thurles, Co. Tipperary. She bought her canary yellow headpiece from milliner Cathriona King to compliment her dress from Kimono in Newcastle West,


Winter’s on Its Way


Our Library

Carnegie on Sunday Sept. 4 2022

Have you wondered why this building is called the Carnegie Free Library?

Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland but grew up and rose to fame in America. At the time of his death in 1919 he was the richest man in America. He made his fortune in steel.

Andrew Carnegie is most famous today as a writer and a philanthropist. He built swimming pools and laboratories in the U.S. He built Carnegie Hall.

On this side of the world he is best known for his free libraries. He was a believer in the value of education and one plank of widespread free education was access to books.

Carnegie set up free public libraries all over the English speaking world. Listowel was one of the many towns that applied to the Trust, securing a library for the town.

As you can see from newspaper cuttings of the time (sourced for us by Dave O’Sullivan) there was a bit of a local spat that delayed matters somewhat.

The first library was built in Bridge Road.

Denis Quille sent us this photograph a few years ago of the library building on Bridge Road after it was burned down during The Troubles.

The present building that bears Carnegie’s name is no longer a library. Our new free public library is located in the Courthouse Plaza. It is part of the National Free Library service. Carnegie is still commemorated in the name of the fine building in Church Street.


John B. Keane’s Sive

John B.’s famous play is said to have roofed more churches than any other. This refers to its popularity with rural amateur groups.. It is still popular with audiences today.

Back in 1958 when the play was in its heyday and winning accolades all round it, John B. got a local art teacher to paint a mural on the wall behind the bar in John B.’s. The picture was of the final scene in the play, Sive. Liam Scuab comes into the kitchen where Sive’s foster parents are preparing for her wedding the next day. In his arms Liam has the lifeless body of the drowned girl. It is a dramatic moment in the play shocking in its portrayal of the consequences of the actions of all the other characters. Every one on the stage had, through inaction or action brought about Sieves tragic death.

Katie Lucey as Sive in a re enactment of the final scene in Sive.

On Aug 25 2022, the artist, Moira Keane returned to John B.’s pub.

Billy invited her back to sign her work 53 years after she originally painted it. The local drama group re enacted the final scene from the play. We had a great night. It was great to be back at pub theatre after a long absence.


Passing of a Pet

R.I.P. Dinny. I don’t think I have ever mentioned this fellow here before. He was my brother’s 15 year old house cat who passed away last week. The home place isn’t the same without him.

When I called yesterday, I saw this thoughtful card from the vets that looked after Dinny as he came to the end of the road.

Small things mean so much that they are not small things at all.


Summer’s Over

All back at school after a great summer. Time is flying by.


Kells Bay Gardens, Turf cutting and Awards for dancers and musicians

Beautiful Kells Bay Gardens

Kells Bay Gardens is a beautiful sub tropical forest park on The Ring of Kerry. It is a truly magical place with dinosaur sculptures carved from fallen trees, forest paths, moss laden trees and rippling streams all nestled in a saucer surrounded by hills.


Well done Balydonogue Dancers and Listowel Pitch and Putt

Cathaoirleach of Listowel Municipal District Cllr Jimmy Moloney, presenting Ballydonoghue CCÉ Dancers, 

Aoibhín Lyons Captain, Órla Mahony, Sarah Murphy, Audrey Ryan, Molly Linnane, Edel Dillane, Shauna Carey, and Grace Heffernan, Cian Horgan, members of Listowel Pitch ’n Putt Club, Grainne Toomey, Sara Allen at the Kerry County Council Annual Awards, at the Great Southern, Killarney on Friday night. Also included is Cllr Mike Kennelly, Joan McCarthy, Manager Listowel Municipal District. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

( I took the photo and caption from Facebook. Apologies to the people whose names are missing)


All Ireland Turf Cutting Competition

The first All Ireland Turf Cutting Championship was held on 21st April 1934 at Allenwood, Co. Kildare. From the late 1600s to the end of the 19th century around 6 to 8,000,000 tons of turf were cut each year for home heating and sale. The industry in the 1800s mainly produced moss peat for animal litter and some briquettes. However by the early 1900s the amount of turf cut each year had fallen to around 3,000,000 tons. 

The turf cutting championships were organised as part of a campaign to increase the amount of turf cut and reduce the imports of coal. Eamon De Valera and other Ministers attended each year. The competitions ran from 1934 until 1939. When the war started everybody went back to the bog so the competitions were no longer needed. This photo shows the wing slean competition in 1934.



On Saturday 29th February. there will be a library tour at 11.00 am and 3.00 pm. Each tour will include a presentation on Online Resources so people should feel free to bring along their devices and we can answer any questions.  Also : every Saturday morning at 11.00 am we have Storytime & crafts for Smallies  –  For queries  068-23044

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