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: Listowel North Pole Express

Boys on Tour in 1959, Christmas windows, a convict ancestor and a Christmas Memory

Photo by John Kelliher


Something old


A Poem  for the dying stages of the year by Gillian Clarke


More on Roz Scharf’s Fascinating Ancestors

Hi Mary

Edmund’s line came out with Cromwell.  They pop up as serving in Roger MacElligottes 51st Foote in the Kings’s Army.I know that they fought at the battle of the Boyne and there is some rumour that Valentine and Thomas followed Roger into the Tower when he was incarcerated.  Edmund lived in Ballyhallil in Limerick but as a dancing master he travelled around the country.  It was this that prompted the senior legal at the time to give him life because he used his role as a dancing master to sign people up to the Whiteboys.  I’m attaching a couple of items sent me by my cousin which detail the incident which eventually led to his capture.

I found it hard to reconcile his actions with a life sentence.  He was 51 when transported.  I have three other convicts all of whom were Rockites.  William Smith, a weaver from C. Monaghan, Thomas Maher who was implicated in the Holy cross incident in Limerick and Thomas Lysaght a Rocket from Limerick.  All three only got 7 years. Eddie is my favourite.  He was transported on the Brampton which was a ship with Irish rebels.  The guys looked after him, even reporting him as dead so as to keep him from the arduous voyage.  Luckily for me he was resurrected like Lazarus wgen he reached Sydney cove.  He was not a model prisoner and ended up in irons twice.  The final time he was released into his wife’s custody.  He also did a stint on the treadmill for being lazy but they did not take into consideration those calves of iron – conditioned from years of leaping as an Irish dancer.  I have written a chapter on Eddie which I can forward to you if your interested.  I have found that most people tend to glaze over when I start with my obsession but if I can weave things into a bit of a story, they come alive.  I try to be clear on whether its a good story or a true story.  (trained as a historian)

The O’Keeffes were in service on an estate called Lottaville.  My Great grandfather was baptised at St Patrick’s Cork in 1833.  His father was Cornelius O’Keefe and mother Mary Milliwick – the only information I have is a parish entry for their marriage and that reads Cork and Ross – Glanmire 1828-1841.  William married Julia Cotter on 15 October 1859 in Mayfield Ballinamought East, St Anne’s Shandon Cork.  They were both in service at Lottaville.  they had 2 daughters and 5 sons.  The youngest – my grandfather in1873.  Julia died 10 days after my grandfather died.  Luckily, the master of Lottaville (Capt Grey?) kept the family on.  Even when William left for Australia as a self funded emigrant, he allowed the family to stay on at Lottaville until William could send the money for the fares for the children who came to Australia one year later.  Needless to say, English kids travelled free.  I have so much respect for William because he made sure that his family didn’t go into the poor house but he worked to earn the money to bring them all out together.  It was difficult to track the family because of the English requirement that O’ was dropped from the name.  My aunt was most particular that the O’ was used and that the name was spelledlt with a double ff.  I have some photos from my great aunt’s album with photos taken in Cork.  Pretty amazing that people who did not have much took the time and effort to have a photo to celebrate their existence and this was continued in Australia.

Bray’s of Raheen – my great grand mother X2 are a hoot. They trace back to Hugh Brady Arch bishop of Meath.  Needless to say a tad more posh than the others.  But the brother E.J Brady has titled himself the grandfather of Australian socialism.  He was also connected with the kibbutz like settlement Ralaheen which was set up in Clare to try to give Irish farmers a shot at being self sufficient – not having English landlords or being require to tithe to the protestant church.

They were such an interesting lot.  I really have to acknowledge the research of my cousin Joanne who has been doing this for years and most of the wonderful insights have evolved from her hard work.

We’ll definitely have to catch up when I arrive.  I think with all the rebel connections, I might even ask for a passing parade from the lads.




More Listowel Polar Express Christmas windows

(Note; Photographing windows is very difficult because of reflection and  glare)

Coco Kids in The Square

The Horseshoe

John R.’s

Lynch’s in Main Street


Soup Kitchens in Famine Times

In the 1840s in Ireland workhouses and well meaning groups such as The Quakers set up soup kitchens to relieve the hunger that was claiming lives daily.

These famine relief kind deeds often took the form of huge pots of “soup” which were prepared for the starving people.

One of the more horrific stories told of that time is of starving children, demented by hunger, crowding round the big cauldron and getting scalded or falling in.

This pot is on display in a museum in Kilmurry in Co. Cork. There is a great website devoted to Famine pots and well worth a visit. Here is the link:

Famine Pots


A Christmas Memory

Seeing a photo  of Jackie McGillicuddy yesterday awakened a memory of a kindness at Christmas for Cathy Dunne. Here his what she wrote:

“The story of Jackies toys took me back. Every year I put away the toys for my five children in September and paid every week for them. One year the included batteries. Jackie said he would not put the batteries in but would give them to me separately when I collected the toys. Christmas Eve when I opened the packet there was no batteries. I rang but Jackie was gone home. The children were disappointed but I told them Santa must have forgotten the and would return soon with the batteries. 

On St Stephens Day Jackie arrived full of apologies and brought a huge compendium of games. Luckily the children were out and did not see “Santa”. 

Jackie was a wonderful gentleman. That service would not be available now.”

Well, I’m happy to inform Cathy that I’m reliably informed that Seán, Jackie’s son who now runs the business, is just as kind and accommodating as his dad. It’s a lovely shop to go into and all of the staff are helpful and knowledgeable. You can still pay in instalments and they will keep the toys until Christmas Eve.

Christmas in Listowel, Christy Ring remembered, laying the gas pipeline, a colourful ancestor and Christmas windows

Listowel Castle by John Kelliher.


McKenna’s Christmas Shop


A Correspondent with a Very Interesting Ancestor

God only knows what you will come across if you go delving in the family history. This lady who wrote to me recently sure found a fascinating relative among her ancestors.

I’m descended from a convict Edmund Elliott who was convicted for crimes against the English.  He was a dance master and a senior Whiteboy .  He was given a life sentence at the Kerry assize in the early 1920’2 and sent to Australia on the Brampton.  Apparently he was caught leading a raid on the house of the person who had employed him to perform for some local function.  His family had a long connection with Kerry and in particular Listowel.  His ancestors were part of the Roger McElliogotet 51st Foote that fought for the King at the Battle of the Boyne .

I’m a retied teacher and am planning to visit Ireland next September.   So far the plan is to go to Cork to see  where the paternal  line of O’Keeffe/Cotter came from and then on to Shanagolden and Listowel for the Elliott and lastly to Raheen in Clare to visit the home of the Bradys’.

My cousin sent me your blog because at present we are fossicking about in the Boyne to discover if Valentine and Thomas Elliott did porridge with Roger McElliogotte in the Tower.  Unfortunately, I think our generations have become somewhat anaemic when compared to the exploits of our ancestors.

Roz Scharf


A Cork tribute to Christy Ring


A Poem for today

A bugbear of mine is making nouns into verbs. People dont look anything up anymore.

They google it. People don’t insult you anymore they troll you. 

My own family have a word for what I do, it’s awfulising. So we are in the era of nouns as verbs. Here is a poem from someone who shares my dread of this new phenomenon.


That’s Gas

The big yellow thing in the foreground is the new gas pipe. Below is the park as it is nowadays.


Listowel’s North Pole Express

Listowel is pulling out all the stops this year to make sure the the children have a memorable Santa experience.  Click the link below to read all about it.

Listowel’s North Pole Express

Many of the businesses in town are getting behind the venture and the train themed Christmas windows are a big talking point in town these days.

My favourite is Finesse, which is the work of Listowel’s best window dresser, Cora O’Brien

Chic window features a replica Lartigue Monorail

Broderick’s Pharmacy features a brick built train.

Isn’t Listowel Veterinary Centre’s window splendid?

Hartnett’s Pharmacy


more windows tomorrow

A Famine Commemoration, the new pharmacy at Upper Church St. and my visit to Santa 2017

John Kelliher’s lovely photo of St. John’s in Winter 2017


Widening the park gateway

When this essential work is complete we should see a big improvement in traffic movement on Bridge Road.


A Famine Commemoration in Listowel

John Pierse makes it one of his life missions to make sure that Listowel remembers its Famine dead. His latest deed to keep the horrors of The Great Famine before our minds is a plaque at the hospital chapel. This plaque was unveiled on Saturday November 18 2017

The convent chapel is the last remaining piece of the old workhouse that is still in use.

The plaque was commissioned by Listowel Tidy Towns Committee and was executed by Darren Enright to John Pierse’s design. We also received a booklet on the day with valuable information about the Famine in Listowel.

John Pierse is a very painstaking historian. He left no stone unturned in his efforts to locate a photograph of the flower of the lumper potato. The lumper was the potato that everyone grew in Ireland in the nineteenth century. It was softer than today’s potatoes and was eaten raw by the people in the workhouse. Unfortunately it was very susceptible to blight.

Jimmy Moloney was the very able M.C. for the ceremony.

Julie Gleeson, chair of Listowel Tidy Towns, John Pierse, Kay Caball, John Lucid, Bryan MacMahon, Jimmy Moloney and Mary Hanlon.

Julie spoke on behalf of Listowel Tidy Town who organised the event.

Sr. Margaret spoke on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy in whose chapel the plaque was erected.

The blessing was an ecumenical one with Fr. Hegarty and Rev. Harding performing the prayerful dedication.

Some local people among the large attendance.

Ballybunion Tidy Town Committee were invited.

These four Mercy sisters came from Killarney


A Corner of Town is Changing

Refurbishment at Doran’s continues. Soon Upper Church Street will have a whole new aspect.


I met Santa Yesterday, November 26 2017

Folks, if you are familiar with the Lartigue, you won’t recognise it and if you’ve never been, you’ll think you are in Wonderland.

These are just some of the elves who have made this Listowel Santa experience happen.

The North Pole Express

will run every weekend from now until Christmas. Click the link above to book. There is a trip on the Lartigue, a visit to Santa, a cookie decorating and Christmas tree ornament decorating workshop. There is hot chocolate, story reading with Mrs. Claus and a Christmas movie in Santa’s own private cinema.

Listowel singers are singing carols live and there are goodies to take away. These goodies include a lovely Christmas story book written and illustrated by Olive Stack and visiting artist Jennifer Walls.

There is great credit due to everyone who worked hard to make this happen. I am particularly delighted to see the baton of volunteerism passed to a new generation.

Listowel’s Santa Experience 2017, Heaney’s Mid Term Break and Garden Centre at Christmas

First Run on Friday


A Poem for November

Today’s poem from Irish Stories of Love and Hope is often named by students as their favourite poem. The awful life changing, everything changing reality of death is so poignantly and simply told by Heaney that it resonates even with young people who have not yet experienced a death wrench.

I lost my father when I was seven and my only sister when I was 14. This poem never fails to break my heart.

Mid Term

By Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning
in the college sick bay

Counting bells
knelling classes to a close.

At two o’clock our
neighbours drove me home.

In the porch I met
my father crying-

He had always
taken funerals in his stride-

And Big Jim Evans
saying it was hard blow.

The baby cooed and
laughed and rocked the pram

When I came in,
and I was embarrassed

by old men
standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they
were sorry for my trouble.

Whispers informed
strangers I was the eldest

Away at school, as
my mother held my hand

In hers and
coughed out angry tearless sighs

At ten o’clock the
ambulance arrived

With the corpse,
stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning `I
went up  into the room, Snowdrops

And candles
soothed the bedside; I saw him

For the first time
in six weeks. Paler now

Wearing a poppy
bruise on his left temple

He lay in the four
foot box as in his cot

No gaudy scars,
the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a
foot for every year.


A Trip to The Christmas Shop

My young visitors love to visit Listowel Garden Christmas shop.


More on Paddy Drury as remembered by Jerry Histon in the Shannonside Annual in the 1950s

Paddy was a great walker. I heard him say that he brought this from his mother who, he averred, once walked from Knockanure  to Limerick and returned with a stone of yellow meal balanced on her head. This was during “the bad times”.

As I have said, without hearing Paddy tell the story, a lot of its local humour is lost. For instance, one day Paddy was seated in the snug of the public house in Listowel. The snug country pubs is usually called the office. A crony of Paddy’s passed in on the way to the bar. “Is it there you are, Paddy”. It is so and if you had minded your books like me you’d be  in an office too.

Paddy and his friend Toss Aherna one-day making a grave for an old men from Knockanure who had all his long life been avaricious for land. Toss spaced out the site of the grave and said to Paddy “I suppose the usual 6′ x 3, Paddy”.  “Ah” was Paddy’s retort “he was always very fond of the land. Suppose we give it another foot.”

When working for a farmer who had killed a boar to which the workmen were treated day after day for dinner, Paddy at last got exasperated and one-day for Grace said

May the Lord on high who rules the sky

look down upon us four, 

 and give this mate that we can ate,

and take away this boar!


The Lidl cat

This feline seems to have found a new home at Lidl, Listowel

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén