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 email@example.com
Some things in The Square have remained the same for centuries. Somethings are very new.
We have free Wifi.
We have a defibrillator
We have an outdoor public seating and dining area.
And we have 2 EV charging points.
St. Mary’s at Eastertime
These are the novels shortlisted for the prestigious award of Kerry Book of the Year at Listowel Writers’ Week 2023. The Kerry sponsored prize is a very generous €20,000. The winner will be announced on the opening night of the festival on May 31st 2023.
You can pick up a quick taster of this year’s programme in shops around town or on the website. The full programme will be available shortly.
Visit the website to book tickets for events or to volunteer to be part of this year’s festival.
My Aoife’s grandad is a gardener and an outdoor person. He found a new use for his wheelbarrow recently.
Coming to Writers Week 2023
Joseph O’Connor’s latest book tells the story of a Kerry World War 2 hero, Fr. Hugh O’Flaherty.
At 3.00 p.m. on Sunday June 4th you can catch Joseph O’Connor in a Writers’ Week 2023 event with Richard Ford.
In 1945 a computer at Harvard malfunctioned while it was being tested. When the lady who was working on it at the time investigated she found a moth had got into one of the circuits and she removed it. Ever since, when something goes wrong with a computer, it is said to have a bug in it.
An Easter Window in St. Mary’s Listowel in April 2023
Then and Now
On Church Street
Beautiful Cherry Tree
In Listowel Pitch and Putt Course
A Biden Story (Kind of)
From Mattie Lennon
When President Biden mentioned his great-grandfather Finnegan, the poet, it reminded me. The poet Paddy Finnegan was a friend of mine. He was from Galway and was no stranger to Listowel Writers’ Week. I don’t know if he was related to “the President’s Finnegans” and there again I don’t know that he wasn’t!
When Paddy died in 2014 two others and myself organised a “Finnegan’s Wake with an Apostrophe”, in Dublin’s Mansion House. President Higgins couldn’t attend but his daughter Alice Mary did. We made a DVD of the evening’s events,
I’ve a piece that I wrote about Paddy Finnegan after his death.
Paddy Finnegan passed away, unexpectedly, on 16th July.
Shortly after his death poet and writer Stephen James Smith wrote, “Paddy was a wonderful man who inspired me with his poetry and acted as a great supporter of other young poets too. . . as he speaks to me beyond the grave his verse is still unnerving me with his gravely pitted voice holding my ears. . . .Paddy you’ll always live on in my memory, you’ll always be one of the first people who made poetry sing to me, you’ll always be a writers’ writer, a warrior with words. The Fionn mac Cumhaill of verse.“
Paddy was born “between two years” either in the dying moments of 1942 or just after midnight on New-year’s day 1943 in Dereen, Kilkerrin, County Galway. Like everywhere else in rural Ireland clocks weren’t all that accurate at the time.
While a pupil at the National School in Kilkerrin a teacher convinced his father, Michael, that Paddy had academic potential. He got a Scholarship to St Jarleths College, Tuam, in 1956 and continued his formal education in UCD.
Paddy had a fantastic knowledge of the English language, was fluent in all dialects of Gaeilge and had a good grasp of Greek and Latin. His versatility was increased in the year he spent in Wolverhampton as one of “the men who built Britain”. He became an expert on how to fry steak on the head of a shovel.
He joined the Irish Civil Service in 1962 but office work wasn’t for Paddy. Apart from being on a higher mental plane than most of his colleagues he was an open-air man. During his stint there I’m sure Sigerson Clifford’s line often went around in his head, “They chained my bones to an office stool and my soul to a clock’s cold hands.“
He worked as a bus conductor with CIE from 1971 to 1980.
When I got a job as a bus-conductor in 1974 I was sent to Donnybrook garage. I didn’t ask who was the most intelligent person in the garage but if I had the reply would have been concise, “Paddy Finnegan.” As a conductor he could reply to any criticism from an irate passenger; in several languages if necessary. During this period Paddy and a few of his fellow intellectual would assemble in a city centre flat which was known a Dáil Oíche. It was a later edition of “The catacombs” as described by Anthony Cronin in Dead as Doornails. With such a collection of intelligentsia you can imagine (or can you?) the topics under discussion. He lived for many years in Lower Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh. If ever a house deserved a Blue Plaque it’s Paddy’s former residence.
He brought out a collection of his poetry, sadly now out of print, titled Dactyl Distillations. I know dear erudite reader that you know the meaning of dactyl but I had to look it up. It is, “a foot of poetic meter in quantitave verse.”
He was inspired by everyday events. His “Post from Parnassus” was inspired by the annual Saint Patrick’s Day commemoration of Patrick Kavanagh on the banks of the Grand Canal.
Post From Parnassus
(after Patrick Kavanagh)
by Paddy Finnegan
Here by my seat the old ghosts meet. Here, the place where the old menagerie Relentlessly soldiers on Remembering the old green dragon, me, On the feast of the Apostle of Ireland.
Ye greeny, greying catechumens Will cease to stage this ceremony Only on the command of Sergeant Death. Then break not the heart of poet past Nor that of preening poet present: But know, ye prodigies of prosody That multitudes in times to be Will listen to my lays And look askance While cods forever fake Their own importance.
More recently he recorded a, limited edition, CD, Fíon Ceol agus Filíocht. I hope that somebody will now bring out an “unlimited” edition. Since 1995 he was a familiar sight selling the Big Issue outside Trinity College and more recently at Bewleys on Grafton Street.
Paddy always had a story, like the day he was chatting to his fellow poet Professor Brendan Kennelly at the gate of Trinity as dark clouds hung overhead . “ . . . I asked the Ballylongford wizard for a meteorological prognostication. He replied in the immortal words: ‘ There’’ be no rain; it’ll be as dhry, as dhry as a witches tit.’ He wasn’t gone fifteen minutes when amazingly the cloud dispersed and as our old friend Pythagoras used to say: ‘ Phoebus played a blinder for the rest of the day.” That was Paddy.
I asked his brother James if there were poets in their ancestry. He said no, that their father was a farmer but, in the words of Seamus Heaney, “By God, the old man could handle a spade.”
Listowel Success in The Rebel County
Elaine and Seán O’Sullivan with Bobby Cogan and Carine Schweitzer.
They won the weekend table quiz in The White Horse, Ballincollig.
An old Post Box
This post box is on the street in Tralee at the corner of Day Place. These pillar boxes date back to an earlier era when they were painted red and had the monarch’s cypher on the front.
This one is one of the ones that had an angle grinder taken to it and the cypher shorn off.
Just a Thought
My Reflections, broadcast last week on Radio Kerry are here;
Absolutely pure gold is so soft it can be molded with the hands. A lump of pure gold the size of matchbox can be flattened into a sheet the size of a tennis court. An ounce of gold can be stretched into a wire 50 miles long.
Our Friday Market in The Square has been slow to get back on its feet after Covid. There were only three stalls there on the April Friday I visited. Hopeful we will soon see the market back to full strength and maybe even with a bit of music.
Trees on Listowel Pitch and Putt Course
President Biden, A Listowel Connection
I’ve posted this before but it is timely to post again.
Eamon OMurchú in 1974 is seated on the steps of Capitol Hill with Senator Joe Biden.
Here in Éamon’s words is the story behind the picture:
During the summers of 1974, 1975 and 1976, it was my pleasure and privilege to act as Group Leader on Summer Teacher Programmes to University of Delaware, U.S.A. Teachers from first-level, second-level and third-level from Irish Schools, Colleges and Universities participated in these programmes on Comparative Education. A central element of these programmes was that we stayed at weekends with host-families. It was my privilege to stay with a family in Wilmington each year – and I am ever since in very close contact with that family. Another element of the programme was a five-day stay in Washington D.C., during which we visited the White House, the Capitol, the Irish Embassy, the Kennedy Centre, Arlington Cemetery and other locations of importance and of interest.
It was also my privilege to greet Ted Kennedy on the steps of the Capitol in 1975 – and I also have a photograph of that occasion!
Through these teacher programmes many Irish teachers during the 1960s and 1970s had the opportunity to visit the United States during the summer, study at American Universities, stay with American families, learn about the American educational system and way of life, while at the same time bringing to America the rich cultural heritage of music, song and literature here in Ireland. We used every opportunity to do this. The man who spearheaded these programmes was Mr. Stephen Daly of ITP Travel, Terenure, who, sadly, is no longer with us.
I took this photo recently of The Kerryman building in Tralee. What a lovely old streetscape, well preserved.
A Lorgadawn Hurler in Kilbaha
(From Kilbaha School in the Schools’ Folklore Collection in the National Library)
One day below in Mick Hanrahan’s field there was a hurling Match and a lorgadán came out of the ditch with a hurley, and he sided up with one team and it was him that was hurling all the time, so the two teams said they would play the lorgadán and as fast as he would hurl the ball he would have it hurled again before it would reach the ground so it was him that won. Then they all gathered around him to catch him but when they were near him he leaped over their heads and went nto the ditch.
This tale was told to Patrick Kennelly to Patrick McMahon
Leonardo da Vinci was one of the most extraordinary people who ever lived. He was a painter, sculptor, architect and engineer.
He was the first to record that the number of rings in a cross section of a tree trunk reveals its age. He also discovered the the width between the rings indicates the annual moisture.
His party trick… he could write with one hand and draw with the other at the same time.
My 2 eldest grandchildren are all grown up now. Visits to pet farms and fairy trails don’t cut it anymore. They have found a new passion, Pitch and Putt. They played the Listowel course three times on their recent visit and pronounced it an excellent course.
A Poem by Listowel’s John McAuliffe
An Emigrant Remembers
John Leahy wrote to us again. His Listowel Connection, I’ll remind you, is with the Leahy’s of Leahy’s Corner Shop. John’s father was Sean Patrick Leahy. His grandather was Jack Leahy.
Thank you so much for including my poem and picture in your beautiful magazine. I was so proud. I seldom write love poems, but that one was specifically for Carina and means a lot. This has really brought out deep emotions and memories for me. On a trip home when I was about 13 or 14 my cousins took me to a restaurant in the Square; one of them nudged me and said with great satisfaction “look on the next table, that’s John B. Keane” Some days later one of his sons came to Tralee with us to see a band.
It was my late farther who got me into writing because of his great love of literature. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 93, I really wish he could have seen your magazine. Mum came from Donegal in a small holding near Killybegs. Her maiden name was Callaghan. I lost her in 1993.
Kind Regards John
Listowel Writers’ Week 2023
If you are in town on Saturday June 3 2023, why not come and join me and my band of able assistants on our morning walk. We’ll have songs and stories and not much walking.
There’s a Writers’ Week Parkrun at 9.30 for the more energetic.
Charlie Nolan’s video of the walk in 2018 is here;
Mary with her two sons in Namir’s in Ballybunion on Saturday April 22 2023. Mary was joined by family, friends and neighbours to celebrate the milestone birthday.
Mary with Mairead Sharry
Mary with Patricia Borley
With Maria Leahy
With Ruth OQuigley
These are just some of the friends Mary has made as she engaged in her many activities. If ever there was a poster girl for lifelong learning it’s Mary Boyer. Mary’s skills include, knitting, crochet, macramé, flower arranging, cooking, jewellery making and creative writing. A little bird told me she is learning the keyboard.
Mary with her old friend, Namir Karim, who opened his doors on Saturday especially to host Mary’s party.
Mary has that enviable ability to make friends and to keep them for life. We’ll be back for the 90th and for many more le Cúnamh Dé.
The first ever safety feature for a car was invented in 1908 by John O’Leary.
What was it?
He patented a large net like a giant shrimp net to be attached to the front bumper to scoop pedestrians out of harm’s way before they could be run over.
On my recent trip home Mr. Jiggs and Tana came for a chat.
Upper William Street
I posted this photo of Sheahan’s on Facebook and it prompted Gerard Leahy to share the below photo of his grandmother, Mary Ann Relihan at the door of her pub which used to be next door to Sheahan’s.
This is what Gerard said “I don’t have any photos of the inside but great memories. The concrete floor, the “grocery ” part of the shop in front, dry goods: sugar, tobacco, snuff, flour etc. and the little pub counter next to it and the dining room and kitchen further back. Outhouses in the back and the gate to the backway close to the creamery.
My grandmother was a butter maker at the creamery for years and her husband Jack was the creamery manager in Coolard, it got burned down. Jack went to America and spent most of his adult life in NY. He used to come back on visits. Mrs. Quirke would send a note up to Mary Ann to say he was back. He would stay there until invited up to Pound Lane !!!
Donie Finnucane bought the place around 1976-77 after she passed.
Wild Flowers on the Pitch and Putt Course
I think this is a nice idea. They have planted wild flowers around the base of the trees. Another lovely feature of the beautiful course.