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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NKM in Listowel, Johnny O’Leary and Ladies’ Day at Listowel Races 2017

Photo: Chris Grayson


NKM in Listowel

Recently I got this email from a new blog follower.

Just back from a trip to Dublin I was thrilled to come across your blog and discover a note on the opening of the NKM sweet factory by my maternal grandfather Tom Armstrong- thank you so much for creating your blog .I now live in the Baltic States and its wonderful to have a contact with Listowel where my mother was born – Patrick Armstrong McCrea

I put Patrick in touch with Vincent Carmody and they have had some very productive email correspondence since.


Sliabh Luachra Music

This lovely memorial to the great Johnny O’Leary is in Killarney


Ladies’ Day 2017

 RTE and TG4 were out in force and beautifully presented

Daithí OSé was ultra obliging and posed with anyone who asked

Two Kerry legends, our own Jerry Hannon and Carrachán’s Daithí ÓSé

Beautifully turned out local ladies

Just one more Rose for 2017


Good News from Ottawa

Listowel was awarded five blooms, which is the top award in Communities in Bloom competition in Canada. Listowel also got a special recognition for its community fruit and nut garden.

Hopes are high for September 25th when the results of the Tidy Town competition will be announced. Listowel is hopeful of another gold medal. We all agree we deserve it. Everyone has worked so hard.

Dan Mulhall, Listowel Races 2017, Ladies Day

Photo: Chris Grayson


Dan Mulhall, New Irish Ambassador to the U.S.

Text: Mark Holan

Waterford-born diplomat Daniel Mulhall has begun his tenure as Ireland’s 18th Ambassador to the United States. He was scheduled to meet President Donald Trump 8 September at the White House.

They may talk about Twitter, in addition to more touchy topics.

Mulhall tweets Irish poetry and other messages to highlight Ireland’s achievements via @DanMulhall. His 13.2K followers are shy of @realDonaldTrump‘s nearly 38 million, but far more literary.

He is also planning to write regular blog posts to explain his role as ambassador, and deal with issues related to today’s Ireland and its links with the U.S., including culture, literature, and history.

“When the world changes, diplomacy has to change,” Mulhall said during a private reception I attended.

His priorities as ambassador, he said, include working with Trump and Congress on issues of importance to Ireland, including immigration; economic promotion; and engaging the 35-million-strong Irish-American community, “a huge asset for Ireland.”

Mulhall specialized in modern Irish history at University College Cork. He is the author of A New Day Dawning: A Portrait of Ireland in 1900, and co-editor of The Shaping of Modern Ireland: A Centenary Assessment.


1930s Transport

This photograph of Tom Langan is being shared widely on Co. Limerick websites.


Early Morning Dew in Listowel


Harvest Festival 2017

Patrick Godfrey took this photo of the firework display to mark the end of The Races for 2017. I only got to the Island on Friday and Saturday. I will share my photos over the week.

 On Friday which was Ladies Day there were well dressed people everywhere. It was lovely to see so many men making the effort to co ordinate with their women folk.

 Stylish Eilish was ,as usual, living up to her name.

Eilish’s beautiful hat is a Aoife Hannon creation.

Lovely mother and daughter combination

Betty can always be depended on to look cheerful and colourful.

Betty made her own hat, definitely a contender for jazziest hat. In my opinion much more jazzy that the chapeau that won.

Killarney House and Gardens, Craftshop na Méar and another instalment of Vincent’s racing memories

Chris Grayson took this photo of a peacock butterfly….more beautiful than any best dressed lady


Killarney House and Gardens

Since it opened to the public I have been planning a visit here. It is breath taking. If you can at all, go there before the winter. I’m sure it will be still lovely but at the moment its magnificent…and it’s free.

This is the entrance on the Muckross Road. These things on top to the wall and gates look to me like a sceptre and crown, letting you know that this is no ordinary estate you are entering. It was once the seat of Lord Kenmare. It is now part of The National Park.

The restored gate lodge

The avenue at the front of the house is beautifully kept and the lawns are pristine but nothing prepared me for the staggering beauty of the formal borders and gardens behind the house.

The house itself is a fine house but it is the gardens that make a visit here a must. This present house of the McShain family is actually converted stables which was transformed into a dwelling house after their other house burned down.  The McShain family sold their estate to the Irish people for a peppercorn rent. The state spent seven million euros on the restoration work.

The restoration work here is faultless. Killarney House is now another jewel in the crown of Killarney’s many visitor attractions.

The dining room and living room are furnished just as the McShains left it. Mrs McShain died in 1998.  Many of the furnishings and fittings are relatively modern. In this it is very different to Muckross House. Both houses are well worth a visit.


Listowel Tidy Town’s Vintage Day at Listowel Races

Saturday is my favourite day at The Races.  As they ramp up the excitement for this year’s event, Listowel Tidy Towns Committee have mounted a photo collage in their window display. There I am enjoying Vintage Day 2016..   Happy memories!


Perfect Pairs Stylish revamp


The Work of Some Local Artists on Craftshop na Méar Church St. Window

My Silver River Feale pendant by silversmith, Eileen Moylan

Listowel drawings by Maurice Hannon

Donkeys by Viveca Amato

Michael Tea Cozy by Frances O’Keeffe


Some photos from Vincent Carmody

Here are some more of the photographs which I took on the trip over to the racecourse last Sunday morning, September 10 2017.

Nos 1 & 2 The entry to the stands from the town end along the river bank.

For those unfamilar with the course, it  is linked to the town by two foot bridges, one just off The Square and the second from the Greenville road.  There is a roadway that runs directly from the Tralee road to the racecourse.

There has been a tradition among traveller children to stand in the river under the bridge, crying ” Throw me down something, ” to those passing on the bridge above.  This year, I am afraid, due to the floods, the habit will be dis-continued. 

No 3, The Castle in the backround continues to play an important role in the tourist attractions of Listowel. Even though the races were first run in Listowel in 1858, the Fitzmaurice Castle has been the central and focal point of the town since the 1300s.

No 4,  A fellow course spotter that I met on Sunday morning, I suppose if you met him there next Saturday evening, he would be called,, ” The Last Man Standing”

No 5,  Gypsy Kathleen has a very prominent location in the Square. She might, just might, have a few winners before the week is out. One would never know what she would see in that crystal ball.

Artistic Graffiti at the Ball Alley and Vincent Carmody’s Race week enterprises in the 1950s

Chris Grayson was on the Dingle peninsula.


The Ball Alley

A few years ago, as a project during Listowel Writers’ Week, the young people of Existance Youth Café, helped and supported by Listowel Tidy Towns’ Committee, painted some artistic graffiti on the walls of the old ball alley. Recently I noticed that the end wall has been painted over. I hope whoever painted it won’t paint over any more of it, because it is lovely. 


Twin Concerns this week; a Mayo football Jersey and a jockey’s silks in the window at Harnett’s


Home is the Hero

Photo; Darren Frehill on Twitter

Real heroes have time for their fans.


More Race Week Memories from Vincent Carmody

Overview photo of the racecourse by Pat Healy

Apart from the fine
fresh air and friendship that you will have in abundance at the races, the only
other thing free for the week is the free draw each day, entry forms to be
found on the day’s race card.

Race card kiosks are
located in several areas of the enclosure.

In my previous lookback,
I mentioned Paul Kennelly of Woodford.  He
used to be assisted in putting up the decorations by several of his sons. One
by one over time, they emigrated to seek their fortunes in England. Like many
before them, they worked hard and prospered. Murt, having done well, decided to
become a racehorse owner. Among the horses that he owned was Bregawn. In 1983
Murt achieved what most owners and trainers would only dream of, by winning the
Gold Cup in Cheltenham. It could not happen to a nicer man and family.

The weekend prior to
the races would see an influx of returning emigrants arriving at the Railway
Station. The Races was the one time of the year where anyone away would make an
big effort to return back to town and meet up with old friends.


Tuesday used be
the first day of the three day meeting. Many lads, like myself, would be down
early outside the Race Company Office in the Square; our mission, to collect
race cards for the day. This was another money making project for us young
fellows. Each card would be sold for one old shilling and we would take three
old pence for each one sold. On getting the cards, a bee line would then be
made to the Railway Station, where each race day morning at least four packed “specials”
would arrive.  It used be like London’s
Euston station. We used work in teams of three, with one always ready to cycle
down to the Square to get fresh supplies.

Here we were also
introduced for the first time to the Dublin fruit and sweet sellers. We used to
call them the Molly Malones. Afterwards we got used to their cry, “apples,
pears and ripe bananas!”.

Any cards we had left
after the railway station would be sold around the streets.

One year I decided to
go into business on my own, running a bicycle park. A bike would have been the
most common form of transport for a lot of country men in the mid 1950s. Each
day of the races from mid-morning droves of country men from the northern end
of the county would come down the Ballylongford Road to the town. By taking up
a position on top of the bridge I could easily canvas likely contenders who
would have dismounted and walked up the far side and who wanted their bike
parked safely for the day. Having secured a customer, I would take him down to
our yard, give him a ticket, get paid and then rush back up to the bridge
again. By early afternoon customers would have dried up so it was then off over
to The Island.

Our racedays were
spent like most others out in the field opposite the stand. Not like today,
where the field is used as a carpark, it was in those days similar to the
opposite enclosure, albeit without a stand. 
It had  bookies, bars, Tote and every other facility, even
including swinging boats. Evening time offered the magic of the market, and for
the week the cinemas would run a second film showing. 

Back to the bicycle
park. The less said about the bicycle park the better. Having got my sister to
help out in the early part of the evening, I then had to take up duty. On that
particular night it was after five in the morning before the last bike was
claimed. My mother and father said they had no sleep with all the comings and
goings, so that finished that idea.

A friend, Dr. Philip O
Carroll, now domiciled in Newport Beach in California, reminded me of Bryan McMahon’s
classic Listowel ballad, ‘Lovely Listowel’ first printed by Bob Cuthbertson and
sold on an original penny ballad sheet. I have a copy and I would like to share
it with all of those Listowel people around the world who could not join us
this year.

Oh, Puck may be famous
and Galway be grand,

And the praise of
Tramore echo down through the land,

But I’ll sing you a
ballad and beauty extol,

As I found it long ‘
go in the Town of Listowel.

I’ve been to Bundoran,
I’ve rambled to Bray,

I’ve footed to Bantry
with it’s beautiful bay,

But I’d barter their
charms, I would, pon my soul,

For the week of the
Races in Lovely Listowel.

There were Bookies and
Bagmen and Bankers and all,

Biddy Mulligan was
there with a green-coloured shawl,

And a cute little boy
pitching pence in a bowl,

Took me down for a
crown in the Town of Listowel.

The Hawkers were
kissing and bleeding as well,

We had Hoop-La and
Loop-La and the ‘oul Bagatelle,

And silver-tongued
gents sure I’d bet they’d cajole,

A pound from a miser
in the Town of Listowel.

Beyond on the course
there was silk flashing past, 

The unfortunate nag
that I backed he was last,

When he ran the wrong
way sure I lost my control,

And I prayed for the
trainer and Lovely Listowel.

Oh night time, how are
you-the night sure ’twas day,

And the stars in the
sky sure they looked down in dismay,

And they sez to the
moon then in accents so droll,

‘You’re done, for the
sun shines to-night in Listowel’

And you’d travel the
land to see maidens so rare,

With buckles and
pearls and grace I declare,

In my troubles and
toils there is one can console,

she’s a wife, be me
life, from the Town of Listowel.

My rhyming is over,
God bless those who heard,

For I’ll take to the
roads and go off like a bird,

And before I depart
well you all must pay toll,

So three cheers for
the Races and Lovely Listowel.



Last year on the Saturday of race week, Owen MacMahon gave an impromptu blast of his father’s famous ballad. He was helped by fellow “well dressed men” at Listowel’s Tidy Town’s Vintage Day.

Here it is


Races 2017

It’s still a bit blustery on The Island. The weather is set to improve though.

John Kelliher  some  great photos.

Killarney, an Oyster Drill and alas poor Gaeilge!

Birds at the feast   photo by Chris Grayson



I was at The Malton in Killarney to meet up with some old friends and I took a few photos while I was in that corner of the tourist capital of Ireland.

If ever there was a symbol of Killarney, it has to be the Jaunting Car.

“Jaunt” is a word that has fallen out of favour of late.

 This magnificent tree is at the entrance to the Outlet Centre.

 The Franciscan Friary is a beautiful church.

 I had never spotted this before. It is located opposite the Friary and just off the roundabout.

Look at the three very different architectural styles in this corner.

Killarney possesses great natural beauty but its built environment is a bit of a mish mash.


Interesting Fact I learned from Ethna Viney in Saturday’s paper

On the rock where I fish there were bairneach (limpet) shells with holes and the contents not fully eaten. I found out that the holes were made by the oyster drill. How long have these molluscs been living in Kerry?

Fin Broderick, Listowel, Co Kerry

The oyster drill is an alien, invasive species that came in to oyster beds with imported Pacific oysters, and is found all around the shallow parts of the bays of southwest Kerry.


A window display for the week that’s in it


Lost in Translation

There is a blogger who calls himself the Geeky Gaelgoir. He is amused to see the mess some people make of translating even the simplest of phrases.

This week our geek found a cracker. You have heard of the US slogan Black Lives Matter. It grew out of anger at what seemed like the undue haste with which certain police officers fired their weapons if the suspect was black.

A counter movement was started by the right wing and they called their movement Blue Lives Matter. I can only suppose that it is because so many US police officers are Irish American that someone thought it would be a good idea to have this slogan printed in Irish on a T-shirt.

The huge irony arises from the use of words to describe colour in Irish. For instance there are two words for green, glas and uaithne, glas is used for organic things like féar glas and uaithne for things like a flag, brat uaithne.

But our ancestors perception of colour was different to ours and the Irish for a grey horse is capall glas.

Gorm is the word for blue. We are all familiar with súile gorma.

But remember our ancestors different perception of colour, so black people in Irish are daoine gorma. Our friend with the blue line through his shamrock is actually supporting black lives.

Since his slogan is gibberish anyway, I dont think anyone will get it.


A Wet Sunday on the Island

Racing went ahead despite the showers and winds. This is Danny Mullins with Kylecue who won The Kerry Group Steplechase for the third time.

Clouds gather over a not too busy Bookmakers’ ring.

Solitary horse in the parade ring during a heavy shower on Sunday Sept 10 2017

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