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 Races Page 1 of 7

Mary O’Halloran R.I.P.

Recycling Centre, Nolan’s Carpark in February 2024

My St. Brigid’s Weekend

I spent St. Brigid’s weekend with a Brigid, known as Breeda.

Here I am in The Vintage with some of my Kanturk friends, Breeda, Lil and Margaret.

The Vintage is a lovely bar and restaurant beloved by Kerry people passing through Kanturk on their way to or from the Munster capital.

Our next stop was The Glen Theatre in Banteer. Breeda had given me a ticket to Seán Keane for Christmas.

He sang all the old favourites. He was suffering from some lurgy but he was determined to power through. We helped him out. It was a great night in a lovely intimate venue among my own people.

An Spideog

David Kissane’s story of running and musing continued…

Cork poet Seán Ó Ríordáin declared in on of his inimitable works “Ba mhaith liom breith ar eirbeall spideoige”…that he wanted to catch a robin’s tail, a metaphor for attaining spiritual insight.

The robin worked for me today and before long, somebody was putting a medal around my neck and a small bottle of milk was in my hand in the district of Lios an Phúca (the fort of the ghost) which is the Irish for Beaufort. 

But that’s another story!

                                                            Leaving Torun

Which brings me back to the day I was leaving Poland last March after the World Masters Indoor Championships. 

On the taxi across the Wisla (the river I had crossed many times during the days in Torun) we passed the statue of Pope John Paul 2nd. For some strange reason, as I looked more closely at the statue, the peace and knowingness captured by the sculptor on the face of the last most popular pope reminded me of a painting we have on our hall wall in Ardfert. Bought in Blackrock Market in Dublin some twenty years ago. It is an oil painting by an unknown artist called Gunney.

It depicts an apparently retired man, painted from behind him, sitting in a wicker chair with legs crossed in a neatly kept garden. He is well dressed in a pale blue suit and wearing a straw hat in the heat of a summer day. He is calmly reading a book and his body-language suggests a life well-lived and all battles won. His garden gate is open, suggesting a freedom to come and go as you please. In the near distance there is a blue lake with a green island rising into a azure sky. 

When I first saw the painting in the art and crafts section of Blackrock market coming up to my own retirement as a teacher in Tarbert Comprehensive, I wished that man could be myself a few years after retiring. Reading a book in the afternoon sun. Beside a blue sea. Spirit-free. But here I was thirteen years after retiring, and well, yes I have a reasonable garden and I do live reasonably near the sea, and yes, I see islands under a blue sky not far away, and I do have loads of books to read…but I cannot recall too many days sitting down on a wicker chair or any other type of chair reading a book in the heat of the afternoon. I’d prefer to go for a run! In fact, as my friendly Polish taxi driver pulled up beside the stadium, there was no place on earth I’d rather be on the anything-but-mundane-Monday in March 2023 than where I was. Ready to compete in the world masters indoor championships.

In fact, I had a crazy imagino-insight on the way into the stadium: that after the man in the painting had sat for the artist for a few hours, and the painting was complete, that he whipped off his pale blue suit and threw his straw hat into the blue water and slung his book and let out a barbarous roar and ran naked through the garden, jumped the well-kept hedge and headed off to the island and wasn’t seen till supper.

Way to go, man. Motion is lotion. Rest is rust.

Another Gem from the old Yearbook

Aine Dillon on Paddy Drury

  • +Mary O’Halloran R.I.P. +

Lovely, elegant, sylish, gentle, energetic Mary O’Halloran passed away peacefully on February 3 2024.

When Mary set up her Facebook page she called it Mary’s Classic Style. That was Mary, clasically stylish yet down-to earth and practical.

I got to know Mary through meeting her with my old neighbour Anne Leneghan  and her Listowel friends every year on The Island. I photographed her many times, the last time with her beautiful daughter, Louise.

Mary had all the style and confidence of a successful city businesswoman but she never forgot her Kerry roots.

She loved every racecourse she visited and she loved all their Ladies Days but I think Listowel held a special place in her heart.

Mary’s warm nature won her many friends among the ladies of the Best Dressed circuit. She stayed apart from any of the cattiness that inevitably ensues when you put people in competitiion with one another. She was supportive of her fellow contestants and, in the true spirit of competition, she loved taking part.

Mary was dealt the cruellest of blows with the diagnosis of MND. She was the epitome of resilience as she got up, dressed up and showed up for as long as humanly possible.  Mary had just retired and had launched into a great third age doing the things she loved with the people she loved when the dreadful news broke. I’m glad she got to travel and enjoy a few items on her bucket list.

In the courageous way she dealt with her illness, Mary evoked admiration in everyone who knew her.

Mary will be missed by her grieving family,  by her many many friends and by all of us who came within her stylish orbit on the racecourses of Ireland.

Guím leaba i measc na naomh is na naingeal duit, a Mhary dhíl.

A Fact

Ireland has 30,000 castles.


Landlords and Shopkeepers

Tawny Owl…Photo: Jim McSweeney


St. Mary’s, Listowel


Relic of the Trinity College Estates

Photo and text from Martin Moore on Facebook

This thatched house at Acres was formerly owned by Trinity College, Dublin, who were granted extensive lands in north Kerry in the 17th century .Trinity College were granted extensive lands in north Kerry after the 9 Years War (1594-1603). Most of this was in the Ballylongford/Tarbert areas, but they held lands in Clanmaurice too.

At the same time as the College was granted the lands, there was a transplantation of Gaelic families from Laois & Offaly and it was then that that the Moores, Lawlors, Dowlings, Kellys (etc) came to north Kerry. This suggests that north Kerry had by then been devastated and the local population decimated. In a later transplanting into the area, many families from Clare arrived and you get the Carmodys, Finucanes, McMahons etc.


Mrs. Crowley, ice cream and a snake

An extract from Keane’s Kingdom in Saturday’s IrishIndependent


Building Works in Sept 2022

I took these photos in town on Sept 13 2022

Dowlings Bar in The Square
The Ivy Clinic, The Square
Mulvihill’s on Church Street
Old Pharmacy on Church Street



Getting Ready for The Races


In the time honoured tradition of Listowel people, I’m closing for business for Race week. I intend going to The Island and having a break (I’ll bring the camera.)


Fís na hÓige, Races, No. 24 The Square and a Listowel Poem

Howth by Éamon ÓMurchú


Fís na hÓige

Fís na hÓige Productions is a film and drama group based in St. John’s. During July they held a film making course.

Kiana Breatnach sent us these photos.


This could be the start of Something Big

This is No.24 The Square, Listowel.

Today it is home to Kerry Writers Museum.

Here is the same house in the 1950s when Dr. Michael O’Connor and his family lived there. The Morris Minor in front is the family car.

This is Fr. Brendan O’Connor pictured at the door.

He made a return visit to his father’s family home on September 19 2021.

In this photo sent to me by her grandson, Eitan Elazar, is Fr. Brendan’s grandmother at the same door in the 1950s.

This was the reason for Fr. Brendan’s visit and the “something big’ referred to in my heading.

It is St. Patrick’s breastplate, illuminated by the late Michael O’Connor, son of Dr. Michael O’Connor and father of Fr. Brendan.

Michael O’Connor had an enormous talent for illumination.

Illumination is calligraphy in the style of The Book of Kells.

Jimmy Deenihan, chair of Kerry Literary Trust presented Fr. Brendan with a copy of Bertha Beatty’s Kerry Memories. Bertha also lived in No. 24 The Square when the Creagh family owned it.

Also in the photo is Cara Trant, Manager of Kerry Writers’ Museum.

Bryan MacMahon and Michael O’Connor collaborated on several pieces. Jim MacMahon came to Listowel to meet Fr. Brendan and to see the treasures.

Fr. Brendan used his late father’s magnifying glass to show Jim some of the intricate detail in the breastplate. Michael O’Connor worked on this at the kitchen table in his Dublin home, after the children had gone to bed. He worked holding a magnifying glass in one hand and a brush/pen in the other. Under these less -than -ideal conditions he produced Celtic illumination work of the highest quality, work proclaimed by experts in this field as the best of its kind.

The hope is that after expert work of conservation, some of Michael’s work will be displayed in the house where he grew up.

Fr. Brendan O’Connor, me, David Browne , chair of Kerry Writers’ Museum and Stephen Rynne who is the driving force behind the project to bring the work of Michael O’Connor to the wide audience it deserves.

Stephen’s father, Etienne Rynne was a friend of Michael O’Connor’s and Aideen, Stephen’s mother, is willing to give her treasured piece of O’Connor’s work for display along with the other works.

Aideen is holding the piece in my photograph. It is an illuminated papal blessing scroll presented to her and her husband, Etienne, by Michael O’Connor on the occasion of their marriage.

Maybe there are other people with a Listowel Connection or not who have a piece of this original artwork in their possession. Stephen, who is co-ordinating the project is anxious to trace the whereabouts of as many original pieces as possible.

Maybe you have one of the 6 Christmas cards with words by Bryan MacMahon and illumination by Michael O’Connor that were produced by Oriel Press. The original artwork for these has been lost but maybe you have kept a card and it is now part of this extraordinary story.


Friday, September 24 2021 at Listowel Races

Photos by Bridget O’Connor

These ladies were the finalists in the Best Dressed competition.

And the winner is….

This photo is from Listowel Races site. The lady is Maritess McCarthy.

Friends and family pose with the O’Neill family.


A Poem from Poetry Town, Listowel


Casa Mia, Jed and Danny, Donal Ryan and The Races back in the Day

 Corner of William Street Upper


Outdoor Dining

Two of the town’s Patricians, Jed Chute and Danny Hannon enjoying the Indian Summer 2020 in Listowel’s Main Street.


Old Age

In the 19th century they had a very poor view of the senior years.

Thank God we live in an age when 70 is the new 50

Nicholas Leonard wrote the following

What do you make of the following item, published in 1838 and  from, I believe, a U.S. origin?


Periods of Human Life, from the Wexford Conservative, 1 August 1838.

Decrepitude – From 71 to 77: The age of avarice, jealousy, and envy.

Caducity– (Senility) From 78 to 84. The age of distrust, vain-boasting, unfeelingness, suspicion.

Age of Favor – From 81 to 91. The age of insensibility, love of flattery, of attention and indulgence.

Age of Wonder– From 92 to 98. The age of indifference and love of praise.

Phenomenon – From 99 to 105. The age of insensibility, hope and the last sigh.

‘Caducity’ I never heard of, but on checking online, it refers to senility, dotage, perishable…

Not sure that the future is all that rosy- not much to look forward to in the above list, apart from the ‘last sigh.’



Happiness is…..

I’m really enjoying this one.


Listowel Races in the Papers

Eileen Sheridan came across these old 1977 newspaper photos and and Dave O’Sullivan unearthed a great Kieran OShea article from the same paper. 

The 1977 Harvest Festival Committee

The 1924 Race Committee

Muckross, Church Street, Listowel Races in Days Gone By and David Toomey, Endurance Runner

Boats at rest on the Lower Lake, Killarney


Animals in The National Park

I love seeing this old form of transport in Killarney National Park

These are the famous herd of Kerry cows.

 Here is Cora with Molly as they wait patiently for Daddy to return with the picnic.


Mullally’s of Church Street 

Armel White alerted me to this. As painters stripped the paint prior to repainting Murphy’s, they revealed the name of the former owners, Mullally, bringing back many memories to Listowel people.


 Charles’ Street in 2003


Listowel Races in the Light of Other Days

We won’t be seeing any of these scenes this September. Here are a few old photos just to remind you of better times.


David Toomey…Man of Iron

David Twomey is Listowel’s very talented town gardener. In Valeria O’Sullivan’s picture from last weekend he is taking part in a gruelling ultra marathon.

David Toomey, on Drung Hill, Mountain Stage, Kells, Co Kerry, undertaking a 200km non stop endurance race – The Kerry Way Ultra Marathon, a daunting 40 hour, 200km, non stop race, which traverses the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and Iveragh Peninsula, on Ireland’s longest trail route in Ireland. All athletes adhered to social distancing, HSE and Sport Ireland Covid19 guidelines.

Photos:Valerie O’Sullivan

Unfortunately, David suffered a foot injury towards the closing stages and was unable to finish.

Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach (He’ll live to fight another day)

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