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 Snapshots of a Market Town

Kerry Candlelight

Early morning in Portmarnock in Winter 2021…..Photo : Éamon ÓMurchú


That was then and This is Now

What a difference a year makes, in Listowel street names?

Information from Vincent Carmody’s Snapshots of an Irish Market town.



We used to call them glassy alleys. They certainly looked like glass but I dont know if they were made of glass really. They were certainly smooth and colourful and in my childhood very much the domain of boys.

Gender stereotyping was rife in my youth. Boys didn’t play with dolls. Girls didn’t play with guns or marbles.


Our Perennial Christmas Song

Christmas is a time for ritual. Part of Listowel Connection ritual is the inclusion of this song at this time of year. Master MacMahon used to teach it to his Fourth Class boys in Scoil Realta na Maidine.

The Kerry Candlelight


I am standing here in Euston, and my heart is light and gay,
For ‘tis soon I’ll see the moonlight all a-dance on Dingle Bay.
So behind me, then, is London, with the magic of its night,
And before me is a window filled with Kerry Candlelight.


‘Tis the lovely light of glory that came down from heav’n on high,
And whenever I recall it, there’s a teardrop in my eye.
By the mountainside at twilight, in a cottage gleaming white,
There my true love sits a-dreaming, in the Kerry Candlelight.


She’ll be waiting by the turf fire; soon our arms will be entwined,
And the loneliness of exile will be lost or cast behind,
As we hear the Christmas greetings of the neighbours in the night,
Then our hearts will beat together in the blessed Candlelight.


Now the train is moving westward, so God speed its racing wheels,
And God speed its whistle ringing o’er the sleeping English fields,
For I’m dreaming of an altar where, beside my Breda bright,
I will whisper vows of true love in the Kerry Candlelight.

Bryan MacMahon


Cancel Culture Gone Mad

Image from a card I received yesterday

“Ireland should remove the British royal insignia which can still be seen on some post boxes, according to Sinn Féin councillor John Costelloe.

In an interview on Newstalk Breakfast, the Limerick councillor said Irish post boxes should reflect modern Irish life…..”

Thus began an article by Olivia Kelleher in Breaking

“Oh no, please don’t,” say I.


Don’t Forget!


A National Treasure

Kevin Lane alerted me to the story in The New York Times and Jim Ryan helped me find the RTE coverage of it.

Here is the link to the Rte story: Rare footage of Cork and Kerry discovered

The discovery of the rare films was initiated by Mícheál Ó Mainnín, a farmer and fisherman from Baile an Fheirtéaraigh (Ballyferriter), as he sought to verify memories his grandfather had shared with him about “the American with a camera”.

“My grandfather, Mick ‘Neilí’ Ó Mainnín, remembered this man coming around. He was collecting birds, eggs and other animals. He became very popular in the area as he had plenty money and was giving out money to anyone who brought him birds.

“My grandfather told me about a day they were fishing in Inis Mhic Uibhleáin (Inishvickillane) and they met ‘the yank’ on the island. He had a movie camera with him and he took a film of my grandfather, my granduncle and the Daly brothers.”

Using the family story as a starting point, Mr Ó Mainnín began the task of identifying the curious “American” in the hope that his films may have survived.

The film was shot in 1925 and 1926 and features events and people in Cork and Kerry. It is lovely.


Book Launch in The National Library, Apprenticeship, Auschwitz Remembered and another great Healy photograph

Building at Ballybunion

Photo; Ballybunion Prints


Sometimes a Book can be declared a Treasure

When Vincent Carmody launched his great book, (pictured above)  in the National Library a few years ago, he was surrounded on the night by his family and by some illustrious North Kerry people who now live in Dublin.

The book is still available from Vincent and should be in every home with a Listowel connection.

Standing are Kevin Carmody, Vincent’s son, who returned from the U.S. for the event and Sr. Maura, Vincent’s sister who, sadly, passed away before Christmas 2015.

In front are Vincent and his wife, Kathleen

Back L to R ; Eamon OMurchú, Katie Hannon, Maurice Hayes, John Coolahan and Cyril Kelly

Front; Vincent Carmody and Jimmy Deenihan


An Apprentice’s Lot was not a easy one

Jackie Lenihan of Charles St. Listowel, grandfather of Donal Linehan, rugby player was a carpenter. He took apprentices to train in to the trade. One of these apprentices was James Enright, father of Mike Enright of Ballybunion. Mike has his father’s apprenticeship contract. It makes interesting reading.

It reads more like a monk’s contract to me. Apparently it was the standard agreement for all apprenticeships back in the day.


Do you Remember when Mill Lane looked like this?

(photo: John Kelliher)


 Bob Geldof’s wedding to Paula Yates in 1986

Photo: Rare Irish Stuff


Seventy Years ago this week

Photo: Alien West

This image, taken at the liberation of Auschwitz, is just as shocking today as it was then.

We need to remind ourselves often of this enormous inhumanity.  Our ancestors who fought in WW11 fought to put an end to this.

We will get a chance to remember all the victims of war everywhere at Listowel Military Tattoo 

April 29 to May 1 2016



What a snap!

There are three heroes here;

A great horse, Killultagh Vic, who recovered from this mishap  at the last to go on to win his race at Leopardstown yesterday, January 17 2016,

A great jockey, Ruby Walsh, who employed all of his considerable skills to stay on board and steer his mount to victory once again,


 Listowel’s great racing photographer, Pat Healy of Healyracing who captured the moment for all time.

Well done all.

Vincent’s book,Knitwits, FCA and roadworks

Remember last week I told you that Vincent Carmody of this parish was related to the two White brothers whose writing is well known on both sides of the Atlantic. Now I bring you Richard White’s review. 

“When my mother was a young
girl, Listowel was at the far edge of her world. She lived outside the small
village of Ballylongford in County Kerry in the west of Ireland. Listowel was
only seven miles away, and only in rural Kerry would it seem a grand place,
with its cattle fairs, its square and shops. A trip to Listowel meant a journey
by donkey and cart, and she went only rarely until her early teens, when she
became a servant there. Then she lived for a while in Listowel — before
sailing from Cobh, the port adjacent to Cork, and migrating to the United
States in 1936. She was 16. All of that was long ago and far away. My mother
now lives in Redwood City, as I do. She has dementia, and she rarely remembers
Ireland or much of anything else.

I would like to think
that, if she could remember, she would recognize the place Vincent Carmody
captures in his wonderful and evocative book “Listowel: Snapshots of an
Irish Market Town, 1850-1950.”

From my family’s
perspective, it is ironic that Listowel is the sister city of Los Gatos,
adjacent to San Jose. In the earlier 20th century, these places would have
seemed distant cousins: both market towns and magnets for people on the farms
around them. But now they are far different. The farms are gone from what was
once the Valley of Heart’s Delight around San Jose, even as they persist around
Listowel. San Jose has become the third most populous city in California;
Listowel has less than 5,000 people and is still physically much
the same place my mother knew.

For me, at least, all that
connects the modest Irish town (known for its literary festival) with the
sprawl of Silicon Valley is my mother. She was a girl near Listowel when the
place filled her with stories, and now she is an old woman living near San Jose
bereft of memories and stories.

The beauty of Carmody’s
book (available at is that he captures
both the kind of stories my mother gleaned from Listowel and a far more subtle
set of transformations that changed the town. He tells his story through what
the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss called bricolage, the art of creating
something new out of surviving scraps of the past. This is a book of
photographs, notes, bills, invoices, contracts and advertisements knitted
together — street by street, house by house — so artfully and unobtrusively
that you do not so much think the clean Irish prose is giving you an account of
the past as that you are actually rummaging through that past and walking down
the town’s streets. A place that might seem initially foreign to you grows

On one level, Carmody’s
account of this Irish market town could be the biography of a dozen Irish
towns. The years he covers were tumultuous everywhere in Ireland, and even more
so in Kerry. There was revolution, independence, civil war, depression and
migration, always migration. But he captures the more constant fabric of the
place that endured beneath the tumult.

Anyone interested in
Ireland can enjoy this book, but if you actually knew the place, as my mother
did, it becomes something more. My cousin Anne met Carmody on the street in
Listowel, and she identified her father-in-law in a picture from long ago. And
even for me, as much a Yank as my cousins are Irish, this book seems to
illustrate stories my mother told: the cattle fairs, the donkeys and carts, the
days that once loomed so large in that distant world and here surface again, at
once exotic and familiar.

White is the author of “Remembering Ahanagran: A History of Stories.”



Vincent held his second launch of the book in the National Library on Thursday last.

I got this next from John Fitzgerald  who was present on the night:

“The launch last Thursday in the National Library of Vincent Carmody’s magnificent book Snapshots of an Irish Market Town will forever be treasured.

 Six old classmates pictured in the photograph of Mrs. Scanlon’s class exchanged stories late into that night in Buswells. Vincent had travelled all the way from the Boro; whilst Johnny Guerin tripped in from the Rebel county. The City of the Tribes delivered Tony Barrett (up to then in one piece). The two Sullivans, Sean and Teddy flew in from the land of the Gall and by the end of the night I’d say were glad to get back, whilst Cyril Kelly walked over the Liffey appeared from the North Side. In that mix,Tae Lane was always going to be difficult to position geograpically but in sporting parlance, that night I played fairly for the Gleann. 

Attached is my take on what some of those stories evoked.

Tae Lane

I leave the street and wander down
the lane.

Rusting sheds recede

and grey stone pierces whitewash.

Memory stirs and like a faint crack

of a ringmaster’s whip

the lane begins to breathe again.

 Atop my father’s shed I see Tommy Sib Sib

coil and uncoil from the ridge rope.

He sweeps swathes of hot tar

over a bubbling roof.

The black liquid tauts and glints of
silver show

like a wave set on a sunlit shore.

Under Potter’s shed the nettles sting.

Beneath an elder tree stray stones

crush the red haw and an ancient  

trail of Navaho and Comanche appears.

Above the sycamore a crow calks

and distant sounds from the market

trumpet children wild at play.

Suddenly the lane twists and the river

Some say it was the greatest show on

Dock leaves mark the fair day

Where farmers full squat on stone

lording over a gurgling sewer.

On the waterfront a fresh flood

Spillers vie for space on the narrowing

A young boy wrestles with a twisting

He cuts the curling conger from its

Above the bridge an old man waits.

After the flood fresh salmon run.

Flotsam gathers beneath my feet

 And now I go back to the street.


If you have a minute to spare read this.


Knitwits crosses the generations. On Saturday in Scribes we had

A grandmother and granddaughter; Patricia and Katie

A grandmother and grandson; Mary and Kiernan


A mother and daughter: Mary and Clíona

Studies have proven that knitting is therapeutic. People suffering from dementia, if they have learned to knit when they were younger, when given needles and a ball of wool will settle to knitting. In Denmark some day care centers feature a knitting circle as part of their therapy. So, do your children a favour. Teach them to knit.


Listowel FCA 1955


The Square last Friday. I’m told the digging up was to lay a broadband cable.


St. Malachy

An interesting read for any superstitious Catholic.

Gurtenard House, Vincent’s Dublin launch

Gurtenard House, then and now

Old photo and text is provided by Jimmy Moloney. The later photo is from

The list of families associated with the house are Collis, Church,

Fitzgerald, Crosbie ( all these 4 were agents of Lord Listowel),

Armstrong ( left circa 1921. He owned a sweet factory near where

Yard is now), Bank of Ireland, Church of Ireland, 


Lawlor 2006-

The story of Armstrong is interesting. He ran a sweet factory
near the

castle. After Arthur Vickars was shot and Kilmorna House burned

1921 his wife stayed in Gurtenard House for safety. Shortly
after this

Mr. Armstrong left Listowel.

The following is taken from Houses of Kerry by Valerie Barry

“No date is given for the building of Gurtenard, but in 1837,

S.E.Collis  was in residence, although it was probably
built before

his time. Dr. Church later became owner, being followed by

Brinsley-Fitzgerald. James Crosbie, of Ballyheigue Castle (q.v),

have used it as a town house for he was  possession early
in the

1800s. Between 1870 and 1890, the Earl and Countess of Listowel

for a season in the house and thereafter occasionally returned

entertained the local families. Lady Listowel found the town

congenial and spent a number of Summer holidays here. Between

World Wars I and II, Gurtenard House had a chequered career and

to deteriorate. In 1948, the Moloneys bought and restored it. It

now open to Summer guests.”

(As far as I know, Gurtenard House is currently on the market.)


It was just another paper sold for Joe Treacy until he looked up
at the customer: a rather tall-looking Jimmy Stewart. Photo taken on O’Connell
Street, Dublin on 1st August 1962.

I took this great photo and caption from a website called Irish Photo Archive


 This photograph from The Kerryman celebrates Michael Barrett’s great win in Clonmel in 1973 with his dog, Dashing Newdown.


 If you are a Listowel person exiled in the capital, a great Listowel night is planned for February 21st. Vincent Carmody has assembled a great line up of high profile Kerry people for the Dublin launch of his acclaimed book.

Everyone is welcome; being from Listowel is not a requirement.

Put it in your diary now.


Did you have one of these?

Lamb tongues???????


Annie Kett

Ireland’s oldest woman has died at the age of 107

Clare native Annie Kett was born Annie Hayes in 1905 in The Glen, Killaloe, Co Clare. After training as a nurse in London, she moved to Kilkishen where she farmed with her late husband, John who died in the 1970s.

She passed away at Thorpe’s Nursing home in Clarina, Co Limerick on Sunday 3rd Feb 2013, Annie celebrated her 107th birthday with family and friends just before Christmas 2012. Annie Kett is survived by her son and daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Before Annie,

Ireland’s oldest person was Laois woman Mary Kate Byrne, who celebrated her 108th birthday in August 2012.

Requiem Mass for Annie Kett at Garraunboy Church on Thursday 7th February 20013,  burial in church grounds.

Picture from


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