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 Tidy Towns Page 1 of 12

Buckfast Tonic Wine, British coins and a bit of Listowel too

Bicycle Stand on Market Street

At Opening Night Listowel Writers’ Week 2024

Local poets, Matt Mooney and Mary MacElligott

Local blogger, me, with writer, Pat Sheedy

Update to my Facts on British Coins

Kathy Reynolds sent us the full story.

Hi Mary

I hope you are well and enjoying better weather than we are in cold wet England. Your blog always gives me my early morning read alongside the Times. Although no expert on coinage and tap & pay is now nearly standard a few outlets still prefer “real money” so I feel I must add a little to today’s fact.

King Charles III became King in September 2022 immediately on his mother’s death but he was crowned on 6 May 2023. 

The first completely redesigned set of coins were issued December 2023 and the flora and fauna design took me back to the Irish coinage of my childhood, particularly the Atlantic salmon on the 50p reminding me of the florin. However a Memorial 50p entered circulation in December 2022, marking the transition from Queen Elizabeth II to King Charles III. Also a special 50p coin marking King Charles III’s coronation went into circulation on Thursday, 10th August. Notes entered circulation in June 2024.


Kathy Reynolds


I think they got the message. Breda and Margaret tell me that there has been no postering of litter bins since we highlighted the issue here.


An American wine connoisseur made the mistake of reviewing Buckfast… Here’s their tasting notes:

Buckfast Tonic Wine (No Vintage)

Screw cap, took it off about 30 minutes before to bring in some air. Apparently made by monks in England. Decided to try while cooking dinner. Poured into a glass, first glance has a very inky almost brownish color that you see in older wines. Very syrupy, liquid clings to the side of the glass when swirled. Almost 15% ABV.

Stuck my nose in and was hit with something I’ve never experienced before. Barnyardy funk (in a bad way) almost like a dead animal in a bird’s nest. A mix of flat Coca Cola and caramel with a whiff of gun metal.

On the palate, overwhelming sweetness and sugar. Cherry Cola mixed with Benadryl. Unlike anything I’ve tasted. I’m not sure what this liquid is but it is not wine, I’m actually not sure what it is but it tastes like something a doctor would prescribe. A chemical concoction of the highest degree. Can only compare it to a Four Loko.

Managed to make it through a couple small glasses but not much more. Has absolutely ruined the evening drinking-wise for me as I tried to drink a nice Bordeaux after but the iron-like metallic sweet aftertaste I just couldn’t get out of my mouth even after a few glasses of water. I don’t drink a lot of coffee regularly so I also have mild heart palpitations from the caffeine after just drinking a bit of this and feel a slight migraine.

An ungodly concoction made by seemingly godly men. I believe the Vatican needs to send an exorcist over to Buckfast Abbey as the devil’s works are cleary present there. After tasting this “wine,” the way I feel can only be described as akin to being under a bridge on one’s knees orally pleasing a vagrant while simultaneously drinking liquified meth through a dirty rag.

I’ve drank a lot of wines in my life and will never forget this one.

(I don’t think he liked it!)

Commemorative Seat

On our Friday walk at Writers’ Week we passed by Paddy Fitzgibbon’s memorial.

Fascinating Fact

The words of the nursery rhyme, Mary had a Little Lamb, were the first replayed words in human history through Edison’s playback on June 22 1878.


Keeping Listowel Lovely

This is the recently released special edition Brona chocolate bar. It costs €4. I haven’t tasted it yet but it comes from a good stable.

Please, Please, Don’t do this

On Wednesday morning, June 5 2024 I met two of the hardest working Tidy Town volunteers. They had been out since early morning, washing and sweeping and generally keeping our lovely town lovely.

Breda was scraping and hacking trying to remove a poster that had been stuck on to the litter bin. Tidy Town judges don’t like posters on bins or poles. The worst part of this postering is that whoever stuck the posters used some kind of superglue which cannot be removed by the usual solvents.

If you want to draw attention to your cause, please do not glue posters anywhere. Think of Breda. Think of the local hard working Tidy Town volunteers. Think of Listowel. Think of the environment.

Just don’t do it!

Selling Listowel

On my way home from morning mass where I was besieging Heaven on behalf of my 3 grandchildren doing state exams, I ran into Rose Wall of Listowel Chamber Alliance.

Rose was doing a bit of research for a big marketing day they have planned for later on this month. This group do as great job of marketing Listowel.

Lego Lartigue

Image and text from Lartigue Monorail and Museum on Facebook

Lego & Railway enthusiast Trevor Leen brought along his Lego built replica of the Lartigue Monorail to the Lartigue Museum.

Trevor said “I recreated the Lartigue Monorail over the course of a few weeks using reference photos from the original and modern day engine. Two carriages were built to give it a train to pull along with a step car to cross the rail. I’ve always had a love for railways and the Lartigue Monorail has always been an interest of mine as it is unique and had a bold experimental take on railways in years gone by.” 

Michael O’Connor, Celtic Art Illuminator

Ahead of the International Day of Celtic Art tomorrow, here is a little resumé I did a while ago of Michael O’Connor.

Michael O’Connor,: His Art

A Fact

In 2004 a woman in the US bought a lock of Neil Armstrong’s hair for $3,000

November in Church

Trant’s Pharmacy, Market Street


November 2023 in St. Mary’s

Seats and kneelers at the front of the church have now been upholstered. Tried one out and I must report that they are very comfortable indeed.


Irish Traditions

by Kathleen Jo Ryan and Bernard Share

Below is an extract from an essay by Bryan MacMahon on the Irish people he knew.

Book Launch

We had a great time in St. John’s on Saturday, November 11. Vincent’s latest book is probably his best and most important book yet.

Kathy Buckley, a humble Listowel girl, daughter of Lar, the local cooper, ran the White House kitchen under three US presidents. Vincent has done a marvellous job of research on this one and the beautifully presented book is full of information, photographs and interesting stories from behind the scenes.

Finbar and Cathy Mare were in charge of sales.

Some of Vincents old Listowel friends gathered for the launch

John Cahill, Anne Crowley, Owen MacMahon, Elizabeth Moriarty and Kay Moloney Caball.

Katie Hannon launched the book for her childhood postman. She caught up too with Canon Declan O’Connor, a fellow Duagh native.

Photo; Tidy Town

Just some of the Tidy Town stalwarts at the presentation of local prizes last week.

Fact of the Day

With delight I bring you today’s fact, sent to us by Vincent Doyle


Caffling, Nurses and Guards

Edward VII postbox with Maid of Erin in the background



Tidy Town volunteers, Breda McGrath, Julie Gleeson and Jimmy Moloney returned from Croke Park with another Gold Medal, a well deserved reward for all the hard work.


On Upper William Street

This popular shop has recently moved and refurbished. It’s lovely.


Gardaí at the Hospice Coffee Morning

Listowel Arms, October 5 2023



A story from Billy McSweeney prompted by my use of a word I heard often from my Cork mother but is not so familiar to Kerry people.

I hadn’t heard the word ‘caffling’ before so I looked it up. Most dictionaries hadn’t heard of it either but I liked John Arnold’s definition of ‘pranks’. It reminded me of a story from before my time and handed down to me. 

There lived in Convent Street two brothers who were noted cafflers. 

As was inevitable, one of them died; and the whole neighbourhood came 

together to make the arrangements for the obsequies. The poor man was 

dressed in his best clothes and for the wake was laid out in the bed 

with a candle on each corner and suitable seating arrangements on both 

sides of the bed for the caoining women.

     At the appropriate time in the evening the candles were lit and the 

women took their sorrowful keening places around the bed. Friends and 

neighbours arrived in dribs and drabs to pay their respects and partake 

of the food and drink laid on for the occasion. Memories of how good a 

person the deceased was were related midst the weeping assent of those 

seated all around. Gradually, over the next hour or so, the level of 

noise grew as the attendees grew into their sympathetic roles, helped in 

no small way by the lubrications on offer.

     Suddenly, a raised voice came from the bed; “Turn me on my left side”!

     There was a momentary silence, split open by screeches and screams 

as the whole room erupted and rushed out the door. Silence ensued in the 

room until, after a few minutes, a brave soul peeped back in and 

announced that they must be mistaken. The mourners sheepishly resumed 

their seats but decided that even though they imagined the voice, the 

instruction in the voice was clear, so they turned the body in the bed 

on its left side. All agreed that the corpse looked more comfortable on 

its left side so all settled down and resumed normal obsequies. One 

could not after all neglect the duties of consuming the good food and 

drink that would otherwise be wasted just because of their imaginings.

     Another hour or so passed uneventfully until everybody then in the 

room was suddenly startled to hear the voice once more: “Turn me on my 


     Again there was pandemonium as the mourners sought to escape 

whatever retribution might descend on them from this supernatural 

emanation. The room again emptied but one can get used to anything so 

this time they looked back in shortly afterwards and saw that nothing 

else had occurred. They again nervously resumed their seats and as per 

the voice’s instruction, turned the corpse on its face.

     When, shortly afterwards, the voice rose again: ” Now kiss my 

arse”!, There were some incredulous cries from the audience at this turn 

of events and en masse they examined for the source of the voice. They 

lifted the bed and, lo and behold, there, under the bed, was the other 


As it was told to me, extended in the tradition of good storytelling, the corpse asked also to be ‘turned on his right side’ but either because the corpse had a sore right arm from lifting pints or that Listowel Connections was short of space, I left that one out. pastedGraphic.png

Billy McSweeney


English Trained Nurses

From the 1940s up until the 1980s, thousands of Irish young ladies trained as nurses in English hospitals. It is a phenomenon that should definitely be studied and memories recorded while these ladies are still with us.

This thought was prompted by an email from Ken Duckett.

…my brief knowledge of my mother’s nursing training in Eastbourne, Sussex. The pictures would have been from the early to mid 1930’s. Just the surnames appear below the pictures and it includes my mum who was Kathleen Hanlon from Asdee east, Kerry. Maybe your readers may recognise the faces, surnames or different uniforms. I wondered how she got there and if there was a sea route from Cork or she went to Dublin and Liverpool?

Anyone else reading this who trained in England, maybe even in Eastbourne, we’d love to hear from you.

Thanks to David O’Sullivan for help with the photos.

Aren’t the uniforms gas?


A Fact

A father sea catfish keeps the eggs of his young in his mouth until they are ready to hatch. He will not eat until his young are born. This may take several weeks.

(Some of these facts are leaving me floored)


Listowel, Then and Now

Listowel Fire Station at evening in September 2023


Listowel Food Fair 2023

November 9th to 13th November 2023



Lovely Listowel is greatly enhanced in September 2023 by beautiful floral displays.


The Last of the Concerts (for now)

Kerry Sentinel, Saturday, 17 March, 1906; Page: 4

Grand Entertainment at Ballylongford

LECTURE AND CONCERT. On Friday night last a highly interesting entertainment consisting of a lecture on the Irish Brigade, illustrated with lantern slides by Mr Thos F O’Sullivan, Listowel, concert of Irish music was held in Ballylongford and was well attended.

The Rev Fr. Pierce, P.P, presided, and was supported by the Rev Fr. Enright, Sacramento, and the Rev J Dillon, C.C, Ballylongford. At the conclusion of the address, a hearty vote of thanks was tendered to the lecturer on the proposition of Fr Enright, seconded by Fr. Dillon.

The concert opened with the children’s chorus “Erin the Tear,” which was harmoniously rendered. ” An incident of ’98” by  Misses Bride Shanahan and Bessie Fitzmaurice was warmly received. Hour hath Come by the same young ladies, with Miss Maggie Carmody, was a decidedly attractive and humorous item and richly deserved the applause bestowed on it. Miss Collins and Miss Carmody were responsible for the training of the children in these contributions, which certainly reflected credit on them.

Miss Shanahan sang ” Carrigdhoun,” and was warmly applauded while Mr Jas Leahy’s recitation, ” Fontenoy,” was extremely  popular. The duet ” Molly Bawn,” by Miss O Grady and Mr R Jones was much appreciated, and the Irish step-dancing of Messrs Hanrahan and Ahern evoked well deserved applause. In addition, Messrs ? Cotter and O Shaughnessy, Listowel, contributed largely to the success of the entertainment, which from start to finish was interesting, attractive and instructive. We understand a somewhat similar entertainment will be shortly held in Ballylongford when the lecture will be delivered by the Rev Fr. Enright, Sacramento.


Another Gold

Representing Listowel Tidy Towns in Clonakilty on Monday last, Jimmy Moloney, Julie Gleeson and Breda McGrath picked up a well deserved 13th gold medal. In early October we’ll know the national result.


Baile Mhúirne

This lovely little linear village on the road to Cork is soon to be bypassed. I dropped into the church on my way past last week.

Eucharistic adoration was in progress so I couldn’t do too much wandering around. The church was beautifully kept but obviously built in poorer times, with little enough stained glass and no mosaic work.


1960’s Guide

Two businesses now the stuff of memory


A Fact

In 1492 Pope Innocent VII was dying. On the advice of his physicians he drank the blood of three young donors. He was convinced that this would keep him young and healthy. It didn’t. He died shortly after.


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