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 workhouse

Bike as Ornament, Paradise Place in Cork and Christmas in 1909 Listowel and Jimmy Moloney Snr. R.I.P.

Bike at Yummy, Tralee


A Corner of Cork

The Catholic Young Men’s Society Hall is located at Paradise Place. It is no longer in use as a hall but is the location of several shops and services.

This is the inscription on the red and white utilities box at this corner. Terence MacSwiney was a Lord Mayor of Cork during the War of Independence. He was arrested and imprisoned in Brixton. His death in a British jail after a long hunger strike and unsuccessful attempts at force feeding, gained world wide attention for the cause. He had a huge funeral in Cork where he was regarded as a martyr.


Christmas Party in Listowel Workhouse 1909

Jer. Kennelly has done a bit of research for us on Bibiana Foran and he found this account in The Kerry Sentinel of 1909.

Christmas 1909 Kerry Sentinel

X Mas Tree in Listowel Workhouse, presented by Mrs B Foran, P.L.G. UDC, she invited a large number of ladies and gentlemen to a party held at the workhouse. Toys, oranges, sweets and cakes were in abundance. Only one girl was sad her doll had a leg and a half, it was soon remedied by giving her another one. 

Mrs Foran assisted by Mrs Daly, also Misses O Shaughnessy, misses Lyons, Miss Lillie Cotter, Miss McElligott, Messrs Richard O Shaughnessy who took several photographs of Father Christmas Dan Aherne and the children of the institution, P O Shaughnessy and others also there.

Several songs and recitations followed with music by Michael Carmody labour master, on the violin, the temperance band could not come due to member being absent. Singers included, Misses Mandie Collins, The Misses Daly, Miss Lillie Hannon, Miss Katie Dillon, Miss Katie Buckley and Miss May Kathleen O Sullivan. Also present, Mr and Miss Cleary and Master and Miss Cleary of Provincial Bank. Mr Wilson and Master Boysie and Freddy and Miss Wilson of National Bank. Mrs O Halloran, Master and Miss O Halloran of Killocrim. Mrs Master and Miss Pierce. Mr T O Connor RDC, Tarbert Island. Mr Wm. And Mrs T Twomey of Church Street. P B Cronin PLG. Mrs Barry Billerough; Mrs Dillon and Miss Scanlon; Mrs T Collins and Miss Collins. Mrs Enright, Misses Buckley, Main Street. The Misses Buckley, The Square. Mr R and Mrs Walsh; The Misses D Browne Church Street. Messrs Tom and James Walsh. Mr John and Master Hannon, Mrs Callon, Mrs Fitzmaurice, Miss Cantillon. Mr Ned Healy, Miss Moore.

Child Ellie Doner aged 3 and a half sang Guardian Angel. Lizzie Power recited, Hole in my Pocket. Jack Enright , known as Jack the cot, an invalid, recited and sang in a most creditable manner. Entertainment continued with a splendid dance, just like a marriage ball. Mr T M O Connor, proposed a vote of thanks to Mrs Foran, bringing the nights pleasures to a conclusion.

 ( Isn’t it beyond sad that a little lad known as Jack the cot, and we can guess why since he is described as “an invalid” sang and recited for the great and the good of the town?)


The Late Jimmy Moloney

Jimmy Moloney passed away as he had lived, quietly, On May 28th last. May his gentle soul rest in peace.

Here is an obituary sent to us by his daughter, Maeve

Obituary for Jimmy Moloney, Snr

Jimmy Moloney, Snr, passed away unexpectedly at home on May 28th 2019, at the age of 75, 8 months after the death his beloved wife of 54 years, Anne (nee Scully). 

Jimmy was born in Listowel on April 2nd1944, the youngest of three children of Dan (D.J.) Moloney (Lyreacrompane) and Margaret Moloney (née O Connor, of Springmount, Duagh). His earliest years were spent in the Bridge Road, Listowel. In 1948, his parents bought and restored Gurtenard House in which he grew up, brought up his own family and lived until 2006. 

As the younger brother, it was often said his more outgoing older sisters, Kay and Marie, overshadowed him. Quite the contrary; clever and reserved, Jimmy simply watched, observed, and quietly got his point across in his own gentle way. 

He was educated in the Boys’ School and St. Michael’s College, Listowel and Newbridge College, Co.Kildare later studying commerce at University College Cork and engineering at Bolton St. College, Dublin.  

At the age of 16, he spent a summer in Ventry to advance his Irish language skills at the first Irish college of its kind in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht. It is questionable whether his Irish improved, however it was there that he met Anne Scully (also 16, daughter of Dr. Paddy Scully, Dingle). His courting strategies included cycling his bicycle along the round topped stone wall opposite Paidi OSé’s family home and “borrowing” cars from Moloney’s Garage to meet Anne in Tralee for dances at the Brandon Hotel.

Anne and Jimmy had a Christmas wedding at Muckross Church, Killarney on 29thDecember 1965, both aged just 21.They honeymooned in London and the south of Spain, where they would return many times. They lived at Gurtenard House and Jimmy successfully ran Moloney’s Garage in Market Street and William Street, Listowel until the mid-1980s. 

Moloney’s Garage, a Main Ford Dealership, had been founded in 1945 by his father, D.J., and was a thriving business and employer in the town for many decades. At a time when opportunities for school leavers in North Kerry would have been few, scores of young trainees arrived at Moloney’s Garage as apprentice mechanics, pump attendants, panel beaters, accountants and secretaries and learned their craft in their own hometown. The regard in which Jimmy and D.J. were held was deeply felt by the Moloney family at Jimmy’s funeral where dozens of former employees and colleagues from years gone by paid their respects and told stories of a wonderful workplace and how they “got their start” at Moloney’s. 

Not surprisingly, he was an avid fan of motor sports in all its forms. A founder member of Kerry Motor Club and its secretary for much of the 1970s, Jimmy was an accomplished rally driver in his own right, competing in rallies all over Ireland and the UK. He was a talented mechanic and restored numerous vintage and veteran cars as well as being an early and enthusiastic member of the Kingdom Veteran and Vintage Car club founded in 1979. The club, which celebrates its 40thAnniversary this year, organised veteran and vintage car runs throughout the county and beyond, most notably the Annual Ring of Kerry run. There are many accounts from those times of blown gaskets, runaway cars, golf clubhouses being mistaken for hotels and many other (mis) adventures. In 2010 he was awarded the Automobile Association’s commemorative centenary award as Kerry’s longest serving member as well as having led numerous emergency rescues to car crash sites and breakdowns throughout the county for the association.

Anne and Jimmy successfully ran Gurtenard House as a Bed and Breakfast for over 20 years from the 1980s until their retirement to Cherry Tree Drive in 2006. Like Gurtenard House, the door in Cherry Tree Drive was always open and friends and family alike were welcomed for a chat and the inevitable glass (or more) of wine. 

Jimmy could fix anything and was as comfortable up a ladder as under the bonnet of a car. One of his many hobbies was woodturning, reflected in his numerous intricate sculptures and woodcarvings. An innovative problem solver, his many inventions included some unusual security and surveillance systems as well as a number of quite peculiar washing machines, ironing contraptions and pest deterrents.    

Widely read and widely travelled, Jimmy had been planning a tour of Holland, Germany, France and Switzerland at the time of his death, one of the highlights of which was to be a high-speed drive on the German autobahns with his son-in-law, Frank. 

On the Sunday evening before his passing, he had attended the count of the recent County Council elections and proudly saw his youngest son, Jimmy re-elected to Kerry County Council to represent Listowel and Fianna Fáil.

Jimmy Snr died as he had lived, quietly and without fuss. He will be sadly missed by his sisters Kay and Marie, sons Dan, Conor and Jimmy, daughter Maeve, grandsons Isaac, Oscar, Max and Tom, daughter-in-law Una, son-in-law Frank and his wide network of relatives and friends. 


At the Conservation Seminar

At last week’s conservation seminar in Kerry Writers’ Museum, we looked at how we are doing so far with the work of maximising our existing heritage assets and how we can improve on things in the future.

We identified Childers’ Park as one of our greatest amenities. It is the only green flag municipal park in Ireland.

Work is continuing on accessing the lios (ring fort) after which the town is named.

The suggestion to erect a tourist information kiosk in the Square was not proceeded with and “Tourisn Ambassadors” were appointed instead. Since Kerry Writers’ Museum is already  a tourist information centre, it was decided to erect better signage to direct people there.

We have 400 free car parking spaces. These should be more than adequate for visitors and shoppers.

The work of the Tidy Town committee was widely praised and the Listowel Business and Community Alliance has already got stuck in and its new website, will be launched in the very near future. A website with up to date information on what is going  on in town is a necessity.

The success of the recent Revival music festival was mentioned and all of the town’s many festivals were noted a major assets to the touristm offering in Listowel.

Pauline Dennigan sent me the below photos

Kerry County Council staff and consultants with the mayor of Listowel Municipal District, Michael Kennelly and Julie Gleeson and Mary Hanlon of Listowel Tidy Towns Committee.

I met Martin Chute, master painter and sign writer at the seminar

A Famine Commemoration, the new pharmacy at Upper Church St. and my visit to Santa 2017

John Kelliher’s lovely photo of St. John’s in Winter 2017


Widening the park gateway

When this essential work is complete we should see a big improvement in traffic movement on Bridge Road.


A Famine Commemoration in Listowel

John Pierse makes it one of his life missions to make sure that Listowel remembers its Famine dead. His latest deed to keep the horrors of The Great Famine before our minds is a plaque at the hospital chapel. This plaque was unveiled on Saturday November 18 2017

The convent chapel is the last remaining piece of the old workhouse that is still in use.

The plaque was commissioned by Listowel Tidy Towns Committee and was executed by Darren Enright to John Pierse’s design. We also received a booklet on the day with valuable information about the Famine in Listowel.

John Pierse is a very painstaking historian. He left no stone unturned in his efforts to locate a photograph of the flower of the lumper potato. The lumper was the potato that everyone grew in Ireland in the nineteenth century. It was softer than today’s potatoes and was eaten raw by the people in the workhouse. Unfortunately it was very susceptible to blight.

Jimmy Moloney was the very able M.C. for the ceremony.

Julie Gleeson, chair of Listowel Tidy Towns, John Pierse, Kay Caball, John Lucid, Bryan MacMahon, Jimmy Moloney and Mary Hanlon.

Julie spoke on behalf of Listowel Tidy Town who organised the event.

Sr. Margaret spoke on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy in whose chapel the plaque was erected.

The blessing was an ecumenical one with Fr. Hegarty and Rev. Harding performing the prayerful dedication.

Some local people among the large attendance.

Ballybunion Tidy Town Committee were invited.

These four Mercy sisters came from Killarney


A Corner of Town is Changing

Refurbishment at Doran’s continues. Soon Upper Church Street will have a whole new aspect.


I met Santa Yesterday, November 26 2017

Folks, if you are familiar with the Lartigue, you won’t recognise it and if you’ve never been, you’ll think you are in Wonderland.

These are just some of the elves who have made this Listowel Santa experience happen.

The North Pole Express

will run every weekend from now until Christmas. Click the link above to book. There is a trip on the Lartigue, a visit to Santa, a cookie decorating and Christmas tree ornament decorating workshop. There is hot chocolate, story reading with Mrs. Claus and a Christmas movie in Santa’s own private cinema.

Listowel singers are singing carols live and there are goodies to take away. These goodies include a lovely Christmas story book written and illustrated by Olive Stack and visiting artist Jennifer Walls.

There is great credit due to everyone who worked hard to make this happen. I am particularly delighted to see the baton of volunteerism passed to a new generation.

Chainsaw Art in Kanturk, Life in The Workhouse and the Dan Keane Show in the 70s

Photo: Chris Grayson


Kanturk Arts Festival

Recently I had the good fortune to attend a great weekend of music, poetry, drama and art in Kanturk, Co. Cork.

One of the more unusual events this year was a display of chainsaw art by Will Fogarty of Fear na Coillte. Will is based in Co. Limerick and from his base there he has created beautiful wooden sculptures using a chainsaw or, more accurately, a few different chainsaws.

 When I arrived in the lovely OBrien Street Park, Will had already started to work. We speculated about what he might be going to create. A fish was the most popular guess.

Chainsaw art is a slow process so we left him at it while we repaired to The Vintage for lunch. On our return the sculpture was unmistakably a hare.

Ears were given definition. The animal was given toes and a few finishing touches involving filing and brushing and hey pesto! a moon gazing hare was born before our very eyes. If you are passing through Kanturk it would be worth your while to pop into the lovely park on your right as you pass through on your way to Mallow. The hare is to be set in concrete and put on display there.

 Me with the hare

Isn’t he beautiful? His color will darken over time.


Very Very Sad story from the Irish Examiner Archive

Irish Examiner  Wednesday, 16 January, 1850;
Front page, Page: 1


(“Abridged from the Tralee Chronicle.)

The chair at the opening of the proceedings was occupied by Maurice
Leonard, Esq., deputy vice chairman, but was subsequently filled by
Capt. HOME, the Chairman of the Board.

Mr. Lynch, P.L.C., and Mr. R. E. Duncan, who has succeeded Mr.
Robinson, as Poor Law Inspector, were in attendance.

It appeared that there had been in the fever hospital on last Saturday
no less than 106, and 37 deaths from fever and dysentery. The deaths
this week were seven. The average of deaths, for some
weeks—principally from dysentery—was as high as five a day. The
following report of the Medical Officer was read:—

The Medical Officer begs to call the attention of the Guardians to the
still increasing amount of mortality in the workhouse, an event which
he foresaw some weeks ago, and as a likely means of preventing which
he then recommended a change in the dietary, not then acted upon. He
again wished to bring under the consideration of the Guardians, as
well for the sake of ultimate economy as common humanity, the
importance, during the present epidemic of dysentery of the
substitution of soup, such as that already recommended in December 20,
1849; for what is now in use amongst the paupers, and which consists
almost exclusively of ingredients of a decidedly laxative nature, and
consequently per-disposing to dysentery. Independently of atmospheric
influence, and the foregoing cause, the medical officer cannot but
consider that other causes operate in the development of the present
prevailing diseases, and among the most likely he would enumerate the
intense coldness of the weather, scarcity of fuel, insufficiency of
clothing, and the overcrowded state of every part of the house
appropriated to the sick. The correction of some of those causes the
medical officer respectfully submits is within the power of the

Mr. Leonard—This is a matter of vast importance. Mr. Robinson, in his
place here, induced us to adopt his receipt for soup, and we were thus
led to throw overboard the doctor’s recommendation; and ever since
those deaths have been taking place.

Mr. Lynch—I do not apprehend that it is in consequence of the soup,
which is what is now known as the Roscrea soup. It is used in
Limerick, where we have 2,800 inmates, and there are not half so many
deaths there in a week as here. On going into your hospital, a most
horrible sight presented itself to my notice. I am only surprised the
deaths were more numerous. But, bad as the state of things was, I was
told by the matron, the master and the Catholic clergymen, that there
was a great improvement since yesterday. There were ten children in
one bed, and eleven children in another, suffering under severe
dysentery—actually dying. In the whole course of my experience of
workhouses, I never saw anything like that before. Your hospital is in
a shameful state. It is full of dirt from top to bottom. There was no
straw, no change of linen. I am only surprised that the deaths are not

The doctor told me that there were in the hospital of the
workhouse no less than 222, though it was only calculated to contain
140. But that does not account for ten and eleven in a bed. But he
told me that there was no straw put in the bed, where there were five
children sleeping heads down, and five heads up—and all in a dying
state Surely, you would not put ten children in a healthy state into
the same bed. Several beds had eight, some five, and none less than
four children. Mr. W. Sandes—This literally amounts to a mortality
test. Mr. Lynch—Then there they are left without breakfast till one
o’clock, while there is no less, I am told, than 23 per cent, water in
the milk. Mr. George Sandes’ report, as the acting member of the
Visiting Committee, and the report of the Master described the
infirmary as in every filthy state. The Rev. Mr. Mahony, the Roman
Catholic Chaplain, came before the Board, and said—I went into the
infirmary half an hour ego, and I found the sick paupers without
having had their breakfasts, at half-past one. I told the Master, and
be said he thought that a man named Griffin, who acts under him, had
supplied them with breakfast. He sent for the nurse tender, and she
said that Griffin had stated as his reason—(here we were interrupted,
and lost the remainder of the sentence). The paupers were lying on
their beds without a drop of drink till half-past one.— There have
been forty-five deaths for the last fortnight, and eight yesterday.
The eight days before that, there were thirty-one deaths. In my
parish, where the population in 1841 was 7,072, there were not four
deaths during that time. I do not make this statement in the way of a
complaint against the officers; but I feeI I would not be doing my
duty if I did not state this much—(hear, hear). I believe the Master
was not to blame, because he thought this man did his duty.

(Life in Listowel Workhouse in 1850 was truly awful. The image of 10 dying children in the same bed without even straw for a mattress is beyond appalling)


Something to Look Forward to


This is a photo of the performers at a show organized by Dan Keane sometime in the 1970s. Betty Stack provided the names. Her copy of the picture had a few more people so I hope I have the names right. If anyone has a scanned copy of the full picture, I’d be delighted to post it.

From back;  ………Patrick Flaherty, Seán Ahern, Timmy Leahy, Seán Broderick, Liam Tarrant,

Jerry Nolan, …….  ……, Gerard Buckley,Michael Dowling Christy Stack,

Muriel Dowling, Geraldine Dowling, Kathleen O’Connor, Betty Stack, Maureen Dowling, Honor O’Connor

The copy of the picture I got has the front row missing which is a pity because in it are Timmy Brosnan, Peggy Sweeney and Dan Keane

Bridget Ryan, Tar Abhaile and Pilgrim Hill

Lovely photo from my friend in Ballybunion Sea Angling. This one was taken last week.


It all started with a Google search in 2008

In a suburb of Sydney, Australia in 2008 a part-time teacher
named Julie Evans was researching her family tree. She knew that her great
great grandmother, Bridget Ryan had left Ireland in Famine times as part of the
Earl Grey Scheme. Bridget was one of the “Famine Orphans” who were sent from the
workhouse in Listowel to settle in the other side of the world.

The Earl Grey Scheme was devised by the British Government
to solve twin problems at opposite ends of The Empire. Workhouses in Ireland
were massively overcrowed and struggling to cope with the numbers of  starving people arriving daily. Meanwhile far
away in Australia, colonists were decrying the lack of suitable (white) female
house servants. Earl Grey decided to identify suitable girls in Irish
workhouses, to kit them out and send them to Australia. The Australian people
were to foot the bill for the scheme. The definition of orphan was very loose.
Some girls had one living parent and some even had two. Bridget Ryan, it would
appear, fell into the second category.

Julie knew all this when she Googled Listowel Co. Kerry,
Ireland and she found this website maintained by Jim and Mary Cogan.  She sent off
an email and thus began an adventure whose latest twist was a TG4 project
called Tar Abhaile (Come Home).

When I received Julie’s email in 2008, I knew little of the workhouse
and nothing at all of The Earl Grey Scheme. A correspondence began and we emailed
to and fro, filling in more and more of the story until 2011. North Kerry Reaching Out was set up and I began this blog. One of the  aims of NKRO was to help the diaspora with
research into their family trees. Julie was one of this diaspora whose story we
took on board. We soon discovered that Bridget Ryan was no ordinary orphan and
her story began to take on many aspects of a soap opera. There was crime and
punishment, poverty and wealth but with a little smattering of social grace and
ladylike accomplishments.

Through this blog I made contact with an avid historian and
genealogist, Kay Caball. Kay grew up in Listowel . She is writing a history of
all the Famine Orphans who left from Kerry workhouses. She and Julie formed a
partnership to advance research into Bridget’s background.

Fast forward to 2013 the year of The Gathering and RTE is commissioning some TV programmes about descendants of emigrants.  

So, Julie Evans, her husband Glyn, her third cousin, Jeanette
Greenway from California and Jeanette’s daughter, Peta arrive in Ireland; Julie
to participate in the making of the TV documentary and her cousins to learn
more about their ancestor, Bridget Ryan.

Over two days last week we filmed hours of footage which
will be distilled  into 12 minutes of a Tar
Abhaile programme to be aired on TG4 in September or October. Don’t worry, I’ll keep
you posted.

I can’t spoil the programme by telling you the story but I
can tease you by telling you that it is an interesting tale with a few elements
to illustrate the adage that truth is often stranger then fiction.

As they say in the worst journals, “Watch this space”.

Julie and Glyn


Date for the diary:  Pilgrim Hill is coming shortly to a cinema near you.

In cinemas April 12th 2013. Pilgrim Hill is the debut film from Gerard Barrett, winner of the 2013 Irish Film and Television Academy Rising Star Award.

Jimmy Walsh is a farmer in rural Ireland. Like the landscape he inhabits, his life is bleak and hard. Looking after an ageing sick father, life is passing him by as he comes to terms with his changing circumstances. Loneliness and isolation are his continual companions, along with his modest herd of cattle.

A young twenty something neighbour is one of the only links Jimmy has to the real world. In him, Jimmy sees what he could have been, as he realizes what he is, a middle aged bachelor farmer with vanishing opportunities and on the verge of living the rest of his life alone on the side of a cold un-nourishing hill.

A final blow is dealt to Jimmy when it seems that life can’t get any worse. He is barely able to articulate his situation, yet his honesty and vulnerability speak to the loneliness that haunts the human condition in all of us.


Local Heroes

These are some of the volunteers who cleaned up the approach roads to the town on Saturday. This is what the Tidy Towns Committee posted on their Facebook page:

“An old bike, a baby seat and nearly 80 bags of rubbish collected on KWD County Clean-up on approach roads into the town. Thanks to everyone who helped out, we had 30 volunteers out early in the morning.”


Good news announced on Radio Kerry

“A proposed respite centre in Kerry
is to receive funding from the GAA. The centre, which will be the first of its
kind in the country,  will provide respite for children affected by rare
diseases and their families.

‘Liam’s Lodge’ is named after
4-year-old Kerry boy Liam Heffernan who suffers from Battens disease. His
sister Saoirse died from the disease at the age of five in 2011. Their parents,
Mary and Tony Heffernan from Keel/Castlemaine, actively raised funds for the
treatment of their children and are now behind the respite project. When it
opens in 2015, Liam’s Lodge will initially cater for 520 families each year and
is planning to provide help for over 1,500 families a year when all phases of
the project are complete.  The GAA is contributing €20,000 to the centre
in Blennerville. Tony Heffernan says the GAA’s funding is a huge boost to their


On this day, April 15 1912 this magnificent ship, Titanic with the loss of 1517 lives

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