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Tag: Listowel Writers Week 2013 Page 1 of 2

Local Writers celebrated at Writers’ Week 2013

One of the best parts of Writers’ Week for most local people is the opportunity to meet up with old friends who come home to Listowel for the festival. What better place to meet these friends than at a “local” event. One of these events this year was a tribute by Owen MacMahon to his late father, Bryan. Owen managed masterfully to show us what made Bryan MacMahon ‘tick”.

Our own local “údar agus oide” was brought to life before our eyes but we also got a glimpse of the great man as father and husband. Owen shared his unique insights into everyday life with a disciplined writer, a man of fixed habits but above all a story teller extraordinaire. Maybe a more fitting title would be ” údar, scéalaí agus oide” .

Owen’s enormous pride in his father shone through in every anecdote. Bryan MacMahon was a writer deeply rooted in his native place. He respected and honoured his own people: he celebrated them in ballads and stories but he always treated them gently and with a tolerant teacher’s understanding of the shortcomings of the human condition.

The singing of Karen Trench, Philip Enright and Sonny Egan added to this gem of a performance; for me the theatrical high point of this year’s Writers’ Week.


I met a group of old Listowellians, pictured below, reunited as they left St. John’s after another vituoso local performance from essayist, Cyril Kelly. Cyril has the gift of turning the minutae of everyday life as he lives it, into charming evocative pieces with  universal appeal. 

His essays are a delight to read on the page but far far more delightful when read in his distinctive musical voice.

Cyril Kelly reading in St. John’s
Vincent Carmody introducing Cyril to the audience.

Cyril gave a second performance on Saturday in Tae Lane Store where he spoke about growing up in the house of a milliner. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.

School friends and old neighbors, Máire MacMahon and Anne Cogan met up during writers’ Week 2013.

 Joan Regan and Jim Cogan take a stroll before the theatre on Sunday night. They saw King of Carnage, an enjoyable light hearted farce, just the ticket for those suffering from literary overload.


This picture of Ballybunion on Friday June 8 2013 comes from

Writers’ Week Children’s Festival and Craft Fair

This is Bromore, Ballybunion last week. For more photos of this stunningly beautiful spot click HERE


What other literary festival boasts a full children’s festival programme in tandem with its adult events? The 2013 children’s events were as varied as their adult counterparts and they were enjoyed by hundreds of young participants. There was Fossett’s Circus. The Big Top also doubled as a venue for all sorts of literary and ghostly goings on. There was Larry Lartigue showing our next generation a window into the past. We had Baby Boogie, always a hit with the smallies, a Teddy Bears picnic as well as all the readings and workshops.

I had first hand experience of 2 events when my grandchildren came to visit on Saturday. Here is 6 year old Aisling at her animation workshop. You can see her finished cartoon here.

This next event was called Bee the Book.

It took place in Garvey’s Super Valu on Sunday morning and it was a resounding hit with early readers and pre readers. Book reading is fun!


As always Xistance youth Cafe helped out with the children’s programme.

Louise and Chloe are 2 of the hard working members who ensured that everything ran smoothly.


As well as the scheduled programme there are also other attractions in Listowel during the weekend.

A Busker
Street musicians


There was racing on the Island on Sunday and Monday and all the glamour of a very successful Ladies’ Day. I was at the Craft Fair in The Seanchaí instead.

What a wealth of beautiful things!


John Stack’s photo of the Feale Rangers team who defeated Mid kerry in the first round of the County Championship 2013. For more information about this photo or to see lots more of John’s great North Kerry football photos go to this site:


Just like the old days!

Ballybunion the way we remember it but this time its June 9 2013

Jer Kennelly’s video memory is here

Original Kerry, More from Writers Week 2013 & a Red Cross Social in the 1950s

Ballybunion Sea Angling took this photo looking out from a cave on The Nun’s beach. Is there anywhere on earth as lovely as Ballybunion? It is a geographer’s paradise. It must have every coastal feature there is.


This is Isobel Barrett of  Fairylawn Alpaca manning the desk at the lovely Original Kerry pop up shop. This shop operated in Tea Lane for the duration of Writers’ Week and as well as crafts for sale it held workshops and demonstrations daily. I bought one of the beautiful wooden pens you see in the foreground of my picture. These pens are made in Moyvane by an enterprising 18 year old,  Donnchadh O’Connor. My pen came in a gorgeous wooden box.

These are examples of Isobel’s handmade toys and scarves. She also makes beautiful bags. As well as knitting her own products, Isobel spins her own alpaca yarn.


Here are 2 more snaps I took at Amy Sheehy’s launch

Stacks, mother and daughter

Old friends, Mairead O’Sullivan and Grace O’Sullivan aka Mrs. Mairead and Mrs Grace.


This is master painter, Fred Chute passing on his craft to his nephew, Francis.

Under Fred’s watchful eye, the next generation of Chute painters is learning how to paint the unique plasterwork of Pat MacAulliffe.


A new feature of this year’s Writers’ Week was Mike O’Donnell’s live sketching of some of the participants.  Using skills honed while sketching criminals in The Four Courts, he captured the essence of people like Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Rebecca Miller.


I love Dermot Bolger even though he made me cry every night for a week when he read his poems of grieving for his wife on Book at Bedtime. He was described by Carlo Gebler who interviewed him at Writers’ Week as a very generous publisher and writer. He displayed that same generosity to me by inviting me to pose with him for my photograph for the blog. On Dermot’s right is committee member, Máire O’Connor.

Carlo Gebler in conversation with Dermot Bolger


Something old

This is one of the photos Maura McMahon found among her late Aunty Maureen’s treasures. Margaret Dillon who has a great memory for old Listowel faces, helped me with these names. The lady pouring the tea is Maisie Sweeney. The lady with the cup is Maureen MacMahon. In the back are Maureen (OQuigley) Tatten and her husband Derry Tatten. We have drawn a  complete  blank on the man on the far left as you look at the photo. At the risk of sounding a bit like a garda on Crimecall, the image is very clear. Someone must know him. The other lady is familiar to people as well but no definite identification yet.

The photo was probably taken at a Red Cross Social in the 1940s or 50s


This is Denis Carroll’s photo from Friday nights’s high jinx in John B.’s to mark Billy Keane’s adoption into the Stack Clan. You too can be an adopted Stack for a very small fee.

Read all about it and their planned Clan Gathering HERE

Listowel writers’ Week, the literary walk 2013

Nuns’ Beach, Ballybunion, Co. Kerry June 4 2013


Now back to Writers’ Week 2013

On my way to assist  Vincent Carmody on the Thursday walk  around places associated with Listowel’s literary figures, I encountered none other than the Kerry Group winner from the night before. Gavin Corbett was on his way to the winners’ readings. I think he might have been still walking on air. He was accompanied by his wife.

Mike Lynch was in the company of Tom O’Loughlin.

Vincent was ready to lead his literary walking tour of Listowel. Before we set off he posed for me with visitors from the UK, Siobhán and Mark Hewitt. Siobhán is a grandaughter of Mary Hannon of this parish.

 He also stood in with Kieran Donaghy and Joanna Keane OFlynn.

“Star” was in Listowel as part of Writers Week’s Operation Education. Here he is with teachers and former teachers, Mary Frances, Muireann, Eileen, Breeda and Tony.

Below are members of Listowel Folk Group whose musical interludes added greatly to this year’s walking  tour.

Here is Vincent addressing the large crowd of walkers at the John B. Keane statue.

At the Maid of Erin these two ladies came out to tell us that they were celebrating one year in business.

In the old mart yard Mike Moriarty sang My Silver River Feale accompanied by John Kinsella.

 The crowd outside John B.’s listen to songs by John B. Keane.

 Paddy Keane doing his bit.

Mary Frances Behan telling us about the very erudite O’Rahilly family of The Square.

Tony Behan read “The Printer’s on the Tack”, a ballad written by Bryan MacMahon about his friend, Bob Thackaberry. When we got to Church Street, Tony gave us a masterly reading of John B Keane’s The Street.

On the steps of the Garda Station, Paddy Keane read an account of the mutiny during the War of Independence. You can read an account of it here;

This year Vincent gave me a powerfully emotive piece to read. It is taken from the book “Hostage to Fortune” and describes an eviction during Famine Times. This is it;

“We lived on Knock Maol.
That’s a wild old hill six miles out from Listowel.  There were three families of us on the hill,
Colberts, Corridans and Connors, and Lord Listowel was our landlord.  We had to pay him twenty pounds for our share
of the hill; the others had to pay the same. 
It was too much for them.  We
never knew anything but hunger and starvation in our house, eatin’ spuds three
times a day and easin’ them down with sour milk, when we had it.   Everything else, oats, calves and pigs went
to pay the rent.”

“Would you believe it? I had
never tasted a mouthful of bacon mutton or beef until I joined the Lincolns
although I spent all my time feeding pigs, sheep and cattle.  The nearest we went to it was the odd time we
boiled a sheep’s head for soup or filled its puddings with blood and mashed
potatoes for a Sunday dinner.

“ To make a long story short,
we failed to keep up with the rent and Lord Listowel gave orders to clear us
all out, Colberts, Corridans and Connors alike. They came on Small Christmas
Day in January 1863, bailiffs, peelers and soldiers and had us out on the cold
bog before dawn.  They burned down the
houses for fear we’d go back into them when their backs were turned. They took
my father and the other grown-up men into the workhouse in Listowel with them.
They did that “out of charity” they
said, because Lady Listowel wouldn’t sleep the night if the poor creatures were
left homeless on the mountain.”

“They left me and my brother,
Patsy to look after ourselves.  We slept
out with the hares a couple o’ nights, eatin’  swedes that had the ice in the heart o’ them
an’ then we parted. He went east and I went west towards Tralee. I must ha’ been
a sight, after walking twenty miles on my bare feet and an empty belly.  I wasn’t hungry for long.  A nice fellow in a red jacket and ribbons
flyin’ from his cap took me into a baker’s shop, gave me two penny buns to eat
and a cup of tea to wash them down. The first tea I ever tasted. He gave me a
shilling all for myself and invited me to go with him to where he lived. 

Ha! Ha!
I have been a soldier of the Queen ever since.


Mairead Sharry is seen here spinning wool from Killarney Woolen Mills at the sheep shearing competitions in Millstreet. She was in Killorglin this weekend demonstrating spinning.


John Kelliher has some great photos of local people at the races on his Facebook page

Writers’ Week 2013 and the opening of Lyreacrompane church in 1956

Warning: If you have no interest in seeing what went on at  Writers’ Week 2013, look away now.

I’m starting today with Opening Night.

All of these people are members of the hard working committee. They were meeting, greeting and ushering on opening night.


Michael Lynch, Sean Lyons, Colm Tóibín and John Bowman were on the stage, introducing and officially opening.

One of my favourite singers in the whole world provided the entertainment on the night. His 

well researched literary introductions to the songs added to the pleasure for me.


The next generation of Keane writers was awarded a prize. This is John Keane, son of Billy and grandson of John B.  If my little typist elf makes a trip home any time soon I’ll ask her to type up his winning story for you and you can see for yourselves that the apple did not fall far from the tree.

This is the winner of the Kerry Group Irish novel of the year, This is the Way by Gavin Corbett was awarded the big prize. He was delighted and suitably humbled. I honestly believe he never expected to win.

Very busy on the night were Dick Carmody, Jerry McDaniels and Máire Logue.

I snapped this happy family on my way out of the hotel; John Keane with his proud parents, Billy and Elaine.


In the forefront of this picture is my 40 year old vintage bicycle. When I took it from its winter storage this summer I found I couldn’t pump it up no matter how I tried. Thinking I had a puncture, I took it to the lovely people in iBike in Charles St.  Judging by the bikes on display in the shop, I think they cater more for the bike racing fraternity and more serious cyclists. They treated me and my jallopy with respect and without criticism AND, since my trusty Raleigh was not punctured at all, just flat, they pumped it up and let me off scott free.  My bike was invaluable during the last week when traffic in town was often gridlocked and I just sped past the envying glances of sweltering motorists.

 Happy days!


Photos taken at the opening of the new church in Lyreacrompane in 1956. I sourced the photos on the North Kerry Reaching Out Facebook page.

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