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 Writers' Week 2023 Page 1 of 2

Old History and Recent History

Bridge Road in June 2023


History in Kiskeam

Opposite the school in Kiskeam they have a little history park with its own stone circle.

Fr. John J ÓRiordáin on Walsh

Ogham stones, the salmon of knowledge, history and myth remembered.


Now that the Dust has Settled

Here is a piece that Stephen Connolly wrote for The Irish Times before Writers’ Week 2023.

It was still daylight on January 4th when I left Dublin on my way to Listowel, but dark by the time the budget flight arrived into Farranfore. Until I got the job as the first ever festival curator at Listowel Writers’ Week, I didn’t know that there was a flight from Dublin to Kerry. It was the first of many things I was going to learn.

It’s a bizarre thing to have a new job announced in the national press, more so if it comes with a tag to say that your appointment “follows controversy”: a controversy I knew nothing about when I sent in my application. It’s even more bizarre to then walk into a town where you know nobody at all, but for whatever reason I wasn’t nervous. My love for Listowel was immediate and the first thing I noticed was the intricate plasterwork on the lintels above the windows of the buildings around the town with the names of business owners past and present: O’Connor, Molyneaux, Carroll, Keane.

I was living a few miles out of town on a road where a bus runs twice a day: if you got the second bus into town you would have already missed the last one back out again, so I was making the most of my time in Listowel itself getting to know as many people and places as I could. Mike the Pies, the amazing pub and even better music venue, was recommended to me by my friend Paul Connolly from The Wood Burning Savages and it was one of my first stops.

What really caught my eye, though, was a framed old poster with ‘IMPORTANT AUCTION of a modern two storied LICENSED HOUSE’ in beautiful, eccentric wood type: the kind of thing that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Paula Scher’s work for New York’s Public Theatre. It was marked with “Cuthbertson, Machine Printer, Listowel” at the top and the word Listowel itself appeared at least five times on the single poster. There was something about the various weights for the letterforms in the old wood type and the idiosyncratic syntax of it all that sparked something in me, and I knew immediately that it would influence the festival’s artwork.

I got talking about it to the owner, Aiden O’Connor, and before too long he told me about his uncle Michael O’Connor, a previous landlord and son of the eponymous Mike the Pies, who “collected posters, and made posters himself”. He told me that Michael had donated “quite a lot of them to a gallery in Limerick”. When I had a look online, I found that there was an archive of almost 3,000 posters from various cultural institutions across Europe spanning several decades that formed a permanent collection in the Limerick City Gallery of Art. “There’s more of them,” Aiden said. “Give me a minute and I’ll show you.”

I couldn’t believe what was hidden away above the pub, but it’s going to form an exhibition during Writers’ Week called The Uncollected Posters of Michael O’Connor. The singer-songwriter Jack O’Rourke had been amazed by Michael O’Connor’s story, too, and wrote Opera on the Top Floor about him: Jack will be playing at the opening night of Writers’ Week, when the winners of the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award and the Pigott Poetry Prize will be announced and the John B Keane Lifetime Achievement will be presented to Stephen Rea.

Mike the Pies was the first of many incredible discoveries during the first few weeks in the Kingdom and it was easy to see why this heritage town has been a cultural centre for decades. I’d read as much as I could about the history of Writers’ Week, particularly the ethos on which it was founded, and it resonated with what I’ve been trying to do since I was a teenager. I knew that if I was programming acclaimed best-sellers like Liz Nugent and Louise Kennedy, I’d have to be thoughtful in my approach to debut writers (there will be events with Michael Magee, Nithy Kasa and Fergus Cronin, to name a few). When I was inviting Paul Muldoon to read poems and have a conversation with Paul Brady, I knew that inviting emerging talents like William Keohane and Jess McKinney would be as important to the continuation of what the festival is all about.

In Kevin’s bar on William Street there’s another Cuthbertson poster, this one from 1937, advertising “the first all-night DANCE”: the dance was organised by local undertakers and the room used to store coffins became a cloakroom for the night (through to dawn, presumably). This kind of thing wasn’t a one-off, and I felt like it gave me a certain permission to make use of some slightly less-conventional spaces. Among the prestigious names in fiction and poetry, we’ll be putting on an event with the authors of Bad Bridget: Crime, Mayhem and the Lives of Irish Emigrant Women (a best-seller in the non-fiction charts) in the historic but working courthouse in the town; we’re putting on an event in Kevin’s bar where anyone called Kevin can turn up and do a turn (Kevins in Kevin’s: an Omnium Gatherum of Kevins); we’re putting on a performance of Minimal Human Contact, the play in Irish by Kneecap’s Naoise Ó Cairealláin, in Mike the Pies. I can’t wait to see all of this unfold in Listowel.

Stephen Connolly is Festival Curator of Listowel Writers’ Week, which runs from May 31st to June 4th



Molly and I visited the beautiful Pitch and Putt course.


Writers’ Week 2023

Bridge Road in May 2023


Witty Window

Harp and Lion Antiques in Church Street.


May Images from Childers Park


Choosing Kerry

These lovely people have bought a house in Beale and are relocating there shortly. Unfortunately they will miss Writers’ Week 2023. Maybe next year.


Will Collins, Scriptwriter

This photograph is from 2015 when Will Collins was a guest at The Children’s Festival during Listowel Writers’ Week. In it I am beside Will’s wife Karen and his lovely mom and dad are on the right of Will. Luke is in the buggy.

Will today is even more famous than he was back then. Here’s why.

Will Collins, who grew up a stones throw from my family home, co-wrote an episode of the Star Wars Visions’ series alongside Jason Tammemägi. 

The programme, which is currently streaming on Disney Plus, is titled Screecher’s Reach. 

The episode formed part of an ambitious project that allowed filmmakers and animators all over the world access to the Star Wars universe.

Will’s previous screenwriting credits include the Oscar nominated feature animations, Wolfwalkers and Song of the Sea with Cartoon Saloon.

Will got to live out every Star Wars fan’s dream with a trip to the George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch located north of San Francisco.


Man of the Moment (and girlfriend)

Stephen Connolly, curator of Listowel Writers’ Week 2023, is being helped at every step of his new venture by Manuela.


Saturday June 3 2023

If you join me outside The Listowel Arms Hotel at 10.00 a.m. we’ll take a short stroll to the Tidy Town seat and we’ll have a few songs there.

Then we’ll take the short stroll to the castle steps.

That’s the walking part done.

We’ll be entertained and informed. Hopefully the sun will shine on us and everyone will have a good time. I’m looking forward to it.


Opening Night Writers Week 2023

Opening Night will start at 8.00p.m. The doors will be open at 7.00p.m.

Jack O’Rourke will entertain us. Prizes will be distributed and the John B. Keane Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to distinguished actor, Stephen Rea.

Ger Holland is the official photographer but I’ve got permission to snap some local folk for Listowel Connection.

I’ll be taking annual leave to enjoy the festival and then some more annual leave to recover.

See you back here soon.


Last word on the toilet for now

Tuesday May 30 2023

Nearly there but no electricity yet so unfortunately it looks like it won’t be ready for Writers’ Week.

You saw it here first! the kindly Kerry County Council staff gave me a sneak peak. No super loo this…a bog standard wheelchair accessible public toilet.


Singers and Fundraisers

Library Road in May 2023


Annual North Kerry M.S. Busking Day

On Friday May 19 2023, Main Street came alive with music. The concert was in aid of an association very close to my heart. I apologise that I can’t include some clips of the great music here but video clips just take up too much of my precious storage space. I have pictures though.

This is a group of morning collectors and musicians. A new crew took over in the afternoon. Some of the morning people were involved in the afternoon as well.

I’ll include a few more tomorrow.



This epic cycle fundraiser in aid of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind paused in town on Monday May 22 2023.


Alice Curtayne

This is Alice Curtayne’s panel in Kerry Writers’ Museum. She is the only female writer among the great men of letters.

Alice was actually an extraordinary lady, writing on lots of subjects, many of them religious in nature. She has written on Dante (She lived for a time in Milan in the 1920s) St. Brigid (She lived in Kildare too) and she has written one novel, House of Cards which her family think is largely biographical. She wrote many articles for newspapers and periodicals like the Capuchin Annual.

She was born in Tralee. Her father was a coach furnisher and he had his business in what is now Benners Hotel.

She lectured in America before settling down and marrying a farmer whom she met when he wrote her a fan letter.

Her husband, Stephen Rynne was a romantic. They married in Tarbert on Valentine’s Day. In their garden in Prosperous, Stephen planted snowdrops in a formation which every Spring spelled out Alice.

Alice passed away in 1981. She is under appreciated even in her native Kerry. Her grandson, Niall, is doing much to bring knowledge of her to a wider audience. Some of her books have been republished by an American publisher. I bought the one on St. Brigid. I’ll review it here at a later date.


Listowel Writers’ Week, Opening Night 2023

What links these two places to opening night 2023?

Special guest on Opening Night will be acclaimed singer /songwriter Jack O’Rourke.

Jack is a storyteller in song. He was fascinated by the story of Michael O’Connor as told to him by Aiden on one of his visits to Mike the Pies.

He wrote this song

Opera on the Top Floor

Michael O’Connor, uncle of Aiden, was an extraordinary man. He was a talented artist, a collector of posters, an opera lover and a book lover. He was also a very private person. His family left his apartment over the pub very much as he left it. A visit to this place of music, art and literature inspired O’Rourke to write the song.

“…And that opera on the top floor
No one knows, it’s under lock and key
The needle hits the vinyl, I’m away on the wind
Every secret needs a sanctuary.”

I hope he sings it for us on Opening Night.

Another treat in store for us at this year’s Writers’ Week is a chance to see some of Michael O’Connor’s great collection of international graphic art in Mike the Pies.


I Love Paul Galvin

Maybe not Paul himself. I don’t know him but I love, love, love his book.

People who know me here know that I love a good anecdote or story and I love random facts. Paul’s book is full of these. I’ve only dipped into it so far. I’ve only just got it.

Who knew?

Spear throwing! sword fighting!

If, like me you love these little stories, Paul Galvin has lots of them in his great book. He is a great researcher and a great story teller.

Do come along to hear him in

The Listowel Arms at 3.00p.m. on Saturday June 3 2023


Dolly Day

DollyDay fundraiser for Comfort for Chemo and the Kerry Hospice was launched in Quanes Bar, Blennerville on Thursday evening.

Dolly Day in Listowel is on June 24 2023 and it promises to be a good one. The lady herself has been invited to attend and she is checking her calendar.

You can be part of the fun by buying your wig online Here

There are a few instructions laid down by the Guinness Book of Records people about how you should be dressed. Nothing major.


Catching Up with Friends

I met my old friend, Dolores O’Connor in The Flying Saucer on Monday. She was enjoying a hot chocolate with her sister, Eileen. When they see me with my camera they know that I will connect them with their family in the US and England. Great Listowel people and supporters of this blog.

I had a great chat with my lovely friends, Liz and Jim Dunn, in Thyme Out café yesterday. Liz is going to be our hostess at Opening Night of Listowel Writers’ Week on May 31st. No better woman for the job.



When I came to Listowel first I found local people had quite a few phrases we didn’t use over the border in my part of the country.

“Will you walk to town or will you carry the car?” asked a new friend.

The image this conjured up came back to me when I read Brian Bilston’s amusing poem:

you took
the last bus home

i still don’t know
how you got it through the door

but you’re always doing amazing stuff

like the time
when you caught that train


A Fact

The English language syllable “ough” can be pronounced in eight different ways. The following sentence includes all eight.

A tough dough-faced ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough, coughing and hiccoughing thoughtfully.


Memories from 1974 and Looking Forward to 2023

Millenium Arch in May 2023


How it used to look

This is the remains of the first arch in 2016, It was damaged in a big storm. You will notice the the new designer didn’t bother with the things that looked like very big ball bearing between the arch and the pillars.


Wolfgang and Anita Mertens

in John B. Keane’s Bar, May 16th 2023

This is the house from which Maria wrote to Wolfgang.

Here are 2 letters Wolfgang kept as souvenirs of his visit to Writers Week in 1974. The first is from Maria Coffey who was, I think, writing on behalf of Writers Week and one from Bryan MacMahon with whom he had a long correspondence. Wolfgang was writing his thesis on his work.

Anita and Wolfgang can’t remember where they stayed which is surprising because they remember a lot about their trip.

On their last night they saw a production of The Honey Spike by the Carrick- on-Siur Drama Group and they were enthralled by it.

Wolfgang in his library has almost all of MacMahon’s published works, in English and some in translation as well.

While we were at the MacMahon statue we met Maggie and Mac Donald who were just returning from a visit to Kerry Writers’ Museum.

Brían MacMahon took time out of his busy day to welcome the German visitors. He told them a few stories about his famous grandfather and generally charmed them with his wit and friendliness.

We met Liz Dunn who gave them a brochure for this year’s Writers’ Week. Wolfgang promises to send me his 1974 programme.

We called to the Garden of Europe on the way home from town.


A 1980 Visitor

Hello Mary.

I came upon your blog while searching for “Irish Horse Caravans”.

I was a young soldier in the US Army on leave in 1980 when I hitchhiked/walked through Ireland.

I have a photo in this email, which I think may possibly be in Adare or very close to it. I was wondering if you perhaps recognize this image and the signs for the roads they reference and could tell me where this may have been.

Regards from the US, Marietta, GA
Bob Jewell

Is Bob correct? Is that Adare? I think so.



Is your name Kevin or Caoimhín?

If the answer is yes, the place for you to be is this Listowel pub on Friday June 2 in the late evening.

The first annual gathering of people called Kevin in Kevin’s is happening there.

The back story; Stephen Connolly, curator of this year’s Writers’ Week programme was, by chance, in Kevin’s on the late owner, Kevin Broderick’s, birthday and he happened to sit beside a man called Kevin. This sparked this idea; Why not have a gathering of people called Kevin in a pub called Kevin’s during Writers’ Week.

BTW you can come too if your name is not Kevin.


On the Prowl with Camera

I was in The Square on Saturday May 20 2023

I met the lovely and very talented Eileen Sheehan as she went into Kerry Writers’ Museum to facilitate a poetry workshop.

I had a lovely chat with friends, Brian and May Griffin and Mary and Seán Comerford.



The meaning of the word, good luck in finding valuable things unintentionally, refers to the fairy tale characters who were always making discoveries through chance. You can thank serendipity if you find a pencil at an empty desk just as you walk into an exam and realize that you forgot yours.

I have so often experienced serendipity at Listowel Writers Week. I have gone to a book launch by someone I had never heard of and find the writer or subject so fascinating that I can’t wait to read the book.

Let me point you in the direction of a few opportunities for serendipity coming up for us in Listowel.

I have never read either of these authors but it looks like lots of people have and loved them.

Friday June2 in The Listowel Arms

This handsome dude is well known to everyone in Kerry. As well as being one of Kerry’s all time great footballers, he is also a clothes designer and now an author.

Confession here; I considered buying this book at Christmas and dismissed it without knowing what it was about. I presumed wrongly that it was the story of how a footballer turned into a fashion designer.

I should have looked more closely and, if only to honour my weaver ancestors, I should have bought it. It’s not too late to make up for lost time.

Join me in Listowel Arms on Saturday at 3.00


I Love this One

Published in The Irish Times on Saturday May 20 2023.

I have a god daughter who I can just imagine spending her old age (which is a long way off yet) reminiscing about horses.


A Fact

A typical lightening bolt is two miles long.


Birds and Public seating

Huguenot Cemetery, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photo: Éamon ÓMurchú


Listowel Tidy Towns at 30

Anyone who comes into town will observe how spick and span Listowel is looking. Our hard working Tidy Town volunteers have just organised a big clean up.

They play a vital role in making Listowel the attraction it is.

Listowel has many reminders of how important this organisation is as they give back to the town constantly.

This unique Darren Enright seat is just one example of the public seating they have provided for the town.

Thank you all.


Daffodil Day 2023 in Listowel


It’s Here

This year’s Writers Week programme is here

Listowel Writers Week 2023



Éamon Ó Murchú visited the Falconry at Luttrelstown Castle

Éamon took some great photographs of the raptors;


Doing my Bit to Promote Listowel Writers Week 2023

This is not the one chosen for Instagram but it’s the one I like best as it incorporates the old and the new. If you join me and my friends on Saturday June 3 2023, you’ll hear something about Listowel Castle and something about the latest piece of public sculpture.


International Celtic Art Conference

At this conference in June 2023, Stephen Rynne will bring Listowel’s Michael O’Connor to an international audience of Celtic Art experts and scholars. O’Connor’s magnificent work will soon be available for viewing at Kerry Writers’ Museum.


A Fact

A shrimp’s heart is in its head !

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