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: Louise Galvin

The Horseshoe, Launch of Emma Larkin’s Book and Behan’s The Horseshoe

A Robin  close up

Photo: Chris Grayson


A Book Launch in Kerry Writers’ Museum

This is me with the author, Emma Larkin. Her new book is really clever because her heroine can play in Cork, Kerry or Dublin colours depending on your little one’s native county. I bought a Cork book.

Half of Finuge was there to support Emma who is from a family of Cork hurling royalty.

Kerry Sevens Rugby and football royalty were there. I snapped them chatting to Billy Keane, who, for once was not  the most famous person in the room.

I gave my former star pupil a quick peek at my book. She recognised her old dancing teacher on the back inside cover.

We were entertained by these lovely ladies as we queued to have our books signed.

Another of my star pupils was there too. Rhona Tarrant works in New York and she was on a flying visit home.

These local ladies play football with the local Mothers and Others team.

The hall was packed.

Kate O’Callaghan, chair of Finuge St. Senan’s Ladies Football Club gave  a great opening speech encouraging all young girls to participate in sport. Participation in sport, particularly team sport was a theme throughout the evening.

Emma and her husband, Robbie watched attentively.

Billy Keane was the official ‘launcher”. He praised the young girls and all the volunteers and parents who give so much time to encourage young girls to play sport. He loved Emma’s book and congratulated her on a job well done.

This is the illustrator, Paul Nugent whose work brought the story to life from Izzy’s back garden to Croke Park.

This man, a neighbour of Emma’s Cashman relatives and a trainer of Cork ladies football came from Cork to lend his support.

Louise Galvin is living a dream she didn’t even dare to dream. For women, playing sport professionally, especially rugby or football was unheard of in Louise’s youth. She is delighted now to be earning a living doing what she loves. She is an excellent ambassador for women in sport. She told us her idol is Katie Taylor.

This is the author of Izzy’s Magical Football Adventure. Emma Larkin is also fulfilling a long held dream of becoming a writer.


Looking around in Behan’s Horseshoe Restaurant

I was in The Horseshoe recently and I took a few snaps of what was on the walls.


+ R.I.P. Toddy Buckley +

I took this photo of Toddy and his beloved Noreen on St. Patrick’s Day 2016. May he rest in peace.


Racing Photographer making the news rather than reporting it

I’m glad to report that Pat Healy of Healyracing is making a good recovery after his accident in Navan yesterday. Pat is a man with a lifetime’s experience of horses and particularly those most unpredictable of all horses, thoroughbred racehorses. He was standing working beside the finishing post yesterday when the second placed horse in the first race took a notion to break through the plastic railing, knocking Pat to the ground.

If you’re going to be knocked over, a racecourse is probably the best place to be. Medical personnel attended to Pat at the scene and an ambulance was on hand to take him to hospital.

I wish him a speedy recovery and I’m looking forward to seeing his familiar figure back on track very soon.

Ballybunion, Christmas Candles and An Gleann 1978 and Maurice Leonard in Famine time Listowel

The Barrack Corner, Ballybunion


Pres. Listowel girls who represented Ireland in the World Schools’ Basketball Championships

( Someone might tell us the year)

Top left is Louise Galvin who is now more famous as a rugby player. She recently scored a try in Dubai in the Sevens’ World Series which ended in defeat for Ireland at the quarter final stage.


Christmas Candles

Last week I posted this;

In olden days the Christmas candle was the big white one pounder. Anything smaller was regarded with something bordering on contempt., unworthy of the title “Christmas” candle. They were unfavourably described as “little traithníns of things”. Tháithnín being the Irish for a wisp of straw or a blade of grass. When the electric candle arrived in the mid sixties the newcomer was dismissed as being nothing like a rale candle at all.” I vividly remember all those “rale candles” shining in the windows of the farmhouses as we made our way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the nip of frost in the air and the sky “alive with stars.”

And then I read about candlemakers in the Irish Independent. Let me share a few things I learned with you.

Rathbornes of Dublin is the oldest candle making firm in the world. It was founded in in 1488.

In 1488 only the wealthy could do anything after dark for there was no public lighting and only the rich could afford a supply of candles to keep the dark at bay.

Before candles there were smelly oil lamps which often fell over with disastrous consequences.

The first candles made from animal fats were made at home or in monasteries.

The first street lighting was candle light until it was replaced by oil and gas in the 18th century.

Candles were used as devices to keep the time. A timekeeping candle has 12 marked divisions and could burn for 24 hours. These were used to mark the length of work shifts in industry.  Timekeeping candles were used in some coalmines until 50 years ago.

The phrase ‘burning the candle at both ends” has its origins in the days when candles were valuable and used sparingly. Burning the candle at both ends would be wasteful and an inefficient use of energy.


Slander in Kerry

From Patrick O’Sullivan’s A Year in Kerry

A learned professor with an address in Kensington, London, believed that there was enough gossip in Kerry in the year 1935 to make it a proposition for him to publish the following advertisement in The Kerryman: ‘If those suffering as a result of scandal or slander care to send me a postal order for 2s.6d I will give them sound advice to assist them in defeating same with the utmost dignity and prudence.” The professor’s advice did not come cheap; 2s.6d, the old half crown was a considerable amount of money in those days.

Victims might have been better advised to seek out a trusty solicitor. Though, according to an old story, when Daniel O’Connell was asked by a woman to direct her to an honest lawyer, he replied, “I fear your request is beyond me, Madam.”


Those were the Days….Probably 1978

Photo and names from Denis Carroll on Facebook

Back row L-R Gigs Nolan,?, Pa Kennedy, Miley Fitz, Jerry Kelliher, Bob O Brien, Buster Lynch, PJ Kelliher, Jimmy Griffin, Manager Roche.

Front L-R, Denny Carroll, Peter Sugrue, Kempes Kelliher, Kevin Sheehy, Liam Kelliher & Noel Roche.


A Clarification of a Clarification

Just a quick bringing you up to speed on this story. A little boy in the folklore collection in Dúchas recorded a story in his family of how the local mill owner, whom we now know was Maurice Leonard, allowed  people to starve during the Famine while his mill was full of flour.

A blog follower who had read Home Thoughts from Abroad   wrote to “correct” the folk memory and to say that Mr. Leonard was in fact extraordinarily generous to the starving people of Listowel.

Not so according to today’s email;

Hello, Mary.

Always enjoy Listowel Connection — and appreciate the effort and detective work you put into it.

In your latest post, the person who was “happy to put the record straight” about Litstowel mill owner Maurice Leonard actually raises more questions.

On the one hand, W. Keane reported that Leonard had soldiers posted outside his mill during the potato famine to keep the hungry away from the grain. And that the mill owner was willing to let grain that he couldn’t sell go rotten.

On the other hand, the person who wants to set the record straight notes that a T. F. Culhane (in his book Home Thoughts From Abroad) recalls that same mill owner getting “six thousand barrels of flour” to the starving.

‘Recalls’ is the wrong word, as T. F. Culhane was born fifty years after the famine.

W. Keane’s version, which painted quite a different picture of that mill owner, was recorded in the late 1930’s — so that wasn’t a first-hand account either.

There are a couple hard facts in John Pierse’s excellent book Teampall Bán relating to Mr. Leonard’s mill and to the man himself.

First of all, during that time Leonard’s mill functioned as an auxiliary workhouse, which means Leonard benefited from free labour from those reeling from the famine. That was, of course, perfectly in line with the UK government’s quaint economic/moral philosophy at the time.

And as far as any contemporaneous record of Mr. Leonard’s charitable largesse, Teampall Bán notes his donation to the 1846 Listowel Relief Fund. It was two pounds.

It’s only implied through the T. F. Culhane quote that Mr. Leonard freely gave those six thousand barrels of flour to the starving.

Without other evidence, it’s a safer bet that Leonard in fact sold that flour to workhouse officials.

I think six-thousand-barrels worth of charity would have left a far greater imprint in local lore.

I’m interested if any fellow blog readers and any historians out there have any info about whether our local mill owner was indeed a saint, or just a man of his times.

Best regards.

— Dan Murphy

Dan raises some very interesting points. What a pity John Pierse is n’t online! I’ll have to leave it to a few more local  historians to unravel this one.


Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

This is Vincent Carmody’s latest addition to the history of Listowel in print. This book is a tribute to the late printer, Bob Cuthbertson and to the people who worked with him and the printers who came after him until 1970. 

These are a few examples of the material that is in the book. Anyone interested in social history will have a great time feasting on the nuggets in this impressive book. I dont think any other town has such a record. It also has a brilliant introductory essay from Cyril Kelly and an afterword from Fergal Keane.

The Big Fair, A New Charity Shop and Lots of Free Parking Spaces

A Baby Robin

Photo: Chris Grayson


The Big Fair

in photos and a poem

The Big Fair of Listowel

Tom Mulvihill

Now Marco Polo went to China

But I swear upon my soul

He should have come the other

To The Big Fair in Listowel.

There he’d see what he didn’t

At the court of Kubla Khan,

The greatest convocation ever

Since God created man.

There were bullocks in from

And cows from Carrig Island

Sheep and gosts from Graffa

And pigs from Tullahinel.

There were men with hats and

Of every shape and size on,

And women in brown shawls and

A sight to feast your eyes

The finest fare was to be had

In all the eating places.

A sea of soup and big meat

Some left over from the

Floury spuds and hairy bacon

Asleep on beds of cabbage,

To satisfy a gentleman

A cannibal or savage.

And here and there among the

‘tis easy spot the jobbers

Jack O’Dea from County Clare

And Owen McGrath from Nobber.

There was Ryan from Tipperary

And McGinley from Tyrone.

Since ‘twas only Kerry cattle

Could walk that distance

And trotting up and down the

Were frisky mares and

While here and there in
little groups

Drinking porter by the

Were all the travelling

The Carthys and the Connors,

The Maughans and the Coffeys-

Gentle folk with gentle

And there you’d see old
fashioned men

With moustaches like yard

And more of them with beards
that big

You’d take them for sloe

Up there outside the market

A matron old and wrinkled

Was selling salty seagrass

And little bags of winkles.

Inside the gate were country

Selling spuds and mangolds

While swarthy men from Egypt

Sold necklaces and bangles

And there you’ll find the
laying ducks

Or broody hens for hatching,

Creels of turf and wheaten

With scallops for the

Dealers down from Dublin

Did there set up their

Selling boots and pinstripe

Both new and second hand.

Cups and saucers you could

Both singly or in lots,

And for your convenience late
at night,

White enamel chamber pots.

If you had an ear for music

You could buy a finch or

And to bring your winter turf

A Spanish ass or jennet.

And across at Walshe’s Corner

Stood a ballad singing fellow

Selling sheets- a penny each

Red and white and blue and

He was an old sean nós man

If you ne’er had music in you

He’s stop you in your stride,

And you’d not begrudge the

For he’d bring you back to
Vinegar Hill

And to Kelly from Killane

Or you’d stand again in
Thomas Street

And you’d see the darling

But woe alas for the singing

The Dublin dealer and the

The days of catch whatever
you can

Are dead and gone and over.

Now we have fleadhs and
Writers’ Weeks

And a plethora of rigmarole

But who remembers as I

The big fair in Listowel.


Still a Charity Shop

but now for a different charity


New Parking Sign

These blue Parking signs are appearing all over town.


A Step Back in Time

Louise Galvin took a step back in time to when she wore the brown uniform herself. Louise visited Presentation Secondary School, Listowel where she was once a star pupil and a hero of the school basketball team.

Living Literature at The Seanchaí, a Football Team at The Six Crosses in 1954 and Ballybunion in the 70s

Living Literature at The Seanchaí

Last week I took the Living Literature Tour of the Seanchaí. It was brilliantly entertaining and informative. Heritage Week 2015 would be a good time to visit if you have not done so already.

We were lucky to have Denis Hobson as our guide. He is an excellent interpreter of the playwrights and poets of North Kerry. Here he is in the John B. Keane room playing John B.’s Chastitute. He had stories and memories of the late John B. and everything was delivered with great appreciation and respect for the work of the writer.

Here is Denis in the Bryan MacMahon room. He painted Mac Mahon as a man of enormous learning  who loved learning for its own sake. Denis once came upon him in a snug in Listowel having a conversation with 2 friends in classical Greek. Apparently to keep their Greek from growing rusty they used to choose a topic for next week and then prepare what they wanted to say  on the matter.

Bryan MacMahon was comparable to Frank O’Connor as a short story writer, he was a great collector of folklore and worked hard to preserve Shelta, the Traveller language, now lost except for words like pavee and buffer. But locally it was as a teacher that MacMahon left his great legacy, nurturing young imaginations and always encouraging creativity in all its forms.

This is the great Maurice Walsh who wrote the story of The Quiet Man. Denis read from his works and no doubt he had a great way with the English language. He lived in relative luxury in Dublin. He is now almost forgotten. It was good to hear about this writer whom we all know so little about.

George Fitzmaurice is depicted looking out over The Square. He had the strangest back story of them all, one of 12 children, none of whom had issue. He died in poverty in Dublin despite having had a run of several successful plays at The Abbey. Some of his plays are strange and enigmatic, but The Country Dressmaker and The Magic Glasses are still relevant today.

We took the 12.00 noon tour on Thursday and Denis took a well earned break before his next tour at 2.00 p.m.

The Living Literature Tours take place at 12.00 and 2.00 on Wednesdays Thursdays and Fridays. I’d highly recommend it. Great value at €5.


Six Crosses Football 1954

Jack O’Donoghue from Pittsburg found this photo among his father, Tom O’Donoghue’s possessions. He obviously treasured it all his life. Tom’s brother Mick is also in the photo and ironically it was taken in the year that Tom emigrated to the U.S. 

Could the Six Crosses field a football team today, I wonder?

Jack also sent me all the names of the young men in this 1954 photo;

Back Row left to right:

T. McKenna, V. Carey, B. Browne, M. Barry, D. Broderick

Middle Row:

T. Fitzgerald, B. Quinlan, M. O’Donoghue, G. Joy, M. O’Connell

Front Row:

M. Browne, T. O’Donoghue, P. McKenna, G. Browne, G. Fitzgerald


Ballybunion Church

St. John’s church in Ballybunion is a lovely building, recently restored to its former glory.


Ballybunion in the Seventies

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a great fan of Jason of Ballybunion Print‘s photos. He photographs Ballybunion daily and posts his beautiful shots on Facebook. 

This photograph is a departure from his usual work. A friend sent him this photo of the beach in the 1970s. Bring back memories?

Do you remember the changing huts?


Louise Galvin, Great athlete and One of Our Own

photos: Irish Examiner

Louise Galvin of Finuge is in the news because she is a star of the Ireland Sevens Ladies Rugby team. Since I knew her as a pupil in Pres. Listowel, Louise has learned many life lessons in the school of hard knocks.

She was the subject of The Big Interview in Saturday’s Irish Examiner. Read and admire this exceptional young lady.

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