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

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John B. Keane, a Wall and the Rte Newsroom in 1968 and a letter from Australia

Photo: Ita Hannon


Sticks and Stones

John B. Keane in The Limerick Leader

MOST of our English teachers warned us at one time or another of the folly arising from the use of a big word where a small one would do just as well, and a few weeks ago we dealt in-depth, with this aspect of communications as indeed we do and have done with all manner of subjects.

But be this as it may, there was nothing so deflating to an ignoramus or bostoon or a common thug as a barrage of well-timed, well-spaced, multi-syllabic tongue-twisters.

Backward and suspicious folk, unversed in the subtleties and sonorousness of sublime expression, have a healthy respect for the man who has words at will and will give him a wide berth for fear of invoking his wrath.

In fact, there are many sensible country people who would much prefer a lick of a naked fist.

The worst a belt of this nature can do is give you a black eye or a broken jaw, either of which can be cured easily and forgotten about altogether in the course of time.

Not so with a nicely mounted cluster of sharp, scintillating words.

These can leave scars and sores that will not heal for a genesis of generations.


How many will disagree that an absurd soubriquet has twice the punishing powers of a comprehensive physical beating?

The old Gaelic chieftains had a greater fear of satire and ridicule than of sworn enemies out for a man’s blood.

At least you could build castles against your enemies buy against the invective of a disgruntled bard. There was no defence whatsoever, and even if you cut off his head before he got started one of his brotherhood was sure to lambast you with a lacerating and lineage-defiling displode which was sure to be remembered unto the third and even the fourth generation.

Anything was preferable to the poet’s curse or the wit’s tag, and if ’twas the last fork of mate in the house itself, it was wiser to part with it rather than risk the wrath of a half-starving poetaster.

Worse still, of course, was to be fettered by a mouthful of words which the benighted victim would have no hope of understanding.

Bad as he is, than the devil one does not know, and what an ordeal to have to through the world like a dog with a canister tie to its tail.

There are others, of course, notably schoolboys, who have no fear whatsoever of the spoken word when delivered by a disgruntled teacher.

The longer the tirade, the less likelihood of physical punishment.

The maxim here was:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones

But words will never hurt me.”


RTE Newsroom 1968

Photo from Rte Archives


They’re Building a Wall

Where?  Beside Áras an Phiarsaigh, Listowel

Why? I have no idea


Lyreacrompane 1970

Photo from Facebook


Any Henrys or Brosnihans out there?

My name is Jan Allen and I live in Australia. I have been researching my ancestory. Your website has interested me as I know I have ancestors in your area. 

My great-grandmother, Mary Henry, was born in Listowel in 1855 and I know that her parents’ names were Michael Henry and Mary Brosnihan. I have found her baptismal date but have not been able to find her parents’ marriage date or their birth dates. Ballygologue was referenced in her baptismal record. 

I have been scanning through all the records I have access to but there seems to be some missing records – I have not been able to find any information about the Brosnihans or the Henrys. I am assuming that they lived in the County of Listowel as Mary was born there. 

In 2010 my husband and I travelled through the Republic of Ireland but at that time, I had not done any research into my ancestry. Since my mother passed away in 2018, I have become very interested in her family history.  The other side of her family (Foley) were born in Edenderry, Ireland.

You have indicated that you are interested in connecting with people related to the area, although my connection may be quite remote. My great grandparents were both born in Ireland, travelling to Australia, then marrying in Cooktown, Queensland. 

Yours faithfully,

Jan Allen (formerly Matthews)

Cork’s Denny Lane, Tarbert Bridewell and some Bird Stories from Dúchas

Summer 2019

Aisling and Molly in Ballincollig Regional Park in sunny June 2019


Cork’s Denny Lane

I spotted this on South Mall in Cork last week.

This is the elegant doorway to the Lane house


Tarbert Bridewell Relaunch

Here I am with another visitor and our guide, Mary O’Connell at the relaunch of the Tarbert Bridewell project on Saturday June 29 2019. If you want to give your children an easy history lesson or if you just want to find out something about rough justice in the 19th century this is a great place to come.

We follow the story of Tom Dillon who is accused of leaving his cow to trespass on his neighbours property. His defence was that the cow wandered through an open gate and he entered the field to retrieve her. The policeman who attended was having none of it and Tom was brought before the court sitting in The Bridewell Tarbert.

This is Dillon. Members of the local Tarbert drama group have recorded the story in dramatic fashion which we listened to as we went from room to room.

This is the maligned Mrs. Ahern whose grass Tom’s cow was eating.

The judge was a bit harsh I thought. You’ll have to visit to find out the sentence.

In another cell is this poor prisoner, emprisoned with her young baby.

Tarbert Bridewell visitor experience is located on the road to the ferry. It’s well worth factoring in a stop there if you are going to Clare. There is a lovely coffee shop and souvenirs as well.

Bird Lore from the Dúchas Folklore Collection

There was once a middle aged man who had little or no money. Then it was coming near Christmas his shoes became worn and he began to collect all his money a few days before Christmas she found he had twelve shillings so he went along the road to the nearest town to buy a pair of shoes. When he had gone little way he heard a black bird on a bush saying “Spend and God will send”. He went on and he heard a thrush saying “Be merry today to-morrow you die.” He went on to town and spent the twelve shillings on drink and as he was coming home he heard a wren saying. “Have it yourself or be without it.”

Some people go torching. They light a candle and having the bottom of a bottle knocked out, they put the candle into it. The lighting side of the candle should be stuck up the jowl of the bottle. You must follow the wind always. When you see a bird you must strike him on the head with a piece of stick and kill him. A stormy night is the best sort of night to go torchhing. The How pigeons build their nests. The hen goes into and box and the cock lungs straw in and the hen fixes it and after about two says the nest is made and in about a day or two the hen lays an egg and the next day she lays another egg. Then the cock hatches in the day and the hen hatches at night and about three weeks the young ones come out. Then you should get crushed corn and give it to the pair. Then the pigeons fill their craws and throw it up into the young pigeons mouths and in about three week they come out of the nest and in about five days they can fly.

Collector Pat Mc Elligott, Address- Bedford, Co. Kerry
Informant Tom Halpin- Age 27 Address, Bedford, Co. Kerry.


Lyre Concert

NKM Strike, MS Coffee Morning and Denny Factory is No More and some early spring flowers in Lyreacrompasne

Abandoned House; Photo; Chris Grayson


Employment Unrest in Listowel in 1922

NKM on the banks of The Feale was going along nicely until 1922 . A strike at the factory caused the owners to relocate their business to Dublin leaving many in Listowel disappointed. Dave O’Sullivan did the research.


There it is….Gone

Photo: Seán Lyons

The old Denny factory in Tralee has been levelled and the site cleared.


North Kerry MS Coffee Morning

On Saturday February  16 2019 the North Kerry branch of MS Ireland held a very popular coffee morning in Tomáisíns in Lisselton.

I was there enjoying the fare and taking a few photos.


Road Signs

At the junction of Charles St. and Courthouse Road


February 2019 in Lyreacrompane

The green fingers  and the photographs are those of Joe Harrington and Kay O’Leary. Doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart to see such beauty and such promise of Spring?


Looking for Love Second Time Around

Tune in to First Dates Ireland  on RTE 2 tonight, February 28 2019 at 9.30. Pamela Behan, formerly of Listowel, is one of the ladies looking to find love.

Holy Well in Coolard, The Ball Alley, the Vincent de Paul shop and Michael Healy Rae in Woulfe’s

Sunday Morning Walk

Childers’ Park, Listowel Co. Kerry November 18 2018


Well in Coolard  (Dúchas Collection)

There is a holy well in Coolard and many people visited it on certain days. The same prayers are said at every well and whilst saying it they make nine rounds. When people visit the well they take a bottle of the water home with them and some moss. The water of the above well cures sore throats and rheumatism. The water of the well is never used for any domestic purpose. There was a scarcity of water and the people took the water from the blessed well. They couldn’t get it to boil.

Rinn Tuirc School collection 10 5 1938.

St Bartholomew’s Well, Coolard, Lisselton

Collector Nancy Hanrahan-Informant- Michael Hanrahan, Age 60

The blessed well is situated in a thick wood near Coolard. The well is shallow and a stream of fresh water flows from it. Many people in the district visit the well three times a year, to pay rounds. They go around the well nine times and they say three rosaries. If they have not the rosaries finished when going around, they kneel by the well and finish them. When they are going home they leave money or holy pictures or pieces of cloth on the tree beside the well. Anyone having sores washes them in the water. They also take three sips of the water and also some water with them. The people living near the well use the water for household purposes. It is said that the well was situated farther up on the wood once. A woman washed clothes in it. Then it moved down to where it is at the present time.

Holy Wells 17 – 11- ’38


Woodford Pottery Nativity

I love my Woodford Pottery crib. I will light a tea light in it every evening from now to Christmas.


The Ball Alley

Listowel men of a certain age remember the ball alley with great fondness. There have been essays and poems written about the exploits of Listowel’s handballers. I don’t know if the Sheehy brothers who are commemorated on this seat were among the champions but they would have certainly enjoyed being reminded of the days when the ball alley was the centre of young men’s social calendar.

Some years ago in a project undertaken by the young people of Xistance Youth Café the walls of the now disused alley were decorated with graffiti. Over time the pictures have taken a battering from the weather but most are still intact and looking beautiful.

These Pictures are on the side walls. The end wall has had to be replastered.


Second Time Around

One of my favourite Listowel shops is Second Time Around, the St. Vincent de Paul shop on Upper William Street. It is always staffed by smiling friendly volunteers and there are always great bargains to be had from the stock donated by some really kind  (and stylish) donors.

On Wednesday week when I called in I met these two lovely ladies, Ingrid and EileenR looking after the shop.


A Booksigning at  Woulfe’s

Michael Healy Rae signing John Hartnett’s copy of his book, Time to Talk

Michael with John and the shop staff, Fiona, Mary and Brenda


Lyre Postman Retires

(Photo and text from Joe Harrington on Facebook)

Our Postman, Seán O’Connell, on his last day as Lyreacrompane Postman delivering the mail to Norrie Connell, Carrigcannon on Friday November 30 2018. Seán has been the postman in the Lyreacrompane district for 38 years! Happy retirement Seán.

Winter Chills, Lyreacrompane, Sr. Aidan Quinlan, Sive at the Everyman and afternoon tea in The Arms

Rough Seas in Ballybunion

The wind was skinning as well.


Lyreacrompane Mass Walk

Photo: Joe Harrington

This was the scene at the recent official first walk on the refurbished mass path walk in Lyreacrompane.


Sr. Aidan Quinlan, A Martyr with a Listowel Connection

The extraordinary story of this exceptional lady was told to me by Mrs. Ella Corridan, née Quinlan. Mrs Corridan was a first cousin of Sr. Aidan and she is justifiably proud of her cousin’s achievements.

Sr. Aidan was born Elsie Quinlan, in Cork. She studied at UCC and obtained a Science degree. She entered the Dominican convent and, after further study, qualified as a medical doctor. She served in the Dominican mission in South Africa until her death.

Mrs. Corridan will never forget hearing of the death of her cousin. She remembers her mother’s awful distress on reading the account in the paper. 

It was a death that shocked the world.

Sr. Aidan was 37 and had been in South Africa for 14 years. She loved the people and they loved her in return.  These were the days of the very repressive apartheid regime, when black people lived in horrendous conditions of poverty and disease and they had no rights. Sr. Aidan lived among them and ministered to them. There are lots of stories of her kindness and her medical interventions which saved many lives. On the day of her death, her car was filled with food and clothes that she was taking to the poor people of her mission.

On November 10 1952, a mob had gathered in Duncan Village , a township in South Africa, to protest against the repressive regime. The ANC was organizing a campaign of defiance and these riots were happening frequently all over South Africa. Sr. Aidan had no reason to fear for her safety because she was on the side of the rioters. But when her car drove into the view of the rioters they saw only a white woman and not their friend. They attacked her car with stones and, while she was still inside, clutching her rosary beads, they set her car on fire. Then came the worst part of her vicious death. They took knives and cannibalised her body. This act shocked South African people and they were thoroughly ashamed of it, apologizing for years afterwards to the family and community of Sr. Aidan.

The police killed many black people in that Duncan Village riot. The killers of Sr. Aidan were subsequently prosecuted, tried and executed. Luckily all of her fellow sisters escaped before the rioters attacked and burned the convent.

Sr. Aidan is not forgotten in South Africa. A community centre in her name has been set up in the township where she worked. She is also remembered by her Irish family and especially by her Listowel first cousin, in whose home a framed picture of this brave lady has pride of place.

Sr. Aidan Memorial Centre in Duncan Village, South Africa


Sive at The Everyman

When I lived in Cork in the 1970’s two of the greats of Cork drama, James N. Healy and Dan Donovan were treading the boards at The Everyman Theatre. I was lucky enough to see them in their prime.

Dan Donovan passed away earlier this year and a blog follower sent me these photos from his biography.


Afternoon Tea in The Listowel Arms

On Saturday afternoon October 20 2018 I was at afternoon tea with some seriously stylish ladies. Here is how that lovely invitation came about.

There is a cohort of ladies in this country whose hobby is putting beautiful outfits together and wearing them to Ladies’ Day events. It is cheaper than golf or skiing, it helps the fashion and retail industries and it adds colour and enjoyment to so many events.

These ladies come from all different parts of the country and from all different backgrounds and over the years of repeatedly meeting up at these events and sharing a common interest in lovely clothes, a friendship has formed.

Where do I fit in? you ask

These ladies come to Listowel Races for Ladies Day and one of them, Anne Leneghan is a lady I know since she was  a child growing up next door to me in Kanturk. I used to take her to school in my old Anglia when I was a teacher and she a pupil at Scoil Mhuire, Kanturk more years ago than either of care to remember. 

Maria Stack and Anne Leneghan at Listowel Arms on Ladies Day 2018 (Photo; Listowel Arms)

Through Anne and her friend, local fashionista and milliner, Maria Stack, I have also got to know another seriously stylish Dublin lady (with a few Kerry connections) Mary O’Halloran.

Mary O’Halloran at Listowel Ladies’ day 2018

At the 2018 Listowel Harvest Festival of Racing, the Listowel Arms held a best hat competition on the evening of Ladies Day at the Races. 

Photo; Listowel Arms on Facebook

Mary O’Halloran won and her prize was afternoon tea for 12 in the hotel. 

Mary invited me to join her, when she cashed in her prize on Saturday last. We had a lovely afternoon. The food was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. 

Mary in the hotel with her daughter, Louise and friend, Caoimhe.

I had a lovely afternoon in lovely company.

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