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: Many Young Men of Twenty

Kerry Idioms explained, Two of Listowel’s old stock and Many Young Men of Twenty

Photo: Breda O’Mullane, Malow Camera Club


Was That Summer 2018?

Beautiful sunshine in Ballybunion on April 19 2018


The Kerryman Unbuttoned  Part 2

by Redmond O’Hanlon in Shannonside Annual

…..In those days
rural Kerry was strange to me. I knew even less of the county, if that were
possible, than the Customs man at the six county border post who inspected my
pass on one occasion. “Ah, Listowel! I see” he remarked knowledgeably as he
examined my right to pass from one part of my own country to another, “I hear
they’re all six footers and Irish speakers down there.” Whatever about the
physique, I was soon to find that Irish was a sub stratum of the talk of field
and fair in Kerry.

Of words lifted
bodily from the Irish and first heard in Kerry I like to hear talk of collops.
This is a jewel in its English, a warm mouth- filling word, rounded in its
saying as the calves of which it tells. A satisfying word! Plucks too is simple
and expressive. Here I see a cherubic good humoured face., evidence of years of
lush feeding and rosy with content. Incidentally I can recall a townland called
Collops near The Tory Bush in Co. Cavan. But neither the land nor the people were

When I was first
told that the milk in the muller had cracked, I talked cautiously around the
subject until I learned that the milk that was heating in the saucepan had
curdled. Bread baked on a losset I found to be just as flavoursome as the farls
from the bakeboard of my youth, but only just. Bacon and cabbage from the
skillet came no different from the pot or oven. And the brand, I was to find
out, had nothing to do with the stock round up, but was only a substitute for
the bucket hoop that with us kept the griddle from getting too hot. A gruel
stick has a personality of its own, I always thought, with a higher kitchen
status in Kerry than the potstick came south from stirring the stirabout.
Crocks refer not to ancient motor cars or old wheezy men but merely to jam
jars. The woman of the house darns “broken” socks and in the interval puts down
a couple of eggs for John’s tea. When John comes in he pulls the door in after
him. Some feat this for a tired farmer, and costly in repairs……..


From John Hannon Archive

These men have been identified as Paddy Healy and Jimmy Browne


Another smiling ESB Girl

Her brother, John Antony Hegarty, sent us this photo of his sister, Josephine Hegarty at work in the ESB shop in Church Street in the 1990s.


Many Young Men of Twenty

There is nowhere better to see a John B. Keane play than in Listowel and there are no better interpreters of the great playwright’s work than his own North Kerry folk and you will find nowhere a more appreciative audience than in Listowel.

If one were  to single out one actor in a really strong cast in the latest production in St. John’s,  Batt O’Keeffe put in an outstanding performance as Danger Mulally on Friday’s opening night. I have seen Batt  play many parts over the years. His Michael James O’Flaherty in Synge’s Playboy of the Western World was top class. But it would be hard to find a more professional performance than the one Batt put in on April 20 2018. I am delighted I was there to enjoy it.

Jack McKenna, Jamie Mazzelle, Annette O’Donnell, Sonny Egan, Rebecca Stapleton, Margaret Flavin

Oliver McGrath, Batt O’Keeffe, Barry Francis, Frances Kennedy, Tommy Denihan, Conor Foley and Gearóid O’Connor

Caitríona Dillon is missing from the photograph.

In the interval I met up with three lovely ladies who were remembering John B. with great fondness and I’m sure he was smiling down  on them….Anne Keane, John B.’s grandaughter was with a great Keane family friend, Sally O’Neill and Anne’s aunt, John B.’s daughter, Joanna O’Flynn.

Aileen Hayes/ Scanlon was making a return to Listowel for the weekend. Aileen was a teacher in Presentation Secondary School, Listowel before her marriage. Joanna Keane was one of her star pupils.

Love lost, Ploughing up The Cows’ Lawn and an old photo

Listowel Pitch and Putt club now maintains a course in the Cows’ Lawn.

This  was the location of much controversy 100 years ago.


One hundred years ago this week, a
remarkable event took place in Listowel.   A courageous action by a
group of leaders in the town, armed only with hurleys, struck a non-violent
blow on behalf of the people of the town to be masters of their own destiny, and
to ‘walk their own land’.  

event itself was the ploughing of the Cows Lawn, the property of Lord Listowel
which was eventually to lead to the provision of probably the best loved
amenity in the town  –  the present Town Park.

a group of people ‘ploughing’ might seem a harmless enough activity, this
ploughing was anything but harmless.  It led to a number of clashes
and confrontations between the police and a number of local men, thirteen of
whom were sentenced to 12 months in Cork and Belfast Gaol

understand what a momentous occasion it was we have only to see the headlines
in The Kerryman the following week:

As World War I raged,
shortages of food and rising prices in 1917 started to cause distress  in
the town.   The British Ministry of Food set up a food control
committee for Ireland on 31 August 1917 and many of its regulations, in theory,
applied to this country.    Sinn Féin established Food Committees
throughout the country and started to organise local markets, distribution of
local food at fair  prices and  arrangements for the poor
of the town to get small areas of land or allotments to grow their own food.   

February  1917, Listowel Urban Council Chairman Jack McKenna had been
involved in a fruitless exchange of letters with Lord Listowel looking for
permission to use 15 to 20 acres of vacant land

to be distributed
among ‘artisans, labourers and small traders of the town … on which they could
raise food to supplement their small earnings’. While a number of small
unsuitable fields had been suggested, these were not acceptable to the Urban

The two fields
identified as the most suitable for the purpose were  called at the
time the Back Lawn and the Front Lawn . These fields were at that time leased
from Lord Listowel by two local men and ‘negotiations’ were opened with them to
give up their tenancies.  John Keane held the front lawn and was
willing to give up his tenancy.’Mr Keane was prepared to forego his right for
the purpose of enabling the Council to proceed with the scheme, provided that
Lord Listowel was satisfied’.

Mr.   Kenny
who had the grazing of the back lawn was not keen to give up his title. He had
a butcher shop – it was absolutely essential to enable him to carry on his
trade as a butcher in the adjoining Church St., however he was persuaded to ‘do
the right thing’.

On 25th February 1918, tired of
waiting for permission, the Sinn Féin Food Committee with the help of the Irish
Volunteers from Moyvane, Knockanure, Finuge, Rathea, Ballyconry and
Ballylongford marched into the town ‘all armed with hurleys and headed by
bands, while ploughs and horses brought up the rear.  They were
cordially received by the Listowel Company of Irish Volunteers with their brass
band.  The whole procession, composed of some eleven or twelve
hundred Volunteers, marched to the estate office in Feale View at 1.30 o’clock
where the above mentioned waited on Mr. M. Hill, who is Lord Listowel’s chief

 Although Messrs.
Kenny and Keane had given up possession, Mr Hill refused to hand over the keys
as he had not got orders from Lord Listowel. The Volunteers then broke open the
gates leading to the back lawn near the National School house.  The
ploughs and ploughmen started operations and another section  of
Vounteers took over the front lawn.  Over the following two months,
local people continued with tilling the land despite visits from the R.I.C.,
and the threat of court proceedings which culminated in the imprisonment of
thirteen of the ‘offenders’ in Cork and Belfast Gaols.


This was just the
start of an endeavour
fifty years later culminated in the acquisition of the two lawns  for
the people of Listowel.  It had taken from the twelfth century,
firstly  with the Fitzmaurices and then with earls of Listowel as overlords,
to put the lands back into the hands of the people of the town.

An illustrated talk on
the full history  of the Cows Lawn from this event onwards, entitled
Sinn Féin v. Lord Listowel 1918’ will be given by Kay Caball at
the Seanchaí on Sunday 22nd April 7pm.


Today’s love poem is a favourite with teenagers.

But You Didn’t

By Merrill Glass

Remember the time you lent me your car and I dented it?

I thought you’d kill me…

But you didn’t.

Remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was

formal, and you came in jeans?

I thought you’d hate me…

But you didn’t.

Remember the times I’d flirt with

other boys just to make you jealous, and

you were?

I thought you’d drop me…

But you didn’t.

There were plenty of things you did to put up with me,

to keep me happy, to love me, and there are

so many things I wanted to tell

you when you returned from


But you didn’t.


People I Don’t know with a Motorbike

From the John Hannon archive


In Case You haven’t Booked yet

Tickets are selling fast for this John B. Keane classic in St. John’s

Photo; Frances Kennedy

Many Young Men of Twenty opens on Friday April 20 2018

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