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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

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Mary O’Halloran R.I.P.

Recycling Centre, Nolan’s Carpark in February 2024

My St. Brigid’s Weekend

I spent St. Brigid’s weekend with a Brigid, known as Breeda.

Here I am in The Vintage with some of my Kanturk friends, Breeda, Lil and Margaret.

The Vintage is a lovely bar and restaurant beloved by Kerry people passing through Kanturk on their way to or from the Munster capital.

Our next stop was The Glen Theatre in Banteer. Breeda had given me a ticket to Seán Keane for Christmas.

He sang all the old favourites. He was suffering from some lurgy but he was determined to power through. We helped him out. It was a great night in a lovely intimate venue among my own people.

An Spideog

David Kissane’s story of running and musing continued…

Cork poet Seán Ó Ríordáin declared in on of his inimitable works “Ba mhaith liom breith ar eirbeall spideoige”…that he wanted to catch a robin’s tail, a metaphor for attaining spiritual insight.

The robin worked for me today and before long, somebody was putting a medal around my neck and a small bottle of milk was in my hand in the district of Lios an Phúca (the fort of the ghost) which is the Irish for Beaufort. 

But that’s another story!

                                                            Leaving Torun

Which brings me back to the day I was leaving Poland last March after the World Masters Indoor Championships. 

On the taxi across the Wisla (the river I had crossed many times during the days in Torun) we passed the statue of Pope John Paul 2nd. For some strange reason, as I looked more closely at the statue, the peace and knowingness captured by the sculptor on the face of the last most popular pope reminded me of a painting we have on our hall wall in Ardfert. Bought in Blackrock Market in Dublin some twenty years ago. It is an oil painting by an unknown artist called Gunney.

It depicts an apparently retired man, painted from behind him, sitting in a wicker chair with legs crossed in a neatly kept garden. He is well dressed in a pale blue suit and wearing a straw hat in the heat of a summer day. He is calmly reading a book and his body-language suggests a life well-lived and all battles won. His garden gate is open, suggesting a freedom to come and go as you please. In the near distance there is a blue lake with a green island rising into a azure sky. 

When I first saw the painting in the art and crafts section of Blackrock market coming up to my own retirement as a teacher in Tarbert Comprehensive, I wished that man could be myself a few years after retiring. Reading a book in the afternoon sun. Beside a blue sea. Spirit-free. But here I was thirteen years after retiring, and well, yes I have a reasonable garden and I do live reasonably near the sea, and yes, I see islands under a blue sky not far away, and I do have loads of books to read…but I cannot recall too many days sitting down on a wicker chair or any other type of chair reading a book in the heat of the afternoon. I’d prefer to go for a run! In fact, as my friendly Polish taxi driver pulled up beside the stadium, there was no place on earth I’d rather be on the anything-but-mundane-Monday in March 2023 than where I was. Ready to compete in the world masters indoor championships.

In fact, I had a crazy imagino-insight on the way into the stadium: that after the man in the painting had sat for the artist for a few hours, and the painting was complete, that he whipped off his pale blue suit and threw his straw hat into the blue water and slung his book and let out a barbarous roar and ran naked through the garden, jumped the well-kept hedge and headed off to the island and wasn’t seen till supper.

Way to go, man. Motion is lotion. Rest is rust.

Another Gem from the old Yearbook

Aine Dillon on Paddy Drury

  • +Mary O’Halloran R.I.P. +

Lovely, elegant, sylish, gentle, energetic Mary O’Halloran passed away peacefully on February 3 2024.

When Mary set up her Facebook page she called it Mary’s Classic Style. That was Mary, clasically stylish yet down-to earth and practical.

I got to know Mary through meeting her with my old neighbour Anne Leneghan  and her Listowel friends every year on The Island. I photographed her many times, the last time with her beautiful daughter, Louise.

Mary had all the style and confidence of a successful city businesswoman but she never forgot her Kerry roots.

She loved every racecourse she visited and she loved all their Ladies Days but I think Listowel held a special place in her heart.

Mary’s warm nature won her many friends among the ladies of the Best Dressed circuit. She stayed apart from any of the cattiness that inevitably ensues when you put people in competitiion with one another. She was supportive of her fellow contestants and, in the true spirit of competition, she loved taking part.

Mary was dealt the cruellest of blows with the diagnosis of MND. She was the epitome of resilience as she got up, dressed up and showed up for as long as humanly possible.  Mary had just retired and had launched into a great third age doing the things she loved with the people she loved when the dreadful news broke. I’m glad she got to travel and enjoy a few items on her bucket list.

In the courageous way she dealt with her illness, Mary evoked admiration in everyone who knew her.

Mary will be missed by her grieving family,  by her many many friends and by all of us who came within her stylish orbit on the racecourses of Ireland.

Guím leaba i measc na naomh is na naingeal duit, a Mhary dhíl.

A Fact

Ireland has 30,000 castles.

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Stylish Things and Stylish People

Wildflower Meadow in Childers’ Park in Sept. 2023

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Memories, Memories

The hand of a master craftsman at work

Martin Chute’s mural is on my way to town so I stopped by often to document progress. One day as I observed Martin putting the finishing touches to his masterpiece, the lovely Anne Marie ORiordan passed by. She stopped to admire the artwork and she kindly posed for a photo with Martin. Anne Marie had fond memories of that back lane in the days before Listowel murals when she and her friends were caffling and having fun. She remembers the odd stolen kiss in the nearby carpark too.

Martin’s work will evoke memories for many.

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Mystery Solved

Joe Cahill did the research for us;

M.J. Reidy was a writer known as Mossien Tommy Reidy from Cordal. He passed away on 1988.

Joe found him on a site called Find a Grave where people are invited to share memories of the dead loved one.

Here is what a relative wrote about our poet.

From “The Claddagh” a family newsletter for the O’Flaherty Reunion in Fort Valley, VA, in May 2000.
Maurice J. Reidy, Poet and non-fiction storywriter.
Known as “Mossien Tommie” Reidy, this was a term of endearment to those around Castleisland, Co. Kerry, Ireland, where he grew up. He was a local sports hero while in the secondary school system and later his work was used in the school curriculum. He grew up near Cordal where both sets of his grandparents had lived. He was the son of Helen Flaherty Reidy and the grandson of Maurice Flaherty, the youngest brother of my great-grandfather, Daniel.
Declan Horgan, a retired school teacher from Tralee, some 25 miles away to the west, said that his writings were very good but his antics were just as meaningful to locals. He related two stories about “Moss” that we would find of interest. It seems when Mossien developed an interest in horse racing and began to trade and build his stables he had no “colours” for his jockey. Since this was more or less a “Landed Gentry” sport he was probably ridiculed. Since our cousin was a great athlete in his own right he had a friend on the All-Kerry Football (soccer) team. This friend loaned him the green and gold jersey and this allowed him to meet the “Rules of the sport”. Don’t believe Mr. Horgan said whether he won or lost that day but he won over 200 races in his shortened life.
Another story was: It seems in the medical system in Ireland, like England and Canada, one has to wait their turn for care, unless it is life threatening. It happened our cousin needed a hernia operation and while on a trip to Dublin, feigned a collapse on a downtown street where he was taken to the local hospital and they fixed his problem on the spot. Doesn’t that sound a great deal like Uncle D.C.? Later I ask his brother John if this was all true and he said, “It tis.”, as a big smile spread across his face.
M. J. Reidy was the author of the followingworks: Borders of Hope (1978), Borders of Joy (1975), First collection of stories (1978),
Mirror of Truth (1980), Rays of Cheer (1978),
(1979), Pleasant Holidays (1983), Shades of
Fancy, with Jacinta O’Manoney, (1981), The
Kerry Piper (1974).

From Mirror of Truth we include a small sample:
Ode to Poetry

Oh, you, the one true art from high
To mortal ever given,
Such sweet fond music from the sky
With jewelry of Heaven.
Your sacred light,
Keep blazing true,
When injured here below.
You tended, this life’s hospital,
With care, for pain and woe,
Your oil and wine will polish mind,
And brightly cheer alway.
And only refuge each one find,
To help all night and day.
Thy blush, one fond, true friend can find,
To speak the color of your mind.

I was fortunate to have read most of his work at the Trinity College Library while my wife, sister and niece were out shopping all day. It left me feeling a small portion of the loss his family must have felt in his passing. His sisters, Julia and Kitty, along with a brother, John, still live in the old Reidy homestead at “High Trees”, Glenlaran, Cordal, Castleisland, Co. Kerry. He left a son, Dan, and a daughter, Helen, as well as, six grandchildren. May he have eternal peace with our Lord and Savior.

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Last few Races photos

Clíona met up with Mary Ellen and Aisling

Anne met Bridget and Carmel

In John Kelliher’s photo are Imelda, Joan, Julie, Helena and liz, just some of the local Tidy Town people who organise what was always my favourite event of Race Week. These people have no part in the judging. That is done by fashion experts and a representative from An Taisce.

I didn’t go on Saturday this year because the weather forecast was for very bad weather. I stayed home, child minding. I depended on Clíona, Breda and of course, John Kelliher, for news of the day.

Playing This little Piggy with Aoife

This event is all about reusing, up cycling and making fashion sustainable. Vintage has now become mainstream so it was no surprise to me that a professional upcycler took the prize.

These are some of the finalists. Cathy Troth, second from right, came first.

The very stylish John and Viveca both won prizes, John was the best dressed man and Viveca came second in the ladies’ section.

Here I must give a shout out to local girl, Maria Stack. Maria is a dedicated upcycler and reuser. She is a great supporter of this competiion. She has entered it every year since it first began. She not only wears the vintage outfit but she sources gloves, bag and other accessories. This year she wore a beautiful tara brooch which was a prize won by her mother. She always has the provenance of her attire and she has the best stories. Every year she makes the final but she just can’t win.

Another stylish lady who just can’t win is my friend, Anne Leneghan. This year she was too late to be considered.

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A Fact

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

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The Carnival

The Small Square looking towards the Square in August 2023

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A Beautiful Shopfront in Main Street

The colourful corner pieces at either side of the nameplate are unique to here. Notice how Martin Chute signed his name in tiny writing. He should be announcing it loud and proud. Beautiful paintwork!

The sign writing is superb.

Wow!

My photographs don’t so it justice.

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The Carnival

In 1940s rural Ireland the annual village carnival was often the social highlight of the year. My interest in revisiting this phenomenon came about because of this photo.

To recap, this is Maria Stack wearing a vintage dress first worn at a carnival queen dance in 1948.

I enlisted help and went on a search for the back story. Thank you Margaret, Lisa and Anna for the hard work and the enjoyment.

The information about this carnival came from this invaluable local journal published in 1990, full of great local lore. The book is, of course, no longer available, but Anna in Kanturk library sourced the article in the local studies archive.

The carnival in question was held in Kilcorney, Co Cork in 1948. This was the second year of the holding of this three-day event. The selection of the carnival queen and her ladies -in- waiting was made at a dance in early June. The 1948 Kilcorney Carnival Queen was the lovely Mary Ring of Horsemount. Margaret, her daughter, took this photo out of its frame to photograph it for us.

The photograph was black and white but had some colour added later. Behind the photo in the frame was this.

A precious souvenir of one of the highlights of a young girl’s life.

The queen and her ladies were dressed in regal costumes with crown and sceptre for the festival as they presided over events like horse trotting, climbing the greasy pole, football matches and in 1948 a huge attraction was the mysterious Madam Know all, who, with the covert aid of a local assistant, could read very accurate fortunes in her crystal ball.

The Queen for the duration of the festival travelled on horseback or was carried with her royal entourage in “a four wheel car pulled by two beautiful steel grey horses”. The car was usually used for carting milk to Rathcoole railway station.

I loved reading the journal’s detailed account of the carnival and its picture of rural life in the days before mechanisation and technology.

There were carnivals and carnival queens in the areas around Listowel. Id love to hear the stories or see the photos.

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There’s No Place Like Home

John McElligott welcomes home his niece, Helen (Gore) Mitchell.

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They Did It!

Photo from the official announcement on Aug 26 2023

This extraordinary bunch of people organised a day Listowel will never forget. They assembled a record breaking number of people dressed as Dolly Parton in Páirc Mhic Shithigh, Listowel on June 25 2023. In the process they raised €74,670 for two great local charities, Kerry Hospice and Comfort for Chemo. 1,137 people took part in the fun challenge and many more made donations.

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A Fact

This “fact” was sourced in a book called “Strong Absorbent Trivia for the Toilet” so don’t blame me.

On average a woman utters about 7000 words in a day while a man uses just over 2,000.

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Something old, Something New

Horan’s Veterinary Centre, August 2023

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Kanturk, My Hometown

While I was in O’Brien Street Park I took this photo of a long derelict building across the river from me. When I was growing up in Kanurk this was Isabel Guinee’s shop. It is now falling into disrepair for years. It looks better from this angle than from the front.

This is Kanturk’s big bridge. There is another smaller bridge in town too as there are two rivers flowing through Kanturk, the Allow, from which Duhallow derives its name, and the Dallow.

As well as the poems on the trees the Arts Festival also hung photographs from their photographic competition. Here are just a few.

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A Vintage Dress with a Listowel and a Kanturk Connection

This is Maria Stack of Listowel. She is pictured with her prizes for winning the best sustainable outfit at Dingle Races on Sunday August 7 2023.

Maria is wearing a 75 year old dress lent to her by her friend, Anne Leneghan of Kanturk. The dress was beautifully made and looks as good today as it did three quarters of a century ago.

This is Anne’s lovely mother, Rita Leneghan. She wore the dress 75 years ago when she was Rita Dennehy of Kilcorney, Co Cork.

Rita will be 93 next birthday.

People of my vintage will remember the annual carnival and the local girl being crowned Carnival Queen. Well. Rita had this gorgeous dress made for her when she was a Lady in Waiting to the Carnival Queen in Kilcorney, 75 years ago.

Rita was one of 10 children in her family. She had 7 brothers and two sisters, all now passed away. She came from a farming family and worked hard all her life.

I think you will agree she is still a stylish lady. She was my next door neighbour for most of my growing up years and she still lives next door to my Kanturk family, greatly loved and greatly admired.

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Announcement from Kerry College

Kerry College is delighted to announce that our Kerry College Listowel Campus will be moving to a new location!!

Our new campus will be based in Unit 1, Listowel Business Development Centre, Clieveragh Business Park Listowel,V31 PC79. Having the Kerry College Listowel Campus in the Clieveragh Business Park is a great choice for Kerry College Kerry College Listowel Campus Principal, Mr. Stephen Goulding said,

“The opening of our new campus in Listowel is an exciting and strategic development for Further Education & Training in Listowel and the wider North Kerry region. The new campus will provide a comprehensive suite of full and part time programmes and will support the development of vocational options and pathways for local schools and retraining options for all, so the needs of all applicants are met. A sample of the courses which will be available include Advanced Early Childhood Care and Education, Applied Social Studies, Business with Marketing/Administration, Medical Administration, Nursing Studies, Hairdressing, and Healthcare Support. Kerry College’s Listowel Campus will offer courses at QQI Levels 5 & 6 for employment, progression and potential routes to apprenticeships, as well as QQI Level 3 & 4 Pathway Courses for those who wish to bridge their return to education.”

While Kerry College has been present and active in the Listowel community for years, the development of our new campus will breathe new life in to Further Education and Training provision in North Kerry.

 a welcome development for Listowel Town.

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A Fact

Cats have better memories than dogs. Tests were carried out by the University of Michigan. Dogs remembered things for 5 minutes, cats for up to 16 hours. Probably explains why dogs don’t hold grudges and cats do.

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Woodford Pottery, Listowel Races 2019, Progress on The Greenway and North Kerry success at The Ploughing

Hands of a Master Craftsman


 Pat Murphy throwing a pot at his Woodford Pottery Studio in Sept 2019

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Saturday at The Races


Saturday September 14th 2019 was a gloriously sunny day on the island. The big screens were in place to show the All Ireland Football replay between Kerry and Dublin and the Tidy Towns inspired fashion event was taking place.

 The judges were out and about mingling with the racegoers in vintage gear. In my photo the judge is in white and the lady on the far left was chosen as the winner. The rules said that your outfit had to be genuinely vintage and to have been upcycled by you. You had to wear a headpiece. This elegant lady fulfilled all these requirements.

The lovely ladies from Oonagh Hartnett’s were offering us sweets, some timely advice on sun protection, a squirt of perfume and entry into a raffle.

Another judge checking out the vintage of this lady’s garments.

 My lovely former neighbour, Anne Leneghan, came second in this smashing suit which someone else had worn to a son’s wedding. Anne had up-styled it with pearls from a broken pearl necklace and she had pinned down the lapels with a pair of pearl earrings. She was wearing her 90 year old mother’s going away hat and her lace gloves.

The always stylish Betty Stack with her daughter Maria and their friend, Anne Leneghan.

 Noelle and her friends were studying form when I interrupted them.

Gemma and Mairead Regan gave me a tip they got “from some fellow on the way in”. It won.

 Rose Wall was accompanied by her handsome son.

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Good News on the Greenway

This is the report from the council meeting:

A dedicated team in Kerry County Council is to be appointed to progress two greenway projects to completion.

The status of the North Kerry Greenway was discussed at the monthly meeting of the Listowel Municipal District.

Councillor Mike Kennelly called for all resources to be put in place to get the multi-million-euro greenway from Listowel to the Limerick border over the line.

The Fine Gael councillor pointed to bureaucracy with Government departments with such projects.

Listowel MD Manager, Joan McCarthy told Cllr Kennelly that nobody is dragging their heels on the project adding that it is protection of public funds and not bureaucracy.

Kerry County Council says a senior engineer has been appointed to oversee both the North Kerry Greenway and the Tralee to Fenit Greenway; a team will be appointed shortly to progress both projects.

Work on the north Kerry project is expected to begin later this year and will take 18 months to complete.


Regards,


Michael Guerin, Listowel


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Upcoming Events


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The Ploughing



Photo: Radio Kerry



Daniel Burke from Causeway and Derek O’Driscoll from Ballyheigue, who both claimed an All-Ireland title at this year’s Ploughing Championships



I’ve never been to “The Ploughing” but I’m told it’s possible to spend days there without seeing a plough or a ploughman. It’s a place for shopping, socialising, entertainment and education. I was delighted to see that these young men have got back to what it’s all about, celebrating the skill and art of ploughing.

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