A Snap of Listowel in the Cold Snap
A Kerry Christmas Childhood
Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,
As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.
I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,
And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.
We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,
And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,
To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,
And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,
Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,
And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.
From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,
To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,
For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,
To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,
To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,
And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.
The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,
The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,
And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,
Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.
Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire
And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,
Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,
Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights
And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,
And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.
Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,
If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,
And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,
When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,
But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,
To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.
She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.
“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”
The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade
And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.
St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,
To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’
We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,
And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.
Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill
Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.
Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.
Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.
So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,
And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.
More Photos from Garda Centenary on Nov. 30 2022
Listowel Widows Association
Folklore from Listowel
The following is from the schools collection and was collected by Bryan MacMahon in the 1930s.
If you bought bonhams and put them all together throw two buckets of sour milk on top of them to keep them from fighting. I saw Dan Shea of Clievragh doing it.
It isn’t sour milk at all sir, it’s porter you should throw in their eyes. I saw Mick Stokes of Market St. doing it.
8. If you kill a goose, or a cock, or a cow and put your fist on the back of his neck and press he’ll make the noise he made when alive.
(9). If you want to make a starling talk split his tongue and put his beak up to a rack (i. e. a comb) – and he’ll speak.
(10). My mother (Mrs Doyle Slievecahel) told me that a man was coming home from Castleisland one night and he saw a lovely city inside in a Glen. He went in and there was nothing there only rocks. It was the reflection of a town in Australia.
(11). My mother said they used use pointy sticks before as forks. They used have a pointy stick as a Knife and a gabhlóg as a fork.
(12) People long go used go to no Mass but they used put a pot on another man’s head and hit it with something and that’d be by-the-way the bell. One night the pot fell down and they couldn’t pull it off and they had to break it to knock it off.
13. When I received my first Holy Communion in Ballyduff, after the priest made the sign of the cross with the Holy Communion I saw a little baby in the priest’s arms.
14. Jack Joy told me that Paddy Ferris of the Gaire made a cake a’ Christmas time with 5 lbs. of flour and it took him 5 hrs to make it.
15. St. Synan’s Well is in “Souper” Connors land (Protestants) and they got water out of the well to boil the Kettle and it wouldn’t boil at all so they had to throw it out and get other water.
16. Daniel O’Connell was at a feast one time and poison was put in his glass. One of the sewart-girls was by the way singing a song [?] in Irish and thus she warned him and she blew out the candles and he changed glasses. with some other one. She sang
“A Dhomhnall Ó Conaill, a dtuigeann tú Gaedhilg?
Tuigim a’ coda (a chodlad, a chiota) agus a’ chuid eile Gaedhilg,
Tá an ionad den salainn á chuirfead sa dtae dhuit,
Múcfad-sa an solas agus cuir cúcha féin é”.
(T. Kennelly from mother who is from Glenbeigh)