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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“Old forgotten far off things and battles long ago….”

Welcome sign outside the Girls Secondary School


Fr. Anthony Gaughan among the greats

Fr. Anthony Gaughan and Gabriel Fitzmaurice at Listowel Writers’ Week 2022

Mark Holan writes a really interesting blog

Mark Holan’s Irish American blog

Recently he sent me this email;

Hello Mary. Happy New Year. I hope you are well. 

My wife received a Neiman Fellowship last spring for a year of study at Harvard. We’ve been in Cambridge, Mass. (Boston) since August and will return to Washington in June. I am semi-retired and taking some Irish Studies classes at Boston College and working on a book about how American journalists covered the Irish revolution.

I’ve enjoyed access to Harvard’s many libraries through my wife. The other day I was wandering the stacks of the flagship Widener Library (It’s more fun than online searches!) and came across ‘Listowel and its vicinty’ by Gaughan.

I thought you might enjoy the attached photo for Listowel Connection. I enjoy your blog. My own blog reached its 10th anniversary last July. I’m still having fun!

With best wishes,



Tae Lane

Tae Lane, February 2023

John Fitzgerald remembers Tae Lane in a different era.

Places like The Casbah and The New Road will be familiar only to Listowel natives of a certain age.

I enjoyed this epic poem of deeds of yore.

The Battle of Tae Lane

John Fitzgerald

There’s a one eyed yellow idol to the north of Khatmandu,

there’s a cavalcade of cavalry lost in Death Valley too.

there’s the pharaohs in their pyramids and the Eiffel on the Seine,

but who of you remembers the famous Battle of Tae Lane.

Napoleon planned his sorties from a galleon out at sea,

and Hannibal crossed the Great Alps on an elephant you see,

Bush set his sites on Bagdad as  mighty Caesar did on Spain

and the Casbah planned new boundaries to encompass  sweet  Tae Lane.

‘Twas in the year of fifty nine, at the back of Sandy’s shed,

 long since Hitler went to Poland and Paddy to Hollyhead,

and of all the wars you’ll mention, there is none will hold a flame

to the fight fought by the Gravel Crushers defending their Tae Lane.

For weeks before the New Road was a tranquil place by day

as the boys played round the grotto and the old ones knelt to pray,

but at night behind the Astor, they gathered one and all

to plan their deadly battle and The Gravel Crushers fall.

The sally and the hazel were long stripped before the fall.

Nature played no part in this of that I well recall.

‘Twas the hand of Tarzan Murphy paring sticks both thick and tall

as he swung through trees and branches letting bows and arrows fall.

The signs were all apparent if only eyes would see.

Paddles Browne went round the town on an errand of mystery.

From Moss Scanlon’s up to Shortpants he gathered off cuts by the score,

leather pouches for the making of the deadly slings of war.

Bomber Behan scoured the backways, picked up bits from forge to forge.

Each scrap of steel, the point he’d feel, an arrow tip or sword.

‘Til at the back of Charles Street, as the last forge he did pass

he felt the boot of Jackie Moore go halfway up his ass.

His shouts and bawls off  backway walls went half way round the town

Mutts Connor and Gigs Nolan thought ‘twas the Bandsroom falling down.

But the ear of Tommie Allen, sharp as any corner boy

Heard the beans were spilt , they’d all be kilt , and he began to cry .

“The game is up”, he shouted from Scully’s Corner’s vantage point

“Poor Bomber he’s been captured as he was struggling to find

live ammo for the battle in the cold and p p pissing rain

Pat Joe Griffin must be warned to strike early on Tae Lane.”

Brave Victor of the Broderick clan defied the daring raid,

He called his troops together and ‘twas then this plan he made.

“We’ll meet them at the bottleneck” that went by the shithouse name

under Dan Moloney’s garage in the heart of sweet Tae Lane.

He marshalled troops to left and right, of the gushing sewer outfall.

No silver from these waters flowed of that I well recall.

 Half were placed on the market cliff and half on Dagger’s dump

and there they’d wait in soldier’s gait ‘til Victor shouted jump.

The Gravel Crushers ammo was got ready for the drop,

gattling guns and  gadgets from Fitzgibbon’s  well armed shop,

no trees they’d cut, no face they’d soot, yes, they’d face no blame or shame

those gallant lads from William Street who defended their Tae Lane

The butcher boys, the Shaughnessys were such an awesome sight.

Young Mickey climbed the saddle of the King’s Tree on the right

Titch  and Teddy ever ready,  pointed bamboos on the bank

As P.J. stood next to Victor, his brothers he outranked.

While Back The Bank they gathered just below the Convent Cross,

where Mickeen Carey taught us all the game of  pitch and toss.

John Guerin took no notice, no thoughts for God or man

only the rushing of those waters where the silver salmon ran.

Pat Joe was the leader of the Casbah’s fearsome band,

with the Nolans, Long John and Spats, he’d backup at his hand.

There were the  Reidys and the Roches, the Cantys and the Keanes

and they all set off together to capture sweet Tae Lane.

‘Twas a battle worth recalling, there were heroes more than few,

as the sky above grew darker when the stones and arrows flew, 

and in the close encounters , it then was man to man

one a Gravel Crusher and one a Casbarian.

With blood flowing towards the river, it all came down to two,

the leaders of those fighting hordes, Victor Broderick and Pat Joe.

They wrestled in the nettles, in the rubbish they did fight

among stickybacks and dockleafs and Mary B’s pigshite.

The duel it was well balanced as they struggled on the grass,

a rabbit punch, an elbow  a kick in shin or arse.

No mercy would be given, sure the day would end in pain

such was the price one had to pay for lovely sweet Tae Lane.

The bold Mickey took a horsehoe  which he’d pinched from Tarrant’s forge.

No more in vain he could watch in pain his brother  poor Pat Joe.

The glistening shoe of steel he threw, it caught Pat Joe’s left grip.

“The odds have changed”, Eric Browne exclaimed “we’re on a sinking ship”.

Just then the sky above  them changed, the sun  shone through instead

as round  by Potter Galvin’s came the flash of Ollie’s head.

Mounted on a milk white stallion from Patrick Street he came

thundering to the brother’s rescue as he lay wounded in  Tae Lane.

There are mixed views of what happened next, but I was surely there.

No classic from the Astor or the Plaza could compare.

Mac Master or Mc Fadden could never stage the play.

Who won? Who lost?  What matter, all were Gleann Boys on that day.

That battle royal still lingers in the confines of my mind.

No time nor tide dare loose it as long as I’m alive.

‘Twas the battle of all battles  that held no blame or shame

fought fiercely by those boys of yore for the right to rule Tae Lane.


Yellow Dresses for Cailíní

I spotted these in Dunnes Stores. Is it just me or do these have a cailín chiúin vibe?


Rattoo, Duhallow Knitwear, Lord Listowel and a Poem for our Times

Wolfhound at Rattoo

Photo; Bridget O’Connor


Duhallow Knitwear

Do you remember this brand? The hosiery, as it was always called in Kanturk, made this great, hard wearing classic knitwear for many years. If you look closely at the advertisement you will see that Duhalow made “hose and half hose”. This is probably why it was called a hosiery Has anyone any idea what hose and half hose stand for?

The Sheehan family who owned the business were one of the biggest employers in my home town and surrounding area in the fifties and sixties.


Lord Listowel


As Others See Us

Despite massive Famine-era emigration from the area, Kerry retained “in a great degree its peculiar and characteristic features,” Irish lawyer and author William O’Connor Morris wrote to The Irish Times in October 1869.

“The people of Kerry are a thoroughly Celtic race; and, though a variety of influences has injured in some measure their finer nature, they show all the marks of Celtic character. They are shrewd, quick-witted, fanciful, sensitive, affectionate if you touch their sympathies, prone to submission, and to respect those connected with them by ancient tradition. On the other hand, they are jealous and irritable, tenacious of custom, and unprogressive, and above all, impressionable and fiery, rather than persevering, steady and courageous.”

Source: Mark Holan’s   Irish American Blog


A Poem for a Pandemic

This poem was written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Mara:

And people stayed at home And read books
And listened
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
More deeply
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.

Reprinted during Spanish flu pandemic, 1919 and again during the Covid 19 pandemic, 2020
Photo taken during Spanish flu

Listowel Castle, Baltimore Talk, Bibiana Foran and Listowel Celtic Oskars

Cathleen Mulvihill shared this unusual picture of Listowel Castle on the Glin Historical Society page


The Oskars

Lent in the old days was a time for plays and drama. Dances were forbidden and people entertained themselves as best they could at card games and plays.

Well, Listowel is going to get a taste of the good old days on February 29 2020.

Filming has been taking place with local people reenacting such classic plays/films as The Field, The Snapper, Sister Act, Grease and Father Ted and prizes will be awarded on the night to the best film etc. It promises to be a night to remember.

Joanne O’Riordan shared this photo of filming of The Field at The Thatch in Lisselton.

This great picture of some of the cast of Sister Act comes from Kevin Rowe Events who did the filming.


Bibiana Foran

This plaque is on a commemorative bench in Listowel’s town park.

I wrote here about this lady before. Vincent Carmody is a great man for keeping the memory of Listowel’s old stock alive. He told me all about this lady with the unusual name. Her grandniece saw the post and here, in case you missed it,  is the comment she posted.

Bibiana Foran was my grand aunt. The OS most probably stands for her initials of her maiden name…she was O’Sullivan. Her home was in Lacca, Ballyhahill. Her brother Patrick was my grandfather. She was an amazingly capable lady….had a huge impact on the lives of many of the underprivileged in Listowel. She befriended many of the political prisoners during the trouble times. She with Lady Aberdeen, established the first sanatorium in Peamount, Dublin. A letter to her from prison from Thomas Ashe is in Tralee library. I gave it to her grand daughter, Grace, ( now sadly deceased) who had it presented to Tralee library. My aunt , Nora O’Sullivan, had that letter among her possessions, as she inherited Auntie Bibbie’s property in Ballybunion. I felt her grand daughter should have it. She & husband Jeremiah, also owned the Horseshoe Bar in Listowel & Cahirdown house in Listowel . Would be happy to give further info if needed. Irene Hynes 



Field Names in Bromore

One of the fields I know is called The Well field. In olden times it was said that it was a very holy well but no people visit it now. Two people who were nearly blind had their sight restored to them after a visit to it. One of these was Johanna Collins and she died only a short time ago and she was 90 years. The people near at hand are now using the water out of it for the household use. This well is in land of Patrick Collins. The well is called Tobar na geárdáin.

Martin Leahy v

Bromore 22 – 6 1938

Information from my Uncle

Edmond Leahy, smith ; aged 72

He got the story from his grandfather.


Baltimore Followers

Here is a date for the diary for anyone who is near here.

( Photo and text from Mark Holan’s Irish American Blog)

This is the Irish Railroad Workers Museum and it is here that Mark Holan will give this talk on March 7

Ruth Russell Talk is March 7 in Baltimore

I’m giving a talk about American journalist Ruth Russell’s 1919 reporting trip to revolutionary Ireland on Saturday, March 7, at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in Baltimore.

The talk is based on my five-part monograph about Russell’s life. I presented this research at the 2019 annual conferences of the American Journalism Historians Association, in Dallas, and the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland, in Belfast.

Register for the free event, which begins at 11 a.m. The museum is located at 918 Lemon St., near downtown Baltimore. Here’s my earlier post about the museum, which is worth visiting anytime.

Launch of Spoilt Rotten, Culture Night 2018 and The Songs of Joe Harrington


Sept 19 2018 in The Seanchaí for the launch of Spoilt Rotten

Here are a few last photos from the launch of Jack McKenna’s memoir

Sales of the book were brisk. All profits of sales on the night went to Áras Mhuire.

Two people who know a lot about books

The star of the show, Jack McKenna

Two proud daughters

Music in the foyer was provided by John McKenna.

Some familiar faces in the audience


Culture Night 2018 at St. John’s

I was in town on the afternoon of Sept 21 2018 and I met Paul O’Connor and Joe Murphy setting up for Poetica Illumina, a first for Listowel.

This light show involved projecting a recorded image of local poets reading their work on to a tree outside St. John’s.

But first we had a playing of the RTE Doc on One; Shame, Love in Shame and a chance to talk to the participants.

Two of the ladies whose voices we heard in the programme were Brina Keane, friend of Breda McCarthy and Eileen Roche, Breda’s cousin and friend.

St. John’s was full for this and the following performances.

On the stage was Dr. Mary McAuliffe, the historian who gave us a context for the whole sad story. Dr. McAulliffe told us that, contrary to popular belief, the ladies who were in Magdalen laundries weren’t all unmarried mothers. In fact the majority were orphans or wayward girls who were a bit too much for their families to handle or who were, due to their behaviour, in danger of becoming unmarried mothers.

She told us that mother and baby homes and laundries weren’t an exclusively Irish phenomenon. They existed in lots of countries. What made Ireland different was that they were still operating in the 1960s. She was loathe to lay all the blame for what happened at the door of the church. This was also Conor Keane’s stand in the documentary. The state had  responsibility for the health care system and was only too happy to hand it over to religious orders.

Eileen Roche reassured us that Breda was well and happy and that through Eileen and Tony Guerin’s intervention, when she dies, Breda will be brought home to be buried with her mother and grandparents in Listowel.

Tony Guerin spoke of his dismay at how such a thing was allowed to happen in Listowel in 1946. He is proud of his father’s part in securing a Christian burial for Peggy and for challenging the domineering power of the parish priest. He is also glad that he got to make the story public, in fiction form, in his play, Solo Run and he is grateful to the Lartigue Players for staging it and to Conor Keane for taking the story to a wider audience with his documentary.

Next on the stage at Culture Night 2018, three members of Listowel Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann played us a few tunes.

The national treasure that is Sonny Egan told us a dirty story and a clean story and played along  to a few well known songs with the audience giving him a helping hand.

We had drama from young and a little older and then we finished the evening with the showing of a film tribute to Jerry Molyneaux, master dancer. All in all, a great evening of cultural entertainment.

Outside Poetica Illumina was in full swing.

A goodly crowd had gathered in The Square to listen to poetry from a tree. This spectacle was a taster for our biggest newest festival, Féile an tSolais which will take place on November 2 to 4 when there will be lots of light events including a spectacular installation in the Town Park.

Do you recognise him?


If you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song.

Joe Harrington and Kay O’Leary are  two of Lyreacrompane’s best known citizens. They are always busy at some project, organising the Dan Paddy Andy Festival, producing an annual parish magazine,  keeping the Lyreacrompane webpage, touring with a troupe of musicians, dancers and entertainers, or presenting an internet radio show.

In the midst of all these, Joe has found time to write songs. Now he has gathered his compositions into a cd. Like everything he does, Joe’s cd is a tribute to North Kerry, to Ireland and to Irishness.

A look at the song titles will tell you  that this album will appeal to everyone who loves North Kerry.

It is a mark of Joe’s civic spirit and generosity that he is donating proceeds from the sale of the album  towards another  local project close to his heart.

The proceeds from the album go towards the Fund for the renovation of the old Glen Schoolhouse in Lyreacrompane as a Heritage Centre for the general Stacks Mountains area. This community project aims to preserve and highlight the Heritage, Culture and Environment of the Stacks Mountains and involve the community in a manner that will lessen social isolation. Our fundraising efforts have gone well to date and we have set ourselves a further target of €10,000. Sales of the album will be part of meeting this goal, so we are hoping that people will rally round and buy the Album. More information on the Heritage House Project can be found on the Heritage page of 


Irish American Blog

Mark Holan writes a regular blog about things of interest to Irish and American Irish people. He includes Listowel’s Tidy Town’s win in his September round-up.

Mark Holan’s Irish American blog

NKM in Listowel, Playboy and Woulfe’s Bookshop

Looking towards St. John’s from St. Mary’s


Old NKM tin

It seems that there are quite a few of these still about. Helen Gore bought this one on the internet.

Vincent Carmody posted this old postcard with a picture of the NKM sweet factory as well as the below pictures of his two tins and a brief  account of the factory in Listowel

The tin box is an original from Listowel’s sweet factory which traded from the old mill building, which occupied the site where Carroll’s Hardware providers is now located. The mill, a fine, six floor, cut stone building, was originally owned and operated by the Leonard family of The Square. It was powered by water from a millstream, which ran from near the old ball alley to the mill. The mill closed in the mid 1800’s, despite an effort by John Latchford of Tralee to buy the property. He subsequently build a mill back in Greenville.

The building served for a time in the early 1900’s as a creamery, this was owned by George R. Browne. He also had a creamery at his property at Cahirdown. He had in his employment an Englishman, Thomas Armstrong. When Brown decided to sell his interest in the business, it was purchased by Armstrong. Shortly afterwards, Armstrong went into the manufacturing of ‘Irish Cream Toffee Sweets’ 

The tin carries the initials N.K.M on the cover, with North Kerry Manufactory at the side, however with a play on the initials, the legend “Nicest Kind Made” also appears on the cover.
There is not much information on the business, however, we know that after a period of industrial unrest, Armstrong closed the factory in 1921. The Mackintosh sweet company bought the brand and continued making these sweets at Rathmines Dublin, under the brand name,’The North Kerry Manufacturing Co Ltd’


Playboy and Ireland

On hearing of the passing of Hugh Hefner, Mark Holan, in his great blog, wrote this insightful piece about our own playboy.

BTW Synge’s Christy Mahon was a Kerryman

Synge’s ‘Playboy’ arrived in Ireland long before Hef’s mag

by admin

The New York Times proclaims: “Hugh Hefner, the Original Playboy, Is Dead at 91.” Vanity Fair describes the dearly departed (27 September 2017) magazine publisher as “the indefatigable (albeit Viagra-enhanced) Playboy of the western world.”

We can only wonder what the late Irish playwright John Millington Synge would have thought. His play, “The Playboy of the Western World,” debuted in January 1907 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin,  well before the December 1953 appearance of “Hef’s” Chicago-based skin mag. As The Washington Post reports:

Hefner had planned to call his magazine Stag Party, but when the publishers of another men’s magazine named Stag threatened to sue, a colleague came up with an inspired afterthought: Playboy.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says the term for a “wealthy bon vivant” dates to 1829.

Synge died in 1909, two years after his play offended Irish moral sensibilities and sparked riots. In a 2011 theater review, The Guardian noted:

Synge had clad his maidens in shifts, presumably to mollify strict moralists among his Abbey audience. But perhaps he half-suspected a truth which Hugh Hefner would later turn into a different Playboy business: that a scantily clad woman can be even more inflammatory to the jaded imagination of male puritans than one who is wholly naked.

Playboy magazine was banned in Ireland until 1995. Twenty years later, Ireland became the first nation in the world to legalize same sex marriage by popular referendum.


Woulfe’s Bookshop

Woulfe’s Bookshop is one of Listowel’s gems. It is a rarity nowadays to find an independent bookseller. This shop stocks a wide variety of titles for adults and children. Books of local interest are a speciality.


Bill Dowd of Ballydonoghue and Pittsburg passes away

Monday, October 02, 2017

William “Bill” Dowd, Age 94, of Shaler Township, formerly of Penn Hills, peacefully on Monday October 2, 2017 with his children at his side.  Bill was born and raised in Ballydonoghue, County Kerry, Ireland in 1923.   After spending time in County Kildare cutting peat and as a coal miner in Sheffield, England, he came to the United States in 1949 and was welcomed by his cousin Molly (Dowd) Devine and her family in Pittsburgh. Bill was a player and faithful long-time supporter of the Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association and a proud 60-year member of the Plumbers Laborers’ Union. He was the beloved husband of the late Mary (Grills) Dowd; loving father of Tom (Maria) Dowd, Kathy (John) O’Connor, Mary Beth (Dean) Reynolds, and the late Jack Dowd;  cherished grandfather of Michelle (Brad) Tresky, Katie (Brendan) Dowd-Dusette, Kevin, Deirdre, and Ryan Dowd, Sinead, Ciara, and Sean O’Connor,  Laura (Tyler) Tarney, and Dean and Brennan Reynolds; proud great-grandfather of Kaelyn, Liam, Ciara, Meghan, Keagan, Maggie, and soon-to-be baby Tarney.  Dear brother of the late Tom, Jack, and Jim Dowd.  Also survived by nieces and nephews in Pittsburgh, Ireland, and England. Friends will be received on Tuesday from 6:00 to 8:00 PM and Wednesday from 1:00 to 3:00 & 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Bock Funeral Home, Ltd., 1500 Mt. Royal Blvd., Glenshaw. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated in St. Bonaventure Church, Glenshaw, on Thursday at 10:00 AM. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association, 1203 Woodbourne Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15226 or Elfinwild Meals on Wheels, 3200 Mt. Royal Blvd., Glenshaw, PA 15116

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