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: Mark Holan

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

Drama,Rock Concerts in Gaelic Park in 1969 an old post box in Cashel and a Deed of Blood in North Kerry

Listowel Town Square


Another Old one from a Kerry’s Eye supplement


They Rocked Gaelic Park in 1969

Talk about the summer of ’69. What a line up of concerts!

Where did I find it?

Ciarán Sheehan shared it on Facebook


William Street


Singing his Heart Out

Photo is from Belfast . The photographer is unknown.


This Edward V11 postbox is in Cashel.  Photo from Twitter


A Deed of Blood

Land has always caused trouble in Ireland and in the not very distant past dreadful deeds were done in the name of our right to land. We all know the story of John B. Keane’s The Field and nowMark Holan in his latest blog post has nosed out another gory story from our recent past. Mark writes a great Irish American blog and, because his Irish roots are in Kerry, he often writes about our neck of the woods.

Let me here apologise to any descendants of the people named. I don’t post this to malign anyone or to dig up painful family history, merely to recount historical facts and to remind ourselves of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.

Land-related violence in
late 19th century Ireland were euphemistically known as “agrarian outrage.” …

For several years now I’ve
been exploring Ireland’s Land War period, 1879-1889. In particular, I’ve
focused on the 1888 murders of farmers James Fitzmaurice and John Foran, which
occurred within six months and just a few miles of each other in the northern
section of County Kerry, home of my Irish ancestors. Both men were condemned as
“landgrabbers” for leasing property after other farmers were evicted. In the
case of Fitzmaurice, the previous tenant was his brother.

In the 1880s, the Irish
National League (or Land League) was waging a campaign to break the grip of absentee
landlords, who controlled tens of thousands of acres. Farmers were called to
refuse paying their rents until lower rates and other rights could be
negotiated. When tenants were evicted for these or other reasons, the League
declared that the acreage should remain fallow and not be leased by other

Because Fitzmaurice and
Foran did not abide these strategies, they were condemned by League
officials and subjected to social and economic ostracism, known as boycotting.
Notices of their offenses were posted near the leased property and at local
market places. Each man received limited police protection, but both of them
fatally waved off the security.

The 68-year-old
Fitzmaurice was shot point blank by two assailants near Lixnaw, Kerry, on 31
January 1888. His daughter Nora, about 20, witnessed the murder in the “cold
grey dawn of morning,” according to a 16-page political pamphlet titled,
“A Deed of Blood,” published a few weeks after the crime.

“A Deed of Blood” was
produced by the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, an alliance
of Irish businessmen, landowners and academics who sought to preserve the
existing political ties with Great Britain. The group was formed in 1885 to
oppose efforts by Charles Stuart Parnell and the Irish Parliamentary Party of
to win land reform and limited domestic autonomy, called home rule.

The pamphlet quoted from
newspaper coverage of the Fitzmaurice murder, as well as original reporting.
It appeared in mid February 1888, shortly after two men were charged with
the murder, but before their trial, conviction and execution by hanging at the
end of April. For the ILPU, the crime was “yet another link … added to the
strong chain of evidence connecting the National League with the latest murder
in Kerry.”……………..Mark Holan


Did I ever think I’d live to see the day?

This is Seamus Eoinín, the oldest man living at the foot of Ceann Sibéal. Seán Mac an tSíthigh took this photo of him last week as Seamus was out enjoying the Star Wars buzz.


Annual Eucharistic Procession tomorrow 

Our Eucharistic Procession, this year, is to take place after the Vigil Mass of the Feast of Corpus Christi on Saturday next 28th May after the 6.15pm. Leaving the Church at 7.00pm. proceeding through the Square, William Street, turning left at McKenna’s Corner, through Market Street, Convent St., keeping left at the Convent Cross, past the Presentation Secondary School and turning right into the Hospital Grounds and ending outside the Árd Cúram Centre (North Kerry Day Care Centre) where Benediction will take place. There will be an opportunity to visit this beautiful Centre also after Benediction. All are welcome, refreshments will be served after in the Centre.

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