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: Mary O'Halloran

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.


Ballybunion and Other Places

Greenway mural Sept 2023


Iconic Ballybunion

Certain images say Ballybunion to us all; the castle, Virgin Rock, Nine Daughters Hole for instance. Uptown there are some unique local identifiers too.

trompe d’oeil cottage

Joyce’s, the post office

Mary Young statue seated outside St. John’s


Listowel Races 2023

I only went to The Island on one day and it was Ladies Day. This year, the celebrity designer judge, Don O’Neill, brought a New York frisson to the occasion.

Some of the style on show

Danny Russell put his millinery skills to work. He made this magnificent hat to match Norella’s silver pants suit.

My old friend and a faithful Listowel Races attendee, Mary O’Halloran was there with her daughter, Louise, both looking very stylish.

Photo: John Kelliher

The very popular winner of the top prize was local lady, Kathleen Flaherty, in a classic blue crochet suit. The judges recognised timeless style when they saw it.


I Remember, I Remember

This is my mother’s family home. It is no longer in the family but I paid it a visit on a recent trip home. If those walls could speak they’d tell the story of my beloved Uncle Bernie and Aunty Eily. Eily planted those flowers.

This tree was planted by my grandfather. He lives on in it and the memories it evokes.



I never knew, until someone shared this online, that Kerry schools once had their own approved catechism. Does the line “a general catechism for the kingdom” actually refer to Kerry or The Kingdom of Heaven?


A Fact

The phrase “rule of thumb” comes from an old English law which forbade a husband to beat his wife with anything wider then his thumb.


A Miscellany

At Bishopstown Scout hut


What Lies Ahead?

My daughter Clíona spotted this sign in Cahirdown on her way home to Listowel for the weekend.

I took the photo and appealed for captions.

Catherine Moylan won with the one I’ve chosen as the heading.

She was also a close second with

Ground control, major wrong!

Geraldine O’Connor was also in the running with Fake News

I like Breda OSullivan Ahern’s “No true road but a destination.”

This sign on the approach road from Tarbert is sure to raise a smile in the midst of roadwork disruption.


Presentation Girls Reunion

On the evening of their reunion the convent girls from the sixties remembered their previous reunion. There was talk and remembrance of the ladies who had passed away since then.


We’re a Sound Town

The radio station Today Fm has awarded Listowel the accolade of September’s Sound Town. Cora O’Brien of Listowel Community and Business Alliance convinced the judges that Listowel was one of the best towns in Ireland to live in. We’re Sound Out!


One Brave Lady

Get up, dress up and show up could be the motto of the lady on the right of these photos. She is Mary O’Halloran and she has Motor Neurone Disease. She is living with it and trying to do all the things she enjoyed before. Her lovely voice has gone but she retains her enviable sense of style. She is a regular at Listowel Races and she came back in style this year, earning herself a place on the stage as a finalist in the Ladies Day fashion competition.

My friends, Peggy O’Shea from Firies and Bridget O’Connor from Ballyduff joined me to lose some money and spot some style on Friday Sept. 23 2022.

My great friend, Jimmy was joined by his friend Ted for the day out.

Lilly and her dad Simon were enjoying the racing.


I wonder what John B. is so certain of in this lesser known poem I found in a penguin anthology of Irish verse.


A Fact

Carnivorous animals will not eat another animal that has been hit by a bolt of lightening.



Listowel Town Square in May 2022



I posted this picture yesterday and I wondered why there were so few boys in the class. Vincent Carmody solved the mystery.

There were always junior (locally called Babies) classes in both the boys and girls schools in Listowel. There was a custom for boys who lived in O’Connell’s Avenue or other houses near the convent or for boys who had an association with the convent to go there up to First Communion class.

I presumed that the full class of communion boys must have been in the new school. Not so. Éamon ÓMurchú remembers boys communion classes in the old school and in The Carnegie.

Everyone agrees that Quirkes of Church St. was the place to go for the best after communion breakfast.


Lovely Listowel

This Church Street shop has very elaborate and unusual embellishments on the first storey.


St. Vincent de Paul Society Honours Hannah

Listowel St. Vincent de Paul Society recently honoured one of its most treasured members, Hannah Mulvihill.


Illuminated Parchment Presentation

This photo was shared by Mike Hannon on Facebook. I recognise the occasion. It is the handover during race week 1958 of an illuminated work of art to the directors of Listowel Race Company.

The picture being presented is the work of Bryan MacMahon and Michael O’Connor.

Jer Kennelly found a great clip online that explains the work of an illuminator.

Bishop Barron

It is well worthwhile to watch this to appreciate the genius that was Listowel’s Michael O’Connor.

I am looking forward to developments at Kerry Writers’ Museum which will see O’Connor’s work displayed for us all to see. Many examples of the great artist’s work have been promised by their owners, often his family members, to the museum as soon as it has a place to conserve and display them.

Example of a Michael O’Connor illuminated letter


Betty Remembered at The Races

In memory of Betty McGrath, her good friend, Larry Buckley, has organised a race at this weekend’s race meeting. The race will be run on Sunday June 5 2022, Ladies Day

In The Lingerie Room, Elaine is a is also remembering. Her window display remembers Betty, a queen of style.


New on Church Street

I checked out their website. I think it is a kind of government recruitment agency. This is what the website says;

“Get the tailored support you need Turas Nua is delivering the JobPath programme to help long-term unemployed people get the support they need to move into suitable, sustainable employment….”


NCBI Window Display

NCBI Listowel is getting behind Writers’ Week with this apt window display.


Mary O’Halloran was pictured at Navan recently.

Mary is a frequent visitor to Listowel Races where she is always one of the best turned out ladies on the course.

Mary is living with Motor Neurone Disease.

I can’t give her the 2 page spread Charlie Bird got in last Sunday’s Independent. But I can tell you that I greatly admire Mary and all the other people with MND who are quietly getting on with life.


Races, A Poem, a Postbox and Smithing in Ballylongford

In The Garden of Europe


Listowel Races, Sept`. 2021

Listowel native, Niamh Kenny won a prize for her beautiful hat. It complemented her outfit perfectly.

Wllie and Jackie Mullins in the winners enclosure.

The ever stylish Mary O’Halloran was one of the Ladies Day finalists. She did a moving interview with Celia Holman Lee. Mary loves Listowel Races and comes every year.


Talking Poetry

John Given and Jimmy Deenihan are finalising plans for the publication of John’s father, Pat Given’s, next book of poems.

Here is a poem from Pat’s last anthology. It was reproduced for Poetry Town.


Post Box on College Road, Cork

This lovely post box is on College Rd. Cork near the junction with Highfield Road.

I had occasion to be in the Bons. The paper shop in the hospital was closed. I made my way to what in my day used to be Flirty’s shop and post office. It is now a Daybreak. There I made a discovery.

Students don’t buy newspapers. I was in the shop at 8.30 a.m. and there was only a handful of papers available.


A Tinsmith at Work

At the Ballylongford Blacksmithing Fair Sept. 25 2021


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