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More from St. Patrick’s Day 2024

Meanwhile in Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland has a vibrant American Irish community. My nephew lives there with his family. He sent these from their parade. It was a very big affair with a magnificent troupe of unicyclists.

Big year for Willie Mullins at Cheltenham

Ceoltóirí na Ríochta

Our young Kerry musicians, singers and dancers in New York for St. Patrick’s Day 2024


By Mattie Lennon.

  MORE than a million people lined the streets of New York’s Fifth Avenue for a colourful St Patrick’s Day parade in 2001. Despite the cold many stayed for hours watching over 150,000 marchers pass by, police, army, firefighters, hundreds of bands and people from every county in Ireland.

   Our green and misty island was well represented. The marchers included the Finglas Concert Band as well as a contingent from Dublin Bus while Garda representatives joined the New York Police Department at the head of the parade.

   I was one of the 100 from Dublin Bus participating.  The late Barney Coleman had put years of work into organising it, ably assisted by Dublin Bus Management. One of our group was Limerick man, Joe Collins, who was the PR man for Dublin Bus for many years, and knew New York City like the back of his hand. No matter what information or help we needed all we had to do was (if I may borrow a phrase) “talk to Joe” .

     We met many who wanted to talk about their Irish roots. One man said he had stood in exactly the same spot for the parade for 50 years. “It’s a great day for the Irish,” he said. His comments reflected the enthusiasm of many New Yorkers, for the parade, even those without Irish connections.

   Among the dignitaries was Mayor Giuliani who was wearing a green woollen scarf over a green turtleneck sweater. He was hugely popular with the inhabitants of the Big Apple some of whom shouted: “We love you baby”.      Members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organisation were underwhelmed since they were once again refused permission to take part. They chanted: “We’re Irish, we’re queer, and we’ll be here every year”. Their protest was peaceful unlike the previous year when there were 11 arrests.

On the days on either side the march our group divided into splinter groups. The shopaholics among us seem to spend most of their time in Macys and such establishments.  I was one of a small group who stood on the roof of one of the twin towers, looking down at the small planes going up and down the Hudson. Little did we know the fate that the same building and its twin would suffer six months later. 

   On the Sunday I compiled and presented a one hour radio programme Ceol na  nGael on  WFUV20.7  broadcast from Fordham University. It is the most popular Irish radio program in New York, and according to the feedback my presentation was all right. One of my fellow travellers had told me, “You have the perfect face for radio.” I had prepared most of it before I left home and I brought Dublin Bus driver/ singer Angela Macari who gave a memorable, live,  rendition of Grace.

  Our little group were also in a world-famous submarine. It wasn’t submerged, of course. I’m referring to the nuclear sub,  Growler.

   At the time Growler was  the only nuclear missile submarine available open to the public in the United States. As the information areas about the sub on Pier 86 are spacious, visitors were encouraged to learn and take in as much information as they could in the early parts of the tour before entering the submarine. Once on board, lines can move quickly and the ability to ask questions of the staff is limited, but encouraged. A couple of us there didn’t need and encouragement to ask question. I prefer to think of us as having inquiring minds but unkind people described us as “inquisitive hoors.

   In September 1998, 40,000 people showed up to catch a glimpse of the President of the United States Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary in Limerick. At a public event on 5th September on O’Connell Street, Bill Clinton was granted the Freedom of the City by my old friend, the Mayor of Limerick, Joe Harrington.   As Bill was mounting the platform Joe whispered something in his ear and the world’s media didn’t find out what it was. But on March 18th two and a half years later I made a trans-Atlantic call, did a live on-air phone  interview with Joe and he told me, and the Stateside listeners, what he had whispered to the President. I won’t share it with you but it was a piece of advice which Bill eventually took.

There have been many changes,  both  good and bad, on both sides  of the Atlantic since that memorable day twenty three years ago.

(Maybe Joe will spill the tea exclusively to Listowel Connection.)

A Fact

St. Patrick was never canonised. In fact when he died in A.D. 461 there was no canonisation. That only came in in the 12th century, when an official process for canonisation was introduced by the pope and the curia.

St. Patrick has always been regarded as having saintly status so we give him the title.


Listowel Man in Japan

Photo; Chris Grayson in Glenbeigh

Language and how we use it

I have long been fascinated by local quirks of language and meaning. When I came to live in Kerry first I was amused to be asked if I would walk or “carry the car”. I never got used to wan instead of won for the figure 1.

Mattie Lennon wrote the following about his own Wicklow (Wickla) dialect.


By Mattie Lennon.                                                                                                                               

 “ Look what we’ve done to the old mother tongue,

it’s a crime they way we’ve misused it.”             

So the song says. But did we do it any damage?

John Dryden said that a thing well said will be wit in all languages. In my native west Wicklow the transposition of vowels seemed to be almost as popular a pastime as locking referees in car boots. And did it do any damage? (no…I’m not asking about the morality  depriving the GAA arbitrator of his liberty on a winter’s day in Rathnew, I’m referring to a bit of readjustment of the A, E, I, O and U’s ) 

In my part of the world the language of Synge survived into the final decades of the twentieth century and beyond. His inspiration for The Shadow of the Glen came from Donard in west Wicklow where his father was a  Protestant  minister. Only recently a neighbour with a somewhat defective ticker told me that he had been fitted with a “Peace-maker”. I know of a case where a lady with notions, in the days when meat was kept in a safe, asked an apprentice carpenters to make a “Mate-Seaf”.  A Mate Seaf. Nowadays I get all sorts of gazes when I disclose that it used to take a lot of courage, in Kylebeg, to say tea instead of “tay” and to refer to unpolluted H2O as anything other than “clane wather” meant you were getting above your station.  And you’d soon be reminded that it wasn’t long since you had holes in  your”brutches”. The”hins” were fed off the “led” of a pot and when it was necessary to communicate with absent relatives the “pin an’ ink” were taken down and that reviled member of the rodent species was called a”rot”. It would be said of the less-than-honest that he would “stale the crass ev an ass”. A welcome visitor would be invited to ” take a sate an’ give yerself a hate” and if you weren’t “plazed” by a frank comment you were said to be “aisy effinded” and you were sure to be “med game of”. That gurgling moving rivulet  much lauded in song and poem was a “strame” o’ wather and the single arch structure over it was a brudge”. 

Some people through hard work (or a windfall) would  progress from thatch to a more substantial roof on their dwelling and it would be called a ”Toiled roof.” Every County Council cottage had an outside “labatery”. A “dacent little girl” was an unmarried female, of any size, shape or age, who wouldn’t let a male in a mile of her.

Whatever about the Catechism definition of Grace in our part of the world it was “the juice o’ fat mate”. And of course if you were of an argumentative dispossession it would be said that you  “would rise a row about the kay o’ there”. (Songwriting , of course, was easier than elsewhere because floor rhymed with sure and bowl rhymed with howl) A snob might have ” a collar an’ tie on his nick an’ a watch on his wrust” but no male would go so far as to sport “gould” ring. Nobody would admit to having “flays” themselves (The’re fleas by the way)  but a person would  comment that a certain neighbour’s house was “walking wud thim”.

You could expect a”could day'” whin the win’ was from the aist”. Ewes”yaned”, you ploughed “lay” and you “Bilt” the”kittle” ( unless of course it “laked”. You “gother” the sheep, “muxed” the pig-feeding and you could”bate” the living daylights out of someone  “whin timpers ed be ruz”. But in such “is-ther-no one to-hould-me-coat” situations there was usually someone to make “pace”, a pacemaker.The piece of binder twine used to restrict the movements of the canine was a”lade”. Beyond was”beyant” and an old neighbour of mine went so far as to do a bit of consonant-juggling resulting in “belant”.The clothes were held on the line by “pigs” and a brave man (or maybe one who didn’thave the courage to run away) was described as a “hairo”. 

Surnames didn’t escape either. Lennon was Linnen, Fitzsimons became Fitzsummons, Geoghan was Googan  and Reid was made to rhyme with spade.

Looking back on it now I reckon that the hillbillies of the old black-and-white “Westerns”, with their “varmint” and “critters” would have fitted in perfectly in the Lacken of my youth. And I’m sure they would have adapted very quickly to describing the economy-conscious as “mane” and making stirabout from “yalla male”.  If you are not from my neck of the woods perhaps like D.H. Lawrence you will marvel: “That such trivial people should muse and thunder in such a lovely language”.

  As a trivial people we have descriptive terms that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else. Take for example an  individual who is considered highly intelligent by some. But may in some areas of their life, lack common sense.  We have a sort of a compromise term for them. We would describe them as a “cliver eeget.”   If  you were reared anywhere between Knockatillane and Shillealagh, like Thomas Babbington Macauley,  you will recognise “…..that dear language which I spake like thee”. 

From Listowel to Tokyo

Listowel man Willie Guiney proved that you can fulfil your dreams at any age.

Willie completed the Tokyo 6 star major marathon to fulfil a long held ambition.

Photos of Willie in Japan from his own Facebook page.

From Pres. 1988 Yearbook

A Poem

A Fact

The cock crows but the hen delivers the goods (Old proverb)


Fork Off!

Áras an Phiarsaigh in February 2024

Remember the Forks?

Friday’s fork picture put Mattie Lennon in mind of a piece he wrote many years ago.


                                                           Mattie Lennon.

   Have a look at the picture. What does it convey to you? No, I’m not going to bore you with the old chestnut about Sir William Wilde building his reputation with the knife and losing it with the fork. Neither am I going to tell you that when I was young we were so poor that the first time I saw two forks on a table I thought somebody was after getting a puncture.

   Yes, maybe, as you say, the image has a subtle or subliminal message of erotica. All I know is that it has won a number of prizes in Photographic Competitions.

  However, that is not why I’m showing it to you. I first saw the picture at the IPH National Photographic League Finals in Tallaght where our friend Tom Fitzgerald was a competitor.  Actually my wife saw it first and  drew my attention with her shrieks. You see she has a phobia about “two forks”.  On the odd occasion when a pair of forks gets entangled in the kitchen drawer at home it leads to grimacing and “teeth-watering.” (Much the same effect, I presume, as the scraping of fingernails on a blackboard has on other people.)  But seeing the object of her aversion in black-and-white (or in this case colour) it prompted me to make some enquiries. 

 For some time I had been planning to do a bit of research on this phobia, which is not life-threatening, and causes very little disruption in anyone’s life. So here was pictorial assistance and it got me into gear.

First I tracked down the photographer, Howard Swaine, who, as it happens, lives quite close to me. When I phoned and convinced him that I wasn’t calling from the comfort of a padded cell or the constrictions of a straitjacket, he offered to copy the print for me and gave me permission to use it.

I enquired as to the inspiration behind his prize-winning pic and he told me, “ I was just flutin’ around with two forks in the kitchen.” 

When I relayed this information to the spouse the predictable reply was, ”By &*$~% he wouldn’t  flute around with them in my #/%!* kitchen.”

   As to the Freudian explanation for such an irrational reaction, the aforementioned tangle of cutlery, your guess is as good as mine.

A Poem

A Poem to convince you that every life is worthwhile.

The Men’s Shed is not just for Men

Everyone is welcome to join in their walking group.

Their Facebook page will have all the information…

Listowel Mens’ Shed

St Patrick’s Festival in San Diego

The 2024 Miss Colleen Selection took place on Saturday, February 24, 2024 at Hooleys Public House in Rancho San Diego.

Congratulations to Riley Pidgeon on her crowning as the 2024 Miss Colleen. Riley will serve the Irish congress for the next year, starting at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival on March 16th. 

She will be accompanied in the parade by her court, 

Siobhan O’Shea and Brigid Powers.

It was a lovely event, enjoyed by all who attended and included a fantastic display of Irish Dancing by the Malone Academy of Irish Dance.

A Fact

Today is Super Tuesday in the U.S.

Every four years people in the U.S. elect a new ( or not so new) president. Super Tuesday always falls on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November and it is a day on which most of the primary polls to elect candidates are held.


The Goose is Getting Fat

Putting up the Christmas lights in November 2023

Stained Glass in St. Mary’s

I returned to St. Mary’s in the afternoon of Tuesday, November 22 2023 because I knew that by then the beautiful window pane would be back in place.

This is the one that was removed and releaded.

The newly renovated one is not as bright as the pane on the far right.

Now that the donor’s dedication has been fully restored I see that it commemorates both the McAuliffe and Boylan families. These families were connected through marriage.

Dave O’Sullivan has done a bit of research and it looks like the Thomas MacAuliffe who donated the magnificent window is one of the famous McAuliffe family, plasterers.

The rose window at the top is lovely now.

Second Sign of the Approach of the Holy Season

I was in town on Thanksgiving Thursday and work was underway on several windows. The theme for this year’s Christmas windows is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The New Kingdom has gone for a jokey pun.

Harp and Lion Antiques never disappoints. The window was in the process of decoration by a delighted big child, who loves to give her creative talents free reign.

Mr. Duck was in his best Willy Wonka attire as he carried his golden ticket. BTW the tree is decorated with real sweets and the garland is made of candy canes and gold and silver chocolate coins. Gorgeous!

Another Listowel shop with a very creative owner is Taelane Store

Giant candy canes and muffins here.

Mags is in on the act as well with candy canes and treats galore.

Jade was just plotting out her window at Jumbos.

Christmas according to another Local Writer

Unfortunately the booklet gives the names of all the writers but it doesn’t say who wrote what.

A Fact

Today’s fact is a true Christmas story from a great storyteller, Mattie Lennon

My Best Christmas.

   It was mid-December in the third decade of the twenty-first century. I was at a Table Topics session. Because of my dubious ability to read upside down, I could make out the Topicmaster’s list of questions at the top table. One jumped out at me. “What was your best Christmas ever?”   I hoped I’d get that one. I had an answer.

    My best Christmas was Christmas 1956 but I didn’t know it at the time.  About the eighth of December that year I developed a pain in my stomach which didn’t feel all that serious. .  Various stages of discomfort, ranging from relatively mild to severe pain, continued until the end of the month.  By this stage a hard lump could be felt in my stomach. All kinds of remedies from the relic of Blessed Martin de Porres to Lourdes water to many folk “cures” were applied. None of them did me any harm. Medical intervention hadn’t been sought. And because of the thinking of the time and the climate in which we lived I don’t blame anyone. On Sunday December 30th Doctor Clearkin from Blessington was called.    As the December light was fading he examined me. His work was illuminated by lamplight as rural electrification was still in the future. . He told my parents that if it was appendicitis then I was “a very strong boy.” He was puzzled and didn’t make a Diagnosis. His best guess was that one of my testicles hadn’t descended and he insisted that I was too ill to be out of bed.

   He called the ambulance and on arrival I wanted to sit in the front but Mick Byrne, the driver, was adamant that I would be parallel with the horizontal in the back. I don’t know what time we arrived at Baltinglass Hospital but the doctor there was equally puzzled.

   I was loaded up again and hit the road for Mercer’s Hospital in Dublin. It was only my second visit to the Capital. The previous May my father brought me to  Frawleys in Thomas Street  to buy my Confirmation suit. Two years earlier I spent some days in hospital with a knocked-out elbow so I wasn’t all that perturbed by the clinical environment. My details were taken as well as  the name of the local postmaster as the post office in Lacken was our nearest phone.. I received a penicillin injection every four hours and I still remember the taste of liquid paraffin. Many doctors examined me and all were confused. One of them described me as “intelligent” but very few people have agreed with him since.

 Whenever I hear the ballad “Sean South from Garryowen” I’m transported back to the radio of Patsy Cavanagh from Craanford County Wexford, who was in the corner of the ward. It was New Year’s Day 1953 and the main news item covered the shooting of South and Fergal O’ Hanlon at Brookeborough, County Fermanagh.

   I’m not sure if I turned off the immersion this morning but I’m amazed at how many names of my fellow patients I can remember after more than three score years. There was Seamus  Osborne also from Craanford, Tony Hand, from Arklow, who was younger than me and whose father was in the army. Pipe smoking Kerryman, Tim Toomey, who was a guard in Enniskerry. When he learned that his father had died he asked me to say a prayer for him. George McCullough, a farmer,  from Goresbridge who was a seanachai and didn’t know it.  

As an eleven  year old rus-in-urbe, who had a sheltered childhood, I was mesmerised by the antics of  one patient, “Midget” boxer and aerial acrobat Johnny Caross. He died in the same hospital a few months later.

  Later, on the first day of the New Year, my father came  to visit me. He was able to tell me that one of the surgeons in Mercers had “his hands blessed by the Pope.”  When, not quite out of earshot, he asked a doctor about my condition, he was told. “Well, He’s an unusual case.” ( I was still a mystery to the medical profession.)  

  I was operated on the next day. They found an appendix abscess which was removed and arrangements were made to remove the appendix some weeks later. The second operation was duly performed and I didn’t ever ascertain how close to death I was. I meant to look for my medical records before Mercers Hospital closed in 1983 but procrastination got in the way.

   Oh, at the Table Topic session I was asked “If you had to cook for eight people on Christmas Day what would you do” .  I wasn’t disappointed. How would I have fitted my prepared answer, to the other question,  into two minutes? 

   So far I have lived through 77 Christmases. But the best one was in 1956, because I was alive to see it.


Old Father Time

I happened to be in the Bon Secours hospital in Cork on January 24 2023. The hospital was celebrating its anniversary.

Over the years The Bons has been good to me. An anniversary is a time for reflection. Not all my visits there were happy ones!


The Clock of Life is Wound but Once

The song My Grandfather’s Clock dates back to 1876. It tells the story from a child’s perspective of a clock bought for his grandfather on the day of his birth. Mysteriously it stopped working on the day he died. Maybe it was only a mystery to the child. I am old enough to remember the custom of manually stopping the clocks when someone in the house died.

My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopp’d short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering 
(tick, tick, tick, tick),

His life seconds numbering,
(tick, tick, tick, tick),I

It stopp’d short — never to go again —

When the old man died.

This grandfather clock has stood in The Bons in Cork for as long as I can remember.


They’re Teasing Us

Some of the people coming to this year’s Writers’ Week. Put the dates in your diary. It looks like a good one.


Movie of the Moment

Banshees of Inisheerin phot from the internet

It’s all about the movies these days as the Irish film industry is having a moment.

When I think of films I think of the late Kieran Gleeson. He would be in his element just now, lapping up all the movie news.

I am printing here an old post from 2016. It is Billy Keane’s tribute to Kieran, our man of cinema, published in the Irish Independent after Kieran’s untimely death.

Billy Keane’s Tribute to Kieran Gleeson Irish Independent Jan 25 2016

Kieran Gleeson’s eyes lit up as he explained the background to the film he was showing, and you could see he was excited – excited about sharing all he knew with his audience there in his three-screen cinema in a small country town.

There was always an introduction before his cinema club films on a Thursday night. This was his night, the night when he got to choose the films he loved. Kieran spoke as all the knowledgeable do – in simple, easy-to-understand language.

Kieran has been in love with the cinema ever since he stood up
on the piled-high metal boxes that were used for storing magic reels. There, he was the spellbound kid looking out through the porthole in the projectionist’s room with his dad and grandad in their country cinema in Cappamore, County Limerick. Afterwards, he would be full of excitement and full of talk.

Kieran ‘the man’ is still ‘the boy’ in the projection room.
Often, we would be kept on after the crowd had gone home for a discussion about the movie he was showing. He knew his stuff, did Kieran. There was no showing off, just teaching and sharing. The soft, gentle but passionate voice, hoarse from too much talk, is gone for good now.

Kieran’s life is a silent movie. He breathes with the help of a
machine. Our small town hero’s chest rises and falls with every breath. It’s as
if he’s a marathon runner at the end of a gruelling race. Kieran Gleeson who
rescued, owns and loves our local cinema here in Listowel – has advanced Motor Neurone Disease.

But he’s still communicating. Kieran writes a little, but only with great effort. He sends text messages, nods in agreement or moves his eyes
towards something he wants you to read.

Kieran writes ’29’ on a sheet of paper and hands it to his wife,
Teresa. Did you ever notice it when two people feel and read each other’s
thoughts? They seem to instinctively know what the other person is thinking.
The bond has to be strong, but there’s more than just tuning in. The two must share the dream.

The 29 refers to January 29, 1987 – the day the cinema in
Listowel reopened under Kieran’s management.

The cinema had been closed for two years. Kieran was driving by
one day with his mother and he noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign up over The Astor
Cinema. There and then, he made up his mind to buy the rat-infested wreck. A local businessman told Kieran he was “absolutely mad” – and maybe he
was. Small town cinemas were going the way of small shops. There are only a few independent cinemas left in Ireland. The prophesy of failure made Kieran all the more determined to succeed. He worked day and night and, bit by bit, the cinema began to pay for itself. His mother helped out every Sunday when the cinema was at it’s busiest.

Kieran opened three screens and he had the best of films showing
at the same time as the big cities. He was one of the first to embrace
digitalisation and encouraged Jimmy Deenihan, the then Arts Minister, to
provide grant assistance to a number of cinemas.

Hard-up parents were given deals. Kids who didn’t have enough
money were never refused. Kieran often declined the big money-making movies if he felt they were bad. He never overcharged for tickets, sweets or popcorn. Director Ger Barrett – who is now about to release his third movie, ‘Brain on Fire’, later this year – was allowed in for free. Ger premiered his last movie, ‘Glassland’, in Listowel – and the night was turned into a tribute to his mentor and friend. Actor Jack Reynor came along and Kieran was so buzzed up that the illness was put into remission for a night. It was like the football coach who sees the player he trained as a kid step o collect an All-Ireland medal.

I was only three, but I remember being brought to The Astor for
‘Summer Holiday’ by Bernie Buckley – who was babysitting me then, and still does. Dad and I cried when Davy Crockett died at the Alamo. It was here I had the first lip-kiss in the back seat.

Sometimes, when our kids were young, we’d be there at the
pictures and, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kieran standing in the
aisle at the back, taking it all in. He was enjoying the kids enjoying the
picture show. The light flickered over his smiling face and, if ever there was
man who was happy at work, well, it was him. There and then, and always. After all, he gave up his studies in accountancy to help run the family cinema in Cappaghmore when his dad died suddenly from a heart attack.

There have been tough times and, last year, thousands of euro
were stolen from the safe by heartless thieves. Teresa is trying to get to
grips with the details of running a cinema, but she’s learning fast. Best of
all, she and Kieran are determined to keep the cinema going. “Our staff
have been so good to us,” she says.

Kieran had been checking out the possibility of live streaming
concerts and sporting events. He had big plans.

The kids come in from school and Kieran gets a smile out.
Teresa, I know, struggles to come to terms with how it is that such a decent
man suffers so much. She is loyal to him as a full-time carer on a break from
her job in the civil service, and loyal to his vision for the family-run
cinema. Such is the practicality of true love and mutual respect.

Teresa sent me a link to a Radio Kerry interview with John
Herlihy, where Kieran speaks of his love of the sounds of the old cinema
projection room with the 35mm reels. “We treasure that now,” she
says. “It’s all we have of his voice.”

He shuffles in his wheelchair to attract my attention. He shows
me the screen on his phone. This week, Kieran is showing ‘The Revenant’ and ‘Creed’, as well as kids’ movies. Still promoting his cinema as he fights for every movement. There is such a powerful, undefeated will within him. As I leave, I kiss my friend gently on the head and thank him for all he has done for all of us.

Irish Independent

Kieran was a lovely kind man. His screen 3 was the only one which was wheelchair accessible. Kieran offered to show any film which normally was showing in One or Two  in Screen 3 on a Monday night, just to suit Jim Cogan. All we had to do was ask.

It was an offer we never took him up on but we greatly appreciated the kind gesture.


Age Reversal

by Mattie Lennon

Luke O’ Neill (‘though twas not his intention)

Has, nevertheless, caused me tension.

For I know age-reversal

Is not just a rehearsal.

I’m afraid that I might lose the  Pension


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