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: Maureen Connolly

The Somme and The Certificate of Irish Heritage

Howth by Éamon ÓMurchú


On this day, July 1 1916

The story of The Somme has to be one of the saddest and most bloody stories of World War 1. The battle was won and lost in a matter of seconds. The Germans were better prepared and better armed. The battle was fought in broad daylight so the British troops were like lambs to the slaughter.

Major Sir Oliver Nugent was the commander of the 36th Ulster Division. He decided that rather than wait for the official signal to go ‘over the top” his division was to creep into no man’s land ahead of the British divisions on either side of them. Frank McGuinness’ play, Observe the Sons of Ulster marching towards the Somme  commemorates this escapade.

The Ulsters reached the enemy before the slaughter started. German machine guns mowed through the ranks of the British. Such was the catastrophic loss of men from the First British assault forces that the 36th Ulsters were left completely exposed.

The war correspondent, William Beach Thomas wrote of this first day of battle at The Somme 

“The very attitudes of the dead, fallen eagerly forward, have a look of expectant hope. You would say that they died with the light of victory in their eyes.”

Poor deluded boys!

The 36th Ulster Division won 4 Victoria Crosses that day and would have won more but for the deaths of so many of their officers whose job it was to document acts of courage.

Twenty thousand British died in The Battle of The Somme on July 1 1916, the most disastrous day in their army’s history. Two thousand of the dead were Ulsters. Another  three thousand Ulstermen were injured or taken prisoner.

(Information from On this Day by Myles Dungan)


Certificate of Irish Heritage

Remember this short lived initiative.

In 2015 this certificate was discontinued. Here is what the Dept. said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade wishes to announce that the Certificate of Irish Heritage scheme is to be discontinued. The uptake of the Certificate of Irish Heritage has been considerably less than anticipated. No further Certificates will be available for purchase after 24 August 2015.

The Certificate of Irish Heritage was introduced in 2011 to recognise descendants of previous generations of Irish citizens in an official way and to give greater practical expression to the sense of Irish identity felt by many around the world.

The Certificate was a practical expression of the importance the Government attaches to recognising people of Irish descent and encouraging people to trace their roots. It was never anticipated that the Certificate of Irish Heritage would provide significant revenue to the Government.

In addition to purchased Certificates, a number of presentations have been made to well known figures such as President Obama, President Clinton, Tom Cruise and Lord Sebastian Coe. These presentations have been an important opportunity to recognise the achievements of the global Irish community, even where the connection with Ireland goes back over several generations.

Arrangements will be put in place to allow for the presentation of Certificates of Irish Heritage to continue.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is conducting further analysis on how members of the Irish Diaspora seek to assert their Irish identity. This analysis will inform any future decisions on initiatives in this area.

During its lifetime, 3,000 certificates were purchased. Now that we are becoming more disconnected from our roots through Covid maybe it’s time to put a scheme like this in place again.


Lovely to see Old Friends Back in Town

I was passing through the Square on my way to mass yesterday and who should I see alighting from the local link bus but my good friend, Maureen Connolly. Maureen was her usual cheerful self. She has suffered personal illness and family illness and the pain of being separated from her daughters and family in the U.S. She misses her social outings to our knitting group and her Abbeyfeale friends but through it all Maureen has kept herself connected, ringing us all regularly. It is always a pleasure to meet the lovely Maureen and her lovely husband Jim, who just missed our photograph.


A Little known Fact from my new fact book

Jaffa Cakes are not made with oranges but with apricots.

McVities Jaffa Cakes are no strangers to controversy.

In 2002 the Daily Telegraph revealed the recipe for the tasty filling. It’s apricot pulp, sugar and a squirt of tangerine oil.

750 million jaffa cakes are eaten every year.

In 1991 McVities U.K. won a landmark case, which once for all declared that Jaffa cakes are cakes not biscuits. This means they avoid tax.

Chocolate covered biscuits are a luxury item and subject to tax.

Cakes and plain biscuits are not.


St. Patrick’s Day 2020,, Listowel Writers’ Week at 50 and a Poem

Enduring Love

My friends, Maureen and Jim Connolly spotted walking in step in Market St. on Weds. Jan 8 2020.


Ah Here!

Seems like Christmas is barely over and already shops are advertising St. Patrick’s Day garb. When did all this change and every occasion is now a fancy dress occasion?


Is That a Fact

From my new book of jaw dropping facts comes these nuggets for you to chew over.

Wrigley’s originally made soap.

Chewing gum costs 3p a sick to buy and 10p a blob to clean up off the pavement.

(The book is English, but the story is the same here)


Listowel Writers Week at 50

You will be seeing the new Writers’ Week logo all over town in the lead up to the 50th festival.

I’m on a crusade to gather memories of past festivals. I’m hoping to get some memories and photographs from some of the many people who have fallen in love with Listowel and particularly with Listowel Writers’ Week. Please do a bit of a rummage in those old photo albums or rack your brain for old memories of festivals past.

Here is a lovely poem from a regular attendee, Michelle McCormack

Storming Heaven

We stormed Heaven today in Listowel

You and I, 

Well I stormed and you listened  

Way above in Gods Kingdom on a high.

We talked silently,

Amid the windows of stained glass

In St Marys with the reds, blues & yellows

Dancing in the sunlit aisle 

After Writers’ Week mass.

I talked to you of a week of writing celebrations,

You would listen for a while, to my literary delights

Then you’d say “oh light a few more candles there,” 

You know for the relations…

I thought of how you taught about me all the writings of John B, 

The stories of Brian McMahon, the works of Maurice Walsh 

And the poems of Brendan Kennelly.

As I stood there with my candle in my hand 

I though of how you loved to talk about their prose and poems

When you were out working on the land.      

Then I told you all about the great literary debates,  

The many a Listowel Arms discussion, 

The artistic late nights and of where I was going next, 

To the John B Healing session.

I could see you raise your eyes in Heaven

You’d say well, “for all those late nights

You should be going to confession…”

I thought of how you would have loved the River Feale.

As the June summer sun shone on its foaming water.

This magical place awakening my love of writing,

Bestowed from a father to a daughter.

You know, maybe up there in Heaven you could your hero’s meet,

Well thank them for all the inspiration,

For memories, both old and new

As I hear a pianist on a Market Square seat.

I thought of how you never passed a church, 

There were too many candles to be lit. 

well thanks to God for a week of Literary treasures

So, I smile to you here in spirit as I sit.

Yes, we stormed Heaven today, 

You and I, and as Listowel Writers’ Week ended

I only hope that my little candle,

Lit up your Heavenly sky.  


Michelle McCormack                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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