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: May Day

May Day, The demise of the Cuckoo, Athea and Tracey Grimes’ Hair Extensions opens

Peggy O’Brien of Mallow Camera Club is the photographer


John B.’s Annual Visitor

By summertime many of my
readers will have heard a particular cuckoo. It is possible that substantial
numbers may have heard the same cuckoo. If this is so console yourself with the
fact that just as no two cuckoos are alike so also are no two notes from any
one cuckoo alike. The cuckoo’s voice changes from day to day and fades away
altogether after a week’s residence in his summer home.

Recently I read a distressing
story about the decline in numbers of cuckoos visiting this country during the
summer. Despite the fact that the same applies to featherless visitors from
America and England should not make our concern for the cuckoo any the
less.While man multiplies all over the globe, the number of birds, particularly
cuckoos tends to decrease. The chief reasons for this is that man requires more
room and sacred retreats where cuckoos once advertised themselves are now
housing estates and factories. I am not arguing against these. What I am trying
to do is warm readers against a time when we will hear fewer and fewer cuckoos.
A time will come when certain luckless individuals will wait in vain for that
magical call which  is part of the fabric
of every summer. This is sure to give rise to shock and distress among the more
susceptible of readers and it is only fair that they should be warned against
the likelihood of summers without cuckoos. Personally I dread the thought but I
have long since insured against it and I would strongly advise others that they
should do the same. In the event of cuckoo failure in the not too distant
future we should be on the lookout for other signs of summer.

It takes a long time for
summer to establish itself. For a week or two it’s no different from its
predecessor. Gradually, however, it takes hold. More flowers appear and birds
grow excited. The sting dies in the wind and all the cows are calved. There are
many manifestations and each of us has his own special means of confirming that
the season is well and truly launched.

For me summer comes with the
arrival of a sixty year old balding Clare man, a chap of roving eye and rosy
cheek. For many years now he has presented himself at my bar counter at this
precise time. He is as constant as the cuckoo or, if you’re that way inclined,
as the Northern Star.

On each visit he brings a
female companion of far tenderer years than he. Yesterday, which was Sunday he
presented himself for inspection at 12.30p.m. He had with him a stout lady who
might have been twenty five or thirty. He seated her and called for a drink.
Two brandies with the barest tint of port wine in each if you please and where
would we get a good lunch, nothing too exotic.

I shake hands with him and he
introduces me to his girl of the moment. This is pure exhibitionism. He wants
to show me what a randy womanizer he is.The girl smiles demurely, adjusts her
buttocks and pulls an inadequate tweed skirt affectedly over fat red knees…….

John B. Keane


Athea Revisited

I had little visitors during the school holidays. Athea is a place we all love to visit. Jim Dunn had told me that he has resumed work on his masterpiece and that he has refurbished his other mural so we headed for County Limerick at our first opportunity.

We were in luck. As we drove into the village we spotted him. Artist at work.

The girls were fascinated to be part of the village history. If they pass through Athea as adults with children of their own, they will point out Jim Dunn’s mural and say, “We were there when that was being done. We saw the brilliant artist paint a small piece of this magnum opus.”

Isn’t this lovely? I think Jim should definitely paint himself into the picture. As he poses here to show us how one of his characters will look, I think he fits in perfectly with this rural idyll.

We proceeded along down the street to view the upgrading work on the old mural. It has taken on a whole new lease of life. Jim has got an art  student from UL to help him for a while and she and he have restored this local scene to its former glory or, in actual fact, a state exceeding its former glory. Below is some of the detail from this magnificent artwork. All the characters, both real and mythical have local significance.


Jim Beasley’s Engineering Works in O’Connell’s Avenue in April 2017


Brand New Business Opens

Tracey Grimes has done a great job with the old Moriarty’s Drapery. She has transformed it into a luxurious and inviting hair extensions salon. I hope she is successful in her new venture. She deserves to be.


Mayday, Mayday!

Today is May 1st. There are many traditions associated with May Eve and May Day. Here are a few from the National Museum of Ireland’s website

As in much of northern Europe, May Day in Ireland, was a celebration and welcome of the summer.

The May Bush

The May Bush was a decorated bush, which in rural areas was left outside the house. In towns, it was erected in a communal place.

May Poles

Originally tall trees were used but later these were replaced by formal poles erected in the town centre.

May Flowers

May Flowers were picked on the evening before May Day and this was often done by children who went garlanding for flowers. 

Bonfires & Dancing

Dancing was a feature of May bonfire celebrations. It also featured around the May Pole or where communal May Bushes were burnt.

Marian processions 

Much of the traditions associated with May have been incorporated into the Marian processions found throughout the country.

Butter stealing

May Day was especially associated with butter stealing: the stealing of the butter profit of the home.

Divining & Forecasting

May was also a time to study the weather and weather in the month of May would forecast what was expected to follow in the summer.

Closer to home people always visited the holy well in Knockanure on Sundays in May


I’ll miss David Davin Power

To mark his retirement, RTE shared an old RTE Guide cover featuring David with his colleague David Hanley in the early days of Morning Ireland.

May Day, Writers’ Week and Cycle Against Suicide

Lá Bealtaine traditionally marks the beginning of summer.  Herds are driven out to summer pasture. Summer, the season of growth and abundance is here. Our ancestors lit bonfires on hills to greet the season of energy and fulfillment. This year has been a dreadful one for farmers. There is no growth, and the land is bare and sodden.

Lets hope that from today we see an improvement and the beginning of a better season for us all.

My friend in Ballybunion Sea Angling took this on Saturday morning last.


Another pic to remind you of the calibre of people coming to this year’s Writers’ Week. This time it is poets Rita Anne Higgins and John Montague.


The Writers’ Week Childrens’ programme is out and it’s a cracker. Listowel is set to greet its very own answer to Thomas the Tank Engine in the form of Larry Lartigue. There is a Teddy Bears’ picnic, Baby Boogie, A Big Fat Bug Wedding, a rapper and a bookmaking workshop with The Happy Artist. These are just some of the events planned for the June Bank holiday weekend. Read the brochure here

And if you have a small person who wishes to participate, book your place fast.


On Friday last I chanced to be in Listowel Town Square around 2.30 where I met this lady.

Anne Marie was waiting patiently for her husband to come through town with 

Cycle Against Suicide

I waited and took a few snaps of the happy cyclists.

And would you believe it…..I got Bressie! He is on the far left in the 3rd photo down.

These are just a small fraction of the photos I took.  There were so many cyslists, I’m afraid I could not identify the local lads. Well done, everyone!


The Germans are coming!

Guten tag!

Dont forget to look out for these guys at the Military Tattoo next weekend.


Sinead Gleeson and Anne Enright with Console CEO, Paul Kelly pictured at the launch of Silver Threads of Hope, a fundraising book of short stories by established Irish writers. The book is available in book shops

Console’s  new centre in Tralee

National suicide prevention and bereavement charity Console has opened Ireland’s first suicide resource centre in Tralee.
The Console
Centre will provide a broad range of community-based supports, services and
resources for those affected by, or at risk of suicide.
The facility is based
at the McAuley Centre, Balloonagh, which was acquired by the charity from the
Sisters of Mercy and refurbished and redeveloped with the help of Kerry
Launching the new Console Centre, Kerry Group CEO Stan McCarthy says
Console plays a crucial role in supporting family members, friends and
colleagues who suffer the bereavement of a loved one through suicide.  (from Radio Kerry website)

More St. Patrick’s Day photos and WW2 re-enactment

Do you remember with old film cameras we took 12, 24 or if we were lucky 36 photos over a period of time? We removed the roll of film from the camera and we took or sent it to Spectra and we waited 48 hours to see the finished result. There was the eager anticipation of wondering what the photos would turn out like and the frequent disappointment when they were overexposed, had heads cut off or were otherwise ruined.

Nowadays you take a photo and the subject is straight round to take a look and accept or veto the finished result. There are cameras which have a screen at the front so that the subject can see how he looks before you click the shutter. There is a new camera, the Lytro which allows you to edit and enhance photos in the camera. We used to say “The camera never lies.” Well it does now!

This preamble is by way of introduction to today’s photos. They are James Kenny’s photos from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They are a bit late for today’s audience so used to instant gratification but they are worth sharing nonetheless.

BTW this camera will soon be available in Ikea. It’s made of cardboard, takes 40 photos to an internal memory, runs on 2 AA batteries, and has usb connectivity. And it will be cheap as chips. It was only a matter of time……



Louis le Brocquy R.I.P.

I first heard of Louis le Brocquy, who died yesterday aged 95, in Listowel Writers’ Week. Mairead Pierse was in charge of art in the 70’s and she had a great eye for talent.  She was responsible for bringing many artists to us. Some of these, like Louis le Brocquy went on to greater things.


Take a look at the promotional video for the May weekend. It’s really good.

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