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: McGillicuddy’s Toys

Willie Guiney’s Life in Running and Our Toy Shop on Telly

Blue tit by Criostóir Grayson


Listowel’s Oldest Toy Shop

A bit of the shops history from Vincent Carmody’s book

From the RTE Guide

9.30 on Rte One on December 22 2021


Another Toyshop, Another Time

My name is Gerard Stack formerly of 51 William Street.
As a young boy I remember being in Walsh’s shop which was located across the road from us in William Street.
At Christmas they would have a toy section and they would invite the children from around the town to try out the toys and there would be photos taken.
The shop was owned by Jim Walsh and his wife and they had a Cavendish dealership, but at Christmas they turned into a Christmas Wonderland for all of the children in town.
Jim’s brother was  Dr. Johnny Walsh who had a GP practice in the square.
It would be great to see some of those old photos if they are available.



(The following photo and essay I sourced on Facebook)

Running for Love

                                          A Portrait of Willie Guiney

                                                  By David Kissane

New Year’s Day 1990. Luton, outside London. A dark cold morning of a brand new year. Six thirty am. The phone rings in the hall downstairs. The head still groggy from celebrating the night before. Who the hell could be ringing at this early hour? Hallo? 

“Hallo” a voice said. “Is that Willie?”

“Yeah, this is Willie…”

The voice on the phone said “This is Eddie Mangan in New York…” An awkward silence followed in the sharpness of that morning…

The news that followed is the news that no human being ever wants to hear. It is the news that no human being ever wants to deliver. Its impact is written in the stone of the memory.

As best he could, Eddie Mangan from Ballylongford, calling from New York told Willie Guiney that Willie’s brother Brendan had been involved in an accident. Was it bad? Yes it was. Brendan was dead. Killed in a hit and run before midnight. The bells were about to ring  in the new year. A new year that Brendan Guiney would never see…

Brendan Guiney was only twenty four. His life was over before it began. “He was my first and best friend” Willie says. They went everywhere together as kids around Listowel. A good footballer too. Captained Listowel Emmett’s in the 1985 North Kerry championship final against Tarbert. Then Brendan emigrated to New York and was crafting a good new life there. And then…

Willie flew to New York and arranged the return of his brother’s remains back home. Brendan was laid to rest. Then there were what Yeats called “the dragon-ridden days” before the slow journey to healing began for the family. Running played its part. Like the friend that it is during painful times, running came to Willie’s aid. 

One day he put on his runners and saw part of the road to resurrection ahead. It would take him thirty five miles around North Kerry. On the route would be the six football grounds where his lost brother had played football. But it wasn’t just a run of recovery. It was a charity run and Willie raised over €5000 for St Mary of the Angels in Beaufort. 

That run around the hedged and ditched roads of North Kerry taught Willie that the motivation of human love can drive one through marathons, miles, mountains. He would run for love for the rest of his life.

A few weeks ago Willie was running in the Tralee Half Marathon. Fine Sunday morning. St Brendan’s AC had been asked to supply a water station. And we did. Kirstie Nowak, Danielle Faulconbridge and daughter Noelle dispensed the water, sweets and fruit as the runners reached Ardfert. On runs Willie Guiney. No stranger to runs around Ardfert. He had been a strong finisher in the 11th Banna 10K only a few months ago when summer was in middle age. Heavy hallmark bandage around the left knee. “Morning lads!” he says and stops for a chat! In the middle of a gruelling half! Told us he appreciated the support and was struggling with injury but he loves the distance and couldn’t miss it. Stood for a few photos and thanked us again and waved goodbye and headed off down towards Ardfert cathedral and Barrow and in to the finish in Tralee. Running for love. It was one of the highlights of that Sunday morning and one came home later with a better version of one’s self. 

                                                       Beginning to Run

Willie Guiney was born in Listowel and attended the local schools, including the Listowel Technical School or the “Tech” as it was lovingly known for generations. Great school for sport and for developing the whole person. Especially the physical intelligences as Professor Howard Gardiner called the intelligence that created carpenters, plumbers and builders. The trades people who are very difficult to find now. When did you last try to get a plumber?

Willie left the Tech at seventeen and got a job straightaway in Spectra in Listowel. A growing business where you put in your rolls of film and came back a few days later and marvelled at the prints you were handed back in a neat folder. Willie loved the job and his boundless energy was appreciated by management and his co-workers. In the evenings he found boxing a huge outlet. Strong body and the right attitude. Garda Pat Healy’s coaching resonated with the youth of the town and Willie won boxing matches in the rings of Dingle, Castleisland and Tralee and was a silver medallist in the Munster middleweight division. 

Then a job in Tarbert in Kelly’s Butchers ensured a happy time, popular with customers as he displayed his undoubted linguistic intelligence. Willie has the gift of the geab which means popularity in any Kerry community. And living in Tarbert in a flat at the back of Donie O’Connor’s Bar made a huge contribution to the person Willie was to become. 

If you meet and mix with athletes, the chances are you will fall for athletics. Into Willie’s life jogged Sonny Fennell from out the road in Tarmons. Look at Sonny and watch him run and you know running is a good thing. Sonny came to fame with an All Ireland win in Belfield in the national intermediate cross country of 1975. Six miles of power-running and came home nearly a hundred metres in front of 250 other athletes. American career and glamour. In many ways the Steve Prefontaine of Kerry. 

Willie often went for runs in the nearby GAA field in Tarbert. Then Sonny saw him and so began a lifelong love of running. Of course running after Sonny was like a non-greyhound chasing a hare. See you later Sonny. But the bonding and the craic and the sheer helium of running with sonny’s gang caused an amazing metamorphosis. A kind of fantasy. And he grew into the sport. He got faster and inherited endurance. I have something to offer here, Willie thought. A Bach sonata was rising in the background.

And the craic and stories shared around athletics in those days. There was the story of an athletics man who came to live in Kerry and had innovative ideas. The ideas didn’t go down well with some and he was told “There’s no need to bring that bullshit into Kerry. There’s enough of that here already!”

A year after Willie began chasing the sonic Sonny around the roads and fields of Tarbert, he got a silver medal in the Kerry BLE novice cross country championships. “I was actually leading with a few hundred yards to go but I got a bloody stitch!” he says. Learning curve. The need to discover a side of the world that existed beyond himself took him further.

He joined An Ríocht at the age of twenty in 1984 and found it great to be part of a team in a strong club. In that same year he ran race of his life to finish third in the county ten mile road championship in Listowel in a time of 53 minutes. It was a proud day for him to chase the talented Griffin brothers from St John’s AC home in his home town. Place is important to Willie. Roots are primal. Around those times he had great battles with Noel Stack of Moyvane. Willie’s father came from Moyvane and his uncle Willie was still living there in the 1980s so he was delighted to beat Noel in the Moyvane U21 four mile road race in a time of 21 minutes soon after. The good times went on with a 73 minutes run in the Tralee half marathon. 


In 1985, Willie emigrated to America, to Boston where he lived for the next two years, working in construction. He loved Boston. He took his running with him and ran the Boston, New York and Washington DC marathons. He returned home in 1987 with his then girlfriend and now wife Kathleen Devane from Lispole whom he met while in Boston.

After a short break, the couple were off again, this time to London where they lived for the next few years. Again he took his running with him. He was honoured to be able to come home for the National Marathon in Tralee in 1989 with the help of sponsorship from the Burns family who owned businesses like the famous Galtymore. He was delighted to finish third Kerry man that day, behind John Griffin (St John’s AC) and Willie O’Riordan (St Brendan’s AC). He was especially glad because the long working hours in construction meant he had little time for serious training. But anyone who worked on a building site in England those days was never short of fitness!

The year 1990 was the year his brother died and meant another change in Willie’s life-trajectory. After the funeral, he and Kathleen returned home to Listowel, never to emigrate again. Got into shape and won a sackful of medals in road and cross country. 

Then came the hill running phenomenon of the 1990s. Willie won two Munster titles in the rugged and beautiful sport. He then won the Connacht title in 1997, which included a climb of Nephin in Mayo carrying a severe ankle injury acquired a few weeks previously. John Lenihan was to become the star of the mountains in those years but Willie was never too far behind.

And around this time Wille took stock of his life-path. “So much of life is waiting…making room for dreams” says Cork author Billy O’Callaghan in his book of short stories “The Boatman”. Willie concluded on some of those long runs on winter evenings around Listowel that there was one ambition he would like to fulfil. To wear the green singlet for his country. He believed it was in his power and his province to do it. There were two athletic organisations in Kerry in the 1990s, BLE and NACA. The former was the official organisation from where recognised international selections were made. Willie decided that his only opportunity to run in a green vest would be to join the NACA.

And so in 1995 he went south to Desmond Currans AC and said goodbye to An Ríocht. Not an easy decision and one which could carry baggage. He knew that would be so but the next year he achieved his dream. He was selected on the official Irish team for the world hill/mountain running championships in Austria. Proving that he could do it again, he trained hard and competed harder and was invigorated and was selected again for the Irish team to compete in the Czech Republic in 1997 and then for the European championships in 1998 in Turin in Italy. In each event he acquitted himself with honour. He had arrived.

Memories are treasured from Sundays of gold. While competing in the Kerry NACA cross country championships in Cahersiveen in the latter half of the 1990s on one of those fiery cross country afternoons, he and Ger Ladden were involved in a titanic struggle towards the end of the race. Ger was after purchasing a brand new pair of spikes for the event. The two runners were so close that Willie accidentally stood on one of Ger’s spikes and ripped a hole in it! Years later, Ger met Willie and at the end of the conversation asked him “Do you remember the day in Cahersiveen that you made a bloody big hole in my brand new spikes in the middle of a twenty-acre field!” 

Willie was to continue to compete for Desmond Currans AC until the unifying of BLE and NACA in the year 2000 and Kerry Athletics was born. This brought athletics in Kerry and in Ireland into the unified position that exists today and Wille rejoined An Ríocht AC when Desmond Currans AC ceased after 2000.

So the dance went on for the running man who now lives in Dromerin in the Parish of Ballydonoghue on the banks of the Feale as it heads west, a few miles from Listowel. A lot of running went on. By now Willie has run 73 marathons and would love to run 100 before he drops down to shorter distances. The following are his personal bests: 5K – sub 16 mins; 4 miles – sub 21 mins; 5 miles – sub 27 mins;10K – sub 33 mins; half marathon – 73 mins and full marathon – 2 hours 35 mins.

Since running his first marathon in Dublin in 1984, Willie has raised €1,000,000 for charities in Kerry and Dublin. In the runs of love,  he has found it very motivating to help people with any form of disability: Goal; Crumlin Hospital; Temple St Hospital; St John of God, Tralee; Kerry Parents and Friends, Listowel; St Francis Centre, Listowel; Listowel Community Centre; Foyle Hospice in Derry; Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue; Enable Ireland, Tralee; St Mary of the Angels, Beaufort; North Kerry Wheelchair Association; Tarbert Association and Áras Mhuire, Listowel and there are more.

Willie values the support of family in his exploits in the running world. His wife Kathleen, daughters Noreen, Katie, Martina and son Liam are all treasured and understand his commitment. 

Nowadays it is a positive philosophy of training to have a variety of venues on which to “rexpress” (run and express) oneself. Willie’s favourite places include the Town Park in Listowel (aka The Cows’ Lawn); Frank Sheehy Park; Ballygrennan Hill; Ballydonoghue GAA pitch in Coolard while his favourite roads would be around Finuge and Mountcoal en route through Listowel and home to Dromerin, to the same area where his mother lived. 

A life lived on a running base. In the dawning days of involvement, there was the joy of discovery and camaraderie. Wherever there was a road or a field to run, there was summer. Then came the ways of the world and Willie realised he needed running. There followed the realisation that the world around running can have the face of an angel and the heart of a mountain stone. Nothing is promised. Expected recognition may prove as slippery as an eel in a North Kerry stream. In an individual pathway everyone is right. There is no truth, there are only points of view. That realisation is often the end of the running road for many. They run out of road. For those who persist, there is redemption road. Do it for somebody else, somebody who needs the spirit of it. Do it for yourself too of course and be true to the best version of you that you want to be. And that’s why Willie does it.

So now he heads out towards Finuge and Mountcoal, his back to Cnoc an Fhómhair to the north and his face to Stack’s Mountain to the south and its November 2021 and his daughter has just graduated from college and his son is playing with Ballydonoghue and all the world is bright. The early winter beauty of the countryside wraps itself around him as the adrenaline is released. The worst he has to fear on the run is “careless drivers on bloody mobile phones not watching the road”. When the adrenaline subsides and the bones creak, he digs deep and cherishes the gifts that life has thrown his way, of the loved ones no longer here. And he runs for them. 

Yeah, Willie Guiney runs for love.

Willie Guiney with his proud mother


An Old Ballad, Ballybunion RIC and a Toyshop Raffle

Photo credit; Éamon ÓMurchú in Mount Usher Gardens


Old Listowel Ballad

from Shannonside Annual 1956

I’ve never seen this old song before. Does anyone have an air to it?


Ballybunion Old RIC Barracks

James Sherman’s photos shared with Glin Historical Society

We have no names for the policemen.


McGillicuddy’s Toy Shop at Christmas

The late Jackie McGillicuddy and his son Seán …photo from Facebook

McGillicuddy’s Toyshop has been part of Listowel Christmasses for decades.

This year, Seán is holding a raffle with some sought after Christmas prizes. It’s all in aid of Crumlin Children Hospital.

McGillicuddys Crumlin Children’s Hospital Christmas Raffle

Raffle in store or online at

1st Prize Rainbow High Dolls House and Doll

2nd Prize Barbie Dreamhouse and Doll

3rd Prize €150 of Bruder Toys

4th Prize Wendy Dolls house

5th Prize Lego Hogwarts Express

6th Prize Hasbro Games Bundle.

This initiative is definitely worthy of support.

Footnote; Now might be a good time for some older readers to share with us their memories of Listowel’s iconic toyshop and its place in Listowel Christmasses past. Memories to please


Christmas in Kerry Long Ago

From the Schools Folklore Collection in The National Archives

Photo from National Archives. Caoimhín ÓDanachair in Athea, Co. Limerick

Customs and Manners of Christmas.

The people of olden times, when Christmas used come, no matter how poor the people were they tried to honour Christmas the best way they could.

They used always kill a calf for Christmas day and some of them used have a goose roasted Christmas day.

When they used get out of bed Christmas morning they used take three drinks of water and bless themselves after each drink before breakfast. This was a cure for any sudden pain they used get for the rest of the year. There was another custom following it they used keep a piece of the Christmas candle that used be lighting in the kitchen and if they got the pain they used take three drinks and bless themselves as before and they used light the candle and they used make the sign of the cross on themselves with the candle.

They believed that the baby boy who would be born at midnight on Christmas night had a cure on his hand for evil sores by making the sign of the cross on the sores.

The old people said that the night Our Lord was born our Blessed Lady put her hand on the asses back and the ass has a cross ever since.

They brought the holy water from the chapel Christmas morning, because they thought the priest used give it a special blessing for that day. They used eat as much as they could New Years night or if they wouldn’t they wouldn’t eat enough for the rest of the year.

Oidhche Nodhlagh beagh oidhche na trí ríghthe creidhtear go ndeintear fíon de’n uisghe síoda de’n triopall agus airgheadh de’n ghreann.

( On Little Christmas night, the night of the three kings, it is believed that water is made into wine, ………..into silk and ……… into silver)

The child scribe wrote down what she heard. I couldn’t find triopall in the dictionary and greann means fun so maybe it was gcrann as in a tree or wood)

INFORMANT Cáit Bean Uí Shúilleabháin

Address Coad, Co. Kerry

The school is Bunaneer, Co Kerry


Eamon Kelly’s 1920s Christmas Customs, a poem and a photo for Christmas ’17

Love consists not in looking at one another but in looking together in the same direction.

Khalil Gibran

Photo taken in The Gap of Dunloe by Chris Grayson


Eamon Kelly Remembers Christmas Long Ago

…..Then we’d be
praying for night to fall. for you couldn’t see the right effect until the
candles were lit. The honour would fall to the youngest in the house. The
father would lift the child up saying “In the name of The Father, The Son….”
And when the child had blessed himself, he would put the lighting spill to the
candle, and from that candle the other candles would be lit, and he’s be half
daft with excitement, enjoying the blaze of light, and running fro the rooms
into the kitchen and out into the yard to see what the effect was like from the
outside. When we’d get tired of looking at the candles in our own windows, we’d
turn and try to name the neighbours’ houses as the bunches of lights came on,
two windows here and three windows there, across the dark countryside and away
up to the foot of the hills. And sure as anything, someone would be late and
we’d rush in to my mother saying, ”Faith then there’s no light on yet in

“Go n ye’re
knees,” my mother would say. The time she’d pick for the rosary, just when the
salt ling was ready and the white onion sauce and the potatoes steaming over
the fire. But I suppose there’d be no religion in the world only for the women.
The rosary in our house did not end at five decades. Not at all, after the Hail
Holy Queen our mother would start into the trimmings

“Come Holy Ghost,
send down those beams,

Which sweetly flow
in silver streams.”

She’d pray for
everyone in sickness and in need and the poor souls and the sinful souls who at
that very moment was trembling before the judgment seat above. She’d pray for
the sailor on the seas. “Protect him from the tempest, O Lord, and bring him
safely home.” And the lone traveller on the highway, and, of course, our
emigrants, and, last of all, the members of our own family

God bless and save
us all

St. Patrick,
Bridget and Colmcille

Guard each wall.

May the queen of

And the angels

Keep us and our

From harm this


A Christmas Poem

Twinkle Twinkle    by Jane Taylor

Twinkle twinkle
little star.

How I wonder what
you are.

Up above the world
so high,

Like a diamond in
the sky.

When the blazing
sun is gone,

And he nothing
shines upon,

Then you show your
little light.

Twinkle, twinklw
through the night.

Then the traveller
in the dark

Thanks you for
your tiny spark.

He would not see
which way to go,

If you did not
twinkle so.

In the dark blue
sky you keep,

And often through
my curtains peep,

Forr you never
shut your eye

Til the sun is in
the sky.

As your bright and
tiny spark,

Lights the
traveller in the dark.

Though I know not
what you are

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.


A Welcome Return

Jackie McGillicuddy made a welcome return to his old spot behind the counter at Corbett and Fitzgibbon’s. The shop now names McGillicuddy’s Toys is run by his son Seán who is with him in the photo which they posted on Twitter.


Thought for the Season    from Dr. Suess

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén