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: Michael Collins

Butterflies, Michael Collins, Hurling and Anonymous Letters

A picture, A Botany lesson and some philosophy from Raymond O’Sullivan on Facebook

Buddleia, the butterfly bush (Irish: tor an fhéileacáin), divides gardeners into two warring factions: to the ecologically minded it is a noxious, invasive weed, and to the other it is a colourful perennial shrub, which, just as it says on the tin, attracts butterflies. Personally speaking, although the buddleia in my garden is c. 20 years old, it has yet to reproduce itself and every August it isfestooned with flowers and butterflies.

In many cultures around the world butterflies are associated with the souls of the dead. The transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly provides a perfect model to explain the concept of the soul leaving the body, of life after death. Some people believe that if a butterfly lands on your shoulder it is the soul of a deceased loved one making physical contact with you again. A nice thought, but, be that as it may, no garden truly blooms until butterflies have danced upon it and I would not be without my butterfly bush.

“May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun, and find your shoulder to alight on
To bring you luck, happiness and riches today, tomorrow and beyond.”- Irish Blessing.


There’s Something about Hurling

Ivan O’Riordan took this awesome picture of the victorious Limerick hurlers returning home on August 20 2018

The country has gone mad for hurling this week but in some places it was ever thus.

A photo from The National Archive of Michael Collins throwing in the slioter at the start of the 1921 All Ireland Hurling Final.

A Short Year Later


Unwelcome letters

Recently I received some “warning letters” which upset me. They weren’t anonymous, but nevertheless, upsetting. I took consolation from this article by John B. Keane in The Limerick Leader Archive.

ANONYMOUS letters again this week. This week there is a long one, a poison pen epistle from London. I gave it away after the first two pages. It must have been twenty pages long. It was a deliberate attempt to misinterpret a statement I made recently on television.

With regard to poison pen letters, I have this to say. Those who write them are in dire need of medical treatment and the letters, instead of being frowned upon, should be given to one’s local doctor.

He will find men in his own field who may be helped in their study of mental problems by such letters.

This latest letter sent to me is only one of hundreds I have received down the years. Whenever I receive good publicity at home or abroad in newspapers, magazines or television, these letters never fail to arrive. At first I would be worried but as time went by I realised that the unfortunate people who write the letters are not really to blame.

Envy, jealousy, annoyance, resentment and hatred are in the makeup of every human being and when these fester or turn sour the result is often the nasty anonymous letter.

The first one I ever received was after I wrote Sive. The letter was posted in Listowel and it had a clipping from the Catholic Standard enclosed.

It was a very vicious letter and the clipping was attached in a futile endeavour to support the claims of the writer. My wife and I were very upset at the time and spent a few sleepless nights over it.

I was so upset that I decided to find out who sent it. A tall order one might think. Not really.

The fact that the letter was posted in Listowel did not necessarily mean that the writer was a native of Listowel. However, I had a hunch that the person was from Listowel.

At the time, quite a number of people in the town received the Standard every week. I was one of them. I found out who many of the others were and I proceeded to investigate.

It was simplicity itself. A woman friend, on my instruction, would borrow a Standard in an effort to trace the writer.

Eventually, a Standard turned up with a piece missing. The piece I received fitted perfectly into the vacant space.

I, therefore, found out without difficulty who the writer of the letter was. I got the shock of my life, so much so that I never want to know the identity of any poison-pen author again.

The woman was a stout churchgoer and avowed goodie.

All I did was to hand her back her clipping and letter. She accepted without a word and I recalled a number of good turns I had done her down the years.

The moral here is this. If you receive an anonymous letter tomorrow or the day after or any other day do not be upset. Rather be concerned for the sender.

More from March 17 and famous ancestors

A few more from March 17th


Mary Moylan sings Sweet Listowel. I apologise in advance for all the background noise that I have no clue how to filter out.


MIchael Collins throws in the sliotar to start the All Ireland Hurling Final in 1921


Girls remember some famous ancestors 

 ( From Pres. Secondary School yearbook 1992 )

Collins – Eilín Olive Pierse, 1 Bríd

Collins, Commander – in – Chief of the Free State Army during the Civil War,
was killed at Beal na mBláth on 22nd August 1922.

            His brother Johnny had lived at the
family home at Woodfield, near Clonakilty with his wife Kate and their eight
children. Kate died in February, 1921. 
Woodfield was burned by the Black and Tans and the children were forced
to live with relations.

            One of the eight was Mary.  She married Richard (Dick) Pierse of Listowel
and had seven sons.  The second eldest –
Robert- is my father so this makes Michael Collins my great-grand uncle.

Patrick De Woulfe
Scanlon (1862 – 1893), Karen Kennelly, 1 Bríd

The anniversary of the death of Patrick de Woulfe Scanlon
brings to mind the taking off in the springtime of his life of a talented young
North Kerry man whom the Pittsburgh, Pa. press described, at his demise, “as
one of the brightest and most talented young men that city had ever known”.

journalist, and an artist, whom disease cut down more than a quarter of a
century ago, just as fame had dawned on the marvels of his brush.  De Woulfe Scanlon was born close to the
village of Newtownsandes in North Kerry and, when quite a young lad, emigrated
to America and, for a while, settled in Philadelphia, Pa. where he accepted a
position on the clerical staff of the Pennsylvania railroad.  He was shortly afterwards promoted to
Pittsburgh, Pa.  Having always a taste
for literature and art, his spare time was devoted to the cultivation of both,
and shortly after his arrival in the great iron smelting city of the west, he
was looked on as a brilliant and effective writer.

            The brush,
however, dominated the pen in his ambition, and after four years he had spared
sufficient money to enable him to set out for Europe to pursue his artistic
studies.  In Paris he studied painting
under the leading masters of the period and there became associated with Mr. J.
Elmar Salsibury, the well known Pittsburgh artist, who took a keen interest in
the work of young Scanlon.

            Outside the
studio he still continued to write for the American press and supplied art
critiques and articles under the pen name of “Vandyke”.  After the Paris Exhibition he studied in
Florence and Rome and, having toured France, Germany and Africa, he returned to
Ireland on way back to America, having taken in the principal cities of England
in his route.

            During this
itinerary many interesting sketches and articles found their way into the
leading journals of the States, while yet he was laying the foundation of the
more solid and enduring forms of art. 
Returning to Pittsburgh he opened a studio in 4th Avenue and
soon his paintings attracted a number of patrons through whom his work was
gradually attracting lucrative attention. 
Death claimed him at the age of 31.

            For many
years afterwards in his old home – a pretty homestead on the roadside between
Newtownsandes and Tarbert – numbers of his earlier school day sketches were to
be seen up to a few years ago, but they have gradually found their way into the
hands of his many friends and admirers. 

KnitWits, Listowel knitters and natterers

This is a Saturday gathering of KnitWits at Scribes last December.


I took the following photos in Scribes on Church St. on Saturday last. We were gathered for our weekly knit- in and chat. We meet in the Family Resource Centre off the John B. Keane Rd. on Thursday nights and in Scribes on Saturday mornings. We are always open to new members and we welcome knitters of all skill levels. We have no menfolk among our regulars so far but we would welcome any men who might like to join us.


Michael Collins is in the news today because someone intended to  sell a lock of his hair. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to buy such an artifact. His relatives were understandably a bit upset by the sale.

The following is from Radio Kerry;

Kerry solicitor Robert Pierse has described as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘macabre’, a decision by a Dublin-based company to auction a lock of Michael Collins’ hair, at its salesrooms this Wednesday. Mr Pierse, who is a grand-nephew of Collins, says he was shocked and upset to read in the papers that the lock of hair is to be auctioned this week, along with old film footage dating back to the Treaty negotiations in London. The lock of hair was taken from Collins’ body by his sister Kitty, as he lay in State in 1922. The Listowel-based solicitor, whose mother Mary Collins was the eldest niece of the late Irish patriot, has written to James Adams Auctioneers, and asked that the owner of the lock of hair withdraw the item from the auction.

In response to the pressure, the vendor changed his mind and donated the relic to the National Museum.

Recently among one of my own relatives memorabilia I found this,


Jimmy Moloney tweeted this photo of volunteers who turned up last night for the first night of Listowel’s Spring Cleanup.

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