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 D. Higgins Page 1 of 2

Glentenassig, Writers’ Week 2012 and O’Connell Tailors

Photo; Martin Moore


Handball Alley in the Old Days

Junior Griffin has given me the history as best he knows it of Listowel’s ball alley. I’ll be serialising it for you over the next week before the planned Brightening Air performance on June 18th

This is Junior Griffin at his home earlier this week, giving an interview to Caoimhe from Coiscéim. I’ll fill you in on more of this next week.

Máire Logue, Artistic Director of St. John’s, who is organising the Coiscéin event locally, Charlie Nolan, former handball and Caoimhe Coburn Grey of Coiscéim reliving memories in the handball alley on Tuesday June 1 2021


Oh, what a Night it was!

Listowel Writers’ Week opening night 2012. Michael D Higgins is accompanied by chairman Seán Lyons made his way toward The Listowel Arms flanked by a guard of honour of boys and girls in school uniform.

Seán Lyons, chair Writers’ Week 2012, Noelle Campbell-Sharpe, Mike O’Donnell and Joanna O’Flynn

Margaret Broderick R.I.P., Aisling Wren and Jerry McDaniel

Members of Listowel Writers’ Week Children’s committee 2012


John O’Connell, Tailor

Bernard O’Connell, formerly of Upper William Street and now of Brampton Ontario posted the following account of his family on Facebook. Vincent Carmody is the usual source of such precious local social history

John O’Connell and John O’Flahery , clerical, civil and livery tailors of Upper William St. Listowel

When John O Connell of Irremore married Mary Walsh of Tullamore Ballydonoghue, in February 1877, their first home, was one of the thatched cottages in Upper William Street. Soon after, John converted this cottage into a double dormer slated house, which remains to this day, with the O’Connell family. He also built No’s 30 and 32 at the opposite side of the road.

John and Mary O’Connell and their son Edmund

In an ironic twist, John O Connell, was the only one of his family to remain in Ireland. He had already been apprenticed to the tailoring trade, when his father died. His mother emigrated with her family to America, leaving John behind. Among John’s and Mary’s large family were Edmund (pictured below, with his parents and with his own family in Chicago, to where he also emigrated). John (Jackie) became a master tailor and carried on the family business in the family home..

Edmund O’Connell and family in Chicago

They also had two daughters who remained in Listowel, Julia, married Denis Quill from Church Street and they set up home at No. 32,

Denis and Julia Quille

Julia’s older sister, Nellie, never married and lived with the Quill family throughout her life. Jackie Connell, apart from his tailoring trade, was a leading member or the local dramatic society. He married Catherine Griffin from Castle-island.

Their eldest son, Benny became the father figure to their large family following his father’s, Jackie’s death, at a young age. Benny married Noreen O Connell from Ballyhorgan, Lixnaw

Benny and Noree O’Connell

They had a family of four boys and one girl, John (Jackie) Paul (RIP) Tommy, Kathleen and Bernard.

Kathleen and Bernard O’Connell

A Useless but jawdropping Fact

(From a website called Bustle which I wandered into by accident so I cant 100% vouch for it. It sounds plausible to me.)

…Along with the addition of the lake, the Daily Mail reported that the Beckham’s are also looking to expand the underground space below their garage. Hello said they’ve upscaled their designs to create a 117.5sqm room to hold around 7,000 bottles of wine. You’ll never be short on a glass of red at the Beckham’s house, that’s for sure.


Visit of Michael D. Agnes Browne in her 105th year and the death of Anne Dillon

Visit of Uachtarán na hÉireann

President Michael D. Higgins visited Listowel to honour the Tidy Towns volunteers on Saturday May 25 2019. Here are a few photos from the great day in town.

The boys choir from Scoil Realta na Maidine sang My Silver River Feale for the president. He loved it.


 In The Square I met an artist friend of Olive Stack’s painting the occasion.

Local people, Seán Treacy, Mairead Divine, Esther Guerin, Mary Walshe, Carmel Griffin and Rachel Guerin waiting for the unveiling.

The girls of Presentation National School band played for the president .


A Lady who Never Forgot Listowel

Maureen Barrett of Ballylongford has sent us this great story of her friend Agnes Browne of Listowel and Illinois.

This is the first part of the essay that Maureen wrote in July 7, 2017. 

(Second part of the story tomorrow)

 I will start with the fact that Mary Agnes (known her whole life as Agnes) Broderick formerly of Dirha East,  Listowel died January 12, 2017 in Tinley Park, Illinois at the wonderful age of 104-5 months short of being 105.

Agnes was born on June 30, 1912 to Dan and Nora Browne. Dan was the son of Daniel Browne (butcher of Listowel) and Catherine Lynch and Nora was the daughter of Jeremiah Mulvihill, Clounmacon (a farmer in Dirha) and Johanna Buckley. They were married on November 15th, 1908 in Listowel. They  had 9 children born in Listowel and 1 born in Chicago. They eventually lost 3 of their children-Margaret-3 yrs old died March1918 of croup, Jeremiah-11 months-died March 18th 1926 of whooping cough and Lillie-3 years died March 26tha week after her brother of whooping cough.  

The story was always told in the family that a gypsy came to the house when the children were sick and make a drink brewed from a weed from the bog for Agnes and that is what kept her from getting sick. The gypsy was never seen again. She remembered that a Sullivan family in Market Street lost 5 children at the time (this has not been verified). A relative of theirs, a Dr. Connor came from Dublin to help Dr.Dillon from Listowel with all the illness and he ordered that Agnes be removed from the house 

Dan Brown was very active in the fight for freedom of Ireland along side his neighbors Tom and Ned Pellican- the friendship between those 2 families has survived since then and this little story about Agnes is being written by a niece of Tom and Ned who now lives in Chicago-Maureen Barrett from Ballylongford. The story of the Brown family being evicted from their home and their neighbors building them a replacement house in one day is out there in stories from those terrible times. Dan Brown fought on the Republican side after The Treaty was signed . Agnes told me he was offered money and a job and suffered much at the hands of  those who were trying to get him to join the  other side but he refused. He was eventually convinced  by someone- “to give up trying to free Ireland as he had a family to take care of” so he gave up the fight and  in May 1925 he and his oldest daughter Catherine (Kay) left Ireland on the ship Republic arriving first in Boston and then New York where they then took a train to Chicago to stay with a relative, a Mrs.Kissane. I think she was his sister. Kay lived with another relative at another address. As Kay was underage she had to go to school in Chicago until she was 16.  

Dan worked for the railroad  I thinkit was decided that Nora would leave with the remaining children when Dan and Kay had got settled with jobs and a place to stay for the large family they had.  They were to emigrate  in April of 1926 but the death of  2 of their children from croup/bronchitis type illnesses in March of that year so devastated Nora that the trip was cancelled. Dan Brown wanted to come back home to Listowel to be with his wife after the death of their 2 children but was convinced that it was in the best interest of them all that he didn’t. So he stayed in Chicago and proceeded with plans for them to travel at a later date- Agnes shared with me that the only reason her mother survived the death of her children was that her friend  and neighbour  Mrs.Pellican and indeed all her friends on the road came and took over her home and children’s care because she couldn’t even get out of bed to face what had happened to her. 

The trip was eventually rescheduled and Nora and her remaining 5 children Johanna-16 y/o, Mary (Agnes) 14, Nora 9, Dan 7 and Bridget 5- left Listowel and sailed to New York on the Westphalia arriving in New York on October 11, 1926. With time some of them changed their names to more Americanized names and Johanna became-Joan, Bridget became  Eileen and Nora became Brenda.

Some of Agnes’s recollections of her trip were that it was  an exciting adventure. “the most beautiful time of their lives.” was her statement. They made friends with the cooks and enjoyed many treats that were new to children leaving Ireland. It was her first time seeing coloured ice cream. That was the one she remembers the most.They had a great time on the ship ran and played freely. She remembers a German girl they befriended even thought she didn’t speak English. She got lost on board the ship. She didn’t remember her being found. 

One of her sisters did consider staying at home with an aunt Margaret. I think she was Ray McAuliffe’s mother.  I’m not sure if that is correct but she changed her mind. Another one of the girls loved a Nurse Pierce who was in Listowel at that time and she wanted to stay with her. 

Agnes remembered staying with a relative in New York who had come from Ireland years earlier and Agnes was overwhelmed that that relative now had her own maid.  She remembered the maid was a Mrs.Foley and she couldn’t do enough for them while they stayed there. Her mother’s brother Jerry Mulvihill came to visit them while they were staying there and stayed the whole day. 

Dan Browne went to New York to bring the family back to Chicago. She remembered the excitement of taking a taxi to the train station. It was her first time seeing a colored person. He was the taxi driver. She remembers seeing the Statue of Liberty as they were leaving New York on the train.

She loved the US from the minute she arrived, loved the whole family being back together, loved going to school here. She was put back a few classes but the nuns were “lovely” to everybody, a change I am sure from what they left in Ireland. She wrote an essay in school and won a prize for it. 


Bean Uasal agus Cara Imithe ar Shlí na Firinne

My lovely friend, Anne Dillon, would have liked this touch. It’s rarely now we see a black crepe on a door announcing a death and giving details of the funeral arrangements. In these days of and Radio Kerry death notices, Anne was still one for the old ways. She had a great respect for old customs.

Although she lived most of her life in town, Anne was a country woman at heart. She embodied the hard work ethic and neighbourliness of the country, She loved the old ways  and she had a great love of her home place, her family, her history and the Irish language. She was at her happiest at home in her own home with her beloved Liam.

Anne and Liam are two of the most hospitable people I have ever had the luck to have in my life. I worked beside Anne in Presentation Secondary School where we became firm friends. She was hugely supportive and understanding of me. She eased the burden of juggling a full time teaching job with a full time caring role for me in every way she could.

When we both retired, and especially after I lost Jim, Anne and Liam’s door was always open for me and I received the warmest of welcomes there always.

Anne was always stylish, dignified and caring. She bore her last illness with great fortitude  and patience. She was a loving mother and grandmother and a loyal and generous friend. I loved her dearly.

Braithfidh mé uaim í.

In happier times

Adare, Ballybunion Street Names and a Look back at Writers Week 2018 and a few photos from the weekend

May 24 and 25 2019

This weekend I was at two Michael D. events, two book launches, MS busking and the Eucharistic procession. I took tons of photos. It will take a while to process them, to tell the story and to drip  feed some of the best of them into blog posts. This week I’m busy with Writers’ Week so please be patient. There will be lean days yet and I’ll post the pictures for you.

VIP visitors, Michael D. and Sabina Higgins with Listowel VIPs, Julie Gleeson and Mary Hanlon.

Hard working Listowel/North Kerry M.S. Society volunteers with Ballybunion musicians and singers at their annual busking day in Listowel on Friday May 24 2019.

Joe Hanlon can’t wait to read his copy of Under the Bed…. Robert Pierse’s autobiographical work launched on Friday May 24 2019.

John Devoy signs his book, Quondam  for Limerick visitors in Woulfe’s bookshop on Saturday May 25 2019.

Annual Eucharistic procession at Convent Cross on Saturday May 25 2019


Picturesque Adare, Co. Limerick

I stopped recently on my way home from Kildare. Adare is such a beautiful little town.

Adare Manor is a no-go area but otherwise the town is charming and welcoming.


Ballybunion Street Names

Remember I told you all about the palaver Listowel had over street names?

Well we could take a leaf out of Ballybunion’s book. They used a very simple method, e.g. if the road leads to a doon call it Doon Road. If it leads to a sandhill, call it sandhill Road

Here are just a few examples I snapped while I was in town last week

All self explanatory but wait……..

A few roads are named after famous Ballybunion people but that’s understandable.



Two More Sleeps to Opening Night Writers Week 2019

A few more from last year.

Farm tasks in the 1940s, O’Connell’s Ave. grotto and More from Storied Kerry Meitheal in Killarney

Evening in the Small Square


Out of the Blue

This is the beautifully repainted Catch of the Day. Blue seems to be the favourite colour of shop owners for 2018.


Tough Tasks on the Farm

The following extract is taken from Jim Costelloe’s great rural memoir of Asdee in the 1940’s and ’50s

Anyone who has spread fertilizer by hand from a bucket will surely agree it was a horrible task. One’s face, eyes and clothes were covered with the basic slag when finished. The worst part was the taste in the mouth as a lot of it went down our throats. Face masks were never used and our lungs must have been congested judging by the amount that went up our nostrils and into our mouths.

Another unpleasant and tough task in my youth was trying to light the kitchen fire with bad turf and wet sticks on a cold frosty morning. Without the fire there was no heat whatsoever in the house and no way of boiling the kettle for a sup of tea.


The Grotto

I love it when this happens. I take a picture and I post it on here. It evokes a memory for someone or someone goes and looks up the history and they share it with us here in Listowel Connection. It’s a bit like how Facebook used to work.

Marie Nelligan Shaw wrote; “Remember well when the grotto at the junction of O’Connells Avenue was blessed and dedicated. The yellow house on the right of the photo was occupied by a lovely lady named Mrs Collins. She took very good care of it while she lived.”

And Jer Kennelly found this;  

Kerry Champion 14 August 1954

Consecration of Listowel Shrine erected at O’Connell’s Avenue, Listowel. Erected by voluntary labour. Statue and railings were donated. Subscriptions were mainly from the residents, all the organising committee are from the Avenue. (See paper for full report, blessing on Sunday next)

Kerry Champion 21 August 1954

Beautiful Grotto at O’Connell’s Avenue was blessed by P J Canon Brennan, P.P. V.F accompanied by two curates Frs Dillon and Moore. Windows in the avenue were also decorated. 

Kerry Champion 1928-1958, Saturday, September 04, 1954; Section: Front page, Page: 1

Bishop’s Visit to Listowel

Most Rev. Doctor Moynihan, Bishop of Kerry visited Listowel on Friday evening last and went to O’Connell’s Avenue to see the Marian Year shrine which has been erected there. His Lordship was accompanied by Canon Brennan who blessed the shrine on August 16th last.


Storied Kerry

Storied Kerry is the brainchild of Frank Lewis. He gathered together a meitheal of Kerry people to start this new story in the life of Kerry on Saturday, October 27 2018.

The stories told  on Saturday were all excellent. They were told in the old style with a one person storyteller and an attentive audience. Above is master story teller, Seán Lyons, who regaled us with a Halloween appropriate tale, set in a graveyard. It was a story about motivation. If you fall into a newly dug grave at Halloween there is no better motivator  to get you out again than meeting up with the previous occupant.

Storytellers, Batt Burns and Frances Kennedy were there.

Part of the North Kerry contingent, Frances, Joe Murphy and Mary Kennelly

Frances told us a tale of smelly feet and smelly breath in her unique and always entertaining style.

Frank and Joe share a funny moment.


Ireland’s Fittest Families

For people reading this who don’t live in Ireland, Ireland’s Fittest Family is a reality tv show on RTE, in which families of four adults compete against each other in gruelling army boot camp like tasks. Each week one family is eliminated until we are left with Ireland’s fittest family. The families are mentored by well known retired sports personalities.

The Listowel connection is the involvement of Roibeard Pierse and his three children in this year’s contest.

The programme started airing on TV on Sunday October 28 2018 and the Pierse family which the programme calls The Pierses did very well.

The photo above is from the programme’s Facebook page and below is what they say about The Pierses;

From Kerry, the Pierses are making a bid for a win for the Kingdom. Father Riobard (50) works as a solicitor and is a keen runner, focusing on 5ks. He also co-founded the Listowel park run and is the manager of Cliona’s Listowel Emmets u16 ladies team.

His son Oran (20) became the U18 Munster Cycling Champion in 2016. Has also won the Senior Kerry Road Race League and raced internationally for the Munster Team.

His brother Ciarán (18) Plays Gaelic football with UL freshers team and Listowel Emmets seniors. A good leader himself, he captained Listowel to victory in the minor county league in 2017 and has played in two All-Ireland finals in the community games. Cliona (15) does one better, having taken part in the All-Ireland community games finals five years in a row in athletics, Gaelic football, soccer and futsal twice. She also plays soccer with the Listowel Celtic team. 


A Tender Moment

This has to be one of the nicest photographs from the recent presidential election. I dont know who took it.

In the horrible bruising campaign for the Presidency of Ireland in 2018, when even the candidate’s dogs were dragged into the carnage, Sabina Higgins was the loyal, dignified and loving presence by her husband’s side. She is everything I would want in a first lady.

Graveyards, Craftshop na Méar , The Buds of Ballybunion and Michael D.

I took this photo in Ballincollig on Saturday last as I indulged with my family in a long standing tradition of picking horses in The Aintree Grand National. I had no luck but there was a little money returned to the Cork branch of the family.


While in Ballincollig I visited the grave of rock legend, Rory Gallagher.

Rory is buried in a lawn cemetery, where there is a cap on the height of the grave memorials. Good idea.


I also visited another older churchyard on the Ovens side of town.

This beautiful old graveyard is full of character but almost impossible to maintain.


This is how Craftshop na Méar looked on opening day,  Dec 10 2013. Much has happened since then and we are about to have a makeover. Painting will begin shortly and our Summer programme will be launched.

It was all systems go when I called into the shop yesterday.

New crafter in the shop, Eileen Moylan was in store assembling her glass cabinet.

Namir called in to help with the set up.

Máire Logue of Writers’ Week gets a sneak preview of Eileen’s Listowel range, which is still at the planning stage.

Crafters, Maureen, Mary and Isobel welcomed Eileen to shop.


Cough Syrup or night cap?

This cough syrup was once  on sale in Limerick according to the Limerick 1912 website.



I went to see John B.’s The Buds of Ballybunion on Wednesday night. It was great to see St. John’s packed for this dated romping Listowel performance.

The word Buds comes from “budaire”. This was a kind of tourist we see no more. Na budairí, or buds as they called them in Ballybunion were country people who came to Ballybunion in September. They rented a room in a boarding house. They brought with them their own potatoes and other vegetables, bacon, eggs, butter, jam etc. and the landlady cooked these for them.

The tradition is coming to an end in John B’s play and this motley crew who come to the O’Dea house for their final summer as buds are depicted as backward, sexually repressed, frustrated but lovable characters. They are played to perfection in St. John’s by some of the best character actors in North Kerry and West Limerick.

There is poetry, dancing, storytelling, song and ribaldry in this performance. The audience on Wednesday gave them a standing ovation. What more tribute can an actor or playwright ask?


The state banquet for President Michael D. Higgins  (Getty Images)

So far I haven’t mentioned the triumph of the first ever state visit by an Irish president to Britain. Aren’t we glad now we elected a speechmaker. I am so proud of Michael D. Higgins. He can sure talk posh and he has few equals in delivery of the bon mot. If I were to single out one speech it would be the “Ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid” bit where he explained that scáth in Irish means shadow and shade. We have emerged from the shadow and now the queen is offering us shade. Isn’t the queen some lady. She is playing a blinder. We have taken a giant leap this week in terms of our nationhood and good relations with our nearest neighbours.

I think that Ireland and Britain are a bit like Cork and Kerry, the rebels and the kingdom, sworn enemies until after the Munster Final and then whichever one is out will cheer for the other. There are so many families with dual  citizenship that we are far closer than we admit. Michael D. put it well when he said that because Ireland is not going to Brazil he will raise a glass to the English soccer team. I know the feeling.

Our two are also coping very well with the pomp and ceremony of it all. They are doing us proud. I think I’ll send them a card when they get home.

Our president, Michael D. Higgins with Seán Lyons, Chair of Listowel Writers Week in The Square, Listowel on May 30th. 2012.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén