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 O’Connor Page 1 of 3


Listowel Courthouse in June 2022


More of David Kissane’s St. Michael’s Memories

Left to Right 

Front :   Kieran Fitzgerald, Maurice O ‘Sullivan, Mick O’Connell, Tom Lyons, David Kissane .

Middle:  John Hynes, Tadhg Moriarty, P J Browne, Timmy Shanahan , Jimmy Deenihan, Pat Stack .

Rear :  Eamon O’ Carroll, Maurice O’Connor, Pat Stack, Tommy O ‘Flaherty, John O’ Connell , Jerry Kiernan, Pat Quilter .

Tim Kennelly was also on that team but was missing on the day of the photo.

Morning has broken…continued

The Teachers

… the last month of St Michael’s College engaged us. In comes Mr Pat Joe Given to bestow Greek on us. I can still count in Greek…heis, duo, treis, tessares. pente, hex, hepta, octo, ennea, deka…and later he would return to impart the last of the English course. He was a quiet teacher who never lost his cool and had that distant gaze between notes that could turn a passing blackbird or thrush into a poem. “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad left a huge impression and the quotes learned by heart have stuck a lifetime: “Each blade of grass has its place on the earth from where it draws its life, its strength; so is man rooted to the land he loves from where he draws his faith together with his life…” 

Likewise the Romantic poets filled us with blue, crystalline dreams and Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice” challenged our understanding of the female psyche. Mr Given had been a boxer and we tried to imagine him in the ring delivering a left uppercut and found it difficult to equate that with the gentler man who carried us through the magic of the English course. Then our former English teacher, Mr John Molyneaux came in with his Latin nouns and interesting stories and Caesar’s exciting Gallic wars. Johnny O’Flaherty took us through the green fields of the Gaeilge and into the minds of the Irish rural characters created by the Ó Céileachairs and the enigmatic Liam Ó Flaithearta. Johnny had the composure, self-assurance and into-class march of a military leader and a keen sense of humour. I was to spend a life teaching Gaeilge afterwards, partly due to the class experience he exuded.

The college president, Fr Danny Long reminded us of “man’s inhumanity to man” during the religion classes with his chopping hand-guillotine mannerism and was relentless with any student who lost concentration! As were all the teachers!

Then comes the other “M”, Mr John Molyneaux Junior with that twinkle in his eye and his unique sense of humour. “Fierce battles” in history were his speciality – every battle he imparted to us was “a fierce battle” – and his favourite exam questions were the “causes, course and results” of the Geraldine War or any other war he had to wage. It was not by accident that I pursued history to MA level because he led me along the enchanted way to the secrets of the story of humanity.

Mr Paddy Rochford brought us to Leaving Cert maths and reminded us that idle chat was just “cluck, cluck, cluck”! He took over the role of de facto career guidance teacher when there was no such role in the school (or in many schools at the time). 

to be continued


June 1 2022 at The Listowel Arms

Eamonn Dillon introduced me to this man and now I’ve forgotten his name.I remember though that he was at Writers’ Week representing Fáilte Ireland. Eamonn is a great fan of Listowel Connection and he told this man all about our little community here in this corner of the internet. He took great interest. Time will tell if it translates into action.

Eddie and Helen Moylan, proud parents of Catherine, chair of Listowel Writers Week and Eileen of Claddagh Design who created the beautiful bespoke Presentation piece for the Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Moira Murrell

Local ladies out for a walk, observing all the carry on at the hotel.


The Brazen Head

This is a photo from the internet of The Brazen Head pub in Dublin. It claims to be Ireland’s oldest pub. It has a Listowel Connection. One of Michael O’Connor’s beautiful illuminations is on the wall. In fact he did that art work twice as the first one was water damaged in situ.



Anne and Kevin won their competition in Sunday’s Well. I am never too old to be proud of my children’s achievements.


Just a Thought

Last week it was my turn to fill the twice daily Just a Thought slot on Radio Kerry.

The reflections are here; Just a Thought



Listowel Town Square in May 2022



I posted this picture yesterday and I wondered why there were so few boys in the class. Vincent Carmody solved the mystery.

There were always junior (locally called Babies) classes in both the boys and girls schools in Listowel. There was a custom for boys who lived in O’Connell’s Avenue or other houses near the convent or for boys who had an association with the convent to go there up to First Communion class.

I presumed that the full class of communion boys must have been in the new school. Not so. Éamon ÓMurchú remembers boys communion classes in the old school and in The Carnegie.

Everyone agrees that Quirkes of Church St. was the place to go for the best after communion breakfast.


Lovely Listowel

This Church Street shop has very elaborate and unusual embellishments on the first storey.


St. Vincent de Paul Society Honours Hannah

Listowel St. Vincent de Paul Society recently honoured one of its most treasured members, Hannah Mulvihill.


Illuminated Parchment Presentation

This photo was shared by Mike Hannon on Facebook. I recognise the occasion. It is the handover during race week 1958 of an illuminated work of art to the directors of Listowel Race Company.

The picture being presented is the work of Bryan MacMahon and Michael O’Connor.

Jer Kennelly found a great clip online that explains the work of an illuminator.

Bishop Barron

It is well worthwhile to watch this to appreciate the genius that was Listowel’s Michael O’Connor.

I am looking forward to developments at Kerry Writers’ Museum which will see O’Connor’s work displayed for us all to see. Many examples of the great artist’s work have been promised by their owners, often his family members, to the museum as soon as it has a place to conserve and display them.

Example of a Michael O’Connor illuminated letter


Betty Remembered at The Races

In memory of Betty McGrath, her good friend, Larry Buckley, has organised a race at this weekend’s race meeting. The race will be run on Sunday June 5 2022, Ladies Day

In The Lingerie Room, Elaine is a is also remembering. Her window display remembers Betty, a queen of style.


New on Church Street

I checked out their website. I think it is a kind of government recruitment agency. This is what the website says;

“Get the tailored support you need Turas Nua is delivering the JobPath programme to help long-term unemployed people get the support they need to move into suitable, sustainable employment….”


NCBI Window Display

NCBI Listowel is getting behind Writers’ Week with this apt window display.


Mary O’Halloran was pictured at Navan recently.

Mary is a frequent visitor to Listowel Races where she is always one of the best turned out ladies on the course.

Mary is living with Motor Neurone Disease.

I can’t give her the 2 page spread Charlie Bird got in last Sunday’s Independent. But I can tell you that I greatly admire Mary and all the other people with MND who are quietly getting on with life.


Christmasses Remembered

Christmas card from Listowel’s Bryan MacMahon, illuminated by Listowel’s Michael O’Connor.


Christmas 1957

Noreen Keane- Brennan shared this photo of friends and neighbours in Sheahan’s of William Street at Christmas 1957.


A Kerry Christmas…a poem by the late Brendan Kennelly



A Listowel Bridge Champion

Earlier this week when I was writing about John Comyn’s 50 years writing the Bridge column in The Irish Independent, I included the observation that he thought that Pat Walshe of Listowel was the best player he had ever encountered in a long career playing Bridge at championship level.

But who was Pat Walshe?

Jim MacMahon has the answer.

“… Pat was the son of the late Dr Toddy Walshe and Siobhan, nee Ashe, a cousin of Thomas Ashe. Pat lived in Church Street (or Ashe street). I recall my late father Bryan saying to me one day when Pat was about 8 years old ,…..Do you see that young fellow, Toddy’s son, he has an unusual aptitude for maths…and so it proved to be.”

( What was in the water in Church Street? I wonder if any other street has produced so many exceptional scholars.)


Edwardian post box at Convent Cross. This box dates from the 1930’s. Many is the Christmas card started its journey here.


Craft Hub at Kerry Writers’ Museum

If you’re looking for a beautiful locally made Christmas present, drop into Kerry Writers’ Museum.

This is what I bought and I’m delighted with my haul. The beautiful intricately detailed bookmarks are made by Karen Pleass. They are absolutely beautiful and perfect for that air mail present for someone who loves the Irish countryside.

The hand made cards are a steal at €3.75 each. Maggie Donald makes these unique frameable cards from local plants. They are absolutely gorgeous. I wanted to buy the lot.

Everyone who knows me knows that I love Woodford Pottery. Pat Murphy has been very busy in lockdown. This new range is a new departure from his block colours. I bought a little jug, ideal for those of us who dine alone. And then because it was so sweet and I love a posy on the table I bought this lovely little vase.

Be sure to drop in before Christmas and support local artists.


Bog in Ballylongford, an old Christmas card and Listowel Printing Works is Relocating

In the bog; photo by Breda Ferris


Lord Listowel 1963

photo found on Glin Historical Society

This is the 5th earl, William Hare. The current earl is Francis, his son from his third marriage.


A Listowel Christmas Card

Listowel; men, Michael O’Connor and Bryan MacMahon collaborated in the making of six Christmas cards. The cards were produced by Oriel Press.


A Poem as Halloween approaches


Fuel of the Future?

Enjoy this old ad.

This month we read that Ireland is now importing horticultural peat from Latvia.

Read all about it here;

4000t of Horticultural Peat arrives in Drogheda


Listowel Printing Works is gone from Church Street


Fís na hÓige, Races, No. 24 The Square and a Listowel Poem

Howth by Éamon ÓMurchú


Fís na hÓige

Fís na hÓige Productions is a film and drama group based in St. John’s. During July they held a film making course.

Kiana Breatnach sent us these photos.


This could be the start of Something Big

This is No.24 The Square, Listowel.

Today it is home to Kerry Writers Museum.

Here is the same house in the 1950s when Dr. Michael O’Connor and his family lived there. The Morris Minor in front is the family car.

This is Fr. Brendan O’Connor pictured at the door.

He made a return visit to his father’s family home on September 19 2021.

In this photo sent to me by her grandson, Eitan Elazar, is Fr. Brendan’s grandmother at the same door in the 1950s.

This was the reason for Fr. Brendan’s visit and the “something big’ referred to in my heading.

It is St. Patrick’s breastplate, illuminated by the late Michael O’Connor, son of Dr. Michael O’Connor and father of Fr. Brendan.

Michael O’Connor had an enormous talent for illumination.

Illumination is calligraphy in the style of The Book of Kells.

Jimmy Deenihan, chair of Kerry Literary Trust presented Fr. Brendan with a copy of Bertha Beatty’s Kerry Memories. Bertha also lived in No. 24 The Square when the Creagh family owned it.

Also in the photo is Cara Trant, Manager of Kerry Writers’ Museum.

Bryan MacMahon and Michael O’Connor collaborated on several pieces. Jim MacMahon came to Listowel to meet Fr. Brendan and to see the treasures.

Fr. Brendan used his late father’s magnifying glass to show Jim some of the intricate detail in the breastplate. Michael O’Connor worked on this at the kitchen table in his Dublin home, after the children had gone to bed. He worked holding a magnifying glass in one hand and a brush/pen in the other. Under these less -than -ideal conditions he produced Celtic illumination work of the highest quality, work proclaimed by experts in this field as the best of its kind.

The hope is that after expert work of conservation, some of Michael’s work will be displayed in the house where he grew up.

Fr. Brendan O’Connor, me, David Browne , chair of Kerry Writers’ Museum and Stephen Rynne who is the driving force behind the project to bring the work of Michael O’Connor to the wide audience it deserves.

Stephen’s father, Etienne Rynne was a friend of Michael O’Connor’s and Aideen, Stephen’s mother, is willing to give her treasured piece of O’Connor’s work for display along with the other works.

Aideen is holding the piece in my photograph. It is an illuminated papal blessing scroll presented to her and her husband, Etienne, by Michael O’Connor on the occasion of their marriage.

Maybe there are other people with a Listowel Connection or not who have a piece of this original artwork in their possession. Stephen, who is co-ordinating the project is anxious to trace the whereabouts of as many original pieces as possible.

Maybe you have one of the 6 Christmas cards with words by Bryan MacMahon and illumination by Michael O’Connor that were produced by Oriel Press. The original artwork for these has been lost but maybe you have kept a card and it is now part of this extraordinary story.


Friday, September 24 2021 at Listowel Races

Photos by Bridget O’Connor

These ladies were the finalists in the Best Dressed competition.

And the winner is….

This photo is from Listowel Races site. The lady is Maritess McCarthy.

Friends and family pose with the O’Neill family.


A Poem from Poetry Town, Listowel


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