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Tag: Michael O’Connor Page 1 of 4

Michael O’Connor of No. 24 The Square, Listowel

Susan Corr in Kerry Writers’ Museum Feb 18 2023

This is Susan Corr. She was in Kerry Writers’ Museum on Friday last, February 18 2023 bringing with her a very precious cargo. Susan is Ireland’s leading paper  conservator/ restorer. She was in Listowel to bring the first tranche of Michael O’Connor’s artwork back to the house where he grew up.

Now in its new incarnation as Kerry Writers’ Museum it will be the repository of his exceptional bank of illustrations/ illuminations.

Michael O’Connor, Evening Herald 1966

Here is my story in a nutshell.  One Saturday in 2020 I had a phonecall from a man who introduced himself as Stephen Rynne. Stephen was sorting through his late father, Etienne Rynne’s, papers when he came upon a folder of correspondence and artwork. Stephen recognised that the artwork was of an exceptional quality. It was by Michael O’Connor, an artist whose name he had never heard.  A quick Google of Michael O’Connor brought Stephen to Listowel Connection and there I entered the story.

Fr. Brendan O’Connor, Mary Cogan, David Brown and Stephen Rynne, Sept. 2021

Michael O’Connor grew up in No. 24 The Square.

The artist’s father was Dr. Michael O’Connor, a Listowel g.p., a religious man and a republican.

Michael O’Connor’s parents in their garden in 1950 Photo thanks to Eitan Elazar

Dr. O’Connor was one of the local republicans who were interned in Ballykinlar in 1921. While in jail the Kerry men sent back newsletters to their families at home. These newsletters were embellished with Celtic borders, the work of Micheal Reidy of Killarney.

List off internees in Ballykinlar 1921

This was young Michael O’Connor’s first brush with celtic art. Of course, growing up in Listowel he was surrounded by the stucco work of Pat MAuliffe which is replete with symbols of celtic Ireland.

Stephen realised that Michael OConnor was a prolific artist. The more he delved into O’Connor’s corpus of artwork the more he realised that O’Connor was the top Celtic illuminator of his age producing work comparable to the work of the monks who produced The Book of Kells.

Eamon de Valera Forest artwork by Michael O’Connor

Why had no one in the art world ever heard of this genius?

Stephen found that much of O’Connor’s work was done for family and friends.  He was happy to stay below the radar.

Papal blessing of the marriage of Etienne and Aideen Rynne, artwork a present to his friends from Michael O’Connor

His biggest commissions were for the Jewish Irish community and official gifts presented to visiting dignitaries. These gifts are now lying in archives around the world.

O’Connor was generous with his talents, particularly to his Listowel friends.

He was a humble man. When asked for a short bio. to put in this booklet whose cover he illustrated for Listowel Emmets in 1960, his response was that he was a Listowel man and that is all people needed to know.

These are the words of his son, Fr. Brendan  

We were so accustomed to his artistic creations that we didn’t fully appreciate the originality, skill and dedication he brought to his art. He had the humility to continue working at a very high level of achievement without seeking to be known or appreciated. The completed work was its own reward.

This is shown in particular in the “Breastplate of St Patrick” – a family heirloom which he produced for his own enjoyment in 1961 to celebrate 1,500th anniversary of the national saint.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate now conserved and restored and returned to Kerry Writers’ Museum

The O’Connor family have very kindly donated this family treasure and other artworks to O’Connor’s ancestral home in Listowel.

Stephen Rynne took on a painstaking mission to search out and find as much of O’Connor’s artwork as he could.  His search put him in touch with archives around the world. During the 1950s and 60s Michael O’Connor’s work was the presentation gift of choice to visiting dignatories. Examples of his work are in The Vatican, the JFK library, Liverpool cathedral, archive of an Egyptian emperor as well as in The Brazen Head pub in Dublin, TCD, UCD and other Irish locations.

Listowel was always close to Michael O’Connor’s heart. He joined with Bryan MacMahon in producing many Christmas cards and bookmarks.

His most outstanding collaboration and probably one of his best pieces is a collaboration with the Listowel writer in a magnificent presentation piece to Listowel Race Company. The lyrical words by Bryan MacMahon and illumination by Michael O’Connor make this a Listowel treasure.

On the left of the picture is Thomas O’Connell, chairman of the Race Committee with Michael Kennelly, Michael O’Connor, Dan Moloney T.D. and Dr. Bryan MacMahon on the occasion of the handover of the work to the race committee during race week 1958.

The Stokes family, descendants of Thomas O’Connell who have kept this important piece safely until a home was found for it, handed over the picture to Jimmy Deenihan, representing Kerry Writers’ Museum during Listowel Races 2022.

Pictured at the handover of the piece to Kerry Writers’ Museum on Friday September 23 2022 are Olive and Oonagh Stokes with Owen MacMahon and Jimmy Deenihan.

The O’Connor family, Listowel Race Company and others have very generously agreed to donate family heirlooms, and irreplaceable priceless treasures to Kerry Writers Museum.

The museum has secured some of the funding to mount this important exhibition.

Special airtight display cabinets have been installed. Susan Corr, conservator’s, services have been engaged.

Cara Trant and Susan on Friday February 18 2023 at the handover of the first batch of restored illumination.

Beautifully restored and mounted letter

Celtic detail and beautiful calligraphy on the magnificent breastplate piece.

Conservation work is a very specialised job involving matching colours, repairing of vellum with isinglass which is also a collagen and restoring old pictures to their original vibrant state.

The process is slow but the work has started and hopefully we will all get to see the first of these treasures before the end of 2023.

I am privileged to be a witness to this, by far the best story so far to come my way since I started blogging in August 2011.

Thank you, Stephen Rynne.

Thank you too, David O’Sullivan for all the invaluable research


Winners and Victims

Blennerville by John Hooton, photo shared on Facebook


Two New O’Connor Pieces

These two newly discovered pieces of Michael O’Connor’s excellent illumination work have turned up in Stephen Rynne’s family home. Stephen’s dad was a friend of O’Connor’s and had many pieces of his work. After Michael’s death his widow entrusted much of his work in progress to his two friends, Maurice Fridberg and Etienne Rynne, who endeavoured to find a “home” for them. That search has been taken up by Stephen, son of Etienne and very soon these wonderful pieces of artwork will be back in Listowel in No. 24 The Square.


We are the Best

Two Listowel institutions returned with well deserved awards from the Irish Hospitality Awards ceremony in Dublin, Mike the Pies in the Best Live Entertainment venue and Jumbos in the Best Family restaurant categories.


Tom Doodle

Doodle Rally in Main Street

I found this essay on in a closed account. I don’t know who the author is. it’s a first hand account of the day Doodle came to town.

We were in the middle of our Leaving exam. at St. Micks when news of Doodles coming to town was announced and come hell or high water would we be denied the chance to act as guard of honour to the Doodle entourage which had been arranged by M.O.C. the late and great Johneen Keane, however to take part we had to dress as if in Mardi Gras, this to add to the frivolity of the evening and also as a disguise so the College President did not recognise any of his star pupils. I remember Bunny Dalton who was in the lead truck with the other musicians asking John B. what music would be appropriate for the occasion and the answer was as many National Anthems as you can think of. A tour of the town was completed via Charles Street and Church Street and to this day I cant forget the faces of the townsfolk who lined the streets, most were of joy and happiness and some in awe, one old woman with rosary beads went on her knees thinking it was the Papal Nuncio while another who having been attic bound for years thought that Doodle was the reincarnation of Parnell. What followed that night was the funniest night I ever spend at home and the night was recalled once again at the post performance reception of Sives Premiere in Dublin in May 59 when I met up with John B.

Quick background for newcomers;

Tom Doodle was a jape by a group of Listowel friends led by John B. Keane. The Independent Couleogous Party was a fictional political party set up by Keane and Co. Doodle was their candidate in the General Election of 1951. They ran a campaign for him complete with unlikely promises, slogans and a jingle. His campaign highlight was a monster rally in the small square.


Lest we Forget

This brutal Siegfried Sassoon poem has been shared widely lately as rows swirl online over the wearing of the poppy.


Some Holy Things

The Presbytery, Listowel October 2022


Jerry Kennelly Remembers

Some North Kerry churches remembered by Jerry Kennelly in Shannonside Annual 1959


A Leftover from Another Age

This image of the grotto at Lourdes in a window on Church Street took me back to my childhood. This image was everywhere, in pictures and in little cards we used to have in prayerbooks. It was also very popular in memorial cards.


De Valera and a Forest in Israel

This 1965 picture shows representatives of the Irish Jewish community presenting Eamon de Valera, Uachtaráin na hEireann, with a “Book of Honour” in thanksgiving for his work for peace during the second world war. The book was illuminated and written in calligraphy by Michael O’Connor of Listowel.

On Dev’s right as you look at the picture Professor Mervyn Abrahamson, chair of the Eamon de Valera Forest Committee.

So where is this forest?

Éamon de Valera Forest (Hebrew: יער איימון דה ואלירה) is a forest in Israel, near Nazareth. It was planted in 1966 and named after American-born Irish politician and statesman Éamon de Valera.

“It has 10,000 trees planted by the Jewish community of Ireland in tribute to President Eamonn de Valera. To be known as the Eamonn de Valera Forest at Kfar Hanna near Nazareth, the project is the latest in a series of similar forests named to honor the late President John F. Kennedy, Jan Christian Smuts and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

The 10,000 tree forest is till flourishing today.


Greenway Mural

I met this lovely young man in the Neodata carpark.

He is Garrett Joyce and he is busy finishing his mural in time for the official opening of our Greenway.

Looking good!


Today’s English lesson


Getting Ready for Halloween

My dotey granddaughter in her pumpkin outfit is all ready for Halloween. She has no clue what is all about but she knows excitement when she sees it.


Jerry Kennelly Remembers

The Square, Listowel October 2022


Jerry Kennelly’s Memories

From Shannonside Annual 1959

Shannonside Annual printed some of Jerry Kennelly’s reminiscences in 1959.

Jerry claimed that he was known by every man, woman and child in Listowel and district.

I hope this print isn’t too small. I firmly believe our ancestors had great eyesight. Old newspapers and magazines all seem to have tiny print size. This old man tells a first person account of life in Listowel in bygone days…. e.g.”the time of Bonaparte.”


In The Park

1916 Commemorative garden

Lane between Park and Bridge Road


De Valera and the Jews

Further to my Michael O’Connor story of Friday last, I went on an internet search for a forest in Israel and Jewish people in Ireland.

I found this picture of the Nobel prize winning physicist, Edwin Schrodinger on the internet. He was probably the most illustrious (and controversial) Jewish person who Dev. invited to Ireland.

Dev had two great passions, Celtic Studies and Maths. He set up the Institute for Advanced Studies and invited Shrodinger, then a renowned theoretical physicist, to be part of it. The invitation was timely as Schrodinger, an Austrian Jew, was facing expulsion or worse. He came to Ireland in 1939 and spent 17 happy years here.

I don’t pretend to understand any of his wave mechanics stuff. All I get from “Schrodinger’s Cat” is that a cat can be alive and dead at the same time.

Schrodinger took out Irish citizenship in 1948.



The Greenway

The Curragh; Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú


Another iteration in the restoration of this shop



The source


The Greenway

One entrance to the greenway is just off the Tim Kennelly roundabout.

In Cahirdown the walking and cycle paths are generously wide.

The cycling section ends at St. Michael’s.

The entrance to Páirc Mhic Shithigh is at the junction with Ballygologue Road so it was not possible to extend the widened path that far.


Alice in Wonderland Day

This quartet were participating recently in Cork’s Alice in Wonderland Day.


De Valera, an Israeli Forest and a Listowel Connection

Stephen Rynne is nothing if not diligent in his quest to track down samples of Michael O’Connor of Listowel’s beautiful artwork.

Here is his latest update.

Michael O’Connor on the far right of picture

Hand illustrated ‘Book of Honour’ presented to President de Valera on 5 
November 1965 to mark the planting in 1965, of a ‘Forest of Trees in his 
honour and in his name at ‘Kfar Kanna’ near the ancient town of Nazareth in 
Israel in recognition of his many years of devoted service in the cause of 
peace and freedom’. Includes quotation from Bunreacht na hÉireann and 
tributes to de Valera from Dr. Isaac Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Dr. Robert Briscoe, former Lord Mayor of Dublin, Dr. Immanuel Jakobvits, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Mrs. Sarah Herzog, wife of the late Dr. Isaac Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Israel, and Arthur Newman P.C, list of names of members of the Irish Jewish community and the names of the Eamon de Valera Forest Committee. Lettered and illuminated by hand, using Celtic symbols and decorations from the Book of Kells. Parchment leaves.

Illumination and Calligraphy by M.A. O’Connor, Dublin and Design and Presentation by 
Maurice Fridberg. Album (31pp), in bespoke presentation box;


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