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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

Tag: Mick O’Callaghan

Kathleen Cox, Ceramacist

In Glenlohane, Co. Cork in April 2024

Ceramacist with a Listowel Connection

This lovely figurine is the work of the late Kathleen Cox. She was featured on the National Treasures programme on RTE on Sunday April 28 2024.

Cox was born in China and lived there until she was 7. Her family moved to Listowel before eventually settling in Dublin.. Her father was a doctor.

Kathleen Cox studied under the master sculpture, Oliver Sheppard. She won many prizes and the prize money funded a sojourn in Paris.

“During her time there, Cox met a stranger who was threatening to commit suicide using his revolver. She intervened by throwing his gun into the River Seine. Although the artist saved the stranger’s life, he was furious that she got rid of his gun and insisted that she pay him the value of the gun, which she did in small installments. This outrageous episode demonstrates Cox’s empathy, kindness and gentle nature, which also reflected in many of her artworks.” ( RTE website)

This piece, entitled Woman carrying Something, is typical of the pieces she created at her Dublin studio and sold in her shop. It is now in the National Museum.

In the 1930s she became disillusioned with the whole art scene and smashed her moulds and closed her studio and shop. She passed away in 1972.

Another Hen

Another poet with Tralee roots was prompted by the story of poet performer, John Foley, to send us his own poem about poultry.

Michael O’Callaghan now lives in Wexford.

Rhodie The Escapee

It was Saturday evening in Charlotte Close

With the weather so chilly it would give you a dose

I was strolling out for my evening walk.

When I heard what I thought was fowl talk

A clucking Rhode Island Red Hen was cheerily strutting.

Proud as punch to be hen hopping

Up along the path while her feathers she was preening.

She progressed along with her little hen steps.

But now it was darkening so Rhodie got a pep in her step.

As she searched for a spot to coop up for the night

The owner was made aware of Rhodies plight.

But Rhodie was safely tucked up out of sight.

We called off the search till Sunday morning light.

I was out walking on my morning nature quest.

Parading with Stella my weekend French bulldog canine guest

She was straining on her lead with all her might

As a Clucking Rhode Island Red hen came into her sights.

The Rhode Island, the wild one which escaped from her pen.

Was parading down Charlotte well after ten.

It was time once again to phone the distressed owner.

Who came round quite quickly to rescue her Rhodie, the loner

But Rhodie was not receptive to her rescuing gestures                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Choosing instead to play hide and seek with her pesters

And so, word was sent out to our Charlotte neighbours

Seeking help in arresting our avian transgressor .

Who is really performing like an avian messer

We begin a chick chick chick chick chick chick tune

Being voiced in 6-part harmony just around noon

And then from within the hedge a faint avian sound was heard.

Poor Rhodie was trapped in a fork in the hedge.

All rescuers now go down on their knees

And peer through the hedge and are ready to weep.

A neighbour now sees a gap in the hedge 

Where she sees our poor Rhodie out on a ledge

She puts in both hands to grasp our poor hen

And has her rescued in less than ten. 

She reintroduces her to freedom in Charlotte Close

And hands her over to Rosie her owner who lives near The Close.

Mick O Callaghan

11/02/2024

Do You Remember?

(From the internet)

A Fact

The Empire State Building in New York opened in 1931

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Baby, it’s cold outside

River Feale in January 2024 photo by Mary Dowling

Old Photo Shared on Facebook

Phil Lynott and fans in Tralee in 1980.

For the Weather we have had

from Mick O’Callaghan in Gorey

The pale moon was rising.

I walk out the front door

Of our home in Gorey

Its freezing cold outside 

I look around 

I gaze left and right

I view the spider’s web like tree

At the edge of the garden

It is a most majestic sight

I admire its skeletal appearance

In all its bareness

And undressed beauty

With its beautiful pattern

Of interwoven

Branches and twigs

I take out my camera

To capture its arboreal elegance.

In my photo shot

The rising moon is visible 

In the clear evening sky above

Through the delicate

Web like branches

Its orbital shape

Clearly visible

The street lights

Appear as orange globes

In the background.

I save these images

In my photo memory bank

For future reference

On a bitter cold January evening

In Gorey, County Wexford

Native mute swan

Neil Brosnan has been in touch…

Hi Mary, I believe the swan in Mary Dowling’s photo to be a native Mute swan rather than a migrant Whooper. See pic attached.

Mary’s swan

A Polar Plunge

Prompted by my photo of my grandchildren sea dipping in December, Sue in the U.S. sent us this.

This is Lake Michigan with fewer waves. Photographer Laurel Covert captured a Lee Street Beach polar plunge.

Postbox on Upper Church Street

This mailbox is pre 1984 because An Post, the Irish postal administration, came into being in 1984 when, under the terms of the Postal & Telecommunications Services Act of 1983, the Post Office services of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs (P&T) were divided between An Post and Telecom Éireann, the telecommunications operator now called Eir.

A Fact

This is a fact verified from my own experience.

The best way to find something you have lost is to buy a replacement.

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Emmets Abú

In Gurtenard Wood in January 2024

New Business on Upper Church Street

A new nail bar. Nails are big business nowadays. Church Street, Listowel is a bit of a beauty treatment mecca.

From the Archives

Maybe your ancestor made a bit of extra money from the 1830’s equivalent of today’s side hustle…

Tralee Mercury Wednesday, 03 February, 1836

11 Cornelius Quin, for keeping in repair 1327 perches of the road from Abbeyfeale to Ballylongford between the cross of Leitrim and the cross of Ballylongford his half years salary .

 12 Patrick Enright, for keeping in repair 936 perches of the road from Listowel to Glinn between the cross of Newtownsandes and the bounds of the County Limerick, his half years salary.

13 Peter Fitzell, for keeping in repair 712 perches of the road from Listowel to Ballylongford  and Tarbert between the Widow Scanlons House at Pulleen and John Enrights house at Kilcolgan his half years salary. ……

14 Maurice Connor for keeping in repair 946 perches of the road from Listowel to Ballylongford between Maurice Connor house at Coolkeragh and the Bridge of BallyIerie, his half years salary

 15 Michael Cox, for keeping in repair 330 perches of the road from the Cashion Ferry to Ballylongford between the cross of Aghanagran and the Church of Ahavallin his half year  salary.

16 William Perryman, for keeping in repair 1302 perches of the road from the Sea at Ballybunion to Ballylongford  between the Chapel of Glaunacon and the cross of Curragdarrag, his half years salary.

17 John Kelly, for keeping in repair 1241 perches of the road from Listowel to Limerick between Bunagara bridge and the County bounds at Meenganaspig his half years salary.

 18 John Molineux, for keeping in repair 853 perches of the road from Listowel to Ballylongford between the Widow Eagertys house in Listowel and the Bridge of Coolkeragh, his half years salary.  19 John Leahy, for keeping in repair 1304 perches of the road from Listowel to Glinn between the Old Church of Listowel and the Bridge of Gale, his half years salary.

 20 Gerald O’Callaghan for keeping in repair 1742. perches of the Mail Coach road from Tralee to Tarbert between the Bridge of Listowel and the Bridge of Gale his half years salary

A Poem a Day

Our friend on here, Mick O’Callaghan, set himself a task to write something everyday for the first week of the new year 2024, just a little bit of poetic journaling.

Its Monday January 8th, 2024

I just stick my head out our house  back door

 To test the temperature in the garden outdoors

Wow I feel the wind chill effect

And the icy blast on my poorly  clad chest and head

I quickly re-enter my home comfort zone.

To save my nose from frost and cold

I now wrap up in outdoor clothes  

Got brave and ventured out once more.

Into our chilly Arctic Garden zone

Bringing out some sliced and chopped white bread.

And fat laden chicken stuffing for my birdie friends

They too are feeling this chilly spell

And need lots of sustenance to keep them well.

Now I go for an investigating walk around. 

And check what is happening in the garden ground

The Hyacinths have made great headway

Shoving their shapely heads up above the clay

Daffodil flowers are maturing fast

Getting ready to display their spring colour blast.

Tulips too are making an appearance at last.

The single pink carnation of yesterday is no longer alone

Being joined today by three friends of the same colour tone

Next, I visit my multicoloured violas in the concrete trough.

Followed by seeing my blue, yellow and white polyanthus. 

Brightening up the kitchen windowsills in terracotta troughs

Some more adventurous yellow polyanthus friends 

Are peeping out from under a protective bay tree base.

Keeping life and colour alive and looking swell 

I think its indoor coffee time for me.

Or maybe just a simple tea bag cup of tea.

Cheers to rebirth and new growth

Mick O Callaghan

The Uniting Force of the Local Club

Everywhere you look this January is black and amber. Everyone is a Listowel Emmet now in victory or defeat.

A Fact

Albert Einstein’s Nobel Prize money went to his ex wife as a divorce settlement.

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Brazil and Lyreacrompane

Photo: Listowel Big Bridge at night by Mary Dowling

Wish you were there?

One week Listowel Food Fair, the next Fazenda Churrascada São Paulo Brazil.

Our very own celebrity chef, John Relihan, is savouring the joys of cooking in Brazil and sending back these gorgeous pictures.

A Sad Christmas for One Irish Emigrant in 1960s London

Christmas in an Irish house in Kentish Town in the 1960s

by Maurice Brick  for Irish Central December 2021

I was wiping the mud from a 20-foot length of half-inch steel reinforcing bar with a wire brush and cursing the frost from the night before, which made it harder. I had, by then, passed the “barra liobar” (frozen fingers) part and the blood was circulating well despite the freezing cold. Steel is about the coldest thing you can handle in freezing weather.

It just didn’t seem like Christmas at all. I received a card from home the day before and Mam said how they were looking forward to Christmas and going to Dingle for the day with Dad. The lads were fine, she said, and they were wondering why I wasn’t coming home and she told them work was tight in England and maybe I wanted to put a bit of money away. Poor Mam, she always thought the better of me.

Today was payday; at least there was something good about it. Tomorrow, Friday, was Christmas Eve, so we had money for a good booze-up if nothing else for the weekend. There were six of us staying in a boarding house in Kentish Town and since we were all from the other side, the mood, to say the least, was somber.

There were two from Donegal and they worked in the tunnels and made tons of money. The work was hard but, I’ll tell you, they were harder. There were three of us from West Kerry and we worked straight construction – buildings, shuttering (concrete formwork) and the like. That was hard work, too, but not as tough as the tunnels with the compressed air. The other fellow was from Clare, a more respectable sort of chap and he worked for British Rail as a porter.

I tried the tunnels myself once. I persuaded one of the Donegal fellows to get me a start and to tell the truth it was the money that enticed me outright. But my venture was a disaster. I started and descended into the tunnel and while there the compressed air hit me like a shot after an hour and my ears screamed with pain.

They were worse again when I entered the decompression chamber and I couldn’t wait to get out. I gained a great deal of respect for the Donegal fellows after that. They both wore a medal-type apparatus around their necks that gave the address of the decompression chamber of their tunnel.

On Christmas Eve, we worked half a day. The foreman was a sly bastard. He was as Irish as we were, but when the “big knobs” from the Contractor’s office appeared on site he affected such a cockney accent that you’d swear he was born as close to “Petticoat Lane” as the hawkers plying their trade there on Sunday.

Anyway, we all chipped in and gave him a pound each for Christmas. This gesture did not emanate from generosity but rather preservation. Our erstwhile foreman could be vindictive and on payday, he would come by and ask for a light and you would hand him the box of matches with a pound note tightly squeezed in there and all would be well with the world.  Not a bad day’s take as there were twenty in our gang. But the job paid well and no one complained.

When I got to the house on Christmas Eve, I paid the landlady and took a bath and dressed in my Sunday best. I waited for the others and we all sat down to dinner. It had some meat and lashings of mashed potatoes, “Paddy Food” they called it. It didn’t bother us much for we knew we would have steak in a late-night café after the pubs closed anyway. The six of us were dressed and ready to go at half six and we headed straight for the “Shakespeare” near the Archway.

After a few pints, there we went to the “Nag’s Head” on Holloway Road. However, we encountered a group from Connemara there and rather than wait for the customary confrontation – for some reason there was animosity between those from the Kerry Gaeltacht area and those from Connemara, which was also a Gaelic speaking area in Galway – we decided to forego it on Christmas Eve. But we assured each other that the matter would be taken care of in the very near future. Just as I was leaving one of the Connemara chaps said, “láithreach a mhac” (soon, my son) and I responded, “is fada liom é a mhac” (I can’t wait, my son).

We ended up in the “Sir Walter Scott” in Tollington Park and I barely remember seeing a row of pints lined up on the bar to tide us over the period between “time” called and when we actually had to leave. This period could last an hour depending on the pub governor’s mood.

We ambled, or rather staggered, into the late-night café sometime after midnight and the waitress gave us a knowing glance and said, “Steak and mash Pat, OK” and we all said “yes.” Some of us said it a few times just to make sure we had said it. It was then I thought, Jesus, I never went to Midnight Mass. That bothered me. I had always gone to Midnight Mass, but it was only last year I started drinking and it went completely out of my head.

We had our feed of steak and left and we decided to walk to the “Tube” at Finsbury Park and that would bring us to Kentish Town Station. Somehow, we made it and truthfully I don’t remember a moment on that train.

We arrived home at two and as quietly as possible reached our rooms. One of the Donegal fellows pulled out a bottle of Scotch and passed it around and we just sat on the beds and took turns taking swigs descending deeper and deeper into the realm of the absence of coherence of any sort.

I remember thinking again about missing Midnight Mass and I must have voiced my disgust a number of times to the annoyance of the others and one of them asked me to “shut the hell up.” I approached him and hit him right between the eyes and he crumpled to the floor and fell asleep.

The others struggled and lifted me onto the bed and everything just blanked out and I remember awakening on Christmas Day and the fellow I hit was nursing a bruised cheek by the window. I asked him what happened and he said he didn’t know and that he thought he bumped into something in his drunken state. I told him that I thought I hit him and that I was sorry.

He came by my side and sat there and I thought I detected a tear or two in his eyes. He looked at me and said, “You know, this is no friggin’ way to spend a Christmas, is it?” And I said, “You’re right” and I shook his hand for I thought he was a better man than I. 

A December Poem

Mick O’Callaghan is describing a scene in Gorey but it could be anywhere these days.

On looking out the window in December

It’s Saturday morning in December 2023

I pull the blinds and the room is ablaze with light.

The sun beams blindingly into the room

Glinting off the white hoary frost

That has painted our lawn white overnight.

It’s a uniform speckled green and white.

Looking like a very chilly sight

But with postcard beauty glowing bright

I see the birds flying aimlessly about.

Blinded by this changed white environment all around.

Our house sparrows, blue tits, coal tits,

Robins, chaffinch, wrens, and blackbirds too

Are flitting about in vain searching for food.

On this rock-hard inhospitable ground 

I pity them in their frantic hopping around, 

I locate scraps of bread and overripe bananas.

I chop them up into small pieces.

And toss them randomly out on the lawn as feed.

Their whiteness blends into my whitened lawn

Now I see we have new visitors.

Starlings and crows swoop down.

In a co-ordinated cacophonous cawing raid 

Cleaning my lawn of food left out for the smaller brigade.

I look up the garden and see empty peanut feeders.

I go out and fill them full of nuts.

For my little feathered friends

They quickly appear chirping excitedly.

 Clinging on to the meshed side of feeders.

They peck, they feed and fly off.

Quickly returning to peck and chirp again.

 Saying, thank you, in birdie notes, most melodious.

They are happy with their newfound food source.

On a cold December morning

Mick O Callaghan

2/12/2023

A Fact

Today’s fact comes from this marvellous publication. You can see why this journal appeals to me. It’s full of really interesting and random facts and adventures.

Ablaut reduplication;

Now what’s that when it’s at home?

It’s the rule that says in phrases like shilly shally, mish mash, tip top etc. the word with the “i” always comes before the word with the “a” or the “o”.

Think of a few yourself and you will see that this is an authentic God’s honest fact wherever English is spoken, be it in the court of King Charles or in The Elm Bar in Lyreacrompane

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Elevenses

Fitzpatricks of Church Street in September 2023

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In Ballylongford

A little spot of business took me recently to Ballylongford.

While I was there I visited the church.

I love this picture. Sums me up perfectly.

Interior of Ballylongford parish church

The church interior is very traditional with little stained glass and huge statues.

The windows in Ballylongford church are unusually small. The side windows which have clear glass are set very low into the walls.

The lectern has a modern looking cross with a dove (Holy Spirit) on it. I couldn’t find any account of it online. Maybe a reader knows the story.

There is a huge statue of St Michael the archangel beside the door.

St. Joseph, I presume

It’s a long time since I’ve seen such a well stocked Catholic Truth Society book shelf.

The parishioners seem to have had particular affection for Fr. Pierce.

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Your Cup of Joe

Mick O’Callaghan writes some lovely essays in his Rambler’s Blog

You’ll enjoy this if, like me, you are fascinated by the variety of coffee offerings available to coffee lovers nowadays.

Coffee at eleven

Well, isn’t life gone very strange and complicated when you want to purchase a simple thing like a cup of tea or coffee.

Recently I was out walking in Gorey Town Park, with a relation home from Australia, when he suggested that we go for a coffee, and I immediately agreed. We visited the nearest coffee shop which was in the park. I asked for a cappuccino and was asked what type of milk I wanted so naturally I said that I just wanted ordinary straight cow’s whole milk while my friend wanted a flat white. Then we are further asked as to whether the coffee was for here or to go. Having answered that we would be imbibing our coffee potions on the premises we were given a choice of drinking vessel between cup, mug, or disposable container. Being the environmentally conscious type I opted for mug while my walking colleague chose a cup. The coffee was served up without the traditional saucer but who cares when the coffee served was excellent and the service was polite and friendly. We wished the Cullen family well in their new business adventure.

Being the mathematical type that I am I glanced around and observed that most imbibees were drinking from throw away cups which I found utterly appalling as these would all end up in land fill or incinerator causing further damage to our already damaged eco system.

And so, on Wednesday morning of September 6th, 2023, we went out with five family members for some food and coffees which was all very convivial and enjoyable. The day was fine, and we sat outside in the lovely friendly Cowhouse Bistro on the Courtown Road. The food was excellent and thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Next it was coffee ordering time, and a very friendly waitress came to take our order.

I was first to order and was the usual stick in the mud ordering a straight cappuccino in good old cow’s milk. And so, she moved along, and the next request was for a one-shot decaffeinated Americano followed by a normal Americano with extra hot water and ordinary milk.

I ask myself if this can get more complicated and the next barista order is for an almond milk latte with extra hot milk on the side.

I am really switched on now to hear the next order which is a normal milk latte with an extra shot. Now we are really upping the ante.

The final call was for a decaffeinated cappuccino with oat milk. All the coffees were served in cups and saucers which was nice to see and experience.

I am just flabbergasted by the sheer variety of orders. God be with the days of the bottle of Irel coffee and the spoon of Maxwell House instant powdered or granulated coffee. You got your cup, spooned in the relevant amount of coffee, added boiling water, stirred it up, added a drop of milk from the milk bottle and off you drank your coffee with your Marietta or Lincoln Cream biscuits. This was the ultimate in relaxation and had more sophistication about it than the ‘will you have time for a cup of tea in your hand’ effort.

The times have changed and so have our tastes and choices.

Are we any better for it all. I don’t know. Maybe next time I’ll have a skinny latte in mountain goats’ milk, a hot chocolate in sheep’s milk, a mocha with a slice of blackberry and apple tart or luscious strawberry in dark chocolate from Green’s Berry Farm sales shack at the other side of the road. Now that would be sophistication.

We had a very nice pleasant day out on a warm September 2023 day out in Gorey.

Mick O Callaghan 10/09/2023

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Times Past in Presentation Secondary School, Listowel

Photo from Brenda O’Halloran

May 1976

included are Anne McAuliffe, Miriam Hilliard, Kathleen Ryan, Brenda O’Halloran, Deirdre O’Sullivan

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One for the Diary

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A Fact

Bats make up 23 % of mammals by species. There are 980 + known species of bat in the world.

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