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

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Mike the Pies, Old Drama Group photos and a daft Christmas story from the Dúchas collection

St.Mary’s at Night, Christmas 2019

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A Kerry Christmas Childhood

Garry MacMahon

Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,

As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.

I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,

And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.

We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,

And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,

To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,

And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,

Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,

And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.

From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,

To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,

For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,

To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,

To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,

And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.

The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,

The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,

And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,

Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.

Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire

And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,

Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,

Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights

And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,

And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.

Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,

If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,

And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,

When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,

But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,

To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.

She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.

“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”

The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade

And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.

St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,

To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’

We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,

And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.

Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill

Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.

Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.

Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.

So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,

And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.

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Mike the Pies in December 2019



I love the new look.

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Old Listowel Drama Group photos

Below is a great collection of old Drama Group photos that Maeve Moloney has sent us. We have no details of names or even the name of the play/plays or the year they were taken. We need your help.

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A Dúchas Christmas Memory



Garret Stack went to confession Christmas Eve and he was to go to communion Christmas morning and the clock stopped during the night and he got up and went away thinking it was very late and when he was near Newtown he met a priest and he knew him and that priest was dead and he came down the road and went into Mc. Cabe’s and it was only one o’clock and he stayed there until morning.

Written by Con Shine, Kilbaha, told by his father John Shine.

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A Minute of Your Time



 My photograph shows Diana having a quick look At A Minute of Your Time in O’Mahoney’s Tralee. This is the latest outlet to sell it.

It’s sold out in The Friary Bookshop, Killarney but it’s available nearby in The Dungeon. Eagers and O’Connors also have copies.

It’s proving popular as a Christmas present, suitable for young and old.

 Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this new venture.



Mike the Pies, Martin Chute, Mistletoe and Macroom

Wintry Listowel in December 2019

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Mike the Pies Rebranding



Mike the Pies has been painted green for as long as I can remember. All that’s changed in December 2019. This popular music venue, where half of Listowel would rather be, is now a sophisticated black.

There I was walking on Upper William Street when I spotted the sea change.

Returning later I saw Mr. Signs himself, Martin Chute, painting the new sign.

Doesn’t his I look a bit like a glass at this stage?

Spotting his friend, Eileen Worths, Martin stopped for a chat.

I was anxious not to distract the master at work. But the ever affable signwriter took a minute to greet me.

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Mattie’s Letter takes a Tongue in Cheek Swipe


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Uh! oh! The Mistletoe



( from Raymond O’Sullivan on Facebook)


When the kissing has to stop!

Mistletoe is a symbol of love, affection and friendship. It is also considered lucky and a protection from evil spirits and the devil, The origin of these associations goes back to Norse mythology and the legend of the goddess Frigg, wife of Odin, and their son Baldur – too long for a FB post. Google it! Suffice to say that Frigg’s tears transformed into the berries on the mistletoe, and, on the resurrection of her son from the dead, she was so overjoyed that she blessed the plant and vowed to kiss everyone who passed beneath it.
So the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe goes back a long way, though nowadays it is confined to the Christmas period. Some accounts say the proper procedure is that a berry is plucked from the plant each time a couple kisses and when all the berries are gone, the kissing has to stop. Ah, the bashful days of youth!
In the light of the almost daily charges of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual approaches in the workplace and elsewhere, this long-established tradition of kissing under the mistletoe must be in grave danger of being discarded. We can only hope that the coarse conduct and boorish behaviour of some, including those in high places, does not jeopardize this age-old, innocent Christmas custom and consign the blameless mistletoe to the compost heap of history.

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Spotted In Macroom



Like Listowel, Macroom has retained much of its old character. When I stopped there for a spot of lunch lately (I highly recommend The Castle Hotel) I took a stroll around and spotted these gems.


A veritable old curiosity shop

Next door was a draper’s shop which still hangs the merchandise outside the door.

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An Appeal



Next year, 2020 Listowel Writers Week will celebrate its 50th birthday. I’m planning to post some photos of memories of the festival down through the years. So I’m appealing to my Listowel Connection family to help me out.

If you have a memory or a photo you would be willing to share please drop me an email.

Stories from YABF2019, Travellers in Ballyduff and Roger McElligott R.I.P

The Good Old Days?

This photo from Facebook tells a good story. Cows are docile animals and can easily be trained to stand still while being milked. They seem always to have a special rapport with women. This young lady is wearing a headscarf. Cows, because of the terrain they graze are often dirty and have a tendency to swish a tail while standing. The wise milkmaid covers her head to avoid having to smell of cow dung until the next wash.

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Listowel Writers’ Week Young Adult Bookfest 2019

I took lots of photos on the day. Here are a few more.

Bernard enjoyed a coffee from Kettle and Cup. In case you are wondering Damo shared no local gossip with him.

Marcella, David and Joanna are taking a break from proceedings.

Miriam, Seán and Elma were volunteering.

No, Seán Lyons didn’t accompany Stephanie on the guitar. He interviewed her on stage and he is just being a gentleman here and carrying her guitar for her.

Riobard Pierse took us behind the scenes at Ireland’s Fittest Family. In a witty, self deprecating monologue he revealed all the Pierses did to make sure they did so well on this gruelling reality tv show. The winning formula seems to be clean living, lots of strength and conditioning training, lots of practice at the kind of tasks set by the course builders, a keen competitive streak, ability to work well as a team, and, of course, lots and lots of luck.

Riobard and his daughter with Bernard and Shane

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Travellers at Ballyduff


 Irish Travellers have their own distinct customs and traditions. They have certain fairs and festivals that they regularly attend. Traditionally on their way to Puck every year, Travellers camped for a while near Ballyduff. 

The photos below and the caption were shared on Facebook.

Our thanks to Martin Browne for photos: Included are Charlie Doherty, Paddy O’Brien and Roseanne O’Brien. Irish Travellers were officially recognised as an indigenous ethnic minority by the government in early March 2017.

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Death in Sacramento of Roger McElligott




Photo: Vincent Carmody

In October  2011 Roger wrote the following account for Listowel Connection of his family’s emigration from Upper William Street, Listowel to California. It is clear from the story that the McElligott family never forgot their Listowel roots and came back frequently to visit. 

I’m publishing Roger’s account of his family’s Listowel connection again at the request of his good friend, Vincent Carmody.

The house his ancestors came from is now known as Mike the Pies .

Roger passed away in his Sacramento home earlier this week. May he rest in peace

The McElligotts of Upper William Street,

Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland:

The McElligotts, of 28 Upper William Street, my grandparents, were William McElligott and Mary Dillon and their children: Mary (Mae), Michael, Margaret (Rita), William (my father), Patrick and Emmett.  Mae, the oldest, was born in May of 1890.

They operated a pub and a grocery store that shared a tiny triangular vestibule at street level.  In the rear area, where there were a stable and workshops, from which they operated general contracting and funeral undertaking businesses.  But, even with all that variety, they found the times financially difficult.  So, on hearing of the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April, 1906, they decided to emigrate to San Francisco, with the hope that their skills in the construction business could lead them to success in faraway California.

With that, they sold 28 Upper William Street to the O’Connors (Mike-the-Pie) and sailed the Atlantic from Queenstown, now Cobh, County Cork, on the brand new Mauretania, sister ship to the much more famous Lusitania.  Mary (Dillon) did not have her heart in it, but along she went with sixteen year old Mae and a younger Rita in tow.  The three surviving boys Michael, William and Emmett (Patrick had died in some epidemic.) were left at a boarding school in Ireland:  the Cistercian abbey of Mount St. Joseph, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

After the crossing and their 3,000 mile train trip across the continent, they may have gone to San Francisco, none of us knows for sure.  But, somehow, for reasons long forgotten, they ended up in Sacramento, 90 miles east of San Francisco, where my grandfather did find good employment as the supervisor of construction for large multistory buildings, most of which are still standing.  (That speaks well for him.)

My grandfather, William, built a house in Sacramento and, in 1912, when the boys had all finished at the boarding school in Roscrea, he sent for them to make their move to Sacramento.  It was decided, by my grandparents, that a chaperone would be in order and they enlisted Jim Taylor, who was husband to Margaret (Peg) Dillon, my grandmother’s sister.  Jim and Peg were then living at 54 Charles Street, Listowel.  That address was then linked to the Dillon family.

(Peg ended up in Sacramento too, but I don’t know when or how she arrived.)

Jim Taylor lived to be 102 years of age and, to the last, told of the horrors he experienced keeping his three charges in line.  If it was half as bad and he told it, he had experienced a tough-tough time on that long-long journey by ship and by rail.

In the living room of the Sacramento house hung a large photo of the Lartigue monorail steaming through a grove of trees.  My dad, William Ignatius, loved to tell of the mischief he and his brothers perpetrated against the Lartigue,  They  would find an incline along the rail and coat it with axle grease, so they could watch the train struggle to gain traction.

Another of the family stories  has to do with 28 Upper William Street:  That small triangular vestibule was used for what the boys thought was the most fun they could have.  British troops would spend evenings in the pub. After they had put away plenty of pints, the boys would tie a trip-wire across the entry door of the vestibule and then would feign a fist fight in the center of the street.  When the soldiers came rushing out to intervene, they would pile up like cord wood in the doorway. Those troops must have had short memories or there was a lot of turnover.

But, I once told this story to Bryan MacMahon and he said he found it believable. 

I first saw Listowel in 1975, when I was 41 and have been back another seven times to stay at Mount Rivers, attend Writers’ Week, go to the races in September and to just hang around for a few days. With any luck, my wife and I will return soon.  It is truly “Lovely Listowel.”

Roger William McElligott

Sacramento, California

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Mike the Pies, Remembrance Day and Romance in Cork

In Listowel’s Pitch and Putt course



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Mike the Pies, Upper William Street


Brief history of Mike the Pies by Vincent Carmody

McElligott and O’Connor families.

Number 28 Patrick St (Upper William Street), has been the family home for only two families since it was built in the 1890s. The McElligott family who built it, resided there until their emigration to the United States in 1907 and the O’Connor family purchased it that year. 

In 1906, as news of the San Francisco earthquake filtered through, William McElligott visualized how his architectural skills could be of value in the rebuilding of the now badly devastated city. Having decided to sell the business, it went up for auction in February 1907.
The successful new owners, Michael and Kate O Connor did not have to travel far to relocate, they had been tenants of Lar Buckley, cooper, at number 24, just two doors down. Here, they had ran a grocery shop and here Kate baked meat pies, which she sold at fair and market days. In an amazing twist, the O’Connors had been in America and had returned to set up a business in their native North Kerry, while the McElligott’s were selling out in Ireland, eager to find out could they to make fame and fortune in America. 

Michael and Kate concentrated on running the public house and had a busy grocery and flour and meal business, Kate continued with her pie making, so much so, that the pub acquired the name ‘Mike the Pies’. Their son, Michael, married Mary McElligott from Moyvane in the 1940’s. They had six sons, Michael, Thomas, Roger, Eamon, Denis and Maurice. Mike the Pies is still operated by the O’Connor family, it is as busy as ever and over time has developed into a popular music venue.
The photographs include,
The frontage with the McElligott name on the fascia board.
A family group taken in Moyvane, (c) 1945. including,
Back,
Michael O Connor, his father in law, Thomas McElligott, brother in law, Dinny McElligott, Mary (Mac) O’Connor.
Front,
Bridget McElligott holding Thomas (Tom) O’Connor and Michael O’Connor.

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Wreath laying at Listowel History Festival on a glorious May weekend 2018


In The Square Listowel on Saturday May 5 2018 we had the annual veterans parade and wreath laying. The Killorglin Pipe and drum band led the parade and dignitaries from church and state, including Minister Brendan Griffin attended.





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Who said Romance is dead?




This is the Mills and Boon section in Ballincollig library. God knows, we need a break from all the doom and gloom but do we need so much romance?


Paddy Drury, a tree creeper and a Food Trail

November…a time for remembering

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A Fascinating Little Bird

Chris Grayson who is one of the best nature photographers I know snapped this little tree creeper. Isn’t he well camouflaged.

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Paddy Drury’s Epitaph


The late poet, Paddy Drury, was renouned for
his witty verses about other people. His tongue was caustic and many a one in
his time felt the lash.

Probably his best known lambast is his unjustified criticism of the lovely people of Knockanure.

Knockanure both mean and poor

Its church without a steeple

Hungry hoors looking out half doors

Criticising decent people.

Paddy composed his own epitaph

Here lie the bones of Paddy Drury

Owing their size to Guinness brewery

However, one of the good nuns in the
Killarney home where he died prevailed on him not to have it engraved on his
headstone. Paddy agreed, maybe because he was well aware that there was no
money there for a headstone anyway. However when a band of his friends, under
the leadership of  John B. Keane
collected enough to erect a gravestone to Paddy and the Drury family, they kept
to the usual conventions in these matters and put a more respectful and
dignified inscription on it.



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A Few Late Tourists Still visiting us

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Listowel Food Trail 2017

As part of Listowel Food Fair we took a trail around the town on Nov 11 and we stopped to sample some appetising fare at eateries along the wayWe started our trail at The Listowel Arms Hotel

The bar was set very high with lots and lots of delicious nibbles on offer. Like the bad sprinter who bolts like a greyhound out of the traps and then finds that there is nothing left in the tank for the last stretch, I ate way too much here. We had five more stops on our tour and I was beaten already.

On we soldiered to Allos

Here we settled down in the very comfortable back lounge while Armel told us the story of the food we were about to eat. I tasted friand for the first time.

In Café Hanna at John R.’s we had some delicious savoury and sweet treats

Our next stop was Mike the Pies and I told you all about that on Monday’s post

Then we strolled down William Street, well sated at this stage but we still had Jumbos, Lizzy’s and Gapos to come.

Damien served us turkey burgers and tacos. His butcher, Larry was on hand to verify the provenance of the ingredients. If you thought Jumbos was just beefburgers and chips you’d be wrong. This visit was an eye opener for me.

Lizzy is now a nationally acclaimed cook and her restaurant is one of the most popular in town. Food here was top class.

Lastly we went to Gapos. This is one of my favourite restaurants so I knew the food would be good. It was lovely to meet the chef and hear his story as well as tasting some of his native Armenian dishes.

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V.I.P in town on Friday




Colm Cooper will be signing copies of his autobiography in Woulfe’s Independent Bookshop at 5.00p.m. on Friday next November 17 1017

And

A little birdie told me that Mickey MacConnell will be one the Late Late Show with his ballad of Lidl and Aldi.

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