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: milk churns

Raceweek, milk churns and memories of Races past

Chris Grayson


Revellers in Listowel during a bygone Race Week

Daly’s was where The Risin’ Sun is now.


Sentimental attachment to milk churns

Dear Mary, 

To add to your milk tank stories, I am attaching a few pictures of milk tanks I brought back from Listowel years ago, painted green to match my front door, and they have travelled with me ever since to my homes in Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, North Carolina, and currently, South Carolina. Jack Scannall delivered milk to us at Skehenerin and always added a “supp” for the cat. As always, thanks for the Listowel Connection. 

MAEVE MOLONEY KOCH, Columbia, South Carolina 


Memories, Memories

Whether it’s milk churns or pictures, so many things remind us of home.

Here is a letter I got from Bernie Bardsley

 I would like to share a painting I did in 2004 of my mother, Hannah Theresa Bardsley (Grand daughter of Thade Gowran )and my son James Bardsley when he was a baby
He is a strapping 33 year old now
I haven’t painted in a while, but when I do I always sign it Barnaby, ( Another Story some other time, I hope your readers enjoy my painting, maybe inspiring me to paint again.
Bernadette Bardsley


Ballyduff and Ballincollig Friends at the Races on Sunday

The weather was a bit cold and blustery but it’s great to be outdoors and in good company.


Article in Image

In case you missed this great essay about Listowel Races in

The essay was written by one of our own with insider knowledge, Eadaein O’Connell.

Galway may have the hype, but the Listowel Races has the heart

Don’t be surprised if you hear a Listowel expat say they would rather come home for the week of the races than for Christmas. As a child, my parents would take me to the marketotherwise known as the amusementsduring the festival, and on the drive home I would turn to look at the outline of the town behind me as we drove away. All I could see was the sparkle of the funfair rides and I’d think to myself “wow, it can’t get any better than this”.  Side note: years later I discovered alcohol and the races became a whole different level of awe-inspiring.

For one solemn week in September, the town of Listowel illuminates. The land of John B. Keane becomes flooded with the racing elite, and Gypsy Kathleen parks up in The Square to tell fortunes to the unfortunate as punters try to grapple with lost money and dreams. A week on the racecourse, or ‘The Island’ as the locals call it, can ruin a person in the best possible way. They travel in spades from far-flung places like Tarbert to get a taste of the equestrian dream.  In its 160thyear, the Listowel Races is a pure horse racing adrenaline rush. It was my childhood, my teenage years and now my adult chapters. There is a magic in the town that you won’t find anywhere else. Galway may have the hype, but Listowel has the heart.

As a native, I know the tips and tricks to survive the week. You’ll need feeding because the days are long and treacherous and the walk to the Island is a marathon in itself. Be sure to eat your first meal before midday. The Grape and Grain on Church street is like being wrapped up in a warm hug. You’re always sure to be welcomed with a smile and banter from its patrons Martina and Pauchie. Martina makes all her food with a dash of tender love and care and Pauchie is the man to go to for a tip for a horse. The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant and Eabha Jones are two delicious and warm choices post races and if you are feeling Italian inclined, make your way to Casa Mia’s and order the Chicken Milanese. This is so much of a Listowel delicacy you’d swear we invented it.

Before you descend onto ‘The Island’, saying a prayer for the sins you may commit during the week is a respectable choice. The Church is placed alongside the castle entrance so you are in particular luck. The racecourse is the holy land. No negativity will touch you there. Even though you may be considerably poorer by the end of the day, you will quickly find yourself in the middle of a bad episode of Strictly Come Dancing in Captain Christy’s stand and all will be forgotten. The McElligots Honda Ladies Day is always a winner and this year the best-dressed lady will walk away with a new Honda Civic and €3000. The festivities on the course last into the early hours, so stay for as long as your liver allows.

And on your way out, never forget to buy two Toblerones for a fiver.

Navigate the pubs of Listowel with absolute precision. Start the day in Mike the Pies at the top of the town. A Joe Dolan impersonator makes an appearance each year, and is so good he could transport you back to Mullingar. Then make your way to John B. Keane’s for the history and a chat with his son Billy. My family and I have forced a singing session here many times, so if you feel a sudden urge to warble your way through ‘Caledonia’ or ‘Lovely Listowel’ do not fight it. I’m sure Billy won’t mind.

Then to Jet Carroll’s which is the pub equivalent of Cheltenham. Here you will be offered one of three things; a horse, marriage or a farm in Ballylongford. Finally, Christy’s pub in the square is a place where many romances have started and subsequently failed. There are guaranteed laughs, live music and a barbeque. If you happen to lose a loved companion on your travels, check the back of Christy’s. It’s common to overhear, “You’ve lost your friend? Have you checked Christy’s?” The friend is usually exhumed from the smoking area after trying to romance a lovely girl from Limerick. At the end of the night, you have two choices; The Listowel Arms Hotel to witness the population of the town in action, or Mermaids Nightclub if you’re feeling brave.

Listowel chippers are like an apparition at the end of the night. Mama Mia’s has the best chips in Munster and the chicken and coleslaw in Jumbo’s are Michelin star worthy. My advice is to choose both. You will make friends for life, find romance or an afterparty in both restaurants. And as they say, you only live once.

You see, Listowel is the town that raised us and the races will forever run through the veins of its locals. We will always return. And I promise if you make the trip, you will never want it to end. Because you will find yourself sitting in the town square, missing your shoes, with a fistful of Mama Mia’s chips in one hand and a Jumbos’s chicken breast in the other, and you’ll think to yourself, “wow, it can’t get any better than this”.

Dromcollogher 1926, Preparing for The Races 2016

Some signs that Race Week is upon us


Wedding at St. Mary’s 

Look at this novel use of old milk churns at a local wedding in St. Mary’s Listowel recently.


Dromcollogher Burning Remembered

“It was your typical rural Irish
village of the 1920s, everyone knew each other, and the big city media would
not have paid much attention to the daily events there. They wouldn’t have been
considered important enough.

But all that changed on Sunday,
September 5, 1926 in the west Limerick village of Dromcollogher.

The day started like every other
Sunday in the town with it’s residents readying themselves for Sunday Mass at
the local church.

A hundred or so yards away from the
church, at a local hardware store, Patrick Downing, a movie projector operator,
had travelled up from Cork to meet local hackney driver, William
“Baby” Forde, to partake in a little scheme to make a few pound
between them.

Forde had hired the upstairs loft
of the hardware store from Patrick Brennan, where they had planned to set up a
temporary cinema. Two trial runs at the location were a success, and this was
going to be the first time that they would charge an admission fee to see the

Forde had realised that there were
no movie showings in Cork on a Sunday, so he and Downing hatched a plan to
bring films from the Assembly Rooms Theatre on Sunday morning, and have them
back in Cork again by Monday morning. That way the theatre owners in Cork would
be none-the-wiser about the fact that their film reels had been missing on the

To show films privately was against
the law, so to hide the fact that he was doing this, Downing took the movie
reels out of their protective metal cases and placed them in a Gladstone bag
for transport to Dromcollogher. The metal cases would still be in Cork, giving
the impression that the films were where they were supposed to be.

The projector was set up on a table
infront of the only exit to the loft and the reels were placed beside it. There
were also two candles placed on the table to give light to them while they
checked both the money people were going to be paying and to read the reels as
they were being loaded into the projector to be shown. The candles were not
placed in holders, but they were held in place by hardened candle wax. The
showing was scheduled to begin at 2100 hrs so as to allow people to attend
Benediction at the church.

Locals then made their way from the
church to the hardware store and climbed the rickety outside stairs to the loft
and take their places in time for the screening. It was not long before there
were two hundred people packed into the tiny room.

The first of the two films, a short
movie called, “The Decoy,” was shown without incident. By this time,
one of the two candles on the table had burnt out. One candle remained alight.

Things turned for the worst after
the second film “The False Alarm” began.

There are many different
suggestions as to how the remaining candle was knocked over. Some say that
young boys in the room were throwing their caps at it in an effort to
extinguish it, in the hopes that they could make off with the takings without
being seen, however this story has not been confirmed. What is known is that
the candle did fall over onto a reel of naked film which exploded into flames.
A former Brittish Army officer and local Garda, Sergent Long was reported to
have noticed this and got up to kick the film off the table, but another man
got to it first and started using his cap to beat the flames, fanning them and
causing the table and the film to be engulfed in fire. A panic ensued and
Sergent Long was carried out of the room by the fleeing crowd.

Another Garda, Gda Davis, who was
also present, tried to demonstrate to the others that if they jumped through
the flames, they would be able to escape. Many people followed his advice and
escaped through the entrance. However, many people felt safer going to the
opposite end of the loft to the fire.

At this end of the loft, there were
two windows, which were barred. But because the loft had previously been used
for clandestine IRA meetings during the War of Independence, one of the windows
had the bars partially cut to facilitate a speedy escape in the event of an RIC

One former IRA member, John Gleeson
knew this and broke the bars allowing more people to escape. But with the heat,
the remaining bars began to expand and one woman was jammed between them,
cutting off this escape route.

Not long after this, the loft floor
collapsed onto the hardware store room, which contained things like wood, glass
and five gallon tanks of petrol.

August 1926 had been a dry month in
the region. The two wells in the town were dry and the level of water in the
nearby river was insufficient to help those trying to put the fire out. The
nearest fire brigade was in Limerick.

The building was completely
englulfed within a half an hour of the fire starting, and it was all over
within an hour. By this time 46 people had died. Two more were to die later in
hospital from their injuries. Only 21 of those who died were identifiable, and
the only way to know the identities of the other 27 was to find out who did not
come home that night. Of the 20 children present, 15 lost their lives. Half of
the people who had perished were below the age of 25.

Gardai came from Newcastle West and
sealed off the area. The army were also called in to help coffin the dead. So
many were dead that they hadn’t enough coffins. Special permission was sought,
and granted to bury the dead in a mass grave on the grounds of the Church. All
but one of the victims are buried there

“The Burning” as it
became to be known, was rarely spoken of in the area by the people of

The three men at the centre of the
whole affair, those being Brennan, Downing and Forde, were all charged with
manslaughter at the Central Criminal Court, but were acquitted. Forde later
emigrated to Austrailia where he was reported to have died after he replaced
flour with stricnine when baking bread during a rabbit hunting trip.

The tragedy made international
news, however some articles were not as kind to the people of Dromcolloghar as
they should have been, notably this one from the September 20 1926 edition of
US magazine, TIME: “One William Ford, storekeeper in the
village of Drumcollogher, County Limerick, welcomed to the musty loft of his
barn last week a crowd of eager Irish peasants who climbed up the single
rickety ladder, sat down in rapt expectance of Drumcollogher’s first cinema
show, a drama called The Decoy….”

(I took the above account of this awful tragedy from where the author is given as Billy the Squid.)



From Historical Tralee and Surrounding areas

From the Heuston collection . Taken back in the day . The junction between High Street, Staughtons Row and Bridge street (by the Garda station )

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