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: Millennium Arch

Trees in the town park, Beef Tea, a poem, and Anew McMaster in The Plaza

Photo: Chris Grayson


Trees in the town park, February 2018

We are very lucky to have a great variety of trees in the town. I have noticed much new planting being done in the park.

 These really tall trees look fairly vulnerable to me. I’m glad to see that new trees have been planted in front of them, to replace them when the inevitable happens.

These are the new trees. They are just inside what remains of the old stile, pictured below


Beef Tea           by John
B. Keane

I am certain there
are many people who have never heard of beef tea much less drank it. When I was
a gorsoon there was a famous greyhound in my native town who was once backed
off the boards at Tralee greyhound track. He was well trained for the occasion
and specially fed as the following couplet will show;

We gave him raw
eggs and we gave him beef tea

But last in the
field he wound up in Tralee.

Beef tea in those
days was  a national panacea as well as
being famed for bringing out the best in athletes and racing dogs. Whenever it
was diagnosed buy the vigilent females in the household that one of us was
suffering from growing pains we were copiously dosed with beef tea until the
pains passed on. The only thing I remember in its favour is that it tasted
better than senna or castor oil.

I remember once my
mother enquiring of a neighbour how his wife was faring. Apparently the poor
creature had been confined to bed for several weeks suffering from some unknown
but malicious infirmity.

“Ah,” said the
husband sadly,” all she is able to take now is a drop of beef tea.”

She cannot have
been too bad for I have frequently heard it said of invalids that they couldn’t
even keep down beef tea. When you couldn’t even keep down beef tea it meant
that you were bound for the inevitable sojourn in the bourne of no return.

Of course it was
also a great boast for a woman to be able to say that all she was able to
stomach was beef tea. It meant that she was deserving of every sympathy because
it was widely believed that if a patient did not respond to beef tea it was a
waste of time spending good money on other restoratives. It was also a great
excuse for lazy people who wished to avoid work. All they had to say was they
were on beef tea and they were excused. No employer would have it on his
conscience that he imposed work on someone believed to be on their last legs.

On another
occasion, as I was coming from school, I saw a crowd gathered outside the door
of a woman who had apparently fainted a few moments before.

“How is she?’ I
heard one neighbor ask of another.

“They’re trying
her with beef tea now,” came the dejected response. The woman who had asked the
question made the sign of the cross and wiped a tear from her eye.

(more tomorrow)


The Millennium Arch and Bridge Road


Here is another poem from a great anthology I picked up in the charity shop. The book is called  For Laughing out Loud.

Someone said that it couldn’t be done

Anonymous author

Someone said that it couldn’t be done –

But he, with a grin, replied

He’d never be one to say it couldn’t be done –

Leastways not ’til he tried.

So he buckled right in, with a trace of a  grin;

By golly, he went right to it.

He tackled The Thing That Couldn’t be Done!

And he couldn’t do it.


Church Street “Entertainments” Remembered

Billy McSweeney writes;

I remember Anew McMaster’s visit to Listowel very well. I actually
managed to be in the audience in the Plaza cinema, (today the Ozanam
Centre), across the road from my home, to see him play McBeth. I was too
young to really understand it but I vividly remember McMaster in his
stage makeup. The sight was frightening to a child. My mother felt that
I was too young to see some of his other amazing offerings from the pen
of Shakespeare, so I was warned to stay away. This was definitely in the
Plaza and not the Library. I also remember the yellow posters pasted to
the walls of the derelict library in Bridge Rd. (as written by Eamon
Keane). The latter was a common occurence.

My belief is that it was McMaster’s visit to Listowel that was the
inspiration for the ‘local’ lads to put on their later ‘entertainments’
in the Carnegie Library. It would have been a much cheaper venue than
Trevor Chute’s Plaza. That, in turn, was the inspiration for my brothers
and sisters to stage our entertainments in our back-house for the local
Church St children during the Summer holiday months when the remaining
sods of turf in the building were used as seats and concrete wooden
shuttering from my father’s workshop was fashioned as a stage. We wrote
the scripts ourselves; but the quality of the writings was not up to the
standards of our illustrious predecessors!

Listowel Writers Week in Los Gatos, Rahela and some Humans

Millenium Arch October 2016


And Then There Were None

Marc OSé, the third and final OSé brother to play for Kerry has announced his retirement. He and his brothers served their county well.


Writers Week in Los Gatos

A delegation from our twin city, Los Gatos, came to Listowel Writers Week, loved what they saw and experienced. They resolved, if they could, to hold a Writers’ Week of their own in 2016. 

They asked Listowel Writers’ Week for help and the result  happened last week, with Máire Logue and Seán Lyons of Listowel Writers’ Week on hand to lend advice and every assistance.

Jimmy Deenihan who spearheaded the twinning initiative and has very close ties in that area, was there as well to promote Listowel business and tourism.

Máire and Seán setting up an exhibition of Listowel stuff.

Jimmy with one of the US authors at Listowel Los Gatos Writers’ Week.

The week was a great success. Our Writers’ Week ambassadors networked and mingled. They returned home happy that the ties between these two towns are now bound even more tightly.


Last Woman Born on the Blaskets passed away last week

Maureen Boland, or Maureen Dunleavy as she was known, was born on An Bhlascaoid Mór on July 4th 1925.

Her father was Muiris Mór Duinnshléibhe and her mother was Cáit Ní Mhainnín, who was the school-teacher on the island.

Maureen went on to become a school teacher herself, teaching in Dublin for much of her career.

She divided her time between Dublin and her home in Cill Mhic a’Domhnaigh in Ceann Trá.

Maureen was an avid Kerry football fan and the Sam Maguire was brought to her 90th birthday in Ventry in 2015.

Gearóid Cheaist Ó Catháin, who was born on the Blaskets, says Maureen was a true woman of the Island.

Vivacious and always full of laughter, he said she will be truly missed.

May she read in peace

(Source: Radio Kerry)


Rahela Cemetery

This graveyard in Ballyduff is often referred to by the older generation  as County’s Acre. The reason why is explained in a Facebook page called, Anyone from Ballyduff out there.


Rahela cemetery had its origin during the Famine when the local landlord made an acre of ground available at Rahela for the burial of famine victims. He also gave one of his employees, a John County, the responsibility of overseeing the burials. Although Rahela cemetery has expanded considerably over the years, some local wits continued to refer to the place as “County’s Acre”


Humans of Listowel

John Halkettt and Derry Buckley stop for a chat on Church Street.

Last post for now

Recharging the batteries

I am going to take my leave of you for a while. I am not leaving town, just taking a rest from blogging for a summer break.

While I am away from the blog I will still be gathering material and taking photographs, so if you have anything you would like to share, be sure to email me.

I’ll leave you with a great piece of reading  for a summer’s morning…or afternoon.

David Fitzgerald of Tralee was 80 recently.  He had lost his parents at a young age. By
the time he was 17 both of his parents had died of T.B. As was customary at the
time, all the family papers and records were burned to prevent spread of the
disease. David grew up knowing very little of his family history so, for his
birthday, his family commissioned Kay Caball of Find My Kerry Ancestors to research his family.

Claire Sparrowhawk, who commissioned the research very
kindly allowed Kay to share some of her findings with us in Listowel

Here is a shortened version.

Fitzgerald was born in Tralee on 11 April 1936.   He was the son of Edward Fitzgerald and
Catherine Neligan.  Their address on the
registration of the birth was Lr. Castle St., Tralee.  Edward’s occupation was given as Hotel
Waiter.  Catherine registered the birth
herself on 9th July 1936.

We know that Edward and Catherine had two children
– David and Aileen and that they lived over Hilser’s Jewellers shop on Castle
St., (now Billy Nolans).   Edward worked
as an Hotel Waiter in Benners Hotel, a few doors away from where they
lived.  A Hotel Waiter at that time was a
skilled occupation which would have entailed an apprenticeship and Benners was
regarded as an up-market hotel.   Very
few local Tralee people, with the exception of the professional or large
business-owner classes, would have been customers.  We now know that Edward had worked at the
prestigious Cork County Club, South Mall Cork prior to this, which would have
entailed an apprenticeship and strong credentials for the job in Benners.

Fitzgerald, David’s father was the son of David and Bridget Fitzgerald of
Ballyhooley, Co. Cork.  Edward’s father,
David, was employed as a Coachman on Lord Listowel’s country estate at

In 1901 at the time of
the Census, Edward was one year of age. 
He lived with his parents, his younger sister Jane and his grandmother
Elizabeth in one of the estate cottages belonging to Lord Listowel in the
village of Ballyhooley.  These were good
quality cottages, designated 2nd class which was above the usual
Irish house of the time. The Fitzgerald’s house was one of fifteen cottages
owned by Lord Listowel, they were constructed of stone with slate roofs and had
4 or more rooms.  Lord Listowel’s own
house – Convamore was designated a 1st class house.

Fitgerald had married Bridget Englishby on 6th December 1898.

Census of Ireland 1911 
– Fitzgerald Ballyhooly    

By the time of the
1911 Census, David was now 11 and he had two sisters, Jane (10), Lizzie (4) and
one brother, John (9) Their parents David & Bridget state that they have
been married for 12 years and have had 5 children, all still living.

Catherine Neligan’s Family

Census of Ireland 1901 

Michael Nelighan and
Eily Fleming were not married at this time.  They married in 1905


We have no idea what
Edward did immediately after leaving school, we know that Convamore was burned
down in 1921 when he was 21 years of age but by that time Edward (called Ned)
was working in Cork City at the Cork & County Club as a Hotel Waiter.

Edward was active in
the Republican movement 1917 – 1922 in Co. No. 1 Brigade.  After the Truce, Edward moved jobs to Tralee,
it is believed to stay out of the Civil War which ensued.  In that he was following his Brigade O.C.
Major Florence O’Donoghue, an Irish Historian and Head of Intelligence in the
Cork No. 1 Brigade of the Irish Republican Army during the war of Independence
who remained neutral during the Civil War which broke out on 28 June 1922.

Edward moved to Tralee and married Catherine (Kitty) Neligan
in St. John’s Church Tralee on 18th April 1933.  On the Marriage Certificate, Edward declared
that his father David’s occupation had been Groom and was deceased.  It is understood that he had in fact died in
1912.  Catherine whose address was Denny
St., at that time gave her father’s name as Michael Neligan, Road Steward. 

We know that Mary
(Neligan) worked as Head Chef at the Grand Hotel, Denny St., and Catherine
(known as Kitty) worked for a Brown family in a bank in Denny St.   The family would have lived fairly
comfortably overhead Hilser’s Jeweller’s shop in Castle St. while their father
was still working in Benners.  Aileen who
was born in the Summer of 1934 and David both attended Moyderwell Infants Schoool
and later David went on to the Secondary School at the Green. Edward would
appear to have suffered ill-health for the last 6 or 7 years of his life which
would have meant hardship for the family.  
He would have been treated in the local County Hospital and also in
Edenburn Sanitorium for T.B., which was endemic in the Irish population at that
time.  Edward died at the early age of
45/46 in the Bon Secours Nursing Home Cork.  

At the time
of Edward’s death, his children David was 9 and Aileen was 11.  

Their mother
Kitty  died when David was 17.  She died in Listowel Hospital and was buried
in Rath New Cemetery with her husband on 2nd September 1953.  

A reference
to Edward appears in  accounts of the
murder of Gerald Smyth, the man who sparked the mutiny  in Listowel Barracks in 1920. This murder took
place in The Cork and County Club, South Mall, Cork.

On 19 June 1920, the assembled RIC men at Listowel
barracks hushed as the one armed Lieutenant-Colonel Gerald Bryce Ferguson
Smyth, DSO and Bar, French and Belgian Croix de Guerre, strode arrogantly
before them, his riding trousers tucked into his polished knee boots, his
neatly trimmed mustache elegantly parted as he launched into a blood curdling
speech about the savage methods he expected them to implement against their
fellow Irishmen:

“Police and military will patrol the country roads at least five nights a
week. They are not to confine themselves to the main roads but make across the
country, lie in ambush, take cover behind fences near roads, and when civilians
are seen approaching shout: ‘Hands up!’ Should the order be not obeyed, shoot,
and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching carry their hands in their
pockets or are in any way suspicious looking, shoot them down. You may make
mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be
helped and you are bound to get the right persons sometimes. The more you shoot
the better I will like you; and I assure you that no policeman will get into
trouble for shooting any man and I will guarantee that your names will not be
given at the inquest.”

When he was finished his tirade many of RIC men present who had themselves been
active in repressing the Sinn Féin revolt since 1918 who were already ashamed
of the duties they had been asked to perform in the name of the King finally
had enough. Constable Jeremiah Mee rose and spoke on their behalf:

By your accent I take it you are an Englishman and in your ignorance forget
that you are addressing Irishmen

He took off his cap, belt and bayonet and lay them on the table as Smyth’s
cheeks turned purple with anger.

These, too, are English. Take them as a present from me and to hell with you
– you are a murderer!
Constable Jeremiah Mee who led the mutiny of RIC
officers. Mee and 13 others resigned on the spot and walked out to immediately
join the IRA to fight for Irish freedom. Smyth roared at their fellow RIC
comrades to arrest them but his commands were ignored.

Gaughan J. Anthony, Memoirs
of Constable Jeremiah
Mee, (Anvil Tralee 1975)A month later on 17th July 1920, as Smyth was relaxing in the smoking room of
the Cork &County Club six armed IRA men burst inside led by Dan
“Sandow” O’Donovan.

“Colonel, were not your orders to shoot on sight? Well, you are in
sight now, so prepare.”

Smyth leaped to his feet as the IRA opened fire and riddled him with a hail of
bullets. Smyth managed to reach the passage before collapsing to the floor and
dying in a pool of his own blood. His burial in Banbridge, Co. Antrim, 3 days
later was followed by sectarian riots and a pogrom against Catholics who were
burned out of their homes by Protestant mobs.Grief stricken and driven to avenge
his brother, Major George Osbert Sterling Smyth DSO, MC travelled from India to
Ireland. He became an military intelligence agent with the Cairo gang and was
killed the following October when the unit raided the home of Professor Carolan
in Drumcondra where the famous IRA fugitives, Sean Treacy and Dan Breen who had
fired the first shots of the Irish War of Independence at Soloheadbeg, Co.
Tipperary were asleep in bed. After a furious gun battle both Treacy and Breen
escaped badly wounded. Both Smyth and Captain Alfred Pelli White were wounded
and died of their wounds while Carolan was also killed.

Last edited by Hitch 22; 17th July 2012 at 11:10 PM.

South Mall shooting

Because of the
content of this speech, Sean O’Hegarty, Acting Commander of Cork No. 1 Brigade,
decided to have Smyth eliminated. The County Club in Cork was frequented by
high-ranking military officers and people loyal to the Government. The staff
were also considered to be loyalists and so the IRA found it very difficult to
obtain information about the club and those who visited it. However, the
position changed when Sean Culhane, Intelligence Officer of B Company of the
IRA’s First Cork Battalion made contact with a waiter at the club, Ned Fitzgerald, who supplied
information regarding Smyth and so the IRA were able to mount their attack

Remembrances of Cork City & County Club

….Back in Co Cork, the uncle and aunt belonged to
the Cork and County Club on South Mall. Every Thursday, we would lunch in the
ladies’ dining room. Though men could use the ladies’ part of the club, no
woman was allowed to enter into the male precincts in the front of the club.
Our door was in a back lane otherwise used for dustbins. The ladies’ lobby was
paneled with varnished pitch pine and there was uneven terrazzo on the floor.
On the gentlemen’s side there may have been merry laughter and riotous
behaviour, but it was not like that on the ladies’ side. The windows were
frosted glass and the dining room walls decorated with pictures of heaving
seascapes. The few scattered couples would acknowledge our presence with a
discreet nod and then continue murmuring to each other in low voices over their
cutlets.After she had finished her messages, the aunt,
my brother and I had tea in the ladies’ drawing room where we read Vogue and
the Sphere in front of a fire. The only lively moment was if one of the members
had taken the aunt’s parcels home by mistake.

The Cork and County Club, opened in 1829 in a
building designed by the Paine brothers. It had originally been The County
Club, until it united with Cork Club. But they may have regretted this, as at
the end of the 19th century, a committee member from the city accused another
member of cheating at cards – poker to be precise. The fact that the accuser,
Richard Piggot Beamish, owner of the well-known brewery, did not play cards and
had not witnessed the game and that the accused, Joseph Pike was a longstanding
friend and neighbour, did not deter him from reading out the hearsay evidence
at a meeting of the committee.

Joseph Pike, the chairman of the Cork
Steamship company, sued for libel. Beamish pleaded, that as senior committee
member of the club, he had to conduct an investigation. The jury generously
returned a verdict for both plaintiff and defendant! They said the plaintiff
did not cheat, but that the defendant did not mean any harm when he accused him
of it. Though Pike’s reputation remained unblemished, it was perhaps rather odd
that his mama should have presented the judge in the case with a handsome
residence in Douglas shortly after the verdict.

A very much more serious event happened on the
night of the July 17th, 1920 when masked men pushed passed the doorman, ran
into the smoking room, where they fired several shots at Col Gerald Smyth who
sitting down with four other men. He leapt to his feet and got as far as the
hallway before dropping dead.

Col Smyth was a much decorated officer during
the 1914-18 war when he had been six times seriously wounded and lost his left
arm while rescuing an injured NCO. Earlier in the year, he had been made the
RIC divisional commissioner for Munster and as such, a month before in
Listowel, he had made a speech in which he is quoted as having incited the
members of the RIC to take reprisals on the local populace. Later he denied
this, saying he had been misquoted in the Freeman’s Journal. 

Such was the unpopularity of Gerald Smyth that
only half the number of jurors needed for the inquest could be persuaded to
attend and no engine driver would bring a train with his body back to his home
in Banbridge.

In Banbridge, after his funeral, there was a
furious reaction; £40,000 worth of damage was done to Catholic buildings in the
town by rioters and Catholics could not be employed in the factories unless
they signed a document to say that they would not support Sinn Féin.

The Cork and County Club closed in 1989 – I
never did see the gentlemen’s part of the club. Oh how I wish I had made a
stand for women’s lib by pushing through the green baize door to see the
delights and comforts beyond.

Lenox-Conyngham died on October 1st, 2011


Millenium Arch Rebuilding

This is how the arch used to look after it was demolished by a storm in 2014. Now, May 2016 reconstruction is under way.

This is the scene at Bridge Road on May 25 2016.


Lies, damned Lies and Statistics”

One of the fascinating aspects of blogging is the tool that analyises reader statistics. These days Listowel Connection gets between 300 and 600 views each day.

Not only can I see how many people are checking in but I can see where in the world they are located.  It is a constant source of wonder to me that more people check in from France and Germany than from the U.K. Obviously Ireland is the location for most page views and not surprisingly U.S is a close second. One day last month 200 people checked in from Russia! The post was May 10  2016 and the title was Battle in The Square.

Another thing I can find out and this throws up the most surprising statistic of all. On one occasion in January 2012  I made a big booboo and I captioned a photograph of my former colleagues in Presentation Secondary School, Listowel as 1978 when, in fact, it was 1988. Feeling very contrite and anxious not to offend my friends I wrote a very short post correcting the error. The title I gave this post was “What’s a decade between friends?” This post, believe it or not, has, over time, gained twice as many views as the next most popular post of all time.

Millenium Arch, Listowel’s Millenium Arch and Pres. sisters headstones

We’re Still Racing here in Lovely Listowel


Millenium Arch 2015


The Small Square


Thade Gowran…the next generation

This is me with some of Thade Gowran’s descendants in John B.’s during the summer. They all had such a good time that they found themselves connected to the homeland when they returned home. Fran, Thade’s granddaughter, sent me some photos from the family album and she wrote a little poem.

Fran at the plaque to her grandfather in Abbeyfeale

Lost property

Dear Listowel, excuse my writing, there’s a question I must ask

It seems I left my heart some place, when I visited you last

And back in England now, well yes, sure yes it’s all quite quaint

But the buzzing, loving hive of life, I’m afraid it just quite ain’t

I’m a dis-connected jigsaw piece, sharp edges rendered round

Your soft communal laughter’s mute, yet lingers all around

And though I seek connection here, I feel it’s not the same,

I’m dice un-cubed, cards now marked, impassive for this game

So please Listowel, take a peep, your magic’s lovely still

The welcome charm, Gaelic lilt and that stoical Irish will

To soldier on with cheerful strength, thinking of each other

Were these skills seen and loved and kept from a magic Irish Mother?

So my English blockade barriers fell, so much, my heart flew out

And it nestled tight amongst my folks, of that there is no doubt

My folks were walking down your streets, they’d chatter when they stopped

I heard them in your gentle laughs and helpfulness in shops

Yet I can cope with leaving you, my heart will fill again

As you’ve fortified a love for life with much more yet to gain

I hope you keep your lovely ways, to lose them would be sad

My heart is found, now I think on it, from the best time I ever had.

Yes I can cope with leaving you, my life here’s full again.

A man I love and family, and the best of lovely friends

My labours lift me daily, and great work to be done

And finding time, be just fine, fun with a young grandson.

So I thank you Listowel, for lovely days and nights that linger still

And I thank you for reminding me of that magic Irish will

And thankful of a heritage that links me back your way

And I’ll sing your songs and speak your words as I go through my English day

Fran Blyth – daughter of Hannah Teresa Bardsley (nee Flaherty) August 1925 – April 2003


Presentation Sisters, Listowel, Burial Plot

These are the names of all the sisters who served in Listowel and whose remains are buried in St. Michael’s graveyard.



I posted a photo yesterday of these pretty houses on Church St. Since I took yesterday’s snap they have got even prettier. No, not by the addition of the Kerry flag but by the gorgeous front doors. Lovely job!


The apple did not fall far from the tree

Sign at John B.’s yesterday


Up The Kingdom

Giant Kerrry Jersey suspended from a crane over New York

Weather damage in Listowel in Winter 2014

Spring IS on the way:

I snapped these this week on the path in the Cows’  Lawn beside the Town Park.

Remember this scene after Storm Darwin in Denis Carroll’s photo?

Below is how it looks now.

There is still much storm damage visible in the graveyard and in The Garden of Europe:

What lies beneath?

A reminder that our beautiful Garden is built on the old town tip; proof that it takes forever for plastic to disintegrate.

Everywhere I looked on my walk there were tree stumps.

Life goes on. These early morning walkers are now used to viewing the damage.

There was lots of debris at the bridge and what looked to me like most of a grown tree in the river.

Fallen Arch!

These trees by the river survived.

The River walk is closed until the debris is cleared.

Listowel Town Council decided at Monday’s meeting to have all the trees in the Park professionally assessed and treated before the next storm.


Postcript:  Tom Coffey R.I.P.

Junior forgot a name. The man standing at the back with the quiff (second from right) is Tom Coffey.

Our finding of this old photo was timely because Tom Coffey, who was a teacher and playwright passed away recently.

Junior sends us this memory of him:

Having a look at this week’s Kerryman  I see an obituary on page 20 for the late Tom Coffey, very sorry to read about his recent death. You will see him in the back row of your recent photo.

They write about his time In Kerry but no mention of the time he spent here in Listowel. Now I started work in McKenna’s in Sept. 1953 and as  time went by struck up a friendship with 2 work colleagues, Willie Barrett and Pat Somers. Indeed, Pat who lived in Billerough, just before the Six Crosses, used to call for me in the morning and give me a bar up on his bicycle, a fine strong lad he was.

It must have been the following year that we decided to do an Irish evening class in the old tech and our teacher was none other than Tom Coffey. Irish dancing was another one of his subjects and those ladies in the front of your photo were also involved.

The Kerryman obituary mentions his first play called Luiochan, Irish for Ambush, and it seems it won an Oireachtas award.

In actual fact, it was a group of us that put on that play first. We did it in Moyvane, Ballybunion and Listowel, hence our presence in that photo. He decided to enter it for the Limerick Drama festival and we were highly commended by the judge, who happened to be a brother of Gay Byrne but we did not receive a prize due to the fact that we were the only Irish play taking part that year and we were not in competition with anyone. 

I honestly believe he was here in Listowel for 2 years, maybe the school terms of 1954 and 55. The obituary says he was in Dingle in 1955 so, if correct that could be starting the school term of ’55.

I did learn a good bit of Irish dancing from him but I most certainly did learn that I had 2 left feet.

He was a lovely man, I never met him after he left Listowel.

May he Rest in Peace

(Thank you, Junior. You have some of the best stories. Keep ’em coming)

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