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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Eddie was a brother of our own late cinema owner, Kieran. Like Kieran he was passionate about cinema and spent his whole life working in cinema.
Those of you who saw A Window in Heaven’s Gable will remember Eddie. He was part of Kieran’s adventure into cinema ownership and the two were close, sharing a family love and great knowledge of cinema and movies.
Molly Madra Returns
Molly came back for a short visit. She had been to the groomers and so was all shaven and shorn.
When You Love your book so much you want everyone to read it….
I have only recently discovered Tadhg Coakley although he is practically a neighbour’s child from my own neck of the woods. His new book is just brilliant.
By the way, my grandson, Sean, brought me the mug from Normandy.
I knew Bobby would love The Game. He does.
People I met
My lovely friends, Peter and Mary McGrath
Peter, who is in his mid nineties, danced in Main Street with a teenage visitor on M.S. Busking Day August 25 2022.
Peter is truly “among the very young at heart”.
Alexander Calder, a renowned American sculptor, rigged the front door of his Paris apartment so that he could open it from his bath.
You’ve heard the song Follow me Down to Carlow. Well, you’ll have to follow me now to Kanturk and Kildare on my holidays.
Before I could head off myself I had to return my canine visitor to her family. Molly and I had a bit of an adventure. About 5 miles from my brother’s house in Kanturk, where we had made a pit stop, an ominous yellow light started to flash on the dash.
I did the sensible thing. I stopped and consulted the car’s manual. It was about as helpful as an inflatable anchor. It told me that I had an engine malfunction. I made 2 phonecalls. I rang Motor Rescue and I rang my sister in law. Breeda had me sorted in no time.
The kindly Mr. Duggan lived very nearby and he towed me to Paul Buckley’s garage. Paul is a good friend of my Kanturk family. As soon as he got back from holiday (Oh, did I say it was a bank holiday Monday?) he had my car fixed in no time. An injector had gone. The good news was that this is such a common fault in my type of car that the garage actually had the part. The bad news is that the car has three more injectors!
Id like to say that Molly was a model of calm and composure during all this. She wasn’t. Here she is having climbed into the child’s carseat in the car that was driving us back to my brother’s.
This is the staff of Listowel Vocational School 1981/82. Maria Stack shared it online. Past pupils have had great fun remembering their old teachers and their time in “the tech.”
Not many recognise the lady second from left in front. She was Miss O’Sullivan, later Mrs. O’Connor and she and I lived together and soldiered together in UCC. She only spent a year or two in Listowel before being transferred to Killorglin. Sadly, Noreen passed away in 2018. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.
It is sad to see so many of her then colleagues have also passed away. R.I.P.
Out and About in Listowel on August 9 2022
Lesley and Theresa were hoping for an ice cream from The Square Cone but they were too early.
The MacElligott/ Mulcahy family were enjoying breakfast in Lynch’s in The Small Square. John, John, Gillian and the newest Mulcahy, Robert were enjoying the sunshine.
At Lynchs I met Mary and friends out for a morning coffee.
I may have said this before but its worth saying again. Someone should photograph the commemorative seats and trees in town, should write up a little bit about the people they commemorate and put it into a booklet or online. Many of these people will be forgotten if we dont make an effort to remember them.
I’m including this one especially for Mossie’s brother, Derry. Derry and Nancy were due home for a holiday this year but due to ill health will have to postpone til next year.
This seat in the corner of the park commemorates an extraordinary Listowel family. Three of the Sheehy brothers are remembered on the seat.
Martin, Michael and John Sheehy were the three of the five Sheehy brothers who emigrated to the U.S. They all did well in their adopted homes but their hearts never left Listowel. Martin and Michael came back more often than John and I met both men more than once. Yet John Sheehy is the Sheehy I knew best,
If it were not for John Sheehy there would be no Listowel Connection. He encouraged me and defended me against trolls when we didnt even know what they were. We were on Boards.ie back then. I checked just now (In truth about an hour ago) to see if the Listowel Thread was still there. It is and if you have an hour or two to spare and you love Listowel I’d highly recommend it
I’m now going to perform an act laced with the sweetest irony. I’m going to post a link to the Listowel thread on Boards.ie When I started my blog I used to post a link to it on Boards. The administrator threw me off because I was driving traffic away from Boards. So here I go driving traffic back to Boards. All is forgiven.
Most of the photos are gone and some of the links are broken. Many of the contributors, including all three Sheehys and my own husband, Jim, have passed away. May they rest in peace.
We all had pen names on Boards. John Sheehy was Sandhill Road.
This lovely premises on Church Street is the home of Turas Nua. I think it is the new Intreo.
If you feel that there are always roadworks somewhere or other in Listowel, you’ll be sad to hear that the situation is only going to get worse. Here is what is planned.
Information from the Kerry County Council website
N69 Listowel Bypass Proposed Road Development
Works scheduled between July 2022 and Christmas are as below:
Proposed Traffic Management on JBK Road
Phase 1. Works on John B Keane Road between McKennas and Clieveragh Roundabout.
One way traffic E-W between Mckennas and Clieveragh Roundabout. Ballybunnion traffic diverted down Market St (No left turn onto John B Keane Road). Works to commence on the 25th July with this phase being completed for the Races on the 16th September 2022.
Phase 2 – Works on Ballybunnion Road/Market St junction
Phase 2 will commence after the races. Two way traffic between McKennas and Clieveragh Roundabout. One way Traffic in Market St. (N-S). The Contractor has requested Road Closures at the Ballybunion junction in late November to allow surfacing to be completed.
Phase 3 – Works on Ballygologue Junction
At the same time works will be happening on Ballygologue Junction. One way traffic W-E between Clieveragh Roundabout and Ballygologue. The south side of Ballygologue Rd will be closed, with a closure sought from end September to mid – November. The Contractor’s programme has this work scheduled for completion by the end of November.
January 2023 through to June 2023 will see works progress for the remainder of the John B Keane Road. Traffic management for these sections will be finalised in the coming months and having regard to the experience of the works in 2022.
Molly gave me a great incentive to get out and about more. She is posing for me in the lovely Tidy Town community garden. By the wall there are flowers as well as herbs.
( I’m having a bit of an issue with image resizing at the moment so you’ll have to forgive a few over compressed ones. All along I had been putting up files that were way way too big and I’ve used up all my allowed disc space. I’m awaiting tech help (my son) to hopefully sort it out for me)
Happy House on Bridge Road Listowel in July 2022
This surely was the homecoming to beat all homecomings.
These two old photos are from the Lawrence collection in the National Library. They have been colourised by Frank O’Connor and shared on Facebook. You will notice in the St. John’s photo that it once had a low wall surrounding the church. This wall was topped with a railing which was an ideal post to which to tether a horse. I’m told that Catholic mass goes used to tie their horses to this raining while they attended the church across the road on Sundays.
You will also notice a house, painted white on the right of St. Mary’s in the photo. This house was purchased by the diocese and knocked to extend the church
Te church, the castle and the sweet factory by the river Feale
A Bank Holiday Read
Tadhg Coakley wrote this charming essay recently in The Irish Examiner’s Mo Laethanta Saoire series. He returns to Ballybunion, the holiday destination of his childhood.
Mo Laethanta Saoire: vital life lessons from Ballybunion’s surf, amusements and Bunyan’s shop
Cork author, Tadhg Coakley, recalls the logistics of getting eight children on holiday to Ballybunion — and the joy of the beach, the bumpers and trips with family
THU, 14 JUL, 2022 – 22:00
You’re walking around the North Kerry seaside town of Ballybunion. It’s the summer of 2022. The day is blustery and sunny.
You’re thinking of the summer holidays you and your family went on — to Ballybunion every year from the 1950s to the late 70s. How everything has changed and how everything is the same.
Such a feat of logistics and emotional intelligence to transport all eight children from Mallow, year after year. But your mother and father managed it: sometimes with the help of John Mannix, transporting beds and a clothes drier on a Springmount Dairy van. Mary remembers stopping at McKenna’s in Listowel to rent a washing machine and a TV for the fortnight. How very 1960s.
One year, when you were three or four, you forgot to bring your imaginary friend, Chummy, with you. When you realised your mistake you went into hysterics. What did your mother do? Turned the car around. Now, if the car had been closer to Listowel than Mallow there might have been a different result, but Chummy had a great fortnight at the seaside.
When was the last time you were here? You can’t remember. In 2018 when you were at Listowel Writer’s Week and took a little pilgrimage out to look around? Or was it 2019 when your pal Mick Quaid invited you to 18 holes on the Old Course? A stunning golf links which you can no longer do justice, but that’s okay too. Time erodes everything, including golf swings.You walk out the Doon Road to the north of the town. Costello’s shop is long gone. What a magical place it was when you were a child. A cornucopia of wonder. A milestone when you were first sent to that shop on your own to get the messages. That mixture of pride and anxiety to have such a monumental responsibility. It helped that there was no money involved, Mrs Costello having a ‘book’ in which she totted up everything at the end of holiday, when your mother would pay up.
You call into Bunyan’s just down the road and when Liam tells you he still uses that system for regulars, you are heartened. The Bunyans have been trading there since 1957; some things are different, but some things stay the same.The Ladies Strand still seems as stunning to you after all these years. Especially since the tide is coming in and the wind is whipping up towering waves which crash against the jagged cliff. Even through your jaded eyes, it still seems wondrous.
Did you and your brothers and sisters really dive into that tumultuous surf when you were small children? Did you lay down rugs in gale-force winds? Did you leave your clothes and towels in the shelter and run down through the rain to the distant sea at low tide?
Was the sand as soft and golden as it is today? Was the coast of Clare so close? Were the white horses so wild? Was the sky so blue and the clouds so white? Was the wind whipping off the water so bracing?
Memory is fallible. Like sepia-tinted photos, it fades. It can hide blemishes and beauty alike. But the ice cream cones were sweet and soft, the flakes hard and crumbly underneath. The water in the pools by the cliff was warm. The caves in the cliff were magical. The walk over to the Black Pool was thrilling. The bumpers and the amusements were electrifying. The dinner was served in the middle of the day, piping hot with floury spuds and butter. The salads for tea were delicious. The forty-five in the evenings was great fun — your mother, especially, loved those card games.
The days were as long and as full as days can be. You were never happier than on that strand with a ball at your feet or a hurley in your hand, your family all around you.
You walk out to the cliff-top chalets where ye rented in the later years. You are surprised they’re still here. Surrounded by ribbons of houses, now, and a plethora of mobile homes. The chalets look a bit jaded. All privately owned, these days, Liam told you. You’d forgotten how they all angled away from the central road. You think the final year for you was in 1977, in the last one on the left; could that be correct? You remember the shock at Elvis’ death and you know that happened when ye were on holidays, when you were 16. Padraig and Pauline went one more year with your Mam and Dad.Year after year, your mother and father managed to treat you all to that holiday, until — one by one — late teenage ‘sophistication’ eroded its wonders and other priorities took hold. How you were all nurtured and provided for so well for so long. It’s only now you realise that the nurture and provision never ended. Instead, it is being passed on to the next generation and the next one after that.
These days the holidays may be in the Cote d’Azur, or Noosa, or Hilton Head, or Gruissan, but the joy is just the same. You all learned how to have fun in Ballybunion — a vital life lesson.You check into the Cliff House Hotel, which was known as Bernie’s when you were a child. Your father would have approved of you forking out a few extra bob for a sea view. He used to have a pint there and tell Bernie (the legendary GAA man, Bernard O’Callaghan) what was wrong with Kerry football. Bernie must have enjoyed that. You remember when Pecker Dunne played there — how exotic that name to a 1960s child.
Later, you walk out to Nun’s Strand. There’s an old photo of you with a donkey along that path and you’re surprised there are no donkeys in the fields anymore. Some things change.
You meet a woman from Brisbane, her name is Catherine. You tell her about your niece, Una, living out there with Joel and Ronan. Catherine tells you she’s here to spread some of her mother’s and father’s ashes into the sea the following morning on the strand. Her father (Listowel) and her mother (Abbeyfeale) met in Montreal and then moved to Australia where she and her brother and sister grew up. They loved coming back to Ballybunion and now they will be reunited there again — this time, forever. She shows you a black-and-white picture of her mother taken at the very spot you are standing now — in the photo she is wearing a hand-knitted cardigan; she looks very like your own mother.You walk around the town. The amusements are open and you see children grouped around a shining noisy game. A boy passes you, hopping a football. Four American golfers cross the road. Some things stay the same.
On Church Road you can’t find the house you rented for a few years — the one with the big garden where Dermot took all those photos. You think it’s been knocked down to build a Celtic Tiger housing development. Some things do change.
In the morning you wake to the sound of the sea. Which was what you wanted more than the view. The sound is constant and is very like a distant wind. It’s the same sound you fell asleep to and woke up to all those years ago as a child on your holidays.
You chat to Maggie and Kevin at Reception as you check out from the hotel. You tell Kevin a story about your father and he tells you a story about his — the aforementioned Bernie. You turn the car left at the end of Church Road and head out on the straight road to Listowel and home. You think of Catherine’s mother and father and your own mother and father. You think of your brothers and sisters. You think about what William Faulkner meant when he said that ‘the past isn’t over; it isn’t even past’.
You wonder when your next trip to Ballybunion will happen, but in another sense, you know you’ve never left at all.