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: Namir Karim Page 1 of 3

One is Nearer God’s heart in a Garden

than anywhere else on earth.

Beautiful sunflower Photo: Éamon ÓMurchú


Molly in The Garden of Europe

I took a walk with M0lly Madra through this oasis of peace and calm.

Schiller’s yellow roses are not yet in bloom

This weeping willow is at its best just now.

The Holocaust memorial stands out in its semi circle of yellow.

This new seat is perfectly placed to contemplate Patrick Tarrant’s extraordinary sculpture.

This is one of two lovely mosaics, the work of visiting artists.


Schoolgirls in The Black Valley


My favourite Iraq1 Kerryman

This is the Karim family from Ballybunion. Namir is an exceptional person, the most kind and generous man you will meet in a lifetime.

The Karims are a lovely family.

We heard Namir tell his extraordinary story to Mary Fagan on Horizons yesterday. Listen to it here;



Sam’s in his Heaven

And all’s right with the world

Photo from Kerry GAA Fans on Facebook


Ballybunion, Launch of a minute of Your Time and a Mad Shoemaker

Sanctuary, St. Mary’s, Listowel


Ballybunion’s old toilet building is Demolished

Photo: Danny McDonnell


What a Night!

If you’re getting a bit tired of photographs from the launch of A Minute of Your Time, you’ll have to help me out. I knew that material for this blog would eventually wear thin and that time has come. I’m struggling to find something to share with you every day so if you have any material that would be of interest to people with a Listowel connection, do help me out please.

Meanwhile here are some more of Breda Ferris’ photos from October 19 2019

Liz Dunne

My lovely neighbour, Michael Salmon

Mike Moriarty

Miriam Kiely OGrady

Some more lovely neighbours and former neighbours, Alice, Eileen and Eddie Moylan

Namir, Kay and Roza Karim


Noreen O’Connell

From Ballyduff and New York, John, Bridget and Pádraig O’Connor

A great supporter of Just a Thought, Pam Brown

Pat Murphy and Vincent Carmody

Pat Galvin

Pat Given

My only brother, Pat Ahern


A Wintry Walk

Nothing beats Ballybunion on a clear day.


Only a Few Weeks left

This photo of Namir Karim and Michael Dillane was taken in Flavins just before Christmas. Sadly all that stock is now sold off and there remains but a few last bits and pieces before Joan locks up for the last time, closing the door on an important chapter in Listowel’s history.


Shoemaking In Listowel Long Ago

From Dúchas, the Schools’ Folklore Collection

About fifty years ago in Listowel in addition to men making boots there was also men who used to make cheap brogues or low shoes. Every time there would be a fair in Abbeyfeale they would take an ass load of these brogues to the fair and sell them in the fair just as people sell second hand clothes now. The best known one of those was called Johnny the bottoner (O Connor) a brother to famous Patsy. Patsy used work hard making brogues up to the time of the fair. On that night he would be mad drunk. Most of the houses at the top of church street at this time were thatched houses. Patsy would roll home about midnight and break most of the windows up on his end of the street. He would take the road the following morning and would not come back again till things were forgotten again. These brogues were stitched by the hand but at that time the shoemakers used work by “lamplight” and often worked well after midnight.

W. Keane
Listowel, Co. Kerry
Mrs M. Keane
Listowel, Co. Kerry

Cows in Knockanure, Hay and Tae in Bromore and a Look Back at some old Systems

Blue Tit, Just Fledged

Photo: Chris Grayson


Holy Cow!

At Knockanure


Meanwhile in Bromore

Danny Houlihan piped them into the meadow at Michael Flahive annual Hay and Tae festival.


Old Feast Day Customs

from the Dúchas folklore collection

Festival Customs
St. Brigid’s Day (1st of February). People make a rush cross and put it outside the door and say special prayers. This rush cross is made in memory of Brigid. When teaching the pagans she made a rush cross to represent the cross Our Lord was crucified on. On St. Brigid’s eve people hang a piece of cloth in the air outside the window. This Brat Bride is supposed to contain a cure by touching the sick or sore.

St. Patrick’s Day (17th March). People wear shamrocks and harps. Little girls wear green ribbons and harps and as much green as possible.

Shrove Tuesday (variable date) being the last day of shrove many marriages take place also match marriages. Shrove Tuesday night is often called Pancake night. A ring is put in the pancakes and it is said who ever gets the ring is the soonest to be married. Eggs are put in the pancakes, because at that time long ago they were forbidden during Lent, the first day of which comes after Shrove Tuesday. The bride who marries on Shrove Tuesday does not go to her husband’s house until after Lent.

On Ash Wednesday (variable date) men are reminded as of old that unto dust they shall return, and the ashes is placed on their brows in the shape of a cross.

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Sunday, Whit Sunday and Whit Monday are either religious or bank holidays, and are observed in much the same way all over Ireland. On Easter Sunday morning children get up early to see the sun dancing. An old custom is to eat a good many eggs, as Lent (forbidden time) is now over.

Chalk Sunday (first Sunday of Lent) was often a cross day long ago, because all the young boys and girls used to chalk the backs of the men of marriageable age, who did not get married during Shrove.

May Day (1st May). People hang a branch of Summer tree in the house to keep away the fairies.
The house, family, outhouses, cattle and fields are sprinkled with holy water to keep away the fairies also.

St. John’s Day (24th June). On the eve of this feast bonfires are lit.
On feast of Assumption (15th August) most people from this neighbourhood go to Ballybunion for the day. No one ventures on the sea that day because the drowning of ’93 took place on August 15th.

For Michaelmas dinner people usually have a “green” goose.

On St. Martin’s Eve it is an ancient custom to kill a fowl and sprinkle the blood around the house. This is supposed to be an unlucky day, so few fishers go fishing.

Hallowe’en (30th October) is the last night of Autumn. Nuts and apples are eaten. Many games are played with nuts and apples, and beans etc. (1) Two beans are put roasting on coals near the fire. One bean gets a man’s name, the other a woman’s name. If both beans jump together, the pair are supposed to be married. (2) An apple is made to hang by a cord from the ceiling. Hands are tied behind the back, and the person tries to bite the apple without putting a hand to it. (3) Three saucers are put on a table, one containing water, one containing earth, and one containing a ring. The players are blindfolded, the saucers are shuffled around,
and if a person puts his hand in saucer containing earth, they say he will be dead before that day twelvemonth. If he touches the ring they say he will be married, and if he touches the water, he will cross the sea. A cake containing many charms is cut for the tea, and much fun is enjoyed.

The Twelve Days of Christmas between Christmas and Little Christmas are supposed to be the twelve months of the year. If these are fine, the year will be fine, and if these are wet, we will have a wet year. The twelve days were fine last Xmas, and every month so far was wet.
St. Stephen’s Day (26th Dec.) On this particular day crowds of boys dress up in fancy conspicuous looking costumes, and go around to the neighbouring districts collecting money “to bury the wren”. Each boy plays a musical instrument and the procession marches in time. One boy leads the procession, he carries a branch of holly with a little dead wren fastened to it, and according as he stops outside the door of each house he says
“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen’s Day he was caught in the furze
Up with the kettle, and down with the pan
Give us some money “to bury the wren”.
Meanwhile, the champion dancer of the crowd gives a dreas rinnce
on the doorstep. One of the wrenboys marches at the side. He carries a bladder attached to the end of a long stick, and he runs after any little boys who interrupt the procession. When the joyful day rambling is ended, the money is evenly divided between the boys who were in one crowd. Some times they hold a wren dance.

Handsel Monday (the first Monday of the New Year) is a day on which people like to get a present of money, no matter how small. It is an omen that he will receive plenty money during the year.

The Epiphany (6th Jan.). On the vigil of this feast everybody likes to be in bed before 12 midnight, at which hour they say water changes into wine. It was the day of the wedding feast of Cana.

All these old fashioned customs are still observed because, as the proverb says, I suppose – “It is not right to make a new custom, or to break an old one”.

Collector- Kitty Lynch- Address, Tarbert, Co. Kerry- Informant Mrs Lynch- Age 78, Address, Tarbert, Co. Kerry


In Namir’s

I met Namir with Kay and Rosa in Ballybunion on Sunday. Lovely to catch up with old friends.

Mike the Pies, Namir and ladies and Memories of the 1974 Panto and a new fire engine in 1959

 Photo; Chris Grayson in an abandoned house in Kerry


Listowel’s Best Music Venue

Aiden O’Connor has worked hard to build his family pub business into a much sought after venue for established as well as up and coming musicians.

The pies of the title are no longer served here. But top class entertainment is always guaranteed.


Limerick Graphic Art Exhibition with a Listowel Connection

If you have any interest in graphic art you must visit this exhibition in Limerick City College of Art. It features posters from the Michael O’Connor Collection. Some are his own work and many are from his international collection.

Daniel Murphy alerted me to this show which closes on March 17.

“Michael O’Connor was born in Listowel, Co. Kerry where he lived throughout his life. O’Connor made his own posters & prints to advertise local events in Listowel and a selection of these prints are included in the Poster Collection.  Michael O’Connor died in September 2010.”

Above are three of Michael’s linocut  posters


Chance Meeting with a Celebrity

Since his appearance on The Late Late Show, Namir Karim is a national celebrity. I ran into him in the St. Vincent de Paul shop recently so I popped into the photo myself with Ingrid and Kay. We are all so grateful to Kay Carr for falling in love with Namir and bringing him to live in North Kerry. Our community is greatly enriched by his presence. Iraq’s loss!

A week later and I am in Ballybunion with some friends for a catch up during the mid term break and once again I meet the man of the moment, Namir. He is such a gracious host in his lovely seaside restaurant. On a cold wet day in February 2019 Namir brought a little warmth into our lives with his tale of love and its triumph over war. He shared Kay’s scrapbook with us with some of his many love letters to her and an account of her fraught flight from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Theirs is a love story deserving of a film.

I couldn’t resist another photo op. with Namir and my friends, Bridget and Geraldine.

A New Fire Engine

In 1959 Kanturk got a new fire engine . It was the custom in those days to bless everything. Danny O’Sullivan took these photos of Canon O’Leary blessing the new vehicle. The firemen turned out in their best bibs and tuckers and a few local people gathered to witness the ceremony.

Dave O’Sullivan was doing a bit of research on this event for me when he unearthed a Listowel connection.

In 1959 Listowel was also in line for a new fire engine. It took a bit longer for Kerry County Council to come up with the goods


A Street Musician

At Market Street corner on Saturday February 16 2019.


Ah, Memories, Sweet Memories

I got the following email from a blog follower for whom the account of that first pantomime brought back happy memories.

Hi Mary,

Please find attached copy of my ticket for Hansel & Gretel on Saturday 5th January 1974! I don’t have a huge memory of it but I am wondering if I am recalling this correctly. I recall being at a show (and most likely now, it is probably this one) and part of the backdrop at one stage was myself and my sister walking up Ballygrennane hill coming home from school. It is very unlikely that this bit of footage still exists? It would be incredible to see it again if it is, 45 years later!!

Love getting the updates, especially anything from 60’s/70’s, I lived in Listowel from 1966 to summer of 1974. My Dad continued to live in Listowel until his death in March 2007.

Best Regards,

Sheila Knightly

Killarney Cathedral, Dress to Impress and Volunteers at the local P shop

Rainbow over St. Mary’s Cathedral , Killarney

Photo: Eddie Farmer

This photograph was taken by Eddie on Jan 19 2019.



This fashion shop which has been dressing North Kerry ladies for over twenty years is soon to close. When it does, Danny’s Hair and Beauty will relocate across the street.


A man, a boy and an ass

Source; Photos of Old Dublin

The man on the left on the phone is Mattie Lennon, a great friend of Listowel and a contributor  to Listowel Connection.

The year is 1996 and the photo was taken on Bachelors’ Walk. The uniform is that of of a bus inspector.

Mattie does a spot of writing and he has sent us this essay for our entertainment.

                           DIP ME FLUTE 

     Long before DeValera expressed his dream of “comely maidens and athletic  youths at crossroads” young people held crossroads dances at Kylebeg in the West Wicklow of my youth. At the time it was the equivalent of Facebook or Dateline. 

     There was the occasional “American Wake” ‘though not described as such in our part of the country. And during the twenties and thirties there were also a number of regular dancing houses; usually dwellings with flagged floors and one or more eligible daughters. The small two-roomed home of John Osborne was one such house. Situated at the hill ditch, which divided the common grazing area of “The Rock” from the relatively arable land. There was no road to the house. . It was accessible only through the aptly named Rock Park; the nocturnal negotiation of this field a feat even for the most sure-footed. This had one advantage; when the Free State government introduced the House Dance Act of 1935 which banned dances, dancers and musicians. You had to get a licence to hold a dance, even in your own house. They came up with a moral argument against dancing and ,if you don’t mind, a sanitary facilities argument. But as one commentator said, at the time, the Government don’t care if you make your water down the chimney as long as they get their money. But a breach of the law could result in a court appearance and penalty.

However there was no danger of a late night invasion of John Osborne’s by any Government Inspector. Because even the most dedicated servant of the State would not risk a nightime ambulation through the Rock Park. As the shadows jumped on the whitewashed walls and the lamplight flickered on the willow patterned delph an official invasion was the furthest thing from the minds of the revellers.

   John Osborne,  the man of the house was an accomplished flautist. Did he, I wonder, favour saturating his instrument, like, Neddy Bryan, the flute-player from Ballyknockan,   who on arrival at a session would request the facility to “….dip me   flute in a bucket o’ water”. According to the older people, Neddy Bryan, when he was a young man played the Piccolo . . . that is . . . until the local schoolmaster informed him that the name Piccolo came from Piccolo Fluato, the Italian for a small flute. “I’ll be damned,” says Neddy, “ if I’m going to be called the fella with one of thim things.” and from then on he concentrated on  the  CONCERT FLUTE. Neddy was a fair enough flute player but John Osborne would get so engrossed by certain tunes that he would go into a sort of a trance. 

One night he was after playing a tune called High Level (Now . . .if I was sworn I can’t remember if it was a jig or a reel). Anyhow, one of the boyos says to him, “Do you know that your daughter is abroad in the haggard with Jimmy Doyle?”  

“I don’t,” says John,  “But if you whistle a few bars of it I’ll have a go at it”.

 Dancing wasn’t the only thing that went on in such houses. Now . . . now . . That ís NOT what I’m talking about. If you’ll listen for a minnit I’ll explain. If John  Osborne was alive today he would be described as eccentric. Well . . . I suppose he wouldn’t . . He was a poor man and you have to be well off to merit the euphemism “eccentric”.  Anyway , he was a bit odd but could have some very practical, if unorthodox solutions to certain situations. I’ll give you an example. One night a visiting dancer; a fine young fellow who had the book-learnin’ was going the next day for an interview with a view to joining the Garda Síochana. Opinions were divided as to whether he was of the required height. Until a horse dealer, a relation of my own, stated with some authority,

“That man is not the full eighteen hands high.”

A stone cutter who only lived one field away went home and returned with a six-foot rule. And sure enough the prospective polisman proved to be half an inch short of the required height. What was to be done?. This was before the era of “brown envelopes” and anyway times were poor. John Osborne hit on a plan. When the dancers back was turned he dropped his flute and with the maximum alacrity picked up an ash-plant. Almost before the pause in the music was noticed he gave the young man a belt of the stick on top of the head. ‘A fellandy” it was called up our way. The man in question had a good thick head of hair and the resulting bump brought him up to the required height.

  He made a good Guard but ever after, in our area anyway, he was known  as “lumpy head”. There were some colourful nicknames around our place, one young male patron of Osborne’s was known as ‘you’ll have yer ups an’ downs”. You are going to ask me how anyone could end up with such a cumbersome handle. Well . . . I’ll tell you. It was inherited- like a peerage. His father, as a young man had met a girl at a house-dance, a few miles away. Her parents were dead and she had returned from the US of A and, of course, had a few dollars. And . . . she was an only child, into the bargain and . . had  inherited a good few acres. Me man played his cards well and told her a few stories that wouldn’t exactly run parallel with the truth. Anyway, to make a long story short, the relationship blossomed and they got married. He was a steady enough lad . . . he had a few head of cattle . . . five or six. But . . . he had five brothers and each of them had a good few cattle. . . which he borrowed for the occasion. ( In modern banking parlance such a move would be described as “an artificial boost”) The new bride must have thought she was back in the land of extensive ranches when the herd was installed on her little farm. There was shorthorns, Friesians, whiteheads and a couple of Aberdeen Anguses. Needless to say, for the first few mornings after the wedding the young couple didn’t get up too early. But one morning when the new bride arose from the marriage bed she noticed a reduction in the herd. One of her brothers in law, under cover of darkness, had repossessed what was rightfully his. When she pointed out the loss the spouse his only comment was “you’ll have your ups an’ downs” . “You’ll have yer ups an downs”. Every other night a similar  raid would take place as each brother took back his livestock and every time the moryah innocent husband would say “you’ll have yer ups an’ downs”. 

But I’m rambling. Nowadays I think they call it digressing. 

I mentioned earlier about the practice of dipping the wooden flute in water. Well, whether for flute-immersion or not a galvanized bucket of water was a permanent feature on the stone bench outside Osborne’s door. And one June night when the boys and girls, (a term used to describe those unmarried, and under 70) having made it relatively unscathed through the Rock Park, were knocking sparks from the floor. They  were glad of the opportunity, amid the jigs and the reels (and God only  knows what other energy-sapping activities) to exit occasionally for a   refreshing draught from the Parnassian bucket. 

  At day-break, while preparing to depart, the exhausted assembly was informed by a youth (who was looked on locally as “a sort of a cod”) of  how he had suffered during the night with a stone-bruise on his big toe. The pain, he  said, would have been unbearable but for the fact that; ” I used to go out now an’ agin an’ dip it in the bucket o’ water”. 


The Joy and Camaraderie of Volunteering 

Lovely customer assistant volunteers in Listowel’s St. Vincent de Paul shop on Friday Feb. 1 2019. the atmosphere in this shop is always so warm and welcoming, and they have some lovely  new and pre loved stuff for sale.


A Great Weekend for Kerry People

On Friday evening Feb. 8 2019 Namir and Kay Karim were invited to the Late Late Show to tell their story of enduring love and their triumph over adversity in their determination to be together.

You’ve read the story on Listowel Connection before but it was lovely to see them tell it to a national audience. They conducted themselves with decorum and dignity in a giddy environment. what a couple!

If you are in Ballybunion be sure to call in to Namir’s, a lovely place to eat.


It was a great weekend for football fans. Every Kerry victory gives Kerry people a lift. A victory over Dublin is always extra special.

And to add to the pleasure two Kerry clubs won their own All Ireland finals so all in all a weekend to remember.

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