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: Neil Brosnan

A Singer, a Poem, a Lamb and a Shuttle

Young Sika Deer; Photo: Chris Grayson


A Winning Poem

Old Ghosts 

© Neil Brosnan 2022

Until today, I’d thought of you as old,

But sixty-three is far too young to die,

And as I stand here in the rain and cold,

The question I am asking still is why.

Why pick on me to be your captive muse? 

A toehold on your meteoric climb,     

Your love canard has made me a recluse,

Forever chained to your most hackneyed rhyme, 


And publicans not taken with your verse

Nor needful of your custom to survive,

Parade in sombre garb behind your hearse;

Your status greater now than when alive.

But fallen leaves and old ghosts must away

Like nightmares at the dawning of the day.  


An Old Custom


“Some of you who keep sheep will know it very well and more of you won’t. These photos were sent to be a neighbour of mine, a sheep farmer called Maura Ryan up here under Mount Leinster. It’s a little lamb wearing an ‘adoption jacket’ which was made from the skin of a lamb that died at birth and put on another spare lamb in order to get the mother to bond to her.

This has been going on in cultures all over the world for a very long time and is always special to see it – especially when it works. It’s a sad and happy sight and as you can see from these photos the mammy here has taken to the little yoke and it’s triving. I saw this over in rural Newfoundland too back in 2019 and great to see these photos today in my inbox.”


Listowel Badminton Club 50 Celebration

Photos from the club’s Facebook page

Listowel Badminton Club held its first invitation mixed doubles tournament fifty years ago. It is still going strong in 2023.

The winners of the first competition, Teresa Broderick and Patsy Sweeney with this year’s winners. Teresa told the story of how the partner she was originally picked with was a no- show. Patsy, who had not intended playing, was plucked from the crowd to step up. They went on to win.

It was great to hear that a competition has been named after Roly Chute, who has spent a record 50 years training juvenile players.

Roly presented the Roly Chute Perpetual Shield for the first time to this year’s Mens doubles winners, Fergal & Sean with runners-up Adham & Ethan.

The man with all the badminton stories, Junior Griffin with Tom McElligott at the Badminton Social.

On Saturday I ran into Tom McElligott as he was delivering her copy of the commemorative booklet to Joan Flavin. He gave me mine too, a vital piece of Listowel history recorded for posterity.


In Tralee

This is the Christy Hennessy Plaza in Tralee.

You are a star, Christy, forever remembered in your native Tralee.


A Fact

The actors who were the voices of Mickey and Minnie Mouse were married for nearly 20 years in real life.

Wayne Alwyn passed away in 2009, aged 62 and his wife, Rossi Taylor passed away in 2019 aged 75.


Duagh, Little Women, The Imeldist and a new song

Parish Church, Duagh, Co, Kerry



Photo Credit; Taneka Bishop


Remember The Imeldist

I am still anxious to find anyone who kept one of these or better still someone who wrote for this mini magazine.

I have done a bit of digging and I found that the booklet was first published in 1921 by Fr. Finbarr Ryan O.P. who was then the prior of St. Mary’s,  Popes Quay, in Cork.

I found a few old copies for sale on eBay and other auction sites.


Little Women

The film, Little Women is the one to see these days.  Saoirse Ronan in the role of Jo is being lauded as as triumph and she is tipped for an Oscar.

This has led to speculation on social media as to how Louisa May Alcott may have felt were she to know about this piece of casting. 

The following piece is being shared widely online.


Foley’s Field by John McGrath and Neil Brosnan

Foley’s Field

Written by John McGrath and Neil Brosnan, September 2019 and sung by Neil at John B’s, Listowel, January 2020

Never did what I was told. I dug the field but not for gold,

Though long ago my father told me how.‘Forget the cows,’ the old man said, ‘to make it pay, plant trees instead,
This boggy ground is far too poor to plough.’
But land, like poetry, draws you back, to write a line and leave your track.
Dry summers gave a glimpse of buried store.
I dug where mighty trees had grown, where cows had grazed and crops were sown
And men had thrived two thousand years before.

‘Too poor to plough,’ my father said, ‘Forget the cows, plant trees instead.

Plant trees and then sit back and watch them grow.’

But I was wilful, I was bold, and far too smart to heed the old,

With much to learn and still too young to know.

Golden roots of deal I found, and as I raised them from the ground

I filled each space with fine and fertile soil.

Now the grass grows sweet and green, the finest sward you’ve ever seen,

A rich reward for all those years of toil.

‘Plant trees, my son,’ the old man said, but I dug deep for trees long dead

And found the gold of myth and ancient lore.

Now I sit beside the fire. I watch the bog-deal blazing higher

And drink a toast to all who’ve dug before. 

‘Too poor to plough,’ my father said ‘Forget the cows, plant trees instead.

Plant trees and then sit back and watch them grow.’

But I was wilful, I was bold, and far too smart to heed the old,

With much to learn and still too young to know.

John McGrath


Road Closure

Craftshop na Méar is closing, Maidhc Dainín again and aspects of Ballybunion

Magnificent Stag

Photo: Jim MacSweeney


End of the Road for Craftshop na Méar

If you want to pick up your Michael Tea tea cosy or a beautiful Claddagh Design Listowel pendant, do drop in to Craftshop na Méar on Church St. before it closes its doors at Christmas 2017.


Maidhc Dainín ÓSé;  Another Listowel Connection

Local writer and musician, Neil Brosnan sent me this photo. It was taken in Dingle in 2010 when Maidhc Dainín OSé launched Neil’s first anthology, Fresh Water and Other Stories. Maidhc and Neil played many a tune together over the years.


Ballybunion After the storms

Having been confined to the house during storms Ophelia and Brian, it was a great pleasure to go to Ballybunion and take the bracing cliff walk.

Those white specs and the smudge on my lens is foam churned up by the rough seas.


Doon Sculpture

Neodata, Ballybunion’s Nine Daughters’ Hole and Glin long ago

Listowel Town Square in November 2016


Neodata Remembered

( photos from Liz Galvin)

Front L to R. : Kathleen ? , Maria Carmody, Kay Fitzell,  Kay Hannon, Margaret Kelliher and Mary Jones

Second Row; Mike McMahon, Mary Burns, Liz Galvin,  Magella Flaherty,  Bridie Fallely,  Mary Normoyle, Betty Flaherty, Mary Moloney and Pat Ryan R.I.P.

This photo was taken at one of the annual banquets in Limerick. Long service was rewarded with a special pin. Liz Galvin had a gold one which has since been mislaid.

I bet someone reading this has one yet.

Back: Sheila Leahy, Noreen McAuliffe, Marion Tierney, Mary O’Connor, Rose Casey, Sheila Hannifin, Liz Galvin.

Front is Helen Linnane, Margaret Slattery, Noreen McMahon, Patricia O’Carroll, Mary Ann Harriett and Maria Stack.

Betty Brassil, Kathleen Houlihan and Maura White

Noreen MacMahon and Marian Tierney


Junior’s rumination on the life of a stiles man at GAA Matches      (part two)

I have been involved at stiles since the mid fifties. I was going to say  ‘doing the stiles’,  but that phrase could be taken out of context, couldn’t it?

How many can remember the old entrance to Austin Stack’s Park with its beautiful façade which was situated on the Boherbee Road?  At that time there was no John Joe Sheehy Road.

The main gate with its two pillars which had the name of the 1891 All Ireland Hurling team on  one and the first winning football team of 1903 on the other. There were four stiles on either side of the gate which at the left was adjoined to Sports Field Lodge. This was the home of the field caretaker, the late Paddy Gannon-Flynn and his wife Mai.

It was in their abode that the day’s takings were counted. I often wondered what were the lovely lady’s thoughts when her home was invaded Sunday after Sunday by up to a dozen men counting money.

Sewing and needlework had to be discarded from the table as the money was thrown everywhere.

The opening of The Pavilion in July 1967 changed all that. The money was then counted there. We do miss the welcome cup of tea, especially in the winter months.

One month in Tralee comes to mind. It was the Railway Cup semi final- Munster versus Ulster in the early sixties. There were three stiles put in place at the old gate which is now the Horan end. I was placed in the centre. My colleague that day was a man who was a candidate in the impending local elections.  My friend canvassed everyone who went in. All I could hear was, “Hello Paddy- Hello Mick, don’t forget me- do the best you  can.”

The crowd was huge. The Railway Cup had a wonderful following in those days.

Nearing match time, the surge was too much and my stile was capsized, with money thrown everywhere. Not only did some people get in free but some people got paid to get in by grabbing coins from the ground.

I was on my knees, trying to bag my money and all  I could hear in the backround was, “ Wisha Johnny, how are you? Do the best you can for me next week.” And so on.

I often thought since, that if the European elections were held in those days, my friend would be a certainty. I honestly believe he shook as many Ulster hands that day as Kerry hands.

My abiding memory of the match is the wonderful display by the late John Dowling, who, to me, was one of the most whole hearted Kerry footballers.


Glin in the 1920s

These fabulous photos have come to light recently and are posted on the internet. The shop is Actons.


The Nine Daughters Hole

This fantastic picture of Ballybunion’s Nine Daughters’ Hole was taken by Richard Creagh. He researched the history of the name of this blow hole and posted it on his Facebook page and I present it here for your delight.

Cave of the Nine Daughters

Back in the time of the Vikings Ireland must have been a fairly rough place to be living. For over 200 years Viking raiders from Norway and Denmark made regular attacks on Irish settlements, taking what they wanted away with them and leaving a trail of destruction behind. Eventually the Vikings even settled here, presumably to have Irish bases from which to make further attacks into the country. The bastards! Many placenames in Ireland have a Scandinavian origin that we still use today, like Smerwick (Smjǫr-vík – butter harbour) and Wexford (Veisa-fjǫrðr – muddy fjord).

This cave near Ballybunion is known as the Cave of the Nine Sisters, or Daughters even. There’s a story that during a Viking raid a local Chieftan, presumably having accepted the battle was lost, threw his nine daughters into this cave through the hole in the ceiling, for fear of losing them to the Vikings. Many Irish women were taken as slaves by the raiders, and this Chieftan obviously didn’t like the idea. I don’t know if his daughters had any say in the matter.

Most old stories are rooted in truth, however extravagant they may seem after centuries of embellishment. It’s been known for awhile now that Iceland was settled by Scandinavians. Genetic markers have revealed that the majority of the first women settlers were of Celtic origin, while most of the men have roots in Northern Europe. So there may well be some truth to the story of this cave, because the Norsemen were certainly taking women away with them. I’ve been to Iceland twice and the women there are generally pretty good looking. They can thank us.

I made this picture on a kayaking trip in June of 2014. I have another one from further back in the cave that doesn’t show the skylight, but is one of my all time favourites. This one somehow went unnoticed until a few weeks ago when I was asked to make a print of another picture from the same day. It’s nowhere near being technically perfect, and if I had the same opportunity now I know I’d make a much better photograph. It can be hard to concentrate fully on photography when you’re sitting in a sea kayak in a small dark cave and the swell is constantly moving you around, but all the same I should have done better. But it’ll do for Facebook.

The caves here are a kayaking paradise. The colours in the rock are vivid and varied and when the sun is shining the eerie emerald light that’s reflected off the sea casts a glow on the cliffs. A lot of the caves are connected by arches and most stand in shallow water, so the sand beneath gives the sea a tropical look. At least when it’s calm. Just outside this cave is Scalp na Druide (The Starling’s Cave) where you can see great wheeling flocks of the birds settling down to roost in the evenings. There is a walking path past the cliffs that I’m sure everybody in Ballybunion knows about. If you’ve never been you should go.

Big thanks to Geoff Magee of Dolphinwatch Carrigaholt and Michael Flahive of Bromore Cliffs for telling me these stories. They enhance the experience of being in these places so much. And I haven’t even started on the geology of the area….


What I’m Reading

Shortest Day Longest Night is an anthology of short stories and poems to celebrate the solstice. A Listowel man, Neil Brosnan’s  love story with a feline twist is one of the many pieces of fiction included. This a great book for a quick read. I’m enjoying it.


What? What? What?

Something is happening here. A concrete plinth has appeared in this island across from the hotel.

Sorry folks, I have no idea.


A Very Proud Nana

Please allow me a moment’s indulgence. My lovely grandaughter, Aisling, won silver at the National Women’s Artistic Gymnastics competition in UL on Saturday for her floor routine. She was competing in the Grade 3 Under 9 competition.

 Her very proud Nana  (me) uploaded it to Youtube.

Aisling’s Floor Routine

Ballybunion, Moyvane Time Capsule and Billy Keane’s New Book


photo; Chris Grayson  


Swinging a Camán in Ballybunion

I have a granddaughter who loves to hurl. Here she is giving it a lash on the beach in Ballybunion on Sunday October 30 2016.

 It was like a summers’ day. The children were having a ball.

There were swimmers and surfers in the water, some of them without wetsuits!


Moyvane ICA’s Time Capsule

photographs by Elizabeth Brosnan


The Best of Billy Keane

This book is a new departure for Billy Keane. It is not a novel. It is not a sports biography. In a way, it is a bit of both and more.

Journalism, by its nature is throw away writing. Colour pieces like Billy’s weekly columns in the Irish Independent are to be read and discarded. That is the nature of the beast.

Every now and again someone recognises that writing of this calibre is more relevant and lasting than yesterday’s newspaper and thus a collection is born.

The Best of Billy Keane is a curated collection of Billy’s columns in The Irish Independent and The Kerryman.

I am a fan of this genre.  Among  my all time favourites is the late great Con Houlihan, the chatty Maeve Binchy,  Tom Humphries, Olivia O’Leary and Miriam Lord. So you see what I like; a well turned phrase, an unexpected analogy, but most of all a keen observation of people with a hint of the eccentric, the entertaining.

Billy Keane’s writing is all of the above. At times he wears his heart on his sleeve. His essay can be a mixture of self revelation, self deprecation, occasionally a bit of self indulgence, a moment to wallow in grief, or sorrow or regret. He writes about the people he admires and the people he loves. Who will forget his recent articles following the death of Anthony Foley?…..too late for inclusion in this anthology. Rarely, does he get on his hobby horse and indulge in a rant. He sometimes wanders into a bizarre world of tall tales and overwrought imaginings.

One thing I love about Billy’s writing is the randomness  of it all. When I open my Irish Independent on a Monday, after I’ve read the headlines and done the Soduko I head for Billy Keane’s column. It’s like opening a surprise present from a favourite giver. Very often it is a local issue, maybe a story or a death that has caught Billy’s fancy.

Didn’t Homer make the Iliad out of a local row, according to Patrick Kavanagh?  Like Kavanagh, Billy Keane has that ability to take the local and make it universal.

I have laughed and cried reading Billy Keane. I have learned a bit, mainly about sport or the lot of the rural publican. I have been uplifted, amused and sometimes plunged into despair by the power of his writing. I have always, always been entertained.

I welcome this anthology. I will keep it handy beside my collections of the writing of Con Houlihan and my Windharp Poems of Ireland. I think I’ll ditch The Life Changing Magic of Tidying (unread) to make room.

Billy Keane has always encouraged me in what I do. He has often told me of his high regard for my late husband. Billy was in one of the first classes that Jim taught when he came to Listowel. Before the principalship of Diarmaid OSuilleabháin, St. Michael’s more often then not employed past pupils. Billy told me that Jim was like a breath of fresh air.

When Jim died and I was finding it hard to find motivation to continue with my blog, Billy was among the many local people who encouraged me to keep going. I remember what he said when I met him one day in the small square. “We need chroniclers.” So, from one chronicler to another,

Go néirí go geal leis an togra nua seo. More power to your elbow. May you continue to entertain us for many years to come. Is ag dul i bhfeabhas atá tú.


Some Humans

Jean, Neil, Mary and Mary on the Cliff Walk, Ballybunion

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