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: Newcastlewest

Newcastlewest, an invitation to a launch,Michael Hartnett and returning to the land of one’s ancestors

Stag with a fine Harem of Wives

Chris Grayson took this photo in Killarney National Park.


An Invitation for You


My Trip to Newcastlewest

This is Shirley O’Regan, poet and broadcaster, in the Limerick West fm studio where she interviewed me about my book, A Minute of Your Time.


I took a stroll around Newcastlewest and here are a few photos from the town square.

This is the inscription on the below sculpture. My half remembered Latin seems to tell me that this is a monument to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Assumption erected in 1950 by the parishioners of Newcastlewest.

The figure is clearly a milkmaid and in her hand she has a pair of butter paddles.

The bronze coin on the pavement also confirms that she is indeed a milkmaid as does the presence of milk churns on the plinth.

This would appear to depict a cow as well.

At the other end of the leisure space in The Square is a monument to local poet, the late Michael Hartnett.

Its a brilliant statue capturing the essence of this thoughtful genius.

Even on the dirty wet day of my visit, Newcastlewest square looked magnificent.


Someone’s Coming  Home

“My G Grandmother Mary Stack born 1832 is from Kilbaha, Her mother is Ellen Shanahan, Stack, Gregory. My G and GG came from Newtown Sandes, John Walsh born 1806 and his son Patrick born about 1830 came to the states about 1850 to Paris Ky.

 I am looking forward to visiting your lovely city in late March or early April in 2020 with my son. We will be in Kerry and other locations for 7 to 10 days. I have done extensive searches for family from your lovely county for many years. So now it is time to visit and see it for myself. My name is Robert Patrick Walsh Fister, My son Tony, Robert Anthony is bringing me to Ireland as a gift, I am excited for sure.

Bob F “

Athea in the time of Cromwell and Now

Godwits at Blennerville in November 2017

Photo by Chris Grayson


Knitwits in Scribes

Brigita Formaliene, the new proprietor of Scribes in Church Street, did not forget her friends when she reconfigured the seating in her new café. She put Knitwits centre stage in a cozy intimate location.

Our numbers were down on Saturday January 13 when i took my photo but there will be plenty of room for us all when we are all back from our holidays and winter breaks.


A New Book of Newcastlewest History

My friend, Vincent Carmody, gave me a present of a lovely book last week.

Newcastlewest in close up is a sister publication to Vincent’s splendid, Listowel, Snapshots of a Market Town. It is full of old photos, billheads, posters and history…another collector’s item.


Athea in the 17th Century  (Continued)

as described in an account in The Kerry Reporter in 1933

.……During all this time (Penal Times in Ireland) the people were obliged to hear Mass secretly and by stealth, for if anybody was discovered openly exercising his religion, they were ruthlessly slaughtered on the spot. After some time, however, when the rigours of the penal laws abated somewhat. Bishop De Lacy managed to have a modest church put on that piece of ground where the national schools were afterwards erected. Up to this period, and ever since the burning down of the old church in Temple Athea, many years before, Mass was usually celebrated in the cave or hollow in Colbert’s Hill, where a Mission cross now stands. Particular place was selected for the celebration of Divine Service, this sheltered position protected the Mass candles, and its elevation prevented the priest hunter from stealing unawares on the congregation. The church which Bishop De Lacy put up on the site lately occupied by the old schoolhouse continued to serve the people as a place of worship until the present very fine structure was put up in 1864. Bishop De Lacy’s remains were interred in a tomb in the churchyard at Ardagh. Portion of the slab which guards the entrance to the tomb has been broken for many years, and through the aperture thus formed it is possible to see the coffin which encloses all that Is mortal of this, sainted and patriotic churchman.

Athea’s fairy trail is in a wooded area beside Con Colbert Memorial Hall. The signs are all first as Gaeilge and then in English

In Bishop De Lacy’s time, the people of Athea spoke only Irish, and it was this language that prevailed amongst them nearly right up to the middle of the last century. The village at the time was a very different place to what it is now, consisting as it did for the most part of a number of isolated thatched buildings, and shops, as we understand them at the present time, did not exist in the place. In the Gaelic tongue the name of Athea signifies the “ford of the mountains.” As already stated, in former days the Gale must have been a much larger stream than it is today, and this appellation means that people were able to get across it at Athea without undergoing the risk of being swept away by the current.

Athea continued to be merely a collection of thatched houses until about the middle of the last century, when better and more pretentious buildings began to make their appearance, and gradually the place began to assume its present neat and somewhat picturesque appearance. The village is situated, as it were, in the lap of the mountains and lies at the base of a range of low, purple hued hills. During the past quarter of a century It has grown considerably in size and is now a place of considerable business importance in the district. Athea possesses concreted streets and asphalted footwalks, and has in addition, an abundant water supply. The houses and shops are well built, and there Is a plentiful growth of timber about the village, which imparts to it a very pleasing and picturesque aspect.

 People who visit the Fairy Trail may leave their worries behind with Cróga, the brave fairy who takes on board everyone’s troubles.

 This footbridge runs beside the river and offers a great view of the native ducks and wild birds.

 To this day , the remains of the dense woodland of old can be seen around Athea.

One of Athea’s most famous families, the Ahern brothers is commemorated in this sculpture.

One of today’s most famous residents is Jim Dunn, whose stunning artwork is one of the main attractions in Athea today.

A Chick Party, John B. Keane’s Cuckoo and a few Listowel people

Noreen Murphy’s image for Mallow Camera Club’s People at Work project.


A Family Walk in Lovely Listowel in April 2017


A Little Ones Hen Party

Do you remember I was at a
hen party recently?  Well, there was an unwritten rule that you had to be over
18 to attend. This ruled out three very important members of the bridal party….
the three flower girls.

Clíona, the bride, was
anxious that they would not feel completely left out, so, with the help of The
Listowel Arms, she organized a little mini hen or maybe chicken party for them.

This type of party was new to
the Listowel Arms but they pulled out all the stops and made it an afternoon to
remember for the girls.

We had afternoon tea at  a lovely round table dressed in a lace
tablecloth and set with vintage cups and saucers. In the table centre was a
wooden trencher decorated with tea lights and fresh flowers in a vintage tea

The hotel’s wedding co
ordinator, Patrice O’Callaghan, came to greet the girls. The chef left the
kitchen to attend to their requirements and brought them an extra helping of
chocolate triangles. They were waited on like royalty and they had the best and
most exclusive hen party ever.

We are all looking forward to
the big day when we will be back in the hotel again. The girls have requested
that apple and rhubarb crumble be put on the menu. It is absolutely delicious.


Cuckoo Cuckoo by John B.

The summertime is coming

And the birds are sweetly

So runs the evergreen chorus.
Summer’s PRO, to wit the bark- brown cuckoo, freshly arrived from Morocco, has
already made several pronouncements in places as far apart as Knockanure and
Newcastlewest. The gist of his revelations is that the season is legitimately
under way now and he has established himself in a ready-made nest, manufactured
to measure by a brace of innocent and well meaning blackbirds, whose offspring
he simply heaved over the side to make way for his ample African posterior. For
thirty years or so now, since I first started to write for money I have
unfailingly made mention of the cuckoo’s arrival.

I have published every report
I ever received, devoting lengthy paragraphs to the more meritorious. Yet there
are people who regularly come along and ask me why I never write about the
cuckoo. These people know very well I write about the cuckoo. What they are
really asking is why I do not write about their own special cuckoos or rather,
the individual cuckoo that only they have heard. How true the old saying that
there is no cuckoo like your own cuckoo. On reflection I must honestly add that
maybe there is no such old saying. If this is so then I hereby sponsor it for
inclusion in the next anthology of old sayings.

(more next week)


Newcastlewest circa 1900


Snapped in Listowel Town Square

Eileen O’Sullivan and her friend were enjoying the April sunshine in Listowel on Saturday April 22 2017

Hay and Tae in Bromore, NewcastleWest and Halloween comes early

Met at the match

My friends, Breda and Bridget met this legendary Kerryman, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh on their way to Croke Park on Sunday.


Annual Hay and Tae at Bromore

Bagpipers and other musicians were never part of the work in the meadow in my day. Mike Flahive’s annual hay saving festival is something to behold.

Its Hannon’s pictures tell the story.

A fine meitheal did a great job indeed.


Newcastlewest 1976


And now NCW today


And Boo to You Too

It’s only August. The children are only just back from  their SUMMER holidays.


Gene Wilder R.I.P.

The Legendary Gene Wilder who has died this week, seen at the Grave Diggers pub, Glasnevin in 1970. R.I.P (Photos of Dublin on Twitter)


Then and Now

William Street Upper and an Art Exhibition at The Red Door in Newcastlewest and a few Coolard Memories

Christopher Burke’s photo shows the master and hounds of the Duhallow Hunt out and about last week


Coolard…an Exceptional School

Two of Coolard’s old boys, Robert Bunyan and Joe Murphy took us on a trip down memory lane on Saturday, March 5 2016 as they helped their friend, Maurice O’Mahony launch his book full of history and memories of the school.

Robert remembers a time when the boys and girls were segregated by a high wall, which he compared to the Berlin Wall. He was warned that, like the Berlin Wall, if he attempted to climb it he’d be shot. Undeterred the bould Robert climbed it and lived to tell the tale.

He told us about the day he was put in charge of the class while the teacher was on an errand. Even then football was a subject on his mind and, spying a ball of wool one of the girls had brought for knitting, Robert decided to try a kick in the style of one of his heroes, Paudie O’Donoghue. Unfortunately for Robert, the master chose that moment to re-enter the classroom.

That was the last time Robert Bunyan was put in charge of the class in Coolard.

Robert’s dad was also a past pupil of the school and he contributed many of his memories to Maurice in the course of his research, memories that are now there forever to be treasured by his family and the wider diaspora of Coolard.


William Street Upper

Bernard O’Connell shared this old photo on his Facebook page. Bernard grew up on this street in the house with the TV aerial. The two donkeys on the way home from the creamery are probably waiting for their owners to pick up a few messages in the nearby shops. The railings and wall are part of the railway bridge that used to be over that part of the street.


A Tale of two scamps

26 May 1877 Freeman’s Journal

CLEVER ESCAPE FROM A BRIDEWELL. An incident of a novel nature occurred
at  Listowel on Monday, in connection with the cleverly planned
escape from the bridewell. A lad named Mulvihill, aged 13 year, had
been convicted about five months ago at Tarbert Petty Sessions, of
stealing a dog, and sentenced to five years in the Upton Reformatory.

On his removal, after leaving Tralee gaol, he succeeded in giving the
gaol officer the slip, and managed to elude the police until last
Saturday, when he was apprehended at Ballylongford, and lodged in
Listowel bridewell preparatory to being sent back to the reformatory.

His younger brother, aged about 11 years, visited him on Monday, and
while in the cell with him the prisoner exchanged clothes with him ;
and thus disguised, he was allowed to pass out by the official, who
naturally believed he was the brother who had passed in some minutes

The mistake was of course soon discovered.  but the escaped
culprit had a good start, and has not been recaptured. The brother is
kept in custody, having been remanded to next petty sessions.


Colourful Spirits Art Exhibition Opening Night

Craftshop na Méar was well represented at the launch of Colourful Spirits’ latest show in the beautiful Red Door Gallery in Newcastlewest on Thursday evening March 3 2016. If you are in the West Limerick area do drop in. There are some really intriguing artworks there.

Maggie and Malcolm Donald with Eileen Fitzgerald.

Viveca Amato showed us that she is also a culinary artist. Her food displays on the night were works of art. They were the big talking point of the launch.


Operation Transformation Thought for the Day

Commentators through the ages have come to the same conclusion.

” The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like and do what you’d rather not.”  Mark Twain

“You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.” Woody Allen

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