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: Nine Daughters Hole

A Christmas Poem, Ballybunion Mythology and a Writers’ Week Success Story and St. Senan’s win

Ballybunion Cliff Walk in Winter

It is a great pleasure to walk along the cliff edge by the wild Atlantic in winter. Above is the Nine Daughters Hole.

It was around the year 800 AD when a fleet of invading Viking Long-ships sailed along the coast of North Kerry and disembarked at Inis Labrinde, at the mouth of the Cashen river, beside Ballybunion. According to local legend a raiding party reached the old jail of Doon called Pookeenee Castle, where they came upon the nine daughters of the local Chieftain O’ Connor.

There are two versions to the next part of the story; the first is that these daughters fell in love with the Viking warriors, and planned to elope with them and marry them. The second version sounds more plausible, and that is that the Vikings plotted to kidnap the daughters as their brides.

Whatever version is to be believed, the outcome was the same. O ‘Connor found out about these plans, and one by one he lured each of his nine daughters to the chasm. Once there, he told them that a valuable torc (old celtic neck-band, usually made of precious metal) of his had fallen in, and wished them to retrieve it. As they went searching for this missing torc, O’ Connor had them tossed into the chasm. O’ Connor then beheaded all nine Viking warriors and had their remains thrown in with his daughters. The rest of this evil deed is history. To this day, this deep chasm is known as the Nine Daughters’ Hole.  (Source;

In the distance is the former Convent of Mercy, now a retirement complex.

The Nuns’ Beach is an inaccessible strand just below the old convent.

I used to think that this was some kind of shepherds’ shelter. Not so. It was a kind of battery or arsenal.

 Druid’s Lair is located on the Cliff Path Walk north of the town, overlooking a sheer drop to the rocks below. This area is steeped in folklore and legend, with magnificent views of the Wild Atlantic Way in the distance. Deep in the pages of Ballybunion’s history is a story of Druid worship, when this turbulent epoch saw human sacrifices made to the Celtic god Mananann.

It is said that centuries ago, on May mornings as the dawn broke, sacrificial offerings were made to honour the Celtic god. This involved placing a victim at the abyss near the Scolt facing the Shannon Estuary. Specially-chosen executioners commenced the gruesome ceremony by striking blows to the victim’s head; a garrote was then used to complete the sacrifice, and the body was cast over the cliffs into the raging tide below.

Today the area is quiet and peaceful, allowing visitors to enjoy the walk along the cliffs, blissfully unaware of the blood-thirsty history behind the name Scoilt Na Dhrida! 



A Poem from San Diego

Firstly I’m going to tell you a bit about the poet, Richard Moriarty. This biography was supplied by his wife.

RICHARD MORIARTY was born in Lisselton, Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland, where much of his family still resides.  He emigrated in the early ‘80’s to San Diego, California, USA.

Richard has a rich tapestry of memories of his childhood growing up In Kerry, although he has put in a lot of distance since those days. The bonds are still strong: The constant TUG to come HOME, if only in verse.

Richard has travelled extensively throughout the USA and Mexico, holding various jobs, including construction worker and truck driver, but his favorite gig was as a horse carriage driver, where he regaled tourists and residents alike with his stories as they viewed the sights in San Diego. This has left him with many experiences and people to write about.

Richard has written several poems and short stories, much of which has been published.  Most notable is a Letter of Recognition and Appreciation from President George Bush.


Grandpaw, will you tell me the story, of how Christmas came to be

About the baby Jesus, the presents, and the tree

Why the stars all seem to sparkle, up yonder in the sky

And why there’s so much laughter, amongst every girl and boy

Can you tell me why the candles, seem to have a beacon light

Will it be like this forever, or is this a special night

Come to me my little sweetheart, and climb up on my knee

And I’ll tell you the story, just the way ‘twas told to me

It started back many years ago, in a land far, far away

In a little town called Bethlehem, or so the people say

By a manger in a stable, so cold and all forlorn

There on the hay, that December day, Jesus Christ was born

You ask me of the presents, and what meaning they behold

I guess it’s called affection, should the truth be ever told

They’re little gifts that are bestowed, and we all understand

On that special day we just want to say, God bless the giving hand

Now, I know what you are thinking, by the way you look at me

You want to hear the story, about the Christmas tree

Well, every day in his own way, God sends us from above

Some hurt, some joy, some strength and pain, but he does it all with love

He gave us gifts, like mountains, the deserts, and the sea

And mankind enhanced this beauty in the form of a tree

My little girl, with golden curl about the candle glow

Should we get lost, by day or night, as on through life we go

When we’re in doubt, as we sometimes are, as on and on we roam

It’s the twinkling stars and candlelight that will lead us safely home

Well, now I believe I’ve come to the end and I have no more to say

So go to sleep, my sweetheart


        Richard G. Moriarty


Welcome Visitors

The two ladies pictured with me recently in The Listowel Arms are great friends of Listowel and love to holiday here. In the centre is Harriet Owen whose Owen, McCarthy, Berry and Goodman Gentleman relatives all hail from around here. She was in town to liaise with local historians and to learn more about her Kerry family.

On the left is Ann Murtagh from Kilkenny. Ann came to Listowel Writers’ Week to do a writing workshop. She was already in the process of writing her first book of children’s historical fiction. When we met she had just received the great news that O’Brien Press have accepted her book for publication.

As any of you who has any knowledge of children’s fiction will know, it is a very crowded market, full of ” big” names, i.e. people who are famous for something else entirely and are now turning their hand to writing for children, people like David Walliams, Ryan Tubridy and Kathleen Watkins. I was thrilled to hear of an unknown author whose book will have to stand on its own merits being taken on by the giant of Irish publishing, O’Brien Press. I can’t wait to read the book. Watch this space!


Our Very Own Giant Killers’ Story

The papers are full this week of stories from little Mullinalachta’s St. Columba’s who beat the mighty Kilmacud Crokes to win their county’s first ever Leinster title.

North Kerry Football had a triumph of the underdog story of its own as St. Senan’s beat Ballydonoghue in the North Kerry final.

Photo: North Kerry Football on Facebook

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

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