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: NKM toffees Page 1 of 2

Last of the tennis shots, Super Valu/ Iceland, and NKM in Listowel

Photo: Chris Grayson


Then and Now




Tennis 1987

Photos; Danny Gordon

As I post this on February 24 2019, Bobby Cogan is still playing tennis and is on the court as I write playing with his club Lakewood.


Whatever Happened to The Sweet factory?

This letter from Mary Murphy in 1990 asked a question we have all been wondering about since the topic of the NKM factory came up here.

Dave O’Sullivan has done a bit of research for us and the bottom line seems to be that the sweet factory relocated to Dublin in 1925 following a strike at its Listowel plant.

First, let’s go back to 1920 and ’21 when the factory was in full flight and offering good employment to what seems to be a predominantly female workforce.

(More tomorrow)


There it is ……Gone

The mystery deepens. The box which was attached to this sign is gone. Any idea what that was all about?

William Street, Bridie Gallagher and The Armstrong family of Gurtinard House

Then and Now

William Street


A Big Night in Town

Liam O’Hainín on Facebook


North Kerry Sweet Factory

Dave O’Sullivan found this in the old newspapers

Before he opened the sweet factory and gave employment to so many “respectable girls’ Mr. Armstrong had not been in favour with the local community. Before he bought Gurtinard House, he lived in it as a tenant of Lord Listowel. 

During his tenure he closed the demesne (now the town park) to the local people who during Lord Listowel’s time were free to roam it at will.

The Armstrongs, a short time after opening the factory suffered a tragedy with the death from T.B. of Armstrongs young wife .

Dave discovered on that Mrs Katherine Armstrong was only 38 when she died, and, contrary to what is stated in the newspaper, she is registered as having died in Dublin.


Greenville, January 2019

Work has begun at this site on the Greenville Road.


Listowel Man Features in Off The Scale, Ireland’s Leading Angling Magazine

Fisheries Officer:  Darren Halpin

From:  Listowel, Co. Kerry

River Basin District (RBD):  Shannon River Basin District

How did you become a Fisheries Officer? 

I was always fishing as a young fella. My uncle was in fisheries for over 30 years so I was always intrigued about what he did. He was a good influence in my life and I followed his footsteps right into my career.

What does an average day look like?

I go into the office in the morning, meet the Assistant Inspector and go through any emails that have come through. Then we plan out our day and what we’re going to do – it might be a spawning patrol, estuary patrol or coastal patrol.

What is your favourite part of the job? 

There’s a lot to be said about getting up in the morning and wanting to go into work. You’re outdoors, out walking, you’re allowed work on your own initiative a lot of the time, too, which is great.

I’m interested in nature and wildlife. I love walking the banks of the rivers just to see the fish and wildlife along the river. There is such variety in the job – you could be doing boat patrols, estuary patrols, jet ski or kayak patrols. There is always something different.

What is the most challenging thing about the job?

Sometimes dealing with the public can be challenging. You could be dealing with a pollution incident on a farm – one farmer might be very accommodating and there is no issue and then another farmer could be argumentative or confrontational. You have to be able to handle that.

You do a lot of unsocial hours, too. But you get used to it.

What do you think are the most important skills needed for the job?

Communication skills are important. You are dealing with the public all the time. Every situation can be different – there are different ways in how you communicate and react to situations.

Teamwork is also a big thing, you are working as a team all the time so you need to be comfortable with that.

What would you say to someone considering a job in fisheries?

If you’re really into the outdoors and fishing, then it’s definitely the job for you. You will get as much out of it as you put in.

Source; Off the Scale Magazine online

St. Patrick’s day 2018, final episode of Vincent and Lars Larsson

Photo: Chris Grayson


Humans of Listowel, March 17 2018

Here are some more photos I took before and during the parade on St. Patrick’s Day 2018

Christy Walsh washed his van in preparation for the parade.

Martin McCarthy and Ailís OSuilleabháin were preparing to welcome Rith and Micheál O Muircheartaigh to Listowel.

A Zumba session was in full swing in Main Street.


A Chance Meeting illustrates that Truth is surely often stranger than fiction

Read yesterday’s and the day before’s episodes to get the full story…… 

(Vincent Carmody is St. Michael’s Cemetery with two Swedish visitors who are looking for a grave.)

When we went the grave, which is marked by an inscribed flat stone with
iron railings, it was covered by thick low branches of a thorn bush, with the
stone unreadable, I went across the road to a garage and got a shovel. Returning,
I quickly cut away the bush, which allowed the details to be seen,

Lars Larsson, 1872-1929.

So, on that lovely summers evening in the 1990’s, I stood and heard the
visitors recite the Lord’s Prayer in their native tongue. They were delighted
to have found the grave of the man which they learned of first, on a page, in a
foreign language.  I was happy to have
been the conduit through which I first learned of the Swede, sitting with
Dotie, many years previously.

James Cronin was married to Ellen O Sullivan on November 27th

Ellen Cronin died 1926

James Cronin died 1940.

Mary Ellen Cronin (Dotie) 1901-1993.

Lars Larsson was born in Sweden in 1872; he came to Listowel to work as
a Creamery Engineer/ Fitter at the behest of George R Browne, who was
proprietor of a number of private creameries in the North Kerry area.

Larsson lived in lodgings at Upper Church Street with an O’Connor
family; he is listed as a boarder in both the 1901 and 1911 census. In these,
his place of birth is given as Sweden and his religion is ‘Protestant

Lars is listed in Civil Records as ‘found dead’ on the 21 January 1929; an
inquest on the 27th January found that his death was due to heart

The house, now number 76, was subsequently bought by Ita Brosnan, who
afterwards married Willy Keane. I spoke to Paddy Keane about Larsson; he told
me that his father once came across some papers which might have belonged to Lars;
Paddy assumes that they were thrown away. He also told me that on a web site
that allows you access to old newspapers, to which he is a contributor, he came
across at one stage, a piece detailing notables from the town who had made
financial contributions to the local Feis.  Larsson had given five bob, which, as
Alo Sheehy would have said, was “not to be sniffed at”.




In the papers

Examiner of 17-4-1924 

Promoters of Listowel Toffee Factory held meeting in the premises of the old factory. Mr Medill presided. Present were George F Gleasure. P Browne, J J Walsh, P Landers, E Stack, T Corridan, T F Cotter, T O Connell, assistant clerk of the union, William Elder, H Larsson, T T Cronin, Etc. They hoped to open the business to provide employment, a deputation was to canvass businesses in the town to enlist support, could open within a month or six weeks.


(It would appear that that canvass was successful as the Toffee factory di open and provided employment for many years.)

The sweet factory, Pope John Paul 11 in Ireland and Berlin G.A.A. with a Listowel Connection

Charles Street, Listowel Co. Kerry in 2017


Liam O’Hainnín unearthed this old one


Armstrong’s Sweet Factory

The building covered in ivy is the castle and the four story building on the right is the old mill which became the sweet factory. I hope I have it right this time.


The Pope’s Visit

Photo; Photos of Dublin

This is the Phoenix Park in 1979. It is estimated that one third of the population of Ireland was there.


Christopher Hennessy’s Legacy 

( thanks to Mairead OGorman for the heads up on Facebook))

Christopher Hennessy, who in 2015  passed away from cancer at the age of 40, grew up in Listowel. He was, like many another young fellows at the time, mad for sport…every sport

Christopher is second from the right in the second row of this scouts picture from 1984.

Like many another young man, he wanted to see the world, to travel and to make a mark. He went to  Australia and from there he went to several countries in that part of the world before settling down eventually in Germany with his lovely wife Katharina.

Chris biked and ran and regularly partook in Sunday morning kickabouts in the park. But he missed the cut and thrust of competitive football. Not one to sit and moan, Chris did something about it. He set up the first Berlin G.A.A. club. He rounded up friends who had played Australian Rules football, a few soccer players and a few hurlers. These with the handful of lads who had some experience of Gaelic football formed a team. There were already one or two G.A.A. clubs in Germany so they had a league to join.

In 2014 Christopher’s was living the dream, beautiful wife, handsome son, Tristan,  a fledgeling football team for recreation, his allotment to keep him busy and close to nature. Then cruel Fate took it all away. Christopher was a fit young man. He endured the pain and the treatment in the hope of recovery. His Listowel family travelled to Berlin to be with him and to do everything they could to make life easier  for his devastated wife and son.

Christopher’s funeral mass in St. Mary’s Listowel  in February 2015 was one of the saddest I have ever attended. In his 40 years Christopher had done so much and had achieved so much. He had everything to live for. His parents, John and Helen were so proud of him.

The reason I am writing about him today is because the RTE programme, The Geansaí, featured his club in Berlin on it’s second episode of 2017.

The Geansaí on RTE Player

His club is still going strong. Their jerseys bear the name Criostóir in memory of their founder. The Dresden G.A.A. club hold a Hennessy Hurling Cup competition and Christopher’s own club, Berlin were this year’s winners.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh anam uasal Chriotóir.

NKM in Listowel, Playboy and Woulfe’s Bookshop

Looking towards St. John’s from St. Mary’s


Old NKM tin

It seems that there are quite a few of these still about. Helen Gore bought this one on the internet.

Vincent Carmody posted this old postcard with a picture of the NKM sweet factory as well as the below pictures of his two tins and a brief  account of the factory in Listowel

The tin box is an original from Listowel’s sweet factory which traded from the old mill building, which occupied the site where Carroll’s Hardware providers is now located. The mill, a fine, six floor, cut stone building, was originally owned and operated by the Leonard family of The Square. It was powered by water from a millstream, which ran from near the old ball alley to the mill. The mill closed in the mid 1800’s, despite an effort by John Latchford of Tralee to buy the property. He subsequently build a mill back in Greenville.

The building served for a time in the early 1900’s as a creamery, this was owned by George R. Browne. He also had a creamery at his property at Cahirdown. He had in his employment an Englishman, Thomas Armstrong. When Brown decided to sell his interest in the business, it was purchased by Armstrong. Shortly afterwards, Armstrong went into the manufacturing of ‘Irish Cream Toffee Sweets’ 

The tin carries the initials N.K.M on the cover, with North Kerry Manufactory at the side, however with a play on the initials, the legend “Nicest Kind Made” also appears on the cover.
There is not much information on the business, however, we know that after a period of industrial unrest, Armstrong closed the factory in 1921. The Mackintosh sweet company bought the brand and continued making these sweets at Rathmines Dublin, under the brand name,’The North Kerry Manufacturing Co Ltd’


Playboy and Ireland

On hearing of the passing of Hugh Hefner, Mark Holan, in his great blog, wrote this insightful piece about our own playboy.

BTW Synge’s Christy Mahon was a Kerryman

Synge’s ‘Playboy’ arrived in Ireland long before Hef’s mag

by admin

The New York Times proclaims: “Hugh Hefner, the Original Playboy, Is Dead at 91.” Vanity Fair describes the dearly departed (27 September 2017) magazine publisher as “the indefatigable (albeit Viagra-enhanced) Playboy of the western world.”

We can only wonder what the late Irish playwright John Millington Synge would have thought. His play, “The Playboy of the Western World,” debuted in January 1907 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin,  well before the December 1953 appearance of “Hef’s” Chicago-based skin mag. As The Washington Post reports:

Hefner had planned to call his magazine Stag Party, but when the publishers of another men’s magazine named Stag threatened to sue, a colleague came up with an inspired afterthought: Playboy.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says the term for a “wealthy bon vivant” dates to 1829.

Synge died in 1909, two years after his play offended Irish moral sensibilities and sparked riots. In a 2011 theater review, The Guardian noted:

Synge had clad his maidens in shifts, presumably to mollify strict moralists among his Abbey audience. But perhaps he half-suspected a truth which Hugh Hefner would later turn into a different Playboy business: that a scantily clad woman can be even more inflammatory to the jaded imagination of male puritans than one who is wholly naked.

Playboy magazine was banned in Ireland until 1995. Twenty years later, Ireland became the first nation in the world to legalize same sex marriage by popular referendum.


Woulfe’s Bookshop

Woulfe’s Bookshop is one of Listowel’s gems. It is a rarity nowadays to find an independent bookseller. This shop stocks a wide variety of titles for adults and children. Books of local interest are a speciality.


Bill Dowd of Ballydonoghue and Pittsburg passes away

Monday, October 02, 2017

William “Bill” Dowd, Age 94, of Shaler Township, formerly of Penn Hills, peacefully on Monday October 2, 2017 with his children at his side.  Bill was born and raised in Ballydonoghue, County Kerry, Ireland in 1923.   After spending time in County Kildare cutting peat and as a coal miner in Sheffield, England, he came to the United States in 1949 and was welcomed by his cousin Molly (Dowd) Devine and her family in Pittsburgh. Bill was a player and faithful long-time supporter of the Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association and a proud 60-year member of the Plumbers Laborers’ Union. He was the beloved husband of the late Mary (Grills) Dowd; loving father of Tom (Maria) Dowd, Kathy (John) O’Connor, Mary Beth (Dean) Reynolds, and the late Jack Dowd;  cherished grandfather of Michelle (Brad) Tresky, Katie (Brendan) Dowd-Dusette, Kevin, Deirdre, and Ryan Dowd, Sinead, Ciara, and Sean O’Connor,  Laura (Tyler) Tarney, and Dean and Brennan Reynolds; proud great-grandfather of Kaelyn, Liam, Ciara, Meghan, Keagan, Maggie, and soon-to-be baby Tarney.  Dear brother of the late Tom, Jack, and Jim Dowd.  Also survived by nieces and nephews in Pittsburgh, Ireland, and England. Friends will be received on Tuesday from 6:00 to 8:00 PM and Wednesday from 1:00 to 3:00 & 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Bock Funeral Home, Ltd., 1500 Mt. Royal Blvd., Glenshaw. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated in St. Bonaventure Church, Glenshaw, on Thursday at 10:00 AM. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association, 1203 Woodbourne Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15226 or Elfinwild Meals on Wheels, 3200 Mt. Royal Blvd., Glenshaw, PA 15116

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