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: Nora Sheahan

Sad Wartime Incident Remembered

Celtic Crosses in St. Michael’s graveyard, Listowel in October 2022


Leahy from Lisselton Wounded in 1922

This is just another in a long list of sad stories of young men caught up in the terrible conflict that was the civil war in Ireland. The story comes from Offaly Live blog of the Offaly Express website. I’m just printing here the bare bones of the story. Click on the link if you would like to read the full story.

Scene of the ambush near Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Raymond Cullen Offaly Live  

THE Lieutenant featured in this article was my granduncle Matthew Cullen and Monday the 29th of August 2022 marked the 100th anniversary of his death, when he, along with a small party of National Troops [Free State army] from Tullamore Barracks were attacked by about fifty Irregulars [Republican IRA) at Bonaterrin [Bunaterin] Hill, near Blueball, Tullamore.
Lieutenant Matthew Cullen, (3rd  Southern Division モglaigh na hノireann) was only 21 years old. Born 25th May 1901 in Ballymorris, Portarlington, County Laois, he was one of five boys born to Timothy and Mary Cullen. Matthew joined the Free State Army on 16th of March 1922 as did his two brothers Thomas and James (my grandfather) and by August 1922 were all stationed at Tullamore barracks. Matthew was also an ex-internee of the Rath Camp in the Curragh of Kildare and was there in Hut 9 on the 9th of September 1921 when the great escape happened.

Before he was stationed in Tullamore Barracks [the barracks was at High Street now Donal Farrelly’s house/ and Charleville Castle] Matthew spent over five months in the Nenagh Barracks, and since the opening of the Civil War was involved in almost every engagement in the Nenagh area. He was only a week in Tullamore when the fatal ambush happened.

First Reports: News reached Tullamore on Tuesday evening about 7.30 p. m, of a very painful and distressing character, which cast a gloom of sorrow and depression over the town and district. It was that a party of National troops had been ambushed at Bonaterrin, some four miles from Tullamore, and about a mile from Blueball, and that Lieut Cullen, a native of Portarlington, an ex-internee had been killed, and that Lieut Leahy, a native of Listowel, Co. Kerry, had been seriously wounded. Both were officers in the Tullamore garrison headquarters, were very well known, and much esteemed by the townspeople. Particulars to hand state that three cars carrying a party of about 20 officers and men from Tullamore, had been out in the neighbourhood of Kilcormac and Mountbolus engaged in clearing road obstructions.

When reinforcements arrived from Tullamore the attackers had disappeared, and no trace of them could be found. They had three miles of wood cover under which they were enabled to retreat. Lieut. Cullen was struck on the chest with two bullets, which made a terrible gash. The military are communicating with Lieut. Cullen’s family conveying the sad news, and with a view to arrangements for his interment.

They are also trying to get in touch with Lieut. Leahy’s people (who live on or near Listowel, Co. Kerry). Lieut. Leahy was Brigade Chemistry Officer to the Offaly No.1 Brigade. Lieut. Cullen took part in recent fighting in Tipperary, and was only a week in Tullamore.

Lieut. Leahy is a native of Lisselion Cross a place between Ballybunion and Listowel, Co. Kerry, and belongs to the farming class, his people been extensive farmers. He is a young man of fine- physique.

(I’m presuming Lisselion is a misprint for Lisselton)


Bush Kids

Bushcraft and survival expert, Tom Bán, takes to the wild in the second series of Bush Kids traveling across mountains and rivers, teaching the Bush kids how to find food and build shelter to survive.

Bush Kids follows four families, each brought to a different habitat to learn how to survive in the wild, where bushcraft survival expert, Tom Bán, will shares his skills. 

With just their backpacks, the Bush Kids, aged 5–12 years and accompanied by a parent, explore their given habitat and learn how to survive using only what they find around them. 

Join Tom and the Bush Kids and learn how to build camping shelters, light fires without matches, prep and cook food on the open camp fire, while they explore the wonders and discover the resources in some of Ireland’s most remote areas. 

Tom Bán is from Tipperary and spent most of his time growing up hunting, fishing and spending  countless hours outside exploring the landscape around him and learning local history. He is dedicated to learn the skills required to survive in the wild and the bushcraft needed to do so. Tom has brought his passion for the outdoors into his carrier and now teaches bushcraft and nature classes to groups of kids and adults all across Ireland. 

The Enright family from Kerry brave possibly the most difficult habitat in the series, the mountains and rivers!

Travelling with just what’s on their backs, Bush Kids Máire, Robert and Brian and their mum, Éilín, spend three days surviving in an area with very little resources and a terrain that would be difficult for any explorer. The Bush Kids explore hidden caves, travel through fast-flowing rivers, and catch and cook their own food. They encounter many challenges along the way, including rapidly changing weather and plagues of biting midges but Tom Bán is on hand to guide them on their journey.

Maire learning some survival skills

The episodes featuring the Enright children will be broadcast on Weds and Thurs. next and will be available on the rte player.

Proud mother Éilín, told me that they had great fun filming the series, despite being eaten alive by midges and encountering a little drama with an accidental cut. Dad, Darren, made himself useful on location with a few survival skills of his own.


Official Opening of The Greenway

This was unveiled on Friday October 28 2022.

We had politicians, advisers, media and dignitaries galore on a beautiful sunny morning.

Owen O’Shea was in change of getting the show on the road for Kerry County Council.

Our mayor, Aoife Thornton, praised everyone who had brought this great amenity to us.

Moira Murrell was delighted that this project had been delivered “in house” i.e. by Kerry County Council.

Our canon, Declan O’Connor blessed the venture and prayed for everyone who will enjoy this greenway.


Food and Craft Fair in Listowel Arms

Sunday October 30 2022

It felt like old times to be back in the ballroom of The Listowel Arms for the great food and craft fair at Listowel Food Fair 2022.

I met lots of lovely people , crafters and buyers.

Nora Sheahan was there with her son Noel.

Ruth OQuigley is a founder member of Listowel Food Fair. I met her with her three grandchildren. She told me that their roles are reversed nowadays and her lovely girls are minding her.


Monica Garner, A Strange Souvenir of the Papal Visit and some of the colour of Listowel Races 2019

Raceweek 2019

Huge crowd on Wednesday for The Kerry National

 There were all kinds of modes of transport employed for The Races. I went to the course on shanks mare.

You could run into local people and famous people on The Island.

Speaking of transport, apparently, in other nearby countries, you can customise your numberplate to make any kind of statement about yourself.



This is NOT fake news. This award wining play is coming to St. John’s on next Thursday , Sept 19 2019 at 8.00p.m.

Richard Walsh is from Ballybunion. Come out and support one of our own.

Nominated for Best Performance & Best Production, Dublin Fringe 2018

Do you believe everything you read in the news? Are you a sceptic? A conspiracy theorist? Gullible? Did you come down in the last shower? 

When there are more than 3 million articles written about the events of any single day worldwide, how do we begin to know which of them to trust? And should we challenge authority? Can doing so lead us closer to the truth, or farther away?Join a performer, a drummer, and a writer as they attempt to uncover the real events of one day that were reported in the local, national and international news. 

If knowledge is power, then why do we now, with more access than ever before to information, feel less in control? Oneday is a high energy performance that playfully examines our unraveling and chaotic relationship with the news. 


Does Anyone remember the Mackessy family?

Monica Garner has been in touch and I’m hoping someone can help her with photos or stories of her parents and grandparents.

I love reading the emails that you produce, they bring back happy memories for me too, even though I have lived in England nearly all my life, I’m now 66 years old.

My Mum was Mary Mackessy before she married my Dad John Ryan in Listowel in 1951.  Dad was from Tipperary

I can always remember going on holidays to visit my grandparents Michael and Catherine Mackessy , they lived in a small house on Convent Street just across the river from the racecourse.  My Grandmothers name was Catherine Patt before she married and went on to have 8 children although sadly 3 of them died.  

My Mum, Mary was the eldest and  worked at the convent until she married, then moved to live in England with my Dad. Then came Josie who worked in the offices of the local haberdashery shop. After marring Andrew Hartnett they also  moved to England and settled here until my uncle died at a young age.  Josie then moved back to Listowel and lived in Charles Street with her 4 children.

The next sibling was Christie who lived with his parents and worked as a carpenter making the wooden traps that went behind the pony and traps.  He worked in a large shed in the garden overlooking the river – such happy memories.   Richard was the next child (known as Dick).  He worked at the Covent and became the head gardener after his Father died. He always lived in the family house on Convent Street, having never married.

The youngest child was Margaret (known as Peg) she went on to marry Sean Kirby, also from Listowel.  They moved to England and had 2 children.  Eventually they moved back surprise, surprise  to Listowel where they opened a bed & breakfast on Convent Street, living there until they passed away.

My grandad worked at the convent and was the head gardener until my uncle (Dick) took over after his death.  My grandmother worked at the convent as a cook.  I can also remember an uncle (John Martin) who lived opposite my grandparents, I think he was the brother of Michael, my grandfather.  I can also remember an Aunt Alice (O’Conner) who lived in O’Connell Road/Avenue.

While typing this it has brought back so many happy childhood memories.  

My daughter is composing a family tree for my Grandsons and it would be great if anyone can give me anymore information about these wonderful people.


Believe or Believe it Not

“Papal Visit Loo Seat. This is a memento of Pope John Paul ll’s visit to the Phoenix Park in September, 1979. The week before the big day, we went with my father to see how the preparations were going. The new Papal Cross was impressive but as teenagers we were far more intrigued with the construction of rows and rows of long drop toilets by teams of carpenters. No portaloos back then! Oval shapes were cut at regular intervals from plywood benches large enough for a bottom, but not so large as to lose a small child. Plywood walls were erected to form cubicles and doors were added later. We took home this oval cut out and it has been used ever since as a breadboard or pot stand, not lavished with care but well used and certainly a family treasure. On the day of the papal mass in 1979, we revisited the toilets. The queues were massive, but we were very relieved with the facilities.”

Thanks to Helen Bacon

Like this post? Well you will love the National Treasures book!!! Order it now by by visiting:



This is me receiving the final draft of my new book from Paul Shannon at Listowel Printing Works.

My new book you ask?

Yes, it’s called A Minute of Your Time and it’s a collection of my reflections as broadcast in the Just a Thought slot on Radio Kerry. The reflections are accompanied by photographs.

It’s a lovely full colour hard back book which will be launched in St. John’s, Listowel on Saturday October 19 2019. You are all welcome.

If you can’t get to St. John’s you can pre-order it by contacting me at

Bee Facts, Dioscesan appointments and an Owen Reunion in Finuge

Kerry Robins in Summer

Photo: Chris Grayson


Bee Facts from the internet


Dioscesan Changes July 2019

Bishop Ray Browne wishes to announce the following changes to the appointments of clergy in the Diocese of Kerry:

Msgr. Dan O’Riordan P.P. Castleisland retiring

Very Rev. Luke Roche PP Castlemaine retiring

Very Rev. Tadhg Ó Dochartaigh P.P. Firies retiring


Fr. Maurice Brick PP Lixnaw to be PP Castleisland

Fr. Anthony O’Sullivan Rathmore (pro tem) to be PP Lixnaw

Fr. Michael Hussey PP Castlegregory to be PP Ballylongford

Fr. Eamon Mulvihill PP Kilcummin to be PP Castlegregory

Fr. Joe Begley PP Dingle to be PP Glengarriff/Bonane

Fr. Michael Moynihan PP Glengarriff/Bonane to be PP Dingle

Fr. Padraig Kennelly PP Ballylongford to be PP Firies

Two more parishes without a Resident Priest:

The parish of Castlemaine will be served by the priests of the Killorglin Pastoral Area with Fr. Kevin Sullivan to be Moderator

The parish of Kilcummin will be served by the priests of the Killarney Pastoral Area with Fr. Kieran O’Brien to be Moderator

Fr. Denis O’Mahony PP Abbeydorney to be VF of the Naomh Bhréanainn Pastoral Area

Fr. Brendan Walsh PP Causeway to be Moderator of Ballyheigue

Priests of all Pastoral Areas of the Diocese take up different responsibilities outside their own parishes and within the Pastoral Area. This will be decided and communicated locally.

These changes will become effective on Wednesday, July 17th 2019


Owen Family return to their Roots

Harriet and her brother John Owen grew up in Leinster, far from the birthplace of their parents in Ballyhorgan. But when they returned to Finuge to celebrate mass and chat with their family and new found North Kerry friends, they felt that they had come home.

I count myself lucky to be counted among those North Kerry friends who have enjoyed watching this reconnection.

The thatched house was the venue for the mass which was celebrated by Fr John Owen, a Divine Word missionary who has spend many years in Argentina and is now ministering in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Fr. John with Tom Fitzgerald, one of the local historians who was able to give the Owens first hand history of their home place. There is a still a field in Ballyhorgan called “Owenses’ Field”.

Owen family came from the U.K. and Ireland.

Paul Kennelly remembers Harriet’s parents who sadly passed away when Harriet was quite young.

Paul also met up with his old friend, Jim Sheahan.

Some local ladies joined the family for the mass.

The Sweeney family were the choir.

Group photo at Finuge Cross

Harriet and John brought a family musician to help out with the entertainment in McCarthy’s of Finuge.

Jim Sheahan sang us The Homes of Donegal. He has lost none of his musicianship since his show band days.

Nollaig McCarthy and Nora Sheahan


Listowel Folk Group Summer Barbecue

I’m assured that the good folk of Listowel Folk Group had a great night with lots of good food, good music and lots of singing in McCarthy’s Bar in Finuge.

Dancehall Days Remembered and Listowel Races 2017 is upon us

Photo: Chris Grayson


My Good Friends, Jim and Nora Sheahan

Nora Sheahan and her son Noel and family with Sarah Marince in The Seanchaí recently

Jim and Nora Sheahan in their cosy welcoming home

 On a recent visit I encouraged Jim to tell me his memories of a different era in Listowel

Jim remembers the
days of the dancehalls.  Small local
dancehalls were dotted around North Kerry in the 1940s and 50s. These were the
main venues for entertainment until the advent of the big ballrooms and the
easy availability of transport meant the people went dancing outside their
local area.

There were two
dancehalls in town, Walshe’s Ballroom and The Plaza. The Plaza which was built
by Frankie Chute was a cinema but it held dances on big occasions like the

Walshe’s Ballroom
was first located upstairs in a premises in William Street. Sunday night was
dance night and older people remember long queues of young people waiting for
this hall to open.

When this hall had
to close when the floor collapsed, Vincent Walshe moved operations to a site he
owned opposite the Astor Cinema. He built a big luxurious state -of -the -art
ballroom with a sprung maple floor, a mineral bar and a cloakroom.

The Las Vegas, as
it was called had a mineral bar, with “catering by Diana.” The Diana in
question was Diana McElligott.

The cloakroom was
another luxury you didn’t have in the smaller crossroads halls. For a small fee
you could leave your coat in safekeeping for the duration of the dance. You
handed in your coat and the cloakroom attendant attached a ticket to the coat
and you were given the corresponding ticket stub. If you had no pocket you had
to keep the stub safely in your shoe until you came to collect your coat at the
end of the dance.

The Las Vegas also
had a resident band. Bunny Dalton was the band master. Jim Sheahan played the
saxophone with this band for 5 or 6 years. Other members of the band were Jerry
Scanlon, Mai Chute, who played the piano, John Moore of Mountcoal who played
the saxophone and Jerry Barry  on
trumpet. Tim O’Sullivan was Jim’s music teacher. For 1 shilling a lesson he
taught him to play the fiddle. Tim also played the saxophone and he spotted
Jim’s potential. Jim was already playing the tin whistle and the skills
transferred to the saxaphone as the notes were the same. Since he neither drank
nor smoked he had plenty of lung power and he took to his new instrument with
enthusiasm.  At one stage the band had a
vocalist, Johnny Cahill. This is the same Johnny Cahill who played Carthalawn
in the first production of Sive.

This was the era
of the big band and Vincent Walshe put together a band to rival the best in the
land. Bunny Dalton and his band played for the dancing on Wednesday and Sunday
nights. Occasionally, Vincent Walshe brought big names like Mick Delahunty and
Brendan Boyer to town. These were known as “all night dances’ and they went on
until 3.00 a.m. The big band would take a half hour break from 12.00 to 12.30
and the house band would play during this half hour.

People came from
far and near to the dances. Many of them came on foot or by bicycle. If patrons
were lucky enough to have a car there was ample parking in the vicinity of the

There were no
dances during Lent and local drama groups like Danny O’Donoghue of Lixnaw used
to put on plays in the hall.

Jim remembers
earning 30 shillings a night as a musician. This was good money in those days.

Occasionally the
band would play in other local halls. The Walshe’s had a van for carrying the instruments.
Most halls had a piano and if they didn’t Mai Fitz had her own piano accordion,
which she brought with her.

Jim remembers
great meals after dances in Hennesseys in Ballyduff and Doyle’s in Ballyheigue
or in Hegartys. Dancehalls in those days were often built adjacent to the
owner’s house.

This were the days!


Edel Quinn and Tralee

I come from Kanturk which is the hometown of Edel Quinn. Only last week I spotted this plaque on a wall in Tralee. I learned that she lived and went to school in Tralee.


The Longed For Week has arrived

Very soon the gate will open and the bridge will be thronged with people. Races 2017 is on our doorstep.

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