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: old Tralee

Old Tralee, A handmade Christmas craft and a new Phone shop opens

Robin in Full Voice

 Photo; Chris Grayson


Old Tralee

There is a great page on Facebook

Historical Tralee and Surrounding Areas

They regularly post lovely old photos of Tralee. Here are a few recent ones.


Don’t be Alone on Christmas Day


A Christmas Craft

I posted this picture before of Rosie and her Christmas house. Since then I’ve photographed her beautiful creation in more detail for you.

What creative talent!


New Shop on William Street


Christmas in Old Ireland

From the School’s Folklore Collection

Christmas Day
Christmas comes but once a year;
When it comes it brings good cheer,
When it goes it leaves us here,
And what will we do for the rest of the year.
When Christmas morning dawns everyone is up early and goes to early Mass, and many receive Holy Communion. When people meet on their way to Mass their salutes to each other are:- “A happy Christmas to you” and the reply is – “Many happy returns”. The children are all anxiety to see what Santa Claus has brought them.
When Mass and breakfast are over the children play with their toys while the elders are busy preparing the Christmas dinner.
The chief features of an Irish Christmas dinner are – roast turkey, or goose and a plum pudding. The remainder of the day is spent in the enjoyment and peace of the home, and the family circle.
Christmas customs vary from country to country but the spirit of Christmas is the same the wide world over. It is the time of peace, and it is also the feast for the children, because it was first the feast of the Child Jesus who was born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand long years ago.

Collector Máighréad Ní Chearbhaill- Address, Ballybunnion, Co. Kerry. Teacher: Máire de Stac.


On the Beat

Time was when you never saw a Garda patrolling alone and I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a Garda on the beat around my housing estate. I welcome the development though.

Tralee in the sixties, Rebel Abbey, 2 Day Revival 2019 and Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

The Gap of Dunloe

Photo: Chris Grayson


Christmas Shopping in Tralee in the sixties

Photo: Historical Tralee and surrounding areas


Maureen Flavin of Knocknagoshel and Black Sod

Remember Billy McSweeney’s great story of the Kerry lady who married the son of the Blacksod Lighthouse keeper and found herself playing a vital role in the timing of the DDay landings. Well didn’t a loyal blog follower know all about Maureen and he sent us this.

This is Maureen in a wedding photo from 1946

Maureen’s mother was a Mulvihill . The Mulvihill family was also famous. Ned Mulvihill bred a greyhound called Rebel Abbey who won all round him.


Listowel, Get Ready to Rock in 2019


Leonard, Listowel Mill Owner; Villain or Saint

The next instalment in the debate;

Hi, Mary,

 Interesting debate opening up. I don’t think any heavy work was done by inmates in the workhouses- they were in poor shape, weakened and poorly fed- certainly not enough work to enrich anyone.  More importantly, able-bodied persons were liable to the rigours of the law if they attempted to get into the workhouses! Auxiliary Workhouses in premises privately owned were  rented by the Board of Guardians and they ran the show after that. I have never come across a privately owned and operated workhouse. I don’t see many certain ‘facts’ on either side of the current debate.  TF Culhane  wrote about Maurice Leonard being ‘remembered’ as having given the barrels of flour; he was not recalling that as his own personal memory. The Folklore Commission relied on stories and memories also. Using ‘recalls’ is no worse that using ‘Keane reported…’ as ‘reported’ has the following meaning:  “give a spoken or written account of something that one has observed, heard, done, or investigated.”  ‘Folklore’ hardy meets this qualification. The reference to TF Culhane’s thoughts are included in the North Kerry Literary Trust, Listowel, excellent 2007 edition of  the book, “Kerry Memories”- this is steeped in Listowel Connections spanning generations. This book is painstakingly thorough in relation to what it includes. Pádraig de Brún and Jimmy Deenihan were instrumental in this publication. It is well-worth a read by anyone connected with Listowel. Bets or speculation and political points are not of much use at this remove. I was a bit doubtful of the number,  ‘six thousand barrels’ as that would be an enormous amount of wheat for the Listowel area in those pestilential days. Perhaps the local memory  was a bit defective in both cases in debate? And there are those who would claim that all such wheat would have been exported in any case to England, while the local people starved. I agree that a factual and disinterested  assessment of the ‘Listowel wheat or barrels of flour’ conundrum is required.  I am sure there will be many well-qualified and  willing to take in on.




People at a Book Launch

Seán Kelly, Nora Sheahan, Peggy Hilliard, Lilly Nolan and Vincent Carmody in The Listowel Arms on December 9 2018 at the launch of Listowel , A Printer’s Legacy.

Vincent Carmody with Jimmy Deenihan

Historians and politicians at the launch.

Maurice O’Mahoney gets in a quick read before the crowd gathers.


Christmas 2018 in Listowel

Another great idea from Christmas in Listowel 

The Listowel Treasure Train

Join us on a magical trail around Listowel’s beautiful shop window displays on the Listowel Treasure Train.

Each of the 14 participating shops have a Little Green Train displayed somewhere in their window. Can you find them all? 

The Runaway Red Train
Our Runaway Red Train has a mind of its own and moves from window to window.

Each day we will post a photo of the Runaway Red Train’s new location, as well as the day’s prize on the Christmas in Listowel Facebook Page. Simply tell us where the Red Train is, to be in with a chance of winning one of our amazing prizes every day.

The prizes will be displayed in Galvin’s Window and available for collection at the end of the competition after Saturday 22nd December.

Follow us at “Christmas in Listowel” on Facebook to take part in this fun game.

Old Tralee, Old Market Poster, Queen Victoria in Kerry and statues in St. Mary’s

Chris Grayson in Killarney National Park


Old Postcard of Listowel Bridge


Old Pictures of Tralee Railway Station

These photos were shared on Facebook by Tralee and District Historical Society


Listowel Market

Paul Murphy sent me a photo of this poster from 1916. That was when one hundred really meant one hundred and twenty.


Queen Victoria in Killarney

A page from Patrick O’Sullivan’s great book; A Year in Kerry


St. Joseph in his new niche

A statue of St. Joseph has been erected on a shelf in St. Mary’s

St. Mark is on the pillar close by


Mizen to Malin Cycle

These Pedalllers were in Listowel this week. They are cycling from one end of Ireland to the other to raise funds for cancer care.

Dromcollogher 1926, Preparing for The Races 2016

Some signs that Race Week is upon us


Wedding at St. Mary’s 

Look at this novel use of old milk churns at a local wedding in St. Mary’s Listowel recently.


Dromcollogher Burning Remembered

“It was your typical rural Irish
village of the 1920s, everyone knew each other, and the big city media would
not have paid much attention to the daily events there. They wouldn’t have been
considered important enough.

But all that changed on Sunday,
September 5, 1926 in the west Limerick village of Dromcollogher.

The day started like every other
Sunday in the town with it’s residents readying themselves for Sunday Mass at
the local church.

A hundred or so yards away from the
church, at a local hardware store, Patrick Downing, a movie projector operator,
had travelled up from Cork to meet local hackney driver, William
“Baby” Forde, to partake in a little scheme to make a few pound
between them.

Forde had hired the upstairs loft
of the hardware store from Patrick Brennan, where they had planned to set up a
temporary cinema. Two trial runs at the location were a success, and this was
going to be the first time that they would charge an admission fee to see the

Forde had realised that there were
no movie showings in Cork on a Sunday, so he and Downing hatched a plan to
bring films from the Assembly Rooms Theatre on Sunday morning, and have them
back in Cork again by Monday morning. That way the theatre owners in Cork would
be none-the-wiser about the fact that their film reels had been missing on the

To show films privately was against
the law, so to hide the fact that he was doing this, Downing took the movie
reels out of their protective metal cases and placed them in a Gladstone bag
for transport to Dromcollogher. The metal cases would still be in Cork, giving
the impression that the films were where they were supposed to be.

The projector was set up on a table
infront of the only exit to the loft and the reels were placed beside it. There
were also two candles placed on the table to give light to them while they
checked both the money people were going to be paying and to read the reels as
they were being loaded into the projector to be shown. The candles were not
placed in holders, but they were held in place by hardened candle wax. The
showing was scheduled to begin at 2100 hrs so as to allow people to attend
Benediction at the church.

Locals then made their way from the
church to the hardware store and climbed the rickety outside stairs to the loft
and take their places in time for the screening. It was not long before there
were two hundred people packed into the tiny room.

The first of the two films, a short
movie called, “The Decoy,” was shown without incident. By this time,
one of the two candles on the table had burnt out. One candle remained alight.

Things turned for the worst after
the second film “The False Alarm” began.

There are many different
suggestions as to how the remaining candle was knocked over. Some say that
young boys in the room were throwing their caps at it in an effort to
extinguish it, in the hopes that they could make off with the takings without
being seen, however this story has not been confirmed. What is known is that
the candle did fall over onto a reel of naked film which exploded into flames.
A former Brittish Army officer and local Garda, Sergent Long was reported to
have noticed this and got up to kick the film off the table, but another man
got to it first and started using his cap to beat the flames, fanning them and
causing the table and the film to be engulfed in fire. A panic ensued and
Sergent Long was carried out of the room by the fleeing crowd.

Another Garda, Gda Davis, who was
also present, tried to demonstrate to the others that if they jumped through
the flames, they would be able to escape. Many people followed his advice and
escaped through the entrance. However, many people felt safer going to the
opposite end of the loft to the fire.

At this end of the loft, there were
two windows, which were barred. But because the loft had previously been used
for clandestine IRA meetings during the War of Independence, one of the windows
had the bars partially cut to facilitate a speedy escape in the event of an RIC

One former IRA member, John Gleeson
knew this and broke the bars allowing more people to escape. But with the heat,
the remaining bars began to expand and one woman was jammed between them,
cutting off this escape route.

Not long after this, the loft floor
collapsed onto the hardware store room, which contained things like wood, glass
and five gallon tanks of petrol.

August 1926 had been a dry month in
the region. The two wells in the town were dry and the level of water in the
nearby river was insufficient to help those trying to put the fire out. The
nearest fire brigade was in Limerick.

The building was completely
englulfed within a half an hour of the fire starting, and it was all over
within an hour. By this time 46 people had died. Two more were to die later in
hospital from their injuries. Only 21 of those who died were identifiable, and
the only way to know the identities of the other 27 was to find out who did not
come home that night. Of the 20 children present, 15 lost their lives. Half of
the people who had perished were below the age of 25.

Gardai came from Newcastle West and
sealed off the area. The army were also called in to help coffin the dead. So
many were dead that they hadn’t enough coffins. Special permission was sought,
and granted to bury the dead in a mass grave on the grounds of the Church. All
but one of the victims are buried there

“The Burning” as it
became to be known, was rarely spoken of in the area by the people of

The three men at the centre of the
whole affair, those being Brennan, Downing and Forde, were all charged with
manslaughter at the Central Criminal Court, but were acquitted. Forde later
emigrated to Austrailia where he was reported to have died after he replaced
flour with stricnine when baking bread during a rabbit hunting trip.

The tragedy made international
news, however some articles were not as kind to the people of Dromcolloghar as
they should have been, notably this one from the September 20 1926 edition of
US magazine, TIME: “One William Ford, storekeeper in the
village of Drumcollogher, County Limerick, welcomed to the musty loft of his
barn last week a crowd of eager Irish peasants who climbed up the single
rickety ladder, sat down in rapt expectance of Drumcollogher’s first cinema
show, a drama called The Decoy….”

(I took the above account of this awful tragedy from where the author is given as Billy the Squid.)



From Historical Tralee and Surrounding areas

From the Heuston collection . Taken back in the day . The junction between High Street, Staughtons Row and Bridge street (by the Garda station )

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