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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

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A Communion, A Book and a Beloved Priest

Field of Rapeseed at Glenlohane outside Kanturk in April 2024

I was at Cian’s First Holy Communion

On Saturday April 27 2014 I was back in the church where I was married, St. Mary’s in Castlemagner. I’m from Kanturk but from the parish of Castlemagner which stretches right into the town of Kanturk.

The church is small but very well cared for. This is the Easter altar display.

When you attend a family occasion back in your old place you inevitable meet old friends and neighbours. Will Collins came from Donegal for his niece’s communion. Will’s parents, Peggy and Willy are dear neighbours to my Kanturk family.

I met Catherine Fitzpatrick and Abbie Kelly, two ladies I had not met since my schooldays.

The man of the moment, Cian Ahern with his dad, William, and his grandad, Pat, my brother.

Sports Writing

As followers of Listowel Connection will realise, sport is not a topic I touch on often. It is well outside my area of expertise.

Good writing is something I always appreciate. Some of the best writing is often found in sports journalism.

I love this witty snippet from Joe Brolly on the dangers of calling your child after your favourite song.

If you have no idea what Joe, from Derry, is talking about, then just move on.

I found this book in the library swap box. I only know a small bit about this ex footballer and pundit but I thought he might have something interesting to say. He does but a lot of it is delivered in a very critical tone. However, this next piece is pure poetry so I’m sharing it with you.

Fr. Kieran O’Shea R.I.P.

from Knocknagoshel Phoenix 2007

Babóg na Bealtaine

In a very old may custom a May Baby was fashioned from straw and decorated with rags and ribbons and used to decorate the May bush. The May Bush was never a whitethorn even though this shrub was usually in full bloom in May. The whitethorn was thought to be unlucky and people did not bring it indoors.

The May Bush could be a furze or other flowering shrub. Yellow is the colour of May and many of the flowers that bloom on May are yellow- furze, buttercups, marigolds, primroses and cowslips.

The beautiful rapeseed fields in Glenlohane are a modern take on the yellow theme.

Everywhere you look here is a sea of green and gold.

A Fact

In 1752 The British Isles moved from the old Julian calendar to the Gregorian one. In that year September 2 was followed by Sept. 14.

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January Blues

Detail from mural on Flesk Cycleway, Killarney, January 6 2024

This magnificent mural celebrates the flora and fauna of the surrounding countryside. It is the work of artist Curtis Hilton assisted by Magda Karol.

Panto Time

Once upon a time pantomimes were a feature of January in Listowel. I dont have a year for this one but the names of the cast give a bit of a clue.

May all of those local people who brightened lives with this, and who are since gone too their eternal reward, rest in peace

Kanturk Postboxes

Christmas is a time for connecting with the family. Here I am in Kanturk with some of my brother’s gang and some of mine.

My sister in law took me for a bit of a spin to check out a few postboxes.

Thank you to Susan Hickey for alerting me to this one at the entrance to St. Patrick’s place. It dates from the era of George V. His rule ran from 1910 to 1936.

This one at Glenlohane has the royal cypher sheared off. This type of vandalism was rife during The Troubles. This box is no longer in use.

This one in Castlemagner is actually in use, although in need of a little TLC.

It is the An Post replacement for this Edward VII one in the wall nearby.

Edward the 7th was king from 1901 to 1910.

The Convent

While doing a bit of a clearcut I came upon an envelope of photographs which the late John Pierse gave me years ago. I am not sure if he took all the photos himself of if some are the work of his friend, the late Timmy Griffin.

Old Friends

Danny O’Connor sent us this.

Hello Mary ,

When I lived abroadI always looked forward to meeting the late great Danny Hannon for coffee or sometimes lunch in the Listowel Arms on my visits home .

Danny truly loved Listowel and everything about it and the conversation was always flowing . 

This photo was taken on Dec. 27th 2018 at the Listowel Arms Hotel . 

(I am seated 2nd to left ). 

Unfortunately some of the people in the photo are no longer with us . 

RIP (  Danny Hannon , Pat Scanlon and Frank Greaney ) . 

Kind Regards ,

Danny O’ Connor 

Gurtinard Listowel . 

A Fact

Googol.com is named after the number googol, a one followed by 100 zeros.

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Dancing and Music

Entrance to The Garden of Europe from path by the town park

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Dancing in Killarney

My niece, no. 633 on the podium, having won the under 40 Reel competition at the World Dancing Championships in the INEC last week.

I was at a feis for the first time in years, and boy! was this a feis. There were dancers from all over the world with all age groups covered.

This lovely lady is Mary Jones. She was the oldest competitor at age 73.

The feis was a miracle of organisation, with 4 stages operating at once and then another room announcing winners and distributing medals. There were lots of stalls with all the dancing merchandise, and of course all the catering.

My niece has, like a lot of these adult dancers, returned to Irish dancing after a lull since her teens. They are like kids with all the gear, Tshirts and tracksuits as well as the performance dresses etc. Dancers were supported by husbands/partners and family as well as all their dancing friends. It’s a huge industry. Admission was a steep €20 for a spectator.

Here is a Listowel Connection. These ladies each has a Listowel aunt; in Christine’s case, me, Mary Cogan, and in Mairead’s case, Margaret O’Sullivan.

The “dance moms’ discovered a family connection.

Meanwhile back at the ranch….

The “Dance Dad ” was happy with the odd text update.

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Then and Now on Church St.

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Michael Dowling Remembered

Michael Dowling was one of the founders of Kerry Writers Museum.

Michael front and centre of the 1970 Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann Committee

Photo and names from Betty Stack

Front Row: Mairead Walsh, Eamon Hartnett, Jackie Walsh, Michael Dowling, Geraldine Hartnett, Joan Curtin, Maria O’Gorman
Middle Row:
Pat McAuliffe, Michael Stack, T. Dillon, Maureen Nolan, Betty Stack, Patricia Cronin, Helen Leahy, Peggy Gleeson, Patsy Kennedy, Jack Molyneaux, Christy Stack
Back Row: Ben Landy, PJ Kirby, ? , Mossie Molyneaux, Timmy Brosnan, Sean Broderick, Ian Nugent, Paul Nolan, Vincent O’Sullivan, Joe Gleeson, Peter O’Sullivan

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A Sunny Day and a pleasant meeting

John and Kathleen Reidy were out and about in Listowel this week. Wasn’t I brave to ask a photographer to pose for my phone photo?

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A Fact

The Titanic sank on April 15 1912.

No one actually said it was “unsinkable”. That is a myth.

The band did play on though. That is a fact.

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Food Fair This Weekend

Pat Ahern and Enzo in Ennis

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New Hair Stylist on Church Street

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Listowel Pitch and Putt

I happened to walk by the clubhouse on Sunday last and I enquired what sort of competition was in progress. It was a three club invitational. The day was sunny and warm and the course was in tip top condition as usual.

These friendly gentlemen were minding the house. I asked them is they had a photo of the founding fathers. The club is 50 this year and I have so much respect for those early pioneers who gave us this beautiful amenity, that I’d love to post a picture of them.

They told me that a photo collage is in the making to mark the 50th. All the photographs are with Billy Moloney who is looking after this project. I look forward to seeing the finished picture.

I subsequently met Billy and he says that there is non picture among the ones he has of the men who set up the club. So if you have such a picture, will you give it into the clubhouse or to Billy, These men deserve recognition in this the 50th anniversary year.

Billy told me that the delay with the collage is the difficulty in getting a frame big enough, but he’s on it.

Watch this space!

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St. Michael’s Class of 1972 Reunion

When these men got together to reminisce, much of the talk centred around football, a big part of their St. Mick’s days. (Essay on the way from David Kissane)

Christy Walsh and Jason Foley got together to crown their night with a visit from Sam Maguire.

Jim Fitzmaurice sent us Gerard Hussey’s great essay capturing life in St. Michael’s in the early days of “free education”.

         “Donagh O’Malley’s Boys”     by Gerard Hussey

They came in those first yellow school buses in 1967 from Listowel’s hinterland, from Dromerin, Clounmacon, Lisselton , Bunagara and Bunglaise in Duagh, and mixed with the Borough Boys of the Town.

Donagh O’Malley’s inspired free education policy spawned a rake of the newly educated that met again on Sat. Sept 17th after fifty years (fifty five if you count the lost years!). Those fellas from the country taught us townies a thing or three.

Their compositions stood out, descriptions of the bog went deeper than a sleán. They knew a thing or two about sciortáns and ciaráns  – “lá breá brothallach” how are you?

And they could field a ball for you  – Paddy Quilter and Tim Kennelly, the Horse with his trademark drive out from the square and a drop-kick from the lawn end that went into Captain Shanahan’s yard. That’s two  hundred yards, by the way, and speaking of which – wasn’t Eamonn Carroll (RIP) the champion sprinter in our day. I once teamed up with him and Conor Heaphy in a relay ….. a few Pilates are all I can manage now!  I still pine for a two-hundred yarder with a Callaway driver!

I remember Old John ‘volunteering’ me one Friday for a week-end cross-country event and coming along to Neilius Brosnan only to be told…  “No thanks, Sir”. Courage a plenty, Neilius – fair dues. Sure it was no pleasure to be lapped by Gerry Kiernan or Dave Kissane and John Hartnett .

Despite the regime, we learned a lot to prepare us for life during our five years. Sure, didn’t Rocky’s “Sets” stand to us …… back in the Gaeltacht and Ballai Luimnigh! And Greek and Roman history ….useful  when perusing Budget Travel brochures! And, Miss Murphy telling us that a triangle was the finest form in the natural world, and I, innocently thinking it was 36-26-36 !

Funny incidents, mixed with humiliations , were the order of the day for many of us. One day Danny Kelliher, a Butcher’s Lad was driving sheep down Cahirdown ….. and they darted into St. Michael’s. Mad for  classical learning – no doubt. “Ye can’t goin thare”, roared Danny, so we helped unround the sheep – which gave us fifteen minutes of distraction from the regime.

We all recall the unhelpful refrain…. “ and what colour chalk shall we use?” when someone lost their way trying to solve a difficult Maths problem. Humiliation was too quick to follow any mistake. 

 The heart of the matter was captured by  Tim Danaher, who once offered up “Hard Times” to Fr. Danny when he inquired what we were reading outside of school books.  I think our knowing laughter was not lost on him either! Hard times indeed,  but it formed us into a bunch of fellas that would stick together and  you’d be happy to meet again. 

We were imbued with a sense of justice and fair play from our experiences.  Neilius reminded us of a week’s strike that we took once to make our  point about a grave injustice to one of our own – a good sign of fellowship.

Donagh’s Boys went on to make a worthy contribution to Irish life, in Education, Construction, Business, Agriculture and Miscellaneous  Professions. It is worth noting that our year of 72 produced 10 teachers.  The basic education was no burden – I gained my own further education during 3rd Arts in UCG, when I shared room with Padraic Breathnach!

It’s the fine fellas that you meet along the way that lighten the world’s load – I can count those I met at Christy’s on our 50th Re-Union as fine a cross-section as you’d like to meet  ….. a fine “Set” indeed. Thanks Rocky! 

Footnote : A few little anecdotes of our times at St. Michael’s

WE learned hand-stands at P.E. ……. we held each other up  …….. time to do it again  surely, Lads!

My first concussion ….. it wasn’t the Horse giving me a mighty shoulder  ….. t’was the  bringing down the full weight of a hard-back anthology  on my noggin…..”Alliteration, young Hussey is things sounding alike”, oblivious to the effects of the  bounce of the book on my head!

Junior  was putting up a rough chalk map of Ireland and throwing in mountains that were fish bones, for some odd reason. “The Comeraghs”, I offered as he pointed towards Tipperary. “You’re too small Hussey to be moving mountains!”  says he. The Galtees me boy.

Fr. Danny coming around once a month to collect for his propagation of the faith and checking for long hair and the trade-mark yellow-stained cigarette fingers – Frank got caught on both counts. Down to Quigleys for the hair, with Danny paying the bill, while Frank rubbed his fingers at the front school pillars to remove the yellow stains.  Maggie Stack had his measure though by putting the haircut money in his pocket and never returning. I hear he still has a fine head of hair!

Free spirits, we had a few,  and our reunion noted the missing souls: John Scully, Tim Kennelly, Vincent Donegan, Eamonn Carroll, Tim Danaher. Rest easy boys!

Our final leavetaking  had   Fr. Danny giving us  the profound declaration  “Ye’re going out into the world as rare birds with ye’re classical training”   ….. while Brendan Keane whispered “extinct birds  more likely”.                  Wit, the great leveller !

“ All life was there”, John B said of McKenna’s corner …… well, so too it was at Christy’s – a well-rounded crew and not a chip in sight,…. except those paired with the goujons!

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Some Halloween Windows

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Listowel Food Fair

Here’s the link;

Listowel Food Fair 2022

Something old, Something New

The Square, Listowel in August 2022

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Brother and Horses

In Bettyville, Kanturk

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Weight Gain

Here is a laugh for today’s young people. Once upon a time, not a hundred years ago for I remember it well, you had to pay to weigh yourself. Scales like these stood in the pharmacy and you put a penny in the slot to operate the weighing scales.

People didn’t have bathroom scales. Many people didn’t have bathrooms. These scales offered a public service. This one appeared recently in a post in my Kanturk Memories group. It stood not in a pharmacy but in a diner style café. The owners , the O’Sullivan family, had returned from the USA and had brought all kinds of new ideas to Kanturk. Their café had banquette seating in booths just like in the movies, it had a juke box and this weighing scales.

When we went to the city; Cork, we loved to weigh ourselves in Woolworths because their scales gave you a little card with your weight on it. Would we want it now?

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Time Flies

These two young men walking with their Nana in Gurtinard last weekend are the same two boys I snapped on Church Street on a visit to Nana in another lifetime. They are Killian and Sean Cogan from Cork. I am the Nana.

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It was Roses, Roses all the way

Our girl is off on her tour around the country and by all accounts, she is wowing them wherever she goes.

I put my money where my mouth is but by the time I got there Edaein was already installed as the favourite. 😍 🤩 🥳

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Revival, the Reunion

It used to be the Races, now it’s Revival. One visitor described Friday evening at Revival as 1000 people in a carpark standing and chatting with old friends and 500 people upfront attending a concert.

Among the former were Seán, Valeria, Richard and Elaine.

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It’s still Heritage Week 2022

You’ve got two more chances to see Bliain dar Saol in Kerry Writers Museum. It’s on today, Tuesday Aug. 16 2022 and Wednesday Aug. 17 2022. Both showings are at 2.30 pm.

I snapped these two local heroes yesterday August 15 2022 on their way to mass.

John Lynch has preserved lots and lots of Listowel memories on film. He made Bliain dar Saol in collaboration with John Pierse. It records a year in Listowel fifty years ago.

Pat Walsh served us well in McKenna’s for years. He was also one of the men who worked so hard to keep the Pitch and Putt course in perfect condition.

Men like these are the salt of the earth.

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