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: Pat McAulliffe

Changes in business and church going, Handball Memories and Outdoor Dining in 2021

Upper Church Street in June 1 2021


Beautiful stucco and paint work

When strolling around Listowel, It’s always worth giving a look upward to the beautifully decorated shop names. This one is at Listowel Travel in Main Street.


Covid Regulations in St. Mary’s

The church is divided into sections and we sit, wearing our masks, 3 people to a seat. We hand sanitise on entering and leaving and we obey the instructions of the volunteer ushers.


Lovely to see your name above the door

There is nothing beats the thrill of having your own business. It’s your “baby” and in your interest to nourish and grow it. Hannah McGrath has taken over Number 18 Hair and Beauty on Church Street.


More Handball Memories from the War Years

(from Junior Griffin)

One of the highlights of Listowel’s social calendar in the 1940s was the Handball Club dance in the Plaza on St. Stephen’s Night. The chairman, Stuart Stack was the driving force behind this event. Catering was by Diana.

During the war years the alley was usually packed with players. So great was the demand for games that the side wall too became an alley and it was used quite a lot, usually by younger players, anxious to hone their skills.

Employment was scarce, emigration not an option so the alley provided a welcome outlet for the young men who had little spare cash and were anxious for exercises.

Some of the greatest Listowel players in action in those years were Gatler Moloney, Paddy Rowan, Pat Joe and Diclk O’Connor,Tommy Daly, John Joe Kenny, Jackie Fitzgibbon, Stuart Stack, Tom Sweeney, Christy Mackessy, Connie Keane, John O’Mahony, Tim Shanahan, Mick Glynn and Kevin Sheehy were looked on as ” the cream of the crop”

In this picture provided to us by Breandán ÓMurchú are John Keane, Breandán Ó Murchú, Junior Griffin, Mr Fitzgibbon, Johnny Halloran, Seamus Browne

The annual doubles tournament was always played in front of a large crowd. It was taken as seriously as if an All Ireland title was at stake.

Toddy Enright played in one such tournament in the 1940s;

“I was not playing long when I was asked to enter the tournament. I was partnered with Gatler Moloney who was one of the star players of that time. I got my instructions very early on from Gatler.

“You keep in around the short line and leave everything to me.”

I did as I was told and picked up a few handy aces near the front wall from time to time but Gatler mastered everything and we eventually won out the competition, defeating Tommy Daly of Market Street and his partner whose name I can’t remember, in the final. Tommy was a Listowel footballer around that time as well.

We got a few shillings for winning. I don’t know if that made us professionals or not. The few bob was handy.”


A Sunday Stroll

This year it was not feasible to have the very popular guided walks of Listowel during Writer’s Week. The Walks and Tours committee came up with a great alternative, a virtual walking tour of the town.

It has the advantage over the usual tour in that it is permanent and it is available to a wide audience at home and abroad. People will be watching this lovely informative and entertaining walk around Listowel for years to come. Production values are of the highest standard.

Well done everyone involved

Here is the link. See for yourself.

A Sunday Stroll


Outdoor Dining 2021

Take a look this space. It’s about to change very soon. Our new outdoor dining room is going to be located here.

Castleisland, McAuliffe Plasterers, the benefits of dewand Last Week’s “Thoughts” from Radio Kerry

A Feral Goat by Neil T. Halligan, photo finalist in the Irish Widlife Trust photography competition.


Old Chapel Lane

On the day I was in Castleisland this road would have been better named Mart Lane. Every car that went down while I was there had a trailer of cattle behind it,

When you have a really wide footpath you have room for some lovely trees without interfering with the flow of traffic.


Listowel MacAuliffes, Plasterers extraordinaire 

A great grandson of Pat MacAuliffe who contributed so much to Listowel’s unique streetscape put the above picture together for us. Warren Buckley, in the course of his family research discovered that many of  his family had distinguished  careers in plastering. It’s not just Listowel that has been enhanced by McAuliffe plasterwork. We share that distinction with Jamaica, New York, Havana and Boston.


In the Early Morning Dew

Apparently there was a May custom in Ireland of collecting dew. The following account I found in a website called  Our Irish Heritage in a blog by Mike Rendell

The collecting of dew would take weeks of preparation. In April, May and into June the girls would get up before the dawn, go to the green fields (wheat was best) and harvest the dew – either with their bare hands, or more especially by spreading a sheet out over the moist grass, and then wringing it out and collecting it in a glass jar. This would be topped up every day, and for the whole year would sit in the sunlight by a suitable window. Every few days the concoction would be purified by carefully straining off the water so as to leave behind any sediment, dirt, or other impurities. And so, after nearly a year in which the freshest of fresh waters was imbued with sunbeams, it could be splashed on the face! Dr Boate’s book opined “The dew, thus thoroughly purified, looketh whitish, and keepeth good for a year or two after.”

The distillation was at its most powerful if applied before sunrise on 1st May, and in an age when we consider it beneficial to rub avocado extract into our hair, or spread unmentionable products over our skin to prevent wrinkles, who is to say that a spot of early morning dew water is not just as magical in its properties?

The practice gave rise to the riddle

I washed my face in water

That had neither rained nor run,

And I dried it on a towel

That was neither woven nor spun.

The answer lay in the fact that having washed your face in dew you always allowed it to dry in the fresh air – you would hardly go to all that trouble and then wipe it off afterwards!


Just a Thought

Last week I was the “preacher” on Radio Kerry’s Just a Thought. My Thoughts are


Young Tennis Players, Pat McAuliffe Plasterwork and Mill Lane Corner

Lower William Street, Listowel in January 2019


More tennis players from 1987

 Happy carefree days captured by Danny Gordon


Ireland of the Welcomes

“From the heart of Ireland to the Irish at heart”

This magazine, as far as I can see, is still going strong. This edition is from 1999 and was sent to me by a U.S. internet friend now gone to her just reward.

In 1999 a London based photo journalist called Liam White came to Listowel and wrote a beautiful illustrated article on the plasterwork of Pat McAuliffe. Below are photos of his photos

I’m going to quote here the final paragraph of the article.

“There is a Listowel family of painters and decorators by the name of Chute who are noted particularly for their distinctive sign writing. They are often called upon to redecorate the work of Pat McAuliffe which they do to singular effect. For generations their own original work has been appreciated well beyond the bounds of Kerry. The Chutes contribute greatly to their hometown’s reputation for vernacular shop decoration.  Once in distant Gort in Co. Galway, Bryan MacMahon was observing appreciatively as a sign writer, high on his ladder, worked with great concentration on the shop owner’s name in Irish. The artist stopped working briefly, and, smiling down at Bryan, asked “Am I as good as the Chutes of Listowel?”

The writer of the article met with Ray McAuliffe who showed him some of his great grandfather’s moulds.

We are blessed in Listowel that the families of the craftsmen, the shop owners and the wider community appreciate the unique heritage that sets Listowel apart from so many towns.


Then and Now



Central Hotel, the next Sonny Bill, Looking after the potatoes in Asdee and a Meitheal to launch Storied Kerry

William Street Upper


Maid of Erin, Main Street

This building in Listowel’s Main Street has one of Pat MacAulliffe’s best known works on its shopfront. Hardly a day goes by without some tourist stopping to photograph this symbol of Listowel.

Below are some of the details on this intrinsically Irish stucco.

Irish wolfhound

Shamrocks and celtic knot work surround the slogan which translates as Ireland forever.

A round tower

Under the rising sun the bare chested maid is resting on an Irish harp, the official symbol of Ireland. The rising sun at “Fáinne Geal an Lae” is an often used republican symbol of the dawn of a new day for Ireland. A warrior woman as in Dark Rosaleen or Caitlín Ní Houlicháin is also a frequently employed symbol for a free Ireland.


Do You Remember Sonny Bill?

If your answer to the above question is no, move right along, please. Nothing to see here.

If the answer is yes, Sonny Bill was that beautiful horse that they had at my home place in Kanturk and who was eventually sold on to an English buyer. He is now enjoying a stellar career across the Irish Sea.

This beautiful foal, seen above running with his mother, is Sonny Bill’s last full brother. Sadly, their dad has passed away so there is a great weight of expectation on these young shoulders. 

He is still with his birth family but will be coming to his new home soon at the EPA stable . It’s not really possible to tell if he will be as good as his brother but watch this space and I’ll update you if he begins to realise his potential.


 Looking after the Potato Pit

The following extract is taken from Jim Costelloe’s great rural memoir of Asdee in the 1940’s and ’50s

The potatoes were stored in long pits in the kitchen garden beside the house when I was young. There were Kerrs Pinks and Golden Wonders for human consumption in a small pit, but the long pit was of Aran Banners for the farm animals and the domestic fowl. These pits were covered with straw and rushes to protect the potatoes from the winter frost. With the coming of Spring growth, the potatoes began to sprout and if left untouched they would grow long stalks, get soft and lose their nutrition. To prevent this from happening they would have to be turned. The work was done by hand and it entailed stripping the cover off the pit and rubbing the sprouts off each potato individually before repitting the whole lot.

The job is always done on a day following a night of grey frost. That was always a sunny day with a bit of drying and also, there was generally no threat of rain. Down on one knee handling thousands of potatoes on a frosty date is not the most exciting of jobs. The cold east wind and the damp semi hard ground added to the discomfort. The only exciting thing about it was the stripping of the rushes and straw where we suspected rats were hiding. The scurrying of the rats and our attempts to kill them with pikes  are memories now. How those same rats would destroy a pit of spuds if left unhindered is amazing. Rodine was a rat poison in those days and was very effective.


Storied Kerry

Storied Kerry is a movement you will be hearing lots more about from now on. It is a drive to preserve and celebrate our stories, all our stories and all forms of story telling to all kinds of audiences.

On Saturday last, October 27 2018 Frank Lewis, the founder of Storied Kerry gathered together a Meitheal in Killarney to get this show on the road.

This man is Rory Darcy, a school principal, a philosopher, a story teller and, as we discovered later, a marathon runner.  Rory welcomed us to his school, St. Oliver’s national School, Ballycasheen, Killarney.  St. Oliver’s has pupils from many different countries on its rolls. It welcomes and celebrates them all. There were flags of all the countries behind Rory as he spoke to us and he told us of an initiative started in St. Oliver’s and now practiced in many Killarney schools were the parents of the children, some of them from refugee centres help out with meals in the school and the children get to talk to and interact with a diverse group of parents as well as fellow pupils.

Behind Rory also there was a fish tank. This tank is a kind of symbol of what St. Oliver’s stands for. There are fish of all shapes, colours and sizes in the tank. There are big bubbles helping to keep them alive. These are big acts of kindness but there are also lots of tiny bubbles, standing for small little acts we do to help each other out. The story of St. Oliver’s was a lovely way to start the day.

The next treat for us was a performance from Siamsa Tíre’s seminal show, Fadó, Fadó. It was pure magic. I’m definitely going to see the full show the next time it’s on in Siamsa.

The dancing and singing told the story of the meitheal oibre who came together to reap the harvest as it was done by our ancestors long ago.

This multitalented performer edged his scythe with a whet stone. He also played the fiddle and sang the most moving rendition of “Ar Bhruach na Carraige Báine” I’ve heard in a long time.

This man brought the corn to thresh.

This implement is called a flail and it was used to beat the corn from the ears.

Every action was accompanied by dancing and the rhythmic music of the farm work as well as more traditional music played on the fiddle, the accordion and Uileann pipes.

A familiar face in the front row.

( more from Storied Kerry tomorrow)

Harp and Lion Restored, John B. Keane Road and Pat MacAulliffe’s work in Abbeyfeale

Photo; Christopher Grayson


The Harp that once…..

On my walk through town last week I saw a scaffolding outside the Harp and Lion and men at work, restoring this iconic Listowel stucco work to its former glory.

Day 2, the scaffolding down and all is revealed.

Lots done, lots more to do.


Grape and Grain repainted

This premises looks splendid with its new paintwork.


A Stroll along the John B. Keane Road

Listowel Fire Station is located on John B. Keane Road.

Planting along this road adds to the beauty of Lovely Listowel, Ireland’s Tidiest Town 2018.

The roundabout and the cinema in the background.

John B. Keane Grove beautifully replicates the look of the old railway buildings which stood here.


Pat McAulliffe’s Plasterwork in Abbeyfeale

(from Echoes of Abbeyfeale)

Pat McAuliffe was born in 1846 and before his death in 1921 he had left an extraordinary, exotic and fascinating legacy of exterior plasterwork. There are several superb examples of McAuliffe’s work in Abbeyfeale. Outstanding is the house once owned by the O Mara family egg and dart and a further design of circles penetrated by arrows. Some would say that McAuliffe’s work at its best can be seen at the shop on Main Street, presently owned by Paudie Fitzgerald and formerly owned by Patrick O Connor. Here McAuliffe uses a variety of scene and language, including a Biblical scene and words in Latin, French and Irish. It is doubtful 

if he was familiar with these languages. One inscription reads “Vita brevis. Ars Longa”
(Life is short. Art is forever). An Anglo –Saxon agricultural fertility charm has the following invocation:
“Hail to thee Earth, Mother of Man.
Be fruitful in God’s embrace,
Filled with food for the use of men”
Another scene, a Biblical one, depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. At one time people knew this O Connor house as “Angel House” as Pat McAuliffe had designed a plaster angel and placed it aloft on the outside of the building. Our rainy Irish climate, however, ensured that the Angel was frequently dripping water. In an effort to conserve the building
and diminish the constant drip, the Angel was removed from its perch. Thus also, one further example of McAuliffe’s work has vanished forever. Various other designs on the front walls of Abbeyfeale buildings can be seen on the houses presently owned by Damian Daly and Caroline 


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén