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

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A Poet’s Hen, a Memorial and some Gaeilge

Centra and Circle K in Cahirdown


Irish on Listowel Streets from a TY project in 2007

Gaeilge ag Seachtain na Scríbhneoirí 2024;

An Satharn Meitheamh 1

Cúirt Filíochta: Irish language poetry event. Filí na Gaeilge ag léamh a gcuid filíochta. Eagraithe ag Matt Ó Maonaigh, cléireach na Cúirte, i gcomhar le Seachtain na Scríbhneoirí, le Glór na nGael Lios Tuathail agus le tacaíocht Oifig na Gaeilge, Comhairle Co. Chiarraí.

Thade Kelly’s Hen

A man called John Foley lived in Tralee at the turn of the century.

“It seems John J Foley was also an established painter and decorator based in Moyderwell, Tralee. In 1901 he was aged 34 and lived with his wife Martha (Knowling) and family. He died in April 1941, obit attached listing his active part in the town’s social activities including choirs, musical and philharmonic society.(account from 1889 attached). He is buried in Rath Cemetery, Tralee. He appears to be well established performer and famed in amateur circles for his performances.” David O’Sullivan.

One hundred years later a lady called Christan Bush in Georgia in the USA is doing a doctorate on Victorian literature. Her professor encourages her to study “unknown” writers from the period. Christan loves Ireland so she decided to research an unknown Irish poet.

Here the two stories converge. John J. Foley, as well as a performer was a writer of comic verses.

Where does Listowel Connection come in?

Every now and again Jer. Kennelly sends me snippets from old newspapers. One such snippet contained an account of a concert in Listowel in 1901 at which John Foley recited his poem, Thade Kelly’s Hen.

Christan found the text of the poem in an old Cork Examiner and here it is….

Now Christan had the poem but nothing about the poet. Enter our good friend and super researcher, David O’Sullivan.

Thade Kelly’s Hen garnered an amount of notoriety in these parts between March and April of 1901 due to a correspondence in the newspapers between Foley and Thomas F. O’Sullivan of Listowel, who took exception to the poem. David has researched it all for us and I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.

Lest We Forget

Heads bowed in reverence, a staggering 1,475 giants now stand among the fields of the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach. 

: S. Frères / Normandy Tourism 

A Fact

The time around Bealtaine was regarded by the Celts as a liminal time, a time when the spirit world and the earth world were close. At this time people who were in league with evil inhabitants of the spirit world could invoke their help to harm their neighbours. This belief was known as Piseogs.


Lá ‘le Bríde, Harp and Lion, A Piseóg Hare, Crazy Prices and another Abbeyfeale Pub Closes

Lá Fhéile Bríde

Tradition has it that displaying the St. Brigid’s Cross in your home will bring blessings and protection, particularly against fire.

“St. Brigid’s Day (1st of February). People make a rush cross and put it outside the door and say special prayers. This rush cross is made in memory of Brigid. When teaching the pagans she made a rush cross to represent the cross Our Lord was crucified on. On St. Brigid’s eve people hang a piece of cloth in the air outside the window. This Brat Brighoe is supposed to contain a cure by touching the sick or sore.”  (from the National Folklore collection)

Collector- Kitty Lynch- Address, Tarbert, Co. Kerry- Informant Mrs Lynch- Age 78, Address, Tarbert, Co. Kerry


Now and Then




From Dúchas, the folklore collection

One morning William Collins was going to a fair in Listowel. He had a horse and rail and he had bonhams in the car. Behind at Mangan’s Cross a black hare jumped up on the shaft and he began to beat him with an ash plant.
He disappeared for a while. The horse would not stir beyond this place that night. This happened at Tarmons six years ago. He was not able to go to the fair that night. The horse was shying from Mangan’s Cross home.

Collector- William Holly, Address, Tarmon West, Co. Kerry
Informant- Mr William Collins, Age 40, Address, Ballygoghlan, Co. Limerick



Photo: Danny Gordon

Where was this shop?


Lament for a Beloved Local Pub

Another of Abbeyfeale’s bars has closed. A local poet, Liam Murphy, penned a poem and posted it on Facebook.

Market forces are bringing the curtain down on great nights in the pub.

Jack Ryan’s:

The end of an era in Abbeyfeale, a true landmark closes its doors.The time has come to say goodbye to a place that’s given us more.
More than mere nights out, a proper ‘local’ as long as I’ve known.
Jack Ryan’s has been my favourite haunt, no matter where I’ve roamed!

I remember going in there, for a first pint with some old friends.
A pub of many along the street – ‘Pat Macs’ we called it back then.
A pint of black, your only man, the best pint that you could get.
Then down to Little Nero’s, on Kebabs the change was spent!

Jack himself took over the bar, just over 20 years ago.
Many’s a night I spent down there with my dear old Uncle Joe.
Joe had his spot down by the bar, vacating only for a smoke.
A one-liner and a chat for all, he really was a charming bloke.

I remember Mag and the girls aiming to drink the top shelf dry.
Until a knock came to the door, you could hear the collective sigh.
But alas we stayed a little longer, leaving via the back door!
If my Nana could have seen me then, her jaw would hit the floor!

I was in there a month ago, a night for old time’s sake.
Met up with some great characters, the pints and craic were great.
It was good to see this place once more before they close forever.
And have a pint for old time sake, in my own small heaven.

And as I walked towards the door, for the final time,
I turned to see Joe stand once more, pint in hand with a big smile.
I nodded to a ghost and said goodbye to my old friend.
A place I’ll dearly miss and love until the bitter end!

Church St, Piseógs, Ballylongford school and Listowel Tennis and Listowel Men’s Shed

Main Street. Listowel in January 2019


No Listowel Connection

I saw this on a Photos of Dublin site. It reminded me of something out of The Keystone Cops .


Then and Now


If you believe this, you’ll believe anything

From Dúchas, the folklore collection

One night as a nurse was returning to Newtown after attending to a patient in Knockanure she was passing a fort when a man came out of it and asked her to come in to see his wife who was sick. She went in, and there were other people who used to dip their fingers in a pot of stuff which looked like soup in the corner and rub it to their eyes. When the nurse was leaving the house she did the same. A few days after that the nurse went to the fair and she met the man again. She shook hands with him. The people at the fair could not see him at all and they were surprised at what the nurse was doing The man told her to close her left eye and to see if she could see him. She said she could not. He then told her to close her right eye and to see if she could see him. She said she could. He struck her left eye with a stick which he had in his hand and she was blind in that eye ever after.

Collector- John Culhane
Informant- Dan Cunningham, Age 76 Address Newtownsandes, Co. Kerry.


Ballylongford School

Photo shared by Liam O’Hainnín on Facebook


Listowel Juvenile Tennis 1980s

Photo: Danny Gordon


Listowel Men’s Shed

What is a Men’s Shed?

A Men’s Shed is a dedicated, friendly and welcoming meeting place where men come together and undertake a variety of mutually agreed activities.

Men’s Sheds are open to all men regardless of age, background or ability. It is a place where you can share your skills and knowledge with others, learn new skills and develop your old skills.

New members are always welcome and can be assured that there is something of interest for everyone as the men have ownership of their Shed and projects and decide their own program of events. Good health is based on many factors including feeling good about yourself, being productive and valuable to your community, connecting to friends and maintaining an active body and an active mind. Becoming a member of a Men’s Shed provides a safe and busy environment where you can find many of these things. Also, importantly, there’s no pressure. Men can just come and have a chat and a cuppa if that’s all they’re looking for.

Some of the Listowel men taking a break

Listowel Men’s Shed meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11.00 in 56 Feale Drive. New members are welcome.

Photo and information from Listowel Men’s Shed Facebook page

Below are some of the plasterwork projects they completed recently and you can acquire one for a reasonable donation which will go towards purchasing materials for their workshops.


Shop Closure

Price Savers on William Street is closing down.


Bill O’Flaherty

I posted this lovely old photograph yesterday and it struck a chord with local historian, Martin Moore.

Here is what he wrote;


Further to email from John Buckley of Roscrea, and
Tanavalla, Bill Flaherty served as a weight master
in the market.

Before that he served as a policeman in the RIC.

His wife was Dwyer and her brother was a most prominent
policeman in New Zealand. In fact, the Dwyers had at
least 4 generations of policemen, including Michael
of Moneygall, mentioned by John.

Thanks John for sharing this.

Barbers, official opening of Listowel Castle and some more piseogs

The Rise and Rise of the old-fashioned Barber’s shop.

Men and their  Hair

There was a time when men had their hair cut at the barber’s and women went to hairdressers. The times changed and we had a very strange phenomenon called Unisex Hairdressers. This term was coined in the 1960s to describe a salon that was not gender specific.

There is a certain man who likes to have his hair cut in a male environment so the traditional barber still did a steady trade.

Then we saw the rise of a man who likes to have his hair cut, styled and dyed and to have his facial hair attended to in a men only environment. So now we have stylish salons to rival any ladies’ hairdressers devoted entirely to men.

This is a traditional barber’s pole. It projected into the street so that even an illiterate man would know this was the spot for the haircut. The story behind the red and white stripes is that originally the local barber was the person most skilled with knives so he was also the local surgeon.

O”Quigley’s in Church Street have incorporated the pole into the shop front.


Found this!


Three Generations return to Listowel

The lovely lady on the far right of my photo is Peggy Gannon and I met her with her daughter and granddaughter as they were visiting a family grave in John Paul 11 cemetery.  Peggy will be 90 next birthday but she has lost none of sharp brain power or her good looks and she is still playing Bridge.

Peggy told me that the last time she met me was when she called to my door canvassing for Jimmy Deenihan and I was pregnant. That child is now 30.


John B. and Piseogs

Piseoga or Pishogues are not to be trifled with. My friend who sent me the article about piseogs from told me that an old man from Rathmore told him that Derrinagree was a deadly spot for piseogs…so deadly that they brought in a missioner to get rid of them. When the visiting missioner visited the church he found a pig’s head left on the altar for him.

Now from The Limerick Leader a piseog story nearer to home from the pen of John B. Keane.

Pishogue scare

AT THE time of writing there
is a big pishogue scare in the district of Lisselton and the townlands adjacent
to it. Lisselton lies at the foot of fabled Cnocanore, where the Fianna of old
hunted and played.

It is only four miles from
beautiful Ballybunion and five miles from lovely Listowel. From time to time
there are pishogue scares in most townlands in North Kerry but the present
Lisselton one seems to be the biggest of all because many people are affected.

One man has a sore hand. The
milk of another is back by a score of gallons every day. For no good reason, a
milch cow in prime condition died belonging to another. Then there is the man
who had a quality greyhound of great promise.

The dog has shown a complete
reversal of form and is now considered worthless. In case the reader might
think that these stories of woe are mere invention journey to Lisselton and
find out for yourself.

There are strong goings on
all over the district and a number of people are living in fear in case the
evil hand of pishoguery is pointed in their direction.

Some locals claim there is
no power in pishogues while others swear that infinite damage can be done. At
present, it is all very mysterious but have no doubt about it there is evil
work in the fields and fairy forts of this quiet countryside.

A Lisselton man to whom I
spoke last week told me that in his opinion the district is on the verge of
many calamities. Apparently if one believes pishogues can do harm then harm
befalls the believer. It is the opposite with non-believers. Those who scoff at
the so-called power of the evildoer seem to escape unscathed.

At present one of the
methods used for the spread of pishoguery is the laying of eggs along the
headlands of the field of those against whom the pishoguer has a grudge.

It could be too that the
pishoguer is jealous. The eggs are laid in a ring and the number put down is
thirteen. The desired effect is that the hens of the victimised person will
stop laying.

Sometimes eggs are found
under cocks of hay but this could be the work of a rogue hen who decides to lay

One can only be certain that
a pishogue is being worked when the eggs are round in a ring of thirteen. Only
white eggs are used.

In all instances of which
I’ve heard and some cases which I have personally seen, there has never been a
brown or speckled egg used. One of the most malicious forms of pishoguery and
one which is being currently practiced in Lisselton is the scattering of milk
within the bewitched circle of fairy forts. Lisselton abounds in fairy forts,
some of them quite famous.

This practice of
milk-spreading is an abominable practice in country districts where the economy
is built around the milch cow. The spreading by the pishoguer of fresh milk is
supposed to dry up the cows of those he envies. Some people swear that the
pishoguer very often has the desired effect. Others have been known to sell off
their stock of milch cows.

Let us hope the Lisselton
scare peters out and that there is no further harm attempted. Most of the
people in that happy district refuse to take it seriously but no one denies
that it is happening and deep down there is the fear that oneself will be next.

Piseoga, Miss Hayes and a 1903 Kerry team

Milk and Piseoga

My reminiscences of milking brought back many memories (not all happy) for people.

Traditionally Irish people got much of their nourishment from dairy products, so milk, butter, eggs and cheese were staples in their diet. Farmers realised the importance of protecting these goods from thieves, both human and of the fairy kind.

Below is an extract from The Farmer: Irish Folk Custom and Belief

 (Nósanna agus Piseoga na nGael) by Seán Ó Súilleabháin 

This was sent to me by a kind blog follower.  He found it on

“… Almost all of the customs and beliefs in this field were
concerned with the physical welfare of the cows and the warding off of diseases
and other evils which might affect them harmfully. The cow-house or byre was
built on a site which would not prevent the passage of fairies or encroach on
their territory (mainly, the “fairy fort”). Crosses made of straw and other
materials on St. Brigid’s Eve were hung in the cow-house or fixed to the doors
and windows. It was hoped to protect the cows themselves by tying red ribbons
to their tails or around their necks ; rings made of rowan were similarly
applied for the same purpose. Cattle were driven across the dying flames of
bonfires on May Eve and St. John’s Eve, or between two of these fires. So too
they were forced to swim in a lake or river at certain times to avert illness
and bad luck.

Holy water was, of course, often sprinkled on livestock and
scores of charms (apocryphal folk-prayers) were recited to avert or cure the
many diseases from which they might suffer whether through natural causes or,
as the folk often suspected through the evil eye of an unfriendly neighbour.
The fairies too were blamed for causing animals to be “elf-shot”. This was due
to the fact that ailing cows, with pierced hides might be found grazing near a
place where small stone arrow-heads from ancient times were often found lying
about; the fairies were immediately blamed for having cast these weapons at the
cows in an attempt to take them off into fairyland. One of the many remedies
for “elf-shot” was to give the stricken animal a drink of water in which the
“fairy arrows” had been boiled.

As soon as a cow had calved, she was ceremoniously blessed with
holy water, while the following prayer was recited three times:

Go mbeannaí Dia dhuit, a bhó!

Go mbeannaíthear faoi
dhó do do laogh!

Go mbeannaí an triúr atá i bhflaitheas Dé,

atá : An t-Athair agus an Mac agus an Spiorad Naomh!

Tar, a Mhuire, agus

 tar, a Bhríd, agus bligh;

Tar, a Naomh Mícheál Ard-aingeal, agus
beannaigh an mart.

In ainm an Athar ages an Mhic ague an Spiorad Naofa, Amen, a Dhia.”

(God’s blessing on thee, O cow!
twice blest be thee, O calf!
the Three who are in Heaven bless you: 
the Father and the Son and the Holy
Come, Mary, and sit; come, Brigid, and start milking;
Blessed Michael, the Archangel, and bless the beef
In the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen, O God.)

Although it was commonly accepted that the fairies who lived in
the forts might need milk and take it from cows on the farm, this was not
resented, as people wished to live in amity with their otherworld neighbours.
Precautionary measures were directed more against evil-minded neighbours, who
were liable to endeavour to steal one’s milk or butter “profit” (‘sochar an
’) by magic means. Newly-calved cows stood in need of special
protection, as their supply of milk was assured. Crushed flowers, such as marsh
marigold, were rubbed to their udders, which were also singed with the flame of
a blessed candle. The first steam of milk drawn from such a cow was allowed to
fall on the ground ”for those who might need it” (the fairies, presumably), and
then a cross was marked on the cow shank with some of her milk.

A charred sod of turf from the Midsummer bonfire was placed in
the milk-house as protection. The greatest care was taken not to lose one’s
milk-luck through negligence, as witness the following traditional taboos :
don’t give away any milk on New Year’s Day, on May Day, on any Monday or on a
Friday; don’t lend a milk-vessel; don’t take to fetch water from the well a vessel
which is milk-stained; when such a vessel has been washed, do not throw the
cleansing water into a river or stream ; don’t give milk to a neighbour unless
salt has been put into it; don’t allow milk out of the house, if anybody is ill

It was a traditional custom never to drink milk on Good Friday;
even the baby in the cradle, it is said had to cry three times on that day
before milk was fed to it.

Farmers were constantly afraid in days gone by that their milk
and butter “profit” could be stolen from them by evil minded hags, who either
bailed a neighbour’s well or dragged a cloth over the dew of his fields on May
Morn saying “Come all to me!” People sat up all night on May Eve to guard their
wells and fields against such spells. It was believed in Ireland, as well as in
many other countries that such human hags had the power of changing themselves
into hares and sucking the milk from the udders of cows. These hares could be
shot, so it was thought, only with a “silver bullet” (a pellet made from a
florin which had a cross-device on one face).

In the old days, there were no creameries in rural areas and
farmers churned their milk at home. The churn was deemed to be especially
vulnerable to those who were thought to be disposed to steal the butter
“profit”. Every effort was therefore made to guard it against such enemies: a
live cinder was placed under the churn (many churns had charred bottoms in
olden times), as well as an ass or horseshoe; in other districts, nails of iron
would be driven into the timber of the churn to protect it, or else a withy of
rowan-tree was bound around it. The tongs were kept in the fire during the
period of churning, and water or fire-ashes were not allowed out of the house
until the operation had ended. So too, the fire was guarded: if anybody came to
a house while churning was in progress and tried (by “reddening” his pipe or
otherwise) to take live fire out of the house, he was prevented from doing
so, and forced to take a “brash” (hand) at the churning before leaving-thus the
churn and its butter were kept intact from harm. 


Does anyone in Lisytowel Remember Aileen Hayes?

I met her at the Cork Summer show with her husband, Charles and her friend Liam Hayes. Aileen is soon off to Florida for her holidays. She taught English and Spanish in Presentation Secondary School, Listowel for a few years in the eighties.


A Kerry Team, All Ireland Champions, 1903

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