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: Presentation Convent Listowel Page 1 of 7

Ballybunion, Listowel and Cairo

Ballybunion sunset in February 2023…Photo; Kathleen Griffin


Nine Daughters Hole

Photo and text by Richard Creagh

Cave of the Nine Daughters

Back in the time of the Vikings Ireland must have been a fairly rough place to be living. For over 200 years Viking raiders from Norway and Denmark made regular attacks on Irish settlements, taking what they wanted away with them and leaving a trail of destruction behind. Eventually the Vikings even settled here, presumably to have Irish bases from which to make further attacks into the country. The bastards! Many placenames in Ireland have a Scandinavian origin that we still use today, like Smerwick (Smjǫr-vík – butter harbour) and Wexford (Veisa-fjǫrðr – muddy fjord).

This cave near Ballybunion is known as the Cave of the Nine Sisters, or Daughters even. There’s a story that during a Viking raid a local Chieftan, presumably having accepted the battle was lost, threw his nine daughters into this cave through the hole in the ceiling, for fear of losing them to the Vikings. Many Irish women were taken as slaves by the raiders, and this Chieftan obviously didn’t like the idea. I don’t know if his daughters had any say in the matter.

Most old stories are rooted in truth, however extravagant they may seem after centuries of embellishment. It’s been known for awhile now that Iceland was settled by Scandinavians. Genetic markers have revealed that the majority of the first women settlers were of Celtic origin, while most of the men have roots in Northern Europe. So there may well be some truth to the story of this cave, because the Norsemen were certainly taking women away with them. I’ve been to Iceland twice and the women there are generally pretty good looking. They can thank us.


Presentation Secondary School, Listowel

A significant event in the life of the early Listowel Presentation
community was the ‘Battle of the Cross’ in 1857.  The Sisters were
ordered to take down the Cross from outside their school by
the Education Board. In spite of dire threats, the sisters refused to
do so, and defied the Board. Eventually the Board yielded. The cross is still there today.

As I was in the area recently I took the opportunity to take a few snaps of my old workplace.

Through many seasons I watched this old tree which is just over the wall from the carpark. If it could only talk what a tale it would tell.

Once upon a time the convent had an open door policy. Anyone who was hungry could make his way to the kitchen door knowing he would be looked after.

Then and Now

It was a sad day for Listowel in 2007 when the nuns finally closed the doors.


Typical Sunday Morning in Childers’ Park

Lots of youngsters out playing sport and lots of adults giving up their time to train them



Tutenkamun, King Tut to his friends, was an Egyptian pharaoh who reigned for ten years nearly 4 thousand years ago. He came to power aged 10!

Young Tut never heard the Irish saying, “You can”t take it with you.”

The reason the world still remembers Tutenkamun is because of the massive wealth uncovered in his tomb, one hundred years ago, in February 1923.

His coffin was solid gold. In fact to be sure to be sure he had 3 coffins nested inside each other like Russian dolls.

His tomb was a passage grave and in it Howard Carter, who opened the grave in 1923, found a carriage, weapons and loads of beautiful jewellery.

This is the funerary mask that was over the head of the mummified Tut.

It took 10 years to remove and document all the stuff Tut took with him. Up to 2020 there were tours of different pieces from the collection to museums around the world.

In 1972 some of the loot was in London and believe it or believe it not, I was also in a summer job in town and I joined the the throng filing past. The stuff was breathtaking in its magnificence and in the horror inducing realisation that this was just buried to accompany a ruler to the other world.

Scarab brooches were all the rage that summer. I bought a cheap one. They were meant to bring luck.


Remembering 1921 in Listowel, The Convent and The Lartigue

Presentation Convent, Listowel in its Prime


Incisive Poem from Saturday’s Irish Times


One Hundred Years Ago

Dave O’Sullivan unearthed this story in the Evening Echo of July 13 1921. Thomas Murphy, butcher of this parish had been interned for his part in the civil disobedience that had taken place some time previously.

Here again is an account of that skirmish;


One hundred years ago this week, a remarkable event took place in Listowel.   A courageous action by a group of leaders in the town, armed only with hurleys, struck a non-violent blow on behalf of the people of the town to be masters of their own destiny, and to ‘walk their own land’.  

The event itself was the ploughing of the Cows Lawn, the property of Lord Listowel which was eventually to lead to the provision of probably the best loved amenity in the town  –  the present Town Park.

While a group of people ‘ploughing’ might seem a harmless enough activity, this ploughing was anything but harmless.  It led to a number of clashes and confrontations between the police and a number of local men, thirteen of whom were sentenced to 12 months in Cork and Belfast Gaol

To understand what a momentous occasion it was we have only to see the headlines in The Kerryman the following week:


As World War I raged, shortages of food and rising prices in 1917 started to cause distress  in the town.   The British Ministry of Food set up a food control committee for Ireland on 31 August 1917 and many of its regulations, in theory, applied to this country.    Sinn Féin established Food Committees throughout the country and started to organise local markets, distribution of local food at fair  prices and  arrangements for the poor of the town to get small areas of land or allotments to grow their own food.   

In February  1917, Listowel Urban Council Chairman Jack McKenna had been involved in a fruitless exchange of letters with Lord Listowel looking for permission to use 15 to 20 acres of vacant land

to be distributed among ‘artisans, labourers and small traders of the town … on which they could raise food to supplement their small earnings’. While a number of small unsuitable fields had been suggested, these were not acceptable to the Urban Council.

The two fields identified as the most suitable for the purpose were  called at the time the Back Lawn and the Front Lawn . These fields were at that time leased from Lord Listowel by two local men and ‘negotiations’ were opened with them to give up their tenancies.  John Keane held the front lawn and was willing to give up his tenancy.’Mr Keane was prepared to forego his right for the purpose of enabling the Council to proceed with the scheme, provided that Lord Listowel was satisfied’.

Mr. Kenny who had the grazing of the back lawn was not keen to give up his title. He had a butcher shop – it was absolutely essential to enable him to carry on his trade as a butcher in the adjoining Church St. However he was persuaded to ‘do the right thing’.

On 25th February 1918, tired of waiting for permission, the Sinn Féin Food Committee with the help of the Irish Volunteers from Moyvane, Knockanure, Finuge, Rathea, Ballyconry and Ballylongford marched into the town ‘all armed with hurleys and headed by bands, while ploughs and horses brought up the rear.  They were cordially received by the Listowel Company of Irish Volunteers with their brass band.  The whole procession, composed of some eleven or twelve hundred Volunteers, marched to the estate office in Feale View at 1.30 o’clock where the above mentioned waited on Mr. M. Hill, who is Lord Listowel’s chief clerk’.

 Although Messrs. Kenny and Keane had given up possession, Mr Hill refused to hand over the keys as he had not got orders from Lord Listowel. The Volunteers then broke open the gates leading to the back lawn near the National School house.  The ploughs and ploughmen started operations and another section  of Vounteers took over the front lawn.  Over the following two months, local people continued with tilling the land despite visits from the R.I.C., and the threat of court proceedings which culminated in the imprisonment of thirteen of the ‘offenders’ in Cork and Belfast Gaols.

Mr. Thomas Murphy was one of these 13

This was just the start of an endeavour that fifty years later culminated in the acquisition of the two lawns  for the people of Listowel.  It had taken from the twelfth century, firstly  with the Fitzmaurices and then with earls of Listowel as overlords, to put the lands back into the hands of the people of the town.


Missing The Lartigue

A trip on the restored Lartigue used to be a feature of Listowel summers.

Convent Bell, Opening of The Garden of Europe and NKRO

Canon’s Height, Listowel in March 2020


Convent Bell

The bell from Listowel’s Presentation Convent now sits beside St. Mary’s Parish Church.


Official Opening of Garden of Europe

Listowel’s Garden of Europe has a strong German presence and that has been so since its opening. The Garden was a project of Listowel Rotary Club and the idea was to have a garden representing each country of the European Union and as well as plants from that country it would have a piece of statutory  representing someone famous who came from the country.  Germany was the only country that responded to a request for a piece of sculpture. They sent us Schiller. So it was decided to make a kind of German Garden of Europe in a gesture of peace and reconciliation.

The photographs below were taken by John (Junior) Griffin and feature Mervyn Taylor a Jewish T.D. who did the honours, members of the Jewish Irish community and members of Listowel Rotary Club.


October 2011 in The Saddle Bar

This traditional musical event was organised by NKRO (North Kerry Reaching Out). This group was the brainchild of Ger Greaney (in the blue shirt below). It functioned for a few years before eventually folding due to everyone having other commitments and Ger’s moving away from Listowel.

Teach Siamsa Finuge, Presentation Convent and an artistic old post box

Bridge Road, Listowel, through the Millennium Arch in March 2020


The sod was turned for the building of Teach Siamsa in Finuge in 1974

Photo shared on Facebook by Siamsa Tíre


Presentation Convent Listowel 2007

Presentation Convent Listowel

by the late Tim Griffin 2007

Below is just a snippet of a long article by Tim Griffin R.I.P which he wrote following the closure of the local convent which was so dear to him.

As with all big houses of the 18th and 19th centuries, Listowel  Convent had a well in the yard. Up to quite recently, an electric pump was pumping water from that well. It also had a Laundry and a Drying Yard for the clothes lines. There was a big garden and a bountiful orchard. There was a cow-stall and cows, which had to be fed and hand-milked. Extra feed, such as hay, straw, turnips, mangels and potatoes, often had to be bought for them in the Market Yard. 

A number of Domestic Staff were also employed, e.g., carers, cooks, cleaners, nurses, and maids. Richard Mackessy from Glounaphuca would have been one of the first gardeners and farmhands there and his son, Richard (Dick), took over from him and was there until the late 1980s. As the schools got bigger, the cattle had to be sold off. Timmie Walsh worked at the Convent, as a gardener and maintenance person, up to the mid-1990s.

The Convent Sisters used to do visitations to the local hospitals and they recited the Rosary in the nearby funeral home at removals.

Visitors were always made welcome and were provided with refreshments. There was one group of visitors that always called to the Convent – they were, of course, the “Knights of the Road” or more commonly referred to as tramps. Some of them were decent people who had fallen on hard times. One of them I knew was from Wexford, a real gentleman, who told me he would “start his rounds” in early March and finish again in late October. Convents were always in his itinerary as well as B&Bs where he would have been known over the years. A pot of tea and a plate of sandwiches were always forthcoming at the Convent and were graciously received. He told me that the allocation of the Free Travel Pass had made life much easier for him. I have not seen him in the last few years but then don’t we forget the ceaseless toll of time.

The Presentation Convent has ceased to exist in Listowel but Presentation Sisters will still be working in Listowel, continuing the work initiated by their Foundress many years earlier. After being in Listowel for 163 years, it is very sad to see the Convent go. Over that period of time, the Presentation Sisters have made a wonderful contribution to Listowel and its hinterland. The people of North Kerry owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.


A Double Post-box

Someone who knows how much I love old postboxes sent me this card recently. Isn’t it lovely?


Owen MacMahon needs your help

I have gone through all the Drama Group programmes since 1944, 

a task long put on the long finger.

However, I am missing the following
1961 -Autumn Fire – produced by John O’ Flaherty
1966- Two on a String – produced by Ml Whelan
1967 – a Letter from a General – produced by J O’Flaherty
1970 – The Couple Beggar – produced Bill Kearney

Would you be able to put on a plea on your blog in due course? 

I’ve no doubt there must be copies around somewhere. 

It would be great to a complete collection.

Thanks Owen.

Stained Glass, A Bittling Woman and the Corona Virus

Should he be called Narcissus?  Photo by Bridget O’Connor


Chapel Windows

When I was photographing progress at Listowel Primary Care Centre, I noticed these windows in the convent chapel. The magnificent stained glass windows were removed when the convent closed and they were given to churches at home and abroad.

Recently I learned that two of the windows were from the Harry Clarke Studios in Dublin. Harry Clarke died in 1931 and these windows were commissioned to celebrate the anniversary of the convent in 1944. They were most likely designed by William Dowling.

The Harry Clarke Studios windows showing St. Michael, the Archangel and St. Patrick


Corona Virus…A Listowel Connection

Photo and story from

Growing numbers of Irish people enduring lockdown conditions in coronavirus-hit China are frustrated at what they believe is poor communication and support from the Department of Foreign Affairs, it emerged yesterday. 

In Wuhan in Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus, food and medicine shortages are a growing concern.

Meanwhile, Greg McDonough, a native of Listowel in Co Kerry, who lives in the neighbouring Anhui province, said the Department of Foreign Affairs is providing them with little information other than to “check our website”.

The department’s website earlier this week asked Irish people still in China to consider leaving, and to go to a travel agent if their presence was not essential, due to the coronavirus threat.

However, Mr McDonough, who is mostly confined to his home with his wife Wang Xuan and son Joseph (2), said a large Irish group in China who are in contact through WhatsApp want the Irish Embassy to do more.

“Restrictions are getting worse. Only one person a day from a house is allowed out to go to a supermarket,” he said.

“The website recommended going to a travel agency, but that is unrealistic because of the lockdown.”

He said a key concern for Irish people with Chinese partners is that they be allowed to travel with them should they decide to leave China.

“They do not want to leave them behind. The embassy needs to secure an agreement with Chinese authorities to permit them to travel,” he said.

They also want the Irish officials to plan for repatriation if the situation deteriorates and if a plane was sent to Shanghai, it might be possible for Irish people in neighbouring provinces to travel there.

Mr McDonough said the roads out of the town where he is are currently blocked off.

The Chinese Spring Festival was extended for a second week and the hope is that the roads will reopen on Monday.

However, the future continues to remain deeply uncertain, as deaths from the virus near 500 in China with no sign of slowdown in its spread.

A Foreign Affairs spokesman in Dublin said its embassy has been liaising with other countries on options for supporting Irish citizens in China.

It is in contact with remaining Irish people in China.

Separately, two Irish passengers who were on a luxury cruise face two weeks of quarantine and confinement to their cabins after an outbreak of the coronavirus on board.

They are among thousands of passengers who have been ordered to stay in their cabins aboard the Diamond Princess, docked off Japan, after 10 people tested positive for coronavirus.

The virus, which has infected more than 24,300 globally, continues to cause major disruption and havoc across the world.

Meanwhile, another patient suspected of having the virus was placed in isolation in University Hospital Kerry yesterday.

The person – understood to be a woman who may have been in contact with people who travelled to China recently – presented at the hospital with respiratory problems.

As a precautionary measure, the woman was immediately placed in isolation.

The Department of Health yesterday declined to say if she was cleared of risk, but said that nobody in Ireland had tested positive for the virus.

China’s Juneyao Airlines has opted to postpone the March 29 launch of its service from Dublin to Shanghai amid the ongoing concerns over the virus.

The route – announced in late November – was a major coup for Dublin Airport following the decision by Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines to axe its six-month-old route to Shenzhen last August, and put its Dublin-Beijing service on ice until this year.


The Bittling Woman

From Rathea school in The Schools’ Folklore Collection

About sixty years ago this bittling woman was going on from six a clock on a Summer’s evening to ten at night. She used to be heard on the little glosha that is separating Glanderry from Rathea especially behind at Browne’s bridge. When we used to be going the road from Glanderry up to Knocknaclare we used to be running from her. She used to be bittling as fast as her hands could do it. Brown William used to come listening to her. I often heard her from my own door at ten oclock in the night when there was nothing to be heard but herself for the night was too still. 

One night Brown William was listening to her at the bridge and he tried to catch her. He chased her from place to place trying to catch her but when he’d land to the place where he heard her she was gone to another place. He held at it until it was twelve oclock. When he was going home he met the servant boy who asked him where he was and he said I was listening to the bittling woman.” As they were going home he met on the path the finest cow he had dead.

Has anyone any idea what bittling is? I cant find it in a dictionary.

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