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 2 of 7

Listowel, Winter Sundays and a school extension in 1884

Hello Listowel

The town is looking lovely these days. There are flowers everywhere. I’m sure the international judges  for Communities in Bloom are loving us.


Tidy Town Seat

 The Tidy Town Committee is constantly reinvesting in the town. This seat is a very welcome addition to Listowel’s street furniture.


Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

This is a lovely poem of tribute to all hard working unappreciated fathers


School extension

With both the covent secondary and St. Michael’s extending I thought you might like to see how extensions were reported in 1884.

Sentinel, Tuesday, May 27, 1884

LISTOWEL CONVENT SCHOOL. The good nuns of the Listowel Convent, no longer
having sufficient School accommodation for the female youth of this Parish
determined some time since, to make an addition to the existing School
buildings. With this object in view, the sisters under the direction of the
zealous Mother Austin, set to work about twelve months ago, and now a beautiful
house, which will be ample for its intended object, is in rapid course of
erection. The date of the Bazaar, which it was intended to be held on the 19th
and 20th August, to help to clear the debt, has been  changed to the 29th and 30th .July next.


Any Help with Names here would be appreciated

Photo shared by Conor O’Sullivan on Facebook

Presentation Secondary School at 75, the foundation of the convent and a few local people

Listowel Garda Station


This is Fr. Martin Hagerty whom I often meet on his daily walk through Gurtinard Wood. Fr. Martin is retired but helps out in the parish. His active lifestyle in retirement is an example to us all.


Pres at 75

Presentation Secondary School, Listowel is 75 years old and plans are afoot to celebrate. A book encompassing the history, life and times of the school is planned. If you are a past pupil or former staff member and you have a memory or a  photograph you would like to share we’d love to have it. We are particularly interested in hearing from older past pupils.

Above are just a few of the steering committee pictured with two present pupils at the launch of the celebrations.


Presentation Education In Listowel….the beginning

(Jer. Kennelly has been trawling through the papers for us and I will be bringing you some of the nuggets that he has dug up.)

Weekly Reporter; Saturday, July 14, 1883


very interesting ceremony took place in Listowel on the occasion of laying the
foundation of the new Convent Schools. The good Sisters have long felt the want
of more extending accommodation for the number of children daily increasing who
flock to receive the benefit of the grand religious and intellectual teaching
for which the Presentation Order is so famous. 

Sometime last year a committee
was formed to collect funds to enable the Sisters to build additional schools,
and their efforts have been so far successful. But it is not alone in the
district that material help has been sent for the goodwork. The exiled people
of the old schools, not unmindful of the advantages conferred on them by their
early teachers, have handsomely subscribed. Contributions have been received
from America, from residents in the crowded cities of the Atlantic sea-board,
as well as from the towns and cities on the golden slopes of the Pacific.   Kerry
girls dwelling in far away Australia, under the shadow of the Southern Cross, have been as generous as their American

Very Rev. Canon Davis, P.P., performed the ceremony of laying the first stone
of the intended new schools in the presence of all the Sisters and about 500 of
the school children, who marched in procession, headed by a beautiful
emblematic banner, painted specially for the occasion.

those present were—J. Stack, T.C., J. Maguire;, P. S. Griffin, T.C., W. Forde,

building, which is to be 100 feet long, and 30 feet high, with an entrance
porch and high enclosed playground walls, has been designed by Mr. James
Scanlon, of Dublin, and will be a fine specimen of the architecture of its

contract has been entrusted to Mr William M’Mahon, a local builder, whose
character for executing such works, stands very high. The banner borne by the
children was painted by Mr J. Moynihan of this town, and its superior finish
reflects great credit on the artist, and was specially admired. It bore the
following inscription in gold letters: — . Stretch forth, 0 Lord, Thy hand in
Benediction Upon all this work and all who in it aid, While under shade of thy
sweet heart’s protection, The foundation stone upon this day is laid.


Listowel Ladies

I met Marie Galvin and Helen Kenny in The Square on their way to their Bridge Club

I met these lovely ladies helping out in the St. Vincent de Paul shop.


Words of Wisdom from my Calendar

We could all take a lesson from the weather. 

It pays no attention to criticism.

Tae Lane, Lord Listowel and the convent and the National Children’s Literary Festival 2017

The Horseshoe, Tae lane


Free Wee Library

This one is in Ladysbridge, Co Cork. This community book sharing initiative is popping up all over the place. The only rule is take a book, leave a book.


Where it all began for the Presentation Presence in Listowel

Kerry Evening
Post 1813-1917, Saturday, April 14, 1855; Page: 3

The Tralee
Chronicle announces, with the following flourish of commendation with what he
calls -LIBERALITY OF A PROTESTANT NOBLEMAN.—The Earl of Listowel has made a
grant to the Nuns of the Presentation Convent in Listowel of the land on which
their Convent is erected. His Lordship 
accompanied this generous gift, in which he was joined by, his gallant
son, Lord Ennismore, with a most complimentary assurance of his appreciation of
the services of these devoted Ladies in the moral and industrial education of
the town. In addition to the gift which was unsolicited, the nuns having only
asked for a lease of the land—the noble Earl directed that the deeds of
conveyance should be drawn up at his own expense.


National Children’s Literary Festival 2017

 Integral part of Listowel Writers’ Week for many years now is the children’s festival which runs concurrently with the adult literary events. This year’s festival was jam packed with workshops, fun events and book promotions.

This is the great book doctor. She finds out your reading symptoms and she prescribes a course of reading for you. My grandchildren love this annual checkup and they consult their reading list often, especially if a book token comes their way.

Maria Leahy, on the left is one of the hard working volunteers who help manage this festival. On the right is the author, E.R. Murray.

This year the treasure hunt took the children around the world. They had to stop at various “countries”  and answer questions based on books they had just read.

Miriam and her band of volunteers from KDYS made these beautiful fun props which set the atmosphere in the town park.

Listowel Boy Scouts, Happy Visits to Athea Remembered and Kissane Candles

Scouts at the Convent

photo: Mike Hannon

I posted this photo last week with the thought that it might have been taken during the big scout jamboree in the 1940s.

Vincent Carmody tells me that it was more likely taken to celebrate the centenary of the the convent in 1944. The bunting would seen to support that.

Anyone know any of the scouts or remember the occasion?


My First Visit to Ireland Winning essay

Irish Central is a website very popular with Irish American people. Recently the site ran a writing competition. The task was to write an account of your first visit to Ireland. The competition was won by Rosemary Griffin and her visit was to her father’s family in Athea, Co. Limerick.

Here are the photographs Rosemary sent to Irish Central to accompany her story and below is the winning essay.

My First Trip to Ireland by Rosemary

These are some of my earliest
memories.  The smell of the turf fire, the sound of the stream, the
overwhelming warmth and familiarity of people I had never met…  

It was the summer of 1968 and my Irish-born father and
Irish-American mother packed up my 6 year-old brother, my two-year old sister
and my three-year old self to spend the summer with my Dad’s family in Athea,
County Limerick.  He hadn’t been home in seven years, and this was the
first time his family would meet us.  My mom changed us into pajamas as we
crossed the Atlantic, and I woke up to the most glorious view of Galway Bay.

It is hard now to wrap my head around what a different
place the Ireland of 1968 was.  We took our baths in a steel tub by the
fire.  We watched my uncle herd cows and milk them by hand.  We took
turns riding the donkey in the front yard.  And we ate chicken for the
dinner that had laid the eggs we ate for breakfast!

The very first day we arrived my sister bolted out of the
car and, as she ran excitedly, fell into the well at the bottom of the stream
that ran alongside my father’s home house.  Later we learned that the milk
(and other adult beverages!) would be floated in the stream to keep them cold
with the lack of indoor electricity.  The day my sister fell into the
“refrigerator” is a highlight of family lore to this day.

 Later that first week we went
into town to buy the Wellingtons that everyone told us would be necessary to
truly enjoy the fields for the summer.  I had seen the big, black rubber
boots and was not impressed.  But the moment I laid eyes on that bright
blue pair in just my size I was hooked!  My brother and sister and I ran
and splashed and jumped and climbed with our cousins for six weeks.  They had
to pry those blue wellies off my feet to get me back on the plane to New York.

But what I remember most is the constant flow of family,
friends and neighbors.  I remember the sound of the music and the taste of
the Taytos as we all went to the pub on a Sunday afternoon.  I remember my
grandmother making fresh bread each and every day.  I remember the burlap
bag that my grandfather filled with turf and let me pretend to carry.  And
I remember the joy of seeing my father with those he had left.

Sometimes I wonder whether my memories are real or
sparked by the small, square, date-stamped photos that were taken to describe
our summer to friends and family back home.  I’ve been back 18 times and
Ireland today is, of course, a very different place.  I am not one who
idealizes the past.  The Irish cousins who taught me to run through the
fields are grown-up friends who have all not only been to visit us in New York
but also have traveled the globe.  I don’t need the wellies or the turf
fire or the cows to remind me.  Although I no longer change into pajamas,
I know when I see Galway Bay that the memories are real.  I think I knew
then that Ireland was not just a place.  It was – and is – a part of me.


Kissane Candles

We’re planning a wedding in our house and let me tell you that Listowel is one of the very best places to do this job. Absolutely everything can be sourced locally, everyone in the business is really professional and helpful and makes the whole experience a joy. I’m absolutely banned from revealing any details before the big day but I can give a sneak peak today at one little trip we took in the pre wedding trail.

We met Joe Kissane in his candle shop in Tarbert. He has met every kind of bride and bridezilla and he is infinitely patient. You can ask him to pull out every candle in the shop and he wouldn’t complain. Drawing on  his vast experience in the business,  he was full of helpful suggestions and advice.

I am documenting the whole process in photographs so look out for our experience of Finesse Bridal, Listowel Arms Hotel, St. Mary’s, Bailey and Co., MK Beauty, McAuliffe Flowers, Listowel Printing Works and more local people in due course.

Nuns, Childers’ Park and some funeral customs

November 2016 in The Black Valley

Photos; Catherine Moylan


Listowel Nuns

I’m posting this in the hope that someone will recognise the sisters or the priests with them. The photograph is Mike Hannon’s


NEKD is Moving

Work is ongoing at the old post office in William Street. It is to be the new home of NEKD or so I’m told.


They Stretched in Never-ending Line…..

 along the margin of the pitch and putt course. Though not quite as picturesque as Wordsworth’s daffodils, Listowel’s fluttering and dancing narcissi brighten up the town park these days.

There is a new line of trees along by  this path as well which will act as a shelter belt and a new defining line to the pitch and putt course.


We do Death well in Ireland

I’m told that at one time in Ireland when a person died, the first person to be contacted was the priest and the sacristan. People usually died at home and, since the priest would have visited the sick person to administer Extreme Unction, he would be expecting the call. The sacristan would ring the church bell to spread the news, three tolls of the bell for a man and two for a woman. The news of the identity of the deceased would spread by word of mouth. The creamery was a place where many heard the news.

In every parish there was usually at least one woman who took on the task of washing and laying out the corpse. There was no embalming in those days. There is a very poignant chapter in Peig Sayers much maligned autobiography in which she describes having to wash and lay out the body of her young son who had fallen to his death from a rough ledge on The Great Blasket while trying to collect fuel for their meagre fire.

The dead man was usually dressed in a brown garment known as a “Habit”. This was purchased especially for the purpose. Women sometimes had a blue one if they were members of the Sodality of Our Lady. These women were known as Children of Mary and it was an honour to be allowed to join this sisterhood. They wore a blue cloak and a veil in the Corpus Christi procession. Rosary beads and scapulars were entwined through the fingers of the dead person. There was always at least one wax candle alight to light a path for the soul to Heaven.

In the house of the dead person mirrors were covered and the clock was stopped. A black crepe ribbon was attached to the henhouse door. This custom was called telling the hens.

As soon as the corpse was laid out the wake began. Neighbours, family and friends came and went from then until the burial. The family was never left alone. Drink had to be supplied to the mourners, port for the women, whiskey for the men and a mineral for the children or teetotallers. At one time clay pipes and snuff were also part of the ritual.

It was considered bad luck to open a grave on Monday so if the death occurred on Saturday or  Sunday, a sod would be turned on the grave on Sunday. The neighbours usually dug the grave. The hearse was horse drawn and the priests wore white sashes and a white ribbon round their hats.

I have heard of a custom that others don’t seem to know too much about so maybe I dreamed it. The clothes of the deceased were given to a close friend and he had to wear them to mass for three consecutive Sundays. It was an honour to be asked to wear the clothes.

Black was the colour of mourning. A widow wore black for a full year after the death of her husband. Some women never again wore coloured clothes.  The men of the family wore a black diamond on the sleeves of their jackets. Widows had a special place in the community and got a lot of help from neighbours. Some widows remarried as they were often bereaved while still young and needed the help and protection of a man. A wealthy widow was often a good catch.

All of this is changed now .


At The Convent

I was back at school last week. Planting on the front lawn has come on well and the foundation stone is now surrounded by a beautiful halo of heather.

I pointed my camera over the wall towards the convent. The lower windows of the convent chapel are now completely covered in ivy. The once beautiful garden is overgrown and untidy and the railing is falling down.


Smalltown nominated for an IFTA in Best Drama category 

Photo of Smalltown team from Facebook

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