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

Tag: Presentation Primary School Listowel Page 1 of 4

An Obituary, a Joke and More

Knockanure church at Easter 2022 by Jer Kennelly

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John Molyneaux R.I.P.

David Kissane’s Tribute to the late John Molyneaux concluded

On one particular occasion, my father hadn’t finished the Western he was reading and I went into the college on Saturday Western-less. Scared stiff and I had forgotten the name of the book! If you failed to bring back the book, Mr Molyneaux would ask you what the plot was and who the main characters were. He was not pleased if you weren’t reading these Westerns. Around he came to each desk to collect the books. I could sense a cloud coming over my desk as I struggled to remember the name of the book I hadn’t read! “Well, Kissane, what book have you been reading?” he boomed as I fumbled in my school bag under the desk for the book that wasn’t there. A thick, deep dark silence followed. My fate seemed obvious and inevitable, a feeling so very of those times. Red-cheeked and broken, I called out the name of the only Western I could remember, “Something to Hide” and added with embarrassment, “I think my father borrowed it!” A smile from the teacher and a titter around the class. He passed on but when he was distributing the Westerns a few minutes later for the coming week, he read out the titles so that the students would put up their hands to choose which one they wanted. “And we have one left” he said with a smirk, “Something to Hide”! A dead silence permeated the class and I was ready to sink down through the ground. He allowed the moment to expand as the class awaited an execution! But it was Saturday and all he said was “Kissane, I think you have something to hide all right!” and dropped the book on my desk as the bell was rung outside the door. The great escape.

I read every Western after that and began to manage the complexity that was John Molyneaux.

School days are happening days and very soon after starting in St Michael’s College, the sporting side of John Molyneaux revealed itself to us. It was then his dimensionality was fully experienced. First it was football. With Johnny O’Flaherty, there was a dynamic duo who were charged and innovative in training methodology and intensity. The two Johns taught the full forwards (I was corner forward) to get possession of the long balls sent in and, instead of turning, pass it quickly to the half forwards rushing in. It worked in the Dunloe Cup final against St Brendan’s Killarney in 1970. High ball in from Jerry Kiernan at centre field landed in my hands and I could hear John Molyneaux’s imperious voice on the sideline saying “To Carroll” and before I knew it, I had let the ball into Eamonn O’Carroll’s hands – he was like a jet plane when in flight – and the net was rattled. And the referees were not safe from a Molyneaux-boom if he considered that the whistler was incorrect in his blowing! Total engagement in everything he was involved in. That was the Molyneaux way.

And of course there was athletics. In the mid-1960s, John Molyneaux was the driving force behind the formation of a BLE club in Listowel, assisted by Pat Kiernan, Michael Crowley and Johnny O’Flaherty. St Michael’s College benefitted hugely from the club, and from having the club personnel on the staff. Jerry Kiernan and co were generated. Along with Kiernan, John O’Connell, Pat O’Connell, Eamonn O’Carroll, John Hartnett (our own classmate from the class of ’72) and Gerald Leahy were the young stars of the times. It wasn’t just running…the O’Connells and Hartnett were jumpers of the top calibre. John O’Connell won the All Ireland Colleges gold medal in Santry in June 1970 with a leap of 43 feet 11 and a half inches in the triple jump. There was a broad smile on John Molyneaux’s face that day and for years after. Kiernan’s career is well known and it took Eamonn Coghlan to best him in the All Ireland schools 1500m in 1971 but Jerry was soon to run into legend. Athletics fires lit by John Molyneaux burned for a long time.

From doing running on the football pitch, sometimes without the ball, I was asked by Johnny O’Flaherty to run cross country but compelled by John Molyneaux to compete. And track too and there was the 17 mins something I ran in the 1971 North Munster 5000m to snatch a silver medal at my first North Munster schools attempt behind Mick O’Shea. Hopes were high for the mystical quest of the Munsters but inexperience allowed me to look back a few times on a hot afternoon in Rockwell College track and I got a good look at the leaders pulling away from me. I was bereft. Immediately after the race, John Molyneaux approached me and suggested, with that glint in his eye that “we’ll have to provide you with blinkers the next time, Kissane!” Ice broken. Lesson learned. 

But while dreams were shattered that Rockwell day, a love affair with athletics had begun. It was a treasure John Molyneaux and John O’Flaherty gave me for life. 

On a fine June evening in 1972, our class walked past the budding apple trees outside St Michael’s College for the last time as students. The past had happened and the future was there for the taking. There was no formal goodbye to the teachers but it did dawn on us that something special was being left behind. And special people too, like John Molyneaux.

When the Leaving Cert results reached us in the burning August 1972, there was an A beside Latin on the paper. Vital for college and a grant. My after-vision of John Molyneaux increased even more and his name was mentioned in the celebrations that followed in a Birmingham night club. I even took Latin a subject in first year in UCC but the lectures there never reached the pitch of Mr Molyneaux’s classes and it was jettisoned for second year. 

The next time I met John Molyneaux was in 1979. A fair few of the class of ’72 were also teachers now, scattered all over Ireland. The Clarence Hotel along the Liffey in Dublin and a meeting of the Dublin-based past pupils to assist with the centenary celebrations of the college. St Michael’s had been opened in 1879 in the recycled building that was the Fever Hospital. We never knew that while in the college as students!

John Molyneaux led the committee members who met us that rainy night in Dublin. A chat about how we were faring and it was only then we realised how proficient John Molyneaux was at golf. He was promoting the centenary golf event to be held later. In fact that year, 1979 he was a member of the Ballybunion Golf Club that won the Jimmy Bruen Shield in Portrush. An All Ireland winner. The first team from Kerry to win the honour and John was a key member along with such golfing names as Seán Walsh and Gerry Galvin. The college centenary celebrations were a huge success. Of course they were, with a committee man as effective as John Molyneaux on board.  

Our paths were to cross again when I returned to Kerry as a teacher in 1984. I was representing Tarbert Comprehensive School on the Kerry Colleges Football Board and there was John across the table at my first meeting. A different John now, settled into age and not at the top of the class in front of me. Was still my past-teacher though and he regained his past visage as we got to re-know each other. He was proposing to start a “Silver Circle” fundraising scheme for the Colleges Board. This was something he had been a big fan of and had recruited his students to get involved in over the years. It brought out the sales acumen in many students and accentuated their business skills. It entailed selling lines but with a commitment of a month or so by the punters and an incentive of a percentage stake by the seller. Jerry Riordan from Dromerin was particularly adept at it during our years in the college, partly because the Riordan family had a shop in Dromerin and had a consistent supply of customers. 

John retired in 1990 after a long stint at the profession. He had a long and productive retirement too. He was to be seen in The Town Park (aka the Cows’ Lawn) where he had spent the many happy hours coaching and training footballers and athletes. And he could be seen down by the Feale also. That’s where I met him on that day I last laid eyes on him. 

When a relation, colleague, neighbour, teacher, friend passes away, it is felt by all who are or were acquaintances. When we are shoving on in years, their deaths mean an empty place in the world we know, the irreversible change that lessens what it means to live. That was the feeling I got in the church in Listowel a few weeks ago on the day that John Molyneaux was laid to rest. When Canon Declan O’Connor told the congregation that John Molyneaux was the only son of an only son, was born and died in the same house in Charles St in Listowel and was a hard-working parent and husband, as well as an energetic, resourceful and innovative community and club man, it seemed strange that we hadn’t known some of these facts before. As students we had known only a fraction of the man he was. 

But many people who are gone still continue to grow in our existence. In our after-image of them, we often understand the whys behind the whats. Some of these people indeed become legends. John’s positivity for everything makes him eternal. As John Milton said “Hope proves a person deathless”.

John Molyneaux. Semper Invictus. Always undefeated.

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A Laugh for You

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Junior Infants

Junior Infants in Presentation Primary School from the 1983 School yearbook.

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Our Outdoor Dining and Performance Space

The promise:

Kerry County Council has received funding to provide a covered outdoor meeting, dining, and performance area at the existing pedestrian area in the Square in Listowel.

It’ll comprise three 7×7 metre covered structures on steel frames, LED lighting, as well as seated benches and picnic benches.

The story so far

I don’t like to be negative about a new initiative but I’m disappointed. The covers are more for ornament than use. They may protect you from the sun but they won’t keep out the rain or the wind.

However the project is not finished yet. There are lights to go in and the seating to be restored.

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Sr. Consolata’s Memories Continued

Kerry Writers Museum, March 2022

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Welcoming New Pupils

I took this photograph from Scoil Realta na Maidine’s Facebooks page. In it Mr. Quirke, Principal, is welcoming two new pupils whose last school was in Ukraine.

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Sr. Consolata in her own words

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2022

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Ballybunion Seats

I was in Ballybunion at the holiday weekend and I noticed a few new seats. These seats are a lovely way to commemorate people who loved Ballybunion.

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Thank you Teachers, A Lament a 1965 Gleann football team and staying in touch with her Listowel roots

 Photo credit; Liam Downes

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Thank You Teachers

These notes were recently left on the railings at Presentation Primary School, Listowel

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The Last (Lamp) Post

By Mattie Lennon

At dusk and at morn, long before we were born

His bark had re-echoed on the old barrack square.
His life’s breath departed and grieving now started
We walked slowly behind him, emotions laid bare.

With moves synergetic and memories genetic,
In sorrow united by our hero’s demise,
Distraught, but none bolder, we stood shoulder to shoulder,
From a long line of soldiers, our gait was precise.

Then one of our party, all bouncing and hearty,
Made some crack or other within the cortege.
Through stiff-upper-lip training and morale restraining
He evaded chastisement, which befitted our age.

There was slight improvising; what the bugler was rising
Was not made of silver or bright gleaming brass.
‘Though sorrow abounded, no volleys resounded
As the pallbearers laid his corpse down on the grass.

In the sombre enclosure, we retained our composure,
Then adjourned to environs more private and lax,
Where concerns ballistic and matters more mystic
Were debated ’till fiction got mixed up with facts.

Then an offer from Alice, without favour or malice,
Meant a hasty collection was arranged on the spot.
She conveyed by suggestion, that without any question,
For proceeds sufficient, she’d show all she’d got.

No libidos developed, in mystery enveloped,
At our stripper, quite curveless, we gazed all agog.
But it still seemed like Heaven; we were all aged eleven
AND HAD JUST LEFT THE GRAVESIDE OF BOLGER’S PET DOG.

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An Gleann Football Team




Here is Noel Roche’s photo again. Now between Noel and Neil Brosnan we have most of the names. The year is 1965

Players back row from left   D OConnor, Mickey Barry,[rip]  Paudie Carey[rip]  Jasper O Driscoll.[rip] Noel Roche, ? O Connor, Jimmy Woulfe, Thomas McDonagh.

middle row from left PJ Browne, Kevin Woulfe, Ned Lyons,[rip], Pat Loughnane, Charlie Nolan, Michael Hannon, ? O Connor

Front from left. Jimmy O Driscoll, Charlie McDonagh and Stephen Downey.

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A Note of Appreciation


I know that people appreciate what I do on Listowel Connection because they tell me so all the time.

This happy sad email from Frances Blaikie makes me want to keep on posting  despite the lack of “news”.

Thank you Mary!  When I open my emails and see the Listowel Connection I smile immediately.  My Dad was born in Listowel in 1907 and came to the US in the early 1920’s.  My link to your wonderful town is through him and so many of the O’Brien transplants.  I may not be able to visit Ireland again (age) but everyday you open the town up to me. 



I do keep in touch with my cousins in Listowel.  My Uncle died at age 100 two years ago and I truly miss knowing him.  I traveled to Ireland about 8 times in the last forty years and the highlight of my trip was spending time with Uncle David and Aunt Crissie.  Roots go deep and for a ‘yank’ it’s important to know your roots.  My Dad was a true Kerryman.  He always said ‘once a Kerryman always a Kerryman’.  I understand what he meant.



 God bless you.  Frances


Thank you, Frances.

Spirit of Christmas 2019, Remembering the Fallen, YABF2019 and an old class photo

Rose Wall of Listowel Business and Community Alliance addressing the huge crowd in the Square for the launch of The Spirit of Christmas 2019 last weekend.

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Remembering the Fallen


Blog followers greatly appreciated the tributes paid to the war dead of Listowel on Remembrance Sunday.

Here is an email that is representative of many:

Great to see local people commemorating local people who gave their lives for world safety. It was a futile war in which innumerable lives were gambled with and lost  by callous authorities, but all wars in all ages are based on the same, savage slaughter of those who have nothing to lose but their very lives. Ireland’s Troubles are no different. The Generals, the armchair ones, or those official ones,  hiding at the rear of the front-line troops, and the political top-dogs, always survive and prosper on the blood of the private soldier. Even terrorist groups in our own recent episode of Troubles had a code that leaders of their ‘enemy’ forces were not targetted or slain! Which is why so many such leaders ended up safe and sound in well-paid governments, be it in the early 20s or in the 1990s.

All the common soldier has is the love and respect of his own kind. 

Listowel is to be highly commended for not abandoning the true heroes of war – those who gave all – even their life –  for no personal gain, but a grave.

Rudyard Kipling, for all his faults, got it right in his famous poem, ‘Tommy’; a verse of which is as follows:

But it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”

    But he’s a “Hero of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;

    Well’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

    But’ Tommy ain’t no bleedin’ fool—you bet that Tommy sees! 

Nicholas.

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Second Class Pupils in Listowel Convent Primary School

This old photograph was shared on Facebook. I don’t have a year or names.

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Last few Photos from the Young Adult Bookfest 2019

Catherine, Madeleine and Bernard

Listowel Writers’ Week volunteers, Elma, Joanna and Liz with one of the star turns, Bernard Casey

Declan Coyle of The Green Platform fame posed with The Base staff and Liz Dunn of Listowel Writers’ Week

Selling Stephanie’s merchandise were Sinéad and Maria of Listowel Writers’ Week

Shane Casey of The Young Offenders with Seán Lyons of Listowel Writers’ Week

Lunch break

Visit of Michael D. Agnes Browne in her 105th year and the death of Anne Dillon

Visit of Uachtarán na hÉireann


President Michael D. Higgins visited Listowel to honour the Tidy Towns volunteers on Saturday May 25 2019. Here are a few photos from the great day in town.

The boys choir from Scoil Realta na Maidine sang My Silver River Feale for the president. He loved it.

 

 In The Square I met an artist friend of Olive Stack’s painting the occasion.

Local people, Seán Treacy, Mairead Divine, Esther Guerin, Mary Walshe, Carmel Griffin and Rachel Guerin waiting for the unveiling.

The girls of Presentation National School band played for the president .

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A Lady who Never Forgot Listowel


Maureen Barrett of Ballylongford has sent us this great story of her friend Agnes Browne of Listowel and Illinois.

This is the first part of the essay that Maureen wrote in July 7, 2017. 

(Second part of the story tomorrow)

 I will start with the fact that Mary Agnes (known her whole life as Agnes) Broderick formerly of Dirha East,  Listowel died January 12, 2017 in Tinley Park, Illinois at the wonderful age of 104-5 months short of being 105.

Agnes was born on June 30, 1912 to Dan and Nora Browne. Dan was the son of Daniel Browne (butcher of Listowel) and Catherine Lynch and Nora was the daughter of Jeremiah Mulvihill, Clounmacon (a farmer in Dirha) and Johanna Buckley. They were married on November 15th, 1908 in Listowel. They  had 9 children born in Listowel and 1 born in Chicago. They eventually lost 3 of their children-Margaret-3 yrs old died March1918 of croup, Jeremiah-11 months-died March 18th 1926 of whooping cough and Lillie-3 years died March 26tha week after her brother of whooping cough.  

The story was always told in the family that a gypsy came to the house when the children were sick and make a drink brewed from a weed from the bog for Agnes and that is what kept her from getting sick. The gypsy was never seen again. She remembered that a Sullivan family in Market Street lost 5 children at the time (this has not been verified). A relative of theirs, a Dr. Connor came from Dublin to help Dr.Dillon from Listowel with all the illness and he ordered that Agnes be removed from the house 

Dan Brown was very active in the fight for freedom of Ireland along side his neighbors Tom and Ned Pellican- the friendship between those 2 families has survived since then and this little story about Agnes is being written by a niece of Tom and Ned who now lives in Chicago-Maureen Barrett from Ballylongford. The story of the Brown family being evicted from their home and their neighbors building them a replacement house in one day is out there in stories from those terrible times. Dan Brown fought on the Republican side after The Treaty was signed . Agnes told me he was offered money and a job and suffered much at the hands of  those who were trying to get him to join the  other side but he refused. He was eventually convinced  by someone- “to give up trying to free Ireland as he had a family to take care of” so he gave up the fight and  in May 1925 he and his oldest daughter Catherine (Kay) left Ireland on the ship Republic arriving first in Boston and then New York where they then took a train to Chicago to stay with a relative, a Mrs.Kissane. I think she was his sister. Kay lived with another relative at another address. As Kay was underage she had to go to school in Chicago until she was 16.  

Dan worked for the railroad  I thinkit was decided that Nora would leave with the remaining children when Dan and Kay had got settled with jobs and a place to stay for the large family they had.  They were to emigrate  in April of 1926 but the death of  2 of their children from croup/bronchitis type illnesses in March of that year so devastated Nora that the trip was cancelled. Dan Brown wanted to come back home to Listowel to be with his wife after the death of their 2 children but was convinced that it was in the best interest of them all that he didn’t. So he stayed in Chicago and proceeded with plans for them to travel at a later date- Agnes shared with me that the only reason her mother survived the death of her children was that her friend  and neighbour  Mrs.Pellican and indeed all her friends on the road came and took over her home and children’s care because she couldn’t even get out of bed to face what had happened to her. 

The trip was eventually rescheduled and Nora and her remaining 5 children Johanna-16 y/o, Mary (Agnes) 14, Nora 9, Dan 7 and Bridget 5- left Listowel and sailed to New York on the Westphalia arriving in New York on October 11, 1926. With time some of them changed their names to more Americanized names and Johanna became-Joan, Bridget became  Eileen and Nora became Brenda.

Some of Agnes’s recollections of her trip were that it was  an exciting adventure. “the most beautiful time of their lives.” was her statement. They made friends with the cooks and enjoyed many treats that were new to children leaving Ireland. It was her first time seeing coloured ice cream. That was the one she remembers the most.They had a great time on the ship ran and played freely. She remembers a German girl they befriended even thought she didn’t speak English. She got lost on board the ship. She didn’t remember her being found. 

One of her sisters did consider staying at home with an aunt Margaret. I think she was Ray McAuliffe’s mother.  I’m not sure if that is correct but she changed her mind. Another one of the girls loved a Nurse Pierce who was in Listowel at that time and she wanted to stay with her. 

Agnes remembered staying with a relative in New York who had come from Ireland years earlier and Agnes was overwhelmed that that relative now had her own maid.  She remembered the maid was a Mrs.Foley and she couldn’t do enough for them while they stayed there. Her mother’s brother Jerry Mulvihill came to visit them while they were staying there and stayed the whole day. 

Dan Browne went to New York to bring the family back to Chicago. She remembered the excitement of taking a taxi to the train station. It was her first time seeing a colored person. He was the taxi driver. She remembers seeing the Statue of Liberty as they were leaving New York on the train.

She loved the US from the minute she arrived, loved the whole family being back together, loved going to school here. She was put back a few classes but the nuns were “lovely” to everybody, a change I am sure from what they left in Ireland. She wrote an essay in school and won a prize for it. 

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Bean Uasal agus Cara Imithe ar Shlí na Firinne


My lovely friend, Anne Dillon, would have liked this touch. It’s rarely now we see a black crepe on a door announcing a death and giving details of the funeral arrangements. In these days of R.I.P.ie and Radio Kerry death notices, Anne was still one for the old ways. She had a great respect for old customs.

Although she lived most of her life in town, Anne was a country woman at heart. She embodied the hard work ethic and neighbourliness of the country, She loved the old ways  and she had a great love of her home place, her family, her history and the Irish language. She was at her happiest at home in her own home with her beloved Liam.

Anne and Liam are two of the most hospitable people I have ever had the luck to have in my life. I worked beside Anne in Presentation Secondary School where we became firm friends. She was hugely supportive and understanding of me. She eased the burden of juggling a full time teaching job with a full time caring role for me in every way she could.

When we both retired, and especially after I lost Jim, Anne and Liam’s door was always open for me and I received the warmest of welcomes there always.

Anne was always stylish, dignified and caring. She bore her last illness with great fortitude  and patience. She was a loving mother and grandmother and a loyal and generous friend. I loved her dearly.

Braithfidh mé uaim í.

In happier times

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