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Tag: Prince Monolulu

Prince Monolulu

Tim Doody; Mallow Camera Club


A Corner of The Square in 2022

The green area is the designated car parking spaces for electric cars while they are on charge.



Our Lidl store is going to get an upgrade. The shiny new store will be on the site of the old one so we’ll have to do without for a while.

Lidl have purchased the nearby derelict Dowd’s cottage. This will be demolished and that site will become part of the new superstore.


Prince? Monolulu

Alice Walsh shared this great old photo recently on Facebook. It was taken at Raceweek 1961 at the opening of Walsh’s Super Ballroom.

In the centre of the image surrounded by Mick Delahunty band members is a beloved visitor to Listowel Races, an eccentric tipster known as Prince Monolulu.

He wasn’t a prince and his name wasn’t Monolulu and he wasn’t an African chief as he claimed.

In Listowel in the 1950s and 60s a black man was a rare enough sight. A very tall black man dressed like an Ethiopian chief with a monstrous ostrich plume on his head and a lion’s tooth around his neck was bound to attract attention.

He was a regular on racetracks in Britain. When not at the races he was a “Lion tamer, fire eater, street dentist, preacher, tribal chief, boxer, prisoner of war, and entertainer.”

“He was married six times.”

When Spion Kop won the 1920 Derby at odds of 100-6 (about 16-1) Monolulu won a reputed £8,000 (worth around £400,000 in today’s money). 

This was all part of the myth that surrounded this man. But like most “facts’ about this character we have to take everything with a pinch of salt.

Monolulu was American. He came to England and soon discovered that a life as a showman could be quite a good living in the early 20th century.

He plied his trade on racecourses until his death in 1965 on Valentine’s Day. The story goes that he choked on a strawberry cream from a box of Black Magic. Like everything else about him, this too sounds a tad implausible.

On his trips to Listowel he would visit The Island armed with a handful of sealed envelopes. “I got a horse to beat the favourite.,” was his cry. He sold you the tip sealed in an envelope and urged you not to share it so as not to upset the odds.

He must have been successful as he came back year after year. He was part of the colour that was Listowel Harvest Festival of Racing.

Another of Alice Walsh’s photos shows Monolulu on the stage.


Writers’ Week Committee 2012

Listowel Writers’ Week Festival Committee 2012

Doesn’t feel like 10 years.

Catherine Moylan, Simone Langemann, Liz Dunn and Jim Dunn

I took this photo of some of today’s Writers’ Week people at the launch of the Amateur Drama Exhibition in Kerry Writers’ Museum on May 7 2022.


Listowel Races in the 1950s, Recycle Fashion Day 2017 and Thomas Ashe

Photo; Chris Grayson


Listowel Races as they used to be

Vincent Carmody relives the race meetings and harvest festivals of the 1950s.

The arrival in town in the late 1950s of the well known English racing
tipster, Prince Monolulu caused quite a stir. People were taken by the
different outfits which he wore on the different days and by his personality.
Again. like the woman who gazed into her crystal ball, I am not sure if he gave
out too many winners. (this picture appeared in the Irish Examiner this week)

The Harvest Festival Committee, in order to generate interest for the
crowds remaining in the town after the day’s racing and to create some fun for
the locals, came up with some very interesting simple ideas, these included
the  Listowel Donkey Derby, the Munster and All Ireland Wren Boys
competition, the All Ireland churn rolling (milk tanks) competition, a walking
race from from Tarbert to Listowel and common bicycle race from Ballybunion to

Of these the All Ireland Wren Group competition still survives and the
finals are played out in The Square on the Friday night of race week,
always before a large and  receptive crowd.

For sheer thrill and great fun it was hard to beat the Donkey Derby,
which ran over two nights. The donkeys ran down the length of Church Street,
which used to be closed to traffic. Heats took place the first night with the
semi–finals and final on the following night. Both footpaths would be packed
with onlookers, with volunteers stewarding the final 50 yards on both sides.

 Many stories remain of the event,
two of which I can attribute to John B Keane. Once when he was asked to
describe the event, he described it as “a fantastic flight of asses down the
historic Church Street course ”  A friend, Thomas Ashe, once told me,
that John B, as chief steward, had appointed him as offical starter. On the
night of the heats, upwards of 100 donkeys had been brought before the start of
the heats to be entered. Thomas, who had only just come down from Dublin for
the week, was unaware of the format for running the heats, so he got on a
walkie talkie to John B who was positioned at the finish.

“John B.,” said Thomas,

“Yes, young Ashe, what’s wrong?” said John B.

 “We have upwards of 100
asses here. Do I run 5 heats of 10 asses, or 10 heats of 5 asses?” said

 There was a silence for about 10 seconds,
when John B came back on and said for a laugh  ” Let them all off
together and stampede down the street.” 

The asses came from far and near, but the best of all was a local one
named Listowel Factory. He was owned by Paddy Behane of Bunghara. As an extra
to the night’s racing there was a special race in which some of the jockeys
riding at the Island would take part.  This
race was commentated on by the legendary racing and football commentator,
Micheál O’Hehir.

When the crowd surged at the end of an exciting sprint down the street,
Micheál was knocked from the top of a tea chest, which he used as his
commentary box. That incident, along with one of the jockeys getting injured
falling from his ass, put paid to both Micheál and the jockeys taking part in
any further Donkey Derbys.

At one stage, someone had a vague idea of moving the Derby to Charles
Street.  When publican, Denis Guiney,
whose premises was located adjacent to the finishing line at the lower end of Church
Street, heard this rumour, he approached the then Chairman, Dr. Johnny Walsh
and said, in no uncertain terms, that he would withhold any further
contribution to their yearly collection.

That year, he had contributed one shilling and sixpence !!! 

(photos from North Kerry Camera)

Another great addition to the Listowel of those years was the setting up
of Radio Listowel, it was broadcast from a room in Michael Kennelly’s Travel
Agency in Market Street and was linked to loudspeakers in the different
streets. Used extensively at Race Week and Christmas time, it was also used by
the local Urban Council for any public announcements.

It would not be proper to finish without a mention of Listowel people’s
favourite food at Race-Time, that is, Mutton Meat Pies. These were served in
broth and sold in many a house in the town, many a stomach was filled and many
a sick head was cured by their consumption. O Connor’s public house in Upper
William Street, known as ‘Mike the Pies’ got its nick-name from the time that
Michael and Kate O’Connor came back from America in 1907, to open their public
house, Kate, formally Mulvihill from Ballylongford, realising that country men
who were in town all day for Market and Fairday’s needed wholesome nourishment,
so she came up with the idea of making and serving these famous pies. 

With the arrival of more and more Travelers and their caravans into the
town, especially in the 1950s, parking in the Market place became a premium. The
remainder then went to the only other available site, on the riverside. This
continued until the late 1950s. Then, the Market place was bought by the newly
formed Listowel Mart Company. The traditional camping side in the front market
gave way to the building of the new mart building and associated pens. From the
late 1950s and early 1960s the Travelers’ lifestyle was also evolving. Many
were been resettled and their traditional caravan and way of travel was becoming
obsolete. In many cases the hirse drawn caravan gave way to more more mobile
small pick up trucks. The Listowel riverside encampment of the 1950s is more
than likely the last actual image of a way of life that is now a distant memory.
This photograph could also be a mirror image of the early pioneers on the
American Sante Fe Trail well over 100 years before. (photo from North Kerry
Camera 1989).


More from Listowel Races on Saturday Sept 16 2017

Friends, Gillian McElligott and Cliona Cogan meet up on The Island.

 Local ladies enjoy watching the style.

Once a scamp, always a scamp. This man is always a great supporter of this event. He looked just as dapper as usual this year and, as usual, he was flirting with the ladies.

Some local vintage glamour

This Galway couple won Most Stylish Couple on Ladies Day. If there was a category for  stylish couples on Vintage Day they would have won hands down.

 Imelda and Liz were busy organising the event. They did a great job.

 There always seems to be a stag party on the island on the Saturday of race week. This year they brought “the bride”, Roberta, who was sporting a recycled wedding dress for reuse and recycle day.

This lady was last year’s winner. She is always beautifully styled . Her outfit this year was stunning.

A New York bought dress, a pair of gloves she dyed with beetroot to make them look old and the only hat in the house made up this eye-catching outfit. The judges loved this look and she was a finalist.


A sad telegram in the UCD archives

Much memorabilia related to the death of Thomas Ashe has been released to coincide with the centenary of his death. The below telegram from his parents to deValera must be among the most poignant. it is granting permission for him to be buried in the republican plot in Glasnevin rather than with his family in Kerry.

As promised Donkey Derbies, Wren boys and more

This is a photo of the bookies enclosure at this year’s festival. Notice all the electronic screens showing the odds. We, of a certain age, remember the old blackboards and chalk and, of course the tic-tac man. I’m sure there are readers out there with stories of these colourful characters. Nowadays betting information, including on track market moves is sold to the bookies by data collection agencies.

Now to today’s anticipated post from Vincent

The two main off course attractions  during raceweek in Listowel were undoubtedly the Donkey Derby  and The All Ireland Wren Boys competition. The late John B. Keane described Listowel Donkey Derby as “A fantastic flight of asses down the historic Church St. course.”

The heyday of the donkey derby coincided with the emergence of one of the best known racing asses called Listowel Factory. This donkey was owned by Paddy Behan of Bunaghara and many of my age will remember his terrific duels with Finuge Lass.

The course for the donkey derby ran from the boy’s school to  Guiney’s in Lower Church St. now Mamma Mia. For health and safety reasons consideration was given at one stage to moving  the derby to Charles St. This would give a straighter course and safer viewing for spectators. At the meeting to discuss this proposal, Mr. Denis Guiney, publican, asked to address the meeting as he heard that they were considering moving the event. He threatened to withdraw his financial support of this event if this happened. The records show that this support amounted to the grand sum of one shilling and six pence.

Another donkey derby memory is that on one race night the well known commentator, Michael O’Hehir was standing on a tea chest giving a live commentary on the action. The same night the excitement of the crowd at the finishing line caused them to surge forward and topple him from his commentary box.

 In a conversation later with Thomas Ashe who was on the original festival committee, he told me that he had been appointed to organize the start of the race. The official starter was none other than Prince Monolulu. The first night over 80 asses turned up at the start. Thomas was wondering whether to hold 10 heats of 8 or 8 heats of 10. When he got in touch by walkie talkie with John B., who was running the event, John B. jokingly suggested that they run all 80 off together.

The Wren Boy competition was started by the festival committee in the fifties. Dr. Johnnie Walsh was the first chairman and John B. was the first M.C. The first competitions were mainly made up of local groups, Killocrim, Ennismore, Dirrah East and Dirrah West. Two of the original “kings” were Jimmy Hennessey and Sonny Canavan.

One memory of mine is of working in a bar in London in the early 1960s and Dr. Johnny accompanied by Jimmy Hennessey in full Wren boy regalia entered the bar. The bar in question was The Devonshire Arms which was popular with film and TV celebrities. One of these, Sir Bruce Seton exclaimed when he saw the goat-skin clad Hennessey beating his bodhran “Good gracious, They’re coming in from the jungle.”

I don’t remember children in the river chanting “Throw me down something”, and I am sure that this tradition only started in the 1970’s.

Nowadays  no horses are stabled in town. There are close to 200 stables at the racecourse.

 The following week it was back to school and life in Listowel resumed as normal. We were left only with memories, which happily we can still recall today.


John and Noreen O’Connell have contacted me to say how much they are enjoying having their memories of Listowel  Races  in the 50’s refreshed by our recent blog posts.

 Noreen says “ John, being from Curraghatoosane was ensconced in the festival events. He remembers his father, Mick, telling him that the Kigero, a fiddle player from the border between Athea and Kerry ( he lived on the left hand side of the road, after the bridge at the hollow in the road) playing in a shed in the market. He charged 6 pence for a reel and set and hornpipe which the enthusiastic dancers danced to their hearts’ delight.  John’s father left his new cap, bought especially for the Races, behind one night, never again to be found!

Noreen and John are not 100% sure of the name. Has anyone else heard tell of this musician?

Update: Confirmation just in that he was called The Kigero. Anyone know why?

Tomorrow blackberries, rabbits and other country pursuits!

Prince Monolulu


This man was a colourful character who was a regular visitor to Listowel Races.

Ras Prince Monolulu (1881 St Croix, Danish West Indies – 14 February 1965 Middlesex HospitalLondon), whose real name was Peter Carl Mackay (or McKay), was something of an institution on the British horse racing scene from the 1920s until the time of his death.[1] He was particularly noticeable for his brightly coloured clothing; as a tipster, one of his best known phrases was the cry “I gotta horse!”, which was subsequently the title of his memoirs.[2][3] He frequently featured in newsreel broadcasts, and as a consequence was probably the most well-known black man in Britain of the time.[4]

Although claiming to be a chief of the Falasha tribe of Abyssinia, the reality is that he came from the Caribbean island of St Croix (now part of the United States Virgin Islands). He styled himself as a Prince after being press-ganged on one occasion, assuming that a prince would be far less likely to be shanghaied.

During World War I he was interned in Germany at the Ruhleben Prisoner of War Camp.

He rose to prominence after picking out the horse Spion Kop (cf. Battle of Spion Kop) in the 1920 Derby, which came in at the long odds of 100-6, and from which he personally made some £8,000, a vast amount of money at the time.

The biography of Jeffrey Bernard by Graham Lord describes Prince Monolulu’s death in some detail. It describes how Bernard at the time was working as a horse racing journalist and visited Monolulu in the Middlesex Hospital to interview him. Bernard had brought with him a box of ‘Black Magic‘ chocolates and offered Monolulu a ‘strawberry cream’. Monolulu subsequently choked to death on it and Bernard bade him farewell.[5]

The baptism of Monolulu (as Peter Carl McKay, on 26 October 1881) has been traced in the records of the English Episcopal Church of the Danish West Indies. His father, whose name is not shown in the register, was William Henry McKay and his mother was Catherine Heyliger.[6]

His family (father and brothers) were horse breeders, raisers and racers on St Croix though they were more conventional. There was a case in the 1920s where their knowledge of superior horses was used against a gambler who perpetrated the murder of a child to make a horse win through black magic.

He appears briefly in the 1952 film Derby Day which is set around the Epsom Derby.

I have lifted all of this information from Wikipaedia but I know that lots of older Listowel people remember  him. Anyone like to share a memory with us?

P.S. I know that some people are encountering trouble with posting comments. If you send any stories to me at I’ll give you the credit when I post them. Meanwhile there are a few interesting comments on the first page of this blog.

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