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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Turfcutting, A Tall Tale and Listowel Primary Care Centre

Photo: Bridget O’Connor


Shlawns or Sleáin

This poor man when he was breaking his back cutting turf in some midland bog sometime in the last century never dreamed that one day he would be famous on the internet.

The sight of him working his slean and Kate Ahern from California with a totally different method of turf cutting prompted Vincent Carmody to share a few thoughts with us about his experience of this implement.

“….I was going to to explain to you about the different type of Sleans, however I desisted, as people would say, Carmody thinks he knows everything !!. However,as  I have been involved in helping, cutting, and saving my families and my own turf since the 1950s up to the present day, you might say I have a little experience.  


The type that is used up the country is called a breast slean, is is amenable for a one or two man exercise, with this slean the cutter has more control and can deposit the cut sod up on the bank in one movement. If needed, he could have a second man spreading the cut turf on the bank, With the one used in North Kerry, you had the cutter, who cut the sod which fell forward off the slean, the breancher ?  He was positioned in front of the sleanman, he would pike the sod up on the bank as soon as it fell from the slean, Then, in North Kerry fashion, a third man, overhead on the bank, he was known as the spreader, would spread the turf as far out on the bank as was required by however deep down in the bog hole they were cutting. 

A lot of people would cut the turf down to the mud. The depth of bogs varied, Shallow bogs might be only 2 sods deep, whereas, in the likes of Lyre or up the midlands, the bank could be, 8, 10 or even more sods deep. “



Listowel Primary Care Centre Update

I took this photo  last week. It looks like the building of this huge facility is nearing completion.

This picture gives you a better idea of where the Primary Care Centre is located.


Away with The Fairies in Rathea

Years ago a man and his wife and daughter who were living in Rathea were coming home from town in a horse and car. Himself and his daughter was sitting in front and his wife was sitting behind. They came on to Pike glasha where the horse took a drink. 

When they were coming up the hill he missed his wife from behind him and he says “God help me my heart is broke from her”. She was in the habit of getting the falling sickness. He knew there was no use in looking for her for he always said that the good people had something to do with her. 

He came home cráite and he told a few of the neighbours that his wife was missing and they came to the house to spend the night with him. About midnight the door opened and in walked his wife with a riding switch in her hand and they all knew that the riding switch didn’t belong to the house nor any of them never see it before. She faced the ladder that was near the dresser and went up a few steps and put the switch on the top of the dresser saying as she did so “Gearoid’s pony won the race tonight”. With that she fell into one of her fits and when she got out of it she said “My cure is over in the holy water stone in the Teampaillin if anyone has courage enough to bring me a drink of water it will cure me. 

The only one that consented to go was her daughter and a neighbouring boy. Away they wint and they couldn’t make out the stone. The daughter wouldn’t come home without the water and she called a neighbour living near the Teampaillin and he came and his dog followed him. The dog happened to run on before them. When they were nearing the stone he was struck and ran away

yelling and they found the stone and got the water. She brought it home and gave it to her mother and she got alright. Some of the water fell on the daughter’s hand she rubbed her hand to her eye and she was blind for the remainder of her life in that eye and the two men that were with her one of them got a sudden death and the other one was crippled for life.

Seán Treannt
Rathea, Co. Kerry
Rathea, Co. Kerry

A Rathea Story, Flavins and a Plea for Help

Photo: Bridget O’Connor


Just an Idea

Recently I’ve been struggling to find material for the blog. When I put out a plea for help, some of you came to my aid and others wrote to say please don’t stop. One emigrant came up with an idea. Mary O’Rourke suggested that maybe people who read the blog in foreign parts would write a few paragraphs to tell us where they are and how they got there.

I think people would like to hear where other Listowel people are and what they are doing now. So please make a resolution, put a few words down today and send them to Listowel Connection with a picture . Ideally if you had a pic of the old you and one of the new you that would be great. And you dont have to be abroad to participate. Memories of home or pictures or stories from Listowel people are welcome too.


From Lyreacrompane to New York

Bill Murphy with his copy of A Minute of Your Time


Flavin’s Closing

Time to call it a day for Flavins’ of Church Street

In response to my plea for help and in view of the fact that Flavin’s is closing, our friend, David O’Sullivan has trawled through some old newspapers for news of the Flavin family and their long history in Listowel.

Below are two ads for books;

I wonder if either of these books are to be found anywhere.

When I called in last week,  Miriam Kiely/ OGrady, who grew up on Church Street and remembers Micheál’s as the place to buy sweets and comics, was bidding a sad farewell to Joan.


Will O’The Wisp

(A Faustian story from Rathea in The School’s Folklore Collection)

Once upon a time there lived a man by the name of Bill Dawson, a blacksmith by trade. He was what is commonly called a waster or spendthrift. He made good money working at his trade, but Bill could scarcely spare enough to support his wife, who was a good honest industrious little woman but as for Bill as the people used to say the good and the bad was in him.

One evening as Bill was taking his supper of oaten meal porridge he saw an old man approaching his little cabin. The old man entered with a prayer, “God save all here” and asked for something to eat, with all Bill’s faults he was generous and although he had scarcely enough for himself he divided the scanty meal with the old man. The Old man seeing Bill’s goodness was about to leave. He said to Bill I am St       .Ask for any three wishes and they will be granted to you. Bill’s first wish was whoever would take hold of the sledge should hold on sledging except by his leave. His second wish was, anything that went into his purse couldn’t come out of it without his leave. His third wish was anyone who sat on his chair should stay there until he released him.

The Saint thought that Bill would ask for something that would benefit him in this world and the means of his salvation in the next. He left very disappointed at the three wishes which Bill had asked for, and as the story goes you will see how Bill put his wishes into execution.

He worked away as usual and if any person of note called to his forge to get a job done Bill would pretend to be busy and would ask him to take the sledge. The person not knowing Bill’s intentions would take the sledge to oblige him. There he should remain sledging asking Bill for Gods sake to release him but Bill would pay no heed to him, only on condition that the person would give him a large sum of money. It soon went about that Bill had something to do with old Nick and his customers began to leave him. In a short time Bill found himself with very little to do.

It so happened that one day that Bill was strolling leasurely along in a lonely part of the locality in which he lived, he said aloud to himself, “Now is your time Nick I might as well have the gains of you as well as the name of you”. The words were scarcely out of his lips when ould Nich appeared before him “Good day Bill” says Nick, “Good day Nick” says Bill “what do you want me for” says ould Nick “I don’t want you atall” says Bill. “Didn’t you call me” says ould Nick. “What if I did” says Bill “but, as you’re here now we might as well strike a bargain” What shall it be?” says the devil. “Ill leave it to yourself”. Ill give you seven hundred thousand pounds but at the end of seven years you must come with me. It is a bargain says Bill. “There and then” The devil paid out the seven hundred thousand pounds, and disappeared.

Bill now being a rich man as he thought closed his forge and his little house and bought a big mansion. He purchased racehorses. He attended all the race meetings in the country where he made many friends including the nobility. He invited them to dinners and parties and lavished money in a large scale so in a short time he was penniless. When his friends found out that all his money was gone they soon deserted him. So Bill had given up his high life and long before the seven years were up the devil walked into the forge. “Bill Dawson” says he “your time is up and you must come with me”. “Alright” says Bill “take the sledge until I finish this and then I shall be with you”. There and then the devil took the sledge, Bill walked out, locked the door, went to his little house and eat his dinner. When he went back to the forge there was the devil still sledging with beads of sweat running down his face. “Bill Dawson” says he, “release me and I’ll give you double the amount for seven more years. Thereupon Bill released him. The devil counted out the money and disappeared.

Bill, finding himself a richer man than before, went back again to his high life. He soon found himself peniless and long before the seven years were up he was again back working in his forge. The very day the seven years were up the devil came, thinking he would be smart enough for Bill this time. Knowing Bill to be avaricious he placed himself in his path in the form of a guinea,  As Bill was passing by, seeing the guinea, he picked it up and put into his purse. When the devil found himself in the purse and couldnt leave it he shouted at Bill to let him out. “It’s there you are, Nickeen,” says Bill. There and then he turned back to the forge, placed the purse on the anvil and started hammering it. The devil screamed and begged to let him go and he would treble the amount for seven more years, “Done,” says Bill. The devil paid out the amount and disappeared.

Bill finding himself still richer than he was ever before he went back again to his high life and in a short time again Bill was as peniless as ever. Before the seven years were up he was back again working in his forge. The very day the seven years were up, in walked the devil to the forge. “Bill Dawson” says he “your time is up you must come with me”. “Ill be off” says Bill “but come to the house, until we eat something before we start”. Both of them went on to the house. Bill told his wife to get something to eat for them as his time was up and that he should go with the devil. Bill asked him to be seated but the devil taking no chances this time refused to sit down. Naturally Bills wife got frightened at the sight of the devil and also grieved at the thought of losing Bill. 

There and then Bill and his wife set upon the devil, she using the brush until they succeeded on putting him on the chair. Once on the chair he couldn’t leave it. Bill went back to his forge reddened a tongs, brought it back to the house and taking the devil by the nose started to draw it inch by inch until he had the devils nose out the chimney. “Bill Dawson” says he “release me and I will give you four times the amount and have no more to do with you”. There and then Bill clinched the bargain. The devil counted out the money and fled from the house. Bill followed to the door and shouted, “Be gone now Nickeen and I was able for you.

Bill, delighted, turned back again to his high life and spent money as freely as ever and in a short time he was penniless. His wild life soon told on him and he fell ill and died. When Bill appeared at the gates of heaven he wouldn’t be admitted. He was directed to hell. When he appeared at the gates of hell the porter asked him what he wanted. He said he wanted to get in. The porter went to the devil and said there was a man at the gate, “Go” says he “and ask him his name. The porter came back and told his name was Bill Dawson. Dont let him in roared the devil or he’ll kill all the devils that are in hell. The devil went to the gate. “Is that you Bill” says he “you will not come in here”. Bill put his face to the bars of the gate and made a grimace at the devil but as he did the devil caught him by the nose and put it in the fire.

Bill beingr efused admittance to hell or to heaven had to return again to this world and resort to marshy places. The light can be seen to this day quenching and lighting quenching and lighting. While Bill would hold his nose under the water it would remain quenched and when he’d raise it, it would hold lighting. So people call him Will O the Wisp or Jack O The Lantern. The roguery being in Bill in this life followed him in the next. It became a habit of his to put people astray at night.

Seán Treannt
Rathea, Co. Kerry
Seán Ó Catail

Rathea, Co. Kerry


Garda Station, a poem, Mat the Herder and some local ladies

Listowel Garda Station in January 2020

The burning of Listowel police station in the Civil War, Aug 1922.

Republicans held Listowel. They burnt the police station as Free State troops advanced on 3 Aug 1922. . Courtesy of Vincent Carmody. 

This building was restored, and today is the impressive Listowel Garda station, Church St.

(photo and caption shared on Facebook by Historical Tralee and Surrounding Areas)


A Poem from Noel Roche


Girls’ Night Out

Snapped in Allos last week, Aimee, Maria, Eilish, Máire and Sinead


Mat the Herder 

From Rathea in the Schools Folklore collection

Mat Sheehy lived in the townland of Gurtaclohane in the begining of the nineteenth century. He was commonly known as Mat the Herder. He was a stout firm man and had great arms. Another great man lived long side him by the name of Sean O Leary. The two of um used to go to Cork once a fortnight with firkins of butter in a horse & car.

 At the same time there was a great fighting man in Cork. One day the Buffer of Cork challenged any man to fight him. Mat came up to Leary and said that it wouldnt take such a great man to beat him. “You better keep your tongue in your pocket” said Leary dont he hear you. At that the Buffer heard him and challenged him to fight and handed him a black torn stick so they took at it. 

The Buffer was giving him great strokes in the head but they were taking no effect out of him. In the finish Leary said to Mat in Irish “Tóg íseal é” to take him low. At that Mat struck him across the ribs and brought him to the ground and the Buffer said to Mat “You’re a good man. I was never beaten before”. The Cork people said they would give him his hat full of gold if he shouted as a Cork man but he said he would not saying “I am a Kerry man and I’ll shout for no other County but Kerry”.

Mat had fourteen heifers grazing in the mountain owned by Stephen Galvin at present. He had a big dog. His dog was called Bully and he used to be always minding the heifers for fear they would be stolen. One morning as the ground was covered with snow Bully came came barking to the door and made signals to Mat that the heifers were stolen. 

So the two started out in search of them. They tracked um as far as Limerick and there they found um between two glens. They went about turning the heifers home when ten men attacked um to take the heifers of um so they started fighting and he beat the ten men but he would never do so without the dog. When five of um would come in front of him and five more behind him the dog would jump up and ketch um by the cape of the coat and bring um to the ground and in that way he beat the ten men and brought home his heifers to Gurtaclohane

Soon after a great man from  County Limerick heard about Mat so he said he would have a trial out of him. He picked two good sticks one for himself and another for Mat. He enquired from house to house until he came to Mat. As soon as Mat saw him he got in dread of him so he said he was not Mat the Herder at all but he’d carry him to Mat’s house. But that if he’d like, himself would fight him but that Mat (M) should be present at the fight. 

Mat was indread to attack him alone without Leary with him for Leary was a better man than himself. If he beat him himself Leary would have an other chance and if Leary beat him Mat would still hold his good name. When they landed at Leary’s house Mat had a private talk with him and Leary said to him not to be in dread. Then they started fighting and no one of um was getting the upper hand for a half anhour. It was getting very hot then and Mat was getting two much of it Then Leary told him in Irish not to draw at all but to keep up his guards and that he would get tired. Mat did so and stroke by stroke the other fellow was failling. Then all of a sudden Mat struck him across the ribs and brought him to the ground so Mat held his good name and gave up fighting at the age of fifty.

Liam Ó Duilleáin
Gortacloghane, Co. Kerry
(name not given)
Gortacloghane, Co. Kerry
The actual handwritten version states 
“ó m’athair a fuaireas é seo.”

Ballybunion. Little Lilac Studio, April 2019 Horse Fair, the public loo in 2019

Ballybunion in March 2019 photographed by Bridget O’Connor


The Last Project

I have sadly delivered the last Little Lilac Studio project to my grandchildren


Listowel’s Public Convenience

Listowel’s public toilet on Market Street has some state of the art features that are meant to make it attractive to patrons.

It is wheelchair friendly. It costs 25cents to spend a penny. It has instructions in several languages including Braille. For hearing impaired people there are audio instructions.


Wells and Place Names from Dúchas School Folklore Collection

There is a well situated in Mrs. David Dillon’s farm. At this day the well goes by the name of Tobair na Giolláin. The people say the English of it is the well of the flies. At first the well was situated near a hedge in the field but one morning a woman rinsed clothes in it and when the people came to the well it was dried up but it sprang up about four perches from the place. The people are still taking water out of it but the old people always said it was a blessed well.

Collector- Martin Connelly,Address, Kilteean, Co. Kerry. From Drom Muirinn School

Informant, Mrs K. Quilter


The name is still used by the local inhabitants and probably means the Glen of the Quern. It is beside this glen the “brittlen” woman used to be heard.

In the farm of Pat Trant Jnr, Behins, there was a blessed well. This was known to the older people as Tobar Uí Leidhin. There was an old midwife living in Behins named Moll Barry. One May morning she went to the well for a can of water. She had hardly reached the well when she was lifted off the ground and the next place she found herself was below at the monument in Lixnaw, spirited away by the good people.

Beside the well there was a graveyard. A glen beside it is still known as Gleann Dóighte.

Beside our house is a place called Pike, on the main road between Listowel and Castleisland. Old Ned Prendiville use to say that there were two gates here and everybody who passed the way with cattle or cars had to pay a toll of a halfpenny. There was also a pound there. There is a Dispensary at Pike. In this building was the old National school whose first teacher was John O’Connor. O’Connor was not long there when he had to flee the country owing to his connection with the Fenians. Then came my Grandfather old Master Lynch who taught there for six years and who opened the school at Rathea in 1875.

My Grandfather was a native of Knockanure. He used to tell stories about a woman name Joan Grogan of Knockanure. This woman used to be “out” with the good people. One night they were on their way to Castleisland to decide whether a girl there name Brosnan was to be taken away or not. On their way they called in to my grandfather’s aunt the wife of Michéal Ruadh Kirby of Behins and took her snuff box as a joke. Micéal Ruad’s wife met her a few days after at the big fair in Listowel (13th May). Joan asked her did she miss her snuff box on such a morning and she said she did. Micheal Ruadh’s wife told her she heard them laughing in the kitchen that night.

Maureen Lynch

M’athair Muiris Ó Loingsig O.S a d’innis an méid sin dom. Rathea Listowel.

Rathea Listowel and San Sebastian

Listowel’s changing face


Do you remember this?



Built in 2000, destroyed by a storm in 2014


The following article was published in the Rathea Irremore journal a few years ago


 Yarns from Rathea

Dan Lyons
of Rathea was better known as The Major, possibly to distinguish him from his
near neighbour, Anthony Dan Lyons, sometimes referred to as Spec, who was a
great poet with many compositions to his credit. I would hope that poems by the
latter may be resurrected and be printed in this or some other local journal,
thereby getting a new lease of life.

it is with a few yarns concerning the Major, I’m now going to deal with. He had
a tidy farm of good land. He kept about eleven cows, no bull. I suppose he
would only keep ten cows if he had kept a bull. When a cow would come around,
he would rope her and take her about a half a mile down the road to the Yankee

after many years and he was getting older and possibly getting tired of
jostling with recalcitrant bovines along the road down to Kirby’s bull, he
surprised everybody by setting off for Listowel Fair one morning. There he duly
purchased the worst, smallest and cheapest bull in the fair. It would seem that
economy in financial matters was one of his strong points.

home with the bull in tow, he walked proudly into the yard. His wife came out
to view the purchase. It seems she got a bit of a shock when she laid eyes on
the acquisition. However, she, it seems rallied quickly, and proceeded to
berate and scold The Major with considerable volume and at great length, for
buying such an article. “Sure the calves off him will be no size,” she
finished, breathless. Seizing his opportunity the Major spoke out in his own
defence. “What do you talk about woman?” he said, “no calves off
him because he is small, Paddy so-and-so is only four feet ten, and hasn’t he
two sons in the guards.”

The Major
and his wife reared a large family. They were very brainy. One of them, Simon
by name, joined the Franciscan Order, was ordained and in due course attained
considerable status in same. He was the author of several books on religious

The Major
was very fond of playing cards. Cahill’s was the house for the game. Either he
was a bad player, or unlucky, or both, for he seldom won a game and arrived
back home without a copper in his pocket. Now when Simon, whose name in
religion was Father Adrian, would come back yearly on holidays, he would
accompany his father to the card game, and being a good player, or lucky, or
both, he’d finish the night in possession of a heap of coppers. Being a
Franciscan, and forbidden by the Rule of his Order to keep money, he’d hand it
over to The Major. The latter would pocket the money with a self satisfied
smile, turn to Fr. Adrian and say: “Simon you’re the first one of your
cloth that wasn’t a robber”.


                        John Joe


More from my continental holiday

My January holiday in the Basque country taught me lots of things about the Basque people. They have one of the oldest languages in the world. It bears very little or no similarity to any other language. The above tableware is decorated with the local Basque symbol.

There are 7 Basque provinces straddling the Pyranees between Spain and France. Navarre is the biggest.  Basque people are fiercely proud of their language and traditions. I’ll tell you more about that anon. Today I want to tell you about my trip to Spain.

Ciboure is very near to the Spanish border. It is the custom locally for people to take a trip across the border to San Sebastian on a Sunday afternoon. When in Rome….

We took the train from Hendaye. There was no acknowledgement of a border. We just travelled from one town to another with no feeling that we had passed from one country to another except that now the train station names were in Basque and Spanish rather than Basque and French.

San Sebastian was an eye opener!

I never in all my living life saw so many fur coats.

I am reliably informed that Spanish people live in small apartments and live most of their lives outdoors. Certainly it would seem that donning your fur coat and promenading on the front in San Sebastian on a January Sunday is the done thing for Spanish ladies of a certain age.


Back home: Some Artistic window displays at Lynch’s of Main St.

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