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: rationing

Burst Water Main May 2020, Salted Bacon, and Pullitzer Prize for Son of Writers’ Week Chairman

 Pastures Green

Cows grazing peacefully at Coolageela, Kanturk photographed by farmer, Michael O’Sullivan


Burst Water Main

I was on my permitted exercise last week when I spotted  more going on than usual these days outside Carroll’s Hardware.

The gardaí were directing traffic and Irish water was repairing the fault.


Rationing in 1942

Bless them all, bless them all, 

The long and the short and the tall,

God bless De Valera and Seán MacAntee

They gave us the black bread and half ounce of tea….

During the war certain commodities were rationed. This is why  these two in the photo, who have just killed and salted two pigs put this sign on their barrel for the photo.

Spelling not a strong point with Jack Brosnan and his first cousin. Dan O’Callaghan, both first cousins of my mother’s

The sign , in case you can’t read it, says, No Tay, Plenty Mate.

I grew up in an Ireland where killing and salting a pig was part of how we lived. It was all done as humanely as possible. We, children were never allowed to see.

I found the following pictures on the internet. Some people may prefer not to look at them.


A Pulitzer Prize winner with a Listowel Connection

Photo from Limerick Leader

Malachy Browne who was recently awarded the Pullitzer Prize for journalism is the son of David Browne, chair of the Board of Directors of Listowel Writers’ Week.


A Covid Poem from John McGrath

Covid Sonnet

The world has pinned us with a warning glance,

the kind our mothers gave us long ago,

the look that was designed to let us know

that this might be our last and final chance.

So grounded, we can only hope and pray 

as, day by day, we inch beyond the fear

and tiptoe towards a future far from clear

our wounded planet showing us the way,

that voices raised in ignorance and greed

may yet be drowned by kindnesses and care,

together we can rise above despair,

united we will find the strength we need

as, all for one, we reach beyond the pain

and dare to dream tomorrow once again.

John McGrath  May 2020

Wartime Rationing, Bishop in Moyvane and Patricia Lynch’s Grey Goose of Kilnevin and Athea in Stripes

Rutting Season 2019

Chris Grayson took this fellow’s photo as he took a rest from the exertions of The Rut.


A Listowel Memory of Rationing

The following story about a childhood memory of rationing, the tea chest, and a kindly adult comes to us from Billy McSweeney

The blog today reminded me of the fear of losing the ration book on my way to Mrs Twomey’s shop in the 1940’s. The ration book was kept in a cupboard in the kitchen and was entrusted to one on pain of death, to go to the shops. I still have visions and fear of hunger and starvation attached to that infernal book and the awful responsibility that went with it. I still remember the smile on Mrs Twomey’s face one day when I ordered ½ stone of Tea and  ¼ lb Sugar. Only those of your readers who are of that age or have an appreciation of the old weights and measures will realise that those order  weights were back to front; hence Mrs. Twomey’s smile. The correct order was dispensed naturally and the debit added to the ‘Order Book’ which accompanied the ration book. My mother paid the ‘Order Book’ on a weekly basis. This was really serious business. 

Twomey’s shop was an old-style establishment. The front half was the grocery and the back half was a pub. Today it is the Kingdom Bar, at the top of Church Street. For her part I can still see Mrs Twomey, with Kitty, her assistant, weighing out tea from a tea-chest and sugar from sacks into paper bags which when full were tied with cord, to be ready for sale; tea in ¼ lb bags and sugar in ½ stone paper bags . The empty tea-chest was usually donated to a family with a young child to have the four edges of the top covered with horsehair under a wax cloth for protection; and used as a ‘cot’ to mind a very young child. The cord from the retail bags was saved for future use by the familys. You learned to save everything because it could be of future use. My own earliest childhood memory is being in such a tea-chest at our front door on Upper Church Street and being spoken to very kindly by Joe Galvin, a schoolboy about five years older than myself,  on his way to the  old National school which was no more than 100 metres further up the street probably at 9.00am. One should be very careful of the way you speak to a young child. It could leave a lifelong memory. Joe stopped and spoke kindly to me, a child of no more than 1½ years old taking the morning air in a tea-chest, whereas all the other scholars just passed me by.

These times are returning according to our young Swedish friend that spoke bravely to the United Nations last week. She is a reminder to all of us of how arrogant and wasteful we have become.

Billy McSweeney


FCA Guard of Honour

I borrowed this photo from the Moyvane website and I posted it with the caption that was attached, i.e. soldiers on Main Street.

Kay Caball recognised her uncle Micheál O’Connor, father of our own Canon Declan, as the soldier escorting the bishop.

Now maybe someone will remember the year and the occasion. Seems to be a big crowd in town for it anyway.


An Old Favourite

Do you know that in the library they have lots of free books for you to take away? You can also donate books you have read and no longer need.

In this marvellous box of books that the library have taken out of stock I found this treasure. I remember reading it as a child. I loved The Turfcutter’s Donkey and all his adventures. I lived about 2 miles outside of town but I very often cycled in to the library two and three times a day. The library is surely one of the best public services we have.

 In case you have never heard of Patricia Lynch I photographed the flyleaf for you.

These are two of the marvellous Sean Keating illustrations from the book.


Athea in the News

Bridie Murphy took this super duper photograph of Athea’s very successful fundraising run for the Ronald MacDonald House. David Twomey in the centre of the picture was the winner of the race but the big winner on the day was the Ronald MacDonald House. Well done Athea.

All caught up in ‘er oh-la-la

Clap ‘ands, stamp yer feet, Ye-e-a-y

Bangin’ on the big bass drum

What a picture, what a picture


Stick it in your fam’ly album

Stick it in your fam’ly

Stick it in your fam’ly

In your fam’ly album

John B. Keane and Big Words, A Minute of Your Time and my Book Signing

Photo taken in Beale, Co. Kerry by Ita Hannon


John B. Keane on Corporal Punishment

(from the Limerick Leader archives)

“Sticks and stones may break my bones

But words will never hurt me.”

(According to John B. scholars always preferred a scolding to a beating)

However, I remember a singular exception to this.

Many years ago in Listowel, there was a secondary teacher by the name of Paddy Breen was reputed to be one of the best English scholars in Kerry.

Once, after an argument with an inspector, he was asked by the school’s president to render an account of what happened.

“All that happened,” said Paddy, “was that I bade the fellow beat an ignominious retreat to the native valleys of his own obscurity.”

There was in Paddy Breen’s heyday a pupil attending each morning unfailingly late.

Always he would come up with a different excuse.

It so happened that one morning, Paddy was taking the first class of the day.

Our friend, as was his want, arrived a half-hour later.

“Well,” said Paddy, “what excuse have you to offer this time?”

“My mother’s watch, sir, she stopped,” was the invented answer.

All the other clocks and watches in the house had long since been rendered inoperable due to a variety of misfortunes.

“You, sir,” said Paddy Breen “are the misbegotten metamorphosis of a miscalculating microchonometer.”

One young friend took the jibe poorly and did not attend class the following day nor indeed for many a day afterwards.

Eventually, Paddy received a solicitor’s letter asking him if he would be good enough to repeat the damaging statement in court.

Paddy replied that he would be agreeable and sent the solicitor an exact copy of what he said.

No more was heard of the matter but had he used smaller and more easily understood words there would have been no misunderstanding whatsoever.

Alas, there would have been no colour either, and the class would have been a drabber, duller place.


Floods in 1890


Wartime Rationing

One of the unexpected things that was rationed during World War 2 was golf balls.

Balls which were remoulded by the Dunlop company were supplied in small numbers to Ballybunion and other clubs.

The first captain of Ballybunion Golf Club was Canon R. Adderley of Listowel. Mrs. Rosalie Shortis Venn was the first lady captain.


A Minute of Your Time

will be telling you more about the launch of my book in the coming weeks but in the meantime let me tell you about an exciting signing event in Philip’s Bookshop in Mallow.

It’s on November 2 starting at 2.00p.m. Philip’s Bookshop is celebrating its 30th birthday and they are planning a big party.

John Spillane will be the singing MC. Darina Allen and Alice Taylor will be among those signing. And, in keeping with their policy of encouraging local authors, I will be there . If you are near Mallow be sure to put the date in your diary. It promises to be a great day. I might be in need of a friend as I try to hold my own in such exalted company.

Moyvane, Lixnaw, Wartime Rationing and Roddy Doyle in Listowel


Moyvane, Then and Now

The creamery now and then

Crows on Main St. then and now



Lixnaw and the Fitzmaurice clan

Kerryman 1957

If you would like to learn more…


Been There, Done That

With all the talk of food shortages if the U.K. crashes out of Europe, I thought it might be timely to look back to a time when there were food shortages in Ireland.

Above is a wartime ration book. Certain foodstuffs and other stuff like fuel were in short supply so the government issued books of coupons to people. Coupons could be exchanged for these rationed goods.

A little known fact is that the health of British children improved during the period when rationing was in force. When I see the list of goods that will be in short supply after a hard Brexit, I think we might see the same unintended consequence.

Another fact that is not widely known is that food was also rationed in Germany. This poster from 1916 illustrates, in cartoon form, the range of foodstuffs rationed there.


Fighting Words

Kate Kennelly, Kerry Co Council Arts Officer, Roddy Doyle and Jimmy Deenihan.

Roddy Doyle was in Kerry Writers’ Museum on Tuesday, September 24 2019 to promote Fighting Words, an organisation that he co founded to promote creative writing among young people. Fighting Words workshops have been running in Listowel since 2017. The workshops are held outside of a school setting, are free of charge and facilitated by adults who are not necessarily teachers. All you need to be a volunteer is a love of stories and a desire to help young people to write them.

If you would like to volunteer, contact Cara at Kerry Writers’ Museum.

Bernie and friends at Fighting Words Launch

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