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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Riverbank Repair, Fontenoy and Toothpaste

Photo; Barbara Walsh

Very different race week this year, Sept. 19 to 25 2021.

Maybe there will be a crock of gold for someone.


Riverbank Repair Works

More photos from Barbara Walsh of works underway on the banks of The Feale behind Convent Street, Listowel in September 2021.

In this last picture you can see the path that is being constructed on which to lay the boulders that are going to be used to halt the erosion of the riverbank and the undermining of property along Convent Street.



New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXV, 24 December 1897, Page 9

Bartholomew Dowling, the writer of “Life’s Wreck,” was born at Listowel. County Kerry, about the year 1822. While still a child his parents emigrated to Canada, where his father died. Later the mother and children returned and settled in County Limerick, He wrote several poems for the Nation after its foundation. In 1848 he proceeded to California, where, after spending some time as a miner, he lived on a farm at Crucita Valley. In 1858 he was appointed editor of the San Francisco Monitor. In 1863 he met with an accident while driving, and soon afterwards died from its effects in St. Mary’s Hospital, San Francisco. Dowling’s best, and best known poem is probably “The Irish brigade at Fontenoy.” 

I searched for his poem and couldn’t find it. But in the course of my search I learned a lot about The Battle of Fontenoy and the part played by The Wild Geese. Some of the Irish soldiers regarded this battle as revenge for Limerick and Luimneach abú was a battle cry.

The following is a synopsis from an AOH website. Anyone interested in history should Google Fontenoy.


June 2, 2020 By Mike McCormack

Any reader of America’s Civil War history knows of the Irish Brigade and their battle cry ‘Remember Fontenoy’, but a true understanding of that emotion is often not given other than to note that it refers to the Irish Brigade in the French Army. To understand it fully we must go back to the origins of the first Irish Brigade in a trade of French soldiers for Irish made in 1690. When William of Orange was invited by a Protestant Parliament to take the crown of England deposing Catholic James II, France’s Catholic King Louis XIV favored Stuart King James II in his struggle to regain his throne. In 1690, Louis sent 6,000 French regulars to James in Ireland, but since he needed men in his own struggle with William on the continent, he received about 5,000 Irish recruits in return under the command of Justin McCarthy, Viscount Mountcashel. Ireland got the best of the trade at the time but, as it turned out, it would be a better bargain for France in the years to come. The Irish troops were organized into three regiments, known by their commanding officers: O’Brien’s commanded by Colonel Daniel O’Brien; Dillon’s, commanded by Colonel Arthur Dillon and Mountcashel’s commanded by McCarthy himself.

The Irish stand against William’s army at Limerick under Patrick Sarsfield forced a treaty with William in October 1691 and as many as 19,000 more Irish troops followed Sarsfield into exile in France as a condition of the treaty. This came to be known as the “Flight of The Wild Geese.” Most added regiments to the French army and became the Irish Brigade. The names of the regiments would change with changes in command, but Dillon’s regiment remained under the command of a Dillon for its entire years of service. Irish regiments participated in most of the major land battles fought by the French and even served as France’s allies to the Scots against the English at the Battle of Falkirk Muir and Culloden during the Jacobite rising of 1745. Walsh’s Regiment also served with Washington in the American Revolution as part of John Paul Jones marines using their motto of ‘Semper et Ubique Fidelis’ (always and everywhere faithful) which may have influenced the subsequent adoption of the motto ‘Semper Fidelis’ by the U.S. Marines.

Since King Billy was the nemesis of both Louis XIV and James II and the split fidelity was defined by the Brigade wearing red coats as a sign of their fealty to the Gaelic house of Stuart and its claim to the English throne. England’s perfidious breaking of the Treaty of Limerick and introduction of the Penal Laws ensured that France’s Irish Brigade would remain supplied with the cream of Ireland’s sons for generations, bringing the total number to about 30,000 and leading to their battle cry of ‘Cuimhnigidh ar Luimneach agus ar feall na Sassanach!’ (Remember Limerick and Saxon treachery!) The Irish fought well for the French for the rest of the Nine Years War against William of Orange, at battles such as Landen in 1693, where Patrick Sarsfield was mortally wounded and whose dying words were reported to be “If only this had been for Ireland.” Despite their many victories, the one that stands out in Irish memory was the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745.

In 1698, after the war with William was concluded by the Treaty of Ryswick, many of the Irish regiments in France were disbanded by Louis XIV. But the peace that had come to Europe was short-lived; by 1701, Europe was at war again. King Charles II of Spain had died and Louis XIV pressed the cause of Philip of Anjou for the Spanish crown. The Austrians countered that Archduke Charles of Hapsburg, son of Emperor Leopold I, was the legitimate heir. Tensions, backed by England, soon led to the War of Austrian Succession with Holland, Prussia and Austria soon at war with France. Louis XIV had need of his stalwart Irishmen once again. Fontenoy was a major engagement of that war. The battle was fought against the English, with their Austrian and Dutch allies, commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, known as the ‘Bloody Butcher.’ King Louis XV of France and his son, the Dauphin, were also on the battlefield.

Fontenoy hardly ever appears in English history books, but has a strong significance in Ireland where even GAA teams are named for the battle. On the afternoon of 11 May 1745, near the town of Fontenoy in today’s Belgium, 16,000 of the finest soldiers in the armies of England and their allies stepped off to attack the center of the French army of Louis XV. Several attacks against other sections of the line had failed and the day appeared lost, but Cumberland took a chance on a bold massed attack on the French center that was sure to succeed. Courageously moving forward against heavy fire, the English soon reached the French position and appeared ready to overrun the center. The audacious gamble was about to succeed when the French sent in their last reserves in a furious attempt to save the day. As a few remaining French forces were holding on the left, the British observed another formation advancing on their right in uniforms as red as their own. Forward they came with bagpipes playing the Jacobite anthem, ‘The White Cockade,’ and voices raised in one of the most ancient languages of Europe: ‘Cuimhnigidh ar Luimneach agus ar feall na Sassanach!’ These red-coated soldiers were Irish and Frenchmen of Irish ancestry and they were intent on retribution against the nation that oppressed their people for generations. They crashed into the British with close-in hand-to-hand fighting at which they excelled with bayonet, clubbed musket and simply bare hands. A French historian later wrote that in 10 minutes it was over and the attackers who were left on their feet were driven off. The Irish Brigade had beaten the Brits and saved France  Ireland’s long-time ally.

The centuries after the broken Treaty of Limerick and introduction of the Penal Laws were a sorrowful time for Ireland’s people. It was said that the worst place in the world to be an Irish Catholic was in Ireland itself. However, if there was one organization the Irish could look to during those dark times for affirmation that they were as good as any other nationality, it was to the Irish Brigade in France and their stunning victory at Fontenoy. In addition to giving many Irishmen an outlet for their talents at a time when there was virtually none in the land of their birth, the Brigade provided hope to those destitute masses back in Ireland. As long as it existed, there remained the possibility that the flags of the regiments of the Irish Brigade might one day fly in Dublin and the Irish would have their own again. Though today many in Ireland still know the name and accomplishments of the Irish Brigade, there seem to be few in the Diaspora familiar with their legacy. That is unfortunate, for the hope that Fontenoy gave the Irish played an important role in sustaining them as a people then and a resurgent force later. That is why so many of the native Irish in the Irish Brigade of the Union Army were inspired to Remember Fontenoy!

Hark! Yonder through the darkness one distant rat-tat-tat!

The old foe stirs out there, God bless his soul for that!

The old foe musters strongly, he’s coming on at last,

And Clare’s Brigade may claim its own wherever blows fall fast.

Send us, ye western breezes, our full, our rightful share,

For Faith, and Fame, and Honor, and the ruined hearths of Clare

From “Fontenoy 1745” By Emily Lawless


Secure and Healthy Teeth

The obsession with white teeth is not a recent thing. In the days before fluoride in our drinking water and in toothpaste, tooth decay was common and a toothpaste that promised to keep your teeth securely in your head would sell well.

Did you know that people used to wash their teeth with soot before toothpaste?


Cork Hurling Legend, Christy Ring R.I.P.


Lovely Listowel, A Pharmacy on the Move and Repairs to St. John’s Steeple

“Oh, would some Power the giftie gie us

To see ourselves as others see us….”

Éamon ÓMurchú was home in Listowel and he took a few photos with his phone. The photos show us Listowel as it is these days, lovely as always but undergoing change. This one shows the unchanging River Feale in all its magnificence.


Different Times

In June 1950 Fine Gael T.D. Captain Patrick Giles told the Dáil that “only big swanks with money to burn” could buy tomatoes. (Irish Examiner)


On the Move

Broderick’s Pharmacy is relocating to Market Street.


Kathy Hochul is New York governor

John Anthony Hegarty sent the picture and Kay Caball provides the story of the Kerry connection. Below is the link to Kay’s account of the governor’s Cournane/ Courtney ancestors. It is well worth a read.

Kerry Ancestors/ N.Y. Governor


Scaffolding Everywhere

The scaffold at St. John’s has reached the top of the spire.

Máire tells us that the clock face is down for repair.

This reminded me of a story Junior Griffin told me.

Here is is again.

John Griffin of Bridge Road was the local expert watch repairer. Archdeacon Wallace approached him to ask if he would repair the St. John’s clock.

St. John’s was then a functioning protestant church.

In the 1940s it was forbidden for a Catholic to enter a Protestant church. Mending the clock, however, would not involve entering the church as there was no access to the clock from the church. To solve this problem John Griffin constructed a kind of primitive cherry picker. This contraption was a kind of cage that he would enter on the ground and using pulleys and ropes he would hoist himself up to the clock in order to access the movement of the clock.

John Griffin of Bridge Road, Junior’s dad

Junior’s mother was worried sick that some harm might come to her husband in this makeshift hoist so she sent Bert and Junior to the Catholic church to light candles and to pray that no harm would come to their dad.


A Sobering Fact

In April 1954 Michael Manning was the last person to be executed by the state. He was convicted of murdering a nurse, Catherine Cooper.

(Irish Examiner)


We’re all Mayo Supporters now

Éamon ÓMurchú took this photo on his Wild Atlantic Way trip.

I think we’ll be seeing a few posters like this in Kerry now.


River Feale Works, Asdee and a (very) Short Poem

Loughfouder School, Knocknagoshel: mural by Mike O’Donnell


Combatting Erosion on the Banks of The Feale

A huge job of work is underway on the riverbank.

This is the right hand side where a previous shoring up with boulders was done.

There were seven lorries full of boulders queued up on the day I visited.

A road is being laid and the big boulders will be placed on it as an emergency measure to save the houses at Convent Cross from being undermined and falling into the river.


Jesse James of Asdee from Shannonside Annual 1956


A Sad Ditty

Do you love me

Or do you not

You told me once

But I forgot.


Bread Shoes, Dried up River and Listowel Characters Mural

Skerries by Éamon ÓMurchú


A Strange Tale from the School’s Folklore Collection

Little Hands and the Bread Shoes

Once upon a time there lived a man with his wife and son war broke in France, and every Irish man had to go there, and this man had to go also. He wrote letters every day to his wife, and one a wire came to his wife that her husband got killed in the war. She had only one little boy, and he was only a baby. It was a slate house they had.
One day as the little boy was sleeping in his cradle, a slate fell off over the window, and a branch of ivy went in the window and it grew around the child’s. The child was about four years when he went to school. After a time the children got the “flu”, and the little boy took it, and he was very sick, and it was worse he was geting, and at last he died.
His mother kept a little red pair of shoes under her bed, and when she went up in the room the mice had them eaten, and then she took out a loaf of bread out of the bin and softened it in boiling water; and while she was softening the bread a man went in and asked a piece of bread for God’s sake. The woman said that she had bread inside, and she had a loaf in the bin.
The man who asked her was Christ at last the boy was buried, and the threw herself on the grave, and the neighbours pulled her away, and she went to bed after going home, and a few nights after her son appeared to her and said I am in the first step of heaven mother, but the bread shoes are keeping me back, and the night he came he said he was in the second step of heaven, but the bread shoes had kept him back and the next night he came he said he was in the third step of heaven but the bread shoes had kept him back, and then they took off the shoes, and he went to heaven. After a short time the boys mother died, and she went to heaven
Collector; Eileen Hannon Age 14-

Informant- Mrs Ellen Foley-Age 74-

Address, Mountcoal, Co. Kerry.


Wouldn’t it Lift your Heart?

This is my grandnephew in the U.S. dancing with his great grandmother at a family wedding.


Drought 2021

The River Feale at the Big Bridge is at a very low level.


Elegy to Road Kill


by John McGrath

I killed a fox last night

outside the graveyard wall.

Too late to brake I caught

a flash of golden fur

in headlight’s glare,

Felt the thump and crunch

of steel on bone,

Slow-motion silence,

Disbelief and then,


that fate had mindlessly conspired

to lead us to this place,

this point in time,

this intersecting line

where two lives intertwine

with tragedy.

One of us remained

outside the graveyard wall.

One moved on

and died a little too.


The Mural is Finished

I took the following photos on July 24 2021 as the muralist just finished the artwork. I took a few long shots to give those of you not in town an idea of where it is and to put the scale of the work in context


Dublin Kerry Association, St. Michael’s boys Survey and NKRO in 2000

Photo; Liam Downes


The Dublin Branch of the Kerry Family

in happier times


Remembering Schooldays in St. Michael’s

From a cocoon in New York comes John Anthony Hegarty wrote

Hi Mary,

I just found this article from the Kerryman newspaper from my days in St Michael’s. 

 It definitely has that Listowel Connection.

My class was what was considered a diverse class in those days, 

Apart from those us in the photo below , there was one American (Yank) Mike Regan, one English (Cockney)  : Kevin Summers they were both exempt from learning Irish, we had Fitzell from Ballylongford. Alas I forgot his first name, he was Church of Ireland so he was exempt from the religion class. John B’s son, Conor Keane, was also in my class , I must say even though his father was famous Conor was down to earth , there certainly no airs and graces about him, he was a regular person. Louis McDonough was also in my class.
That first year we spent in the prefab class room behind the main college building Our teachers were : Margaret Savage from Bedford :PE ( a new concept back then) and Civics ,  Mr Cody :Science, Mr Harman : Math: “the square of the hypotenuse of right angle triangle is equal to the sum the squares of the other two sides” has stuck with me, he said that phrase quite a few times back then, the Regans husband and wife team: Mr Regan :Commerce, Mrs Regan : French, Mr. Molyneaux ( Junior ) :  Irish and History /Geography,

Mr Given :English, Fr O’Sullivan : Music and Religion and he was headmaster of the College.

Teachers were all allowed to use the cane back then and they did use it.

Lunch break we used to go down to a shop called (I think) Crowley’s for an ice cream wafer. 

The biggest crime back then was cigarette smoking.

John-Anthony pointed out they were already practicing social distancing in this photo.

These are the names of the boys in the order in which they are standing.

First row : Tony O’ Carroll, Jim Hannon , John-Anthony Hegarty, 

 Second row: Tony Barrett, Thomas O’ Connor,Joe Walsh, Patrick McElligott, 

 Back row: Edward O’Connor.

So in regard to the survey below , it wasn’t  very scientific because the people were very reserved in that , they didn’t want to say the wrong thing so  the most the common answer was ” well what are rest of the people putting down”

The photo was taken in front of then Cash and Carry ( Walsh hall) across from the Astor.I have met Paddy MacEligott and my neighbor Joe Walsh a handful a times since those days.


Looking Back

This photo was taken during a North Kerry Reaching out event in Greaney’s Spar Listowel in 2000.

Brenda Sexton was sharing photographic memorabilia with Ger Greaney and James Kenny.


River Feale

Mike Guerin has shared some lovely and many never before seen photographs of the river and its fishermen

Stolen Waters

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