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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A Walk in Listowel

William Street in July 2022; Photo by Elizabeth Brosnan


A Ragged Robin

As I was walking my canine visitor through Gurtinard Wood I spotted this friendly robin posing on a sign telling us all about him and the other fauna we might meet in these parts. He waited for me to get a close up. Not looking his best, I thought. A bit ragged! Maybe he is only a baby and not fully into the complexities of feather preening yet.


Hawthorn Drive

This small estate is a well deserved winner of many Tidy Town prizes.


On the Eve of the All Ireland

Dan Doyle who grew up in Kerry’s Black Valley and now lives thousands of miles away in the U.S. Looks forward to All Ireland Sunday

July 23 2022

So tomorrow is the All Ireland final football match in Croke Park in Dublin.  Two counties made it through after playing all year.  This year it is Galway and Kerry.  Tonight these players will sit and think about tomorrow.  It is a time to reflect on a life with the ball.  They start as young lads and some make it this far.

It takes a lot of help to step on that ground at Croke Park, a lot of luck, a lot of hours alone training, a lot of meditation and a family who leave them alone to get the bodies in tip top form.  To play tomorrow is an honor.  This game is an amateur sport played by the fittest 30 men in the world. 

  I have had the privilege of knowing a few who made it this far.  I have had the privilege of knowing a few who won All Ireland medals and to their dying day they remembered that game for the rest of their lives. One friend won two and he had them made into a bracelet for his mom. When she died she made sure he got them back.  Most of us who win medals really think little about them but an All Ireland medal is something special.

Tonight will be hard to go to sleep and tomorrow they will lace on the boots and march behind the Artane Boys band and when the referee blows the whistle all the nerves will go away.  It will be tense in the beginning.  Bodies will be tense and then it will start to flow.

If it is a good game the referee will be mostly out of it.  It is a place where names are made. It will be all over and they will shake hands and swap jerseys.  They will go home to Kerry and Galway and they will play it over in their minds for years.  People will shake their hands and congratulate them if they win, but for those 30 tomorrow it is a world away from everyone except those men between the white lines.  

It is actually a beautiful game to watch when it is played the way it is supposed to be played.  Some will retire.  Some will see they are too old as it is a young man’s game and as winter winds blow off the mountains players will hang the boots up, some forever.  Anyway lads I am glad it is Galway and Kerry, two great sporting counties and tomorrow night we will have a winner. 

 I used to love the third Sunday in September when Kerry played in Croke Park.  I have seen a lot of good times and a lot of heartbreak  too when we lose , I will listen on the radio to Ambrose O’Donovan in America.  I could be anywhere looking at it on these big screens but I will do what my father did in the Black Valley when we listened to Kerry V Armagh long ago in 1953.  I just wont hit the Pye Radio with a stone hammer just because the battery died as Mc Corrig was taking the Penalty.

Good Luck lads tomorrow and it is our honor to watch Gaelic games all over the world.


Meeting Your Heroes

When Breda Ferris was in Croke Park for the All Ireland Senior Football Final 2022 she snapped a few famous GAA people only too willing to pose with young and not so young fans.


Best of luck to the Kerry Ladies on Sunday against Meath.


Ballybunion, Listowel History Festival and Cough Syrup from another age

Sing, Sing a Song of Joy…..

Photo; Ita Hannon


On the Long Strand 

Weather is predicted to be balmy this weekend so make the most of it.  Why not take a trip to Ballybunion.

Photos; Knockanure Local


A Skillet

You sometimes see these pots nowadays used as planters but their original use was for cooking food for human or animal consumption . This cooking was done over an open fire.


Sad News

This was taken in Listowel Town Square in 2015 during the annual history festival.

Thi festival has been cancelled for 2019 and it looks like it is unlikely to happen again. Our thanks to the hard working dedicated team who had the vision to set it up and the stamina to hold it for so many years in the teeth of rising costs. Thanks for the memories.


To Kill or to Cure

What on earth could the “other essentials” be?

Group Cert English, Listowel people at Raceweek and Peggy Rorke’s cure

Robin on bramble Photographed by Chris Grayson


Group Cert English paper 1963

The Group Cert was an exam that was taken by pupils in Vocational schools. There used to be a segregation of pupils into academic schools which taught subjects like Latin and Greek as well as the core subjects, and vocational schools which prepared pupils for the world of work. These vocational schools alone had an exam after two years called Group Cert. Many pupils then left to take up apprenticeships or to go into jobs.


…And Lion

This iconic piece of stucco is being refurbished.


Raceweek Back in the Day

Seamus Buckley’s photos show spectators watching the barmen’s race during race week sometime in the 1950s or 60s

Yesterday’s Raceweek photos brought this response from Gerard Leahy;

Great memories Mary, and you are correct, all of us emigrants cast our minds back to Listowel during Race Week. I loved seeing the old Race Cards. Stuart Stack ( Damian Stack ‘s father) used to distribute bundles of cards to us kids on Race morning and we would sell them up and down the street, the square and the pubs for a shilling, making 100% profit. So many memories of Race Week but Jimmy Hennessy, King of the Wrenboys will always stand out!!!


Did Her Sister make a Miraculous Recovery?

I photographed this headstone in the nuns’ graveyard at the Nano Nagle Centre in Cork. The Nano Nagle Centre, which is well worth a visit, holds the graves of both  Presentation and the Ursuline sisters. It is on the site of the old South Pres. I’ll be coming back to it here because I made a second visit there recently and was fascinated by the marvellous work of preservation and information that The Presentation Sisters have done at this site which is a museum, a peaceful garden and a visitor centre. I’ll have to go back a third time because, by bad timing, I missed the guided tour by Sr. Bride Given, formerly of Listowel whom I am told is an excellent guide.

Back to this child, Anne Rorke of County Dublin who was buried with the nuns.

Dave O’Sullivan did a bit of research for us and the story he found refers to Anne’s sister but sheds enough light for us to  surmise about Anne and her fate.

The Andrew Rorke referred to in this cutting is obviously Anne’s father. In 1840 he belonged to the ‘Friends of Civil and Religious Liberty”,  was a follower of O’Connell’s and obviously wealthy enough to be able to send his daughters to the Ursuline Boarding School  in Cork to be educated.

The next newspaper story is the fascinating one.

For those of you who have difficulty reading the newspaper cutting, here is the gist of it;

Margaret (Peggy) Rorke of Tyrrellstown in Co. Dublin contracted measles while a boarder in the Ursuline Convent School in Cork. This is 1823 when an outbreak of measles could result in deaths in a crowded community. Anyway Margaret was in a bad way, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat,  could only sit in a chair because to lie prone would have resulted in her lungs filling up with fluid.

In this state she is attended by the nuns and is preparing for death, when they send for a famous priest and miracle worker to give her the Last Rites, then called Extreme Unction or Holy Viaticum (Bread for the journey to heaven). 

This priest is Prince Alexander Leopold Franz Emmerich of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst

He performs the last rites on the dying girl, she spends some time in prayer and, lo and behold, she throws off the covers and walks for the first time in three months. She is completely and undeniably cured.

The newspaper comments

“Peggy Rorke’s cure will ne’er be forgot

By those who were there and those who were not”

From this story we can surmise that her sister Anne died of some complication of measles in 1815.  Because they had suffered the loss of one daughter, the family would have done anything to save the life of Margaret, including bringing a miracle priest from Germany. Daniel O’Connell may even have had something to do with it.


Sunday at the Races

Sean and Killian were with me in Kerry for the weekend. We went to The Island on Sunday and we had a great time. Not too much luck with the horses but a good time nonetheless.

There was a great crowd in attendance.

A Robin, Listowel’s Carnegie Library Remembered and signs of Spring at last

Ode to a robin

Chris Grayson photographed this robin as it breakfasted on a meal worm.

Dick Carmody wrote his robin a poem.

The Robin……           

            …….companion for a reluctant gardener.

Reluctantly I kneel to tend my garden, derived of some pride, devoid of great pleasure

Painstakingly I toil to keep apace of mother nature, as weeds compete with work rate

Then I am suddenly less aware on my ownliness, a companion ever present at my side

The Robin makes his predictable welcome appearance to distract from my discomfort.

Red-breasted, he sits proud upon the boundary wall to watch my laboured movement

Takes pride in that he fanned the fire in Bethlehem’s stable to keep the Baby warm

And how the flames had burned his then colourless breast to testify his zealousness

Or was it when he pulled the thorn from Jesus’ brow on his way to cross on Calvary

And now carries his blood-stained feathers as if to show his favoured ranking.

At arms length he follows my every move, often playing hide and seek with me     

Standing tall or sometimes with head erect, motionless he stares me eye to eye 

I could believe him God-sent, no other bird in sight in hedgerow or on leafless tree

Or is it just that he sees me as his meal-ticket, as I gather and discard the fallen leaves

Exposing tasty morsels in the unfrozen ground to help him cope with winter’s worst.

I move along, hunched on bended knee, he follows cautiously close behind, beside 

Sometimes out of sight, I seek him out again and know I will not be disappointed

For sure enough he’s back again here, there and everywhere, not taken for granted

Now gardening is less of a chore as I’m gifted a companion, my new forever friend.

© Dick Carmody                                                                                November, 2013.


Listowel’s Library used to be housed in this elegant building. This is how it looked on Saturday February 17 2018. My friend, Helen, is crossing the road in the foreground.

Recent posts about the old library prompted memories for some blog followers.

Michael O’Sullivan sent us this clarification;

Hello Mary,

Everybody blamed the Black and Tans for burning the library in the bridge road in March 1921. But with access to the military witness statements in recent years it was revealed that the Listowel volunteers burned it as they feared the British were going to use it as a base. The great house a mile away in Tanavalla suffered the same fate in 1920,


Michael O’ Sullivan

Mention of the library brought Cyril Kelly back to his boyhood and a memorable visit to the library with his inspirational teacher, Bryan MacMahon. Cyril shares with us this essay which was broadcast on `Sunday Miscellany;

LIBRARY   by Cyril Kelly

was the man who led us, both literally and metaphorically, from the classroom
every day. This was The Master, our Pied Piper, who was forever bugling a
beguiling tune, a tune sparkling with grace notes of the imagination. He’d have
us on the white steed behind Niamh, her golden fleece romping in our faces.
Transformed by his telling we had mutated into forty spellbound Oisíns.
Knockanore was disappearing in our wake. The briny tang of the ocean was in our
nostrils, bidding us to keep a westward course, forbidding us to glance back at
our broken hearted father, Fionn. We were heading for the land of eternal
youth, Tír na nÓg.

the very next antidotal day, we’d be traipsing after him, into the graveyard
beside the school. The narrow paths, with no beginning and no end criss-crossed
the place like some zoomorphic motif. We were on a mission to see who would be
the first to spot a headstone which was decorated with a Celtic design. The
diligent boys leading the line were in danger of overtaking the laggards at the
tail who were hissing that, in the dark recesses of the slightly open tomb,
they had seen, staring back at them, a yella skull.

on very special days, we crossed the road to the Carnegie Library. Master
McMahon told us that it was the most magical building in the whole town. Even
the whole world, if it came to that. He told us that we were so lucky because
Andrew Carnegie, the richest man on earth, had bought all of these books for
us. We were amazed because none of us knew Andrew and we felt sure that he
didn’t know any of us. As a matter of fact, not one of us knew anyone who
bought books, either for us or for anyone else. Master McMahon said that the
Librarian, Maisie Gleeson, was minding the books for Carnegie and, especially
for the boys in 3rd class.

our first day in the library, we all had to line up on tippy-toes at Maisie’s
desk to scratch our names with nervous N-nibs on green cards. Maisie eyed us
all over her spectacles, welcoming each one of us ominously by name, telling us
that she knew our mothers and woe-be-tide anyone who didn’t behave themselves,
particularly any boy who did not take good care of Andrew’s books.

If you have a book,boys, Master McMahon’s voice was echoing around us. If you have a book, boys, you have an exciting friend.

his fingers along a shelf, humming to himself, he flicked one of the books from
its place, tumbling it into his arms. Turning towards us, he held it like a
trophy in the air.

The Clue of The Twisted
Candle. Nancy Drew, boys. She’s a beauty. Blonde, like Niamh Cinn Óir. Solves
exciting mysteries for her father.

Master took his time to scan our expectant faces.

Here, Mickey,proffering the book to Mikey Looby whose father was a detective. Why don’t you sit down there at that table.
Read the first few chapters. See what Nancy Drew is up to this time.

to the shelves again, The Master threw back over his shoulder; Sure if I know anything, Mikey, you’ll
probably solve the mystery before she does.
Mikey, clasping the book in his
arms, stumbled to the nearest chair, thirty nine pairs of envious eyes fastened
to him. Sure it’s in the blood, Mikey
boy. It’s in the blood.

another book, The Master faced us once more. This time he called on Dan

I saw you driving your
father’s pony and cart to the fair last week. Three of the lovliest pink plump
bonavs you had. And what a fine looking pony Dan Driscoll has, boys.

Well, here in my hand I’m
holding Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. This man is a fantastic story
teller. He’ll take you to the frontier lands of America. I promise that you’ll
see and smell the rolling plains of Wyoming more clearly than if you were in
the Plaza cinema down the street. You’ll ride with cowboys, you’ll hear the
neighing not of ponies but of palominos. You’ll meet deadly gunmen, boys, noble
Red Indians. And on the headstones in Boothill, boys, you won’t find any Celtic
And there, in the vastness of the library,
The Master’s youthful tenor voice startled the silence; Take me back to the Black Hills/ The Black Hills of Dakota/ To the
beautiful Indian country that I love.
By the time he was finished he was
besieged by a posse of outstretched hands and beseeching cries of SirSirSir.
Every one of us was demented to get our paws on that book, any book.


Spring 2018…….at last!

Christmas long ago, a Christmas poem and Knitwits Christmas get together

Photo: Chris Grayson


This year I’d love if people in the Listowel connection community would send me a picture of Christmas where they are and I could share them after Christmas.


Government Buildings at Christmas 2017

Political correspondent, Martina Fitzgerald, took this photo and shared it on Twitter. She was killing time while waiting for a Brexit briefing last week.


Christmas in the 1920s as remembered by Eamon Kelly

… (After the rosary) Our knees would be
aching as we got up off the floor and it would take my father a few hours to
get the prayer arch out of his back. Well, we wouldn’t be sitting down at the
supper and my mother would bless herself again, a preliminary to grace before
meals and you could hardly blame my father for losing his patience.”

“Is it in a
monastery we are,” he’d say. “Haven’t we done enough praying for one night?”

After the supper
there was Christmas cake for anyone with a sweet tooth. My father’d never look
at that. His eye would be on the earthenware jar beneath the dresser, and it
would be a great relief to him when my mother would say to us, “Go out there
one of ye and tell the neighbouring men to come in for a while.”

It was a custom
that night, Nollaig Mhór, big Christmas, for the men to visit one another’s
houses. The women were too busy to be bothered. They had their own night,
Nollaig na mBan, small Christmas for making tapes. In a while the men would
come in and at the first lag in the conversation my father’d take the cork off
the jar and fill out a few cups of porter. The men, by the way nit noticing
what was going on and then when they’d get the cups, all surprised they’d say,
”What’s this? What’s this for?”

“Go on take it,”
my father’d say; “It’s Christmas night, neighbours and good luck to us!”

Then the men’s
faces would light up and, lifting their cups, they’d say; “Happy Christmas.
Ned. Happy Christmas Ma’am! Happy Christmas everyone.”

“And the same to
ye, men,” my father would answer.

“May we all be
alive again this time twelve months.”

And my mother, who
was never too happy in the presence of strong drink, would direct her gaze in
the direction of the Christmas candle and say;

“The grace of God
to us all!”


A Christmas Poem

(one to set you thinking)

I Saw a
Stable     by Mary Coleridge

I saw a stable,
low and very bare,

A little child in
the manger.

The oxen knew Him,
had Him in their care,

To men he was a

The safety of the
world was lying there ,

And the world’s


Knitwits Christmas Party

An occasion tinged with sadness on Saturday December 16 2017, as Namir cooked his last Christmas meal for the knitting group who have become his friends.


Irish Wit

Snapped last week on a van in Tralee

 Seán Mac an tSíthigh  spotted this one and posted it on Twitter.

@Aperture posted this photo of Cork in the fog on Twitter.

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