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: rugby

Folklore, Green shoots and Tadhg Kennelly honoured in Sydney

The country has gone rugby mad

Billy Keane’s Independent article A Day we’ll remember for the rest of our lives and even longer

puts it best.

Together, standing tall



This is the Kerry County Library in Tralee. I was here last week on a mission.

I’ll begin at the beginning.

In the school year 1937/38
the Irish Folklore Commission undertook a great project. They got teachers
around the country to encourage their pupils to collect lore from their elders.
The boys and girls undertook the task with varying degrees of enthusiasm and
success.  The results of their efforts
are now stored in archives around the country. 
It is no surprise to see that one of the biggest files is the one
collected by pupils in Scoil Realt na Maidine, Listowel. Their teacher, Bryan
MacMahon had a deep appreciation of the value of this project .

A past pupil of my own, Emma
MacElligott, now herself a teacher, alerted me to this rich store of stories,
sayings, placenames etc. I visited the archive in the Kerry County Library,
Tralee and there the archivist, Michael Lynch introduced me to this treasure
trove. I will share with you some of the stories I read there.

One boy wrote about a woman
called Madge Shine who lived in The Red Cottages, Cahirdown. Madge used to make
baskets from hazel. She used to place the hazel twigs over the fire to soften
before weaving them into baskets.

Another local man, Martin
Sheehy, made ‘sgiaths” from “scallops”. I’m guessing that sciaths are the kind
of flat basket used for gathering flowers or vegetables, which, in English, we
call a trug. According to Michael O’Brien of Ashe Street who recorded the
story, “he bended the sticks in and through one another until he had his
sgiaths made.”

Other basketmakers used

Before candles were
commercially made people used to make their own from “fat.” They used the fat
of goats and other animals according to Mary Hickey of O’Connell’s Avenue who
was 85 when she told her stories to B. Holyoake of Railway House. According to
Mary, they got a mould, put a stick across the top. Attached to the stick were
6 or 7 “cotton threads”  These were
obviously the wicks. Then they “rendered the fat”.

(I remember well my own mother
rendering suet in the days before cooking oil. 
There was always a bowl of fat at the ready for frying.)

Back to 1937…the hot fat was
poured into the mould and left to set overnight. In the morning they had 6
candles. Half penny candles were called “padogues”.

More stories to come….


County Colours

Do you remember the days before scarves and county jerseys, people showed their support by wearing crepe paper badges and caps? These things inevitably ran all over  your face and clothes…happy days!


Progress Report on Listowel Revival

The rebuilding of The Plaza is moving along nicely.

The rumour mill says that this premises is to be a medical centre.

Rumour has it that this will be a veterinary clinic.

If true, all of this is great news.


Hall of Fame

Tadhg Kennelly of Listowel has been inducted into the Sydney Swans Hall of Fame. What an honour!


Tidy Town Awareness Day in Super Valu

Photo;  Listowel Tidy Towns


+   R.I.P. Ann Cox  +

My very stylish, feisty, animal loving former colleagues in Pres. Listowel has gone to her eternal reward.

Ann was a fashionista before the term was invented. She was always beautifully groomed, softly spoken and ladylike.

Ann loved her dogs. When she brought them from the rescue home they were the luckiest dogs in Kerry for Ann lavished love and care on them to their final days.

She loved the Irish language and promoted Irish culture and traditions in everything she did.

She took up golf late in life but she enjoyed immensely the whole new circle of friends it brought her.

Ann contracted Parkinsons Disease in her late sixties but due to her fighting spirit and the great care of her neighbours and friends she continued to live in her own home until two years ago.

She passed away on March 21 2015.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal.


Sunday Morning in Brosna, March 2015

photo; Ballybunion Prints Beach

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In 18th and 19th century Ireland Lent was the most dreadful of hard times. Very strict rules of fasting and abstinence were observed. All animal products were forbidden. This left people with a diet of unleavened oatcakes and potatoes. Those who lived near the coast could eat fish.

There was a belief abroad that the brent goose who lived more on sea than on land was more fish than fowl and so could be eaten during Lent. Kevin Danaher says that a certain well known hotel in Tralee made a point of serving brent goose during Lent “mainly for the benefit of the clergy”. Apparently the General Latern Council in 1215 had forbidden this practice but news of this did not seem to reach the west of Ireland.

No merrymaking was allowed during Lent. Musical instruments were put away, packs of cards were sometimes burned and new ones bought for Easter and there was no visiting friends.

Lent in Ireland was a bleak and hungry time indeed.

But that was then and this is now. Life goes on for these 40 days pretty much as it does for the rest of the year. Any efforts made to mortify the flesh are very tame in comparison with what our ancestors had to endure.


Sunday last February 19 2012 was a fine sunny day in Listowel. I took a walk through the Garden of Europe and on into Childrers’ Park.

My companion on my walk obligingly posed beside some daffodils in the Cows’ Lawn.

A rugby match was in full swing nearby.

The conditions were fairly primitive but the players seemed to be enjoying the contest.

We walked up Bridge Road to the church. And I photographed the Divine Mercy shrine for you. It has been completed to match the corresponding shrine to Padre Pio. I must say that I was very impressed with the workmanship. The craftsman who fashioned both shrines is, I am told, very shy and wants no kudos from me or anyone else.


And now for something random for  fashion lovers; a good news story for Irish dress designer, Orla Kiely

Today the Duchess of Cambridge put her love into practice on her first public engagement as royal patron of The Art Room, which encourages confidence in disadvantaged children.

Wearing the now sold-out Birdie jacquard shirt dress by designer Orla Kiely with brown opaque tights and brown suede ankle boots, Kate, 30, was greeted on her arrival in Oxford by dozens of children waving flags and holding flowers during a short walkabout.



If you are lucky enough to own some Kerry shares it looks like you are in the money.

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