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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Shops and Signs, A Poem a Recent Snap or two and a To Let Sign

KDYS /Old Carnegie Free Library

This lovely old building is at the top of Church Street where it joins Dowd’s Road


Listowel shops and their signs during Lockdown 2020


Carroll’s is Open


At the AIB



Carroll’s Yard

The River Walk

After a long dry spell the level of water in the river is very low.

There was a funeral in progress in the church.


The Dawn above the Dark

John Fitzgerald has written a poem for those who have forgotten what a pulled pint is.

The Dawn above the Dark

Out of a gold grained silvered font the dark stream seeks the light The gargoyle bows its ugly head To flow it out of night

Into a steady downward plunge that surges up the dawn
and takes it o’er the ticking glass to let the pint take form.


Snapped in Town

Jimmy Deenihan was having a socially distant chat with a friend.


First Covid Business Casualty ?

I am so sad to see a To Let sign on one of my favourite coffee shops.

WW1 remembered, some Lithuanian cooking and a Few Photos from Young Adult Bookfest 2018

Photo: Chris Grayson


Remembering WW1

Below is an example of some of the many heartbreaking lines written by the poets of The Great War

Then in the lull of midnight, gentle arms
Lifted him slowly down the slopes of death,
Lest he should hear again the mad alarms
Of battle, dying moans, & painful breath.

And where the earth was soft for flowers, we made
A grave for him that he might better rest.

Francis Ledwidge

On Sunday November 11 2018, Tom Dillon, war historian, gave an excellent illustrated lecture on Kerry and the Great war. He concentrated on the local men who fought.

Tom is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the war and he imparts his knowledge in an accessible and entertaining way. He told us stories which brought the men to life and he enlivened his account with little anecdotes that kept his audience hanging on his every word.

He told us about Armistice commemorations that went on in Kerry until the 1960s. He told us of an act of neighbourliness that saved a man’s life amid the carnage in Messines. Another story concerned a Kerry soldier who saved a German officer’s life with a blood donation.  We learned about two brothers who died within 24 hours of each other . This meant that a Kerry mother received the dreaded telegram on two consecutive days. A Clieveragh family sent seven sons to the front and miraculously all seven returned. The family attributed this miracle to their mother’s prayers.

Tom showed us photos and pictures of Fr. Gleeson blessing the troops and saying mass for them. Tom showed us how the German trenches differed from the Allied ones. The German ones were superior. But when it came to the war graves the Allies took the prize. We are all familiar with the War graveyards with the rows and rows of uniform gravestones only differing in the inscription the families were allowed to add at their own expense. Tom showed us a poignant one of these inscriptions, “If love could have saved him, he would have lived.”

The German authorities buried their dead in mass graves. One such grave holds the remains of as many as 25,000 soldiers.

The lecture shone a light on “the world’s worst wound”. where everyone was an unknown soldier. It was enlightening to listen to Tom make them known.

The lecture was accompanied by memorabilia lent by Kerry Library and local families, including  the Hennessy medal which has only recently been unearthed (literally) in Lixnaw.

This is the Death Penny that was issued to the next of kin of everyone who died as a consequence of war. These plaques which were much bigger than a penny were issued right up to the 1950s to the surviving relatives of men and women who died as a result of war. They had the name of the dead soldier but no rank. It was believed that everyone was equal before God. It was the same thinking that led the war graves people to decree that every soldier’s grave, regardless of his rank would be exactly the same. There is a great sadness in this sameness. It makes them into an army again, robbing them of individuality and keeping them from their families, even in death.

The glories of our blood and state
  Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
  Death lays his icy hand on kings:
        Sceptre and Crown          
        Must tumble down,
  And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.

From Death the Leveller by James Shirley

This is a Princess Mary Christmas box. In 1914 every soldier and sailor got one of these. They were paid for by donations from the British public.

The funding was used to manufacture small boxes made of silver for officers and brass for all others.[4] Each was decorated with an image of Mary and other military and imperial symbols and typically filled with an ounce of tobacco, a packet of cigarettes in a yellow monogrammed wrapper, a cigarette lighter, and a Christmas card and photograph from Princess Mary.[6] Some contained sweets, chocolates,[7] and lemon drops. (Wikipedia)

It is estimated the 2.5 million of these boxes were distributed.

Remember the story about the German officer who had a rare blood group and whose life was saved by a blood donation from a Kerry soldier. He gave him his pipe as a reward.

Brian and Martin were among the attendees at the talk.

These people are relatives of the men who fought. They helped Tom with his research and were there to hear the stories on November 11 2018, one hundred years after the ending of the war.


Listowel Food Fair 2018

I started the day with brunch in Café Hanna and then it was off to Scribes where Brigitta was giving an excellent demonstration of Lithuanian cuisine.

 A good crowd had gathered in Scribes to see Brigitta’s first ever cookery demonstration. She aced it. Considering that English is not her first language and she was dealing with a subject which she always thinks about in her native language she did a brilliant job.

 Brigitta showed us how to make cheese an easy peasy way and she made some dishes using the cheese. I loved the mixed veg salad she made . All of the dishes were very dairy rich and pork is very popular as the meat ingredient in Lithuanian cooking.

 She had lots of support from family and friends.

Some local ladies enjoying the demo.


Young Adult Bookfest 2018

Catherine Moylan is the new chair of Listowel Writers’ Week. This was her first big gig. She did the meeting and greeting and warming up the audience like a pro. She echoed what we were all feeling when she said she wished there had been days like this when she was a pupil at Pres. Listowel

Bernard Casey is very successful comedian. The young people loved him. He made several appearances during the day and got a rousing cheer every time.

Gary Cunningham loves Listowel and Listowel loves him. All he has to do is tell his life story  and he has audiences eating out of him hand.

Gary gained many new fans among the pupils and the teachers.

Sarah Crossan is Laureate na nÓg. She involved the audience in her show with poetry and rapping blending in and out of one another. Sarah is a great believer that poetry is a performance art.

The other poet who is part of Sarah’s travelling show is Colm Keegan. as well as performing they met with a focus group of local young people.

Máire Logue took a quick minute to pose for me with Colm. The great success of the day is due in no small part to the organisational abilities of this extraordinary lady.


A Legend with a very proud Listowel Connection

Johnny Sexton helped Ireland to win against The All Blacks in the Aviva in Dublin on Saturday, November 17 2018. This is the first time EVER that an Irish rugby team beat the New Zealand team in Ireland in front of an adoring home crowd.

Nuns, The Green Guide to Listowel in 1965, Knitwits have a Visitor

St. John’s Listowel in July 2018


Remembering the Nuns

I am very aware that I belong to the last generation of women who were taught almost exclusively by nuns. I went to a Mercy school. Most Listowel ladies were educated by The Presentation Sisters.

We owe them a lot.


1965 Guide to Listowel

These are some of the advertisements in the green guide sent to us by Aileen Skimson

It looks like you could hire almost anything in Mckenna’s


A Very Welcome Visitor to Knitwits

Una Hayes has been through a tough few months with ill health and bereavements. We were all thrilled to welcome her back for a visit recently. She was only socialising this time but it won’t be long now ’til she is back knitting with us in Scribes.

Mary Boyer, Mairead Sharry, Mary Cogan, Maureen Connolly, Kathleen McCarthy, Patricia Borley and Una Hayes. We had two other young visitors as well on the day of Una’s visit.

Nobody missed Una more than her great friend, Maureen. It warmed my heart to see the friends reunited.


Tidy Towners take a breather

Everyone agrees that Listowel is looking in tip top shape these days and it’s all down to these and all the other volunteers at Tidy Towns and, of course, Kerry County Council outdoor staff who all do a fabulous job.

Dolores and Shane, Knockanure farmers and Scribes

Farming in Ireland

Sam Hendy brings in-calf cows in for the night in Ballymorris, Portarlington, Co Laois.  

Picture:  Irish Farmers Journal.


Who’d have thought?

 Two world renowned Irish singers, Shane McGowan and Dolores O’Riordan reached personal milestones  in January 2018. Who would have thought that in Shane’s case it would be a big birthday and in Dolores’ case it would be the end of the line.

Sméar Mhullaigh in Irish literally means the top berry, figuratively it means the cream of the crop. Dineen Dictionary on Twitter paid that tribute to Dolores, the top cranberry.

Cinnte b’í an sméar mhullaigh. Braithfimid uainn í.

 Dolores O’Riordan R.I.P. Jan 15 2018

 Shane MacGowan with Victoria Mary Clarke, Johnny Depp and President Michael D. Higgins at his 60th birthday party in January 2018.


Ah, will you look?

This photo is from The Irish Farmers’ Journal. Farmer Maeve Murphy is using the age old method of heating up a weak new born lamb during this cold weather.


 Jack Leahy with his prizewinning bull at a show in the 1960s.

Tom Kenelly of Knockanure accepting his prize at a show in the 1960s.



Her name is Brigita so maybe she was destined to settle in Ireland. The new proprietor of Scribes is already making a name for herself for her delicious baking and friendly ambience in her revamped café. I look forward to telling you something more about this lovely lady next week.

Knitwits in Scribes

Homemade scones and confectionery in Scribes


Listowel Lady on Board of the Charities Regulator Authority

Máire McMahon (in the above photo, which I sourced on Facebook, Máire is on the left of her siblings, Brian and Aoife) has been appointed to the board of the Charities Regulator.

Máire is an excellent choice for this role.


Nearly There!

This is the Kanturk hurling team who are heading to Newbridge on Sunday to play in the AiB All Ireland Intermediate hurling semi final.

If they win on Sunday they will book their place in Croke Park on St. Patrick’s Day.

I wish the very best of luck to everyone involved with this great team, especially my cousins, the three Fitzgerald brothers, and more especially my niece, Elizabeth, club vice chair and assistant PRO, and all her band of loyal supporters.

Ceann Toirc abú

Athea in the time of Cromwell and Now

Godwits at Blennerville in November 2017

Photo by Chris Grayson


Knitwits in Scribes

Brigita Formaliene, the new proprietor of Scribes in Church Street, did not forget her friends when she reconfigured the seating in her new café. She put Knitwits centre stage in a cozy intimate location.

Our numbers were down on Saturday January 13 when i took my photo but there will be plenty of room for us all when we are all back from our holidays and winter breaks.


A New Book of Newcastlewest History

My friend, Vincent Carmody, gave me a present of a lovely book last week.

Newcastlewest in close up is a sister publication to Vincent’s splendid, Listowel, Snapshots of a Market Town. It is full of old photos, billheads, posters and history…another collector’s item.


Athea in the 17th Century  (Continued)

as described in an account in The Kerry Reporter in 1933

.……During all this time (Penal Times in Ireland) the people were obliged to hear Mass secretly and by stealth, for if anybody was discovered openly exercising his religion, they were ruthlessly slaughtered on the spot. After some time, however, when the rigours of the penal laws abated somewhat. Bishop De Lacy managed to have a modest church put on that piece of ground where the national schools were afterwards erected. Up to this period, and ever since the burning down of the old church in Temple Athea, many years before, Mass was usually celebrated in the cave or hollow in Colbert’s Hill, where a Mission cross now stands. Particular place was selected for the celebration of Divine Service, this sheltered position protected the Mass candles, and its elevation prevented the priest hunter from stealing unawares on the congregation. The church which Bishop De Lacy put up on the site lately occupied by the old schoolhouse continued to serve the people as a place of worship until the present very fine structure was put up in 1864. Bishop De Lacy’s remains were interred in a tomb in the churchyard at Ardagh. Portion of the slab which guards the entrance to the tomb has been broken for many years, and through the aperture thus formed it is possible to see the coffin which encloses all that Is mortal of this, sainted and patriotic churchman.

Athea’s fairy trail is in a wooded area beside Con Colbert Memorial Hall. The signs are all first as Gaeilge and then in English

In Bishop De Lacy’s time, the people of Athea spoke only Irish, and it was this language that prevailed amongst them nearly right up to the middle of the last century. The village at the time was a very different place to what it is now, consisting as it did for the most part of a number of isolated thatched buildings, and shops, as we understand them at the present time, did not exist in the place. In the Gaelic tongue the name of Athea signifies the “ford of the mountains.” As already stated, in former days the Gale must have been a much larger stream than it is today, and this appellation means that people were able to get across it at Athea without undergoing the risk of being swept away by the current.

Athea continued to be merely a collection of thatched houses until about the middle of the last century, when better and more pretentious buildings began to make their appearance, and gradually the place began to assume its present neat and somewhat picturesque appearance. The village is situated, as it were, in the lap of the mountains and lies at the base of a range of low, purple hued hills. During the past quarter of a century It has grown considerably in size and is now a place of considerable business importance in the district. Athea possesses concreted streets and asphalted footwalks, and has in addition, an abundant water supply. The houses and shops are well built, and there Is a plentiful growth of timber about the village, which imparts to it a very pleasing and picturesque aspect.

 People who visit the Fairy Trail may leave their worries behind with Cróga, the brave fairy who takes on board everyone’s troubles.

 This footbridge runs beside the river and offers a great view of the native ducks and wild birds.

 To this day , the remains of the dense woodland of old can be seen around Athea.

One of Athea’s most famous families, the Ahern brothers is commemorated in this sculpture.

One of today’s most famous residents is Jim Dunn, whose stunning artwork is one of the main attractions in Athea today.

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