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Tag: Seamus Heaney

Listowel’s Santa Experience 2017, Heaney’s Mid Term Break and Garden Centre at Christmas

First Run on Friday


A Poem for November

Today’s poem from Irish Stories of Love and Hope is often named by students as their favourite poem. The awful life changing, everything changing reality of death is so poignantly and simply told by Heaney that it resonates even with young people who have not yet experienced a death wrench.

I lost my father when I was seven and my only sister when I was 14. This poem never fails to break my heart.

Mid Term

By Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning
in the college sick bay

Counting bells
knelling classes to a close.

At two o’clock our
neighbours drove me home.

In the porch I met
my father crying-

He had always
taken funerals in his stride-

And Big Jim Evans
saying it was hard blow.

The baby cooed and
laughed and rocked the pram

When I came in,
and I was embarrassed

by old men
standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they
were sorry for my trouble.

Whispers informed
strangers I was the eldest

Away at school, as
my mother held my hand

In hers and
coughed out angry tearless sighs

At ten o’clock the
ambulance arrived

With the corpse,
stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning `I
went up  into the room, Snowdrops

And candles
soothed the bedside; I saw him

For the first time
in six weeks. Paler now

Wearing a poppy
bruise on his left temple

He lay in the four
foot box as in his cot

No gaudy scars,
the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a
foot for every year.


A Trip to The Christmas Shop

My young visitors love to visit Listowel Garden Christmas shop.


More on Paddy Drury as remembered by Jerry Histon in the Shannonside Annual in the 1950s

Paddy was a great walker. I heard him say that he brought this from his mother who, he averred, once walked from Knockanure  to Limerick and returned with a stone of yellow meal balanced on her head. This was during “the bad times”.

As I have said, without hearing Paddy tell the story, a lot of its local humour is lost. For instance, one day Paddy was seated in the snug of the public house in Listowel. The snug country pubs is usually called the office. A crony of Paddy’s passed in on the way to the bar. “Is it there you are, Paddy”. It is so and if you had minded your books like me you’d be  in an office too.

Paddy and his friend Toss Aherna one-day making a grave for an old men from Knockanure who had all his long life been avaricious for land. Toss spaced out the site of the grave and said to Paddy “I suppose the usual 6′ x 3, Paddy”.  “Ah” was Paddy’s retort “he was always very fond of the land. Suppose we give it another foot.”

When working for a farmer who had killed a boar to which the workmen were treated day after day for dinner, Paddy at last got exasperated and one-day for Grace said

May the Lord on high who rules the sky

look down upon us four, 

 and give this mate that we can ate,

and take away this boar!


The Lidl cat

This feline seems to have found a new home at Lidl, Listowel

Murhur School, Corn Dollies and Organ Donation

Murhur School in the late Eighties

 Photo from Moyvane Village on Facebook

Teachers in Murhur NS in the late eighties. 

Marie O’Callaghan, Ena O’Leary, Patricia Houlihan, Gabriel Fitzmaurice.

Mary Madden, Nola Adams and Anne Prendiville


Listowel Handball Alley as it looks nowadays


A Corn Dolly

The late Seamus Heaney knew these corn dollies well. In his childhood he saw them being made in his native Mossbawn. He captures the memories and associations of these ancient amulets better than anyone else.

As you plaited the harvest bow

You implicated the mellowed silence in you

In wheat that does not rust

But brightens as it tightens twist by twist

Into a knowable corona,

A throwaway love-knot of straw.

Hands that aged round ashplants and cane sticks

And lapped the spurs on a lifetime of game cocks

Harked to their gift and worked with fine intent

Until your fingers moved somnambulant:

I tell and finger it like braille,

Gleaning the unsaid off the palpable,

And if I spy into its golden loops

I see us walk between the railway slopes

Into an evening of long grass and midges,

Blue smoke straight up, old beds and ploughs in

An auction notice on an outhouse wall—

You with a harvest bow in your lapel,

Me with the fishing rod, already homesick

For the big lift of these evenings, as your

Whacking the tips off weeds and bushes

Beats out of time, and beats, but flushes

Nothing: that original townland

Still tongue-tied in the straw tied by your

The end of art is peace

Could be the motto of this frail device

That I have pinned up on our deal dresser—

Like a drawn snare

Slipped lately by the spirit of the corn

burnished by its passage, and still warm.


Ladies’ Day Just got Better

This is the bus the kind folk on Listowel Race Committee is going to hire to take ladies to The Island on the Friday of the Races. I’m not sure if you can avail of it if you are not wearing high heels and if you would just like a lift.


A Sermon and a story for you

While I was in Asdee church I picked up their August 2016 newsletter and I read this story. I’m cutting it short here but it is attributed in the newsletter to Tom Cox;

In 2013 a Brazilian millionaire announced that he was going to be like the Egyptian pharaohs and bury his treasure with him. His greatest treasure was his Bentley.

He was lambasted in the media for this ostentatious show of wealth and foolishness so he called a press conference at his house. The media turned up in big numbers to see if he would really carry out his promise. Diggers were at work in the garden digging a big car sized hole.

But Mr. Scarpa didn’t bury his beloved car.

Instead Mr. Scarpa delivered this message, “I didn’t bury my car, but everyone thought it was absurd when I said I would. What is more absurd is burying your organs, which can save many lives. Nothing is more valuable than life. Be a donor and tell your family.”

Now the story

Regular readers will know that my only sister died in 1964 of kidney failure. She had been ill for a year before she died and she was in and out of hospital frequently. Her best friend was a girl called Marion and they were thick as thieves. If kidney donation was an option, they would have given one another a kidney in a heartbeat. For that year while they were apart they wrote regular letters to one another and they invented a secret code to write private things about boys just in case the letters fell into the wrong hands. All very innocent girly stuff. They were only 15.

Marion kept all the letters and has treasured them all these years. Her friend’s death had a profound effect on her and she has never forgotten her. 

Recently she took one of these letters to a tattoo parlour and the tattoo artist scanned my sister’s signature along with the coded message and Marion had it tattooed on her forearm.

Smithy in Moyvane, Dowd’s Road and Listowel Town Park

Photo;Timothy John MacSweeney


Dublin Marathon

Kerry Crusaders were out in force yesterday for the Dublin City Marathon.

Familiar faces in the crowd supporting super marathon fundraiser, Brenda Doody

Listowel sisters Tena and Rochelle Griffin, pictured before the start.

Tena was running on behalf of a charity that is very close to the hearts of her family:

 The Ronald MacDonald House.

(All photos from Facebook)


The Forge

by Seamus Heaney

All I know is a door into the dark.

Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;

Inside, the hammered anvil’s short-pitched ring,

The unpredictable fantail of sparks

Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.

The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,

Horned as a unicorn, at one end and square,

Set there immoveable: an altar

Where he expends himself in shape and music. 

Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairs in his nose,

He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter

Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;

Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and flick

To beat real iron out, to work the bellows. 

I was reminded of this Heaney poem recently when I read a lovely account on Moyvane Village on Facebook of the last blacksmith/ farrier in the village.

The last blacksmith in the village was Maurice O’Connor who was known to locals as “Mossey Cooney”. His Forge was on the Glin Road and it was built around 1850. It was originally owned by McElligotts before Mossey’s father Con O’Connor took it over. Mossey’s uncle Tom also worked in the forge and he owned the famous greyhound Dainty Man who won the first Irish Derby in 1930.

“Three cheers for Tom Connor to give now we must,
That his hammer and anvil might never show rust.
And that we in the future around Newtownsandes
Will see more Coneen Brosnans and more Dainty Mans.”

Below are the photographs that accompanied the post

Gerard Roche with Áine Cronin and Mossy O’Connor

A Smithy in Moyvane….The Rugby World Cup Connection

If Ireland had won The Rugby World Cup, the trophy might have found its way to Kerry to reunite with its exact replica, the Sawtell Cup which has resided with the O’Connors in Moyvane for the past 85 years.

The Sawtell Cup was won by Dainty Man at the first Irish Derby in Clonmel in 1930. It was worth 100 guineas at the time. The cup was created by Carrington and Company in London who also created the original Webb Ellis Trophy in 1906. It is a Victorian version of an original cup fashioned in 1740 by renowned English designer and silversmith Paul de Lamerie.

The Cup is silver gilded in gold, 38 centimetres tall with two cast scroll handles. On one there perches the head of a satyr, on the other the head of a nymph. The terminals are a bearded mask, a lion mask and a vine. The pineapple on the top was for centuries a symbol of welcome, hospitality and celebration, and Dainty Man and his owners and trainer were treated to all three when they returned victorious to Moyvane in 1930.

From:Moyvane Village


A walk in The Park

Listowel Community Centre looking well

Recent storms have brought down some debris.

Local dogs enjoy a swim.


On Saturday morning the local rugby youth were warming up prior to a match.


Dowd’s Road, Listowel

This is the view looking down Dowd’s Road from the John B. Keane Road.

Dowd’s Road is named after the family who lived in this house, now unoccupied and falling into disrepair.

Once upon a time the railway ran along what is now the John B. Keane Road.


As I roved out

Saturday, October 24 2015 was a beautiful Autumn day. I took a walk  by the river Feale and I encountered these 2 filmmakers at work.


We all love a selfie

Even the famous like to be photographed with the famous. Daniel O’Donnell was on the Late Late Show on Friday evening and he posted a photo of himself with fellow guest, Joe Schmidt  on his Facebook account.

Some vaguely sports related stories from summer 2013 and Seamus Heaney

This is yours truly in Kanturk with Anthony Nash, the Cork hurling goalkeeper. I encountered this lovely young man on a trip to my hometown this summer. Here’s hoping my real home has a bit better luck than my adopted one in Croke Park next week.


Trevor Brennan was in John. B’s on the occasion of the twinning of his pub in Toulouse with John B.’s in Listowel. He had a chat on the night with Brendan Guiney, Listowel and former Kerry footballer.


This is Anne Egan seeing the Finuge Freewheelers off on The Ring of Kerry Cycle, August 10 2013.


This photo of The Kerry Crusaders was taken in Killarney and I got it from their Facebook page. They do enormous good work, keeping fit and raising money for local charities.


 Local sportsman, Eugene Moriarty got married during summer 2013.


R.I.P.  Seamus Heaney

Warning:The following is a self indulgent piece for my former pupils. If you were not taught English by me you might want to opt out now.

I met a former pupil on the street and she reminded me that I was the teacher who introduced her to the poetry of Seamus Heaney. He is now her all time favourite poet. 

It has been my great privilege to introduce hundreds of girls to the early work of Heaney. These poems found a resonance with adolescent girls who so recently had grappled with similar uncertainties to the young poet.

In Mid Term Break: a poem often named as “my favourite Heaney poem”, the young poet comes back after a 6 week absence to a home he hardly recognizes. Nothing is as it should be, baby is laughing, mother is crying, father is totally broken  and adult neighbours stand to greet the young. His younger brother’s body is laid out in “the room”. The young Heaney’s shock, bewilderment and incomprehension are  so well conveyed that we are all there with him.

The Early Purges always led to much discussion on animal welfare issues.

“I was six when I first saw kittens drown…”

I grew up on a farm as did many of my pupils. They knew about vermin and other pests but nowadays cats are “companion animals” and Jim Taggart’s prodding them to drown in a bucket of water slung on the snout of the yard pump is a shocking image to today’s softies. The poet’s horror and grudging acceptance of the necessity for pest control on “well run farms” was much debated in Listowel classrooms.

Who has gone Blackberry Picking and known the triumph of hope over experience?

“Every year we hoped they’d last, knew they would not.”

Pres. girls I taught always loved the poems where Heaney examined his relationship with his father. In Follower we see him as a child  stumbling around in his father’s wake as he expertly ploughs with a team of horses.

“I was a nuisance, tripping, falling, yapping always….”

Then we feel the pangs of his guilt when the roles are reversed and his father is the dependent one,

“It is he who keeps stumbling behind me and will not go away.”

Seamus Heaney came from a large family. In Clearances he tells us how he treasured precious moments snatched on his own with his beloved mother.

“When all the others were away at mass

I was all hers as we peeled potatoes


Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Family pride and respect for family traditions is a theme explored in Digging. In school, above all other places, we are all conscious of the pressure to live up to standards set for us by our families. Parental expectations weigh heavily on some teenagers. 

Seamus Heaney was the eldest of nine, a place in the family carrying huge pressures. The first born son usually inherits the farm and carries on the farming tradition of his fathers.

“By God the old man could handle a spade

Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day 

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.


But I have no spade to follow men like that

Between my finger an my thumb

 The squat pen rests

I’ll dig with it.”

Seamus Heaney broke many moulds. He has left us a massive legacy.  May he rest in peace.

September 1 2013

What is it about Dublin versus Kerry?

The answer is  here


Seamus Heaney R.I.P.

Writers’ Week shared this photo of Seamus Heaney on the occasion of his death on Friday August 30 2013. It shows the poet with Michael Lynch, Máire Logue, Eilís Wren and Joanne Keane-O’Flynn.

One of my favourite Heaney poems is Scaffolding. It is appropriate here for many reasons.


Masons, when they start upon a building,

Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,

Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done

Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be

Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall

Confident that we have built our wall.



Maidhc Dainín ÓSé  R.I.P.

When I was a teacher of Gaeilge in Pres. Listowel a high point of the year was always our trip to The Seanchaí during Seachtain na Gaeilge to hear Maidhc Dainín read from his autobiography and to play a few tunes for us. Here is my photo from 2008 of the great man with Mary Moylan, Ciara Dineen, Aoife Kelliher, Angelina Cox, Catherine Lyons and Elaine O’Connell.


Meanwhile down under….

This picture was sent to me by Julie Evans. Some of you will remember Julie, descendant of Famine orphan, Bridget Ryan. That is Julie on the right of Minister Deenihan and her cousin Barbara is second next to her. They were with other descendants in Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney for the Famine commemoration last month, August 2013. I’ll be telling you lots more about Julie and the story of her ancestor and the other Famine girls anon. Meanwhile Kay Moloney has a very succinct account of the Sydney commemoration on her blog


This is a new second hand shop on Church St.

There have been lots of comings and goings since I last posted here. I’ll try to bring you news of some of them over the next few days and I’ll fill you in on where I’ve been as well.

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