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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

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Christmas Crafts

St. John’s, Listowel Nov 2022

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Crafting Revival

I love to see enterprising young people practicing old crafts. Ballylongford was the place to be on Sunday November 20 2022. The Community Centre was jammed with beautiful things and lovely crafters.

My daughter in law, Carine, was delighted with her purchases from the Mulvihill family stall. She is holding the unique willow wreath which she plans to put on her door. She also loves the flower picture she got for her kitchen.

This engaging young lady was rocking an equine theme with lightweight horseshoe ornaments for every occasion.

I remember a time when every bride carried a horseshoe as well as her bouquet.

This is what the internet says about the horseshoe as a symbol of luck;

Although the origins are not exactly known, it is believed that the horseshoe became the symbol of luck when the eighth century Chaldeans thought its crescent shape represented various moon goddesses thus protecting against the curse of the evil eye.

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Remembering Childhood Christmases in Listowel

Margaret Dillon kindly answered my call. Here is her account of childhood Christmases in pre digital days.

These days Christmas is heralded by a marathon of Festive adverts which start earlier each year. Back in the 40’s and 50’s we didn’t have Television so we weren’t subjected to that constant bombardment. Nevertheless we had full and plenty of all the Christmas essentials. Listowel was a busy bustling town back then, the shops were full of all sorts of goodies. Of couse as children we were only interested in the Toy shops particulary Fitzgibbon’s and Walsh’s corner shop. Walsh’s window had a nodding Santa  which was a great attraction.  We couldn’t contain ourselves on Christmas morning as we opened our presents. Santa was a wonder then and he still is to all children. 

On the home front , the  decorations were put up  across the ceiling from corner to corner. The Holly was put behind the pictures and most important of all the crib was put on the sideboard or windowsill. The cake and plum pudding were already made. While Mam was making the cake we made our wishes as we stirred the mixture. A few days beforehand a goose ( for the New Year celebrations) and a flitch of hairy bacon to go wth the turkey arrived from our Clare relations.  My mother and the neighbours Mrs Hickey and Mrs Brennan bought  the live turkeys in the market,  Mrs Brennan did the killing and we plucked our own, making sure to keep the wings. They served as dusters around the range and grate for the rest of the year.

The big shop was done shortly before the big day in John Joe’s and the  reward  for our business during the year was the Christmas box. This was like a mini hamper containing tea, a pot of jam and maybe an Oxford Lunch cake. The drinks order of minerals, bottles of Guinness and a bottle of Sherry  arrived from John R’s in a large timber box.  

Of course Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the Christmas hymns “Away in a Manger” or “Angels we have heard on High” Or the Christmas songs “Jingle Bells” , “Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”  Adeste Fidelis was sung at  Mass on Christmas Day After Mass we stayed back to visit and welcome Baby Jesus in the crib. During the holidays we paid regular visit to the cribs in the parish church and the convent chapel.

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Boyeens to Men

My lovely boyeens spent a lot of time in Listowel as children. They always surprise me with their recall of things we did together on their Kerry holidays.

Killian on the Greenway in Nov 2022

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Folklore in The Library

Tom Dillon was his usual entertaining and informative self in Listowel Library last week when he filled us in on the origins of place names.

Placenames are in danger of being lost as we move to Eircodes.

Tom told us that the fishermen had names for various parts of the Feale. Now that fishing is no more these names are in danger of being lost.

I did not know this until Tom told us but wags in Tralee have invented a new place name. They call the Corrib Oil station the Mini Barack Obama.

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Christmas Market 2022

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Our Library

Carnegie on Sunday Sept. 4 2022

Have you wondered why this building is called the Carnegie Free Library?

Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland but grew up and rose to fame in America. At the time of his death in 1919 he was the richest man in America. He made his fortune in steel.

Andrew Carnegie is most famous today as a writer and a philanthropist. He built swimming pools and laboratories in the U.S. He built Carnegie Hall.

On this side of the world he is best known for his free libraries. He was a believer in the value of education and one plank of widespread free education was access to books.

Carnegie set up free public libraries all over the English speaking world. Listowel was one of the many towns that applied to the Trust, securing a library for the town.

As you can see from newspaper cuttings of the time (sourced for us by Dave O’Sullivan) there was a bit of a local spat that delayed matters somewhat.

The first library was built in Bridge Road.

Denis Quille sent us this photograph a few years ago of the library building on Bridge Road after it was burned down during The Troubles.

The present building that bears Carnegie’s name is no longer a library. Our new free public library is located in the Courthouse Plaza. It is part of the National Free Library service. Carnegie is still commemorated in the name of the fine building in Church Street.

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John B. Keane’s Sive

John B.’s famous play is said to have roofed more churches than any other. This refers to its popularity with rural amateur groups.. It is still popular with audiences today.

Back in 1958 when the play was in its heyday and winning accolades all round it, John B. got a local art teacher to paint a mural on the wall behind the bar in John B.’s. The picture was of the final scene in the play, Sive. Liam Scuab comes into the kitchen where Sive’s foster parents are preparing for her wedding the next day. In his arms Liam has the lifeless body of the drowned girl. It is a dramatic moment in the play shocking in its portrayal of the consequences of the actions of all the other characters. Every one on the stage had, through inaction or action brought about Sieves tragic death.

Katie Lucey as Sive in a re enactment of the final scene in Sive.

On Aug 25 2022, the artist, Moira Keane returned to John B.’s pub.

Billy invited her back to sign her work 53 years after she originally painted it. The local drama group re enacted the final scene from the play. We had a great night. It was great to be back at pub theatre after a long absence.

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Passing of a Pet

R.I.P. Dinny. I don’t think I have ever mentioned this fellow here before. He was my brother’s 15 year old house cat who passed away last week. The home place isn’t the same without him.

When I called yesterday, I saw this thoughtful card from the vets that looked after Dinny as he came to the end of the road.

Small things mean so much that they are not small things at all.

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Summer’s Over

All back at school after a great summer. Time is flying by.

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Heritage Week 2022, Walking Tours

In Marley Park…Eamon ÓMurchú

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Heritage Week 2022

I attended my first in person event for Heritage Week 2022 on Saturday last. It was a guided history walk around the Square with the best informed and most entertaining historian, Tom Dillon. Tom is a thorough researcher, an informed and engaging guide and a superb communicator. He is wasted in any job where he is not enthusing young people to engage with and learn about local history.

Photo credit; Maire Logue

This is our little band assembled at the castle as we headed out on a sunny Saturday.

Tom took us to St. John’s. That’s Máire’s dog guarding him as he enthralled us with the story of this building which was once a Church of Ireland place of worship and is now an Arts centre and theatre. He told us lots of interesting stuff here but I’m going to leave that for another day.

There is another event in St. John’s for Heritage Week where we are all going to learn about stained glass windows, making them and restoring them.

Tom told us lots about the parishioners of St. John’s and lots about the building itself. The clock which was made by Mangans of Cork only stayed going for 3 years. It was a big loss because it was the town clock and men left off work on Lord Listowel’s estate when they heard ‘Mangan Bangin'”

A local poet, D.C. Hennessy, wrote its obituary which Tom read to us.

In 2017 on my Feb 1 blogpost, I have a great story connected to the clock. If you have a minute, read it at the below link.

St. John’s Clock, John Griffin of Bridge Road and Canon Declan O’Connor and their Listowel Connection

An addendum to the clock story is that it was completely refurbished in 2021. Unfortunately the old movement was removed and replaced with a modern digital movement which will see the clock tell the correct time but won’t please the purists.

Here we are at the end of our walk by the banks of The Feale and Tom is telling us about how the Feale got its name , the history of the castle and why it came to be built here. We had stories of the days when the river teamed with fish and the local big houses drew water from it.

We finished our walk with Tom leading us in a verse or two of Bryan MacMahon’s Lovely Listowel.

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Showing Listowel to the Grandchildren

Sean took the selfie as we headed out on our walk. The boys are half French so much more accustomed to the heat than their poor old Nana.

We walked through the Garden of Europe and by the River before returning through the town

No trip to Listowel is complete without a trip to Jumbo’s.

They hadn’t heard of Jerry Kiernan so they caught up on another piece of Listowel history.

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History Lite

Helen Gore Mitchell and her lovely family are in town on a long summer visit. Helen is the daughter of my friends Cliff and Mary Gore, now sadly both passed away.

Helen was disappointed to hear that the weekly tours were not running this year. (I didn’t know then about Heritage Week). So I offered to give my very amateur version of a tour with tales of a few historic happenings. Helen’s cousin, Gillian and her family came too and my visitors tagged along to learn something. We had a lovely evening, lovely company and lovely chats.

We were all remembering Mary and Cliff, two great stalwarts of Listowel who did so much for their local community. I am delighted to see the next generations honouring their memory and keeping the tie.

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Ballybunion Sunset

There were some spectacular sunsets during the heatwave of 2022. Alice Moylan photographed this one in Ballybunion.

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The Dandy Lodge, Presentation sisters R.I.P. and the big fair remembered

Storm damage at Rossbeigh in January 2014    photo by Margaret O’Shea


Beautiful Rossbeigh last week       photos by Chris Grayson

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The Dandy Lodge

This is the Dandy Lodge with the pitch and putt clubroom at the back. Can anyone tell me something about the setting up of the pitch and putt club in Listowel?

The Dandy Lodge was apparently a library, a private residence (of the Hannon family) and a video rental shop before it was moved into Childers’ Park.

 This year I’d love to share with readers of Listowel Connection something of the history of clubs and organisations in the town. But to do this I need your help……please!

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Do you remember the nuns?


This year we are embarking on a project to commemorate Presentation Secondary Education in Listowel. We are planning a commemorative book. 

Take a look at the names of these nuns on their headstone and see if you remember any of them. If you have any pleasant memories of these women or if you have photos or anecdotes, please send them to me at listowelconnection@gmail.com

It is chilling to read all these names and to realise that we are witnessing the end of an era. The next generation will not know nuns.

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The Big Fair as remembered by Delia O’Sullivan

Last week we had the first of the 2018 horse fairs. To mark that, I am reproducing an account of the big October fairs of long ago as detailed in Striking a Chord by Delia O’Sullivan

THE FAIR

By Delia O’Sullivan  in Striking a Chord

The big fair day in Listowel, the October fair, was the topic of conversation among the farmers for weeks afterwards. Exaggerations and downright lies were swapped outside the church gates and continued at the holy water font, to the fury of the priest. It finished over a couple of pints in the pub.  None of them could be cajoled into giving the actual price, always sidestepping with,”I got what I asked for,” or, “I got a good price.” There were tales of outsmarting the cattle jobbers – an impossible task.

The farmers on our road set out on foot for thwe seven mile journey at 4 a.m. It was their last chamce to sell their calves until the spring. Now nine months old, these calves were wild and unused to the road. Traffic confused them, so their only aim was to get into every field they passed to graze or rest. Each farmer took a helper. Those eho had decided to wait until the spring fair would go along later to size up the form.

The battle would commence at the Feale Bridge where the farmers were accosted by the jobbers- men trying to buy at the lowest price. These offers were treated with contempt and a verbal slagging would follow. “You’ll be glad to give them away before evening,” or, more insulting, “Shoudn’t you have taken them to Roscrea?” 

(Roscrea was a meat and bone meal processing plant where old cows that could not be sold for meat were sent for slaughter.)

The shopkeepers and publicans in Listowel were well prepared for the influx; trays of ham sandwiches sitting on the counter of each pub where most of the men finished up. The jobbers, being suitably attired, would have their dinner at the hotel and the farmers who wanted to avoid the pubs would go to Sandy’s for tea and ham. The shopkeepers kept a smile on their faces when calves marched through their doors upsetting merchandise and, sometime, leaving their calling card. The bank manager was equally excited, greeting each man as “Sir”. He found trhis was the safest approach as it was hard to distinguish them. They all looked alike in their wellingtons, coats tied with binder twine and the caps pulled well down on the foreheads.

My father arrived home late. It was obvious he was in a bad mood though he didn’t arrive home with the calves. He said he was cold and hungry and sat in silence at the table, while my mother served up bis dinner which had been kept warm for hours over a pint of hot water. As he was half way through eating his bacon and turnip, he looked at my mother saying, “I’ve never met such a stupid man in all my life.”  The quizzical look on her face showed she didn’t have a clue wht he was talking about and didn’t dare ask. It took the mug of tea and the pipe of tobacco to get him started again.

My uncle Dan, my mother’s brother was his helper. Dan was a mild softly spoken man who had little knowledge of cattle. It was a a sluggish fair; prices only fair. My father held out until he was approached by a man he had dealt with often in the past.  They followed the usual ritual arguments- offers, refusals, the jobber walking away, returning with his last offer. This was on a par with what my father was expecting so he winked at Dan, which was his cue to say, “Split the difference.” . Instead Dan winked back. My father gave him a more pronounced wink. This elicited the same response from Dan. The day was only saved by a neighbor, who, on noticing the problem, jumped inn, spat on his palms and shouted, “Shake on it, lads, and give the man a luck penny.”

Over a very silent pint and sandwich Dan mournfully remarked, “If Mike hadn’t butted in you’d have got a better price for the calves.”

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Light a Penny Candle


My lovely grandsons, Sean and Killian, lighting candles in the cathedral, Killarney at Christmas 2017.

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Synchronicity



This is the word from when two things chance to happen together and they are in some way connected.

Yesterday I told you that Brigita, who is originally from Lithuania, had taken over at Scribes while Namir heads off to concentrate on his Ballybunion businesses.

Well, in a piece of synchronicity, Patrick McCrea, who is descended from the Armstrong family who had the sweet factory in Listowel, sent me this encouraging email;

“Thank you for a brilliant Listowelconnection mail – loved the TS Eliot poem and your report on the Galette des Rois- I lived 45 years in France 🇫🇷!  Now live in snowbound Lithuania 🇱🇹Happy New Year -Patrick McCrea”

Google Mapping Walk and Treasure Hunt

Picture of The River Feale through the eye of The Big Bridge taken on our Google pinning walk 

July 22 2017

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Google Mapping Walk   Part 2


On Saturday July 22 2017 Damien O’Mahoney led a group of volunteers on a walk around Listowel. The purpose of the walk was to collect images of Listowel to add to Google Interactive Maps in order to improve Listowel’s presence on the web, thus raising the profile of the town and promoting business and tourism.

Our photo album is HERE



We are now on the river walk. My boys loved taking the photos and they don’t mind that I get all the credit. Damien organised a treasure hunt to keep the younger members of our party interested.

Seán needed a little adult help to find the first  clue. It directed us to the next location where we were to look for a key.

The day was gloriously sunny and the river walk was peaceful.

In the old ball alley we posed for the a group photo. Charlie Nolan took it so I’m in it and he’s not.

We found the key!

In the Garden of Europe we found the box and Sean needed help to undo  the chain to reveal the loot….sweets.

We strolled on to St. Michael’s graveyard and I took this photo of John B’s gravestone.

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Resplendent Listowel in 2017



I’m sure the Tidy Towns’ judges will be impressed.



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