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: Seán MacCarthy

Dandy Lodge, Peggy Sweeney, The Saltiest Water and a Corner Stone

The Dandy Lodge in Listowel Town Park. Beautiful window boxes in place for the upcoming Entente Florale judging.


Harp and Lion

Restoration work has started on this great Listowel icon. I’m looking forward to seeing it restored to its former glory.


Today’s Pearl of Wisdom from my Charity Shop “Find”

Is the world’s saltiest water in The Dead Sea?

No, it’s not, according to this fascinating book. The saltiest water in the world is in Don Juan Pond in the Dry Valleys of  north eastern Antartica. It’s also known as Lake Don Juan. It’s a tiny lake whose depth is only 6 inches. It’s water is so salty that it doesn’t freeze even though the air around it is -50C.

The water is a whopping 40% salt, more than twice as salty as The Dead Sea. The water in Don Juan didn’t come from the sky. It’s too cold and dry there for rain or snow. The water seeped up through the ground and the upper layer of water evaporated leaving this salty residue behind. The lake was only discovered in 1961.


A Reminder of Slower Times

Patrick O’Shea, who had a Listowel mother, was curious to know what this is. He saw if at a junction in Cork and he asked Facebook what it could be. He learned that stones like these were placed at the entrance to lanes and small roads to prevent horse drawn carriages from riding over the corner of the nearby building and wearing it away. The corner stone forced the horse to swing wide into the entrance and to take a straight path into the side road.


Peggy Sweeney

When I posted this photo of Peggy and her family a while ago, Mattie Lennon saw it and remembered a lovely piece that he had written about Peggy and her relationship with the great Seán MacCarthy. Mattie sends us the piece here and I’m going to give it to you in two instalments.

Peggy will be singing the songs of Seán MacCarthy at the memorial weekend on the August bank holiday in Finuge…well worth a visit.

What could I say about Peggy?
Nothing but the truth.
I loved her songs and her singing
I heard away back in my youth.
Her songs were food to my Soul
Her voice was a thrill to my ear.
I loved her then as a child,
It was mutual and sincere.

I love her today as a friend
And the memories shared together.
Her songs still lift my soul
Like the lark warbling o’er the heather.
What can I say about Peggy?
Thanks for the joy she has given.
Blest be the dawn of our friendship
When Peggy was only seven. —-
Dan Keane

The above, written in perfect Copperplate, was handed to me by octogenarian Kerry poet Dan Keane when I told him I was writing a piece about Peggy Sweeney.

When I met and talked to the singer herself she spoke in equally glowing terms of Dan. But, then, she struck me as the kind of person who would have great difficulty speaking unkindly of anyone. Any mild criticism of a fellow human being seemed to be invariably followed by. “Ah … he (or she) is alright”.

Peggy was born in Rathea, Co. Kerry, the second youngest of seven children.

My hinted request for a D.O.B. [Date Of Birth] was met with Kerry specificness; “In the second half of the last century”.

When I point out that David Mamet, in his book True and False, claims that nobody with a happy childhood ever went into show business the tumultuous reply is like the Smearla river in flood. I am left in no doubt about her happy childhood, despite the fact that her father died when she was only six. Her grandfather was a very good fiddle player and by the time Peggy was a year-and-a-half old she was able to hum the tunes that he played for her. Her father was a dancing teacher and her mother, a beautiful singer, (who was very much a woman before her time), taught her all her songs.

She emphasizes that she grew up in a house of laughter, song and dance “which brought us all a long way, the day wasn’t half long enough for us and if I had to do it all over again I’d do the very same thing”.

Peggy can, in the words of Thomas Prior, ” … answer to the truth of a song”. When she sings “Rathea In County Kerry” written for her by cousin, Brian Burke, you get an example of that.

When I think of the days that once I spent
In the hills of County Kerry
Those happy days before I went
And took the Holyhead ferry.
Well we danced and we sang
‘Til the morning shone shone,
Though my grief I try to bury
For our lives were free in good company
In Rathea in County Kerry.

A story emanating from the Presentation Convent in Listowel has a two-pronged connection with W.B. Yeats (first it brings to mind his line:” I made my song a coat”). When Sister Austin asked Peggy to recite “The Sally Gardens” the quietly confident child recited a line or two and got stuck; only to then volunteer, ” I can’t recite it Sister … .but I will sing it”.

From an early age she competed. But competition is not her forte and she says: “I had to compete.” Adding modestly, “I won a couple of All-Irelands with the Lixnaw branch of Comltas”.

She competed, as a member of Scor, and left unbeaten in Kerry or Munster and believing that competition destroys the love of singing. “When I reached the age where I didn’t have to compete any more that’s when I really enjoyed singing”. 

More tomorrow.


A Poignant Tarbert Story

from on Facebook posted this photo with the following caption;

In 1985 a man was waiting for the Ferry in Tarbert when a group of children spotted he had a camera and asked him to take a picture of them…. the result was the below picture! 

He kept it safe over the next almost 35 years and now wants to reunite it with its subjects! 

Jennifer Scanlan saw the photo, recognised her brothers and their friends and solved the mystery;

The children are Derek R.I.P and Thomas OGorman with their friends, brother and sister, Josephine and Thomas.

Seán McCarthy Weekend, Queen’s Old Castle/Dealz, Pitch and Putt, Sand Art and A Dresser

A June Wedding

June is high season for weddings. I attended a lovely wedding in Cork on June 21st. The beautiful bride is a cake maker. Her own was a triumph.

Wedding favours when you are from Midleton


The Late Great Seán McCarthy

This is Peggy Sweeney’s songbook. Peggy is the acknowledged best interpreter of a McCarthy song.

Peggy is on the far right in this photo with her sister and her sister in law.

Sean McCarthy was born in 1923 in Sandes’ Bog outside Listowel. He was one of ten children. His was a poor but happy family. His house was always filled with music and singing. It was in the U.S to where he emigrated, that Sean developed his gift for writing and composing. His early childhood in Listowel and his friendship with Bryan MacMahon, who recognised him from the start as a having a special gift, had sown the seeds of a great writing career. He wrote many ballads, poems, books for children, humorous essays and many articles for The Kerryman. His soft Kerry voice was familiar to listeners to Sunday Miscellany for many years. He contributed to many many TV and radio programmes.

He is commemorated every year in Finuge at the festival that bears his name. Find out details of this year’s weekend on their Facebook page

Sean McCarthy Memorial Weekend


Spotted in Cork

How the mighty have fallen. I remember it when it was The Queen’s Old Castle.


A Few Photos from the Munster Championship

Listowel Pitch and Putt course looked splendid for the big competition.

The scamp on the right told me he was playing. He wasn’t.

This local player was playing alright.


Fun New Event in Ballybunion

( Photos from Wild Atlantic Way, Ballybunion sand art events on Facebook)

A new record for a new event; the most people doing the same sand art picture at the same time. The record which stands at 207 will, no doubt, be broken before the summer is over.


An Old Dresser

Do you remember when every kitchen had one of these or one very like it?


Tarbert’s 1916 Memorial

Church Doors, Food Fair Craft Fair and the last of my Young Adult Bookfest 2018 photos

Gurtinard Wood


Listowel Church Doors and a Window


Old Homestead

This is a photograph taken in Duagh. It is part of the Duchas collection and the photographer is Caoimhín ODanachair


Listowel Food fair 2018

Some more photographs of crafters that I took at this year’s craft fair on the Sunday of the Food Fair.


Young Adult Bookfest 2018, November 15 2018

 In a packed programme full of inspirational speakers there was no one more inspirational then Joanne O’Riordan. Joanne was born with a condition called total amelia. She has no limbs.  She has just graduated from UCC with a degree in criminology. She is a sports fanatic and her ambition is to be a sport’s journalist. She knows lots of sportspeople including Kieran Donaghy and they all have the greatest respect for her.

Joanne shared the stage with Pat Falvey, another man who does not let anything thwart him from a path he has chosen.

Helping out on the day were Seán McCarthy, David Browne and Tom Dillon


Seeking Irish Relatives

My name is Ken Duckett and I’m tracking a legacy of my mum and 19 1st cousins she received in the 1980’s/90’S from a Denis

Buckley, son of Edward Buckley and his wife Mary {Mai) Stack (married in New York). She was an aunt of my Mum’s (Kathleen Hanlon)

as Margaret (Madge Stack) was my grandmother and Patrick Hanlon my grandfather who farmed in Asdee.

So I’ve been trying to track down the families involved and one came up in your post in 2013. I’ve found by looking at Joseph Vincent 

Buckley 31st January I’ve been able to track the line of the family of six so far with sons/daughters and grandsons/granddaughters.

The parents have been identified in some of these posts as Michael Buckley and Nora (Nellie) Shine, however I cannot find records

For them in the usual places. That’s why I’m asking if you have any further information from members near to Listowel?

One other favour can you put me in touch with a local contact who I can purchase a copy of Asdee in the 1940’s/50’s I believe by 

a  Costelloe?

I enjoy your posts it keeps me in touch of my roots,



(If you can help Ken I have his email address)


Things you Hear at the Hairdressers’

The following have not been checked by Storyful so could contain an element of Fake News.

We are soon to have an Olde Worlde Sweet Shoppe on Church Street.

A popular local hairdressers’ is soon to relocate to a gorgeous new premises.

Bailey and Co. is planning to extend its range to include “affordable fashion”.

Two Listowel retail businesses are to close their doors in the new year.


Look Who ran into our Lizzie of Lizzie’s Little Kitchen?

Lizzie Lyons and Michael Parkinson were stars of Ireland am on Sunday No. 25 2018

Philomena Kuhn remembers,

Roses by the Bridge, Summer 2018


Listowel Physiotherapy Clinic


Pat Spillane, Iron man

This old photo from Rte shows Pat Spillane in his heyday, winning RTE’s Iron man competition.


Philomena, The Dancing Queen

This is me with Philomena Moriarty Kuhn on her recent visit home to Listowel.

This is Philomena as people in Listowel who knew her in her teens remember her.

Let me quickly revise Philomena’s story for you. She was born in Listowel, when her family lived in an apartment over Pat Nolan’s shop. They relocated to O’Connell’s Avenue where Philomena spent a very happy childhood. Her dad was a tailor and Charlie Nolan tells me he was a whizz at converting trousers into “drainpipes”, which were hugely fashionable at the time. They were usually worn with winkle pickers.

 ( Translation for the young: Winklepickers, or winkle pickers, are a style of shoe or boot worn from the 1950s onward by British rock and roll fans. The feature that gives both the boot and shoe their name is the very sharp and long pointed toe, reminiscent of medieval footwear and approximately the same as the long pointed toes on some women’s high-fashion shoes and boots in the late 2000s.

The extremely pointed toe was called the winkle picker because in England periwinkle snails, or winkles, are a popular seaside snack which is eaten using a pin or other pointed object to extract the soft parts out of the coiled shell carefully, hence the phrase: “to winkle something out”. 

Source: Wikipedia)

When the Jowika factory opened in Listowel, Philomena got a job there. The new employees were all sent to Germany to learn the ropes. This was a new development for Listowel.. young people going abroad  for training to prepare them for work at home. Jowika offered hope to a whole generation of young people who otherwise would have had to emigrate.

Philomena and the other girls stayed in a hostel and the men were housed elsewhere.

Before she went to Germany, Philomena loved dancing. From her early days learning Irish dancing from Liam Dineen to her teenage years jiving in The Las Vegas, Philomena was happiest when she was dancing.

It is no wonder then that when she chose a boyfriend it was someone who was into music. The lucky man she chose was Peter Kuhn. Their’s was to be a long distance romance conducted by letters after Philomena returned to Ireland and plans were for Peter to come and visit her here when he got a holiday.

Fate intervened and Philomena contracted T.B. She did not recognise the early signs and when she eventually got the diagnosis, the disease had taken a grip and necessitated a long period of hospitalisation in Edenburn sanitarium.

Philomena is a lovely affable person with a likeable personality so she made friends easily in the hospital. She also has the happy knack of making the best of whatever situation she finds herself in. She looked on the bright side of life in the sanitorium. She had friends, one nun she was particularly fond of,  and she looked forward to the weekly concerts put on for the patients by a Tralee group.

This friend was from Ardfert and one Sunday when her father came to take her out, he took Philomena too. These and other kindnesses, such as a visit from John B. Keane and Bunny Dalton are all fondly remembered by Philomena.

Anyway, Peter was true to his word and he came for a visit as soon as he got holidays. I’ve told you the story before of how  he cycled from Tralee to Edenburn every day for a fortnight, eating his lunch with the nuns and spending all day with Philomena. If that isn’t true love I don’t know what is.

As soon as she was well enough, Philomena returned home and eventually went back to work . She then transferred to Jowika in Germany and eventually married Peter and settled in Wuppertal.

Incidentally she left Listowel, a town famous for its unusual railway and settled in a German town also famous for its unusual railway.

In Germany Philomena took up a whole new dance form, Baroque dancing. She persuaded Peter to take it up as well and they both enjoyed performing at events and concerts. Philomena made her own costume in these photographs.

Philomena is very happy in Germany and she has children and grandchildren around her there but she loves to come “home” to Listowel and to spend some time in a place which holds many fond memories for her.

Philomena and Peter Kuhn at Listowel Castle in July 2018.


Doc on One

On Saturday next , August 18 2018 the documentary at lunchtime on RTE  radio 1 will be Shame, Love in Shame. This is the story of the ill treatment and death of Listowel lady, Peggy McCarthy. This story is also told by Seán McCarthy in his ballad, Love in Shame. 

The song is sung here by Peggy Sweeney and the video to accompany it was filmed in Listowel’s Garden of Europe

Shame, Love in Shame

(More about this important documentary tomorrow)

Writers’ Week and shop windows

Bryan MacMahon at the railway station addressing a group during Writers’ week.

Sean MacCarthy and ?

Theresa Cahill and the late Mick Relihan

Ted Hughes in St. Johns

All photos are the property of John Pierse.


That was then , this is now.

Here is a selection of windows decorated for Mother’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.


Just in: a brilliant photo from Michael Dillane of Stag employees on a trip to Germany.


This poor guy seems to have got his great marketing idea all wrong. Or are we being too sensitive?

Memories, memories!

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