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Tag: Sean O’Sullivan

A Poet or Two

An Easter Window in St. Mary’s Listowel in April 2023


Then and Now

On Church Street


Beautiful Cherry Tree

In Listowel Pitch and Putt Course


A Biden Story (Kind of)

From Mattie Lennon

When President Biden mentioned his great-grandfather Finnegan, the poet, it reminded me. The poet Paddy Finnegan was a friend of mine. He was from Galway and was no stranger to Listowel Writers’ Week. I don’t know if he was related to “the President’s Finnegans” and there again I don’t know that he wasn’t!

 When Paddy died in 2014 two others and myself organised a “Finnegan’s Wake with an Apostrophe”, in Dublin’s Mansion House.  President Higgins couldn’t attend but his daughter Alice Mary did. We made a DVD of the evening’s events,

I’ve a piece that I wrote about Paddy Finnegan after his death.

Paddy Finnegan passed away, unexpectedly, on 16th July.

Shortly after his death poet and writer Stephen James Smith wrote, “Paddy was a wonderful man who inspired me with his poetry and acted as a great supporter of other young poets too. . . as he speaks to me beyond the grave his verse is still unnerving me with his gravely pitted voice holding my ears. . . .Paddy you’ll always live on in my memory, you’ll always be one of the first people who made poetry sing to me, you’ll always be a writers’ writer, a warrior with words. The Fionn mac Cumhaill of verse.“

Paddy was born “between two years” either in the dying moments of 1942 or just after midnight on New-year’s day 1943 in Dereen, Kilkerrin, County Galway. Like everywhere else in rural Ireland clocks weren’t all that accurate at the time.

While a pupil at the National School in Kilkerrin a teacher convinced his father, Michael, that Paddy had academic potential. He got a Scholarship to St Jarleths College, Tuam, in 1956 and continued his formal education in UCD.

Paddy had a fantastic knowledge of the English language, was fluent in all dialects of Gaeilge and had a good grasp of Greek and Latin. His versatility was increased in the year he spent in Wolverhampton as one of “the men who built Britain”. He became an expert on how to fry steak on the head of a shovel.

He joined the Irish Civil Service in 1962 but office work wasn’t for Paddy. Apart from being on a higher mental plane than most of his colleagues he was an open-air man. During his stint there I’m sure Sigerson Clifford’s line often went around in his head, “They chained my bones to an office stool and my soul to a clock’s cold hands.“

 He worked as a bus conductor with CIE from 1971 to 1980.

When I got a job as a bus-conductor in 1974 I was sent to Donnybrook garage. I didn’t ask who was the most intelligent person in the garage but if I had the reply would have been concise, “Paddy Finnegan.” As a conductor he could reply to any criticism from an irate passenger; in several languages if necessary. During this period Paddy and a few of his fellow intellectual would assemble in a city centre flat which was known a Dáil Oíche. It was a later edition of “The catacombs” as described by Anthony Cronin in Dead as Doornails. With such a collection of intelligentsia you can imagine (or can you?) the topics under discussion. He lived for many years in Lower Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh. If ever a house deserved a Blue Plaque it’s Paddy’s former residence.

He brought out a collection of his poetry, sadly now out of print, titled Dactyl Distillations. I know dear erudite reader that you know the meaning of dactyl but I had to look it up. It is, “a foot of poetic meter in quantitave verse.”

He was inspired by everyday events. His “Post from Parnassus” was inspired by the annual Saint Patrick’s Day commemoration of Patrick Kavanagh on the banks of the Grand Canal.

Post From Parnassus 

(after Patrick Kavanagh)

by Paddy Finnegan

Here by my seat the old ghosts meet.
Here, the place where the old menagerie
Relentlessly soldiers on
Remembering the old green dragon, me,
On the feast of the Apostle of Ireland.

Ye greeny, greying catechumens
Will cease to stage this ceremony
Only on the command of Sergeant Death.
Then break not the heart of poet past
Nor that of preening poet present:
But know, ye prodigies of prosody
That multitudes in times to be
Will listen to my lays
And look askance
While cods forever fake
Their own importance.

More recently he recorded a, limited edition, CD, Fíon Ceol agus Filíocht. I hope that somebody will now bring out an “unlimited” edition. Since 1995 he was a familiar sight selling the Big Issue outside Trinity College and more recently at Bewleys on Grafton Street.

Paddy always had a story, like the day he was chatting to his fellow poet Professor Brendan Kennelly at the gate of Trinity as dark clouds hung overhead . “ . . . I asked the Ballylongford wizard for a meteorological prognostication. He replied in the immortal words: ‘ There’’ be no rain; it’ll be as dhry, as dhry as a witches tit.’ He wasn’t gone fifteen minutes when amazingly the cloud dispersed and as our old friend Pythagoras used to say: ‘ Phoebus played a blinder for the rest of the day.” That was Paddy.

I asked his brother James if there were poets in their ancestry. He said no, that their father was a farmer but, in the words of Seamus Heaney, “By God, the old man could handle a spade.”


Listowel Success in The Rebel County

Elaine and Seán O’Sullivan with Bobby Cogan and Carine Schweitzer.

They won the weekend table quiz in The White Horse, Ballincollig.


An old Post Box

This post box is on the street in Tralee at the corner of Day Place. These pillar boxes date back to an earlier era when they were painted red and had the monarch’s cypher on the front.

This one is one of the ones that had an angle grinder taken to it and the cypher shorn off.


Just a Thought

My Reflections, broadcast last week on Radio Kerry are here;

Just a Thought


A Fact

Absolutely pure gold is so soft it can be molded with the hands. A lump of pure gold the size of matchbox can be flattened into a sheet the size of a tennis court. An ounce of gold can be stretched into a wire 50 miles long.


Michael Sheehy R.I.P. and Dr. Michael O’Connor of The Square

Vincent Carmody remembers his friend, the late Michael Sheehy R.I.P.


For me, Race Week 2013 did not have the same resonance as previous
years. Some weeks previous, news came through of the death of one of my closest
and lifelong friends, Michael Sheehy of Main Street, Listowel and Yonkers, New
York. Michael or Mike as he liked to be known, liked nothing more than to
return to his home town for race week accompanied by his wife and best friend
Mary, daughter Kerry and sons Patrick and John.

Even though he was lost to emigration, first to London and then to New
York in the early 1960s, he remained a true son of Listowel. A long time member
of the New York Kerryman’s Association, he was, over those emigrant years, to
the forefront when it came to organising and collecting for many fundraisers back
in his native town.

He was the second born of a family of five boys to Jack and Moira (nee
Madden) Sheehy who ran a small grocery and meal store.

Michael had his early education at the local National School, afterwards
St Michael’s College and the Listowel Technical School in Church Street where
he completed a commercial course. He often told me the days spent at the Tech.
were the happiest of his life as it allowed him to express his many footballing
talents at both local, on the schools senior football team, and nationally as a
key member of the Kerry Vocational Senior Team. He was a free scoring forward
on both the Listowel minor side who defeated a star studded Ballylongford team
in the North Kerry Minor Championship final of 1962 and the North Kerry team
which won the Kerry Minor Championship in the same year. He was also a
formidable player with the Listowel soccer team and could mix it with the best
at both tennis and handball.

Michael was a modest man who could see fun in most things and was never
afraid to have a laugh at himself; perhaps this is personified in the following
story which he liked recalling when we spoke. It was of a time in 1961 when
there was a revival of the Listowel hurling club. The senior team were due to
play Abbeydorney in a curtain raiser to the Kerry vs. Roscommon senior football
tournament game at Listowel on May 28th of that year. At that time a
crowd of 5,000 would attend these matches. The Listowel team had arranged a
workout game against Lixnaw in Lixnaw the Wednesday evening prior to the match.
At the game Listowel found themselves a man short and Michael, then 17, having
travelled as a spectator and never having played competitive hurling
previously, was pressed into action as goalkeeper. As he said himself, whether
it was luck or bad shooting by the home team’s forwards he kept the goals
intact, so much so after the game the selectors told him that he was picked to
play in goals the following Sunday.

Always the perfectionist, Michael spend every available chance the following
days down at the ball alley, alone, with a hurl striking ball after ball off
the back wall and catching the return, as he said, “getting eye co-ordination”

The following Sunday he made his début ‘as the man between the
posts’.  For five minutes, things went
fine, then, disaster struck, a high ball came sailing down towards his goals,
Michael lifted his camán and instead of catching the slioter went to bat it
tennis style, result, the slioter nestling at the back of the net, Michael
berated himself, “Why didn’t I catch it like I was doing down at the ball
alley?”. Worse was to follow. In the space of the next ten minutes four more
balls sailed past the Listowel custodian. Then followed  the humiliation of the keeper as he was
called ashore before the large crowd. As he left his goals, the goal umpire
sympathetically shook Mike’s hand and said, “You should have blocked two of the
goals” to which Mike sarcastically replied “I should have blocked the whole
bloody five.”

For the record Michael was replaced in goal by his great friend and
fellow Church Street neighbour, Tony Barrett. Since then, Michael humorously
would point to the fact that Tony was himself caught for three goals.

To his wife Mary, sons, Patrick and John, daughter Kerry and their
respective families, his brother’s Martin, Pat and Jerry we send our deepest
sympathy on their great loss.

Requiem Mass for Michael was said in St
Brendan’s in the Bronx. Michael is buried In The Gate of Heaven Cemetery
in Westchester.


Ní imithe uainn atá sé ach imithe romhainn, (he is not gone from us but
before us) 


Liam Dillon’s Church St.

This lovely painting job was done by Chute Bros. of Listowel


Seen at Listowel Races

This family of Cork O’Sullivans were connecting with the Kerry side of the family at The Races.


Gleasure letter

September 6, 1911

From: May Gleasure, The Square, Listowel

To: Frank Gleasure, 437 Cambridge Street Allston, Mass. U.S.A.

Dear Frank,

A few lines hoping they will find you in good health, we were in a very bad state here for the last week, since the 28 August, father was under an operation on the 29th. the fillum of the bowls was coming out. On the night of the 28th he felt it coming on him about 12 oclock before he went to bed. He went to bed anyway and never raised any alarm and it got fearful bad with him in such a way that the doctor told him that it was a miracle or the will of God that he did not die although George was in the same bed with him he never said what was wrong with him for he used to get it before but he was able to put it back himself. About 7.30 next morning I went into him and asked him what was wrong and he told me he had great pains and that he was done for and was going to leave us, you may be sure that he frightened me. I said that I would go out for the doctor and he would by no chance leave me. I delayed about an hour and went out of my own accord & brought him in. and he saw it once that it was a very serious case. he went and got another doctor and my father had to force him to operate on him. they did it anyway and it has turned out successful so far, the fillum was 4 times its natural size and about the length of your finger of black diseased part, if it swelled the least bit more that it would burst. He was the strongest man that they ever came across to say that he did not die and the way he was in the night before. We have got a lovely doctor attending him his name is OConnor. he come’s in 4 or 5 times in the day and he would not let one of us do any thing to help him only does it all himself. only the way he is attending him we should have got a nurse, we sent out for my grand mother for we have to stop up with him every night since and can’t leave him for a minute by day. I think he will pronunce him out of danger tonight he is splendid now, the wound is all healed up almost. And he is taking lots of good nourishment but of course no solid food. For the doctor is trying to get the bowls to move first. Nobody is allowed to see him only Adam and a few more near relations like him. I was full sure that we would have to be sending for you when I saw the way he was. Hoping you will write as soon as you get this I remain Your loving Sister M.G.

Jer. Kennelly speculates that the Dr. O’Connor referred to is possibly Dr. Michael O’Connor who lived in The Square.

 Jer tells me that Dr. O’Connor was  interned in Ballykinlar, Co. Down in 1920.


People are encountering these roadsigns in their travels around the country and have been contacting news media to find out what they mean. One helpful commenter on The Journal suggested that the signs meant  Kerry Drivers Ahead, another suggested “Collapsible Bridge Ahead and another, Drunken Caterpillars Crossing. One person suggested that the signs were in Kerry because only in Kerry are North and South not in polar opposite directions.

The answer to the puzzle is this. The signs refer to The Wild Atlantic Way, the scenic drive along the west coast from Malin to Mizen. 

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