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 Slemon

Greenville Rd. and Irish Servant Girls in Australia in the 19th century

Convent Cross

 This is the corner beside Toirbheart and the convent.

 The path behind the locked gate is covered in moss and lichen.


Irish Servant Girls in Australia in 1874

from the archive of Harp and Southern Cross Adelaide,
SA : Fri 6 Mar 1874


Servant girls, to the ordinary
observer, form an humble, though necessary element in our social economy, but
according to the late utterances of one of our Protestant contemporaries, many

of them are no less than Jesuits in

Whereas the whole tendency of the
age is to cast discredit on honest toil, and to scorn the simple faith and
earnest trust that sweetens the hardest face and brightens the poorest home.
But let us not lose sight of the point we wish to insist upon. Irish
servant-girls, as a class, deserve in no way the sneers and accusations
frequently directed against them. They are good workers, notably honest, and
above all, deeply imbued with a religious feeling, affording the surest
guarantee of the purity and character. Indeed, in this latter respect they put
to shame many a Catholic favoured by Fortune and education, who has come to
adopt the fashionable theories of religious indifference. And in this very
tenacity with which they cling to their faith, may be found, to some extent,
the secret of the hostility to Irish Catholic servants which now and then ,
makes itself heard in the public prints. Mrs. Shoddy and Mrs. Knickerbocker
having no religion themselves cannot endure it in their inferiors. They go to
their fine meeting-house and listen to their fine preacher, and some Sunday
when new sensations are lacking, that well-paid functionary has recourse to an
old one.

He dilates upon the folly of popish
superstitions, and the danger there is that Romanism may insidiously enter the
household of his hearers. Perhaps he is fortunate enough to attract the

attention of the audience from the
bonnets and dresses displayed by the congregation, and to send them home with
no very amiable feelings towards Catholics in general and their honest
servant-girls in particular, who insist upon going to Mass regularly on Sundays
and holy days.

The mistress’s tongue is sharpened
with the acid of bigotry, and her temper becomes more and more trying. The
servant is not a paragon of perfection, and there is a limit to her endurance.

The result is a domestic revolution
which sooner or later we hear of in the shape of an indignant complaint against
the ignorance and impudence of Irish help. But after all, these expressions of

petty malice reflect the feeling of
a very small and insignificant minority. As a rule employers repose a trust — a
confidence in their Catholic servant-girls which is seldom betrayed, and these
pure, simple-minded women go through life displaying virtues which adorn their
station, and might well be imitated by those higher in the social scale.


What’s Another Year?

In 2016 one young Moyvane man saw his dancing career reach a new high point. 

Seán Slemon danced in 25 championships. He won 22 of them and was 2nd in the other 3. He is the Scottish, British and Irish champion. 

I think we have our own Michael Flately here among us in North Kerry.

Photo collage posted on Facebook by his very proud mother, Annette.


A New Year’s Ball in Boston in 1907

Boston Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald started a new tradition of ringing in the New Year by holding a reception at Boston City Hall on Tuesday, January 1, 1907.

The Boston Globe wrote on January 2, “When the mayor announced the he would hold a reception among the lines of those held in the national capitol and other cities of the union, few regarded it seriously.  It had never been attempted before, and of course, to be attempted now in sedate old Boston was regarded as nothing short of a desperate plunge with no reward in sight to warrant it.”

Between the hours of noon and 2:00 p.m., over 4500 people attended, and it was deemed a success, noted the report.

Among the Bostonians who turned out to greet Mayor Ftizgerald: President Toland of the Charitable Irish Society, Herbert Carruth, deputy commissioner of the Penal Institution, Colonel Roger F. Scannell, “late defeated candidate of the Board of Alderman,” Henri Flammond, the French consul, Jeremiah McCarthy, surveyor of the port, and Patrick F. McDonald, superintendent of bridges. 

Also attending were “Tim Murnane and Hugh McBreen, representing the baseball interests.” 

Not everyone made it on time, reported The Globe.  “For an hour or more after the mayor had retired from the chamber, as many as 500 persons, women in the main, hurried to the corridor on the seond floor, only to learn that they were too late.” 

Mayor Fitzgerald “said that he was highly pleased with the reception for a beginning.”

Fitzgerald was the third Boston mayor of Irish heritage, following Hugh O’Brien and Patrick Collins. Here is a full list of Boston mayors with Irish ancestry

Source; Boston Irish blog


Great Initiative by the Extraordinary Namir Karim

Everyone welcome. You can come on your own or with a friend

The Lartigue, Pride of Place and a date for the diary

Lovely Listowel

Dr. Halketts on Church St. is getting a lovely paint job done.

Scoil Realt na Maidine decked out in Kerrys’ green and gold


A Journey on The Lartigue in 2015

When I was in The Lartigue Museum on Sept 1 I met two lovely railway enthusiasts. This lovely friendly couple were from Canada and they, like so many visitors to the museum, had come to Listowel especially to ride on this unique train. They were full of admiration and praise and they thoroughly enjoyed their train journey and couldn’t wait to tell them all at home about their adventure.

 They posed on the running board for a photo.

Two local visitors shared the journey with us.

The locomotive has to be turned manually.

 The visitors were intrigued by this procedure.

Now the front is the back and vise versa so the guard had to bring a lateen to the rear of the train.

Every citizen of Listowel should take a ride on the Lartigue. It is a trip back in time, full of history and romance.


Last Photos from Pride of Place 2015

Listowel’s love affair with Racing was recognized in this welcoming display.

Tech Space was showing what one can do with computers.

Máire and Liz were manning the Writers’ Week display. They presented a gift of words to the judges.

World champion dancer, Seán Slemon waiting his turn to entertain the judges

The best of Irish step dancing was on display.

The judges chatted to everyone and took an interest in every exhibit.

Maire Logue, Jimmy Moloney, Liz Dunne and Mary Hanlon at The Seanchaí

The judges were interested and appreciative.

Mary Anne O’Connor, chair of Listowel Active Retirement Group, Cara Trant of Kerry Literary and Heritage Centre, Maire Logue, Festival Manager, Listowel Writers’ Week, Joan Byrne, Listowel Tidy Towns and Liz Dunne, Vice Chairperson Listowel Writers’ Week.

Eddie Moylan of Listowel Vintage Wireless Museum shows some of his artifacts to the judges who had never seen a gramophone horn in real life before.

One final Dance an Doras and they were away to see some Living Literature upstairs.


Slack Day, Sept 15 2015

Jerry Hannon took this photo of Pat Healy and Berkie Browne enjoying a rare day off during Listowel Race Week . It’s business as usual for this pair again tomorrow, Weds Sept 16 2015.


Friday Night is Culture Night

Seán Slemon on top of the world and Dan Keane remembers

(photo: Timothy John MacSweeney)


Seán Slemon, World Irish Dancing Champion 2015

One young man with a very strong Listowel connection is Seán Slemon.  Seán’s dad is Harry Slemon of Listowel and Seán is a pupil at Scoil Realt na Maidine. Recently Seán travelled with his sister Leah, who was also a qualifier for the World Irish Dancing championships, to Montreal. Seán is no stranger to the world stage. He already has one world title to his name. In Montreal he added another. Well done, Sean and his very supportive family and teachers.

Happy men: This is a photo of the newly crowned world champion, Seán Slemon with delighted dancing master, Jimmy Smith.

Jimmy Smith with his trophy when he was a champion back in the day.

Seán Slemon and trophy.     (photos: Rinceoirí na Ríochta and Annette Slemon)


Reminiscences from the late Dan Keane on some local singers

If we are to accept that music in its broader
sense means music, song and dance, then the soul of song must likewise embrace
every aspect of the musical arena. To put on record every singer, dancer and
musician that have graced the parish even in my lifetime would be a formidable

In two articles which I have written Cross-roads
and Comhaltas in Moyvane and Knockanure, I have mentioned musicians I have
known, and might I say musicians held in high regard.

Going back to my early childhood I can recall a
white-haired old man sitting in his own corner singing songs. The man was
William Leahy of Carrueragh, he must have impressed me as the memory lives on.
In later years I heard his grandaughter playing the fiddle, she is also Mrs.

My father and mother were both good singers, and
if I leap forward in years I must say my nephew Michael O’Connor can take me
back to memories of my father when he sings ‘Skibbereen’. Michael’s brother
Bernie has an immense amount of songs but has a different style.

In my school days I remember the teacher Thomas
O’Callaghan during singing lessons saying, “You can’t sing properly if you
don’t open your mouth”. He even referred to the way Paddy Scanlon could
sing. Paddy had a grand voice with a musical ring, he could sing in the bog or
around the land, but like many a good singer he was too shy for the stage.

There was another schoolmate of mine, John
O’Connor late of Kilmeaney. John was a wonderful singer, no gradh for the
stage, but it was the magnetism of his singing which held the crowd at Flynns
on the occasion of Willie Finnucane’s song on the raid at Flynns…..


Presentation Convent, Listowel

My convent photos last week brought back memories to so many people, I’ve decided to include a few more I took at the same time.

The auctioneer”s sign has come down. Could we be about to see movement on this lovely property?


Foggy Listowel

A heat haze over the river these mornings speaks to me of summer’s approach.



“There’s life after Leaving. My Dad failed first time around and now they’re studying his plays for the exams. But he did repeat, and passed the following year.”

The dad in question is John B. Keane and the quote is from Billy Keane in yesterday’s Irish Independent.

lough Derg 1955, Troy family of Church St. and Craftshop na Méar

Lough Derg Pilgrims 1955


Troy family of Church St.

I posted last week about a Fr. Charles Troy of Ballyfermot who hailed originally from Listowel.

Here below are two extacts from writing by Bryan Mac Mahon who knew the family well:

“…I digress for a moment to call attention to
the Troy family, five of whom were

prIests – three were monsignori — who achieved
eminence in many aspects of

U.S. ecclesiastical life, including army chaplaincies,
college and parochial life.

Miss Mai Quinlan of Church Street reminds
me of Fr. Jim’s appearance at the

Eucharistic Congress in 1932 in Dublin
dressed as an honorary Indian chief and

leading a troupe of full-blooded Indians!

She too recalled the five priests and Sr. Mary
Jane, together with their father,

John and his wife, Bessie, nee McKenna, holding
a musical evening in their home

with Thomas Purcell at the keyboard.

The Purcells later lived in Charles St.

The best known member of the Troy family on
this side of the Atlantic was ex-kerry

player Father Charlie Troy, Ballyfermot,
whom I saw trying to make

peace in Listowel during a Civil War battle
for possession of the town.

As a postscript, I am reminded that John Troy’s
wife, Bessie has come down to us as a marvellous personality — she impishly
interrupted the musical evening by encouraging an itinerant barrel-organ

player to render rauccus tunes outside the
window. The evening ended in

uproarious laughter.’

and this introduction to a songbook

“A feature of the publication is the dedication
which accompanies each of

thc songs and which provides a sociological
or historical dimension for

the publication. “O’ Donnell Abu!”, which
he describes as “War Song 1597”

(National Anthem) Poetry by M.J. McCann,
Arr. by Thos. J. Purcell, Op 59”,

is dedicated to the soldier and jurist, the
Hon. Marcus Kavanagh, Chicago,

Fears to Speak of Ninety Eight” is dedicated “to my friend Wm. J. O’Neill,


and “The Boys of Wexford” to “M.D.
Hennessy, Chicago, Ill”. This last named dedication should have been exchanged
with the dedication of “The Patcheen Finn” which he offered to Rev.

Thomas F. Troy of Listowel and Chicago. for
the professor and family were very friendly

with Fr, Tom Troy in Chicago, where he served
for a while in St, Colmcilles.

Incredible as it may seem, Father Troy, who
comes from a brilliant family who

lived a few doors from me here in Church
Street, Listowel, was descended,

as also are the McKennas of Listowel, from
Thos. McKenna from Monaghan,

and “brave United Irishman” of the ’98 song
“The Boys of Wexford”, who

married Jane Foulkes, “the captain’s
daughter, the captain of the Yeos”, both

of whom, if local lore is to be believed, made
their way to Kerry after the

disaster of Vinegar Hill and who now lie buried
in the Hegarty grave at Kilsynan

The Troy family  lived second-next door to us at number 22 Church
Street (now O’Halloran’s).


Some of the lovely gift ideas in Craftshop na Méar, Listowel


Charles Street

This recently refurbished corner of Charles St. is looking really well now.


Very happy talented young man

(Photo from his mammy’s Facebook page)

The very talented step dancer, Seán Slemon of Moyvane is once again All Ireland Champion. Well done, Seán!    Well deserved!

Plus ça change……April horsefair

More from April 3rd’s horsehair


Limerick 1853…..many young men of twenty…….

from the twitter feed Limerick 1914


Closed last week


Wigs and jigs

World Irish Dancing Championships are closer to home this year.

The very best of luck to Sean Slemon who is carrying all our hopes and dreams into this huge arena. Whatever the outcome in London this little lad is some dancer!

Well done to The Listowel Arms on winning the prize for best wedding venue at the Munster wedding awards 2014

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