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: Spanish Flu

Old photos, Spanish Flu and Some More of Mike O’Donnell’s Covid Cartoons

Photo: Poshey Ahern


Some Old Photos

Photo shared on Facebook by BPM.   A young Tadhg Kennelly at the Muster Colleges Athletics in


Charles Street Neighbours, Nellie Moloney and Mrs Stack share a cuppa and a chat.

Photo shared by Patrick Godfrey…. no date


A Spitoon

I am old enough to remember spittoons in pubs. (Children were allowed into pubs back in the day.) In my young days TB was the greatest scourge around. People lived in fear and dread of contracting it. There were no hand sanitisers, or disinfectant wipes and people didn’t think of staying home as a way of curbing the spread so it was not unusual to see a sign on buses and on public places asking people not to spit.

This was also  one of the instructions given to people during the great flu of 1918 and 19. Here are the other instructions for how to conduct yourself

In case anyone should be inclined to try eucalyptus by mouth- it is not safe to take it orally as it is poisonous! 

We’re back in the same boat again.


Some More Mike O’Donnell Covid Cartoons


A Poem of Family Love

Jim’s Last Goodbye

By Noel Roche

(Noel and Jim grew up in O’Connell’s Avenue in a large and happy family. Noel finds comfort in poetry. He wrote this one after his brother’s funeral.)

And so the family gathered

To partake in Jim’s last race,

Led off by the lone piper

Who played Amazing Grace.

He was flanked by Tom and me,

We stood proud and bold,

Followed by a guard of honour

Of the Gaels in green and gold.

Behind the hearse came brothers and sisters,

Nephews, nieces and the rest.

Dick Walsh controlled the traffic

He was like a man possessed.

And in the church that evening

There was not a dry eye,

As, in the back, on his accordion,

Jerry Walsh played Danny Boy.

Next morning at the funeral

I couldn’t believe my eyes

At least five hundred people

Came to say their last goodbyes.

Out comes the priest

His name was “Fr. Jack”.

I thought it was really cool

That Fr. Jack was black.

It seemed to me that everyone

Who knew Jim was there.

And I got to hear a new rendition

As Mike said his Lord’s Prayer.

As Tom gave his tribute,

It had us spellbound from the start.

You could see that every word he said

Came from deep inside his heart.

And then we gave Jim

His greatest last goodbye

As five hundred people raised the roof

Singing The Fields of Athenry.

I can see you up there now  Jim,

As you sit upon a cloud,

Telling all the angels

How your family did you proud.

Jill Friedman’s Listowel, poet John McGrath, Lord Omathwaite and Spanish Flu

Still Working

A KWD refuse truck passes Listowel Garda Station on March 26 2020


Local poet, John McGrath shared this poem on Facebook. I know it will resonate with many of my emigrant readers.

The Week after St Patrick’s

The week after St Patrick’s, my mother

pressed his suit and packed his case,

Then drove him to the station for the early train

from Ballyhaunis to the crowded boat,

Then on to Manchester and solitude

until All Souls came slowly round again.

I don’t remember ever saying Goodbye.

At seventeen I took the train myself

and saw first-hand my father’s box-room life,

the Woodbines by his shabby single bed.

I don’t remember ever saying Hello

Just sat beside this stranger in the gloom

and talked of home and life, and all the while

I wanted to be gone, get on with mine.

Westerns and ‘The Western’ kept him sane,

newspapers from home until the time

to take the train came slowly round once more.

Lost in Louis L’Amour, he seldom heard

the toilet’s ugly flush, the gurgling bath

next door. Zane Grey dulled the traffic’s

angry roar, outside his grimy window.

Back home the year before he died we spoke

at last as equals, smoked our cigarettes,

his a Woodbine still, and mine a tipped;

My mother would have killed us if she’d known.

The phone-call came as Winter turned to Spring

I stood beside him, touched his face of ice

And knew our last Hello had been Goodbye.

John McGrath March 2018


Jill Friedman’s Kerry

Internationally renowned photographer, Jill Friedman took these photographs on trip to The Kingdom.


Lord Ormathwaite

Lord Ormathwaite was mentioned in one of the old stories last week. Kay Caball has come across him in her research.

In 1770, John Walsh  (uncle-in-law of John Benn Walsh, Lord Ormathwaite) had purchased land from Francis Thomas Fitzmaurice, 3rd earl of Kerry, in both Clanmaurice and Iraghticonnor for £15,230, and again, in 1774, for £5,944.  John Walsh, was a wealthy nabob, born in Madras, who returned from India to Britain after the battle Plassey.  He became an MP, with a country estate in Berkshire.  He bequeathed his Irish estates after his death to his niece Margaret Benn-Walsh in trust for her son, who became Lord Ormathwaite, owning  9,000 acres in north Kerry at the time of the Great Famine.[1]

Sir John Benn WLSH (later Lord Ormathwaite) visited north Kerry in 1823 -1864 and kept a journal relating  these visits to the different [named] tenants.     Excerpts from this journal are published in John D. Pierse’s book Teampall Bán: Aspects of the Famine in north Kerry 1845-1852, p. 241

[1] Kay Caball, The Fall of the Fitzmaurices: The Demise of Kerry’s First Family.


North Kerry and The Spanish Flu

The last great pandemic was the Spanish flu, which ravaged the world in the years after World War 2

Photo from Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine 2018 shows workmen wearing masks.

This magazine has a very informative article about the pandemic.

 North Kerry was particularly hard hit, with many deaths.

In 1918 532 deaths were reported in the Listowel district. As well as the flu, people died of TB and  natural causes and many had lingering injuries acquired on the battle front.

Irishgenealogy,ie has a database of civil and church records that hold fascinating information. If you want to know how your ancestors fared during this last pandemic you could search the death records. Each entry records the cause of death and the duration of the final illness. If you make any interesting discoveries, we’d love to know.

Priests Leap, old photos, Ceol Soul Podcasts and The Great Flu of 1918

Beautiful Ireland

These stunning images of a beautiful little place called Priests’ Leap on the Cork Kerry border were taken by Cathal Noonan


Ireland in 1935

Poor Fr. Creed would be scandalised if he were to see today’s young ladies.


Jill Friedman

In the 1970s and 80s, photographer, Jill Friedman was a frequent visitor to Kerry  and she often stayed in Listowel. Below are some of her photographs from her book recording her visits

These photos were taken in Listowel and Finuge


A Podcast Recommendation

Katie Lucey is a young Listowel lady. She is embarking on a new venture, recording podcasts with Irish artists, not just musical artists but people who are important in the Irish Arts scene.

Katie with Sean Keane who she interviewed during his recent trip to Listowel for a sold out concert in St. John’s.

I remember Katie when she wore the brown uniform of Pres. Secondary School. She is at the other side of the desk now.

Here is a link to Katie’s podcast channel. Enjoy her first interview with the great Seán Keane.

Ceol Soul


A Story from the last Pandemic

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh on the Late Late Show referred to his aunt who died in New York in 1918.  His nephew Joe posted The Keryman account of her death on Twitter.

Death of Nellie Moriarty of Dún Síon

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