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: Spring

Spring in Listowel, A memory of Tom Doodle and a Listowel teacher out on the Biddy

Spring has Sprung

It lifts my heart to see the flower containers back on the streets after a bad winter….a welcome sight indeed.


Memories of a Different kind of Election Candidate

Tom Doodle was a fictitious character who stood for election in Listowel in the 1950s. So popular was he that when the jape was over John B. and his band of supporters continued to keep his memory alive with an annual “Frolic”. Junior Griffin has some of the souvenir menus from these frolics. Here is the first one for you. It gives a background picture of Doodle’s early life and the menu for the meal that was to be held in 1957 in his honour.


From The Advertiser


Oh the Days of the Kerry Dances…

Liam OHainnín kept this cutting of a crowd gathered in The Square watching Jimmy Hickey’s dancers perform during a Fleadh Cheoil.


Out on The Biddy

St. Bridget’s Day was on Monday, February 1. Traditionally, the Biddy Boys started their rounds on St. Bridget’s eve and they went from house to house “mumming”, i.e. dressed in fabulous costumes and their faces disguised with straw hats, they welcomed spring with music, singing and dancing. 

I was delighted to see a series of photos from that great photographer, Valerie O’Sullivan, which told me that the tradition is still alive.

This is what Valerie wrote to accompany her photos;

Members of Kilgobnet Biddy Group, Beaufort, Co Kerry, calling to Mike McGillycuddy’s House in Shanera.The tradition of the Biddies is one of the oldest and most colourful customs in Ireland, a blend of pagan and christian pageantry, held on the 1st February each year. Heralding the beginning of Springtime and honouring St Bríd the patron saint of the farming community. The Kilgobnet Biddies well spend the next few nights calling to houses and halls playing music and collecting funds for Kilgobnet National School.

When I looked a bit closer at the photos,  there I saw, among the musicians, a familiar face from my days in Presentation Seconday School. Mr. Coffey was out on the Biddy to raise funds for his local school. The man pictured making the hats is his father.

These three photos were taken by John O’Sullivan

Irish Abroad blog has this to say about this tradition;

In many of parts of Ireland ‘Biddy Boys’ (or girls) went from house to house with ‘Biddy’, an effigy of the saint, often a straw doll, collecting money and food for a party in her honour while reciting a rhyme similar to this one:

Here is Brigid dressed in white.
Give her a penny for this dark night.
She is deaf, she is dumb,
For God’s sake, give her some.”

Brian Coffey gave me an account of the Biddy in Beaufort. The tradition was always in the area with rival troupes of Biddy Boys doing the rounds of the houses and the pubs. In the 60s and 70s when it was at its height there was a competition among the Kerry Biddy groups with a plaque and a sum of money as a prize. The prize money as well as the donations collected in the pubs were always given to charity.

Four or five years ago when the tradition was waning, a group decided to revive it as a means of raising funds for the local primary school. It was decided as well as doing the pubs to go back to the old traditional way and to visit houses. 

The Biddy costumes and straw hats are stored from year to year. Every year there is a need for one or two new ones or some old ones need a bit of smartening up with plaited straw or fresh tinsel.

A route is laid out and a troupe of about 20 local singers, musicians and dancers gathered. This year there were 3 troupes in Beaufort, the adults, the 6th class and the 5th class. Many houses had a candle lighting at the door to welcome the Biddy.  The leading man carried a sign announcing who they were. Often, when he knocked on the door he saw that the house was full of neighbours and friends gathered from far and near to welcome the Biddy. Chairs and sofas were moved back and a way cleared for the singing and dancing. Often a singer or musician in the house would join in and if there was room, they might dance a set ora waltz with the people off the house People were generous. Brian told me that it was not unusual to collect €100 in a house.

“It’s not only about the money,” said Brian. It brings the neighbours together in a spirit of community and friendship. On Monday night they called to the Community Centre where a card game was in progress. The cards were set aside as the card players welcomed the Biddy and the singing and dancing continued for a long time.

The night ended up, as per tradition, with a dance at the crossroads. The dancing area was lit by the headlights of several cars and the dancing and music continued into the small hours of the morning.

Take a look at this RTE video to see the craic they have in Kilgobnet on February 1st. Long may the tradition continue!

Keeping the Biddy Tradition alive

Spring, A Night of Terror and Ballybunion Nuns’ Beach and Drama in St. John’s

Spring is Late in 2015

Timothy John MacSweeney took this photo of mother and baby last week.


Listowel’s Underworld!

While searching on for something entirely different I came across this great story from Vincent Carmody

“An older friend once told me of a true incident which he witnessed along with 5 other locals, while drinking after hours in a candlelit bar belonging to Griffins (afterwards Toddy O’Connor’s and now Hy Brazil boutique in Church St. ) The weather had been bad and the night wet and windy. The local men were discussing the topics of the day, when there was an almighty noise and an ashen faced Mr. Griffin started shouting, “It’s an earthquake”. Pandemonium set in. Three hit for the front door and the others jumped the counter to rescue the boss. What they saw on the floor was a hole which my friend said you could fit a donkeyload of turf into. Into this and down into a torrential stream had fallen two firkins of stout which had been stored under the counter. Mr. Griffin, who was in a state of shock, saw two months profit vanishing in front of him. He made several efforts to go down after the barrells, (At this time they would probably be sailing under The Freezers) only to be restrained by those present. An enquiry found that the roof of the Church St. drain had caved in. It was said afterwards that a sober rat was not to be found near Tae lane.”

(Note: The premises in question is now closed and Freezers is now Lynch’s Coffee Shop)


Ballybunion Nuns’ Beach

( Photos: Mike Enright)


The Cancer Bus

“This problem may not be yours today but it could be someday.” If you live in Kerry and you are diagnosed with cancer and require treatment, more than likely you will have to travel to Cork at least once a week for your treatment. This is where this marvelous service comes in. The bus travels all over Kerry collecting people and taking them to Cork hospitals for chemo, radium or other cancer treatments.

The service is completely free, no need for a medical card.

Cork Kerry Health Link Bus


The best part of this service is that people who are traveling with you are all in the same boat. It is like a traveling support group. People help and support one another. They chat and gossip and I am told that at times they even have a sing song. For many it is an invaluable part of their cancer journey.

The Irish Examiner had a great article on this service on Saturday April 4 2015.

Take a Lesson in Life on the Kerry Cancer Bus


A Very Successful North Kerry man

(photo and story from The Galway Advertiser)

Galway Advertiser

Driving home to County Kerry, to help his father with some
cattle farming, was not the time Gerard Barrett expected to receive a call from
Hollywood A-lister Charlize Theron, asking him to script and direct a film she
is producing.

Glasslandtells the story of John (Jack Raynor
), a young man from a rough and terribly disadvantaged working class estate in
Dublin. A former drug dealer and criminal, he has turned his back on crime and
is now trying to earn an honest living as a taximan. Yet, freed from one
struggle he now faces another – his mother’s alcoholism has got out of control,
and he has to resort to desperate measures to both get her to quit and get her
treatment. The inspiration for the film came from Gerard’s experience of moving
to Dublin.

“When I moved from Kerry to Dublin, I saw the impact of
addiction on families, on friends I had made, and on children,” he says. “Rural
Ireland has addiction problems too, but not to the same extent. In cities it is
much more concentrated so it is more visible. I wanted to look at that, but not
in the usual way. Stories of addiction tend to look at it from the addict’s
point of view. I wanted to do something different, to look at it from the
children’s point of view, how they can be victims of those suffering addiction,
and the impact that has on them.”

Low key and restrained, yet powerful, and at times harrowing, Glassland
is a superb drama, where the essential humanity and decency of John aids his
struggle against all that life throws at him, imbuing the story with hope, and
never lapsing into sentimentality.

“There is always one person in a family who holds it together, a
child who can take on the parent’s role if they need to, and that is John in
this film,” Gerard says. “I think that is quite uplifting. Every uplifting,
positive story, has very dark elements to it, but to get light you have to put
up with the nighttime. John is the firefighter in the family, he keeps the
fires down. People like that never get thanks, but they are important. It was
an interesting subject I wanted to explore, that role reversal, where kids have
to look after the parents, who may often not be much older than them.”

Gerard is already at work on his next project, an
adaptation of Susannah Cahalan’s memoir Brain On Fire: My Month Of Madness,
which he will write and direct. The film will star Dakota Fanning, while
actress/model/producer Charlize Theron will co-produce. “It’s very
exciting,” says Gerard, of what is sure to be his initial move into the big
leagues. “It is about a girl with a mystery illness. It’s a very scary place,
having something that no one can understand. That can be lonely and isolating.
I was attracted to it for that as it is a theme I explored on Pilgrim Hill.”

So how did South African superstar Theron come to involve
Gerard in the project? “She rang me,” he replies matter of factly. “I was
on the road to Kerry to my father, I was going to help him with dosing cattle,
and I was looking forward to it. The phone rang and it was Charlize Theron on
the other end. A while later I was in a cow shed dosing cattle, back in
reality. That’s the thing about my career, you can get swept away, but I don’t
step too far from reality. It’s nice to keep your feet on the ground.”

Glassland will screen at The Eye from next week. For more
information and booking see
www.eyecinema.ieor call 091
– 780078.
Brain On Fire is due for cinema release in 2016.


Pull the Other One

We have had a feast of drama in Listowel lately, with Memory of Water, a rather gloomy play with sad undertones, Blythe Spirit, a spirited romp presented to us with really high production values and finally this week’s offering, Pull The Other One. Like its title the play itself was full of double entendres. We got a great laugh from all the misunderstandings, local references, particularly to the real lives of the actors involved and some blatant advertising. All great fun. I remember many moons ago Olivia Treacy came to St. Johns in a play which involved nudity and there were protests. We have grown more sophisticated since then. Danny Russell’s “nude” posing did not even raise an eyebrow.

Some of the proceeds of the play are going to Listowel Laundry for the Elderly and some committee members were helping out with front of house on the night.

Spring 2014 and Arsenic and Old Lace in St. Johns

Spring has sprung

My lovely granddaughter picking daisies on the way from school recently.

Her sisters with “the scholars coming home”

Maybe Spring has not come quite yet to every part of the country

(photo; Farmers Journal)


Denis Hayes, Roches Street Limerick……..Chickens, I think.


Arsenic and Old Lace

I have it on good authority that this is the best set that Listowel Drama Group have ever constructed. The costumes look super too in Brendan Landy’s photo of a dress rehearsal.

Demand is heavy for tickets so get on to St. John’s at 068 22566 to book yours.

 The show runs until March 30


Have you brought any fish with you?

This is the photo on Breaking News’ website of Pat O’Connell and the queen of England. Pat and Her Majesty hit it  off when they met in Cork’s English Market and he donned the suit and tie to greet her again in her home. Pat is a practiced flirt with his chat up lines perfected on his fish stall in Cork where he is a hit with all the ladies. Queen Elizabeth greeted him with a warm smile and a quip about his fish business.

You can just see Niall Horan of One Direction in the background. He was another of the Irish movers and shakers invited to this exclusive bash.


Don’t forget Mammy on Sunday, Mothering Day March 30 2014. Lovely handmade cards and gifts available in Craftshop na Méar 53 Church St., Listowel.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén