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: St. Bridget

St. Bridget, John B. and The Prophet and Wine from the bog

St. Bridget’s Day, February 1st.

The story is told that, one night, Brigid went to sit with a dying man. He was a chieftain, and members of his household hoped Brigid would speak to him of Christ, and perhaps convert him before he died. However the man was very ill and couldn’t listen to such talk. So Brigid prayed for him instead. As she sat by his bedside, she picked up some of the rushes scattered on the floor. (This was typical of the time, rushes were warm and kept the floor clean). She began to weave rushes into a Cross, and as she did the Chieftain asked her about it. She wove and spoke of Jesus and prayed for the Chieftain. He came to know Christ that night, was baptised and died in peace.  

St Brigid’s Crosses are traditionally made by Irish people around her feast day. Many homes place them over a door lintel or in the thatch of a house.


Greyhound success

Batt and Gertie O’Keeffe accepting a trophy.


The Best Storyteller of Them all

I don’t know if the characters in this story by John B. Keane are real or imaginary. If they were real, Listowel certainly bred some great characters back in the day.

The Prophet by
John B. Keane

Few characters
have appealed so much to my readers as the Prophet Callaghan. He is dead now
with over a score of years but he is fondly remembered by those fortunate
enough to have known him. It’s not because he was such a prodigious drinker of
whiskey and porter that he is remembered; rather it is because he was a dab
hand at quoting from the scriptures and other apocryphal sources.

In fact this is
why they named him The Prophet. His uncanny ability for coming up with apt quotes
at just the right moment first came to light during the war years after he had
cleaned out a pitch and toss school in Listowel’s famous market sheds one rainy
Sunday afternoon. With his winnings of several pounds, a small fortune in those
days, he repaired with his friend, Canavan, to Mickey Dowling’s public house in
Market Street but was refused admission as it was after hours.

It was the same
story in every pub from Pound Lane to the Customs’ Gap. The forces of law and
order, to wit the Garda Síochána were unusually active. The guards would
explain later in their homely way that there had been letters to the barracks
that certain law breaking publicans had been mentioned in dispatches.

As Callaghan went
homeward that night with his friend Canavan, he remarked as he jingled the
silver coins in his pockets “What profiteth it a man if he gain the whole world
and he can’t get a drink after hours?”

Another Sunday
night the guards raided a pub in Upper Church Street. This pub was always
regarded as relatively safe as it was so near the guards barracks. Anyway
Canavan and Callaghan were ‘found on’. When asked by the guard to account for
his presence on a licensed premises after hours, Callaghan replied that he was
only following the precepts of Saint Matthew.

“I don’t follow,’
said the sergeant.

“Ask and it shall
be given,” Callaghan quoted, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be
opened, and lo and behold,” Canavan continued, “I knocked and it was opened and
that is the reason I am here.”

(more tomorrow)


New Follower

I received a lovely email from a new follower in Canada.

Dear Mary,

I have recently signed up to receive your e-mails and I am glad I did. My father was from Listowel (migrating to Wales with his family in 1921 at 8 years old) and sadly I have only visited once – 20 years ago. So, I am catching up on what I should know by reading your blog.

I felt compelled to write after reading the gift from America story.  That brought back memories.  My Aunt became a nun at 17 after being a novice for a few years (I don’t know if this is true but we we told that the nuns came around the doors in the late 19th early 20th centuries asking to take girls off the hands of poor families to give them a better life??).  She then went to Texas.  Every Christmas she would send a box filled with towels and matching face cloths edged with crochet (to make the fabric stronger and therefore last longer), talcum powder and soaps.  These were probably items she saved during the year. We loved receiving and opening the boxes.  However, my mother was mortified each year when the postman deliver the parcel to our door in Wales as the customs’ note in bold lettering was always the same: Old clothes for the poor! 

Keep up the good work,

Barbara Ann Watts

Calgary Alberta Canada

PS The crocheting worked as 50 years later they are still going strong

PPS As you were posting pictures of snowy winters around the world we were experiencing –35C  weather! 


Peat Wine!

Dara O’Briain spotted this on the shelf at Knock airport and posted the photo on Twitter.

Looks a bit steep at €40.. certainly not dirt cheap


A Walk by the Feale with camera

Deirdre Lyons took these photos on the river walk as the flood subsided in late January 2018.


More Famous Needlework

Source: Mark Stedman via

Women have the vote for 100 years now. To celebrate this Vótáil 100 is having various celebrations and sharing of artefacts.

The above buttons were part of a set of 8 which were embroidered by Countess Markievicx while she was a prisoner in Holloway.

This photograph of former Irish female politicians (with some re-enactors) was carried in various media. I saw it in The Journal.


Lord Listowel loses out on The Golden Thimble

Yesterday I posted this newspaper clipping.

Dave O’Sullivan did a bit of research. He found out that the competition which Lord Listowel entered was held in 1925.

I felt saddened to read that it was an initiative to help the “disabled soldiers embroidery industry.

Does it Matter?  by Siegfried Sassoon

Does it matter?—losing your legs?…

For people will always be kind,

And you need not show that you mind

When the others come in after hunting

To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter?—losing your sight?

There’s such splendid work for the blind;

And people will always be kind,

As you sit on the terrace remembering

And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?

You can drink and forget and be glad,

And people won’t say that you’re mad;

For they’ll know you’ve fought for your country

And no one will worry a bit.

Lá ‘le Bríde and some old holy pictures

Feb 1,  Feastday of St. Bridget, Muire na nGael, First of Spring

Today is the first day of spring. All over Ireland people are visiting St. Bridget’s holy wells, doing the rounds reciting rosaries  and leaving behind a rag, a coin or even a feather as a reminder to Bríd to remember the visitor.

 Bridget was a pagan, the daughter of a slave, became a nun and, because of her holiness and the miraculous powers she had she  became abbess of Kildare. Her Christian story is full of miracles and wonders. She lived on the milk of a pure white cow. She had the ability to cure infertility in women and animals. She also had the gift of healing and some said she could control the weather.

In the early days of RTE the St. Bridget’s Cross was the symbol of the station and we saw it on our screens often. I don’t know when it was dropped or why.


Tomorrow February 2 is Candlemas Day or Groundhog Day. Since it is the first day of Spring it is traditionally seen as a portent of what is to come in the way of weather for the year.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright

Winter will have another fight;

But if Candlemas Day brings clouds and rain

Winter is gone and won’t come again

There is an old German tradition that the hedgehog emerges from his lair at noon on Candlemas Day to see if he can see his shadow. If there is no shadow he stays out but if the sun is shining, he returns to his den for another 6 weeks until the spell of cold wintry weather has passed.

The people of Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania attribute these meteorological forecasting skills to the groundhog and Groundhog Day is celebrated with a big festival. 

For a change, we will be hoping not to see the sun tomorrow.


Do you remember these?

I found all of the following being used by me as bookmarks. I’m having a bit of a clear out as is customary this time of year. We used to call it Spring cleaning.

These holy pictures were often bought from a mission stall. Murray’s of Listowel used to go to whatever town was having a mission, set up some stalls and do a roaring trade in rosary beads, scapulars and other religious objects like these cheap little pictures.

This parking disc is from Ennis, but we had them in Listowel too.


This was Lick Castle in Ballybunion. The last remaining arch came down in a storm in November 2012


A few photos I took on the Tralee Rd.


The Tidy Towns folk are here


Jer found this Civil Defence instructional film from 1951

St. Brigid’s Day

Today is Feb 1 Feast of St Brigid, Muire na nGael. After St. Patrick, Brigid is the most significant Irish saint. In parts of the country her feast was celebrated, much as the feast of St. Stephen, with groups of Biddy Boys going from pub to pub singing for their supper.

St Bridget (there are several different spellings of the name) was born near Dundalk to a wealthy family. She was always religious. The following is from the encyclopaedia of Catholic  saints.

“About the year 468, she followed Mel to
Meath. About the year 470 she founded a double monastery at Cill-Dara (Kildare)
and was Abbess
of the convent, the first in Ireland. The foundation
developed into a center of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the
city of Kildare. She founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated
became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was
praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts
before its disappearance three centuries ago. Brigid was one of the most
remarkable women of her times, and despite the numerous legendary, extravagant,
and even fantastic miracles attributed to her, there is no doubt
that her extraordinary spirituality, boundless charity, and compassion for
those in distress were real. She died at Kildare on February 1. The Mary of the Gael, she is
buried at Downpatrick with St. Columba
and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Her name is sometimes
Bridget and Bride. Her feast day
is February 1.”

In a horribly ironic act, the tabernacle from the church of St. Bridget in Killester was stolen yesterday.


We’ll take an ad. break now. I have 2 bills to post!

Back to business

 I have unearthed another old tennis photo. This one has the girls.

The year is 1987

These are the names as I have them on the back of the photo

Sorry about the poor quality of the photo. My skills as a photographer have come on a bit since 1987.

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