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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

Tag: St. Brigid

St. Brigid, Famine and War

William Street in February 2024

A New Business

In Mill Lane where Nan o Seconds used to be

St Bridget’s Cross

This is another variation on the traditional cross made by Nellie Fortune

Education in the Workhouse

Kay Caball shared some research she did on education, or lack of it, in Listowel workhouse.

EDUCATION IN LISTOWEL WORKHOUSE DURING 

THE GREAT FAMINE 1847-1852

‘It is impossible for one person to pay proper attention to 466 children (all boys) in one class’

On the evidence available from the Listowel Board of Guardian Minute books 1848 – 1852, very little schooling took place; education was not a priority in the workhouse structure.  While the Guardians endeavoured to provide education, the chaotic conditions of admissions, discharges, and daily deaths took precedence.

Primary education came to Ireland in 1831. In the case of north Kerry most of the new national schools were not built or did not open until 1843.  Listowel Workhouse got its first admissions in 1845.  The Commissioners of National Education in Ireland [CNEI] took over responsibility for running the workhouse schools in the town in 1846-1847. The CNEI’s main contribution to the workhouse schools was to supply books and other school requisites.  The schoolmaster and the schoolmistress were among the designated staff to be appointed by and paid by the Board of Guardians.  There were to be separate male and female schools. On their inspection visits the Inspectors were to note the progress the children were making in reading, writing and arithmetic.  The Inspectors were also to check whether the girls were taught knitting or sewing and whether ‘cleanliness seems to be required and order observed’.  The Inspectors were not concerned with reporting on the effects of the Great Famine. In Listowel workhouse alone, 1869 children under the age of 15 had died between November 1848 and June 1852. 

While the Irish language was in decline by 1845, Irish as the everyday language of the poor and rural, was still spoken in north Kerry.   Most of the children in the workhouse would have been illiterate; a few may have previously attended hedge schools. The books supplied to the National Schools by the Commissioners were in English only.  James Kavanagh, the Inspector assigned to National Schools in Munster, in his Report in 1850 stated ‘in most of the rural schools in the South and West of Ireland, the teachers are obliged to translate the English names into Irish, in order to convey any instruction to the children. They think in Irish and pray in Irish’. While Kavanagh was referring to the local National schools, this language situation would have been even more problematic in the workhouses.

The weekly Minute Book returns on the State of the Workhouse, lists precisely what was regarded as ‘schoolchildren’.  Initially this meant ‘Boys and Girls above 9 and under 15 years of age’. By 1852 it was Boys and Girls between 9 and 18 years of age. There were new children admitted each week also children discharged or died. 

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Chris Nolan R.I.P.

Remember our friend, Tony Cairns from New Zealand who was looking for a collector of Bob Boland’s verses? Mystery solved. The lady in question was the late Chris Nolan of Lisselton.

Here is a sample of Bob’s poetry. In this poem he is pleading with the Dept. to give him a voucher for fuel so that he could carry out his work as an agricultural contractor and work for the local farmers in the vital task f saving the harvest. fuel was rationed during World War 2.

A St. Brigid Fact

I know this one is true because I heard it on Radio Kerry from Tom Dillon, historian and folklorist.

On January 31st. St. Brigid and her cow travel the length and breadth of Ireland blessing man and beast, field and town as she goes.

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Lá Fhéile Bríde

This brídóg, a simple rush effigy of St. Brigid, was made by Nellie Fortune in Wexford. The making of crosses and brídógs is a tradition now making a comeback since we have given Bridget a new status as our patron saint.

St. Brigid window in St. Brigid’s Parish Church in Kildare Town.

According to tradition Saint Brigid was born in Faughart, Co Louth, where there is a shrine and another holy well dedicated to her. The Saint found a convent in Kildare in 470 that has now grown into a cathedral city. There are the remains of a small oratory known as Saint Brigid’s fire temple, where a small eternal flame was kept alight for centuries in remembrance of her. She is one of Ireland’s patron Saints and known as Mother of the Gael. She is said to be buried along with St Colm Cille and St Patrick in Downpatrick. Throughout Ireland there are many wells dedicated to St Brigid. A visit is strongly recommended, a very peaceful and sacred place long before Christianity came to Ireland.

From stairnaheireann.net

Ballygologue Children

This lovely one from 1985 popped up on Facebook

Signs of Spring

The first of the babies on Pat Breen’s farm in Kilbrin. Her cute pink jacket keeps her warm and helps a breast cancer charity at the same time.

St. Bridget was traditionally seen as a protector of cows and dairy animals. St Brigid’s crosses were often placed over the byre door or among the rafters in the cowshed in the belief that Bridget would protect the animals as she passed over at Imbolg.

A Really Old Poem

Stephen Rynne sent us this one.

Hi Mary, I think you like the odd poem. Here’s one for you – written in 1861 by Samuel Feguson called ‘The Cromlech on Howth’. It’s known because of the book it was published in was adorned in celtic art by a lady called Margaret Stokes (who was only allowed put a monogram as her credit and not her name) and is one of the most important works of celtic art of the late 1800s. Anyways , here’s the poem. 

The Cromlech on Howth by Samuel Ferguson 

They heaved the stone; they heaped the cairn;

Said Ossian, In a queenly grave

We leave her’,mong her fields of fern,

Between the cliff and wave.

The cliff behind stands clear and bare, 

And bare above, the heathery sheep,

Scales the blue heaven’s expanse to where

The Danaan druids sleep. 

And all the sands that, left and right,

The grassy isthmus ridge confine,

In yellow bars lie bare and bright

Among the sparkling brine. 

A clear pure air pervades the scene,

In loneliness and awe secure;

Meet spot to sepulchre a queen

Who in her life was pure.

Here far from camp and chase removed,

Apart in natures quiet room,

The music that alive she loved

Shall cheer her in the tomb.

The humming of the noontide bees,

The lark’s loud carol all day long,

And borne on evenings salted breeze,

The clanking seabirds song. 

Shall round her airy chamber float,

And with the whispering winds and streams,

Attune to nature’s tenderest note

The tenor of her dreams. 

And oft at tranquil eve’s decline

When full tides lip the Old Green Plain,

The lowing of Maynalty’s kine,

Shall round her breath again,

In sweet remembrance of the days

When, duteous in the lowly vale

Unconscious of my Oscar’s gaze, 

She filled the fragrant pail.

And duteons from the running brook

Drew water for the bath, nor deemed

A king did on her labour look,

And she a fairy seemed.

But when the wintery frosts begin,

And, in their longdrawn lofty flight, 

The wild geese with their airy din

Distend the ear of night;

And when the weird De Danaan ghosts

At midnight from their peak come down,

And all around the enchanted coasts

Desparing strangers drown;      

When mingling with the wreckful wail

From low Clontarf’s wave-trampled floor,

Comes booming up the burthened gale,

The angry sandbull’s roar;

Orangrier than the sea, the shout

Of Erin’s hosts in wrath combined,

When terror heads opression’s rout

And freedom cheers behind :

Then, o’er our lady’s placid dream

When safe from storms she sleeps, may steal

Such joy as will not misbeseem

A Queen of men to feel : 

Such thrill of free, defiant pride

As rapt her in her battle car

At Gavra’, when, by Oscar’s side,

She rode the ridge of war,

Exulting, down the shouting troops

And through the thick confronting kings,

With hands on all their javelin loops

And shafts on all their strings;

Eire closed the inseparable crowds,

No more to part for me, and show 

As bursts the sun through hurrying clouds

My Oscar issuing so. 

No more dispelling battles gloom

Shall son for me from flight return;

The great green rath’s ten-acred tomb,

Lies heavy on his urn,

A cup of bodkin-pencilled clay,

Holds Oscar; mighty heart and limb

One handful now of ashes grey;

And she has died for him.

And here hard by her natal bower

On lone Ben Eidars side we strive

With lifted rock and sign of power, 

To keep her name alive. 

That while from circling year to year

The Ogham-lettered stone is seen,

The Gael shall say Our Fenians here

Entombed their loved Aideen. 

Her Ogham from her pillar-stone

In tract of time shall wear away;

Her name, at last, be only known

In Ossian’s echoed lay.

The long-forgotten lay I sing

May only ages hence revive,

As eagles with a wounded wing

To soar again might strive,

Imperfect, in an alien speech,

When, wandering here, some child of chance

Through pangs of keen delight shall reach

The gift of utterance,

To speak the air, the sky to speak,

The freshness of the hill to tell;

Who roaming bare Ben Eidar’s peak

And Aideen’s briary dell,

And gazing on the Cromlech vast, 

And on the mountain sea,

Shall watch communion with the past,

And mix himself with me. 

Child of the future’s doubtful night,

Whate’er your speech, whole’er your sires,

Sing while you may with frank delight

The song your hour inspires. 

Sing while you may, nor grieve to know

The song you sing shall also die;

Atharna’s lay has perished so,

Though once it thrilled the sky

Above us, from his rocky chair,

There, where, Ben Eidar’s landward crest

Oer Eastern Bregia bends, to where

Dun Almon crowns the west;

And all that felt the fretted air

Throughout the song-distempered clime,

Did droop, till suppliant Leinster’s prayer

Appeased the vengeful rhyme.

Ah me, or e’er the hour arrive

Shall big my long-forgotten tones

Unknown one, on your lips revive

Here, by these moss-grown stones,

What chance shall o’er the scene have crossed,

What conquering Lords anew have come,

What lore-armed mightier Druid host

From Gaul or distant Rome.

What arts of death, what ways of life

What creeds unknown to bard or seer

Shall round your careless steps be rife

Who stand and ponder here;

Or, by you prostrate altar stone

Belike, shall kneel, and, free from blame,

Hear holy men with rites unknown

New names of God proclaim.

Let change as may the name of awe,

Let rite surcease and altar fall,

The same one God remains, a law

For ever, and for all.

Let change as may the face of earth,

Let alter all the social frame,

For mortal men the ways of birth

And death are still the same. 

And still, as life and time wear on,

The children of waning days,

Through strength be from their shoulders gone

To lift the loads we raise,

Shall weep to do the burial rites

Of lost ones loved , and fondly, found

In shadow of the gathering nights, 

The monumental mound.

Farewell; the strength of men is worn,

The night approaches dark and chill,

Sleep, till perchance an endless morn

Descend the glittering hill.

Of Oscar and Aideen bereft,

So Ossian sang. The Fenians sped

Three mighty shouts to heaven: and left

Ben Edar to the dead.

A Fact

Phasmophobia is the fear of ghosts.

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Mosaics and Painting

Convent Road, Listowel, Feb. 2023

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D Day in 1971

On this very day, February 15, in 1971 we officially changed from £sd to decimal currency. We had spend 2 years preparing for the changeover. We thought we’d never get used to it but we soon realised that life had got way easier and lighter.

To remind you of the good old days

There were 2 halfpennies in a penny, which we denoted with a d. There used to be farthings but we won’t go there)

There were 12 pence in a shilling which we sometimes balled a bob.

There was a threepence and sixpence which did what it said on the tin.

We had a 2 shilling piece and and a 2shillings and sixpence piece. We called this a half crown because there used to be a crown.

We won’t bother with the paper money but there was a guinea favoured by buyers and sellers of horses (No, I have no idea.) This was one pound and one shilling.

See what I mean when I said it got easier?

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Mosaics in St. Mary’s

On Feb. 1, St. Brigid’s Day, I brought you pictures of a few windows featuring our second patron saint. At mass that morning Canon Declan pointed out a mosaic of St. Bridget in our own parish church. My friend, Helen, our sacristan, pointed out the exact location of the mosaic to me. It is one of several saints perched very high up at either side of the main altar.

St. Brigid, ora pro nobis

She is dressed as a nun. We know she founded many convents and monasteries. She was an equal opportunities saint and welcomed both men and women into her orders. In her left hand she has an oak branch. St. Brigid founded her famous double monastery under an oak tree in Kildare town in the 5th Century. Hence the name Cill Dara, Church of the Oak. She has a bishop’s crosier under her right arm. Legend has it that she was the first female bishop. I dont know what she has in her right hand. It looks to me like some sort of lamp, a bit like the one Aladdin rubbed. It may be something to do with the fire that is associated with her. If you know what it is please tell me.

This is St. Ita

St. Patrick

The fourth mosaic saint is St. Brendan but the spotlight on him was too strong to photograph on the day I visited the church. Interestingly, St. Patrick’s crosier seems to be topped with a celtic cross in place of the traditional shepherd’s crook.

St. Patrick is also celebrated in St. Mary’s on one of the wall plaques.

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A Facelift on Church Street

This premises is being painted a nice cheery colour.

It has some lovely celtic strap work being painted in a contrasting shade of green.

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Memories, Memories

For many years my summer morning routine involved a walk with my husband, Jim. Here he is bowling along beside the then Super Valu in Mill Lane.

Jim loved to stop and chat. Here he is with the late Dan Browne. May they both rest in peace.

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St. Brigid, Muire na nGael

Today is February 1st. feast of our second patron saint. According to one tradition Saint Brigid was born in Faughart, Co Louth, where there is a shrine and another holy well dedicated to her. The Saint founded a convent in Kildare in 470 that has now grown into a cathedral city. There are the remains of a small oratory known as Saint Brigid’s fire temple, where a small eternal flame was kept alight for centuries in remembrance of her.

This is St. Brigid’s in Kildare

This window is in the Catholic church of St. Brigid in Kildare Town.

This is the St. Brigid stained glass window in St. John’s church, Ballybunion

She is usually depicted either with her famous cross or a church which she built.

The Kildare crowd in their church plaque don’t bother with the Co. Louth part of the legend. There she is all Kildare.

St Brigid’s Cloak

Once when on a visit to my Kildare family I came upon this display in the Whitewater Shopping Centre in Newbridge.

This is St. Bridget with her marvellous cloak. The project was the work of a local knitting group.

The story of the cloak is this. St. Bridget wanted to build a monastery so she approached the king of Leinster to give her a site. He laughed her off. Undaunted, she returned to him and asked only for “as much land as my cloak will cover” His majesty took one look at her small cloak and agreed to her request.

Then began her first miracle. She asked her followers to take her cloak and to walk North, South, East and West with it. The cloak grew and grew until it covered more than enough land to built her monastery. The king picked his jaw up from the floor, decided that this lady was blessed by God and there and then became her biggest fan and ardent supporter.

To celebrate this miracle one tradition is to leave a handkerchief (if anyone has one of these anymore) or piece of linen out overnight. St. Brigid will bless it and it will have curative powers from then on.

St. Brigid’s Cross

Probably the most popular tradition associated with St. Bridget is the custom of making crosses from rushes and hanging them in houses to ward off dangers particularly the danger of fire.

St Bridget had n0 cross with her when she was in the bothán of a dying man whom she wished to convert to Christianity. She picked up the nearest thing, rushes on the floor, and fashioned a crude cross from these. Irish schoolchildren have been making flitters of their fingers emulating her feat ever since.

Valerie O’Sullivan took these photos of the mid Kerry crowd out on The Biddy last year. The tradition involves taking an effigy of St. Bridget (a Brídeóg) from house to house and having a bit of a hooley along the way. This tradition is related to mumming and the colourful hats are part of it all.

Some people make a St. Brigid shrine. This was Helen Dunlea’s last year.

This is the St. Brigid icon by Sr. Aloysius McVeigh.

An icon is different to a picture in that it’s purpose it to tell the whole story. If a picture paints a thousand words, an icon paints several thousands.

Some of the symbols are;

Sword under her foot…her love of peace

Animals…she was fond of sheep and cows and depended on these for food and nourishment

Monastery

Her fellow sisters

Bishop’s Crosier…many traditions have it that Bridget was ordained a bishop

St. Brigid’s Cross

St Brigid’s Fire…Her fire was kept alight for decades, used for heating and cooking etc.

So now you know something about the saint responsible for our new national holiday.

I’m told that the name Bridget and derivatives has fallen out of fashion but her cult is now having a moment as we celebrate on our new national holiday.

Look at this beautiful piece of St. Brigid jewellery from Listowel goldsmith, Eileen Moylan. If you have a Bridget in your life, here is her birthday present sorted.

Claddagh Design website

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Lá Fhéile Bride, some photos and memories of Listowel in the fifties

Lá ‘le Bríde





Tomorrow is February 1 2017, Lá Fhéile Bríde. The photo from the internet is of Bridgitswell in Kildare. She is our patron saint, of equal status with St. Patrick. Today we celebrate her and by tradition, we hang her cross to ward off evil.

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Beale on the Wild Atlantic Way

Ita Hannon loves her native Béal and you can see why. This is just one of the many beautiful scenes she has captured and shared with us.

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Trip to Trinity

Presentation Secondary School students paid a recent visit to Trinity College Dublin.  

(photo; Twitter)

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Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue

Isn’t this a super photo? It was taken on Christmas Day in Ballybunion and posted on the internet.

 I apologise for not noting the photographer’s name.

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Broderick’s Bar, Tae Lane, Listowel


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Summers in the 1950s Remembered by Maria Sham

During the summer school holidays we would take jam pots and go to Teampaillín Bán. I think the name means in English the little white graveyard. People were buried in a mass grave there during the Famine, only we did not know that then. Years later my brother Neilie got a group together and had a monument erected there to all the people of the famine who are buried there. The walk was on the Ballybunion road and I can still smell the tar on the road melting with the heat. In Teampaillín Bán there was a stream and we would paddle and catch kissans [little fish] and bring them home in our jam jars; the poor things did not survive long; we killed them with kindness over feeding them.

Also trips to Ballybunion, that was fantastic, Mam and Aunty Angie would bring tomato sandwiches, a large apple pie in a roasting tin and ‘ currant loaf, we would get a tray of tea at Collins’, (which was a house just off the beach) a large pot, milk, sugar and cups, all for I think 2 shillings. First we ran into the sea only in our knickers as we did not have swimsuits. After we would have our tea and it was fantastic. Even if the tomato sandwiches were full of sand nobody cared. Before leaving Ballybunion we would get our sand buckets and when the tide was gone out we marched off to the rocks and filled our buckets with periwinkles that we would boil when we got home. I remembered going to Ballybunion once with my aunt Eily in the donkey and cart, there was not that many motor cars or buses on the roads then.

At the back of our house there were a lot of elder bushes and we would hold concerts there. Admittance was a piece of broken china or a bottle top. We would dress up and pretend all kinds of things. We would put the elder flowers in our hair and pretend to be princesses. We would make mud cakes in empty polish tins and decorate them with daisies. We would have pretend shops.

As we got older it was not all play, Doreen and myself had to do jobs in the house i.e. wash up and clean the windows. There were brass rods on the stairs we had to clean with Brasso. Another job for us girls was to clean all the shoes for everyone on Saturday for Sunday mass.

My education finished at the convent at the early age of 15 followed by 2 years at the local technical college.

I left for England in March 1959 on the first step to my future.

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A Few Names



Marie Shaw thinks she recognises a few faces in Maria Sham’s photo.

This was a younger class for me but I THINK I recognize a few girls.

Third from left, back row is definitely Joan Relihan (Brennan)

Fourth from right, back row looks like Anne Wixtead.

Margaret Dillon, front row in plaid.?

Cathy Mae Leahy or maybe her sister Eleanor, front row, first on right and Maeve Mooney, second from right, front row.

God, that’s a long time ago.

Keep the memories coming Mary!

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