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. Mary’s Listowel Page 1 of 4

Looking Back and Forward

Childers Park 2022

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A Different Kind of Covid Poem

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In Listowel we Remembered

November is the time set aside for remembering our war dead. In Listowel we have a dedicated band of volunteers who make sure we never forget.

Flags at the altar rails in St. Mary’s Listowel on Saturday November 12 2022

Prayers of the Faithful were read by retired and serving members of the Irish Army reserve.

These last 2 screen grabs are of refugees from the war in Ukraine who prayed with us in English and Ukrainian.

The mass was celebrated by Canon Declan O’Connor, himself a former soldier of the FCA, and by Fr. Martin Hegarty.

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Christmas as it Used to be

In this great little book, Stephen Newman has curated a collection of Christmas reminiscences from the National Archives.

I’d love if Listowel people would send us some of their own stories of Christmases past.

I remember a kind of novena we had. It was called “A crib for Baby Jesus” and there was a set number of prayers for each element of the crib and these had to be said every day during Advent.

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Shall we Dance

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John Molyneaux R.I.P.

Resurrection altar in St. Mary’s

This annual display on the side altar, as well as all the symbols of Easter includes animals. flowers, water and light.

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Commemorative Manhole Covers

These permanent memorials of 1916 are literally under our feet in town. I photographed this one on Church Street. Try to notice them next time you are out and about.

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Memories of an Influential Teacher

“And still they gazed and still the wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew.”

Oliver Goldsmith’s The Village Schoolmaster

The late John Molyneaux had a wealth of knowledge and he imparted it to cohorts of pupils in St. Michael’s. He had a prodigious knowledge of football, running and later golfing strategy.

One of his past pupils, David Kissane, published an obituary to his former teacher on line. I am including it here. As it is very long, I will give it to you in instalments.

Semper Invictus

 A tribute to Mr John Molyneaux, St Michael’s College, Listowel

                                                By David Kissane, Class of ’72

It is fifty years ago since a group of about thirty young fellas headed out the gates of St Michael’s College, Listowel and into the wide, wild and wonderful world of the 1970s. As a member of the class of ’72, there is a compulsion to remember the year and its hinterland. Its place in our layered lives. What contributed to what we are cannot go uncelebrated. It just keeps on keeping on.

But how can one capture the colours and contours, the shapes and shadows of half a century ago when the world had a very different texture to what we perceive now in the bóithríns of age? The ships we sailed out in may be wrecked or dismembered. The ports we set sail from are hidden in the mists of time and memory, and our fellow sailors are scattered.

So where does one begin? 

The writer Colm Tóibín once asked the artist Barrie Cooke how he began his paintings. Cooke answered “I make a random mark on the canvas and see what happens”.

Just as I follow Cooke’s suggestion and type a random “J” on the screen, the phone rings. It is Jim Finnerty from Glouria. I look at my J and wonder if Cooke was right! “There’s a man you knew well after passing away in Listowel” Jim announced. Listowel, I thought out loud as Jim let the news simmer in the wok of my memories. A number of names came to mind before Jim said “John Molyneaux”.

And then my canvas began to fill in. I write the name of Mr John Molyneaux, my Latin and English teacher, my athletics and football coach, and the dam opens. For the five years I spent in St Michael’s College, Listowel, he was an enduring presence, a multi-dimensional man who had a huge influence in our lives for those budding years. An icon.

Of course the first question that challenged my memory was “when did I last see John Molyneaux?”

About three years ago I parked my van down by the Feale off the Square in Listowel. Near Carroll’s Yard. Near the entrance bridge to Listowel Racecourse where you’d hear “Throw me down something!” on race days in sepia Septembers. As I returned to the van with a brand new chimney cowl, I saw him coming along the bank of the river. Lively as always, thoughtful, loaded with intention, energised quietly by the magic of the Feale walk, eyes down. I knew immediately if was him although I hadn’t met him in thirty years or more. 

I almost said “Sir”. There is something un-shielding about meeting our old teachers. For us teachers, there is often a similar feeling when we meet former students.

“Hallo”, I said. He looked up and at me and it was that same look that I had forgotten with the passing of the years. Stored in the subconscious though. A moment of silence. I heard myself say my name. “I know” he said and a pathway opened up between the two of us and five minutes of reacquaintance. The older face transformed itself back through the years and the voice reframed its undeniable Mr Molyneaux-ness. 

“We might have a chat about athletics sometime?” I broached timidly and he nodded. I was talking to the man who helped discover Jerry Kiernan and a host of other athletes. We parted and my day was enriched and changed.

Time and Covid played their cruel games and the chat never took place.

I will regret that for as long as memory is my colleague. 

A group of raw first year students entered St Michael’s College in September 1967 having done an entrance exam the previous May. From the hinterland of Listowel and the town itself. There were only two from Lisselton NS some eight miles away off the Ballybunion-Listowel road. Francis Kennelly and myself, coincidentally from the same townland of Lacca. And distantly related as well. 

The novices of 1967 were the first beneficiaries of Donagh O’Malley’s free education bill with free transport and no fees. Up to then second-level education was the premise of the wealthy. Now we were part of a historical educational development which would change the face of Ireland forever. Educate that you may be free, Pádraig Pearse had said long before he was executed in 1916. 

In we went to the famed, and sometimes feared St Michael’s College, imposing and immobile. Two storeys of history and education above the ground and one storey below looking out on our little minds. Long walk in like an estate house with manicured lawns and apple trees. We were told by those in the know that if we picked the apples that were growing on those trees that autumn that it would have worse repercussions than when Adam was persuaded by Eve to prove his manhood by picking the Granny Smiths in the Garden of Paradise. The principal, Fr Danny Long would punish the picker with impunity. We were herded up the spotted clackety marble stairs and looked down on the trees to our right and pondered the decree of ne tangere. Do not touch.

(more tomorrow)

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Turf

Photo by Caroline O’Sullivan taken near Listowel

CUTTING THE TURF.

A poem by Martin O’Hara

Ah god be with the

Good auld days. 

And the times, of long ago.

For to get the peat, 

for our household heat, 

To the bog, we had to go.

No modern ways, back

In those days.

All in life, you would require. 

Was a fine turf spade, 

That the blacksmith made. 

To secure, yourself a fire. 

With Patrick’s day, 

out of the way. 

It was time, to make a start. 

With the bike and dog, 

Off to the bog. 

And some, by ass and cart.

From countrywide, to

The mountainside. 

The journeys, would begin. 

To replace once more, the

Old turf store. 

For the wintertime again.

Now the cutting of a

Bank of turf, 

This job was done, with pride. 

The cleaning first, was

Taken off, 

And placed down at the side. 

The peat exposed for 

Cutting now, 

Was cut out, with the spade.

And the sods of turf

Upon the bank, 

In rows, were neatly laid.

With the turf now dry,

 As time went by. 

The footing, would begin. 

From countrywide, to

The mountainside. 

The people came again. 

With pains, and aches, 

And many breaks. 

We stood them, row by row. 

And to season then, they

Would begin. 

Where the mountain breezes

Blow. 

In harvest time, with

Weather fine, 

Once more, we would return. 

The turf by now, in perfect shape. 

Was good enough to burn. 

With the ass and cart, we

Made a start. 

To take them to the road. 

And a stack did rise, 

Before our eyes. 

Growing bigger, with each load. 

Now to take them home, 

For wintertime. 

To the bog, we came

Once more. 

With a fine big stack, built

Out the back. 

We renewed, our winter store. 

That was our way, and

Still today. 

This tradition, carries on, 

but In time they say. 

It will pass away, and

Forever will be gone. 

No bog, no more, for

The winter store. 

Only memories, that

Live on. 

Of our working ways, back

In the days. 

That are now, long past and gone. 

Martin O’Hara   3 /3/2020. ©

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Just a Thought

My reflections from Radio Kerry which were broadcast last week April 18 to April 22 2022

Just a Thought

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Ballybunion and Listowel

Ballybunion at Christmas 2021

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Neighbours and Friends

Cyril Kelly sent the photo to Eamonn Dillon and Eamonn sent it to me. It’s a picture of Church Street neighbours and shopkeepers, Liam Dillon (Eamonn’s father) and Mai Naylor (Cyril’s mother).

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Sign of the Times

Lynch’s Coffee Shop is now reopened

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New Business on Leahy’s Corner

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A Poem of Hope for an End to This

Covid Sonnet

John McGrath (published in John’s anthology, After Closing)

The world has pinned us with a warning glance,

the kind our mothers gave us long ago,

the look that was designed to let us know

that this might be our last and final chance.

So grounded, we can only hope and pray 

as, day by day, we inch away from fear

and tiptoe towards a future far from clear

our wounded planet showing us the way,

that voices raised in ignorance and greed

may yet be drowned by kindnesses and care,

together we may rise above despair,

united we will find the strength we need

as, all for one, we reach beyond the pain

and dare to dream tomorrow once again.

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The Holy Season closes in St. Mary’s, Listowel

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Memories of the Movies

News that the cinema has closed brought up some cinema memories for blog followers.

So sad to see the Astor closing . It was a huge part of growing up for me . Introduced us to a fantasy world where we believe we were Cowboys / Indians ie The Durango Kid, Johnny McBrown , The Lone Ranger or Tonto, Elvis movies always guaranteed a full house . I remember a Chubby Checker Movie where every one was on their feet doing the Twist. Peter Cushing , Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff scaring us to death. What a great time it was. Noel Roche

I accompanied my grandmother to the matinee every Sunday. It was her outing. But for me on Monday at school the question was who went to the cinema yesterday. I had to stand up then my hands were put on the desk palm side down and I got wacked with the bamboo across my knuckles. That was my punishment for watching Hoppalong Cassidy with my gran. Not good memories. Maria Sham

So sad I remember in my day it was a great meeting place and we did not have much else going on in Listowel at night. It is definitely a sign of the times. Frankie Chute Phillips

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Christmas Then and Now

A bank vole in Kerry photographed by Chris Grayson

Criostóir Grayson is an excellent wildlife photographer. He is lucky to have this little lady in his garden. Here is what Conserve Ireland says about the bank vole.

Bank voles are very small rodents which are often mistaken for mice. They have small compact bodies generally about 15cm from head to tip including a 5cm long tail and can weigh from 15 to 40 grams, they have small eyes and ears and a blunt nose. Their tails are shorter than mice and are covered in fur with their blunt noses also being the main physical difference between the two. The fur is a chestnut red or brown on the upper body with their undersides being a bluff to grey colour. Juveniles will have a more grey to brown fur colouration. The fore feet have four toes while the slightly larger five toed hind feet leave small tracks up to 2cm in length which are quite similar to the footprints of mice. Bank voles are not a particularly vocal species but will emit a limited range of squeaks when communicating using high frequency ultrasound which humans cannot hear. The bank vole has a well developed sense of smell which is important for receiving information on individuals who have used territorial scent markings in an area.

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Join us Online in St. Mary’s, Listowel at Christmas 2021

All masses will be live-streamed on the parish website

Listowel Parish

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Above is advice from a campaign called Don’t Buy It. Apt at Christmastime.

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Cavendish’s

Gerard Stack who wrote to us about Walsh’s shop came from the above shop. Like many other shops in Listowel there was a shop on the street and a totally unrelated business, often run by the man of the house, in the back of the premises.

Now Walsh’s shop was in the premises that is now Chutes’ Stores/ Milano. It used to be Cavendish’s. This was a popular TV and electrical brand. Anyway, Gerard remembers that, at Christmas this big shop sold bikes and toys. They invited the nearby children in to try out the toys and this party was sometimes covered by The Kerryman.

Photo of Walsh’s at Christmas from Mike Moriarty

I told this story to Pierce Walsh (no relation). He thought maybe he was too far from the shop to get the golden ticket. He was in Church Street. He did remember, however, that, for one Christmas before he went to South Africa, Xavier MacAuliffe had a toy shop. Does anyone else have memories of that one?

Back in 1920;

Dave O’Sullivan found this great old ad.

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Don’t They Know it’s Christmas Time?

I was home in Kanturk when I snapped this picture of Woody looking longingly through the window at his family’s Christmas tree.

Meanwhile thousands of miles away another EPA horse is living the dream. He is to appear in a Hollywood movie with Dwayne Johnson.

His new owner sent a picture of the co stars at their first meeting; The Rock and EPA Cullen.

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CHRISTMAS EVE IN KERRY

Butte Independent 1927

“Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the Pooka is at rest

Contented in his stable eating hay;

The crystal snow is gleaming on the mountains of the West,
And a lonesome sea is sobbing far away;
But I know a star is watching o’er the bogland and the stream,
And ‘tis coming, coming, coming o’er the foam;
And ’tis twinkling o’er the prairie with a message and a dream
Of Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.

‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, and the happy mermaids croon
The songs, of youth and hope that never die;
Oh never more on that dear shore for you and me, aroon.
The rapture of that olden lullaby:
But the candle lights are gleaming on a hillside far away.
And peace is in the blue December gloam;
And o’er the sea of memory I hear the pipers play
At Christmas in my dear old Kerry home.

‘Tis Christmas Eve in Kerry, oh I hear the fairies’ lyre
Anear the gates of slumber calling sweet.
Calling softly, calling ever to the land of young desire,
To the pattering of childhood’s happy feet; 

But a sleepless sea is throbbing, and the stars are watching’ true
As they journey to the wanderers who roam —
Oh the sea, the stars shall bring me tender memories of you

On Christmas Eve in my dear old Kerry home.


D. M. BROSNAN, Close, Castleisland, Co. Kerry.

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Take a look at this old footage

John B. Keane remembered in John Lynch videos

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Slán Tamall

I’m taking my leave of you today for 2021. A big shout out to all my helpers, supporters, my technical support team, my researchers and contributors. There would be no Listowel Connection without you. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me, met me or in any way offered a word of thanks, support and encouragement. It is all appreciated.

Have a lovely peaceful Christmas.

Go mbeirimid go léir beo ag an am seo arís.

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Coolard, Ballylongford, Wasps and a Flag

St. Mary’s August 2021

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Ballylongford Mill

Construction of the Mill was started in about 1846 by William Blair of Co. Clare and ceased during The Famine We think he got as far as the stonework for the ground floor. Building recommenced in about 1850 and the structure appears on an 1851 map of Ballylongford, and was fully completed by 1852.T

he Mill was originally built as a grain drying store, a unique agricultural building for drying bags of green oats which were later shipped down the river in sailing barges and on to a Corn Mill in Limerick for milling.This was at a time when most local tenant farmers lived in shocking poverty and didn’t have their own barns to dry the crops. It also explains the extremely heavy timbers used in construction to carry the weight of bags of green oats and the narrow width of the building and the numerous casement windows on both sides; the windows were used to control cross flow draughts to dry the oats.

William Blair got into some financial trouble and sold the building to Ryan’s from Kilrush, who then sold it to the Bannatyne family who had a large Corn Mill in Limerick which is still standing.

There’s then a big gap in details about the use of the building and it’s owners between the 1850’s and when O’Sullivans converted it into an electric mill for milling stock feed in the 1930’s.

Photo courtesy of Helen Lane and historical information courtesy of Padraig O Concubhair.

The new owners of the mill are planning a blacksmithing Fair for September.

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Coolard School and Grotto

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A Nostalgic Poem from John McGrath

(from John’s anthology Blue Sky Day)

Once in the Long Ago and Far Away

Once in the Long Ago and Far Away

I ran barefoot along bright boreens,

Dashing through pools of morning blue.

Over the dry-stone walls I flew,

Crashing through cobwebbed meadows,

Dew-drenched; phlegmed with cuckoo-spit.

Paused to wish by the whitewashed well.

Fished in its never-ending silver stream

For shining silver treasures.

All through the ringing fields I ran

All through the live-long, lark-song day,

Tireless as Time

‘Til time and hunger called me

Back to buttermilk lamplight, Banshee dreams,

Once in the Long Ago and Far Away.

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A Plague of Wasps

2021 is a bumper year for wasps. I looked them up and they do have a vital role to play so leave them alone and just stay out of their way.

Wasps are pollinators. Wasps are also important in the environment. Social wasps are predators and as such they play a vital ecological role, controlling the numbers of potential pests like greenfly and many caterpillars. … A world without wasps would be a world with a very much larger number of insect pests on our crops and gardens.

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The Flags are out

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