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. Michael’s College Page 1 of 4

Summertime

Galvin’s of William Street

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Mr. Jiggs

This is Mr, Jiggs happily grazing in his field in Kanturk. He didn’t win any competitions ( He didn’t enter any). He is included in the blog today because it’s summer, a slow news day and he is an auld pet.

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More St. Michael’s Memories from 1972

Morning has Broken by David Kissane

What a different world it was in May 1972! The carnivals were in full swing and some of our class went to Finuge Carnival to have a fling before the exam. Some even got lucky! They said. And others pushed it to the limit and took one of the many buses that shunted to the dance in Shanagolden on Saturday May 20th. Some craic on that bus on the way there. Bigger craic on the way home. Even a few students headed for the “Gay Bachelor Festival” in Ballybunion during the Leaving Cert to help alleviate the stress of revision. Yeah right. 

And there was the 13th of May fair in Listowel. An ancient event no doubt inspired by the festival of Bealtaine. The fire-festival of Baal. Horse dung and life all over Market Street. Women who still wore scarves, even shawls and men who wore caps and spit on their palms and bought and sold. Visits to the Bargain Stores and Cavendish’s. Echoes of Kavanagh’s “shops and stalls and markets and the Oriental streets”. Child of Prague statues and duffel coats and a glass of Guinness in Stack’s Hotel. Chats in The Sheebeen. 

The balladian beauty of a fair day. The exotic came to town.

We watched it all on our way down to the school bus in the evening. 

Listowel Writers’ Week was also coming to life in that year and John B Keane and Bryan MacMahon were to the forefront in the town where big crowds were gathering for the novel festival. Some day, I said to myself…but I recall spending a half-day-off down by the river rather than attending any of the festival’s talks, in the belief that you need something to write about before you can write about it!

And what about the clothes we fellas wore both at school and after. No uniforms. Boots if we could afford them under bright-coloured bell-bottom trousers and orange-coloured shirts with massive collars. Ties straight from Woodstock akin to the wildflower gardens of today. Peace man! Polo-necks and tank tops were a speciality. The polo-necks were a divil in a sweaty ballroom. The heat rushed up to the neck and had nowhere to escape. Thank god for the Hai Karate anti-perspirant. Strong as a horse it was but a right hoor for attracting doctor bees if you laid down in a meadow of a Sunday afternoon. Then there was the hair! Long and wide and directionless. Like furze bushes on a windy night. Side-locks that would sweep out the stall for you. 

                                                     Outside the Walls

While study was more in our minds than most other things in the latter months of our second level education, we were glued to our one-channel TVs for major news events. The deaths of 13 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday on January 30th was a riveting event and was discussed in our class at length. A suggestion by one student that we should organise a protest fell on deaf ears. Too avant-garde for the majority. Mr Rochford organised a class debate sometime later and the event gave us the opportunity to hone our argumentative edges. A rare and educational avenue which put riches in our store. 

The debates on Ireland joining the European Economic Community was a little prolonged for any dramatic focus by our heat-seeking mental faculties, but it did broaden our horizons, although 6,ooo plus people in North Kerry wanted to change the future by voting against joining Europe in the referendum that May. Interesting. Raidió na Gaeltachta was launched that year and, being a possible topic for an essay, was devoured with gratitude. Apollo 16 landed on the moon (no big surprise) in April. Black September terrorists. The Vietnam War reached an emotional peak for much of the world, and for us as we sat down to our Leaving Cert exams, when the Associated Press photographer Nick Ut takes his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a naked 9-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc running down a road after being burned by the chemical napalm. The Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed between the US and Russia – it is not forgotten by our age-group what a real threat nuclear war had been up to then. 

A world of hope and fear. Was it ever otherwise.

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P.J. Kenny and Street Leagues

This photograph is from 1927. It shows the Greenville team, winners of the McGrath Cup. Street leagues go back a long way in Listowel.

Mr. P.J. Kenny’s name is synonymous with the organising of street leagues in more recent times. P.J. continued his involvement with the leagues in Scoil Realta na Maidine, even after his retirement from teaching.

On Monday last, June 20 2022 the school honoured his huge commitment with the presentation of an engraved vase and a special cake.

The teams that contest the leagues nowadays represent The Boro, The Ashes, The Gleann and The Country.

The 2022 senior league was won by The Boro

Ogie Scanlon was the winner of the Brendan Guiney Cup. The cup was presented by the late Brendan’s sister, Rose, and brother, Jim.

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A Poem

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Then and Now

Áras an Phiarsaigh, June 2022

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Today’s Tumbling Paddy

Do you remember this image from last week. It was the Tumbling Paddy, used for gathering the mown hay into heaps for making into wynnds. Things have moved on and no one uses a Tumbling Paddy anymore.

I was at home in Kanturk last week and they were haymaking.

This is the modern equivalent of the Tumbling Paddy.

These are today’s wynnds. Progress!

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Covid hasn’t gone away

Our poor little girleen got Covid.

Thank God it was a mild dose. A big fright and a short few hours in the hospital saw her soon back to her old self again.

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David Kissane’s Memories of St. Michael’s Continued

The new NCPE (National College of Physical Education) in Limerick was in the thoughts of the sports students in St Michael’s that year but the balance of interest was in teaching, especially primary teaching. While Mrs Murphy and Mr Eggliston (affectionately called “Iggy”) had worked hard to make science popular at Junior Cert level, the uptake of the science subjects by our final year was low and the classical background of the school held sway in our peer year. We did study physics for a while in 5th year as fair play to the school for testing the future waters in that trial. It gave us an insight into the magic of neutrons, the photoelectric threshold and transmutation. The silent secrets of the world around us. When a little digging took place today in old books, the red Leaving Cert Physics by the Christian Brothers was unearthed with a hand-written photo-statted Christmas exam paper still sleeping inside. Comments written on the inside covers by fellow students and Convent girls’ names inscribed in little hearts while Mr Eggliston was busy at the blackboard. I had totally forgotten that we studied physics for a few months – fifty years is a long time – but the formulas and facts and diagrams came flooding back as if they had been close friends all along. The book was closed in LC1 in 1971 and never opened again till today.

While different students left St Michael’s with different attitudes to teachers – friends, frenemies or just no comment – all our teachers had a genuine interest in hoisting the proper sails for the oceans ahead. 

                                                            Pushpenny

Subcultures often define a society. The game of “Pushpenny” was huge in St Michael’s and persisted right up to the final days of the class of 1972. It consisted of a game between two students, played out on the wooden desks with a coin (usually one of the new decimal coins, although the old thrupenny bits were ideal) as a flat football, another bigger coin by each of the two players and a piece of ruler to strike the bigger coins which would in turn strike the “football” and send it flying to the “goal” which was usually a book. There were corners, frees, line balls and penalties, with screamers, banana shots and diagonal bullets. Every lunchtime, or part thereof, was accentuated by Pushpenny games, with leagues, cup-finals and home-and-away fixtures. My desk-mate, Mike Carmody from Lyreacrompane was an expert. Being a Leeds Utd supporter, he was on a high after that first week in May 1972 when Leeds had beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup Final 1-0 in front of a 100,000 people at Wembley. Alan Clarke goal. The only time that Leeds have won before or since. My Man Utd were having a shaky time so all I could do was redeem their fortunes with Pushpenny goals. Now and again, if a teacher was delayed on the way to class, or if a teacher arrived early for class and had a chat with another outside the door, a whole spate of games would break out on every desk. When the teacher arrived, there was a scramble to hide coins and accoutrements and replace with the necessary books and copies. Once or twice, a teacher might confiscate the coins and pocket the lot (obviously to be later donated to charity) but generally a blind eye was turned as the games were quiet and harmless.

Injuries were rare but once I did a metaphorical sliding tackle on the desk with my striking hand and managed to get an inch-long splinter of the desk lodged under my nail. My Lyreacrompane/Leeds opponent went pale and partially fainted. I scored the resultant penalty before he recovered. Man Utd 1, Leeds 0.

A few days before we finished classes, it was announced that Fr long was retiring as president of the college after being in charge since 1954. A gathering of the whole school was organised and Mr Paddy Rochford gave a speech in which he revealed the career of Fr Long. “Danny” had guided the college over the boom in student numbers that had occurred after the introduction of free education in 1967 (our first year) and the introduction of science subjects and French to replace or complement the strictly traditional classical subjects. Fr Danny introduced the black gown for the teachers of our year, giving them a fearful appearance on occasion. The gowns did have a practical value in keeping chalk off their clothes but on occasion some teachers were known to discard the heavy archaic apparel when “Danny” went across the road to his president’s house for his meals.

Towards the last week of class that magical May, a blackboard was commandeered to act as a stadium for lunchtime games and there was a world cup of Pushpenny with a knockout system and a big lead-up to a grand final. A significant incident around the final has grasped a place in the memory. The whole class was assembled in a circle around the two finalists and the town boys had returned early from lunch to witness the end of an era of Pushpenny. At a vital moment of the action, Fr Danny Long opened the door. Gasps. This usually meant trouble and a charge of unstudent-like behaviour and repercussions could follow. We could hear our hearts beating and our eyes looked down. Danny became a legend when he simply said “Carry on!” and walked out, closing the door behind him. In our minds we would respect him forever for that action. To feel valued in our curious pastime was a privilege written in no book and summarised the atmosphere in St Michael’s College in 1972.

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Question Answered

In reply to the people who were wondering who “The Twelve Apostles” who, 50 years ago set up Kerry were;

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Poem for you

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Memories

Listowel Courthouse in June 2022

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More of David Kissane’s St. Michael’s Memories

Left to Right 

Front :   Kieran Fitzgerald, Maurice O ‘Sullivan, Mick O’Connell, Tom Lyons, David Kissane .

Middle:  John Hynes, Tadhg Moriarty, P J Browne, Timmy Shanahan , Jimmy Deenihan, Pat Stack .

Rear :  Eamon O’ Carroll, Maurice O’Connor, Pat Stack, Tommy O ‘Flaherty, John O’ Connell , Jerry Kiernan, Pat Quilter .

Tim Kennelly was also on that team but was missing on the day of the photo.

Morning has broken…continued

The Teachers

… the last month of St Michael’s College engaged us. In comes Mr Pat Joe Given to bestow Greek on us. I can still count in Greek…heis, duo, treis, tessares. pente, hex, hepta, octo, ennea, deka…and later he would return to impart the last of the English course. He was a quiet teacher who never lost his cool and had that distant gaze between notes that could turn a passing blackbird or thrush into a poem. “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad left a huge impression and the quotes learned by heart have stuck a lifetime: “Each blade of grass has its place on the earth from where it draws its life, its strength; so is man rooted to the land he loves from where he draws his faith together with his life…” 

Likewise the Romantic poets filled us with blue, crystalline dreams and Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice” challenged our understanding of the female psyche. Mr Given had been a boxer and we tried to imagine him in the ring delivering a left uppercut and found it difficult to equate that with the gentler man who carried us through the magic of the English course. Then our former English teacher, Mr John Molyneaux came in with his Latin nouns and interesting stories and Caesar’s exciting Gallic wars. Johnny O’Flaherty took us through the green fields of the Gaeilge and into the minds of the Irish rural characters created by the Ó Céileachairs and the enigmatic Liam Ó Flaithearta. Johnny had the composure, self-assurance and into-class march of a military leader and a keen sense of humour. I was to spend a life teaching Gaeilge afterwards, partly due to the class experience he exuded.

The college president, Fr Danny Long reminded us of “man’s inhumanity to man” during the religion classes with his chopping hand-guillotine mannerism and was relentless with any student who lost concentration! As were all the teachers!

Then comes the other “M”, Mr John Molyneaux Junior with that twinkle in his eye and his unique sense of humour. “Fierce battles” in history were his speciality – every battle he imparted to us was “a fierce battle” – and his favourite exam questions were the “causes, course and results” of the Geraldine War or any other war he had to wage. It was not by accident that I pursued history to MA level because he led me along the enchanted way to the secrets of the story of humanity.

Mr Paddy Rochford brought us to Leaving Cert maths and reminded us that idle chat was just “cluck, cluck, cluck”! He took over the role of de facto career guidance teacher when there was no such role in the school (or in many schools at the time). 

to be continued

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June 1 2022 at The Listowel Arms

Eamonn Dillon introduced me to this man and now I’ve forgotten his name.I remember though that he was at Writers’ Week representing Fáilte Ireland. Eamonn is a great fan of Listowel Connection and he told this man all about our little community here in this corner of the internet. He took great interest. Time will tell if it translates into action.

Eddie and Helen Moylan, proud parents of Catherine, chair of Listowel Writers Week and Eileen of Claddagh Design who created the beautiful bespoke Presentation piece for the Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Moira Murrell

Local ladies out for a walk, observing all the carry on at the hotel.

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The Brazen Head

This is a photo from the internet of The Brazen Head pub in Dublin. It claims to be Ireland’s oldest pub. It has a Listowel Connection. One of Michael O’Connor’s beautiful illuminations is on the wall. In fact he did that art work twice as the first one was water damaged in situ.

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Winners

Anne and Kevin won their competition in Sunday’s Well. I am never too old to be proud of my children’s achievements.

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Just a Thought

Last week it was my turn to fill the twice daily Just a Thought slot on Radio Kerry.

The reflections are here; Just a Thought

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Some Old Things

Catch of the Day, Main Street

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Two St. Michael’s Colleagues, R.I.P

Two Corkmen, Jim Cogan and Michael Cody, many moons ago.

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Medicinal Recipes from 1852

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Good New for St. Michael’s

(text and image from St. Michael’s website)

Back: Mayor of Kerry, Jimmy Moloney, Johnny Mulvihill, Principal, St Michaels’, Minister for Education, Norma Foley, Mike Hassett, Deputy Principal. Tony Behan, Board of Management Front: Odhran Bucklety, Jack O’Connor, Ciaran O’Sullivan and Donagh Buckley

Statement from Norma Foley;

Multi-million Euro Extension for Listowel School!I am delighted to announce a multi-million euro extension project for St Michael’s College Listowel under the additional accommodation scheme.The state of-the-art building project includes provision for a special education teaching room, a multimedia room, a music room, an art room, two science labs and a project store room. Approval was also given for reconfiguration works to upgrade an existing art room, converting it into a mainstream classroom.It was wonderful to have the opportunity to visit St Michael’s College in Listowel this week and to personally deliver this good news.St Michael’s College is synonymous with the town and this extension is an endorsement of the excellence in education being provided by the entire school community.

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Dan Keane’s Limericks

Dan Keane who passed away in 2012 was a man of varied and extraordinary talents. I encountered Dan first as as storyteller and I was enthralled by him. His story was about a football match, a subject on which Dan was an expert. I later learned that Dan was a ballad maker and poet of some merit.

Much later I learned that Dan, while including scholars and literary men among his ancestors, was , himself, completely self taught. His appetite for knowledge coupled with his interest in local history and lore made him a knowledgeable and popular raconteur and writer.

His last volume of verse was the above, A Kerryman’s limericks, and I’m going to bring you a few over the next few days.

The next is not one of Dan’s but he professed it was one of his favourites.

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Great Old Photos

Tipperary Studies is a great website devoted to preserving and promoting the past.

They have a marvellous digital archive of old photos and videos. Among their collections is a collection of Photographs of Munster. These photos were taken by a professional photographer on glass plates in the 1930s.

While most of the images are of Tipperary there are some lovely photos of a few Listowel shops and their owners or workers.

Please respect Tipperary Studies copyright claim to these digitised images which may not be used for commercial purposes without permission.

This lovely photo was unidentified in the collection but an old neighbour has identified the late Mrs. Mona Dalton at the gate of her home in Bridge Road.

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A Christmas story

Portmarnock photo by Éamon ÓMurchú

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A Lost Soul at Christmas

Today’s story is from Cyril Kelly

Apologies for the awful scanning. I favoured substance over style.

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Down Memory Lane with the Boys

This photo and the accompanying autographs was shared by John Keane on Facebook. The photo is from 1980, in the days before uniforms in St. Michael’s.

All the names were gathered by William Carroll of William Street. The photo is his.

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A Christmas Window

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A Present Suggestion

John McGrath’s poems are always food for thought. This lovely new anthology is out just in time for Christmas. I’d highly recommend it for that last minute present.

After Closing”Poetry for Everyman…” Lori De’Molet”Big! Huge, Hearty!” (Catherine White Snr)

Make someone smile at Christmas!

After Closing, my new collection, available at:

Ryan’s Mace. Lisselton,

The Thatch Lisselton,

Seanchaí Writers’ Centre, Listowel,

Brenda Woulfe’s Bookshop, Listowel,

and…via PayPal at moybellapress.com

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