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: Stack’s

Stack’s Arcade, Writers Week 2018 and New Primary Healthcare Centre for Listowel

Swans at Beale

Photo; Ita Hannon


A Nun’s View of Listowel Town Square


A Listowel Shop with a Long Tradition

My great great grandfather, James Stack, born in 1816, had a drapery business where McKenna’s shop now stands, on the corner of Market Street and William Street. James died in October of 1873, and his son, my great grandfather Edward J. Stack, bought the shop known as The Arcade on this day, June 15 1898, having rented the premises for some years before buying it. 

The premises was originally a Ladies and Gentlemen’s drapery and shoe shop and also had a household linens and lace department. The shop had a staff of about 17 people including Stack family members. 

E.J.Stack died in 1910 leaving his widow Bridget and 9 children. My grandfather, Joseph Stack ran the business with his mother. Bridget Stack died in 1938, and Joseph Stack died in 1946. 

My uncle Niall Stack and my father Stuart Stack took over the running of the business and started to sell furniture. Niall started a furniture manufacturing business and my father ran the shop until his sudden death in 1971 atthe age of 41. My mother Mary with the help of the late John Horgan from Finuge continued to run the business. 

I left St Michael’s College in 1972 to start working full time in the shop. Myself, my wife, Joan and my mother, Mary still run the furniture shop. 

In a return to our roots, I opened a bedding and linen department offering quality bed linen to complement our range of fine furniture.

Ten years ago my daughter Jennifer moved in her successful business, Coco Ladies Boutique. We now have 2 businesses in the one premises – Furniture and Interiors and Ladies fashion. 

Jennifer is the 6th generation of a Stack to be in our business and we look forward to serving the people of North Kerry and beyond for many more years to come. “We pride ourselves on our tradition of great, personalized customer service, and in this modern era of internet-shopping, we truly appreciate the support shown to our family-run business. We look forward to the future of shopping in North Kerry”

 On behalf of the Stack Family, we thank you for your much valued support.

Damian Stack.

(Source for photos and text; Stack’s, The Arcade )


A Memory of Writers’ Week 2018

The lady who writes this blog Kate Katharina came to Writers’ Week and this is what she wrote about her experience.

There is something in the air in Listowel. For me, it was the smell of wild garlic and the way the leaves hanging over the River Feale caught the light.

The tiny town located in Ireland’s South-West has a population of under 5000. But it has produced John B Keane, Brendan Kennelly, Bryan MacMahon and a host of other women and men of literary as well as musical note. The writers’ festival was a glorious excuse for a reunion with two schoolfriends.

On the first morning, we took a walking tour. Our guide – a spirited and brilliant man of advanced age (the son, incidentally of the late Bryan MacMahon) – brought us to the Garden of Europe. The grounds, dating back to 1995, feature a monument to John B Keane, as well as Ireland’s only Holocaust memorial.

Gesturing to the impeccably-kept lawns behind him, the guide said: “This used to be a dump. A place you’d come to shoot rats.”

It didn’t matter if it was true or not. It was about the twinkle in his eye and the implication that the town had stayed humble.

The line between fact and fiction is appropriately slippery in Listowel, where the truth lies between the lines. Perhaps this is the reason that so many of the writers who came said it was their favorite literary festival, by far.

Or perhaps they like it so much because it is a place where they are allowed to exalt the ordinary. During a tea party hosted by none other than Colm Tóibín, he described a conversation he had recently overheard between an older person and a staff member in a Vodafone store.

“Now, I don’t want to send texts. But I want to receive them. Now, if I just turn it off, it can’t do anything, can it?  It won’t ring, will it?”  The utter terror of technology, Tóibín said. He wants to put it in a story.

For me, the days in Listowel were characterized not by terror but by awe. There was the surreal moment at a panel discussion when I recognized the shape of Margaret Drabble’s head in front of me. Later she turned around, and the man beside her (my former English teacher, who would be interviewing her later) introduced us. “I taught them very little,” he said, typically self-effacing. “Well you instilled a love of reading if they’re here,” she said, not missing a beat.

I sat beside the extraordinary artist Pauline Bewick during another event. She had a notebook open on her lap, full of striking, colorful sketches. Beside her was her daughter Poppy, herself an artist who, unlike her mother, works slowly and produces work that is startlingly life-like. They were a beautiful pair, gazelle-like, other-worldly and unassuming despite their huge success. I told Pauline about how our English teacher had inspired us to love literature. “You know that leaves me with a lump in my throat,” she said. “It really does.”

Another highlight was the poet Colette Bryce, who – to my shame – I’d never heard of. A Derry-born wordsmith, there was something about the gentle strength with which she read that lured me in. I bought her selected poems and was giddily excited when she looked up after signing it and said in a Northern lilt: “Thanks for coming, Kate.”

Edna O’Brien, of course packed the room out. I couldn’t even see her from where I was sitting. But I could hear her distinctive voice, and felt its warmth. “Enchantment is the novel’s most important quality,” she said. “It’s what matters most.” A literary titan whose work Ireland once banned, she would know.

On our last night, we went to see Forgotten, a one-man show written and sublimely performed by Pat Kinevane. It took place in St Johns, a church on the town’s main square converted into a theatre.

My friend, himself a playwright, was seeing it for the second time. It was an intense, exhausting, brilliant performance. When it was over and we filed out of the church, the sun had gone down and the last of the light stretched across the sky.

I noticed my friend had a certain glow about him; a kind of exaltation was written across his face. “This is what good theatre can do,” he said as we waited for the 11 o’clock bus back to Killarney. “It’s what Edna O’Brien was taking about,” he said. “A piece of art can enchant.”


Primary Health Care Centre planned for Listowel

Valley Healthcare, which is owned by the State-backed Irish Infrastructure Fund (IIF), has acquired two primary healthcare centre sites, in Cork and Kerry, for an undisclosed sum.

The centres in Clonakilty and Listowel brings its portfolio of centres to six. The IIF, which is jointly managed by AMP Capital and Irish Life Investment Managers, established Valley Healthcare last year to invest in primary care centres across Ireland

Clonakilty and Listowel are the first greenfield sites for the fund. Both sites have planning permission and are ready for construction to begin. The sites will be occupied by the Health Service Executive (HSE), GP practices and other health-related services, when operational.

Source: Irish Times

Listowel, Kildare and Kilashee House

Listowel’s Twin Spires

 Stack’s of Upper William Street is looking in great shape following its paint job.

Listowel’s own replica of the famous Guinness gate at St. James’s Gate, Dublin.

 Plasterwork detail

 Across the road, St. Patrick’s Hall is looking well too.

Listowel’s most famous pub, John B. Keane’s


My Trip to Kildare

This is a picture on a wall of the shopping centre in Kildare. It depicts Kildare town in bygone days. Kildare today is vibrant and lively. I visited my daughter there recently and found it a fascinating place.

 Clíona is standing outside St. Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare. St. Brigid came to Kildare in the year 480A.D.  Her abbey church was a simple wooden hut but she was a woman of great standing locally. She ruled over a double community of men and worn and the bishop was subordinate in jurisdiction to the abbess. I got this information from our guide and I have no reason to disbelieve it.

Over the centuries the abbey was built and flattened several times. The present cathedral was built by a Norman, Ralph of Bristol, who became bishop in 1223. It was ruined and restored several times since with a big restoration in 1896 and its final restoration  to its present state in 1996.

The cathedral is in weekly use by the Church of Ireland community in Kildare. It has some lovely stain glass windows, beautifully restored

 An unusual feature of the church is effigies of sheelagh na gig inside the cathedral. These are usually found outdoors and their erotic nature makes them an unusual sight in sacred buildings.

There is a glass case within the foyer with replicas of bog finds from the Kildare area. The originals are in The National Museum.

These last photos are of men at work on the restoration of the windows.

One of Ireland’s tallest round towers stands on the site of the cathedral. For one daft moment I thought to climb it. Our guide took one look at me and advised that it would be best left for another day, as she felt we didn’t have enough time to get up and down before closing time. I understood her meaning perfectly.


Kilashee House

This is yours truly resting in the grounds of Kilashee House, a former convent, now a country house hotel. Its a lovely place just outside Naas with gardens, walks, a spa and good food. The nuns knew how to pick a perfect location. They were running Kilashee as a school until 1998 when it was sold.

An old railway carriage on the grounds.

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