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: Starlings

Listowel and Cyril Kelly’s Starlings and some Listowel Friends and Neighbours

It’s beginning to cloud over early these days. Our square is still lovely.




On the banks of My Silver River Feale


A Listowel Phenomenon?

Is this water pipe gushing water on to the street unique to Listowel? I’ve never seen in any other town.



Last week’s pictures of starlings cavorting around St. John’s prompted Cyril Kelly to share with us an essay he wrote on the subject of these fascinating birds.

STARLINGS  Cyril Kelly

first I was unsure what they were, spectral shapes, drifting like wisps of
smoke above the distant hedges, amorphous against the evening sky. So intrigued
was I, that I veered the car onto the hard shoulder and switched off the engine.
In the short time it took to do that, the smoky haze had given way to  mesmerising high definition; starlings, a
murmuration of starlings, a phenomenon which I had  once glimpsed many years before above the
night trees on the piazza outside Termini railway station in Rome, a phenomenon
which I had often recalled but had never witnessed since.

mottled wheel, forty … fifty metres high, fifty metres wide, an enormous
whirling wheel rising and falling in the upper atmosphere like a gigantic
helium hoop, an ecstatic helium hoop composed entirely of tiny starlings.  Uncanny coordination keeping this puff ball
bouncing above the darkening hinterland. A sudden flash expansion, an abrupt
change in density, transforms the wheel into a westering comet, plunging
towards the horizon, hauling its rippling tail against the drag and force of
gravity, barely above the tree tops. Near instantaneous signal processing
dictates flock dynamics; every bird synchronising a roll into the next swerve,
banking angles not only mirroring its scudding neighbours but also identical to
companions on the outermost reaches of the flock, maintaining alignment and
cohesion with every shift and shimmy, every dart and glide, balletic poise for
each tiny pattern change, for every large scale transfiguration.

the starlings are a display of inverted fireworks, black against the dying
daylight instead of bright against the dark of night. They erupt upwards, a
viscous inky fountain rising to an apex before cascading in consummate streamers
of ease to mesh, to coalesce once more into a coiling snake above the tree
tops, the strobe of constant volume change 
imbuing the image with the sinewy movement of a serpent.

is as if some cosmic artist were drawing a shoal of iron filings hither and
thither across the canvas of the sky. Constantly etching and sketching these
spontaneous aerodynamics; now stippling, now cross hatching, now graduating or
saturating densities to portray unconscious competence. Yeats comes to mind; A line will take us hours maybe, yet if it
does not appear a moment’s thought, our stitching and unstitching shall be
Instantaneous alterations of speed and shape literally tell of
creativity on the wing by the swarming birds.

this symphony of silence, each bird has tempered the individual voice. No showy
solos to highlight iridescent plumage or dappled whites or scatterings of blacks
and purples and glossy greens. This is an egalitarian rhapsody, rhythmic flight
to celebrate the end of another day, vespers of velocity to ward off any evil
Valkyrie intent on infiltrating the roost under the cloak of approaching

would Gerald Manley Hopkins have made of this. He wrote The Windhover after
sighting a single kestrel. Here he would have witnessed a towering multitude of
birds, ten thousand times ten thousand starlings, all off, off forth on swing, As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend.

as if in response to a conductor’s baton, all the birds descend as one from on
high to form a horizontal skein just above the tree tops, undulations mingling
intricately, over and back, close to the darkening outline of the horizon.

final sector of the sun slips from sight and, smoothly, the flock of starlings
drops into the jagged silhouette of woods and hedging. The opal sky turns to
violet. I switch the key in the ignition and the silence is startled.


Humans of Listowel

Sean and Mary Comerford and Peggy Treacy meet a friend in Gurtinard

Listowel trees. starlings in The Square, Halloween in Knocknagoshel and an icon of Ballybunion

Trees in Listowel’s garden of Europe, October 2016


History is Made in Soldier Field, Chicago…….AGAIN

My nephew, Philip and his wife Anna joined the thousands of Irish diaspora in Soldier Field on Saturday November 5 2016 to see the Irish Rugby Team play The All Blacks. Like most of the other Irish present they donned whatever Irish supporter wear they could find, in his case a Munster T-shirt, in Anna’s some St. Patrick’s Day tat sent by her new Irish family. They joined the other Irish supporters in County football jerseys, Irish Soccer team shirts, and anything green they found handy. We wished them good luck. They joked that they’d need it. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, the result almost a given. Even the most hopeful optimist couldn’t deny 111 years of history.

And then the totally unexpected happened. By half time the Irish were ahead and Twitter and Whats App were going mental. By full time joy was unconfined. What a great night to be Irish in Chicago!

We won.


Starlings in the Square

Recently I happened to be in The Square in the early evening. There were swarms of starlings cavorting around St. John’s. They were perching around the clock and on the cross at the other gable and then all flying off for a jaunt around the square before returning to their perch on the old church roof.


Lest we forget

(From the internet)


Knocknagoshel….Headquarters of Horror, Halloween 2016

Photos by Elizabeth Brosnan


A Ballybunion Legend

This man has been selling periwinkles on the street in Ballybunion for as long as I can remember. Good organic food and absolutely no food miles involved. I photographed him on Sunday October 30 2016.


+ Michael O Suilleabháin R.I.P. +

Michael O Suilleabháin who passed away on November 1 2016 was a great family man and a great community man. He devoted his time in retirement to many many local causes. He worked hard on the graveyard committee, St. Patrick’s Hall, Aras Mhuire and many others. Listowel was lucky to have such a community spirited citizen for so long. May he rest in peace.

Michael OSuilleabháin is on the far right.

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