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

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Soap, a Bridge and a Ferry

Photo: Jim McSweeney, Mallow Camera Club


When Soap was Soap

If you remember this, you are as old me. This was ‘household soap”. It was manufactured by Lever Brothers in Port Sunlight outside Liverpool. it was used everyday for hundreds of jobs. If anything, and I mean anything, needed washing this was the go-to soap.

Scrubbing the doorstep, indeed scrubbing floors generally, was an activity undertaken by some on a daily basis. The scrubber knelt on the floor and with scrubbing brush and soap scrubbed every inch of the floor, mopping off the excess moisture with an old rag. These poor women (they were always women) ended up with a condition known as “housemaids knee”.


We’ll go racing again

We’ll cross this bridge again in 2022. I was delighted to see the sign advertising a June meeting and The Harvest Festival of Racing for September has been erected at the River Feale entrance to the racecourse.


Old Tarbert Ferry Postcard


From Pres. YearBook 1990


A Well Travelled Trip Adviser

(From RTE on the internet)

A Kerry man has made it into the review history books, as he’s named the best-travelled reviewer on Tripadvisor.

The review site has published a break down of its stats, as it reaches a milestone of publishing one billion reviews and traveller insights.

User @damienstack, from Listowel in Co. Kerry, Ireland, was revealed to have posted reviews for 176 different countries. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he has actually visited all 193 countries in the world!


1959 Donkey Derby

Sunrise on Galway Bay by Éamon ÓMurchú


Donkey Derbies

Donkeys in Race Week 1959

I saved the following poem years ago. Unfortunately I never noted the name of the poet. If you wrote it or you know who did, will you let me know and I’ll credit them.

Listowel Donkey Derby 1959

The weather being fine, being fifty nine and the races drawing nigh

To win the donkey derby sure our hopes were very high.

So we called on all the donkeys that might win cup or bowl

And we started preparations for the derby in Listowel.

The donkeys came in dozens, some were fast and some were slow,

But sure that’s the way you’ll find them no matter where you go

But we put them through their paces and we raced them past the pole

And twas all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

We had Nixes grey and Driscolls bay, she showed a little blemish

John Joe brought our camera in case of a photo finish

When Lady Barney won the second race, Dan Riordan scratched his pole

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Nedeen Buckley came with Sad Dust and Nellies Morning Dew

This was a kind of challenge race and t’was left between the two

Then Margaret came on Forge Road Lad, He’s the sire of a foal

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

When Shanahan’s Stamps came winning home, the crowd they gave a roar

They heard it back in Coolagown and down through Ennismore

Bob Stack got so excited, he ran up the winning pole

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Scortlea’s Hope when going well, won many a thrilling race

He ran his best to half a length and that was no disgrace

But when Casey down from Dromerin,  said he couldn’t run with goats

Sure his feeding was substandard, it was small Kilarda oats.

When Phil arrived on Gurtinard Lad,  Sean’s donkey gave a wink

He started like a bullet and gave him no time to think

Our jockeys rode like professionals both fearless and bold

And there’s one thing I can vouch for; a race was never sold.

The crowd grew larger every night, they came from far and near

Elsey , Kit and Minnie came the winners home to cheer

We had Bertha , Paul and Bridie, sure they played their usual role

And t’was all in preparation for the derby in Listowel.

Eileen came with Kathleen and Bridge came running fast

Sure Mary nearly broke her neck in case she might be last

Ginette was there from London oh my heart she nearly stole

And t’was all in preparation for the Derby in Listowel.

So then when the fun was over and we picked our chosen few

We raced them down Church Street where we met our Waterloo

But such is life, there is always strife in trying to reach your goal

Still our hopes are high for another try at the derby in Listowel.


Ferry at Rest

Breda Ferris took this photo of the Tarbert ferry. This is what she wrote about it when she posted it on Facebook;

‘Shannon Breeze’ Ferry leaves Tarbert and sails to Kilimer without any passengers. It is a terrific service when you consider the cost of doing this. Wonder should they have a booking service only during winter. Would surely save some money


John Lawlor’s Tragic Death in 1921

(From Glin Historical Society)

Kerrys fight for Freedom 

John Lawlor was born on May 3rd 1903. His father was Listowel’s parish clerk and the family lived in Convent street. He was a member of the Irish Volunteers and at the time of his death was studying for the priesthood.

In November 1920 John’s father refused to ring the bells of Listowel church to mark armistice day and he was subsequently threatened and lived in fear of the RIC and Black and Tans.

A month later John was home on holiday from his clerical studies from All Hallows College, Dublin. On New year’s Eve as he was going to church he was accosted by a group of Black and Tans on William Street and brutally assaulted. This unprovoked attack was in response to his father’s refusal to comply with the request to commemorate Armistice Day. 

John Lawlor died from his injuries on New Year’s Day was was buried in Listowel cemetery. He was 17 years old.


Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival 2022

BBF 2022, our local bardic festival will take place this year

– March 24th to 27th.

The committee are currently making plans today for workshops.

Closing date for entries to the writing competitions is February 28 2022.

For full details of the festival click on this link.

Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival 2022


Tarbert ESB, Listowel Food Fair 2019 and proposed Food Hub and John Relihan

Winter 2019


Do you Remember this?


Opening of ESB Power station, Tarbert

Glin Historical Society found these photos in the Kennelly Archive from

19th June 1970.

The official opening of the ESB power generating station at Tarbert by An Taoiseach Jack Lynch. Most Rev. Dr. Eamonn Casey, Bishop of Kerry, performed the blessing ceremony.


More from the Sunday Fair at Listowel Food Fair 2019

Frances O’Keeffe designs and knits the most amazing tea cozies. They are all just beautiful.

Frances’ attention to detail is astounding.


Down the street at The Seanchaí there was a great children’s fair going on.

It was Remembrance Sunday and the wreath laying was taking place at the memorial plaque.


North Kerry’s Own Celebrity Chef

I ran into John Relihan and his mom, Maryanne, in The Square. John is always so friendly and approachable despite his fame in the culinary world. He is now an executive chef which means a little less cooking and lots of globe trotting, last week in London, next week in Florida.

John and his mom were in Listowel for the food fair and they ran into Jimmy Deenihan who has done so much for the food business in Listowel. He is the driving force behind the new food hub which it is hoped will being jobs and prosperity to our region.

What is a food hub?

I asked the same question when I first heard of it and here is the answer from last week’s Kerry’s Eye:

Listowel in Summer 2019, Changes at Writers’ Week and a Tarbert picture revisited

 Lovely Listowel Pub

Tanker’s Bar on Upper William Street


Entente Florale Entertainment

On the day the adjudicators were in town, while watching the entertainment I met my old friend, John O’Connor of Tralee who was working in town.


Treoir magazine


Máire’s Last Day

The end of an era for the dream team; Eilish Wren and Máire Logue who managed so many successful Writers’ Week festivals are pictured in their office in Kerry Writers’ Museum on Máire’s last day in the job before she moves on to pastures new in St. John’s Arts and Heritage Centre.


Meanwhile in Tarbert, a reenactment

And here it is the photo you have all been waiting on… 34 years later!! Josephine, Kenneth and Thomas have recreated the photo. Remembering Derek always RIP x

Picture and caption from


Old O’Connor House at Curraghatoosane

On July 30 1019, we, Listowel people were allowed to visit the site of the old cottage unearthed during excavations for the new bypass.

The house was a thatched cottage of mud construction and it stood on this site until the 1950’s. We know from the census that 6 adult people lived there in 1911.

There was great interest among local people to see and hear how people lived in the 1800’s

Shards of pottery were uncovered, probably plates and bowls.

The archeologist told us that this design is Scottish.

Paddy Keane remembered that olive oil came in phials like these.

This is what remains of an Infant of Prague statue.

The artefacts included a thimble and some buttons. The daughter of the family was a dressmaker, according to the census.

Flowers, Crime and Punishment, Plastic at Glastonbury and Launch of the Dualist

Carmody’s Corner in June 2019


Floral Listowel

Everyone is making a big effort with the flowers for summer 2019. Here are a few lovely displays in town right now.



This is Tarbert Bridewell where I was on Saturday learning about crime and punishment in the 19th century.

The following story from the papers will make you glad we live in a more compassionate age.

Leinster Express 1831

EXECUTION.—On Saturday last Patrick and Bridget Howe were executed in front of the county jail Ennis, for the murder of the late Mr. Arthur O’Donnell, of Knock. Neither of them made any public confession of their guilt; and the wretched man was so overcome by the fear of death, that It was necessary to assist him up the ladder to the drop. The woman, on the other hand appeared quite firm and resolute, and endeavoured to cheer her brother by saying that it would be all over In a few minutes. An immense concourse of people assembled.—
Clara Journal.


Glastonbury….The Price!

These pictures have appeared online  in the days after the Glastonbury Music Festival. It was a plastic free zone!


Anna Guerin, the next Don O’Neill?

Don O’Neill is the biggest clothes designer to come out of Kerry in a while, but I think Listowel may have raised someone to rival him.

Anna Guerin launched her Donegal Tweed collection, The Dualist, in Brown Thomas on July 2 2019.

Here are a few photos from last Sunday’s Sunday Business Post article but I’m hoping for more exclusive snaps in the next few days.

Anna in her studio

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