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: Thade Gowran Page 1 of 2

Raceweek, milk churns and memories of Races past

Chris Grayson


Revellers in Listowel during a bygone Race Week

Daly’s was where The Risin’ Sun is now.


Sentimental attachment to milk churns

Dear Mary, 

To add to your milk tank stories, I am attaching a few pictures of milk tanks I brought back from Listowel years ago, painted green to match my front door, and they have travelled with me ever since to my homes in Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, North Carolina, and currently, South Carolina. Jack Scannall delivered milk to us at Skehenerin and always added a “supp” for the cat. As always, thanks for the Listowel Connection. 

MAEVE MOLONEY KOCH, Columbia, South Carolina 


Memories, Memories

Whether it’s milk churns or pictures, so many things remind us of home.

Here is a letter I got from Bernie Bardsley

 I would like to share a painting I did in 2004 of my mother, Hannah Theresa Bardsley (Grand daughter of Thade Gowran )and my son James Bardsley when he was a baby
He is a strapping 33 year old now
I haven’t painted in a while, but when I do I always sign it Barnaby, ( Another Story some other time, I hope your readers enjoy my painting, maybe inspiring me to paint again.
Bernadette Bardsley


Ballyduff and Ballincollig Friends at the Races on Sunday

The weather was a bit cold and blustery but it’s great to be outdoors and in good company.


Article in Image

In case you missed this great essay about Listowel Races in

The essay was written by one of our own with insider knowledge, Eadaein O’Connell.

Galway may have the hype, but the Listowel Races has the heart

Don’t be surprised if you hear a Listowel expat say they would rather come home for the week of the races than for Christmas. As a child, my parents would take me to the marketotherwise known as the amusementsduring the festival, and on the drive home I would turn to look at the outline of the town behind me as we drove away. All I could see was the sparkle of the funfair rides and I’d think to myself “wow, it can’t get any better than this”.  Side note: years later I discovered alcohol and the races became a whole different level of awe-inspiring.

For one solemn week in September, the town of Listowel illuminates. The land of John B. Keane becomes flooded with the racing elite, and Gypsy Kathleen parks up in The Square to tell fortunes to the unfortunate as punters try to grapple with lost money and dreams. A week on the racecourse, or ‘The Island’ as the locals call it, can ruin a person in the best possible way. They travel in spades from far-flung places like Tarbert to get a taste of the equestrian dream.  In its 160thyear, the Listowel Races is a pure horse racing adrenaline rush. It was my childhood, my teenage years and now my adult chapters. There is a magic in the town that you won’t find anywhere else. Galway may have the hype, but Listowel has the heart.

As a native, I know the tips and tricks to survive the week. You’ll need feeding because the days are long and treacherous and the walk to the Island is a marathon in itself. Be sure to eat your first meal before midday. The Grape and Grain on Church street is like being wrapped up in a warm hug. You’re always sure to be welcomed with a smile and banter from its patrons Martina and Pauchie. Martina makes all her food with a dash of tender love and care and Pauchie is the man to go to for a tip for a horse. The Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant and Eabha Jones are two delicious and warm choices post races and if you are feeling Italian inclined, make your way to Casa Mia’s and order the Chicken Milanese. This is so much of a Listowel delicacy you’d swear we invented it.

Before you descend onto ‘The Island’, saying a prayer for the sins you may commit during the week is a respectable choice. The Church is placed alongside the castle entrance so you are in particular luck. The racecourse is the holy land. No negativity will touch you there. Even though you may be considerably poorer by the end of the day, you will quickly find yourself in the middle of a bad episode of Strictly Come Dancing in Captain Christy’s stand and all will be forgotten. The McElligots Honda Ladies Day is always a winner and this year the best-dressed lady will walk away with a new Honda Civic and €3000. The festivities on the course last into the early hours, so stay for as long as your liver allows.

And on your way out, never forget to buy two Toblerones for a fiver.

Navigate the pubs of Listowel with absolute precision. Start the day in Mike the Pies at the top of the town. A Joe Dolan impersonator makes an appearance each year, and is so good he could transport you back to Mullingar. Then make your way to John B. Keane’s for the history and a chat with his son Billy. My family and I have forced a singing session here many times, so if you feel a sudden urge to warble your way through ‘Caledonia’ or ‘Lovely Listowel’ do not fight it. I’m sure Billy won’t mind.

Then to Jet Carroll’s which is the pub equivalent of Cheltenham. Here you will be offered one of three things; a horse, marriage or a farm in Ballylongford. Finally, Christy’s pub in the square is a place where many romances have started and subsequently failed. There are guaranteed laughs, live music and a barbeque. If you happen to lose a loved companion on your travels, check the back of Christy’s. It’s common to overhear, “You’ve lost your friend? Have you checked Christy’s?” The friend is usually exhumed from the smoking area after trying to romance a lovely girl from Limerick. At the end of the night, you have two choices; The Listowel Arms Hotel to witness the population of the town in action, or Mermaids Nightclub if you’re feeling brave.

Listowel chippers are like an apparition at the end of the night. Mama Mia’s has the best chips in Munster and the chicken and coleslaw in Jumbo’s are Michelin star worthy. My advice is to choose both. You will make friends for life, find romance or an afterparty in both restaurants. And as they say, you only live once.

You see, Listowel is the town that raised us and the races will forever run through the veins of its locals. We will always return. And I promise if you make the trip, you will never want it to end. Because you will find yourself sitting in the town square, missing your shoes, with a fistful of Mama Mia’s chips in one hand and a Jumbos’s chicken breast in the other, and you’ll think to yourself, “wow, it can’t get any better than this”.

Listowel Visitors, Moyvane Gardaí, Ballybunion in Julember

This week’s visitors were my three lovely lassies, Cora, Róisín and Aisling. I am quickly becoming an expert on what to do with children in Listowel for their holidays, so I’ll be sharing my adventures with you all.

The all time favourite activity, as voted by both boys and girls aged 11 to 6 was a night at The Kingdom Greyhound Stadium.

You get to watch the greyhound races from the comfort of your seat in the stadium. You can bet as little as €1 on any one of 6 dogs in each of the ten fast moving races. Even with no skill or knowledge you’ll be unlucky not to back one winner. You get to spend the evening in the company of lovely country people and German visiting tourists. If you’re hungry or thirsty, there’s food and drink on sale. Occasionally there is a bit of added excitement with a presentation or, on our visit, a Hen Party.


Moyvane’s  Squad Car…A Renault 4l

This photograph appeared on a site called Rare Irish stuff. There was no date or names. 

Moyvane Village identified the gardaí as Sergeant Jim Groarke and Garda John Behan. I’d guess the year as sometime in the 1960’s or 70’s


The Writing Bug continues into a new generation

I got this email from Bernie Bardsley;

Anthony Bardsley is my brother 
Great grandson of Thade Gowran
He has recently wrote a poem about a man called Jack Omar.
I would like to share with you.

The Lovely Irish Lad

I’m proud to be a
part Irish Man

Just by the Kerry
Green Turquoise Mountains the land is of good vegetation

Jack O’Mar the famous
boxing star is sure to go far

He’s six foot tall
and measured wide and thick set

I and my family
went to watch his great talent

We were talking to

Man he made us look
so small

I’m proud to be of
Irish kin

Baking on the blue
Irish Sea beach on the Kerry Isle and Abbey Field River, down to Killarney Bay
Where the lovely Fungi Dolphin swam

At the main shallow
water the young brave young Irish man

I am a part Irish
lad and poet who hasn’t completely had this day yet, more to come, see the
light of day

The poet realises
how lucky he is for he’s well thought of

The poet arises in
the morning and slept all day and night

The poet went to
dingle bay where his plan lay and his eye looked to the blue sky and realised where
paradise was today and went to the Irish country side and saw the Irish cattle,
sheep and Bonan pigs in the field thinking of the day and making my plans away

Jack O’mar the
famous boxing star talked all night and day to the commentator and filming the
view and sight of him on a camera

This paradise Irish
land is so grand

Being on a horse
and saddle down dingle bay where my mother used to swim in the sea

Then one day a
scuffling fight and a match someone punched Jack and knocked him out, in dismay
he fell to the ground and died

And in his
remembrance and ancestry his children played in the park having a good time
remembering their father in dismay.

Anthony Bardsley                                                                                      
July 2017


Ballybunion on a wintry Summer evening

Even on a cold and overcast summer evening Ballybunion looks spectacular.

My young visitors were delighted to see that a funfair had arrived since we were last here. I’m not so sure its a welcome addition to the attractions of Ballybunion.

Three new businesses, Thade Gowran remembered and an upcoming Music Festival

Three New Businesses Open Their Doors

This colourful shop is located at No. 3 Main Street. In  it,  you can customise a cup or plate with birth, marriage, Fathers’ Day or other details or just bring home your very own souvenir of your visit to Listowel.

Lizzie’s Little Kitchen on William Street opened on June 17 2016. This is the Listowel outlet of a food emporium which is very popular in Ballybunion and at the Friday Market in Listowel.

Jimmy Deenihan’s constituency office premises is now Purtill Solicitors.


Trade Gowran’s Descendants

Bernadette Beardsley sent this photo . She and all of Thade’s descendants are proud of their Irish heritage.

“Hello My name is Bernadette Bardsley you recently published an article about my Great Grandfather Thade  Gowran who was my mothers  Hannah Teresa Flaherty’s Grandfather My mother was featured in the article as was my Father who was an Englishman Warren Paul Bardsley, also featured my sister Fran Blyth and her three children my nieces and Nephews Michael, Sean Chamberlain and her daughter Alexis Johnstone.

Thade’s  Decendents from his Granddaughter are many, and many of us have his love of Poetry including myself, I sing like my Great Grandfather and play an Instrument, I was also born in the same month of May, his Great Grandson Anthony Warren Bardsley is very talented in Poetry and has a Book Published, Kathleen Johnson is also gifted with writing, also his Great Granddaughter, of course many of us have children too, so the spirit of Thade  carries on to a fourth Generation .”


Expect Delays

Vital repair work on both sides of the Big Bridge is causing some delays to traffic recently as a stop go system is in operation.


A Saturday Night in Listowel Town Square like no other

Some big names booked for Listowel for August 13 next.

Thade Gowran and John B. Keane and Mike the Pie’s before the All Ireland

A Lovely Little Corner of Town


Promising Golfer with a strong Listowel Sporting Pedigree

John Molyneaux Jr. goes to US on Golf Scholarship

John, son of Des and Elaine Molyneaux, and grandson of John and Georgina Molyneaux Charles St., and Tommy and Alice Sheahan of the Square, having just completed his Leaving Certificate has now joined Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina on golf scholarship where he plans to complete a Business/Finance Degree. John spends his summers and as much time as he can at other times of the year in Listowel with his grandparents and in Ballybunion.  Having played golf as a tot with his grandfather on the bag at the now closed Listowel Golf Club he subsequently joined Ballybunion Golf Club. In the last couple of years he won an All-Ireland Junior Cup Winners medal in 2013 with the Club, is the 2014 Club Scratch Match Play winner, 2014 Kerry Boys Championship runner up, and was named the 2015 Club Junior Captain.  This summer he played on Ballybunion’s 2015 Munster pennant winning Junior Foursomes team and for Munster in the 2015 U18 Irish Interprovincial Golf Championship.

Footnote: John attended secondary school at St. Benildus College in Dublin, which has had a long-time Listowel connection through now retired teacher Maurice McMahon and author of “Mr Mac – A Blackboard Memoir”.


Thade Gowran Descendants

Thade Gowran was a naive poet born in Meenscovane, Duagh. Thade, “was a part-time labourer, water-diviner, ballad-maker, composer and holder of Raffles at his cottage home in Knocknacrohy. He died at the youthful age of fifty seven probably from acute ulcers. He is remembered as a pale-faced, rather lanky man, the kind of man country people would describe as rawly.”  John B. Keane.

Thade was constantly writing verse and thankfully he wrote his compositions  down. So, unlike Paddy Drury, a local poet of similar ilk, his ballads have survived to this day . 

Thade’s descendants are anxious to learn more about him and to keep the memory of their famous ancestor alive. To that end Fran Blyth and family came to North Kerry this summer. They felt at home and connected to the landscape here. They’ll be back!

Michael, Alexis and Sean, great great great grandchildren of poet and balladeer, Thade Gowran at his plaque in Duagh earlier this year.

This is Thade Gowran’s granddaughter, Hannah Flaherty who passed away in 2003. She never forgot her Irish roots and her famous grandfather.

Fran Blyth with her mother, Hannah Flaherty R.I.P. on a previous visit to Ireland.

Hannah Flaherty Bardsley on her wedding day. Note the horseshoes which all brides used to carry (for luck) back in the day.

Thade Gowran was a great composer of impromptu verses. He followed in the ancient bardic tradition of writing ballads to chronicle the story of the times he lived in and the people who shared the locale with him.

Below is his poem about a neighbour of his who married late in life.

“I’ll sing a song about a man, O’Connor James is he,

A man who led the airy life to the age of sixty three.

One day as he sat in his lonely cot the sun was shining grand,

His temperature was rising high and the heat he couldn’t stand.

The day passed on and night came on the ramblers they showed up,

The brothers Keefe, Tom Danagher, Jeff Morrissey and Buck.

‘Cheer up’

Says Tom to Jim, ‘Cheer up again and aise your troubled mind,

The first of May’s not far away and a wife for you I’ll find.’

They tackled up Tom Frank’s grey steed as the bells did loudly ring,

And heading out beyond Knockmaol the arrived that night in Glin.

They got a great reception, they got porter by the tierce,

And then and there poor James did swear he’d marry Minnie Pierce.

But now that he is married his troubles are not o’er,

For when he’s out he wants no man to stand inside his door.”

John B. wrote of Thade Gowran;

“Thade Gowran never had a poem published in his lifetime. The intellectuals or so-called intellectuals of the time were trying to move away from the folksy rhymes which were so popular in the countryside. It was the dawn of modern verse, most of which was without rhyme or reason. The more nebulous and meaningless the poem the more praise was heaped on the head of the composer. Anything which was easily understood was frowned upon. There were some honourable exceptions but by and large there was little room for Thade Gowran’s ballads in the papers or magazines of the time. In fact, Thade would be looked upon by his urban contemporaries as a bit of a hick. His work failed to confuse and was, therefore, of little importance to those who might have encouraged its publication.

It is a shame indeed that he was not taken seriously beyond the countryside. Whatever it about the urban Celt there is a destructive drop in him which has little tolerance for his rustic brother or for his own beginnings.”


A Little Hubris for All Ireland Weekend?


Pinning his colours to the mast

An August 2015 Thursday in John B.’s and another win for Sonny Bill

Pub Theatre in John B.’s

My father died when I was seven. My mother wore no colour but black for a full year. The radio was only turned on to hear the news and weather forecast. We had no television. There was no music in the house. We went to town only for shopping once a week and to go to mass on Sundays. Laughter and shouting or halooing was discouraged. Anything by way of enjoyment was absent from our lives for a long 12 months.

Thank God things have changed and we now know that keeping the lost loved one’s spirit alive and present to us is much more healthy than constantly reminding ourselves of an absence. We are now encouraged to remember the loved one and to live, laugh and enjoy ourselves as normal.

In the week of his mother’s death, Billy Keane put on the “shop face” and “hoored it out” as best he could on Thursday night last. Thursday night is pub theatre night in John B.s. Billy banned any sad talk but inevitably the night was tinged with sorrow for the lady of the house.

I was there on Thursday evening with Fran Blyth and her family. Fran is the great granddaughter of the poet Thade Gouran.  Michael, Alexis and Sean are his great great grandchildren. They had come from England to connect with the homeland of their ancestors and to sample life in North Kerry.

 They were all thrilled to pose with Billy and even more thrilled when he recited The Yorkshire Pig, one of Thade Gowran’s better known works.

Billy brought a chair from the kitchen and placed it in the bar and asked us to leave it free for “someone” who would be with us in spirit tonight. She was with us alright and we all felt her gentle soul was still close to home.

Mickey MacConnell opened the night with his new version of the Ballad of John B. He has tweaked his original lament for John B. to now include Mary.

Billy read a lovely love poem his dad wrote for his mam in the first flush of their young love.

Fran was delighted to learn that Gabriel Fitzmaurice, who was in to read some of his poems, has a Thade Gowran ballad, The Dawning of the Day, in this repertoire. If he had had his guitar he would have sung it.

David O’Sullivan was a convincing bishop. In an extract from The Field he exhorted us, under threat of interdict, to reveal to the police everything we knew about the murder. By the end of the sermon we were all ready to sing like canaries.

Claire Keane Fennell sang Kielty and later Over the Rainbow.

The English visitors were enthralled.

Another Keane was making his own record of the proceedings.

Billy’s good friend, Con, sang his song accompanied by Mickey MacConnell. 

We all joined hands and sang the John B. Keane anthem, The Black Hills of Dakota.

Billy gave a big build up to another young man who sang a different anthem.

Billy did his best to remember the words of Thade Gowran’s Yorkshire Pig as he introduced Thade’s great great grandson to sing the anthem from Les Miserables.

Sean’s singing coupled with his boy band good looks won him quite a few fans on the night.

My video of Sean singing is HERE The quality of the video is fairly poor. The quality of the singing was never in doubt.


Framed Posters in Behans


A Kerry Football Cup in Pittsburg

The U.S. Midwest division of the GAA had a great stalwart in Tom O’Donoghue of Listowel. They honored his many years of dedicated service in the promotion of Gaelic Games in Pittsburg by awarding the Tom O’Donoghue Memorial Cup to the winners of the Midwest Division Football Championship. The cup was played for on Aug 8th and 9th. 2015 and Tom’s eldest son, Thomas, presented the cup to the winners


R.I.P. Robert Moloney


Sonny Bill’s latest triumph

First in his class and reserve champion at Limerick Show on Sunday last…..Good Boy, Sonny Bill!

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