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: The Astor

More Cinema Memories

Cromane: Photo by Chris Grayson


Old Tralee Postcard


Vincent Carmody Remembers Great Times in the Cinema

As someone who grew up quite close to the Astor, the cinema site itself, the adjacent railway property, in and around the Sluadh Hall and around the creamery were play areas for those of us from the top of William Street. 

A particular thing that we used to do when in the cinema yard was to pick up pieces of the celluloid film which would have been cut from the reels as the projectionist would splice reels together. We would take these clips home and get real enjoyment if any actors faces appeared on the clips.  Another thing that would have been discarded were sticks of carbine.  They would have been used in the projection room. This room was attached to the end wall of the cinema and was accessed by concrete steps to the upstairs projection room. Underneath was the boiler room. 

Pat Dowling of the Bridge Road was the projectionist. He was a mechanic at Moloney’s Garage in William Street and was also a member of the Fire Brigade. Jeremiah O’Connor of O’Connell’s Avenue was his assistant. Mrs Woulfe of St. Brendan’s Terrace was manageress and worked in the ticket office, while Michael Nolan and John Joe O’Connor were doormen. 

There was no shop in situ in our time. Sweets would have to be bought at either Jet Stacks, Quills or Kelly’s from further down the street. 

Admission to the gods (hard seats) was four old pence, middle soft seats, I think ten pence and the more up market balcony around would have cost one shilling and three pence. 

The Astor would show the same film, at the most, for two nights, whereas the Plaza would usually have the same film for three nights. Both cinemas would have afternoon matinees and and night show on Sundays. There were some in the town who would alternate visits to both cinemas on different nights. One nightly man in particular, was a pipe smoker and he would have two pipes, smoking one until it got hot, then changing it for the second one. 

 Advertisements for many local shops would appear on screen prior to the shows. Then usually what was shown next was either a serial or shorts, then trailers of upcoming films. If it was a serial, this would continue over a period of weeks. A great favourite at one stage, was a half hour Scotland Yard mystery case.  This was presented by an actor called Bruce Seton, (at that time I was not to know that I would get to know him very well when I worked in the Devonshire Arms public house in Kensington London in the 1960s). 

At one time, whoever was booking films must have got a bargain in buying in bulk. For about five Sundays in succession, films starring a cowboy by the name of Whip Wilson filled the screen, so much so, one local wit, put it out that Wilson was lodging at a local B & B.  

Being at the Astor on Sunday September 11th 1955, is a date I remember quite vividly. The reason for this, is that in that year, both All Ireland semi finals ended in draws on the two previous weekends. Both replays were re-fixed for the 11th, Kerry playing Cavan and Dublin playing Mayo. I remember that the Kerry match was played first, meaning that it did not finish until nearly four o clock. The Astor management, realising this, wisely put back their starting time to facilitate cinema goers who would have been listening to the match on the radio. 

Another standout memory is of attending a showing of Angela’s Ashes.  I found this a depressing movie, more so, as it seemed to have been filmed in near constant rain and depression. Leaving the cinema shortly after ten o clock that evening, we exited to a lovely bright warm summer evening. It felt great after what we had seen on screen.   

Another vivid memory for me is seeing Dead Poets’ Society. At the end of the film, Eamon Keane, recognising a fellow actor, Robin William’s tour de force, stood and applauded for a full five minutes

On occasions (especially before Walsh’s Super Ballroom was built in the 1950s) the Astor was used as a Dance Hall. In the 1940s there were occasional supper dances, with dancing at the Astor and a supper meal been served at the Slua Hall across the road. 

I can also recall a variety show sometime in the early 1950s. 

I, like many, regret the closure of the Astor, now Classic,  as a cinema. However I realise that without a regular substantial  audience attendance, a venue like this could not pay its way. Hopefully this fine building will not be pulled down and maybe have a rebirth, as it could be used as a theatre, exhibition space, museum  or boutique cinema.

Meanwhile, I salute the late Kieran Gleeson, his wife Teresa and family, for the pleasure which they gave to Listowel cinema goers. I thank them for rescuing the Astor and making it a worthwhile and pleasant location for North Kerry film buffs from January 1987 until its closure in January 2022. 

The Astor cinema was built and operated by the Coffey family in the late 1930s. The Coffey family had two cinemas in Tralee. Brendan Coffey ran the Listowel cinema.


From Presentation Magazine 1983


Old Listowel

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú in Mount Usher Gardens


Old Listowel post card


Did you know?

Lord Listowel, who literally and figuratively “owned the place” once upon a time, insisted that all the houses in The Square should be three stories high. The Church of Ireland school, which was located beside St. Mary’s Catholic church could not afford to build the third storey. To comply with Lord Listowel’s orders they built a mock third storey with mock windows.


A Piece of Memorabilia

Violet Dalton shared this dance poster on Facebook. These dances which went on until the wee hours used to be locally known as All Night Dances.


New Shop on Church Street

Imara Edit began trading on Church Street on Saturday November 13 2021. It sells costume jewellery and accessories.


Another Emigrant Ballad

This ballad from The Shannonside Annual of 1958 seems to belong to a genre that was popular in this journal. Joe Harrington suggested that the air of My Eileen is Waiting for Me might be suitable for the last example I included.

Maybe they weren’t meant to be sung.


It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like…..



1951 dance, The National Children’s Literary Festival and some visitors to Listowel

Do you remember this photo from last week which some people thought might be a teachers’ dance? Not so, says my better informed correspondent.

Beta (Whelan) O’Brien writes as follows:

“…. it was a Fianna Fail Dance held in the Astor Cinema/ballroom in 1951   We have identified most of the group.

Front Row:  Bridie Murphy Greenville ?  Mary Whelan  Joan Curtin  Betty Leahy  Doreen OConnor

Second Row: Mr Scannell ? Margaret Whelan  Mrs Hannan  Peggy and John OConnor

Third Row: Mrs Halpin  Ella Corridan   Lil Walsh   Miss Stack NT  last in row not identified

Fourth Row:  Mrs JK OConnor   Mrs Louis Murphy  Teresa and Eddie Hanrahan Ballylongford   Eilish OSullivan ?

Back Row:  **  **   John Joe Mc Elligott ? Peggy Hickey   Marie OHara Mc Auliffe   Phil Quigley Chute”

Thank your , Beta.


Visitors in town last week


Do you remember this?

Limerick 1970s and 80s  (Photo; Limerick Life)


Kerry for the holidays

My grandchildren love to spend time in Listowel.

The playground in the town park is one of their favourite haunts.

All three girls absolutely love books. They are all members of three libraries. They were thrilled skinny to be involved in the launch of the super National Children’s Literary Festival which will run in conjunction with Listowel Writers’ Week 2014.

“The National Children’s Literary Festival at Listowel Writers’ Week will run in conjunction with the main Festival and is jam-packed with events for children of all ages and their families. It will feature an alternative cultural school tour, “authors in schools” day, workshops, picnics, book clinics and most importantly, Chocolate! Starring at the Festival will be celebrated children’s authors John BoyneAlan EarlySiobhán ParkinsonSarah WebbSteve SimpsonClaire Hennessy and 12 year-old author, Joe Prendergast.

A recent initiative, Operation Education: A Teen Focused Arts Festival for Transition and 5th Year Students, is now entering its second year.  One of its objectives is to introduce the students to a poet who will be on their Leaving Cert course as well as stimulating and enthusing students with a varied programme of events.”

The full programme is available at


We live in a digital age

Daddy was left behind in Cork. The family didn’t “phone” home. They Facetimed him on the iPad. In the background of my picture you can just see a flowerpot that was left to me by my grandmother. I wonder what she would make of what’s going on on the couch…


Ladies who attended a bracelet making workshop in Craftshop na Méar on Saturday April 26 2014

Teachers’ Dance in The Astor in 1940s and Writers’ Week 2014 programme launch

I don’t have an exact  date but people who know such things think that this photo was taken at a teachers’ dance in The Astor about 60 years ago.

In the photo, in no particular order, are, John and Peg O’Connor,, Mary Whelan, Joan Curtin, Betty Leahy, Doreen O’Connor, Mrs. Hannon, Margaret Whelan, Mrs Halpin, Mrs corridan, Lil walshe, mrs. O’Connor, Luaí OMurchú, Barney Hanley, Micheál Flavin,Finbar MacAuliffe, John Joe McElligott, ?Hickey, ? Foley



Anne’s Vintage Tearooms is all old china and tablecloths. The food is good too.

Shwopping is a new one on me but it sounds fun.

This is outside a pub on the main street.


Last week I attended the marvelous Scoil Realta na Maidine’s Salute to Spring

The souvenir ptogramme was very attractive.

Members of Kerry Choral Union on the altar steps in St. Mary’s Listowel


Good Friday tradition in west Kerry

“Nuair a bhíonn sé ag
déanamh síos ar lag trágha, Aoine an Chéasta, bíonn gach aon tráigh agus
cladach i nDún Chaoin lán de mhnáibh agus de ghearrachailíbh agus de gharsúin,
ag bain bháirneach agus ag priocadh miongán. Bíonn bior ag gach duine aca chun
na mbáirneach a bhaint….cuireann siad na báirnigh mhóra bhuidhe, méithe
annsan ag beirbhiú ar an dteine in oigheann nó corcán.. bíonn a ndóthain mór,
agus a thuille ‘na theannta, d’annlann na trágha acu, Aoine an Chéasta.
[Seán Ó
Dálaigh, Timcheall Chinn Sléibhe]

“Good Friday will be next
Friday and we have a custom here to go to the strand for sea grass and other
things that’s growing on the rocks. All the women and children go to the strand
that day. it is an old custom I think. The women of long ago here used
everything that’s growing on the strand. They are very healthy mind you….Old
men and women say that you should not be in the strand when the sun is gone
down entirely. I am sure they used be afraid of fairies.”
[Eibhlís Ní
Shúilleabháin, Letters From the Great Blasket]


This lovely photo appeared on The Listowel Arms website at the weekend. 


Me, Eilís Wren and Kay Caball in The Square Listowel on April 17 2014 on our way to the programme launch for Writers’ Week 2014.

Actress, Aisling O’Sullivan launched the programme in The Seanchaí. I took lots of photos which I will share with you over the coming days.


Great Easter for Kanturk 

Joy is unconfined in my hometown, Kanturk this weekend. The local rugby club had a huge win over Instonians in Belfast on Saturday and so will play senior rugby next year, a huge achievement and well feted in this sport – mad town.


Local horse, Rebel Fitz put the icing on the cake of victories with a great win in The Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.

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