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Tag: The Bittling Woman

Jack Nash Remembered, A 2004 Memory and a Strange Fact

Gurtinard Walk in February 2020



Lots of roadworks hoping on in town recently

Listowel Ballalley before it was painted

Listowel Ball Alley in February 2020


This man is the late Jack Ashe/Nash

Vincent Carmody sent us this email in which he tells us more about this local journalist/poet

I will try to explain the origin of the street names later, however today, I would like to share with

 your readers some insight into that great man of ‘letters’ Sean Ashe of Convent Street or 

The Gleann, as he preferred it to be called. 

The Ashe family originated in West Kerry, arriving in North Kerry in the mid 1800s and 

finally to Convent Street  Sean and his sister Nora had a small sweetshop in what is now 

22 Convent Stree., On a plinth over their door and window Jack had his name proclaimed 

in Gaelic, Sean Aghas. One night a few smart young fellows went busy painting and 

as the day broke, a name was added and read, Sean Aghas Nora. 

Rather than refer to him as Jack Ashe, many locals referred to him as the more easy 

pronounced, Jack Nash.

For many years Jack was local correspondent for the Kerry Champion newspaper, in which 

among other things he composed ballads about local events, always signing his work by his

 initials, S.A.

He penned a lovely 12 verse poem, ‘The Place we Call The Gleann’ in memory 

of the street of  his youth, the first 2 verses read


I now retrace the path of years

And see a picture bright.

No faltering step or memory lapse

Can dim the pleasing sight.

No wind of change can disarrange

The thoughts I first penned down.

Of happy days and boyhood ways

In the place we call ” The Gleann”


Ah ! There’s the lengthy line of homes

Along the riverside. 

Across the roadway many more

Line up with equal pride. 

The white-washed wall of one and all

And the thatch of light-hued brown. 

Bring picturesqueness to the scene

In the place we call the Gleann.

He was equally adapt at penning lovely verses regaling the fortunes of teams 

playing in the Listowel Town League, 

2 of these ballads remain and I’d wager few places or few ballad writers could

 produce words or lines that would compare with Ashe’s composition.

The first 2 verses of his 1935 effort went


The world and his wife were there to see the contest played.

The ploughman left his horses and the tradesman left his trade.

Excitement spread, like lightning flash through every house in town.

The night the Boro’ Rovers met in combat with the Gleann. 


The father and the mother, yes, the husband, wife and child.

Were there in great profusion and went mad careering wild.

Said the young wife to her husband: “Sure, I’ll pawn my shawl and gown

And I’ll bet my last brown penny on the fortunes of the Gleann”

In later years, 1953, once again those great rivals met in the final, well known All Ireland 

footballer, Jackie Lyne was the referee, afterwards Lyne remarked, that the match 

was as exciting and the play as skillful as any inter-county match he had ever played in. 

Once again Ashe’s 2 first verses were classic in their descriptive lines.

T’was the thirteenth of August and the year was fifty-three,

And the bustle and excitement filled expectant hearts with glee, 

So we all stepped off together to the field above the town,

To see those faultless finalists, Boro’ Rovers and The Gleann.


The game began at nick of time, the “Ref” was Jackie Lyne, 

The whistle held in master hands was an inspiring sign,

It was an epic struggle and to history ’twill go down,

An eventful, epic final twixt the Boro’ and the Gleann.     



From Listowel Contributors to the Schools Folklore Collection

17. Frank Hoffman who was killed in the troubles in Tralee was a great concertina-player. After his death his comrades were planning an ambush in a barn and they heard his tone played outside on a concertina. They put off the ambush and ’twas well they did as a trap was laid for them and they’d all be wiped out.

(T. T. Doyle Tanavalla)

18. “The men who crucified Our Lord have to roll barrells in heaven as a punishment. Thats thunder! (Hickey Ballybunion).

(19) There was a churchyard in Behins long ago and men ploughed up bones there and never buried them again so they got the sickness and died.

There was also a churchyard in Listowel at the back of Feale View (Sweetnams) now the property of Mr. Foley.


The Kerryman 2004


A Little Known Fact

King David 1 of Scotland gave tax rebates to people with good table manners.


Look What Nicholas Found

Mary, I came across the website ‘Old & Interesting’ which is a delightful, informative and entertaining site.
All items shown here are from Old & Interesting – Text ©  
It seems that the hygienic and elusive, and ghostly Kerry 
‘bittler’ was in fact a washerwoman with unfinished nocturnal business, of a ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ sort, on this earth.

“…The names of the wooden beaters varied from region to region: washing-beetles, clothes-beetles, bats, paddles, beatels, bittles, battledores, battling-sticks, battling-staffs. Other names for washing implements were washing-dolly, dolly-legs, dolly-peg, peggy, maiden, possing-stick, poss-stick. The tub was sometimes called a dolly-tub. The beetling-block could be a beetling/battling-bench, or battling-board…”

“The young washerwomen beetling clothes on a beetle-stone in the picture (above right) were an “amusing” and “quaint” illustration for an 1891 book about Ireland.”
(probably the book mentioned below). 
“Katty took a pailful of soiled linen to the spot where the stream formed a little pool, and where the villagers had fixed a broad and flat “beetling” stone.
Patrick Kennedy, Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts, 1891”

Text and Photo from Nicholas Leonard

Alice Taylor, Pisheógs, Cotter na Gruaige and Plans for Writers’ Week 2020

A dog who loves the beach  Photo by Bridget O’Connor


A Writers’ Week Memory

It must have been 1988 or 1989, because To School Through the Fields was published in 1988 and its author, Alice Taylor is the subject of my story.

Alice Taylor and me in Philips Bookshop in Mallow at a book signing in

November 2019.

Back in 1988 Alice Taylor was starting out on her literary career and she came to Listowel to attend Writers’ Week. I was a Mammy with a little girl who was anxious to take part in the Writers’ Week fancy dress parade. I thought up the perfect dress- up character for Clíona. Easy peasy as all the props and costume requirements were easy to acquire.

I dressed her up in her school uniform, tied a few old books together with a leather strap/belt and found a sod of turf. Ta dah! Alice Taylor goes To School Through the Fields.

As we were dispersing after the parade the bus with the people on the bus tour was just arriving in The Square. Alice Taylor was alighting from the bus when she spotted the little girl dressed as herself. She called us over, gave Clíona a fiver and posed for a photo. Poor Clíona hadn’t a clue who the lady was but she pocketed the fiver all the same. She didn’t really appreciate the fact that she had just met one of Ireland”s up and coming memoir writers.

Statue of Alice Taylor in her native Newmarket, Co. Cork


Listowel Writers’ Week Art Committee

Jim Dunn, Catherine Moylan, Carol Stricks and Elizabeth Dunn finalising a brilliant Art programme for Listowel Writers’ Week 2020, which will run from May 27 to May 31 2020

I got a sneak peak at what’s in store and its really really good.

I’m on the 50th Commemoration Committee and we are desperately looking for old photos, or stories from the last 50 years of festivals. A big thank you to the people who have sent stuff already but there must be lots of stuff in albums and attics that others would enjoy seeing. Take a look for us, please.


The Bittling Woman of Rathea

Yesterday’s story from Rathea raised many questions. I think we are all agreed that it refers to some kind of pisheóg behaviour. The dead cow at the end is the clue here.

Dave O’Sullivan found the meaning of the word bittling in a dictionary of Scots Gallic

Dictionary to the Scots language

It would appear she was washing clothes and beating them clean. The reference to hearing her is obviously to hearing the beating sound as she pounded the clothes.

Pisheógs were often invoked to bring good luck to one family and bad luck to another. The death of a cow would be a huge stroke of bad luck. Pisheógs often involved the stealing of milk or butter. A man told me that he heard of a family who could work pisheógs. The person casting the spell would come to the cow house of the person to be cursed, would take the spancel and would work it back and forth under the best cow in the herd. That cow would dry up and the pisheogie person’s cow would produce gallons of milk.

Another story he told me was of a man who could work pisheogs.  When he went to mass on Sundays, when it came to the consecration, he would turn his back on the altar and face the congregation behind him.

(the power of pisheogs was thought to come from the devil)


Cotter na Gruaige

A Pied Piper story from Rathea in the School’s Folklore collection

About 74 years ago a most unwelcomed visitor occasionally went past the village of Duagh, as it was the main road from Listowel town to Cork City for carting all farm produce. The name of this visitor was Cotter na Gruaige, he used to set charms, and also curse people for little cause and everybody was afraid to meet him. He was conspicious looking. He wore his hair hanging to his waist at his back and his beard hung to his waist in front. His mode of travelling was a pony about 20 years old and spotted like a magpie. 

He often went without causing any trouble but on one occasion while passing through Duagh the school children were at play in the school.grounds and when Cotter na Gruaige came on they threw puddle on him and his pony. He immediately drove his pony into the school yard to accuse the teacher named (Mr James Dore) who met Cotter in the  yard and ordered him out on the road. When on the road Cotter said to the teacher “I am going now but I am leaving you my army.”

 Master Dore lived 100 yards from the school, in a nice thatched residence which stands to this day. When school was over Dore walked up home, but to his amazement the thatch of his house was torn and thrown down by an immense crowd of rats. He entered the house but could not eat his dinner as the rats came up on the table. He was half frightened and did not know what to do. He went to the Parish Priest Father O Regan and told him his story. The priest went to see the rats and when he saw them he told the teacher, he should find Cotter na Gruaige and pay him to withdraw his charm. 

Next day the teacher set out on search of Cotter and found him in the evening at the house of a man named Nolan of Brosna. The teacher apologised and asked Cotter to come next day and take away the rats which he promised to do. The teacher came home that night and told his story to everybody including Father O Regan. 

Next day about noon Cotter na Gruaige was coming to the village and crowds flocked round him to see what would occur. Cotter rode his pony to the yard in front of the teachers house, put his hand in his pocket and drew out a bugle which he sounded and out came all the rats on the road. Cotter kept playing his bugle and riding slowly on his pony until he came to a small river South of Duagh named Glashamore. When he came to the river bank all the rats were around him, except one which he asked for, and the teacher said one rat remained in the yard. 

Cotter na Gruaige ordered two rats to go for the missing one and they went immediately and brought the largest rat of all which was blind. He walked between his two Guards led by a cord which he held in his mouth. When the blind rat landed on the river bank Cotter ordered all rats to disappear and all the rats jumped into the river below the bridge and were out of sight in a second and from that day to this no rat was seen at Dore’s house.

Dómhnall de Staic
Duagh, Co. Kerry

Duagh, Co. Kerry


Stained Glass, A Bittling Woman and the Corona Virus

Should he be called Narcissus?  Photo by Bridget O’Connor


Chapel Windows

When I was photographing progress at Listowel Primary Care Centre, I noticed these windows in the convent chapel. The magnificent stained glass windows were removed when the convent closed and they were given to churches at home and abroad.

Recently I learned that two of the windows were from the Harry Clarke Studios in Dublin. Harry Clarke died in 1931 and these windows were commissioned to celebrate the anniversary of the convent in 1944. They were most likely designed by William Dowling.

The Harry Clarke Studios windows showing St. Michael, the Archangel and St. Patrick


Corona Virus…A Listowel Connection

Photo and story from

Growing numbers of Irish people enduring lockdown conditions in coronavirus-hit China are frustrated at what they believe is poor communication and support from the Department of Foreign Affairs, it emerged yesterday. 

In Wuhan in Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus, food and medicine shortages are a growing concern.

Meanwhile, Greg McDonough, a native of Listowel in Co Kerry, who lives in the neighbouring Anhui province, said the Department of Foreign Affairs is providing them with little information other than to “check our website”.

The department’s website earlier this week asked Irish people still in China to consider leaving, and to go to a travel agent if their presence was not essential, due to the coronavirus threat.

However, Mr McDonough, who is mostly confined to his home with his wife Wang Xuan and son Joseph (2), said a large Irish group in China who are in contact through WhatsApp want the Irish Embassy to do more.

“Restrictions are getting worse. Only one person a day from a house is allowed out to go to a supermarket,” he said.

“The website recommended going to a travel agency, but that is unrealistic because of the lockdown.”

He said a key concern for Irish people with Chinese partners is that they be allowed to travel with them should they decide to leave China.

“They do not want to leave them behind. The embassy needs to secure an agreement with Chinese authorities to permit them to travel,” he said.

They also want the Irish officials to plan for repatriation if the situation deteriorates and if a plane was sent to Shanghai, it might be possible for Irish people in neighbouring provinces to travel there.

Mr McDonough said the roads out of the town where he is are currently blocked off.

The Chinese Spring Festival was extended for a second week and the hope is that the roads will reopen on Monday.

However, the future continues to remain deeply uncertain, as deaths from the virus near 500 in China with no sign of slowdown in its spread.

A Foreign Affairs spokesman in Dublin said its embassy has been liaising with other countries on options for supporting Irish citizens in China.

It is in contact with remaining Irish people in China.

Separately, two Irish passengers who were on a luxury cruise face two weeks of quarantine and confinement to their cabins after an outbreak of the coronavirus on board.

They are among thousands of passengers who have been ordered to stay in their cabins aboard the Diamond Princess, docked off Japan, after 10 people tested positive for coronavirus.

The virus, which has infected more than 24,300 globally, continues to cause major disruption and havoc across the world.

Meanwhile, another patient suspected of having the virus was placed in isolation in University Hospital Kerry yesterday.

The person – understood to be a woman who may have been in contact with people who travelled to China recently – presented at the hospital with respiratory problems.

As a precautionary measure, the woman was immediately placed in isolation.

The Department of Health yesterday declined to say if she was cleared of risk, but said that nobody in Ireland had tested positive for the virus.

China’s Juneyao Airlines has opted to postpone the March 29 launch of its service from Dublin to Shanghai amid the ongoing concerns over the virus.

The route – announced in late November – was a major coup for Dublin Airport following the decision by Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines to axe its six-month-old route to Shenzhen last August, and put its Dublin-Beijing service on ice until this year.


The Bittling Woman

From Rathea school in The Schools’ Folklore Collection

About sixty years ago this bittling woman was going on from six a clock on a Summer’s evening to ten at night. She used to be heard on the little glosha that is separating Glanderry from Rathea especially behind at Browne’s bridge. When we used to be going the road from Glanderry up to Knocknaclare we used to be running from her. She used to be bittling as fast as her hands could do it. Brown William used to come listening to her. I often heard her from my own door at ten oclock in the night when there was nothing to be heard but herself for the night was too still. 

One night Brown William was listening to her at the bridge and he tried to catch her. He chased her from place to place trying to catch her but when he’d land to the place where he heard her she was gone to another place. He held at it until it was twelve oclock. When he was going home he met the servant boy who asked him where he was and he said I was listening to the bittling woman.” As they were going home he met on the path the finest cow he had dead.

Has anyone any idea what bittling is? I cant find it in a dictionary.

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