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 Famine Page 1 of 2

Kildare, Some Socks and a Soccer Match Fact

An image from summer 2021 with St. John’s surrounded by scaffolding.


My Trip to Kildare

Kildare Town Square in August 2021. Lots of accommodation for outdoor dining in the spacious town centre area.

It was Heritage Week so reminders of Kildare’s heritage were everywhere; St. Bridget, horses and horse racing. There were a few sheep too from the nearby Curragh.

The bunting outside the turf accountants was jockeys’ silks.

How appropriate.


A Wedding and some US Visitors

My niece got married. Covid made much of the planning a nightmare but it was all “alright on the night”.

I was wondering what token to buy for the U.S. branch of the family who were travelling for the occasion. I wanted something small, light, useful and easy to pack but something also that says Ireland. What better than Listowel native Anna Guerin’s Sock Coop’s beautiful socks. I bought them online and they were delivered in 2 days.

They were a big hit!


I know this for a fact

In October 1963, 90 men who worked in Dunlops in Cork were suspended. They took time off without permission to watch a soccer match on TV.

The match that nearly cost them their jobs was England versus The Rest of the World. (Source The Irish Examiner)


A Casualty of Covid and Lack of Funds

(Story from Mark Holan’s Irish American Blog)

Museum Closure

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in Connecticut, closed for over a year due to COVID-19, will not reopen, owner Quinnipiac University says. The museum is said to hold the world’s largest collection of historic and contemporary Irish famine-related art works. The pandemic has further eroded the museum’s poor financial footing, which surfaced in 2019.

“The university is in active conversations with potential partners with the goal of placing the collection on display at an organization that will increase access to national and international audiences,” Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan wrote in an early August statement.

The museum opened in 2012. The 175th anniversary of “Black ’47”, the worst year of the famine, is next year.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, founded and directed by history professor Christine Kinealy, remains open, as does the special collection of famine-related books, journals, and documents at the Arnold Bernhard Library on the Mount Carmel Campus, Morgan said.

I visited the library and museum in March 2013. I hope this impressive collection finds a good home.


Gresham Menu 1972

This old Gresham Menu has gone viral on Facebook. In 1972 eating in a restaurant was a big treat, not an everyday thing. I don’t know why I believed that it was horrendously expensive!


Tralee in the sixties, Rebel Abbey, 2 Day Revival 2019 and Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

The Gap of Dunloe

Photo: Chris Grayson


Christmas Shopping in Tralee in the sixties

Photo: Historical Tralee and surrounding areas


Maureen Flavin of Knocknagoshel and Black Sod

Remember Billy McSweeney’s great story of the Kerry lady who married the son of the Blacksod Lighthouse keeper and found herself playing a vital role in the timing of the DDay landings. Well didn’t a loyal blog follower know all about Maureen and he sent us this.

This is Maureen in a wedding photo from 1946

Maureen’s mother was a Mulvihill . The Mulvihill family was also famous. Ned Mulvihill bred a greyhound called Rebel Abbey who won all round him.


Listowel, Get Ready to Rock in 2019


Leonard, Listowel Mill Owner; Villain or Saint

The next instalment in the debate;

Hi, Mary,

 Interesting debate opening up. I don’t think any heavy work was done by inmates in the workhouses- they were in poor shape, weakened and poorly fed- certainly not enough work to enrich anyone.  More importantly, able-bodied persons were liable to the rigours of the law if they attempted to get into the workhouses! Auxiliary Workhouses in premises privately owned were  rented by the Board of Guardians and they ran the show after that. I have never come across a privately owned and operated workhouse. I don’t see many certain ‘facts’ on either side of the current debate.  TF Culhane  wrote about Maurice Leonard being ‘remembered’ as having given the barrels of flour; he was not recalling that as his own personal memory. The Folklore Commission relied on stories and memories also. Using ‘recalls’ is no worse that using ‘Keane reported…’ as ‘reported’ has the following meaning:  “give a spoken or written account of something that one has observed, heard, done, or investigated.”  ‘Folklore’ hardy meets this qualification. The reference to TF Culhane’s thoughts are included in the North Kerry Literary Trust, Listowel, excellent 2007 edition of  the book, “Kerry Memories”- this is steeped in Listowel Connections spanning generations. This book is painstakingly thorough in relation to what it includes. Pádraig de Brún and Jimmy Deenihan were instrumental in this publication. It is well-worth a read by anyone connected with Listowel. Bets or speculation and political points are not of much use at this remove. I was a bit doubtful of the number,  ‘six thousand barrels’ as that would be an enormous amount of wheat for the Listowel area in those pestilential days. Perhaps the local memory  was a bit defective in both cases in debate? And there are those who would claim that all such wheat would have been exported in any case to England, while the local people starved. I agree that a factual and disinterested  assessment of the ‘Listowel wheat or barrels of flour’ conundrum is required.  I am sure there will be many well-qualified and  willing to take in on.




People at a Book Launch

Seán Kelly, Nora Sheahan, Peggy Hilliard, Lilly Nolan and Vincent Carmody in The Listowel Arms on December 9 2018 at the launch of Listowel , A Printer’s Legacy.

Vincent Carmody with Jimmy Deenihan

Historians and politicians at the launch.

Maurice O’Mahoney gets in a quick read before the crowd gathers.


Christmas 2018 in Listowel

Another great idea from Christmas in Listowel 

The Listowel Treasure Train

Join us on a magical trail around Listowel’s beautiful shop window displays on the Listowel Treasure Train.

Each of the 14 participating shops have a Little Green Train displayed somewhere in their window. Can you find them all? 

The Runaway Red Train
Our Runaway Red Train has a mind of its own and moves from window to window.

Each day we will post a photo of the Runaway Red Train’s new location, as well as the day’s prize on the Christmas in Listowel Facebook Page. Simply tell us where the Red Train is, to be in with a chance of winning one of our amazing prizes every day.

The prizes will be displayed in Galvin’s Window and available for collection at the end of the competition after Saturday 22nd December.

Follow us at “Christmas in Listowel” on Facebook to take part in this fun game.

Ballybunion, Christmas Candles and An Gleann 1978 and Maurice Leonard in Famine time Listowel

The Barrack Corner, Ballybunion


Pres. Listowel girls who represented Ireland in the World Schools’ Basketball Championships

( Someone might tell us the year)

Top left is Louise Galvin who is now more famous as a rugby player. She recently scored a try in Dubai in the Sevens’ World Series which ended in defeat for Ireland at the quarter final stage.


Christmas Candles

Last week I posted this;

In olden days the Christmas candle was the big white one pounder. Anything smaller was regarded with something bordering on contempt., unworthy of the title “Christmas” candle. They were unfavourably described as “little traithníns of things”. Tháithnín being the Irish for a wisp of straw or a blade of grass. When the electric candle arrived in the mid sixties the newcomer was dismissed as being nothing like a rale candle at all.” I vividly remember all those “rale candles” shining in the windows of the farmhouses as we made our way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the nip of frost in the air and the sky “alive with stars.”

And then I read about candlemakers in the Irish Independent. Let me share a few things I learned with you.

Rathbornes of Dublin is the oldest candle making firm in the world. It was founded in in 1488.

In 1488 only the wealthy could do anything after dark for there was no public lighting and only the rich could afford a supply of candles to keep the dark at bay.

Before candles there were smelly oil lamps which often fell over with disastrous consequences.

The first candles made from animal fats were made at home or in monasteries.

The first street lighting was candle light until it was replaced by oil and gas in the 18th century.

Candles were used as devices to keep the time. A timekeeping candle has 12 marked divisions and could burn for 24 hours. These were used to mark the length of work shifts in industry.  Timekeeping candles were used in some coalmines until 50 years ago.

The phrase ‘burning the candle at both ends” has its origins in the days when candles were valuable and used sparingly. Burning the candle at both ends would be wasteful and an inefficient use of energy.


Slander in Kerry

From Patrick O’Sullivan’s A Year in Kerry

A learned professor with an address in Kensington, London, believed that there was enough gossip in Kerry in the year 1935 to make it a proposition for him to publish the following advertisement in The Kerryman: ‘If those suffering as a result of scandal or slander care to send me a postal order for 2s.6d I will give them sound advice to assist them in defeating same with the utmost dignity and prudence.” The professor’s advice did not come cheap; 2s.6d, the old half crown was a considerable amount of money in those days.

Victims might have been better advised to seek out a trusty solicitor. Though, according to an old story, when Daniel O’Connell was asked by a woman to direct her to an honest lawyer, he replied, “I fear your request is beyond me, Madam.”


Those were the Days….Probably 1978

Photo and names from Denis Carroll on Facebook

Back row L-R Gigs Nolan,?, Pa Kennedy, Miley Fitz, Jerry Kelliher, Bob O Brien, Buster Lynch, PJ Kelliher, Jimmy Griffin, Manager Roche.

Front L-R, Denny Carroll, Peter Sugrue, Kempes Kelliher, Kevin Sheehy, Liam Kelliher & Noel Roche.


A Clarification of a Clarification

Just a quick bringing you up to speed on this story. A little boy in the folklore collection in Dúchas recorded a story in his family of how the local mill owner, whom we now know was Maurice Leonard, allowed  people to starve during the Famine while his mill was full of flour.

A blog follower who had read Home Thoughts from Abroad   wrote to “correct” the folk memory and to say that Mr. Leonard was in fact extraordinarily generous to the starving people of Listowel.

Not so according to today’s email;

Hello, Mary.

Always enjoy Listowel Connection — and appreciate the effort and detective work you put into it.

In your latest post, the person who was “happy to put the record straight” about Litstowel mill owner Maurice Leonard actually raises more questions.

On the one hand, W. Keane reported that Leonard had soldiers posted outside his mill during the potato famine to keep the hungry away from the grain. And that the mill owner was willing to let grain that he couldn’t sell go rotten.

On the other hand, the person who wants to set the record straight notes that a T. F. Culhane (in his book Home Thoughts From Abroad) recalls that same mill owner getting “six thousand barrels of flour” to the starving.

‘Recalls’ is the wrong word, as T. F. Culhane was born fifty years after the famine.

W. Keane’s version, which painted quite a different picture of that mill owner, was recorded in the late 1930’s — so that wasn’t a first-hand account either.

There are a couple hard facts in John Pierse’s excellent book Teampall Bán relating to Mr. Leonard’s mill and to the man himself.

First of all, during that time Leonard’s mill functioned as an auxiliary workhouse, which means Leonard benefited from free labour from those reeling from the famine. That was, of course, perfectly in line with the UK government’s quaint economic/moral philosophy at the time.

And as far as any contemporaneous record of Mr. Leonard’s charitable largesse, Teampall Bán notes his donation to the 1846 Listowel Relief Fund. It was two pounds.

It’s only implied through the T. F. Culhane quote that Mr. Leonard freely gave those six thousand barrels of flour to the starving.

Without other evidence, it’s a safer bet that Leonard in fact sold that flour to workhouse officials.

I think six-thousand-barrels worth of charity would have left a far greater imprint in local lore.

I’m interested if any fellow blog readers and any historians out there have any info about whether our local mill owner was indeed a saint, or just a man of his times.

Best regards.

— Dan Murphy

Dan raises some very interesting points. What a pity John Pierse is n’t online! I’ll have to leave it to a few more local  historians to unravel this one.


Listowel, A Printer’s Legacy

This is Vincent Carmody’s latest addition to the history of Listowel in print. This book is a tribute to the late printer, Bob Cuthbertson and to the people who worked with him and the printers who came after him until 1970. 

These are a few examples of the material that is in the book. Anyone interested in social history will have a great time feasting on the nuggets in this impressive book. I dont think any other town has such a record. It also has a brilliant introductory essay from Cyril Kelly and an afterword from Fergal Keane.

November’s butterfly, Unveiling a Famine Plaque and a Famine window in St. Marys’

Photo: John Kelliher


 A Timely Poem; November’s Butterfly  by Larry Belt

Sometimes in November

When the sun is sitting high

An Autumn breeze will steal the leaves

And cause the trees to cry.

Sometimes in November

A butterfly will appear

A cherished thought, a battle fought

For one you loved so dear.

Sometimes in November

Loved ones pass away

You wallow in grief, seek relief

And then you learn to pray.

Sometimes in November

An angel gets its wings

It’s good and bad, but always sad

the joy and pain this brings.

Sometimes in November

A family says goodbye

as Heaven waits

To open its gates

To November’s butterfly.


A Photo from 1975

The occasion was a presentation to Bryan MacMahon by the teachers of Scoil Realta na Maidine


A Famine Commemoration in November 2017

The plaque was unveiled.

We took a few photos of the dignitaries.

Then we repaired across the way to Ard Churam  for a cup of tea, a chat and a few talks about Listowel and The Famine.

First up was historian and genealogist, Kay Caball. She took us back to the dark days of the 1840s when sending your 14 year old daughter to Australia seemed like the only hope for her future.

I heard a quote recently when someone was referring to today’s awful refugee crisis.

“No parent puts his child into a leaky boat on rough seas unless he believes that he is safer there than he is on land.”

Listowel in the 1840s and 50s was similar. Parents sent their daughters to the other end of the world and an uncertain future in order to save them from the horrors at home.

Kay’s talk was laced with anecdote and human interest stories. The Earl Grey girls came to life before our eyes.

Bryan MacMahon of Ballyheigue has recently published his history of The Famine in North Kerry. He too brought the story to life for us, giving us some insight into the hard task of the relieving officer who had to decide on admissions to the workhouse. His job was at stake if he made a wrong decision.

Bryan told us a story that sent me searching in St. Mary’s as soon as I could. According to Bryan’s research, the parish priest of Listowel, Fr. Darby OMahoney was particularly kind and caring to his flock during their harsh time. He told us that there is stained glass window in St. Mary’s depicting Fr. O’Mahoney ministering to the sick and dying.

The window is in a fairly inaccessible place, in the sanctuary on the right hand side. It depicts Fr. Darby O’Mahoney who was Listowel’s parish priest anointing the sick during the Famine. Behind him are some nuns with their mouths covered to prevent infection. In the forefront of the picture is a dead child.

Beside the window is this plaque saying the window and plaque were erected by the people of Listowel.

On Saturday the last  speaker was John Pierse who told us of his desire to see the flower of the lumper on a postage stamp as a fitting memorial of those who were lost when this crop failed in successive years.

All in all, the Listowel Famine commemoration was a very worthwhile event that I am glad to have attended. Well done to all those who made it a success.


Listowel Garden Centre, November 2017


Some More Polar Christmas Windows

Here are some more polar train windows from Christmas 2017

Chic’s magnificent window with Olive Stack’s Christmas scene is a striking first impression for motorists entering town this Christmas.

Vanity Case

Every Woman



Gentleman Barbers


Lizzy’s Little Kitchen


Mc Gillicuddy’s

O’Connor’s Pharmacy

Olive Stack’s

Woulfe’s Bookshop


McGillicuddy’s Toys; A Listowel Institution

McGillicuddy’s Toys shared this lovely family photo on Facebook. Seeing it, I was whisked back in time to the days before Facebook and online shopping when Jackie McGillicuddy’s was an integral part of a Listowel Christmas.

In the 1970s when I was in the market for toys, Jackie’s was a Santa’s workshop. He had every toy the heart could wish for and he was so so kind and obliging. He operated a credit scheme for those who found it hard to come up with all the money at once. He also offered free storage until Christmas Eve.

Once, when we had a Christmas disaster and the stylus of the Magna Doodle got thrown out with the wrapping paper, Jackie was the soul of patience and understanding and even borrowed another stylus until the lost one was replaced.

Mary Gore R.I.P. used to be his right hand woman. I remember the year of Polly Pockets. Mary predicted that they would never sell, overpriced and so small that a child might feel thy had got a very poor present. It was one of Mary’s few mistakes. She had her finger on the pulse of the children’s   toy scene long before we had The Late Late Toy Show to tell us what was a “must have.”

Happy days!

Some recent local photos

Signs of Spring spotted on Market St.

 Seed potatoes

Lawn mowers lined up outside McKenna’s


Three local Historians

Snapped on the street on Ash Wednesday 2015, Jer. Kennelly, Denis Carroll and Damien Stack, my fellow keepers of the flame of Listowel memories.


Then and Now

Below are the three most recent locations of Listowel post office in chronological order

Upper William Street is very quiet these days. Getting a parking space to visit the shops here is no bother at all these days.


At Craftshop na Méar

If you would like a novelty tea cosy, these beautiful creations, all hand made, including the rosary beads are available in the craftshop in Church St. Lots of other beautiful things on offer as well.


Parking in Super Valu

These signs have appeared recently. I don’t know what the punishment is for exceeding the 2 hours.

There car park was very busy on the day I visited, with big lorries delivering and cars everywhere.

This is a new one on me. Again I don’t know what the penalty is for exceeding the time.


Emigrant Girls From Killarney

Thirty five Killarney girls were meant to sail on the Elgin from
Plymouth to Adelaide, (Southern Australia) on 31 May 1849.   Finding
the identity of these thirty five girls has been a major problem for me, since
starting the research on the book The Kerry Girls:  Emigration &
the Earl Grey Scheme. 

Thus begins another great essay on the fate of some Kerry girls during The Great Hunger. 

Read Kay Caball’s blog post here;

   My Kerry Ancestors 

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