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 Plaza Page 1 of 2

Trees in the town park, Beef Tea, a poem, and Anew McMaster in The Plaza

Photo: Chris Grayson


Trees in the town park, February 2018

We are very lucky to have a great variety of trees in the town. I have noticed much new planting being done in the park.

 These really tall trees look fairly vulnerable to me. I’m glad to see that new trees have been planted in front of them, to replace them when the inevitable happens.

These are the new trees. They are just inside what remains of the old stile, pictured below


Beef Tea           by John
B. Keane

I am certain there
are many people who have never heard of beef tea much less drank it. When I was
a gorsoon there was a famous greyhound in my native town who was once backed
off the boards at Tralee greyhound track. He was well trained for the occasion
and specially fed as the following couplet will show;

We gave him raw
eggs and we gave him beef tea

But last in the
field he wound up in Tralee.

Beef tea in those
days was  a national panacea as well as
being famed for bringing out the best in athletes and racing dogs. Whenever it
was diagnosed buy the vigilent females in the household that one of us was
suffering from growing pains we were copiously dosed with beef tea until the
pains passed on. The only thing I remember in its favour is that it tasted
better than senna or castor oil.

I remember once my
mother enquiring of a neighbour how his wife was faring. Apparently the poor
creature had been confined to bed for several weeks suffering from some unknown
but malicious infirmity.

“Ah,” said the
husband sadly,” all she is able to take now is a drop of beef tea.”

She cannot have
been too bad for I have frequently heard it said of invalids that they couldn’t
even keep down beef tea. When you couldn’t even keep down beef tea it meant
that you were bound for the inevitable sojourn in the bourne of no return.

Of course it was
also a great boast for a woman to be able to say that all she was able to
stomach was beef tea. It meant that she was deserving of every sympathy because
it was widely believed that if a patient did not respond to beef tea it was a
waste of time spending good money on other restoratives. It was also a great
excuse for lazy people who wished to avoid work. All they had to say was they
were on beef tea and they were excused. No employer would have it on his
conscience that he imposed work on someone believed to be on their last legs.

On another
occasion, as I was coming from school, I saw a crowd gathered outside the door
of a woman who had apparently fainted a few moments before.

“How is she?’ I
heard one neighbor ask of another.

“They’re trying
her with beef tea now,” came the dejected response. The woman who had asked the
question made the sign of the cross and wiped a tear from her eye.

(more tomorrow)


The Millennium Arch and Bridge Road


Here is another poem from a great anthology I picked up in the charity shop. The book is called  For Laughing out Loud.

Someone said that it couldn’t be done

Anonymous author

Someone said that it couldn’t be done –

But he, with a grin, replied

He’d never be one to say it couldn’t be done –

Leastways not ’til he tried.

So he buckled right in, with a trace of a  grin;

By golly, he went right to it.

He tackled The Thing That Couldn’t be Done!

And he couldn’t do it.


Church Street “Entertainments” Remembered

Billy McSweeney writes;

I remember Anew McMaster’s visit to Listowel very well. I actually
managed to be in the audience in the Plaza cinema, (today the Ozanam
Centre), across the road from my home, to see him play McBeth. I was too
young to really understand it but I vividly remember McMaster in his
stage makeup. The sight was frightening to a child. My mother felt that
I was too young to see some of his other amazing offerings from the pen
of Shakespeare, so I was warned to stay away. This was definitely in the
Plaza and not the Library. I also remember the yellow posters pasted to
the walls of the derelict library in Bridge Rd. (as written by Eamon
Keane). The latter was a common occurence.

My belief is that it was McMaster’s visit to Listowel that was the
inspiration for the ‘local’ lads to put on their later ‘entertainments’
in the Carnegie Library. It would have been a much cheaper venue than
Trevor Chute’s Plaza. That, in turn, was the inspiration for my brothers
and sisters to stage our entertainments in our back-house for the local
Church St children during the Summer holiday months when the remaining
sods of turf in the building were used as seats and concrete wooden
shuttering from my father’s workshop was fashioned as a stage. We wrote
the scripts ourselves; but the quality of the writings was not up to the
standards of our illustrious predecessors!

Ballybunion, Cameras, a Lenten Story and Listowel’s Plaza Cinema

Rough Seas at Ballybunion 

Photo: Mike Enright


An Old Ciné Camera

Did you watch the old video footage of the frozen river Feale in 1963

This little film was made by a young Jimmy Hickey on the below Kodak Brownie.

The 8 minute film strip ran reel to reel and when you reached the end you rewound it with the winder shown below.

I think you’ll agree that camera technology has come a long way since 1963.


Some Spring Colour in The Garden of Europe


Reminiscences  from Delia O’Sullivan

Lent and Laughing Gas

By Delia O’Sullivan
(published in Lifelines, an anthology of Writing by the Nine Daughters Creative
Writing Group)

In 1950s Ireland Lent was a
time of penance, prayer and self restraint. For forty days and forty nights we
were encouraged by the nuns to give up sweets – a scarce resource anyway.  We were to give our pennies to the missions
instead. The mission box was adorned with pictures of little naked, smiling shy
black children. It was brought out after morning prayers. Each offering was
carefully recorded. The nun said that this was important, as, on reaching the
half crown mark we would then have bought our own black baby. Michael’s mother
was the local maternity nurse and he did well from all her clients, so he was a
clear winner and the only person to reach the target. Michael was told that he
could now name the baby but we were all very disappointed to learn that the
baby would not be travelling. He would stay in Africa. The nun said that maybe
someday Michael would visit him.

When we reached our teens,
we found the dancehalls closed for Lent. The showbands headed for the major
English cities. But every rural village in Ireland had its own dramatic group.
The plays and concerts were not frowned on by the clergy as they brought in
much needed funds for churches and schools. This was a wonderful time for us.
As part of the Irish dancing troupe we travelled on Sunday nights with the
players. We sold raffle tickets, met “fellas” and experienced a freedom that
our parents didn’t even dream of.  We got bolder, inventing concerts in
far-flung area, returning later, saying there was a cancellation.

In 1959 we were student
nurses in London. During Lent we could enjoy the dances and the showband scene
denied in Ireland. But, with only two late passes a week we were restricted.
However we found ways around it – mainly by signing for a late pass in the name
of a fellow student who never went out. One of these was Mrs. Okeke.

As young country girls in
Ireland most of us had never been beyond the nearest small town. In our small
rural Catholic environment, foreigners were the occasional English or American
husband or wife, brought on holidays by an emigrant. They spoke with strange
accents and didn’t seem to understand the rituals of standing and kneeling at
mass. In Ireland I had only ever seen one black person, Prince Monolulu, adorned
with a headdress of feathers and very colorful robes, performing the three card
trick at Listowel Races. We were now part of a multi national society in a huge
teaching hospital. It overlooked Highgate Park where we watched the squirrels
climb trees and nibble at shoots. We also saw a steady flow of visitors to the
grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery. We integrated well, most of us being
of the same age group.

The exception was four
Nigerian ladies who were older and dour. They never smile. One of them, Mrs
Okeke asked us why we stared and , if we laughed, she called us silly girls. Off
duty, they dress in bright robes and huge turbans. They chewed on sticks to
whiten and strengthen their teeth. They cooked spicy foods on the gas rings
which was supposed to be used only for boiling kettles. When reprimanded by the
Home Sister, they pretended not to understand.

It all came to a head on the
day  the anaethestist was giving us a
demonstration of the different types of anaesthetic. We were encouraged to
participate. As Mrs. Okeke’s hand went up for a demonstration of laughing gas,
we all kept our heads down. A small whiff and she was laughing hysterically,
displaying a number of gold teeth. We laughed until our sides were sore.
Suddenly her face took on its usual dour look but by then we were unable to
stop laughing. She couldn’t retaliate with the anaesthetist present.

Some days later we met her on
her way back from the Matron’s office.  She had been asked to explain why her name had
been signed for seven late passes in a row, even though she was convinced that
she had never had a late pass. Her perplexity deepened when one of us suggested
that she was suffering from the after effects of laughing gas.


Help for a Family who have suffered an appalling tragedy


Remembering The Plaza

During the week I posted an old picture of Listowel’s Plaza/Ozanam Centre. Here is the story behind its construction from Vincent Carmody’s Snapshots of an Irish Market Town


Michael Martin met some local people on his walkabout in town yesterday

Love, The Plaza, Ballydonoghue Couple and some Listowel photos old and new

The Eye of the Ostrich

Photo; Chris Grayson


Two of the Old Stock

Photo and caption from Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine on Facebook.

Long ago in Dromerin! Eddie and Bridget Kennelly, Dromerin and Kilktean out for a cycle. Have you any precious old photos like this (published in the 2015 BPM)? If you have, why not share them here on Facebook or send to


The Plaza

This photo surfaced recently on the internet. It shows the recently built Plaza.  No. 90 Church Street is not in the photo. This house was  built in 1939, so I guess the photo was taken sometime in the mid to late 1930’s.


Enduring Love

Source; Purple Clover

On a similar note here is poem to ponder


There is a kind of love called maintenance

Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget

The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way

The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,

And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate

Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,

Which knows what time and weather are doing

To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;

Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers

My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps

My suspect edifice upright in air,

As Atlas did the sky.

UA Fanthorpe, from Safe as Houses (Peterloo Poets, 1995)


Progress at Community Centre


Tyre Stop, Bridge Road, Listowel


Casa Mia


New CEO is a Local Man

Photo from shows new CEO of Kerry Group, Edmond Scanlon with the outgoing chief executive, Stan McCarthy

Here’s the story from

A 43-year-old farmer’s son from the
small mountain village of Brosna, Co Kerry, has been named as the next head of
Kerry Group, one of the country’s biggest corporations.



The Tralee-based global food
ingredients group yesterday said Kerryman Edmond Scanlon will take over as the
group’s third chief executive in September.

Mr Scanlon will succeed Stan
McCarthy in what has been a €4m a year role.

Mr McCarthy has been chief
executive since 2008, and is retiring this year as he turns 60. He’ll be
succeeded by another Kerry Group lifer, with deep roots in the original Kerry
Co-op heartland of North Kerry.

Mr Scanlon grew up on a dairy farm
in Brosna and studied commerce and accounting at University College, Cork,
before joining Kerry Group’s graduate programme in 1996.

His parents are understood to have
been suppliers to the Kerry creamery themselves.

Brosna is located in the north-east
corner of Kerry and borders both Limerick and Cork. It is part of the Sliabh
Luachra district, which is better known as a mecca for traditional music and as
the birthplace of Irish language poets like Aogán Ó Rathaille and Eoghan Rua Ó
Súilleabháin, than for producing corporate executives.

Since joining the group, Edmond
Scanlon has risen through the company ranks and worked in a string of
globe-trotting roles.



Fungi, Liam Healy and progress at the Plaza

That dolphin again!  photo Fungie Forever


Listowel Writers’ Week opens on May 27 2015

Olive Stack’s image provides  the lovely cover for their year’s programme.


Kitesurfing in Ballybunion Last Week

Photo:Ballybunion Prints


Liam Healy Reminisces

Liam and his daughter, Cathy

After school, Liam went to work for Duggans, cutting turf. He
earned 15 shillings a week delivering milk for Jim Walshe. He worked from 6a.m.
to 6p.m. and he was only 15 years old.

One day on his way home from the bog he
met Eddie Lawlor who asked him if he would like a “proper job”. His father
consented to him going to work for Eddie Lawlor. Liam spent eight happy years delivering
minerals around North Kerry.

But the grass is always greener on the far side of
the hill. Liam saw men his age returning from England where they were working.
They had fancy clothes and fast cars and he thought that he would like a piece
of that action. He took the boat, only to discover that the fancy clothes were
bought on the never never and the cars were rented. In fact his life at home
was much better than most of the emigrants (AND there was a sweetheart in the
picture by now). Liam only stayed in England for 18 months and this is the only
time he has ever lived away from his beloved Listowel. He returned to Eddie
Lawlor and a new job as a salesman.

His late wife Joan is the love of Liam’s life. They knew each other all their
lives and Joan carried a torch for the young Liam for a while before he first
asked her to dance in Walshe’s
ballroom. Liam had another little job there. He used to work in the cloakroom.
There was an area behind the dance floor, behind the crowd of onlookers and
close to the cloakroom and there Liam and Joan put on a display of jiving. Liam
walked her home that night and they fell in love. They had a sort of long
distance relationship for a while because Liam emigrated for a time and Joan
emigrated for a spell as well but they kept the spark alive and eventually
married and had 4 children.

An early photo of Listowel Racecourse

By now Liam was interested in photography and he had never got
that early love of photographs of racehorses out of his system. He had a
half day from work on a Thursday and he spent every Thursday and Sunday
photographing horses at Race meetings & Point to Points. Liam returned home
every night, even if the race meeting was as far away as Dundalk. All this
travelling and working full time as well was taking its toll on Liam. He asked Joan
if she would mind if he took up the photography full time. He remembers Joan’s answer,“The first day the children are hungry I’ll tell you.” Joan joined Liam in the
business. Liam took the photos and Joan ran the office. Pat, his eldest son was
displaying a good eye for a good shot and Liam Jnr was also taking an interest
in photography.

Liam and his friend, Pat Walshe, reading my book shortly after its launch.

Everywhere he goes, Liam makes friends. He is very grateful to
one of these friends, Max Fleming from Tramore. He had the power to allow Liam
on to the race track to take his pictures. That was the beginning of the
business that today is Healy Racing.

In a horrible instance of history repeating itself, Liam lost his
beloved Joan and was left with 4 youngsters to rear. She had breast cancer for
3 years but it was a clot that killed her in the end, on November 27th.
1987, three days after her birthday
which she spent at home with Liam and her family. Liam still misses her but he
takes consolation in his family of whom he is so proud. He now has 6 grandchildren Kevin, Siún, Jack, Ruth,
Adam and Sean who also show great interest and love for what Healy Racing does.

Liam’s two sons were keenly interested in the racing photography
and came into the business with their dad. He sent the two girls to college and
they both did well and got good jobs. Such is their love and admiration for
their dad and their pleasure to be in his company that they have all chosen to
work for Healy Racing.

In Liam’s words, Pat is the face of the business, Liam is the engine, Cathy is the voice and
Lisa the mother figure in the background keeping the show on the road. There
is now a third generation of Healys with
an interest in photography coming along.

It was my great pleasure to talk to Liam and to hear his memories. I am very grateful to his
lovely daughter, Cathy for arranging it all and for supplying some photos. He
is a man I greatly admire, one of Listowel’s underrated great men.

I searched around for one word to describe Liam. I toyed with
honest, upright, kind, humble, talented, entertaining, generous etc. etc. I
finally chose loyal as the word to best describe him.

Liam is loyal to his roots.

He is fiercely loyal to his family who plainly adore him.

He is loyal to his hometown, Listowel.

He is loyal to his friends.

But above all Liam is loyal to himself and true to the values he
learned in his childhood home. He has passed these same values of generosity,
kindness and neighbourliness, hard work and humility on to his children who
have all done him proud.

Liam Healy is living proof of a fact I have always maintained
that there are qualities which will take you far in life which are a more
valuable asset than anything that can be measured in Leaving Cert. points.


Progress at The Plaza

The site is cleared and building is due to commence at the back of The Plaza


Pastoral Scene

Cattle in a field outside Killarney last week


Thinking Ahead

What have you planned for the young ones for the June Weekend?

Bring them into town on Saturday May 30th at 12.30. Have them dressed as any character they like. The  Elsa costume will be getting an outing on Sunday for the Frozen singalong but it will be fine for this one too. Princesses, pirates, vampires etc.etc. all welcome. Prizes galore.

Make This year’s Childrens Festival at Writers’ Week the best ever.

Folklore, Green shoots and Tadhg Kennelly honoured in Sydney

The country has gone rugby mad

Billy Keane’s Independent article A Day we’ll remember for the rest of our lives and even longer

puts it best.

Together, standing tall



This is the Kerry County Library in Tralee. I was here last week on a mission.

I’ll begin at the beginning.

In the school year 1937/38
the Irish Folklore Commission undertook a great project. They got teachers
around the country to encourage their pupils to collect lore from their elders.
The boys and girls undertook the task with varying degrees of enthusiasm and
success.  The results of their efforts
are now stored in archives around the country. 
It is no surprise to see that one of the biggest files is the one
collected by pupils in Scoil Realt na Maidine, Listowel. Their teacher, Bryan
MacMahon had a deep appreciation of the value of this project .

A past pupil of my own, Emma
MacElligott, now herself a teacher, alerted me to this rich store of stories,
sayings, placenames etc. I visited the archive in the Kerry County Library,
Tralee and there the archivist, Michael Lynch introduced me to this treasure
trove. I will share with you some of the stories I read there.

One boy wrote about a woman
called Madge Shine who lived in The Red Cottages, Cahirdown. Madge used to make
baskets from hazel. She used to place the hazel twigs over the fire to soften
before weaving them into baskets.

Another local man, Martin
Sheehy, made ‘sgiaths” from “scallops”. I’m guessing that sciaths are the kind
of flat basket used for gathering flowers or vegetables, which, in English, we
call a trug. According to Michael O’Brien of Ashe Street who recorded the
story, “he bended the sticks in and through one another until he had his
sgiaths made.”

Other basketmakers used

Before candles were
commercially made people used to make their own from “fat.” They used the fat
of goats and other animals according to Mary Hickey of O’Connell’s Avenue who
was 85 when she told her stories to B. Holyoake of Railway House. According to
Mary, they got a mould, put a stick across the top. Attached to the stick were
6 or 7 “cotton threads”  These were
obviously the wicks. Then they “rendered the fat”.

(I remember well my own mother
rendering suet in the days before cooking oil. 
There was always a bowl of fat at the ready for frying.)

Back to 1937…the hot fat was
poured into the mould and left to set overnight. In the morning they had 6
candles. Half penny candles were called “padogues”.

More stories to come….


County Colours

Do you remember the days before scarves and county jerseys, people showed their support by wearing crepe paper badges and caps? These things inevitably ran all over  your face and clothes…happy days!


Progress Report on Listowel Revival

The rebuilding of The Plaza is moving along nicely.

The rumour mill says that this premises is to be a medical centre.

Rumour has it that this will be a veterinary clinic.

If true, all of this is great news.


Hall of Fame

Tadhg Kennelly of Listowel has been inducted into the Sydney Swans Hall of Fame. What an honour!


Tidy Town Awareness Day in Super Valu

Photo;  Listowel Tidy Towns


+   R.I.P. Ann Cox  +

My very stylish, feisty, animal loving former colleagues in Pres. Listowel has gone to her eternal reward.

Ann was a fashionista before the term was invented. She was always beautifully groomed, softly spoken and ladylike.

Ann loved her dogs. When she brought them from the rescue home they were the luckiest dogs in Kerry for Ann lavished love and care on them to their final days.

She loved the Irish language and promoted Irish culture and traditions in everything she did.

She took up golf late in life but she enjoyed immensely the whole new circle of friends it brought her.

Ann contracted Parkinsons Disease in her late sixties but due to her fighting spirit and the great care of her neighbours and friends she continued to live in her own home until two years ago.

She passed away on March 21 2015.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal.


Sunday Morning in Brosna, March 2015

photo; Ballybunion Prints Beach

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