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: Tidy Towns

Tidy Towns Committee on TV, A Lixnaw Farm, Sr. Eileen’s Infants’ Class and Christmas comes early

Listowel Tidy Towns Committee in Celebratory Mode

Irish TV filmed our Tidy Town heroes last week.

And they’re planning a party for us all. Put Sunday October 23 at 3.30 into your diaries. The venue is Listowel Community Centre.


Sr. Eileen’s class looking Cute

No date……maybe nineties? If someone has the names I’ll publish them.


A Lixnaw Farm featured in Irish Tractor and Agri Magazine in September 2015


 3 FEB , 2016  

Brothers James and Padraig Barry run separate farms in Lixnaw and Listowel, Co. Kerry along with their uncle Con. The family has also recently set up an agricultural contracting business to cater for the needs of local farmers.

The Barry’s operate enterprises which include a large dairy farm in Lixnaw and a dry stock and tillage farm in Listowel. As well as milking 300 cows, they finish about 1,000 beef cattle every year and also grow winter and spring wheat, spring barley and maize.

In the past year, they have branched into the agri contracting sector with the formation of J, P & C De Barra Contracting Ltd. There is no such thing as a quiet time of the year for this well-respected family, who wouldn’t have it any other way.

For James and Padraig, farming has always been a way of life. The excellent working relationship that exists between the brothers and their uncle makes the task of milking 300 cows twice-a-day a good deal easier.

“We share the milking duties between us. When you have three pairs of hands, you are able to do other things. We are not ‘tied’ to the milking parlour like some people are,” James says.

The Barry’s have travelled a rocky road to get to where they are now with their dairy enterprise. In 2000 and 2002, their herd was devastated by separate brucellosis outbreaks. Undeterred, the family bought in 140 pedigree Holstein Friesian cows in 2003. Two years later, they purchased a 200-acre farm in Listowel, which allowed them to more than double their milk quota from 180,000 to 380,000 gallons.

“The farm in Listowel, which is eight miles from our home farm in Lixnaw, came with its own milking parlour,” James explains.

“But having invested in a new milking parlour in Lixnaw just a few years earlier, we decided to keep our dairy operations there. Our farm in Lixnaw is 120 acres and is big enough to cater for our dairy herd.”

Two separate calving seasons between mid-October to early December, and mid-January to mid-April, means there are always cows to be milked. The pedigree herd is milked at a 20-unit Dairymaster parlour which features swing-over arms, automatic feeders and automatic cluster movers.

Headquartered in nearby Causeway, Dairymaster is recognised as a world leader in dairy equipment manufacturing with customers in over 40 countries worldwide.

“After 15 years, the parlour is going like a bomb,” James enthuses.

“While Dairymaster have become a global company, they still look after the locals. Their aftercare service has always been top-class.”

The Barry’s supply their milk to the Kerry Group plant in Listowel. Kerry Group has enjoyed phenomenal success since commencing operations in the north Kerry town in 1972. It is now a leading player in the global food industry with current annualised sales of approximately €5.8 billion. Well-known butter spreads and margarine spreads, such as Dairygold, Kerrymaid and Low-Low, are produced in Listowel.

There were many column inches given to the lifting of milk quotas on March 31stlast after 30 years in which Irish dairy farmers were restricted on the amount of milk they could produce. Now, new rules mean they can produce as much milk as they want, leading to fears of overproduction.

“I believe they went a step too far by abolishing milk quotas completely,” a sceptical James says.

“I would be fearful for the future of people who have borrowed heavily to increase their herd size and invest in new equipment. We were tempted to add to our herd, but have decided to adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ policy. What happened in places like New Zealand, where huge losses were experienced after milk quotas were lifted, should be a lesson to Irish farmers.”

“Milk is heading to a price that’s unsustainable for farmers. Ideally, we should be getting 35c a litre rather than the 27c we are getting at the moment. There is no point in producing more milk for less profit.”

He adds: “Instead of abolishing the milk quota overnight, I think Europe should have considered the French and German model which suggested that milk quotas be raised by five per cent each year over the next four years. I hope I’m proved wrong, but I’m very worried about where the Irish milk industry is heading.”

The calves born on the Barry farmstead are a mixture of Holstein Friesian, Aberdeen Angus and Hereford. They keep the Friesian heifers as replacements for their dairy herd, while the Angus and Hereford are reared for beef.


This Year We’re Skipping Halloween and Going Straight to Christmas

Listowel’s Garden Centre Christmas Shop is a wonderland in the heart of Listowel

These are some of the hard workers who are behind the great displays and who were putting on a party for shoppers on the opening day.

Mairead Roberts took a break from answering shoppers questions to pose with her former teachers, Breda Ferris and Bridget O’Connor.

It was roses roses all the way….

The title is a bit misleading because I don’t think we have too many roses on show but everywhere you look in Listowel these days there are flower displays.

Listowel Tidy Town Committee in Dublin, where they proudly accepted their 6th gold medal for a job well done.

The Square looks magnificent. Its not only the town council, some business people and the Tidy Town  Committee have also done their bit.

The Square

Corner of Market St.
Upper William St.
Stack’s The Arcade
Main St.
Writers’ Well
Changes at Nine Seven

Corner by St. John’s
Feale Sculpture


Next week is race week. I will bring you any photos I take but I dont intend going as often as in previous years. If anyone else is there and takes photos I’ll gladly put them up.


Jer. was at Ballyheigue Pattern and he took this smashing photo of our bishop Ray.


Listowel Rugby Club helped by Christy’s The Well and Supervalu showed some good old Listowel hospitality to the charity cyclists passing through town yesterday.

Scenes from summer 2013 with a nod to nostalgia

This wynnd by the sea was built at Ballybunion’s first Hay and Tae festival. Brings back many happy memories to me.

This turf was saved in Athea.

Ger Greaney took a photo of a re enactment of an old style threshing at Rathfredagh. Co. Limerick.

John Stack took this photo in Derry while he was there at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann.

This one was taken in Killarney National Park in July 2013. This trap is not too unlike one I used to go mass in with my family when I was about 4.

A marquee was erected in the church grounds in Duagh to house an outdoor market during their Gathering event.


This lady is Cathleen Dower. I will  paste the interview with her from Irish Central here,

Background: Dower is the founder of Fitzgerald
School of Irish Dance in Central New Jersey.

us about your Irish heritage.

am third generation Irish American, with my mother’s family coming to New York
from Listowel, Co. Kerry and Mohill, Co. Leitrim. My father’s side is from Co.
Galway. They eventually settled in New Jersey.”

is your earliest memory of Irish dance?

I was 12 I was able to see Riverdance at Radio City Music Hall with my mom and
grandmother. I was mesmerized by the performance and instantly fell in love
with Irish dancing.  After my first few classes I was hooked and
subsequently left ballet, tap, and jazz to concentrate solely on Irish

do you think Irish dancing is increasing in popularity in the U.S.?

believe it’s due to shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Before
these shows Irish dance was largely unheard of unless you were first generation
Irish American. Riverdance brought Irish stepdancing to the forefront, and with
it came an influx in interest.

of my contemporaries have gone on to teach Irish dance full time now, and many
modern dance schools are now adding an Irish dance class to their schedules
along with the standard ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical classes regularly

you think there should be less emphasis on the costume and make-up in Irish
dance and more focus on the skill itself?

is a good question because I feel strongly on this subject.  I feel that
in competitive Irish dance the line between costumes, make-up and the skills of
a dancer has gotten blurred. I can understand the importance of stage make-up,
but it should not be about how many rhinestones you can fit onto one dress. The
dress does not make the dancer. Talent, passion and perseverance do.”

is the hardest thing about learning to Irish dance?

hardest part for me transitioning from contemporary dance to traditional Irish
step dancing was remembering to keep my knees straight and my arms by my side.
It truly takes incredible core strength and endurance to jump in the air
without the use of your arms.” 

us about your recent trip to Ireland.

trip to Ireland was for my brother’s wedding in Kenmare, Co. Kerry as well as
part family vacation.  Meeting my Irish relatives and seeing the
birthplace of my great grandparents really meant a lot to me. 

love for Ireland and the culture has grown tenfold now because of this trip.
The trip and wedding experience far exceeded all of our expectations! A return
trip to Ireland in the near future is certainly part of my plans.”

Anyone we know on this lady’s family tree?


Jer. Kennelly recorded some lovely harp music in U.L. at a conferring in August 2013


Malin to Mizen cycle passing though Listowel

Listowel RFC will be supporting the
Rugby Legends cycling from Mizen to Malin in 7 days and are encouraging you to
get involved too and raise awareness and vital funds for the registered charity
CROSS. The charity invests in laboratory equipment to drive transnational
research projects aimed at the prevention, understanding and treatment of
various forms of cancer.

The mission of the registered
charity CROSS is to support Cancer Research and improve patient care at the
Institute of Molecular Medicine, Trinity College and St. James Hospital . The
charity does this through supporting the education and training of high quality
medical and scientific students in their careers as young cancer researchers.
Cross Rugby Legends was set up to raise funds for this vital cause.

From midday until 2.00 pm on
Thursday 12th September 2013, a BBQ will be running at Christy’s Well Bar in
The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry. We will be essentially providing refreshments
for the 270 riders as well as anyone who would like to see these Legends of
World Rugby arriving in town. We would ask that North Kerry helps us give them
a warm Kerry welcome and hope to see you there.

In addition as part of this year’s
Rugby Legends cycle an exciting evening is being organised in the I.N.E.C. on
Thursday 12th September 2013. Here you will have an opportunity to meet our
rugby legends including David Campese and Anton Oliver, Lions players, Irish
Stars and International legends from the Northern Hemisphere.

The evening will consist of supper,
a question and answer session from the legends and a chance to socialise
afterwards. Tickets are priced at € 35 and will be available online from the
INEC website 

For further information go to


Seán McConnell R.I.P.

Seán McConnell, brother of Mickey McConnell, and former journalist with The Irish Times passed away unexpectedly last week. At his funeral one of his former colleagues in The Irish Times read a poem that Seán had written for his father and was also very apt in this new context.

When my father died

The professionals cried,

The undertaker and doctor.

Little more need be said

Of a man with a heart of gold

Locked in a tabernacle of arthritic bones

who could melt stones….with his words.

Who loved children and dogs.

Deep lakes and cotton covered bogs.

Ballads dropped from his lips

And a mercury brain generated

Quips worthy of the best.

For that he was.

The best.


Heartiest congratulations to everyone who helped the Tidy Towns Committee secure yet another well deserved gold medal.

Sluagh Hall and cleaning up

    A view of the town from Dylan Boyer


The Monday cleanup gang: Well done all.


Sluagh Hall 

At the ceremony to mark the
closure of the Sluagh Hall in Listowel and the standing down of F Company,
Michael Guerin gave an address on the background to the Sluagh hall and the FCA
in Listowel.

I am paraphrasing this address
from the account of it in The Advertiser.

At the outbreak of WW2 the
Irish government declared a state of 
emergency on June 7th 1940. The following year a Local
Defence Force was formed.

The Listowel District Command
covered 21 districts in North Kerry and included a Field Ambulance Company.

The first regular army
instructor appointed the LDF was Bill Kearney. 
(Bill became a stalwart of the Listowel drama Group). The LDF had its
headquarters at Moloney’s Garage in Upper William St. (This premises was later
Lonergan’s Supermarket and now houses Royal China.)

In 1943 the army bought an
old egg packing store by the railway bridge in Upper William St. This premises
was converted to a Sluagh Hall. There were 78 of these halls throughout the
country. The Hall had offices, a training hall and an indoor rifle range.

Down the years Listowel
Sluagh Hall has been used for basketball, tennis, badminton, volleyball, drama
productions, Writers’ Week exhibitions, boxing and Tae kwon do.

In 1946 the old reserve was
disestablishes and An Fórsa Cosanta áitiúil (FCA) was established. This was
formed into 6 companies in North Kerry. The company met for training on Tuesday
nights and parades at weekends. The highlight of the year was the annual
training camp in Ballymullen Barracks in Tralee. This was like a two week paid
holiday for many a young North Kerry youth.

In 2005 the FCA was disbanded
and the Army Reserve established in its place. The numbers joining the Army
Reserve never reached the peaks seen in the FCA in the 1960s and 70s.

In 2013 Listowel’s F Company
was finally stood down and the Sluagh Hall closed up forever.


These two are taking part in a sketch in school. They are Rhona Tarrant and Chloe Walshe, both of whom have gone on to carve out careers in media.


Poster from 1980


Don’t you wish you lived here all year round?

Ballybunion Sea Angling posted this from his morning walk by The Cashen on Saturday April 20 2013

Bridget Ryan, Tar Abhaile and Pilgrim Hill

Lovely photo from my friend in Ballybunion Sea Angling. This one was taken last week.


It all started with a Google search in 2008

In a suburb of Sydney, Australia in 2008 a part-time teacher
named Julie Evans was researching her family tree. She knew that her great
great grandmother, Bridget Ryan had left Ireland in Famine times as part of the
Earl Grey Scheme. Bridget was one of the “Famine Orphans” who were sent from the
workhouse in Listowel to settle in the other side of the world.

The Earl Grey Scheme was devised by the British Government
to solve twin problems at opposite ends of The Empire. Workhouses in Ireland
were massively overcrowed and struggling to cope with the numbers of  starving people arriving daily. Meanwhile far
away in Australia, colonists were decrying the lack of suitable (white) female
house servants. Earl Grey decided to identify suitable girls in Irish
workhouses, to kit them out and send them to Australia. The Australian people
were to foot the bill for the scheme. The definition of orphan was very loose.
Some girls had one living parent and some even had two. Bridget Ryan, it would
appear, fell into the second category.

Julie knew all this when she Googled Listowel Co. Kerry,
Ireland and she found this website maintained by Jim and Mary Cogan.  She sent off
an email and thus began an adventure whose latest twist was a TG4 project
called Tar Abhaile (Come Home).

When I received Julie’s email in 2008, I knew little of the workhouse
and nothing at all of The Earl Grey Scheme. A correspondence began and we emailed
to and fro, filling in more and more of the story until 2011. North Kerry Reaching Out was set up and I began this blog. One of the  aims of NKRO was to help the diaspora with
research into their family trees. Julie was one of this diaspora whose story we
took on board. We soon discovered that Bridget Ryan was no ordinary orphan and
her story began to take on many aspects of a soap opera. There was crime and
punishment, poverty and wealth but with a little smattering of social grace and
ladylike accomplishments.

Through this blog I made contact with an avid historian and
genealogist, Kay Caball. Kay grew up in Listowel . She is writing a history of
all the Famine Orphans who left from Kerry workhouses. She and Julie formed a
partnership to advance research into Bridget’s background.

Fast forward to 2013 the year of The Gathering and RTE is commissioning some TV programmes about descendants of emigrants.  

So, Julie Evans, her husband Glyn, her third cousin, Jeanette
Greenway from California and Jeanette’s daughter, Peta arrive in Ireland; Julie
to participate in the making of the TV documentary and her cousins to learn
more about their ancestor, Bridget Ryan.

Over two days last week we filmed hours of footage which
will be distilled  into 12 minutes of a Tar
Abhaile programme to be aired on TG4 in September or October. Don’t worry, I’ll keep
you posted.

I can’t spoil the programme by telling you the story but I
can tease you by telling you that it is an interesting tale with a few elements
to illustrate the adage that truth is often stranger then fiction.

As they say in the worst journals, “Watch this space”.

Julie and Glyn


Date for the diary:  Pilgrim Hill is coming shortly to a cinema near you.

In cinemas April 12th 2013. Pilgrim Hill is the debut film from Gerard Barrett, winner of the 2013 Irish Film and Television Academy Rising Star Award.

Jimmy Walsh is a farmer in rural Ireland. Like the landscape he inhabits, his life is bleak and hard. Looking after an ageing sick father, life is passing him by as he comes to terms with his changing circumstances. Loneliness and isolation are his continual companions, along with his modest herd of cattle.

A young twenty something neighbour is one of the only links Jimmy has to the real world. In him, Jimmy sees what he could have been, as he realizes what he is, a middle aged bachelor farmer with vanishing opportunities and on the verge of living the rest of his life alone on the side of a cold un-nourishing hill.

A final blow is dealt to Jimmy when it seems that life can’t get any worse. He is barely able to articulate his situation, yet his honesty and vulnerability speak to the loneliness that haunts the human condition in all of us.


Local Heroes

These are some of the volunteers who cleaned up the approach roads to the town on Saturday. This is what the Tidy Towns Committee posted on their Facebook page:

“An old bike, a baby seat and nearly 80 bags of rubbish collected on KWD County Clean-up on approach roads into the town. Thanks to everyone who helped out, we had 30 volunteers out early in the morning.”


Good news announced on Radio Kerry

“A proposed respite centre in Kerry
is to receive funding from the GAA. The centre, which will be the first of its
kind in the country,  will provide respite for children affected by rare
diseases and their families.

‘Liam’s Lodge’ is named after
4-year-old Kerry boy Liam Heffernan who suffers from Battens disease. His
sister Saoirse died from the disease at the age of five in 2011. Their parents,
Mary and Tony Heffernan from Keel/Castlemaine, actively raised funds for the
treatment of their children and are now behind the respite project. When it
opens in 2015, Liam’s Lodge will initially cater for 520 families each year and
is planning to provide help for over 1,500 families a year when all phases of
the project are complete.  The GAA is contributing €20,000 to the centre
in Blennerville. Tony Heffernan says the GAA’s funding is a huge boost to their


On this day, April 15 1912 this magnificent ship, Titanic with the loss of 1517 lives

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