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

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Tralee, Coming Home from Oz. Race in the 1990’s and old Killarney

Listowel Town Square before the reconfiguration


Tralee, Co. Kerry

These Sculptures are in the Town Park Tralee.

This door in Day Place is on a house thought to have been lived in by Daniel O’Connell.

Ogham Stone at Rath Cemetery

 This is one of many old mills in Tralee. The metal structure at the top was a pulley which lowered the bags of milled flour on to the waiting carts.

This is a Tralee church, unfortunately closed on the day I visited but I am assured it’s well worth a visit.


Barman’s Race

One day during the 1990’s we had great fun in Listowel Town Square at a fundraiser for People in Need. These photos were taken by Tom Fitzgerald and they show some well know bar people taking part in the Barman’s race.


Coming “Home” for Good

Weather events in Australia have added to the factors that are constantly turning the thought of our emigrants in Australia towards home. Coming back is not always as easy as you might think.

The following article from Stephen Palmer’s Irish Abroad site is well worth reading.

Irish Around Oz.

After 14 years in Oz and with dual citizenship, I decided to give living in Ireland a go in May 2016 and ended up staying.

I see so much misinformation on this page that I thought I would share some real experiences from my move; both positive and negative:

  1. Decide what is important to you and what is not important to you. Having lived abroad, if you decide to stay there you will be giving up some things, if you decide to move home, you will always have to give up some things. What will you regret on your deathbed?
  2. The weather is shit. It always was, and it always will be. Accept it and buy some decent rain gear.
  3. There are some annoying things about living in Ireland, just like there are annoying things in every country. Likewise, when you move countries, there are things to sort out and paperwork to do. It doesn’t just magically get sorted because you are an Irish citizen returning.
  4. Some things haven’t changed; there is still a certain amount of cronyism, and who you know, e.g. it is ridiculous how much power things like county councils have over planning permission. It can still be a case of who you know, not what you know.
  5. There is serious under-regulation in certain things… e.g. there appears to be no regulation of real estate agents who act like total cowboys. It can be seriously frustrating. You WILL find yourself saying “did this country learn nothing from the recession?” many times.
  6. Car Insurance is genuinely ridiculous, expensive and challenging for newcomers to the country and returning expats.

  7. No, you are not being unfairly treated as a returning expat when it comes to buying a property. They are not “out to get you” or make it impossible to return. The rules are the same – usually 20% deposit, 3.5 times salary, you need to be 6 months in your role and made permanent after a probation period.

    This is the exact same for people who never left the country, so it is not just because you are a returning expat. I keep reading people on here talking about unfair it is, but those rules are the same for everyone, and the controls are there for a reason given how lax the banks were in the past.

    If buying is a priority, make sure you come back with the deposit saved. And expect that you will have to show bank statements etc. from abroad.

  8. Salaries in Dublin are lower than in Sydney or London. Fact. And outside Dublin are much lower again. Of course you can’t get the same roles or career opportunities in the West of Ireland as you can in Sydney or New York, so be realistic.

    If you work in the corporate world, and your career is important to you, then chances are the opportunities are mostly in Dublin.

  9. Rents are ridiculous in Dublin (especially relative to salaries), but still very low in other parts of the country.
  10. Buying property is very affordable relative to other major cities, and relative to rent.

    But be realistic – the recession is over, and prices in Dublin are rising. I see so many people on here comparing the costs of buying in Dublin to small towns in Australia or the US. You are not comparing apples to apples.

    Personally, I could never afford to buy a house in Sydney even though my salary was twice what it is in Dublin.

    Here, I bought a 3-bed house in a lovely location for what I could have bought a 1-bed apartment in Sydney. Don’t compare the cost of a house in rural QLD with a house in Dublin.

  11. If you want to pay similar prices to country towns in other countries, you can absolutely do the same here. There are some bargains to be found, but you won’t find the same career opportunities, or you may have to commute – that is not any different to other countries.

    Also, don’t look at a house for sale online an hour outside Dublin and expect it to take an hour during rush hour. Like buying property anywhere, you will have to figure out your priorities – size of house and garden, vs location and commute.

  12. People here are lovely. Moving back from Sydney I found people so much nicer, more open and more welcoming here, and that has continued to be the case.
  13. Dublin is a much more cosmopolitan and diverse city than it was when I lived here 15 years ago. Some things have changed, and some haven’t. Don’t expect it to be the same, but embrace all the wonderful changes if you decide to move back.
  14. There is a much stronger sense of culture here than there was in Oz, and I love that.

  15. You can also jump on a plane and be immersed in a completely different culture anywhere in Europe in a couple of hours. You can get cheap flights and accommodation and have an amazing long weekend for cheap as chips.
  16. If you lived abroad for a number of years, you can’t just return and expect the same as people who never left and have paid tax the whole time. Yes, you will have to do some paperwork and may not be entitled to the dole. Yes, if you raised your children abroad, they may not be entitled to free 3rd level education. That is the price we all paid for leaving and seeking opportunities elsewhere, so accept it instead of feeling hard done by and entitled.
  17. The major lesson for me, back to point number 1; I have no regrets about moving home. For me, family and a sense of belonging couldn’t be replaced in Sydney, and with my eye on those things, all the negatives outlined above were worth it.
  18. You have the choice to focus on all the negatives or look for the positives.
  19. Nothing is forever. Give yourself options and get your citizenship etc sorted in case you ever want to move back.

I am sure I have missed lots of things as this was just a brain dump. But hopefully, it paints an even picture of the real pro’s and con’s, based on real experience.


Killarney Street

This is an old postcard picture of a Killarney street

Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial, Letter Writing and Book Launches

Photo: Chris Grayson


Hugh O’Flaherty Garden

In a corner of Tralee known as The Island of Geese, because that’s what it once was, there is a lovely commemorative garden to the great Mons. Hugh O’Flaherty.


Vanishing Ireland

Here’s a riddle for you.

What do letterboxes, calendars, wall clocks and diaries have in common?

Answer: They are all on the way out.

No  one writes letters any more.

I was in a shop recently when a customer came in wishing to buy notepaper. Do you remember Basildon Bond, Ancient Irish Vellum, that sort of thing? well, the stationery shop didn’t have it. They don’t stock it any more. There is no demand.  

I met the same lady a few days later and I asked her if she had succeeded in finding a shop that sold notepaper. She hadn’t.

The day of the handwritten letter has gone the way of the handwritten diary and the wall calendar. Digitised all.

Here are a few words from John B. Keane on the subject of letter writing from the introduction to an anthology of his famous fictional letters.

“I grew up in a time when there was no alternative to the letter as a means of communication, except, of course, in the case of emergency when the phone in the local barracks of the Civic Guards became an extreme resort. You may say why not a telegram! A telegram is a letter, a stunted one, shorn of embellishment, a sort of Beckett of the epistolary scene and often even more confusing, open to many interpretations, its length dictated by the circumstances or the generosity of the sender. Always less satisfactory than a letter, a telegram left too much to the imagination, often with harmful results. The letter might be slower, but it was safer. The letter writer could expand to his hearts content especially if he was romantically disposed towards the object of his calligraphy….”


A Book Launch

You are all invited to join me for the hooley in St. John’s to launch my latest book.

By way of doing a bit of research on how the experts do book launches I went along to Waterstones on Thursday evening, October 3, the evening we didn’t get a lash of Lorenzo.

Brian O’Connell and I  had a few things in common…non fiction miscellany type book, radio personality to launch, book to sell. That’s about as far as I can stretch it.

Then I realised that I was planning a hooley. We’ll have nibbles and tea and singing and music as well as readings from the book.

Of course we’ll have the book to sell as well and I’ll be signing like billyo.

It will be the first book launch under the new artistic director of St. John’s. Let’s make it a night to remember.

Now back to Brian O’Connell’s book. It’s really good, the kind you dip into every now and again. It’s great to have in the car to read while you are waiting to pick up the children, by the bed for a quick read before you go to sleep. It is ideal for the doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room.

I read it in none of these places. I binged on it, cover to cover in a weekend. It’s full of human interest stories that draw you in. You may have seen Brian O’Connell on Nationwide with the man who was selling the hearse or read him in the Irish Times about the man and the dog.

The stories are often heartbreaking but kind of funny too.


There’s a Listowel connection. I won’t spoil the story for you but the man with the Listowel connection had a burial plot for sale under bizarre circumstances.

If you are buying two books for Christmas, this would be a good one to buy as well as mine.

Tralee, The Phone Box and some Cork Street Art


Photo: Chris Grayson



These are some of the Rose dresses on display in Kerry County Museum until October.

These are some of the Rose bushes in the nearby Tralee Park. As you can see the new gardener   and his team are getting to grips with the sadly neglected rose beds. He has a huge task on his hands but the park is coming back to life again and, hopefully it will soon be restored to its former glory.


The phone box

Mattie Lennon

A public phone in Foley’s Bar in Castle

The US presidency is a Tudor monarchy plus telephones.(Anthony Burgess)

The day of the familiar Irish phone box is drawing to a close. Earlier this year the powers-that-be decided to reduce the number of post boxes from 4,850 to 2,699. Since usage of the public phone has fallen by 80% in the past five years, how long before the total demise of the phone box? The Kiosk, especially in rural areas, provided a valuable link with the outside world. But, in the words of Clinical Psychologist, Marie Murray, “ What of their psychological significance rather than their utilitarian worth? What role did they play in the lives of people? What privacy did they afford, away from the home telephone for those lucky enough to have a telephone in the house but unfortunate enough to have no privacy using that instrument at home?”Dr. Murray goes on to say that phone boxes , “ will become but quaint memories of an older generation regaling their grandchildren with tales of trysts at the local telephone box or romance conducted through whispered confidences in that semi-private box in the middle of the village or at the end of the road . . . ”

In the days when one went through the Operator there was the story of the Cavan man who phoned his friend looking for the loan of a tenner only to be told, “It’s a bad auld line, I can’t hear you.” When the request was repeated it was, once again, met with,“ I can’t hear you”. At this stage the Operator cut in with, “I can hear him perfectly”. The answer was ready, “You give him the loan of the tenner, so.”

The first “public” phone in our area was in the Post Office in Lacken where most of the calls were to the Priest, the Guards, the Doctor, the Vet or The A.I. man (or “the collar-and-tie-bull” as he was known.) The Post Office was also a shop which opened late so nocturnal communications pertaining to illicit relationships could sometimes be conducted, albeit in whispered tones. (Or so I’m told.)

Lacken eventually got a Phone-Box and conversations could be carried out in a stentorian voice without fear of “ear-wigging.” Some “coins” used were not Legal Tender (or even legal.) Washers of a certain diameter and “push-outs” from galvanised junction-boxes, used by electricians, would suffice. (Or so I’m told.)

By “tapping out” the numbers on the top of the cradle (1,9 and 0 were free) one could get through to any number. (Or so I’m told.)

When Decimal-Currency was introduced in 1971 it took a while to have the Phones adapted. The new Decimal 1P coin was exactly the same size as the old sixpence and worked very well. (Or so I’m told.)

Another favourite trick was to block the return-chute with a piece of rolled up twine and to return for the proceeds when a number of people had pressed “Button B” without getting any refund. (Or so I’m told.)

Nowadays when I hear the Dublin joke, “What do Northside girls use for protection? A Phone-box”, it reminds me that at times in rural Ireland the Phone-box was often utilised for erotic pelvic activity while parallel with the perpendicular. (Or so I’m told.)

When a not-too-well-liked person would be retiring it would be said, “They’re holding his retirement do in a phone-box”.

On one occasion, in a neighbouring parish, a female who was presumed to have contracted a “social disease” used the phone and civic-minded local woman immersed it (the phone, not the female caller) in a bucket of Jeye’s Fluid. This caused a malfunction which the P&T engineer couldn’t find a cause for. A local wag said, “you were poxed to get it workin’ agin.”

When Mobiles were getting plentiful and it looked like the humble Phone box would soon be redundant I made a suggestion to Eircom as to the possible utilisation of same . . as Condom-Dispensers. And I even had an idea for cost cutting in the area of signage; by using some of the existing logos and slogans. For instance; wouldn’t the Eircom logo, with very slight modification, look remarkably like a rolled-up condom? And where would you leave slogans like, “Let your fingers do the walking”. Do you think they acknowledged my suggestion? They didn’t even phone me.


On a Cork Street

Blennerville, Tomb of the 12th Knight of Kerry, A Timebomb in Tralee and a Pilgrimage to Knock in 2019

This stunning image of Blennerville comes to us from Eamon ÓMurchú


Burial Place of The Knight of Kerry

(Photo and text from Lixnaw Heritage and Historical Society)

This is the grave of John Fitzgerald, 12th Knight of Kerry.

The knight is buried in Dysert graveyard outside Lixnaw.

The yew trees in the background and the beautiful countryside around it create a very fitting atmosphere.

The Knights of Kerry were also known as the ‘Green Knights’, and it was a hereditary feudal knighthood, established by the Norman lords who invaded Ireland in the 12th century.

Katherine Fitzgerald (nee Fitzmaurice), the 12th Knight’s wife, the 13th Knight and his two brothers, are also buried in this peaceful crypt.


Ah, Sweet!

Christy Walsh and his lovely daughter, Olivia, having a cuppa and a natter in Main Street last week.


Believe it or Believe it Not

A story from The Kerryman of August 2011 and shared on Facebook


ONE of the Crimean War cannons outside the Courthouse was a timebomb until the Army defused it this week.

People walked past the cannon, one of a pair standing outside the Tralee Courthouse in Ashe Street, unaware the five sticks of gelignite, a detonator and a fusewire were hidden inside the barrel.

The explosives had lain hidden there for about 20 years following an abortive attempt to destroy the cannons.

Following a tip-off, an Army disposal team, with Garda back-up, moved in last Thursday and removed the explosives, later destroying them.

It is understood that the gelignite could have exploded; especially as the condition of it deteriorated over the years.

A Garda spokesman told The Kerryman: “Any gelignite found after a numbers of years would almost certainly be in a dangerous condition. And dampness would increase this danger.”

He said he believed the gelignite found in the cannons would be damp, making the situation more dangerous.

The two cannons at the Courthouse serve as memorials to Kerryman who died in the Crimean War of 1854-56, the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and the Chinese War of 185860.

Tralee Courthouse, except for the outer circular limestone walls, has been reconstructed at a cost of £0.5m.

It is due for re-opening within weeks and the stonework was being sandblasted in the cleansing processs. This work included the plinths upon which the cannons are placed.

It is believed that people who became aware of the presence of the gelignite decided to notify the authorities for safety reasons.<<<<<<<<
In Knock

Knockanure, Tarbert and Moyvane pilgrims on their recent trip to Knock.

Listowel Singers, turf cutting and Roly Godfrey, Painter and Jim Quinlan R.I.P.

Minnie in Ballybunion at sundown photographed by Bridget O’Connor


Listowel Singers

This old photo of the Listowel Singers was shared on Facebook by Ned O’Sullivan. He enjoyed the joke of the seagull on his head.


Changes to Tralee Streetscape

I took these photos just before it was completely demolished

PHOTO; Historical Tralee on Facebook


A Day in the Bog

Many people will remember this, a barrow load of turf. I remember that when we cut breast slane turf on our own bank, we used to load the barrow with 2 rows of four sods, then three sods, then 2 and 1 on the top, making 20 sods per barrow. The wheeler would empty the barrow on the spread ground and when you came in the next barrow was ready to go. No rest, you had to keep going. Of course there were different traditions and ways of cutting and spreading turf around the country. This photo dates from the 1940s.

Photo and text from Tony McKenna

I wonder if these barrows were used in North Kerry. I certainly don’t remember them and my recollection of the bog was that the ground would be far too soft to roll a loaded barrow on.


Roly Godfrey, Painter

We know the subject but we don’t know the artist yet. Patrick Godfrey came across this portrait of his grandfather, painter Roly Godfrey. It was painted by a local artist and the setting is The Harp and Lion bar and the year is sometime in the 1980s.

I came to Listowel first in 1975. One aspect of the town that fascinated me was the number of painting and decorating firms it had. I came from a place where everyone seemed to so their own painting. I remember two professional painters but they were mostly employed by businesses with high outside facades to maintain.

In contrast, everyone in Listowel seemed to employ professionals to paint their shops and businesses. I think it is a mark of the pride people took in how their shopfronts looked and a desire to always put on a show for the visitor. It is this pride in the town and this desire to employ the best people to decorate it that has eventually led to the winning of Ireland’s Tidiest Town Award in 2018.


+ Jim Quinlan R.I.P.+

Kerry Crusaders running and cycling clubs were founded to remember a man who died while he was out cycling, Howard Flannery.

There was a poignant scene on Church Street Listowel on Monday April 1 2019 as cyclists in Crusaders cycling gear peddled slowly in front of the hearse carrying the coffin of their fallen comrade, Jim Quinlan.

Jim’s cycling brothers gave him a great send off. His friends in the Listowel Folk Group sang him to his rest.

Jim was one of those people who are the salt of the earth. He was a great community and parish man, contributing always with a will and a smile. His adopted Listowel is diminished by his untimely passing.

Happiest in the company of his beloved Nóirín, I snapped Jim on a chance encounter in Ballybunion last year.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

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