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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Stories from YABF2019, Travellers in Ballyduff and Roger McElligott R.I.P

The Good Old Days?

This photo from Facebook tells a good story. Cows are docile animals and can easily be trained to stand still while being milked. They seem always to have a special rapport with women. This young lady is wearing a headscarf. Cows, because of the terrain they graze are often dirty and have a tendency to swish a tail while standing. The wise milkmaid covers her head to avoid having to smell of cow dung until the next wash.


Listowel Writers’ Week Young Adult Bookfest 2019

I took lots of photos on the day. Here are a few more.

Bernard enjoyed a coffee from Kettle and Cup. In case you are wondering Damo shared no local gossip with him.

Marcella, David and Joanna are taking a break from proceedings.

Miriam, Seán and Elma were volunteering.

No, Seán Lyons didn’t accompany Stephanie on the guitar. He interviewed her on stage and he is just being a gentleman here and carrying her guitar for her.

Riobard Pierse took us behind the scenes at Ireland’s Fittest Family. In a witty, self deprecating monologue he revealed all the Pierses did to make sure they did so well on this gruelling reality tv show. The winning formula seems to be clean living, lots of strength and conditioning training, lots of practice at the kind of tasks set by the course builders, a keen competitive streak, ability to work well as a team, and, of course, lots and lots of luck.

Riobard and his daughter with Bernard and Shane


Travellers at Ballyduff

 Irish Travellers have their own distinct customs and traditions. They have certain fairs and festivals that they regularly attend. Traditionally on their way to Puck every year, Travellers camped for a while near Ballyduff. 

The photos below and the caption were shared on Facebook.

Our thanks to Martin Browne for photos: Included are Charlie Doherty, Paddy O’Brien and Roseanne O’Brien. Irish Travellers were officially recognised as an indigenous ethnic minority by the government in early March 2017.


Death in Sacramento of Roger McElligott

Photo: Vincent Carmody

In October  2011 Roger wrote the following account for Listowel Connection of his family’s emigration from Upper William Street, Listowel to California. It is clear from the story that the McElligott family never forgot their Listowel roots and came back frequently to visit. 

I’m publishing Roger’s account of his family’s Listowel connection again at the request of his good friend, Vincent Carmody.

The house his ancestors came from is now known as Mike the Pies .

Roger passed away in his Sacramento home earlier this week. May he rest in peace

The McElligotts of Upper William Street,

Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland:

The McElligotts, of 28 Upper William Street, my grandparents, were William McElligott and Mary Dillon and their children: Mary (Mae), Michael, Margaret (Rita), William (my father), Patrick and Emmett.  Mae, the oldest, was born in May of 1890.

They operated a pub and a grocery store that shared a tiny triangular vestibule at street level.  In the rear area, where there were a stable and workshops, from which they operated general contracting and funeral undertaking businesses.  But, even with all that variety, they found the times financially difficult.  So, on hearing of the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April, 1906, they decided to emigrate to San Francisco, with the hope that their skills in the construction business could lead them to success in faraway California.

With that, they sold 28 Upper William Street to the O’Connors (Mike-the-Pie) and sailed the Atlantic from Queenstown, now Cobh, County Cork, on the brand new Mauretania, sister ship to the much more famous Lusitania.  Mary (Dillon) did not have her heart in it, but along she went with sixteen year old Mae and a younger Rita in tow.  The three surviving boys Michael, William and Emmett (Patrick had died in some epidemic.) were left at a boarding school in Ireland:  the Cistercian abbey of Mount St. Joseph, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

After the crossing and their 3,000 mile train trip across the continent, they may have gone to San Francisco, none of us knows for sure.  But, somehow, for reasons long forgotten, they ended up in Sacramento, 90 miles east of San Francisco, where my grandfather did find good employment as the supervisor of construction for large multistory buildings, most of which are still standing.  (That speaks well for him.)

My grandfather, William, built a house in Sacramento and, in 1912, when the boys had all finished at the boarding school in Roscrea, he sent for them to make their move to Sacramento.  It was decided, by my grandparents, that a chaperone would be in order and they enlisted Jim Taylor, who was husband to Margaret (Peg) Dillon, my grandmother’s sister.  Jim and Peg were then living at 54 Charles Street, Listowel.  That address was then linked to the Dillon family.

(Peg ended up in Sacramento too, but I don’t know when or how she arrived.)

Jim Taylor lived to be 102 years of age and, to the last, told of the horrors he experienced keeping his three charges in line.  If it was half as bad and he told it, he had experienced a tough-tough time on that long-long journey by ship and by rail.

In the living room of the Sacramento house hung a large photo of the Lartigue monorail steaming through a grove of trees.  My dad, William Ignatius, loved to tell of the mischief he and his brothers perpetrated against the Lartigue,  They  would find an incline along the rail and coat it with axle grease, so they could watch the train struggle to gain traction.

Another of the family stories  has to do with 28 Upper William Street:  That small triangular vestibule was used for what the boys thought was the most fun they could have.  British troops would spend evenings in the pub. After they had put away plenty of pints, the boys would tie a trip-wire across the entry door of the vestibule and then would feign a fist fight in the center of the street.  When the soldiers came rushing out to intervene, they would pile up like cord wood in the doorway. Those troops must have had short memories or there was a lot of turnover.

But, I once told this story to Bryan MacMahon and he said he found it believable. 

I first saw Listowel in 1975, when I was 41 and have been back another seven times to stay at Mount Rivers, attend Writers’ Week, go to the races in September and to just hang around for a few days. With any luck, my wife and I will return soon.  It is truly “Lovely Listowel.”

Roger William McElligott

Sacramento, California

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

St. Mary’s Listowel, Jesse tree, Travellers and Limerick at Christmas in 1972

Radio Kerry in Town last Week

The panto crew, Maria, Danny and Mary were one of the groups interviewed


Changes at Christmas


St. Mary’s in Advent 2015

The Jesse Tree is one of the oldest Christian Christmas traditions. It often appears in stain glass windows. The most famous Jesse tree window is in Chartres Cathedral which was dedicated in 1260.

Jesse was the oldest known ancestor of Jesus so the tree is a kind of family tree for Jesus. Our one in St. Mary’s Listowel is decorated with symbols from the old and new testaments.

The tablets of stone with  The Commandments

Noah’s Ark

 The angel Gabriel, I think

 Crown of Mary Queen of Heaven

The apple that brought about our downfall.

David’s harp

Joseph’s coat of many colours

The manger at Bethlehem.

Do drop in and see these and many more.


Traveller Encampment

Liam O’Hainnín posted this great old photo of travelers on their way to the races in the bad old days.


Road works off Colbert Street


Limerick at Christmas time in 1972


Neighbours and Friends

Christy and Noreen Brennan in The Square on Sunday December 6 2015

Mary Moylan and Clíona Cogan


Seeing Red!

Apologies friends. Every now and again, despite my best efforts, some text appears in red. It is black when I type it and then when the post uploads it is red. I thought the techie in the family had solved it, but alas, no. Just now it’s happening again. If anyone is  reading this who knows anything about Blogger, I’d really appreciate if you could tell me how to correct this annoying quirk.

Art in St. John’s, Travellers and another lovely Listowel paint job

Must See Exhibition, Mórtas Áite Dhuchais, at St. John’s

On Friday evening last I attended the opening of Micheál Kelliher’s latest exhibition. The show is a tribute to Listowel.  And what a tribute!

Micheál’s style is now big and bold, full of colour and vibrancy.

Listowel is Micheál’s muse. All the images are about love and pride and Micheál’s own love of Listowel, Listowel people in general and his own family in particular, the music, sport and traditions of North Kerry shine out from every image.

It’s a pity to sell and break up the collection because it works best, as it is now; the story of Listowel in pictures.

I say about listowelconnection that it is my take on Listowel. Well, this is Micheál Kelliher’s take on Listowel. It is hanging in St. John’s until August 4th 2015. Don’t miss it!

Here are a few pics I snapped on the night of the opening.

 Micheál  Kelliher is congratulated by Ann Fitzgerald.

P.J. and Joan Kenny enjoyed the paintings.

Billy Keane who, in his own witty style, launched the exhibition, chats to Karen Trench.
A Trench duo entertained us.

Eileen O’Connor and her good friend, Eileen Kelliher, proud mother of the artist.

Micheal’s old teachers from Listowel Community College


Style is in the Genes

Maria Stack and her niece, Leona at Tipperary Races



In the 1970s Travelers regularly stopped in Ratoo, Ballyduff on their way to Killorglin for Puck Fair or to Tralee for The Rose of Tralee Festival.

Martin Browne posted these photos of one such gathering on his Facebook page.


Looking Good

Knocknagoshel, Travellers and June Races

Arise, Knocknagoshel and take your place among the nations of the earth.

These old milk churns say “small farmers” to me. Small farmers are the backbone of this lovely rural Kerry community. I had occasion to visit Knocknagoshel recently and I liked what I saw.

“Arise Knocknagoshel, and take your place
among the nations of the Earth!’, was a slogan on a banner which was carried by
local men at a rally addressed by Charles Stewart Parnell in Newcastle West in

The banner is today commemorated with a
plaque in the centre of Knocknagoshel village.

Knocknagoshel has a lovely church in the heart of the village.

The church has some really fine stained glass windows.


Presentatation Convent May 2007

I took this photo shortly after the imminent closure of the convent was announced.



Traveler culture is now often  associated with big weddings, ostentatious grave memorials, disco clothes as daywear and sulky racing. Once upon a time in the 1940s and 50s travelers were poor people. They lived a nomadic life in squalid conditions, had large families and poor life expectancy. In the Cork Museum there is a permanent exhibition of artifacts and photographs associated with the traveller lifestyle.

In 1971 and 1972, two Ph.D. students of anthropology, George and Sharon Gmelch lived for 13 months with travelers in a site called Holylands outside Dublin. They studied their way of life and their interactions with the settled community. The Gmelchs’ photographs capture a way of life that is now but a fading memory. George is now Professor of Anthropology at the University of San Francisco. Some of their photos are on display in Cork Museum.

A bed in a typical barrel top caravan

These pockets or aprons covered in beads, buttons and medals were worn by traveller women

 An open cart

 Trading in scrap metal was a way of life for many of the menfolk.

 A tinsmith at work outside his home. Travellers often made tin cups or saucepans and sold them to country people on their travels.

Traveller encampment in the early 1970s


The Races are coming

Next weekend, if you are worn out from all the culture, you might dander down to the Island on Sunday and Monday for the June races.

Old photos and new


This photograph taken 96 years ago , shows an officer of the York and Lancaster Regiment with a small dog, 13 January 1918. Image taken on the 62nd Division front near Roclincourt, France.

From collection of Imperial War Museum, © IWM (Q 8439).


Some interesting old photos

This photo is in the Library of Congress. It shows a Connemara woman spinning, another lady stands at the cottage door knitting and in the foreground are some hens and a wash tub.

 This photo is in a collection of old photos of Travellers in The National Library. The poor woman is trying  to wash clothes in a tub at the side of the road, while her children play around her. In the background is her barrel top caravan.

These ladies are standing on a carriage and waving a flag over the perimeter wall of Mountjoy. They are showing their support for the jailed rebels.  The photo was taken in 1920 and is part of a collection in the National Library..

The man who would be president and his wife, Sabina

Bill and Hillary in 1972


I found this hilarious story in the British National Archive


The Big Wave

The above 3 pictures are all posted on JD’s  Facebook page. This is just one of the many events organized for the big push to get behind the Sea Rescue service. Ironically it all came from some negative comments posted online about the service.

People like Mike Enright of Ballybunion Sea Angling were so incensed by the lack of support and criticism of people who do such a vital service that they decided to show Ballybunion’s pride in the Sea Rescue personnel and their support for the great good they do by organizing a big weekend of fundraising. It deserves everyone’s support. If you are reading this from abroad and want to help, the rescue service have a donate button on their website.

Ballybunion Sea and Cliff Rescue


This photo was taken in Fota Wildlife Park by my friend, Jim MacSweeney

Who is Jim MacSweeney?

This is he


Tarbert North Kerry Junior Championship Winners 2013
Sponsored by Moloney Financial Services Listowel after defeating Beale in the final played in Ballylongford on Sunday19th January 2014

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