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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Spuds and Stuff

Sheep in Beauford…Photo; Chris Grayson


Then and Now


A Side Altar at St. Mary’s

Do you remember when there used to be a Women’s Aisle and a Men’s Aisle? I visited a church once where the last few seats in each aisle were reserved for men. Men were reluctant to parade up the church. From biblical times going to the top pews was seen as a symbol of arrogance and hubris.

Jimmy Hickey once told me a great Listowel story. Jimmy’s father was a shoemaker and he had a shoemaking factory employing several shoemakers. New shoe leather was stiff and squeaked until it was “broken in” Some customers asked the Hickey shoemakers to leave the squeak in so that, when they walked up the church on Sunday, people would know they had brand new custom -made shoes. Hubris or what?

Some churches even had seats reserved for families who were particularly generous in their dues. In a church near my home parish a wealthy local man had his seat in the sanctuary, i.e. inside the altar rails.

When he was thrown out following Vatican 2, he took umbrage and frequented a neighbouring parish for the rest of his life.

Thankfully those old hierarchies are no more.


Setting the Potatoes

Good Friday was traditionally the day for setting the potatoes (for some reason we didn’t use the very “sowing” for potatoes).

Here from the Schools’ Folklore Collection is an account of how it was done in 1938 in Beale.

Potato crop – preparation of the ground
We set potatoes at home. We usually set an acre or so of them. We set them in drills and ridges. If it is on drills we set them the ground is ploughed once or twice and then harrowed and rolled to make the earth fine. Then the drills are opened with a common plough. Then the manure is drawn out and spread between the drills. Then bags of seed are brought to the garden and the neighbouring men and women come to help spread the seed.

When the seed is spread the drills are finished with a plough-both manure and seed are covered by splitting the drills. When they set them in ridges the manure is sometimes spread on lea ground and some farmers wait until they mark the ridges. When the ridges are made the manure is spread on them and three cuts are made in the breadth of the ridge to receive the seed. Now the earth on the furrows must be made fine. This is done by a machine called a scuffler and by getting a horse to draw a stone over the earth to make it fine. This fine earth is put up on the ridges with a spade and this finishes the preparation of ground and the planting of the seed.
Michael Griffin

Gloss; lea is fallow ground, maybe a headland

Furrow is the earth between the ridges

To scuffle the earth was to break it up, dislodging weeds and unwanted growth.


The potato crop- and its after cultivation.
Soon after the steaks (maybe stalks) appear above the round they require some weeding. The owner of them will come on and weed them either with the hand or hoe. When the stalks are strong they are scuffled with a machine called a scuffler. After this the broken earth that is between the furrows is made smoother still by means of a big flat stone attached to a horse. When this is done the earth is put up to the side of the drill by means of a double boarded plough. Then they are sprayed by means of a spraying machine. This is the after cultivation of a potato crop.
Kitty Griffin
Nov 11th 1938


At Canon’s Height

“Poems are made by fools like me

But only God can make a tree.”

Joyce Kilmer


A Fact

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents an actual king.

Spades- King David

Clubs- Alexander the Great

Hearts- Charlemange

Diamond- Julius Caesar



Church Street, Listowel


Listowel in the 1930s

Main Street, Listowel

This photograph was taken by an unknown photographer in the 1930s. It is included in digital format in the collection.

Photos of Munster

In the great website, Tipperary Studies which has a huge collection of local history and memorabilia. Well worth a visit.


Christchurch Cathedral

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú


Dromin Well

From the schools folklore collection (Presentation Primary School, Listowel)

There is a Holy Well in Droman, some miles from Listowel. It is said a girl called Depra, who was deaf and dumb, was taken to this well by her parents and left there for three days. When her parents retuned, to their great joy she was able to speak and hear. She told them during their absence a beautiful lady appeared to her, and told her to drink from the spring. Depra did so and immediately she was able to speak and hear. The beautiful lady smiled sweetly on her, and disappeared.


Bridge Road these times

In a few months time this will be a cycleway.


Some St. Patrick theme Windows


SACRED FOREST TREE PLANTING:  In Templeglantine beside the school Saturday, March 19.  Come and help us to plant Irelands first micro forest. 1,150 trees in a third of an acre with EcoSikh, Reforest Nation and Templeglantine Community Development.  Bring wellies and a spade!  Refreshments will be provided.

  1. Earth has more than 60,000 known species of tree.
  2. A tree thought to have went extinct 150 million years ago was recently discovered growing in a valley near Sidney, Australia For reference Dinosaurs like T. Rex died out 66 million years ago.
  3. Before trees earth had fungi with grew 30 feet tall. Ok not really a tree fact but so cool I thought I had to include it
  4. Trees in a forest can ‘talk’ and share nutrients through an underground internet built by soil fungi. Sometimes called the wood wibe web, each tree acts like a neuron in the human brain giving a forest intelligence.
  5. A large oak tree can consume about 100 gallons of water per day, and a giant sequoia can drink up to 500 gallons daily.
  6. Trees help us breathe — and not just by producing oxygen. Trees in city’s remove air pollution and save lives, each year 4.2 million people die each year from air pollution.
  7. Adding one tree to an open pasture can increase its bird biodiversity from almost zero species to as high as 80. Even more of a reason not to cut down fairy trees!
  8. Trees can lower stress, raise property values and reduce crime rates.   A large oak tree can drop 10,000 acorns in one year. So adopting just a few trees  will one day become tens of thousands!( Reforest Nation).


Meat and Veg.

Brendan Mahony, The Square


Gardening Time

Onion sets and certified seed potatoes are now in the shops. I took the phot in McKenna’s.

It’s important to buy certified seed potatoes. Memories of the Famine are ingrained in our DNA.

I remember cutting sciolláins long ago. We had too be careful to have an eye in every one.


Finding Santa Claus in June

Eamonn Dillon found this old one for us.

Kerry Sentinel, Wednesday, 28 July, 1915
Listowel Petty Sessions
CONCEALING A DESERTER. Mr James Kenny, and subsequently Mr H R Jones, R.M, presided and the other justices present were—Messrs P Healy, J C Harnett, Wm Collins, V.C, U.D.C, J MacAulay.
Mrs Mary Bunce and Mrs Kate Lee were charged by the King, at the prosecution of Sergeant Michael Costelloe, with concealing Wm Lee (better known as “Leo”), a deserter from the R.M.F. The first named defendant is the mother-in-law of Lee and the latter his wife. Mr H J Marshall, solr, appeared for the defendants.
Sergt Costelloe, in reply to Head constable Larkin (who represented the Crown in the absence of Mr M J Molloy, D.I) stated that on the morning of the 20th June, about a quarter to four, he went looking for Private Lee, who had deserted from the army. He went to the house where the defendants lived at Ballygologue, and after a search found Lee up the chimney (laughter). He charged the defendants with concealing him and they denied any knowledge of his being in the house. Lee was a soldier in the 3rd Batt. R.M.F.
Mr Marshall submitted that there was no case made out by the Crown, in as much as it was not legally proved that Lee was in the army at all.Head-constable Larkin—The witness said he was a soldier.
Mr Marshall said the magistrates should give the benefit of every technicality and doubt to the prisoner, as under the Army Act of 1881 the only punishment in such cases was imprisonment. It should be proved that he was a deserter, as be might have been absent with or without a just cause or excuse. If the man was absent for good and sufficient cause he was not a deserter and together the defendants should have been aware that he was a deserter when they sheltered or concealed him, and, of course, if he were on leave the most natural place for him to go was to his wife
Witness—But not up the chimney (laughter).
Mrs Lee—He was not up the chimney. That’s a lie.
Head-constable Larkin said it was at the present time regarded as a very serious thing to desert from the army, but as that was the first case of its kind in that district the Crown didn’t wish to be very severe. It was more of a warning to others than anything else that the prosecution had been brought. Chairman (Mr Kenny)—Of course such an offence at the present time is a very serious one, and it- would be well that the public should know that and that such cases can only be dealt with by imprisonment. On this occasion we dismiss the case, as we believe the defendants didn’t understand the seriousness of their act.


A Thought


We’ll be dancing again

What fun we had at Writers week once upon a time when we rubbed shoulders with the great and famous.

Richard Ford, Maire Logue, Liz Dunn and Colm Tóibín dancing on Opening Night W.W. 2018


Doomed Tree

This is one of the trees ear marked for the chop. If you are in any doubt that trees like this should be spared, look for a minute at the damage to the bole of this tree.


Trees, Handball and Shops Then and Now

Listowel Pitch and Putt course with new flower bed June 2021



Have you noticed how trees, woods and groves feature in place names and house names around Listowel?

Here are a few I observed on my walks


Handball Tournaments

(Information from Junior Griffin and Charlie Nolan)

In 1963 Listowel Handball Club lost two of its stalwarts, when Joe James and Frank Sheehy passed away.

At the AGM that year it was decided to purchase a shield in commemoration of Joe James and his huge contribution to the game in Listowel. There was already a shield in honour of Frank Sheehy.

And thereby hangs a tale. The shield was only played for once and it was won by Charlie Nolan. He still has the shield and the smaller replica he got to keep.

Charlie has many many happy memories of good times in The Alley. If you haven’t listened to him talking to Caoimhe from Coiscéim here is the link again

Handball memories in your own words

Máire Logue of St. John’s, Charlie Nolan and Caoimhe Coburn Gray of Coiscéim in Listowel handball alley in summer 2021

Charlie showed us the hooks on the wall of the bridge that he and other youngsters used to climb up on to the road to retrieve a ball.

Like Junior, Charlie found that skills learned playing handball transferred to other sports, in Junior’s case badminton and in Charlie’s Squash.


Some Listowel Shops Then and Now

Ladbrokes was Acc Bank

O’Hannáin is Glamourous


Trees, Handballers Fundraising for an upgrade

Carrigafoyle Castle by Breda Ferris



Listowel is home to hundreds of beautiful trees and this leafy environment is reflected in many of the housing estate names. Here are two.

Cluain Doire literally means meadows of oak.


A Carpet of Daisies in Listowel’s Garden of Europe

Our new awareness of the role of wild flowers has led to sights like this, hundreds of daisies and buttercups among the grasses.


If we only had a four walled court

(Junior Griffin)

Scoil Realt na Maidine as we know it today was opened in 1959 and Halla Bhriain Mhic Mhathúna, the school hall. was built on the site of the old school and opened in 1961.

The Handball Club was one of the first customers to use the hall. They ran a series of Whist Drives on Sunday nights. They also secured a Sunday night to run a “monster” whist drive in Walsh’s Super Ballroom during the season of Lent. The committee of those years was very active in fundraising with the burning aim of raising sufficient funds to build a four walled handball court in Listowel.

Between 1961 and 1965 the club held 27 meetings and 5 A.G.M.s. They also held one EGM.

The one recurring theme in all of these meetings was the hope and ambition to build a a four wall championship handball alley in Listowel.

The minutes of these meetings record many details of fundraising, deputations to the the local government T.D. , a meeting with Listowel UDC, letters to the National Handball Organisation and to the GAA.

Promises were made and encouragement given but the heartfelt dream of a new alley for the members of that time was never realised.

The sale of membership cards to player and “social” members continued.

In 1961 124 cards at 2/6 each were sold, 77 in 1962, 103 in 1963 and only 63 in 1964 as the dream of ever achieving the championship court was fading.


Greenway Bridge

Emma O’Flynn took this photo for us of the new bridge at Kilmeaney.


One to Ponder


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