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: turf Page 1 of 4

John Molyneaux R.I.P.

Resurrection altar in St. Mary’s

This annual display on the side altar, as well as all the symbols of Easter includes animals. flowers, water and light.


Commemorative Manhole Covers

These permanent memorials of 1916 are literally under our feet in town. I photographed this one on Church Street. Try to notice them next time you are out and about.


Memories of an Influential Teacher

“And still they gazed and still the wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew.”

Oliver Goldsmith’s The Village Schoolmaster

The late John Molyneaux had a wealth of knowledge and he imparted it to cohorts of pupils in St. Michael’s. He had a prodigious knowledge of football, running and later golfing strategy.

One of his past pupils, David Kissane, published an obituary to his former teacher on line. I am including it here. As it is very long, I will give it to you in instalments.

Semper Invictus

 A tribute to Mr John Molyneaux, St Michael’s College, Listowel

                                                By David Kissane, Class of ’72

It is fifty years ago since a group of about thirty young fellas headed out the gates of St Michael’s College, Listowel and into the wide, wild and wonderful world of the 1970s. As a member of the class of ’72, there is a compulsion to remember the year and its hinterland. Its place in our layered lives. What contributed to what we are cannot go uncelebrated. It just keeps on keeping on.

But how can one capture the colours and contours, the shapes and shadows of half a century ago when the world had a very different texture to what we perceive now in the bóithríns of age? The ships we sailed out in may be wrecked or dismembered. The ports we set sail from are hidden in the mists of time and memory, and our fellow sailors are scattered.

So where does one begin? 

The writer Colm Tóibín once asked the artist Barrie Cooke how he began his paintings. Cooke answered “I make a random mark on the canvas and see what happens”.

Just as I follow Cooke’s suggestion and type a random “J” on the screen, the phone rings. It is Jim Finnerty from Glouria. I look at my J and wonder if Cooke was right! “There’s a man you knew well after passing away in Listowel” Jim announced. Listowel, I thought out loud as Jim let the news simmer in the wok of my memories. A number of names came to mind before Jim said “John Molyneaux”.

And then my canvas began to fill in. I write the name of Mr John Molyneaux, my Latin and English teacher, my athletics and football coach, and the dam opens. For the five years I spent in St Michael’s College, Listowel, he was an enduring presence, a multi-dimensional man who had a huge influence in our lives for those budding years. An icon.

Of course the first question that challenged my memory was “when did I last see John Molyneaux?”

About three years ago I parked my van down by the Feale off the Square in Listowel. Near Carroll’s Yard. Near the entrance bridge to Listowel Racecourse where you’d hear “Throw me down something!” on race days in sepia Septembers. As I returned to the van with a brand new chimney cowl, I saw him coming along the bank of the river. Lively as always, thoughtful, loaded with intention, energised quietly by the magic of the Feale walk, eyes down. I knew immediately if was him although I hadn’t met him in thirty years or more. 

I almost said “Sir”. There is something un-shielding about meeting our old teachers. For us teachers, there is often a similar feeling when we meet former students.

“Hallo”, I said. He looked up and at me and it was that same look that I had forgotten with the passing of the years. Stored in the subconscious though. A moment of silence. I heard myself say my name. “I know” he said and a pathway opened up between the two of us and five minutes of reacquaintance. The older face transformed itself back through the years and the voice reframed its undeniable Mr Molyneaux-ness. 

“We might have a chat about athletics sometime?” I broached timidly and he nodded. I was talking to the man who helped discover Jerry Kiernan and a host of other athletes. We parted and my day was enriched and changed.

Time and Covid played their cruel games and the chat never took place.

I will regret that for as long as memory is my colleague. 

A group of raw first year students entered St Michael’s College in September 1967 having done an entrance exam the previous May. From the hinterland of Listowel and the town itself. There were only two from Lisselton NS some eight miles away off the Ballybunion-Listowel road. Francis Kennelly and myself, coincidentally from the same townland of Lacca. And distantly related as well. 

The novices of 1967 were the first beneficiaries of Donagh O’Malley’s free education bill with free transport and no fees. Up to then second-level education was the premise of the wealthy. Now we were part of a historical educational development which would change the face of Ireland forever. Educate that you may be free, Pádraig Pearse had said long before he was executed in 1916. 

In we went to the famed, and sometimes feared St Michael’s College, imposing and immobile. Two storeys of history and education above the ground and one storey below looking out on our little minds. Long walk in like an estate house with manicured lawns and apple trees. We were told by those in the know that if we picked the apples that were growing on those trees that autumn that it would have worse repercussions than when Adam was persuaded by Eve to prove his manhood by picking the Granny Smiths in the Garden of Paradise. The principal, Fr Danny Long would punish the picker with impunity. We were herded up the spotted clackety marble stairs and looked down on the trees to our right and pondered the decree of ne tangere. Do not touch.

(more tomorrow)



Photo by Caroline O’Sullivan taken near Listowel


A poem by Martin O’Hara

Ah god be with the

Good auld days. 

And the times, of long ago.

For to get the peat, 

for our household heat, 

To the bog, we had to go.

No modern ways, back

In those days.

All in life, you would require. 

Was a fine turf spade, 

That the blacksmith made. 

To secure, yourself a fire. 

With Patrick’s day, 

out of the way. 

It was time, to make a start. 

With the bike and dog, 

Off to the bog. 

And some, by ass and cart.

From countrywide, to

The mountainside. 

The journeys, would begin. 

To replace once more, the

Old turf store. 

For the wintertime again.

Now the cutting of a

Bank of turf, 

This job was done, with pride. 

The cleaning first, was

Taken off, 

And placed down at the side. 

The peat exposed for 

Cutting now, 

Was cut out, with the spade.

And the sods of turf

Upon the bank, 

In rows, were neatly laid.

With the turf now dry,

 As time went by. 

The footing, would begin. 

From countrywide, to

The mountainside. 

The people came again. 

With pains, and aches, 

And many breaks. 

We stood them, row by row. 

And to season then, they

Would begin. 

Where the mountain breezes


In harvest time, with

Weather fine, 

Once more, we would return. 

The turf by now, in perfect shape. 

Was good enough to burn. 

With the ass and cart, we

Made a start. 

To take them to the road. 

And a stack did rise, 

Before our eyes. 

Growing bigger, with each load. 

Now to take them home, 

For wintertime. 

To the bog, we came

Once more. 

With a fine big stack, built

Out the back. 

We renewed, our winter store. 

That was our way, and

Still today. 

This tradition, carries on, 

but In time they say. 

It will pass away, and

Forever will be gone. 

No bog, no more, for

The winter store. 

Only memories, that

Live on. 

Of our working ways, back

In the days. 

That are now, long past and gone. 

Martin O’Hara   3 /3/2020. ©


Just a Thought

My reflections from Radio Kerry which were broadcast last week April 18 to April 22 2022

Just a Thought


Grange Con and a Rose contestant

Poshey Aherne took this photo. He confessed to putting a little dab of peanut butter on the eye lens. Isn’t it a super shot all the same?


I was in Grange Con

I can’t say I’d ever heard of Grange Con in Co. Wicklow until my daughter told me that we were going there for the weekend.

It’s a lovely peaceful little village within easy reach of Dublin and Kildare.

We stayed in a lovely Air BandB cottage. It is a converted old stable in the most idyllic peaceful spot just outside the village.

This is the view from my bedroom. There used to be a mill in this village before and it looks like tillage is a big element of farming locally.


From Pres Yearbook 2003

Olivia Buckley, a past pupil of Pres., was the Kerry Rose in 2002.

(More on Monday)


The End of the Road for Turf

This is a photograph from the National Museum collection. I think its Sligo. Its not a scene familiar to Kerry people anyway.

The reason I’m talking about turf today at all is because of the latest proposal from government. Turf as fuel is not really an issue in our cities but the turf fire is ingrained into the memories of many in these parts. Turf is the preferred fuel in many Kerry houses. It is proposed that one will be allowed to have turf for yourself but selling of turf will be banned. This sounds sad to me as many people who love a turf fire are now a bit beyond cutting their own turf. Harvesting turf is hard work.


Sea Swimming, Races and Bringing Home the Turf

Photo; Bridget O’Connor

Friday, Sept 10 2021 was International Suicide Awareness Day. Bridget’s picture above shows a troop of people who ventured into the sea at Ballybunion on that evening to show solidarity with those bereaved by suicide and to highlight the issue of treatable mental illness.

Pictured with Snámhaí Sásta, June Curtin, are local ladies, Billy Jo and Lelia O’Connor and Bridget McCarthy.

June brought some of her positivity calendars with her on the night. She is selling them in aid of Pieta, the suicide prevention charity.

Aoife Scott was in town for a concert as part of the Ballybunion Arts Festival at The Tinteán. She came and sang a song or two for the delighted swimmers.


Listowel Races in Years Past

This man has been coming to the races and staying with Nora for over twenty years. I hope he got a ticket this year.


Out of This World

This Ballybunion placename never ceases to amaze me.


Bringing home the Turf

If I had been asked I would have said that this scene was earlier than the 1970s.

Donkeys and carts were ideal for bog work. The ground underfoot in the bog is soggy and unstable so it calls for a fairly light sure footed animal like this lovely ass.

Look at how the young man leading the donkey was dressed for his day in the bog. In the early years of the 20th century in Ireland there was no such thing as casual clothes. Athleisure is a very recent fashion. We had good clothes and old clothes. this man is in his old clothes, i.e. a suit that used to be his Sunday suit but was now relegated to everyday wear. It kind of looks like a suit he may have inherited from someone bigger than himself. Hand me downs were common too. Suits often were passed down through the family until they were no longer wearable.

I bet his v neck is hand knitted. All jumpers were hand knitted one time, until Ben Dunne brought us cheap clothes and it no longer made sense to knit something you could buy more cheaply. Of course it didn’t last as long but that mattered little when it was so cheap and did not entail hard work.

Along with the turf, this scene will soon be unfamiliar to all but the oldest of us.


Poetry Town

We’ve exchanged our Social distancing stencils for Poetry Town ones.



Slea Head

Photo credit; Graham Davies on This is Kerry


If today you are complaining about your job, take a look at this turfcutter. Bord na Mona employed men on a casual basis to harvest the turf. They were paid, not by the day or the hour, but by the amount of turf they cut. I don’t know if this man was in Lyreacrompane. I doubt he was as most of the photos seem to come from the bigger bogs in the midlands where there were villages of Nissan huts set up during the turf cutting season and the men (there were no women allowed) slept and ate in these huts and spend every waking hour turf cutting.

Men of the Travelling Community used to come to Lyreacrompane for the turf season and these men were a significant cohort of the Lyre workforce.

This photo, also from the great Bord na Mona Archives shows a mountain of turf in the Phoenix Park Dublin sometime during the war. Turf was exported to Britain, as there was as s shortage of coal due to the war.

A Post Box, A Poster, The Cobwebs Glory and A Date with a Story

Pollinator at work


Saving the turf in the 1940s


Post Box in Upper Church Street

Any idea what this says?


Where stories begin

This poster takes up the whole window of the old Lawler’s Cake Shop in Church Street. It features some well known Listowel personalities. It’s proving s great talking point.


The Cobweb’s Glory

Many people have been in touch about this one.

From Vincent Carmody  

 “That production of The Cobwebs Glory would have been in the late 1940s or the very early 1950s as Eamon Kelly who directed it would have left Listowel around that time, bound for the Abbey Theater. The writers, were a combination of three Listowel men, Bryan McMahon, Michael Kennelly and an O’Connor man from Market Street, I think that his name was Paddy. 

The play was staged secondly by the Listowel Players, with Nora Relihan as producer, with proceeds from the three nights, going towards the upkeep of the boys national school, like many poster s there was no year given, however knowing the cast I would say early 1970s.  The poster is in my book, page 206.”

Jim MacMahon shed some more light on the third man; 

it was written by three people , my Dad , Paddy O’Connor and Michael Kennelly. I suspect it was my dad’s first dipping of his toe in the water as a dramatist . Both Michael and Paddy were pals in Listowel. Paddy was a very literary teacher, first in St Flannels in Ennis and later in Blackrock college and a literary critic , Jim

Beta OBrien wrote;

The Cobwebs Glory was a play about a greyhound of that name and the author was a combination of writers. Bryan McMahon Michael Kennelly and Paddy OConnor (who spent most of his life teaching in Blackrock College Dublin) The date I guess would be prior to Bryan McMahon getting  involved in serious writing possibly late forties.”

And Mattie Lennon sent this;

 I have no way of knowing when that production was staged. But I played Trooper Devane, with the Lacken Drama Group in 1965.

   Am I right in thinking that the play had three authors and that one of them was Bryan McMahon?

Dave O’Sullivan looked up the papers and here is what he found.

Thanks everyone for all your help.


One for the Diary


The Rose of Tralee Fashion Show

Quite unexpectedly I found myself at The Rose fashion show on Sunday night. The dome looked magnificent, every bit as good in reality as it looks on TV. We enjoyed a great night’s entertainment, goody bags and all.

The Roses on stage

Beautiful bridal wear from my friends in Finesse

They were all lovely.

Page 1 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén