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 email@example.com
Serendipity is the discovery of nice things by accident. I had a piece of serendipity today. When I was searching the web for the Convent Street Clinic, I came across the following Facebook post from Vincent Carmody from 2016. This is a fascinating piece of local history told in Vincent’s own words and illustrated with photos from his vast collection.
Living History Miscellany.
Number 35, Market Street witnessed many changes in the course of the twentieth century. It was built as the town’s brand new Technical School, to cater for those more technical and commercially minded than their fellow townies studying the classics at St Michael’s College. It catered for both young men and women. The convent secondary school would not be built for decades. Beside serving as a school, it served as a meeting place.
As can be seen from the pamphlet, it was used to hold meetings of the local North Kerry Farmers Association. The J. Scully mentioned as Hon Sec. was a County Kerry Committee Agriculture adviser.
On December 17th, 1913, a meeting was held there, to form a Listowel branch of the Irish Volunteers. This was a mere month after the formal launching of the Volunteers at the Rotunda in Dublin. In a newspaper report of the Listowel event, it told how the meeting was convened by Edward Gleeson, Edward Leahy and John McKenna, the latter ( who was then a member of both Listowel Urban Council and Kerry County Council) taking the meeting’s chair. All those present at the meeting, were sworn into the new organisation with hand on a rifle. The rifle was supplied by McKenna. After, when a new Technical School, had been built in Lower Church Street, the building went into disuse.
The scout photograph is of senior scouts, Billy Doyle, Dan Maher and Michael Kennelly.
A new scouting organisation which had been formed in the town, got permission to use the Convent Street premises. It became, headquarters for scouting activity.
‘Commercial class of 1931’ . Pat Moriarty, (Pat was born in Ballyheigue, of a large family, he was sent to Listowel, when young, and raised by his grand parents, James and Margaret Moriarty and their daughter Kathy, who lived at 41 Upper William Street), is pictured 3rd from left in back row, gave me the photograph some years ago, at the time his memory was failing, he was, however, beside’s, been able to point out himself, identified, second from left, back row, Michael O Sullivan of Market Street and Church Street, (Michael,(Mickey) was born across the road from the school, where his father, Edward O Sullivan, had a tailoring business), Peter (Peader) McGrath, of William Street, where his father, Ned McGrath, operated a drapery shop) and later Convent Street is extreme right in back row, Richard (Dick) Fitzgerald, Convent Cross is second from right, back row. It is worth pointing out, that Richard (Dick) Fitzgerald in later years, was a highly efficient and respected caretaker, of both the Technical School in Church Street and afterwards the new school built at Upper Church Street.
Front row, extreme left is pictured, Canon White P.P. of Listowel, he was a Listowel man, born in Bedford. On the extreme right, front row, is Charles Chute, of Charles Street.
A Limerick from Dan Keane
The Good Old Days
I’m remembering today an M.S. Busking Day in Main Street. I hope this cheery musical fundraiser will return in 2022.
Vincent Carmody Remembers Great Times in the Cinema
As someone who grew up quite close to the Astor, the cinema site itself, the adjacent railway property, in and around the Sluadh Hall and around the creamery were play areas for those of us from the top of William Street.
A particular thing that we used to do when in the cinema yard was to pick up pieces of the celluloid film which would have been cut from the reels as the projectionist would splice reels together. We would take these clips home and get real enjoyment if any actors faces appeared on the clips. Another thing that would have been discarded were sticks of carbine. They would have been used in the projection room. This room was attached to the end wall of the cinema and was accessed by concrete steps to the upstairs projection room. Underneath was the boiler room.
Pat Dowling of the Bridge Road was the projectionist. He was a mechanic at Moloney’s Garage in William Street and was also a member of the Fire Brigade. Jeremiah O’Connor of O’Connell’s Avenue was his assistant. Mrs Woulfe of St. Brendan’s Terrace was manageress and worked in the ticket office, while Michael Nolan and John Joe O’Connor were doormen.
There was no shop in situ in our time. Sweets would have to be bought at either Jet Stacks, Quills or Kelly’s from further down the street.
Admission to the gods (hard seats) was four old pence, middle soft seats, I think ten pence and the more up market balcony around would have cost one shilling and three pence.
The Astor would show the same film, at the most, for two nights, whereas the Plaza would usually have the same film for three nights. Both cinemas would have afternoon matinees and and night show on Sundays. There were some in the town who would alternate visits to both cinemas on different nights. One nightly man in particular, was a pipe smoker and he would have two pipes, smoking one until it got hot, then changing it for the second one.
Advertisements for many local shops would appear on screen prior to the shows. Then usually what was shown next was either a serial or shorts, then trailers of upcoming films. If it was a serial, this would continue over a period of weeks. A great favourite at one stage, was a half hour Scotland Yard mystery case. This was presented by an actor called Bruce Seton, (at that time I was not to know that I would get to know him very well when I worked in the Devonshire Arms public house in Kensington London in the 1960s).
At one time, whoever was booking films must have got a bargain in buying in bulk. For about five Sundays in succession, films starring a cowboy by the name of Whip Wilson filled the screen, so much so, one local wit, put it out that Wilson was lodging at a local B & B.
Being at the Astor on Sunday September 11th 1955, is a date I remember quite vividly. The reason for this, is that in that year, both All Ireland semi finals ended in draws on the two previous weekends. Both replays were re-fixed for the 11th, Kerry playing Cavan and Dublin playing Mayo. I remember that the Kerry match was played first, meaning that it did not finish until nearly four o clock. The Astor management, realising this, wisely put back their starting time to facilitate cinema goers who would have been listening to the match on the radio.
Another standout memory is of attending a showing of Angela’s Ashes. I found this a depressing movie, more so, as it seemed to have been filmed in near constant rain and depression. Leaving the cinema shortly after ten o clock that evening, we exited to a lovely bright warm summer evening. It felt great after what we had seen on screen.
Another vivid memory for me is seeing Dead Poets’ Society. At the end of the film, Eamon Keane, recognising a fellow actor, Robin William’s tour de force, stood and applauded for a full five minutes
On occasions (especially before Walsh’s Super Ballroom was built in the 1950s) the Astor was used as a Dance Hall. In the 1940s there were occasional supper dances, with dancing at the Astor and a supper meal been served at the Slua Hall across the road.
I can also recall a variety show sometime in the early 1950s.
I, like many, regret the closure of the Astor, now Classic, as a cinema. However I realise that without a regular substantial audience attendance, a venue like this could not pay its way. Hopefully this fine building will not be pulled down and maybe have a rebirth, as it could be used as a theatre, exhibition space, museum or boutique cinema.
Meanwhile, I salute the late Kieran Gleeson, his wife Teresa and family, for the pleasure which they gave to Listowel cinema goers. I thank them for rescuing the Astor and making it a worthwhile and pleasant location for North Kerry film buffs from January 1987 until its closure in January 2022.
The Astor cinema was built and operated by the Coffey family in the late 1930s. The Coffey family had two cinemas in Tralee. Brendan Coffey ran the Listowel cinema.
Christmas Day Christmas comes but once a year; When it comes it brings good cheer, When it goes it leaves us here, And what will we do for the rest of the year. When Christmas morning dawns everyone is up early and goes to early Mass, and many receive Holy Communion. When people meet on their way to Mass their salutes to each other are:- “A happy Christmas to you” and the reply is – “Many happy returns”. The children are all anxiety to see what Santa Claus has brought them. When Mass and breakfast are over the children play with their toys while the elders are busy preparing the Christmas dinner. The chief features of an Irish Christmas dinner are – roast turkey, or goose and a plum pudding. The remainder of the day is spent in the enjoyment and peace of the home, and the family circle. Christmas customs vary from country to country but the spirit of Christmas is the same the wide world over. It is the time of peace, and it is also the feast for the children, because it was first the feast of the Child Jesus who was born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand long years ago.
Collector Máighréad Ní Chearbhaill
Address, Ballybunnion, Co. Kerry.
Teacher: Máire de Stac.
Some Christmas Windows 2021
Our Perennial Christmas Story
(I never tire of this one).
The Christmas Coat
Seán McCarthy 1986
Oh fleeting time, oh, fleeting time
You raced my youth away;
You took from me the boyhood dreams
That started each new day.
My father, Ned McCarthy found the blanket in the Market Place in Listowel two months before Christmas. The blanket was spanking new of a rich kelly green hue with fancy white stitching round the edges. Ned, as honest a man as hard times would allow, did the right thing. He bundled this exotic looking comforter inside his overcoat and brought it home to our manse on the edge of Sandes bog.
The excitement was fierce to behold that night when all the McCarthy clan sat round the table. Pandy, flour dip and yolla meal pointers, washed down with buttermilk disappeared down hungry throats. All eyes were on the green blanket airing in front of the turf fire. Where would the blanket rest?
The winter was creeping in fast and the cold winds were starting to whisper round Healy’s Wood; a time for the robin to shelter in the barn. I was excited about the blanket too but the cold nights never bothered me. By the time I had stepped over my four brothers to get to my own place against the wall, no puff of wind, no matter however fierce could find me.
After much arguing and a few fist fights (for we were a very democratic family) it was my sister, Anna who came up with the right and proper solution. That lovely blanket, she said was too fancy, too new and too beautiful to be wasted on any bed. Wasn’t she going to England, in a year’s time and the blanket would make her a lovely coat!. Brains to burn that girl has. Didn’t she prove it years later when she married an engineer and him a pillar of the church and a teetotaler? Well maybe a slight correction here. He used to be a pillar of the pub and a total abstainer from church but she changed all that. Brains to burn!
The tailor Roche lived in a little house on the Greenville Road with his brother Paddy and a dog with no tail and only one eye. Rumours abounded around the locality about the tailor’s magic stitching fingers and his work for the English royal family. Every man, woman and child in our locality went in awe of the Tailor Roche. Hadn’t he made a coat for the Queen of England when he was domiciled in London, a smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales and several pairs of pyjamas for Princess Flavia.
The only sour note I ever heard against the tailor’s achievements came from The Whisper Hogan, an itinerant ploughman who came from the west of Kerry.
“ If he’s such a famous tailor,” said Whisper, “why is it that his arse is always peeping out through a hole in his trousers?.
Hogan was an awful begrudger. We didn’t pay him any heed. Tailor Roche was the man chosen to make the coat from the green blanket. Even though it was a “God spare you the health” job, a lot of thought went into the final choice of a tailor.
The first fitting took place of a Sunday afternoon on the mud floor of the McCarthy manse. The blanket was spread out evenly and Anna was ordered to lie very still on top of it. Even I, who had never seen a tailor at work thought this a little strange. But my father soon put me to rights when he said, “Stop fidgeting, Seáinín , you are watching a genius at work.” Chalk, scissors, green thread and plenty of sweet tea with a little bit of bacon and cabbage when we had it. A tailor can’t work on an empty stomach.
The conversion went apace through Christmas and into the New Year. Snip snip, stitch, stich, sweet tea and fat bacon, floury spuds. I couldn’t see much shape in the coat but there was one thing for sure – it no longer looked like a blanket. Spring raced into summer and summer rained its way into autumn. Hitler invaded Poland and the British army fled Dunkirk, the men of Sandes Bog and Greenville gathered together shoulder to shoulder to defend the Ballybunion coastline and to bring home the turf.
Then six weeks before Christmas disaster struck the McCarthy clan and to hell with Hitler, the British Army, and Herman Goering. We got the news at convent mass on Sunday morning the Tailor Roche had broken his stitching hand when he fell over his dog, the one with the one eye and no tail. Fourteen months of stitching, cutting, tea drinking and bacon eating down the drain. Even a genius cannot work with one hand.
Anna looked very nice in her thirty shilling coat from Carroll Hengan’s in Listowel as we walked to the train. Coming home alone in the January twilight I tried hard to hold back the tears. She would be missed. The Tailor was sitting by the fire, a mug of sweet tea in his left hand and a large white sling holding his right-hand. I didn’t feel like talking so I made my way across the bed to my place by the wall. It was beginning to turn cold so I drew the shapeless green bindle up around my shoulders. It was awkward enough to get it settled with the two sleeves sticking out sideways and a long split up the middle. Still, it helped keep out the frost. Every bed needs a good green blanket and every boyhood needs a time to rest.
The ghosts of night will vanish soon
When winter fades away
The lark will taste the buds of June
Mid the scent of new mown hay.
From the Top Shelf
Vincent Carmody has a new book out for Christmas. This one is a collaboration with Limerick historian, Tom Donovan. It is a must have for anyone with a Limerick connection. Even if you have no affiliation to the Treaty City this book is a valuable insight into trade in our part of the country in the recent past.
This sculpture stands in Listowel Town Square. It represents the river Feale and the fort or lios which gives its name to the town. It was designed by local artist, Tony OCallaghan. Tony was a teacher in Scoil Realta na Maidine. He was a skilled artist in copper. He was also a town councillor.
NKRO Back in the Day
Local historians at one of the early meetings of NKRO
Vincent Carmody, Cara Trant, Joe Harrington, Mary Cogan, Ger Greaney and Kay O’Leary
A Long Shot
Every now and again someone who is browsing the internet finds their way to Listowel Connection. Sometimes they contact me to see if I know any more about who or what they are searching for. Sometimes I can help or I know someone who can.
But this one has me stumped. The below message was left as a comment on an old post about showbands. The commenter did not leave a name or any means of knowing who it is.
I’m printing it here in the hope that the person who posted the comment or someone who knows them will be in touch.
“I’m an old friend of the late Buddy Dalton from 1962 when he played with his Dad in Ballybunnion We were Mc Faddens Stage Show and showed there all that summer 1963 I would love to get his C.D don’t know where to look If you can help please it would mean the world to me Thank you”
Bumpers at the Pavilion in Ballybunion
I love the nun and child in the centre car. This photo will bring back happy memories for many. It was shared on a Ballyduff Facebook page.
I came across this photo of Danny O’Mahoney on the same page. He hasn’t changed a bit.
Stay 2 Metres Apart Please
Hopefully these will soon be replaced and we can draw a little nearer to one another. When the story of the pandemic, Covid 19, in Listowel is written, these photos will tell their own story.
Welcome to Kilmoyley! This is possibly the first cuckoo in the Ardfert Kilmoyley region for 2020, photographed yesterday by Hubert Servignat who lives a short distance away. Tá an samhradh ag teacht!
Cuckoo (Neil Brosnan)
I blame the parents more than the youngsters
Those most deceitful of our refugees.
Planners and plotters, ingrained imposters,
Covertly winging from far overseas.
‘Shush,’ snaps the dunnock from under the sedge,
The marsh warbler’s song cut short in his throat
Mute pipits cringe at the still meadow’s edge
As high up above resounds the next note.
Tunefully perfect, evolved to enthrall
Proclaiming his realm; his objectives clear
Shamelessly calling from dawn to nightfall
Stark confirmation that summer is here.
Have we ever heard this cuckoo before?
Will he return here – once, twice, or no more?
Vincent wrote this article two years ago on the occasion of the North Kerry Final.
The 1920s hurling team with Maurice McGrath
I cannot recall all the names, however I can name some, I wanted to show this one as it is the only one with Maurice McGrath
(1) Jim Henderson – (3) Brendan .McEnery- (5) J.J. Kenny – (6) Stanlish Kerins – (7) Tony Chute – (8) Maurice McGrath – (9) Brendan Nunan – (10) Brud Roche.
(5) Ml (Ginger) Kelly- (6) Wm. (Jacques) Guerin – (7) Tommy (Tucker) Stack) (8) Martin Holly.
includes, Maurice McAuliffe, Bob Slemon, Jim Joe Buckley, Jack Harmon.
(Jim Henderson was a Guard in Listowel and retired to Ballybunion, he was from Kilkenny, I think he was an uncle to the great Henderson’s of the Kilkenny teams of the late 60s ,70s and 80s.)
Vincent came up with a few more names;
(2) John Nolan – (4) Paddy Allen –
partly covered, (1) Joe O’Carroll – (3) Eddie Flaherty – (4) Nelson McAuliffe – (6) Should read, Ned (Spud) Murphy ((not Wm Guerin)
(1) Matt (Curly) Walsh – (2) Moss McAuliffe – (3) Dandy Leahy (laying sideways) – (4) Bob Slemon – figure in white ? (6) Jack Brown – (7) Jim Kenny (with cap) (8) ?
The cup was bought for £15 by Maurice McGrath and presented by him for National school league competition
Following 1927, the cup went AWOL, and remained so until 1987 when Vincent Carmody went searching and finally found it 60 years on from 1927. It is now a treasured piece of the Emmets historical archive.
Greenville, 1927, first school league winners of McGrath cup. Cup held by John Sayers.