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 listowelconnection@gmail.com

Tag: Vincent Carmody Page 1 of 17

Billiards and Wrecks

Vincent de Paul charity shop on Upper William Street, Listowel

<<<<<<<<<<<<<

St. Patrick’s Hall

St. Patrick’s Hall, Listowel to some of a certain age will always be The Bandsroom. Once upon a time this parish hall was a very male preserve.

Here is an account given a few years’ ago by local historian, Vincent Carmody.

Final of the billiard tournament in St. Patrick’s Hall, Listowel in 1954/55

Front Row;  Seán Stack, Francie Holly, Eamon Stack, Moss Carmody, John Enright, David Roche, John (Chuck) Roche, Tom Murphy, Simon Kelliher, Michael Mc Guinness, J.J. Rohan

Back Row:  Danny Enright, Matt Kennelly, Michael O’Connor, P.J. Maher, Frankie White, Tim (Windy) Kelliher, Dan Lou Sweeney (with glasses)

Backround: Ned Stack (caretaker), Fr. Michael Keane (C.C. Listowel) (Uncle of Moss Keane )

St Patrick’s Hall, a brief history by Vincent Carmody

There was an active Temperance Society in Listowel at the end of the nineteenth century, this committee were anxious to have a meeting place and after some protracted negotiations with Lord Listowel’s agent  they were facilitated with a site where the present hall now stands.The committee comprised of the following, Lar. Buckley, Maurice Kerins, Con Kearney, Maurice Scanlon, Michael O Sullivan and John Kirby. 

Fund raising began at once and the agreed contract price of £293 was quickly risen. Soon afterwards building commenced and was completed within an agreed twenty two weeks. The builder was Mr Michael Costello of Church Street.

An interesting aside is that the builder was bound by a contract clause that he was libel to pay a penalty of £1 for each week of part of for any over run. The committee appointed Mr Maurice Nugent, then coach-builder to the Lartigue to act on their behalf. Fealy Brothers supplied all building material.

When built, the hall became the focus for much Parish activity. A very fine Brass & Reed band which had been active in the town for some years were facilitated with the use of the upstairs room as a bands room, the balcony from this room overlooking Upper William Street was used as a stage for many outdoor summer evening performances. The main room downstairs was used for card games, billiard and snooker, the towns musical society of the day also used the hall and the billiard tables were used as an improvised stage.

In 1895 a split occurred in the local GAA club and for a number of years afterwards the Temperance Society affiliated a team in the Kerry Co. Championship known as St. Patrick’s. 

In March 1907 a set of nineteen general rules were drawn up and unanimously adopted. These rules gave a clear indication of the moral code which the members were expected to adhere to.

In 1936, a branch of the Catholic Young Mens Society was started, this incorporated a study circle and lectures were given on various nights. One of these had Paddy Fitzgibbon (senior) speaking on the topic “Is Ireland ripe for Communism?”

Also, the same year saw a move into the electronic age with the procurement of a radio. This was very popular, especially on Summer Sundays with live transmission of GAA matches.

Over the years, whist drives were organised as fundraisers, a bridge club was also set up under the chairmanship of local photographer, Jimmy Adams.

From the 1920’s all band activity was under the baton of James Hennessy.  He had served in the British Army as a bandsman in his younger days and besides being a noted musician he also was a strict disciplinarian.  However allied to his retirement in the 1940s and a lack of genuine interest shown by the younger members it was decided to cease band activity, and so the band which had given so much joy the followers near and far for over fifty years was no more.

Father Sayers arrived as a new curate in Listowel the early 1940s, and was appointed as Spiritual Director to the Society.  At the first committee meeting which he attended it became apparent that he was determined to leave his imprint with a set of new rules and regulations which he proposed. These caused immediate resentment. Some of these were,

In future the Hall would be referred to as St. Patrick’s Catholic Hall,

He in future would nominate all committees, (this was a break in tradition, as from 1905, members elected half of the committee of sixteen)

Membership of the men’s confraternity had to be strictly adhered to by all members.

Fr. Sayers, who was vehemently anti-drink, decreed that anyone he suspected of entering the hall having taken drink would be suspended. Many members resigned at this point and the position was further escalated by the announcement that the front door lock was to be changed and entry would be permitted to key holders only. During this period also the now unused band instruments which had been stored in the upstairs bands room were sold without any consultation with the older members who had been part of and had always hoped for a reformation of the band. 

The resignation of so many of former active committee members must have had an immediate effect on Fr. Sayers.  He relented on much of what he had tried to implement. Sanity prevailed and things resumed in a more lax mode with Fr Sayers taking a more demure back seat role.

Following the war years, under a new and younger management, the hall went from strength to strength.  Billiard tournaments were organised with clubs from other towns, card games of Poker, Solo, Patience and Whist were popular, while Jimmy Adams and Super Mulcahy again revived the dormant Bridge club. An annual dinner dance was organised (a ladies committee was chosen to run this, even though membership of the Society was for men only). The hall remained in great use and activities were most popular especially during the months from August to May, however by the late 1950s the condition of the hall in general, now built over sixty years had started to decline and a revamp was badly needed. 

Again it was in the form of a new Curate as Spiritual Director that was to effect changes, Fr. Michael Keane arrival in Listowel was to herald a new beginning for the hall.  A tireless worker, he gathered around him a band of fellow workers and so began a whole array of improvements, the first since 1893.

During the late 1950s and 1960s the hall was once again the centre of winter activities and one of the most popular fundraisers was the holding of Pongo during Listowel Races. However by the latter part of the decade a steady decline of membership had begun. This would have been mainly due to emigration and a host of other social activities which had become popular by this time.

The hall had closed by 1970 and the billiard and snooker tables were dismantled. One particular group showed interest in taking it and running it as a private members club, the local council were said to be interested in buying it, with a view to knocking it in order to give wider access to a council car park at the rear of Charles St./Upper William St.

During the 1970/80s it mainly served as a hub and office space during Writers Week, Fleadh Cheoil, Listowel Races and as headquarters of a youth club. By the 1990s a very vibrant active retirement group under the Chairmanship of Michael O Sullivan and they with the youth club  began a series of fund raising draws to find money to implement some repairs. Again a young Curate got involved, Fr John Kerins.  Meetings took place and with the funds already collected along with grants promised by Tuatha Ciarraí and North Kerry Together, the committee set up to oversee the changes sought and got FAS to carry out the restoration work. Work started and was completed in 2002. The major improvements have left us with a building that looks better than ever, since the re-opening has once again been the centre of a multiplicity of events and groups. Hopefully it will again serve the town and its people for the duration of the twenty first century as it has done for the previous hundred years.  

<<<<<<<<<<<  

Good Bridget, Bad Bridget

February 2023 for me is all about saints and sinners. I have just bought my copy of Bad Bridget in Woulfe’s and now I’m looking forward to reading it in preparation for Elaine and Leanne’s visit to Listowel for Writers’ Week 2023.

Their event is set to be held in Listowel Courthouse, a setting familiar to Bad Bridgets.

The boys of Scoil Realta na Maidine made and sold St. Bridget’s crosses.

Eileen Moylan’s beautiful silver or gold crosses were in great demand after her appearance on Imeall. People have asked me to share the link here.

Imeall

<<<<<<<<<

Shipwrecks

For those slack days during early spring, Jim Ryan sent us this link to while away a few hours. It’s a link to the National Monuments Service wreck viewer website.

Here is the link; Wrecks

The site has details of all the shipwrecks off our coast and there were a lot clustered around the Shannon estuary.

<<<<<<<<

From the Mailbag

I’m a distant relation of Sean (John) Lenane who died in 1923 (buried at Gael Graveyard outside Listowel). I’m wondering if you would know of any Listowel or area commemorations occuring for those who lost their lives in the Civil War. I’m not from the area but would love to attend if there are any such events in the months ahead. Thanks in advance if there is any information you’ll be posting in your blog or could email. 

Patricia O’Halloran (on behalf of my Mom in photo)

<<<<<<<<<<<<

Fond Memory Brings the Light….

Knitwits Knitting Group and Craftshop na Méar Team in Scribes on January 6 year unknown

<<<<<<<<<<

Listowel Old Boys Reunion at Christmas 2023

Vincent Carmody spent the holidays with the U.S. branch of his family. He sent me this very interesting message.

Dec 17 2023

Mary,

Happy Christmas from a cold Chicago.

We visited Rochester last weekend to catch up with my old neighbour and friend, Dr. Michael O’Sullivan of Mayo Clinic fame. He is regarded as a Demi God at Mayo for leading the way and doing the groundwork for his inventive research in the 1960’s which has put Mayo as a world leader today.

His daughter Finola hosted a dinner where many of the dept. heads of Mayo came together to meet, feast and party. Most of these are lovely Irish guys, many were hired by Michael when he was C.E.O. at Mayo Scottesdale and in time came back up to Rochester.

One of these is Michael O’Connor, a son of Michael the artist and grandson of Dr. Michael, as it were, the father, son and holy G.

During the evening he went to his car and brought in a family history which he has completed, on one of the pages a picture of the front of the GAA programme which I sent you, however during the evening I found another unique connection with another guest and this programme, this person, Una (O’Neill) ????, she came alone as her Doctor husband was not feeling well, Una is originally from Newry. When we were introduced by Michael, he mentioned that she came from GAA blue blood, she then told me the her two brothers played on the great Down team of ’60 and ’61, Sean and Kevin O’Neill. She was amazed when I pointed out that Down team had actually along with Kerry and Glen Rovers taken part in the matches that May day in 1960. A small world. I will be sending her the team sheet from that.

Again, great work during the year and thanks.

Vincent.

<<<<<<<<<<<

Only in Kerry

Christmas Eve in Kerry 2022….Photo shared widely on the internet

<<<<<<<<<<

From the Postbag/Inbox

Hi Mary,

I am one of those crazy American genealogy geeks trying to explore my Irish roots.  I have been researching my great grandfather and his half-brother, of Newtownsandes (Moyvane).

I ran across your website while looking for info on Listowel, which is so close to where my family was from. My family is all gone now and therefore my genealogy research takes a lot of detective work, because I know how difficult it can be to find Irish records and information.

I was interested in Listowel after reading on the town website about Writers’ Week.  I am a budding family history writer and found it intriguing that a Writers’ week takes place so near to where my family roots lie.

A friend and I are planning a trip to Counties Kerry and Limerick this year, and I want to try to research family a bit while over there.   Since Listowel is so close to Newtownsandes, and to Athea in County Limerick where my great-grandmother was from, I thought it might make a good base for beginning our exploration.

Can you advise of a good local history library or research facility where I might be able to find some info?  Or do you know of a local historian or researcher who might be able to aid me in what I could look for while exploring the county?

Many of the names associated with my family exist almost entirely in either Kerry, Limerick or Tipperary, so I was hoping to find some help directly in those counties and really get to know them through some exploration.

Love your website and the stories people contribute.  I signed up and look forward to learning more.

Thanks!

Becky Clark
Denver, Colorado

I have replied to Becky and given her a bit of direction. If anyone else has any suggestions for her let me know.

<<<<<<<<<<

A Lime Kiln

From Schools’ Folklore Collection, Clandouglas School

The Limekiln is fronted by a stone wall with an arch underneath and it is called the breast.
About two feet from the breast is the pot and it is connected to the breast by the arch.
The bank is made of earth and stone and in a round form.
First a rail of turf is put in the bottom of the pot, then a layer of broken limestone about four inches in height is put on the turf and a layer of turf about one foot is put on the limestone and so on till the kiln is full.
Then it is set on fire through the arch. As the limestone and turf is going down through the fire, a man is putting limestone and turf into it and keep it full.
Another man is drawing out the lime at the arch. Lime needed for manure is mixed with the ashes of the turf. Lime needed for whitewashing has to be picked in lumps from the ashes.

COLLECTORMichael O’ Connell

AddressKnockburrane, Co. Kerry

INFORMANTJerry O’ Connell

<<<<<<<<

Just a Thought

Last week I was the first for 2023 to have my reflections broadcast on Radio Kerry’s Just a Thought slot.

Here is a link…

https://www.dioceseofkerry.ie/our-diocese/communications/listen-now/

<<<<<<<<

Christmas in Listowel

Dublin Custom House at Christmas 2022 Photo: Éamon ÓMurchú

<<<<<<<<<<

A Poem

Hard to believe it’s 10 years

<<<<<<<<<

Christmas long ago

Mike Moriarty’s photo of children playing with the Christmas toys in Walshes of Listowel in the 1950s.

Dec 1950 Walshe’s

<<<<<<<

St. Mary’s, Listowel at Christmas 2022

Some images from our lovely church at Christmastime:

<<<<<<<<<<<

In The Square

St. Johns
Our tree
our crib
our bauble

<<<<<<<<<<<

Vincent Carmody remembers the Wren Boys

Wren boys by Vincent Carmody

The wren-boy tradition on St. Stephen’s Day is unfortunately, now nearly a thing of the past. Now, only a few small groups, or individuals carry on a tradition, the origins of which, are lost in the mists of time. In the time of the big batches of wren-boys, under the leadership of their King, these group’s would traverse the country roads all day, and as evening and night approached, they would head for the larger urban areas to avail of the richer pickings in the public houses.

The North Kerry area was well catered for, with two large groupings in the Killocrim/Enismore and Dirha West areas, There was also a strong tradition in the Clounmacon side of the parish.

Some time after the wrens-day, it was the custom to organise a wren-dance. Then the date was picked and a house offered to host the dance, The dances were all night affairs, with liberal quantities of food and drink provided. 


In the early 1960’s I spent three years in London. during which, I worked in a pub, The Devonshire Arms, in Kensington, for a year or so. At this time, The Harvest Festival Committee, under Dr. Johnny Walsh, organised the wren-boy competitions in Listowel. Mr Johnny Muldoon, of London, had met Dr Johnny in Listowel and told him that he would organise two dances in his Dance Hall’s in London, provided that the Listowel committee send over three or four wren-boys to be in attendance. During their stay in London, Dan Maher, who managed the Devonshire, invited the Listowel contingent to the pub. On the particular evening I was serving in the lounge bar. (the pub was a gathering place for many Film and TV actors who would have lived nearby). Suddenly Dr.Johnny, threw the double door open, and in came the Listowel wren-boys, led by the leader, Jimmy Hennessy, Jimmy, wearing a colourful pants, had only some fur skin over his shoulders and chest and a headpiece with two horns, the others followed, faces blackened, and wearing similar outfits, all beating bodhrans. To say the least, those present did not have an idea what was happening, To this day, I can hear the remark which one man, Sir Bruce Setan, (he, of Fabian of the Yard) at the counter said to the other, Christopher Trace (of Blue Peter fame), “Blimey, they’re coming in from the jungle. They will kill us all. 
There was no one killed, and I think that Jimmy Hennessy enjoyed drinking pints of Guinness and pressing the flesh, surrounded by people he usually saw, only in the Plaza and Astor.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<

A Bit of Listowel History

John B. Keane’s of William Street

<<<<<<<<<<

Serendipity

Convent Street, Listowel in 2008

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.

<<<<<<<<<

More Cinema Memories

Cromane: Photo by Chris Grayson

<<<<<<<<<<

Old Tralee Postcard

<<<<<<<<<<<<

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.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

From Presentation Magazine 1983

<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Page 1 of 17

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén