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Carroll’s of Course

William Street in February 2023


Carrolls of Course

A piece from The Irish Times in 2007 has surfaced again lately. It’s well worth a read.

Carrolls of course  2007

Overlooking the square in Listowel, MJ Carroll has met the town’s hardware requirements – and more – for nearly 100 years, writes Rose Doyle

The square in Listowel, Co Kerry – even allowing for the Kingdom’s well-known modesty – is without a doubt one of the loveliest in any town in the country. It helps that there’s a picturesque old church at its centre, and that there are ivy-clad and other buildings of venerable age in good condition all around.

One of the latter, rapidly heading for its 100th year on the square, is home to the MJ Carroll Hardware store – it has been there since 1908. You can’t miss it: the name and legend are a part of the square, the date over the door for all to see.

Maurice Carroll, with his brother John, runs the business today. It’s changed since 1908 but, in the way of companies with community roots, has somehow stayed the same. The Carrolls have diversified, of course, the emphasis no longer on the agricultural supplies which were the bread-and-butter of the earlier shop, when customers wanted and got potato diggers and prams, ammunition and guns and petrol from the pump outside the door.

MJ Carroll Hardware these days supplies everything from electrical and gardening supplies to household goods and DIY needs and timber, but all of it, as ever, in answer to the needs of the citizens of Listowel and hinterland.

Maurice Carroll, on a sunny Sunday with only the quietest of buzzes on the square outside, tells the story of the hardware store, how his grandfather, an earlier Maurice Carroll, established the business in 1908. “He came from Ballylongford,” says Maurice, “and started off originally with hardware and poultry. He used to pluck chickens, woodcock and snipe for export to England. They had chicken pluckers in the laneway behind.”

His grandfather, Maurice, married Catherine Welsh, whose people were publicans in the town. She and Maurice Carroll had one child, a boy they called John Joe who grew up to be father to Maurice and John, today’s custodians of the business.

“My grandfather and grandmother lived over the shop, always,” Maurice explains. “We’re a bit lacking in history because my grandfather died in 1928 and my grandmother Catherine about 1948. I’ve no memories of either of them. My father, John Joe Carroll, was born in 1912; he was well-known locally and developed the business well. We were into farm machinery in the 1920s and 1930s. My father was sent away to school in Roscrea when he was about 14. He was able to drive, even then, and never spent a day in the classroom! The chief abbot had him driving him around to other monasteries and convents. He didn’t do a Leaving Cert or a thing – he made the contacts in the monasteries and schools and convents and developed his head for business.”

Catherine Carroll looked after things when her husband died and, in 1930, her son John Joe came on board. He loved it, had an instinctive feel for marketing and increased awareness of MJ Carroll Hardware with large hoardings outside the town (one encouraged a viewing of the famous Stanley Ranges at Carrolls), drove much emblazoned, free-delivery vans and came up with the slogan “Carrolls of course” – in use to this day.

He married when he was 40, to Elizabeth (Lila) O’Sullivan from Tarbert who had, her son says, “a hardware background as well; she worked in Roches Stores in Limerick and in Cork.”

Growing up over the shop, Maurice, who was born in 1953, remembers the square and Listowel as “magic. Fair days were held every two weeks in the square. People would come in at 5am or 6am to sell cattle, from all around the countryside. It was the market in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. As a child, it was great to go out in the morning early and get 6d from a farmer to mind his cattle.” He pauses. “There was a lot of drinking involved.”

He has pictures galore, of a square filled with high sided donkey and horse drawn carts, with animals and men in long coats and caps.

MJ Carroll in those years, and for a long time, sold milk churns and “a big thing at the time”, Maurice says, “O’Dearest Mattresses. Prior to the TV in 1961 O’Dearest had an ad with an old woman putting money into a mattress. They lent us the model and during race week we would have crowds at the window queuing up to see her putting the money away, doing the same thing every few minutes.”

The square was magic, too, when he was a child. “You could play football in it. There were only 4,000 people in the town, a figure that never changed much, even to today. It’s a lovely town and one of the finest squares in Ireland.

“Listowel has hosted the races for the last 150 years and the Fleadh Cheoil about 12 

to 13 times. It was ‘Writers’ Week’ which really put the town on the map.”

And the shop, of course, was magic when he was growing up. “There wasn’t a day you didn’t have something to do; it was full of old-fashioned boxes and such. I remember the bank manager next door getting presents of turkeys at Christmas and them flying over the wall. It was that rural!

“There was a great staff, 25 or so, a lot of them stayed for years and years. I remember Patsy Leahy, Dan Kennelly, Pat Shine. There was no boss/employer relationship, everyone just worked together. Tom Dillon was with us 44 years and retired only lately.”

Maurice was sent to school in Clongowes, to where his father would drive to see him in the van, which “would be plastered with writing”, Maurice remembers, “you’d have every priest and pupil looking at it. I used to be mortified. Other pupils would have dads pulling up in a Mercedes!”

John Joe Carroll died in 1968. Maurice, the eldest, was 14; sisters Olive, Pamela and brother John were younger.

“Everyone loved him,” Maurice says, “he had a colossal following.”

His mother, Lila, took over. She still lives over the shop and only very recently, now she’s in her 80s, stopped coming down every day. “People liked her being in the shop, she used talk about the old days. Up to 10 years ago the place was old-fashioned, the way it always was. But a fire destroyed a lot of it and we had to rebuild. Only the front wall remained.”

Before he died John Joe Carroll set up a builders’ providers in Listowel. “It happened piece-meal,” Maurice explains. “There were no builders’ providers around here at the time. I look after it now and it’s doing very well. My brother does the furniture and electrical part of things.

“We’ve a staff of 12 or 13 and have been part of the ARRO group of suppliers for 25 years.”

Maurice and his wife, Mairead, have two daughters, Emma and Sarah, in their early 20s and studying at UCD. Maurice doesn’t think they’ll join the business. John and his wife, Anne-Marie, have a daughter, Maire, who at 14 is still at school and not, for now, likely to join the firm.

“Next year is our 100th year,” Maurice reflects a moment, on the past and on the future. “We’ll take it on from there,” he says.

The biggest change to Listowel is the increased traffic. “That and more and more new faces, both our own people and other nationalities. It’s a good thing, there’s more movement going on.

“Listowel is a nice town, a nice looking town too. The community is great, but then you get that everywhere in Ireland when people mix together.

“There’s a culture change from drinking to eating with about 20 restaurants now and, where there once was about 60 pubs, about 15 to 20 now.”


Listowel’s Oldest Mural?

Is this VW on Tarrant’s gable the oldest mural in town.

Gerard Leahy grew up in Market Street across the road from the garage, 60 years ago and he remembers it.

Ned O’Sullivan lived next door to Tarrants and he reckons it was painted in 1960 or 61.

Unfortunately the artist didn’t sign his name but Violet Dalton would bet her bottom dollar it was a Chute.


Lovely Paint Job at Lees

Job finished and looking great on Church Street.


Another Business Closure


It’s Lent

Lenten display in St. Mary’s, Listowel in February 2023.


A Walk in Listowel

William Street in July 2022; Photo by Elizabeth Brosnan


A Ragged Robin

As I was walking my canine visitor through Gurtinard Wood I spotted this friendly robin posing on a sign telling us all about him and the other fauna we might meet in these parts. He waited for me to get a close up. Not looking his best, I thought. A bit ragged! Maybe he is only a baby and not fully into the complexities of feather preening yet.


Hawthorn Drive

This small estate is a well deserved winner of many Tidy Town prizes.


On the Eve of the All Ireland

Dan Doyle who grew up in Kerry’s Black Valley and now lives thousands of miles away in the U.S. Looks forward to All Ireland Sunday

July 23 2022

So tomorrow is the All Ireland final football match in Croke Park in Dublin.  Two counties made it through after playing all year.  This year it is Galway and Kerry.  Tonight these players will sit and think about tomorrow.  It is a time to reflect on a life with the ball.  They start as young lads and some make it this far.

It takes a lot of help to step on that ground at Croke Park, a lot of luck, a lot of hours alone training, a lot of meditation and a family who leave them alone to get the bodies in tip top form.  To play tomorrow is an honor.  This game is an amateur sport played by the fittest 30 men in the world. 

  I have had the privilege of knowing a few who made it this far.  I have had the privilege of knowing a few who won All Ireland medals and to their dying day they remembered that game for the rest of their lives. One friend won two and he had them made into a bracelet for his mom. When she died she made sure he got them back.  Most of us who win medals really think little about them but an All Ireland medal is something special.

Tonight will be hard to go to sleep and tomorrow they will lace on the boots and march behind the Artane Boys band and when the referee blows the whistle all the nerves will go away.  It will be tense in the beginning.  Bodies will be tense and then it will start to flow.

If it is a good game the referee will be mostly out of it.  It is a place where names are made. It will be all over and they will shake hands and swap jerseys.  They will go home to Kerry and Galway and they will play it over in their minds for years.  People will shake their hands and congratulate them if they win, but for those 30 tomorrow it is a world away from everyone except those men between the white lines.  

It is actually a beautiful game to watch when it is played the way it is supposed to be played.  Some will retire.  Some will see they are too old as it is a young man’s game and as winter winds blow off the mountains players will hang the boots up, some forever.  Anyway lads I am glad it is Galway and Kerry, two great sporting counties and tomorrow night we will have a winner. 

 I used to love the third Sunday in September when Kerry played in Croke Park.  I have seen a lot of good times and a lot of heartbreak  too when we lose , I will listen on the radio to Ambrose O’Donovan in America.  I could be anywhere looking at it on these big screens but I will do what my father did in the Black Valley when we listened to Kerry V Armagh long ago in 1953.  I just wont hit the Pye Radio with a stone hammer just because the battery died as Mc Corrig was taking the Penalty.

Good Luck lads tomorrow and it is our honor to watch Gaelic games all over the world.


Meeting Your Heroes

When Breda Ferris was in Croke Park for the All Ireland Senior Football Final 2022 she snapped a few famous GAA people only too willing to pose with young and not so young fans.


Best of luck to the Kerry Ladies on Sunday against Meath.


Covid 19 in Listowel Co. Kerry and a look back to 2016 Ard Churam Opening

A Curlew photographed by Ita Hannon


A Quiet Sunday Morning in Lockdown Listowel,  May 31 2020

An almost empty Lidl carpark

John B. Keane Road

Listowel fire station

Upper William Street

St. Patrick’s Hall

Carmody’s Corner, junction of Charles Street and William Street

William Street


Here a sign, there a sign, everywhere a Covid sign

Main Street

One of our links with the outside world, the humble post box

Just a few cars in The Square

Entrance to Erskine Childers’ Park


Photos I took at the Official Opening of Ard Churam in 2016


Made in Stag Cutlery, Listowel

Vincent Doyle found this old one among his souvenirs


A Word of Caution in Rhyme

An easing of covid restrictions,

Has some people having conniptions,

They fear a new wave,

From being too brave,

Let’s hope that’s just wrongful predictions. 

Our poet, Róisín Meaney, has just published her 17th novel, The Restaurant. If you have enjoyed her little rhymes, you may enjoy her book. She deserves our support in thanks for keeping our spirits up in lockdown.

Listowel in Lockdown, April 2020

April 2020…..Glimpses of a Town in Lockdown

Cherrytree in bloom in the closed Pitch and Putt course

The cinema is closed and the old Walshe’s Ballroom doesn’t presently have a business .

 Upper William Street from the old Casa Mia to the old post office.

 St. Vincent de Paul shop closed.

No music at Mike the Pies

 Not a living soul, hog, dog nor devil, on the street

Carmody’s Corner and Charles Street

 Royal China are operating a take away service only. In the age old fashion of Chinese restaurants, it’s all about numbers. You get a number when you place your order. When your meal is ready they display your number on to the inside window sill and you collect at the hatch.

The Mermaids

 Tracey Grimes’, that used to be Moriarty’s

William Street, Listowel in lockdown

Billy is still flying the flag at John B.’s.

Market Street

McKenna’s and Chemco

Customers are not allowed in the shop at McKenna’s but you can collect your order at the door.

This is the corner where John B.’s famous corner boys hung out.

Lower William Street

This window reminds us of happier times. There will be no Tidy Town competition this year but our town looks spotless anyway.

Looking into Main Street, the sign on Broderick’s Pharmacy window reminds us to wash our hands. Hand hygiene is one of the three main planks of our fight to slow the progress of Covid 19. The others  are social distancing, staying at least 2 metres apart,  cough etiquette and cocooning the vulnerable members of our community.

The kids are all indoors. Confirmation Day has been and gone and Communion Day will pass without a day out too.

Ah, Revival! Not cancelled yet but big question marks hang over it due to the difficulty of following  social distancing guidelines

Lower Church Street

Main Street

At Listowel Racecourse

No June race meeting this year and the Harvest Festival meeting is in question as well.


Life in Isolation

Stuck at home / safe at home

I have not felt the touch of a human hand for the past six weeks but  I have been touched, supported and loved by means I didn’t even know existed two months ago.

Covid 19 has been an enormous learning experience for us all.  I can use words and phrases like serology testing, R0 rate, herd immunity, community transmission and comorbidities. I could certainly now pick Dr. Tony Holohan or Dr. Philip Nolan out of a lineup of suited gentlemen.

Best of all I have learned how much I am loved and appreciated. My family have come up trumps. The love that was always there has taken concrete form in daily phone calls, postcards and endless text messages and memes. My neighbours, my friends and my former colleagues are a constant presence in  my life. People I have not heard from in years have rung or texted. The Christmas card list has come to life in April.

Things will never return to how they were. Almost overnight constants in our lives like work, church, school, the gym, the restaurant, the pub,  the match were all swept away in a surge of social distancing, working from home, self isolation and lockdown.

We will eventually emerge from this to a new normal, much chastened by our experience and hopefully, with a new appreciation of the little things.

Christmas in Killarney, Noel Roche, jostle stones Knitwits and a stunning Tapestry Project and Anseo

Christmas in The Great Southern, Killarney

These lovely Christmassy displays are in the foyer of the Killarney Great Southern.


A Poem by Noel Roche

Noel’s sister, Dolores has shared a few of Noel’s poems with us.


When I arrived in Heaven

I wondered what I’d see

As I stood before the pearly gates

In all their majesty.

Then I saw God standing there

With his arms open wide

And he said, “Come on now,, child of mine,

You’re home now. Step inside.”

And then I saw my mother

She was weeping tears of joy.

She took me gently in her arms

Saying, “There’s my baby boy.”

Then my father, he was standing there

The first time I saw him stand.

He said, ‘Son take a walk with me,

And he took me by the hand.

So I walked with dad in heaven

I could not be more proud.

People jpoined us as we walked

Until it became a crowd.

But its not a crowd of strangers

That I plainly see.

All the faces in that crowd

Were faces known to me.

All my brothers and my sisters

And good friends that passed away

They were all here to greet me

In heaven on this day.

I met grandparents, aunts and uncles

That I never knew

But as I looked into their eyes

I said “Yes, I know you.”

I talked with all the people there

And it went on and on

And, as we talked, it seemed to me

Like they were never really gone.

They were all really happy

And that was no surprise

I saw contentment and serenity

When I looked into their eyes.

Then Jesus walked amng us

Oh, what a sight to see

My whole being filled with love

As he placed his hand on me.

His perpetual light was shining bright.

We were all filed with His grace

Right then I prayed and hoped

That we would never leave this place.

Then the darkness it came over me

As day turned into night.

And I groped around frantically

Looking for the light.

When I put the light on,

I saw my bedroom wall.

I realized that

It was just a dream

I wasn’t in heaven at all.


Jostle Stones on William Street

2019 was the year when I learned what a jostle stone was. Since I learned about them I’m seeing them everywhere. Here are two on our own William Street,

These are at either side of the lane by Jumbo’s that runs behind McKenna’s.

These are just a little further up the same street.


Knitwits at Christmas 2019

We had a good crowd at knitting club on Dec 14 2019 so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures. It was freezing cold so we were wearing our coats, but still having the chat as we knitted and crocheted.


What Talent, Patience and Skill

This is Kathleen McCarthy. Kathleen was given this tapestry picture to complete after the lady who started it was unable to finish it. Kathleen is a multitalented craftswoman. She can turn her hand to any project and she welcomed this challenge.

Kathleen sewed this tapestry before she had her cataract operation and working under the other challenge that the lady who started the work was left handed, so Kathleen had to do all the stitching in a direction not familiar to her.

The finished project is magnificent.  My photo does not do it justice. Kathleen had it framed and is now handing it back to the original owners.


A Kindness at Christmas

I have a secret Santa. I received this lovely gift in the post this week. People are so kind! Thank you, Dan,  for making my day!

I love, love, love the book. I highly recommend it!

Isn’t the cover photo the most gorgeous loving capture ever?

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