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

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Nostalgia and More

A Robin by Criostóir Grayson

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Got it!

Gerard Stack was anxious to see a photo of the scene in Walsh’s toyshop at Christmas time long ago.

Mike Moriarty had just such a photograph

Here is Mike’s email;

In response to Gerard Stack’s post re Toy Shop at Walsh’s I have attached a photo from those days. At the back on the left is yours truly, centre is Marie Keane Stack (mother of the Brogans) and on the right is my brother, Tom. At the piano is Mary Sheehy(nee Shaughnessy). At her left shoulder is Mike McGrath and in the centre is your correspondent, Gerard Stack. We were all neighbours, such a contrast with today where there are no children growing up in William St.

Rgds., 

Mike Moriarty.

Dave O’Sullivan found some great old ads in The Kerryman. Walsh’s had a Toy Fair complete with film show in 1950.

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Another Regular at Christmas Time

At this time of year I like to include familiar seasonal pieces of excellent writing. This is one of my favourites.

A Kerry Christmas Childhood

Garry MacMahon

Now I cannot help remembering the happy days gone by,

As Christmastime approaches and the festive season’s nigh.

I wallow in nostalgia when I think of long ago,

And the tide that waits for no man as the years they ebb and flow.

We townies scoured the countryside for holly berries red,

And stripped from tombs green ivy in the graveyard of the dead,

To decorate each picture frame a hanging on the wall,

And fill the house with greenery and brighten winter’s pall,

Putting up the decorations was for us a pleasant chore,

And the crib down from the attic took centre stage once more.

From the box atop the dresser the figures were retrieved,

To be placed upon a bed of straw that blessed Christmas Eve,

For the candles, red crepe paper, round the jamjars filled with sand,

To be placed in every window and provide a light so grand,

To guide the Holy Family who had no room at the inn,

And provide for them a beacon of the fáilte mór within.

The candles were ignited upon the stroke of seven,

The youngest got the privilege to light our way to Heaven,

And the rosary was said as we all got on our knees,

Remembering those who’d gone before and the foreign missionaries.

Ah, we’d all be scrubbed like new pins in the bath before the fire

And, dressed in our pajamas of tall tales we’d never tire,

Of Cuchlainn, Ferdia, The Fianna, Red Branch Knights,

Banshees and Jack o Lanterns, Sam Magee and Northern Lights

And we’d sing the songs of Ireland, of Knockanure and Black and Tans,

And the boys of Barr na Sráide who hunted for the wran.

Mama and Dad they warned us as they gave each good night kiss,

If we didn’t go to sleep at once then Santa we would miss,

And the magic Christmas morning so beloved of girls and boys,

When we woke to find our dreams fulfilled and all our asked for toys,

But Mam was up before us the turkey to prepare,

To peel the spuds and boil the ham to provide the festive fare.

She’d accept with pride the compliments from my father and the rest.

“Of all the birds I’ve cooked,” she’s say, “ I think that this year’s was the best.”

The trifle and plum pudding, oh, the memories never fade

And then we’d wash the whole lot down with Nash’s lemonade.

St. Stephen’s Day brought wrenboys with their loud knock on the door,

To bodhrán beat abd music sweet they danced around the floor’

We, terror stricken children, fled in fear before the batch,

And we screamed at our pursuers as they rattled at the latch.

Like a bicycle whose brakes have failed goes headlong down the hill

Too fast the years have disappeared. Come back they never will.

Our clan is scattered round the world. From home we had to part.

Still we treasure precious memories forever in our heart.

So God be with our parents dear. We remember them with pride,

And the golden days of childhood and the happy Christmastide.

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Advertisements from another era

Sent to us by Mattie Lennon

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So Much has changed

Knitting group in Scribes in 2012

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Listowel Christmas 2021

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My Christmas Reading

I loved my Woodford Pottery jug and vase so much, I went back and bought the mug to match.

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‘Twas the Night before Christmas 2021

By Mary Conlon

Twas the night before Christmas, but Covid was here,
So we all had to stay extra cautious this year.
Our masks were all hung by the chimney with care
In case Santa forgot his and needed a spare.
With Covid, we couldn’t leave cookies or cake
So we just left Santa hand sanitizer to take.

The children were sleeping, the brave little tots
The ones over 12 had just had their first shots, 
And mom in her kerchief and me in my cap 
Had just settled in for a long summer’s nap.
But we tossed and we turned all night in our beds
As visions of variants danced in our heads.

Gamma and Delta and now Omicron
These Covid mutations that go on and on
I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t get better,
I’ll soon be familiar with every Greek letter”.

Then just as I started to drift off and doze
A clatter of noise from the front lawn arose.
I leapt from my bed and ran straight down the stair
I opened the door, and an old gent stood there.

His mask made him look decidedly weird 
But I knew who he was by his red suit and beard.
I kept six feet away but blurted out quick
” What are you doing here, jolly Saint Nick?”

Then I said, “Where’s your presents, your reindeer and sleigh?
Don’t you know that tomorrow will be Christmas Day? “
And Santa stood there looking sad in the snow
As he started to tell me a long tale of woe.

He said he’d been stuck at the North Pole alone
All his white collar elves had been working from home,
And most of the others said “Santa, don’t hire us!
We can’t work now, thanks to the virus”.

Those left in the toyshop had little to do.
With supply chain disruptions, they could make nothing new.
And as for the reindeer, they’d all gone away.
None of them left to pull on his sleigh. 

He said Dasher and Dancer were in quarantine,
Prancer and Vixen refused the vaccine,
Comet and Cupid were in ICU,
So were Donner and Blitzen, they may not pull through.

And Rudolph’s career can’t be resurrected.
With his shiny red nose, they all think he’s infected.
Even with his old sleigh, Santa couldn’t go far.
Every border to cross needs a new PCR.

Santa sighed as he told me how nice it would be
If children could once again sit on his knee.
He couldn’t care less if they’re naughty or nice
But they’d have to show proof that they’d had their shot twice.

But then the old twinkle returned to his eyes.
And he said that he’d brought me a Christmas surprise.
When I unwrapped the box and opened it wide,
Starlight and rainbows streamed out from inside.

Some letters whirled round and flew up to the sky
And they spelled out a word that was 40 feet high.
There first was an H, then an O, then a P, 
Then I saw it spelled HOPE when it added the E.

“Christmas magic” said Santa as he smiled through his beard.
Then suddenly all of the reindeer appeared.
He jumped into his sleigh and he waved me good-bye, 
Then he soared o’er the rooftops and into the sky.

I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight
“Get your vaccines my friends, Merry Christmas, good-night”.
Then I went back to bed and a sweet Christmas dream
Of a world when we’d finished with Covid 19.

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Portmarnock, Woodford Pottery, and Flying a Flag in 1917

 

A horse and rider in the sea at sundown in Portmarnock captured by Eamon ÓMurchú

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Woodford Pottery Wows a New

Buyer


If you stop in Kanturk on your way to Cork you may have dined in The Vintage or you may have had a wander around the lovely nearby Presents of Mind. O’Brien Street in Kanturk is well worth stopping for. On one side is the lovely riverside park, with picnic benches and a wooden sculpture by Fear na Coillte. The other side of the street is the commercial side and it’s here you will find Presents of Mind. If you are lucky, you will hit it on a day when my lovely friend, Lil, is in charge of the shop.

Recently I introduced Lil to Pat Murphy of Woodford Pottery and she was very taken with his unique tableware and very different items.

We visited Pat in his studio and he gave Lil a demonstration of his potting process.

Even though he is a one man operation, Pat seems to constantly have a production line on his shelves. This lot is waiting to be glazed.

As well as beautiful and unusual tableware, Pat makes lovely gift items like oil burners, his new range of owls and, my favourite, Christmas nativities. This year he had added a more modern “crib” to his range as well.

Oil burners ready for a Christmas at home.

These owls are causing a bit of a sensation on Pat’s Facebook page.

This is my kind of Christmas crib. I have the white one. I love it so much I never packed it away with the Christmas stuff. I’ve lit a tea light in it this summer as a kind of votive to pray for deliverance from the Corona virus.

This crib is more popular with young people who like the more rounded, less traditional figures.

Pat, like all artists, is hit by the closure of gift shops and the cancellation of craft fairs. He is lucky in that he can sell from his shop at his studio in Woodford, Listowel.

If you do want to treat yourself or a friend to something lovely for Christmas, I’d advise you to get on it. Now that the Kanturk crowd have discovered him, these lovely pieces will sell out fast.

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This Could Be the Start of Something Big

Photo: David Kissane on Facebook

Sinéad Kissane (Ardfert Kilmoyley) on the podium in Mosney after winning the gold medal in the U10 200m in 1988.


That moment in 2020 when you are a well respected TV Sports Journalist and your dad digs out that old photo when they couldn’t find a tracksuit small enough for you when you won gold at the Community Games. Parents!


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Flying the flag


The Irish Standard Sept. 29 1917

FlAG STILL FLIES.

“It seems that it is considered necessary just now in England to hold on to the name Catholic, as others, who once repudiated it, are now appropriating it, and applying to us, with no friendly intent, the name Roman Catholic.

“A Catholic chaplain in the British army somewhere in France, put up a soldiers’ hut and over it ‘Catholic Soldiers’ Hut.’ Some Anglican parsons objected and demanded that the title be: ‘Roman Catholic Soldiers’ Hut.’ Father Regan demurred. The matter was referred to the authorities. 

Three Generals came along and ordered the change made. Father Regan refused and was threatened with reduced rank. He replied, ‘What I have put up stands, or I and every Catholic Chaplain here will resign. Quad scripsi, scripsi.’

“The matter has been allowed to drop with Father Regan’s flag still flying.”—Columbian.

Wren Boys, Listowel shops and Christmas Things

December 2019

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Some Listowel Shops at Christmas 2019



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A Christmas Tradition

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 groups 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. When the date was picked, 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 Halls 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.

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My Christmas Things

This is my new favourite Christmas thing, a beautiful Jim Dunn Christmas scene.

My second favourite Christmas thing is my Woodford Pottery crib.

And finally my little Judy Greene nativity

Woodford Pottery, Listowel Races 2019, Progress on The Greenway and North Kerry success at The Ploughing

Hands of a Master Craftsman


 Pat Murphy throwing a pot at his Woodford Pottery Studio in Sept 2019

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Saturday at The Races


Saturday September 14th 2019 was a gloriously sunny day on the island. The big screens were in place to show the All Ireland Football replay between Kerry and Dublin and the Tidy Towns inspired fashion event was taking place.

 The judges were out and about mingling with the racegoers in vintage gear. In my photo the judge is in white and the lady on the far left was chosen as the winner. The rules said that your outfit had to be genuinely vintage and to have been upcycled by you. You had to wear a headpiece. This elegant lady fulfilled all these requirements.

The lovely ladies from Oonagh Hartnett’s were offering us sweets, some timely advice on sun protection, a squirt of perfume and entry into a raffle.

Another judge checking out the vintage of this lady’s garments.

 My lovely former neighbour, Anne Leneghan, came second in this smashing suit which someone else had worn to a son’s wedding. Anne had up-styled it with pearls from a broken pearl necklace and she had pinned down the lapels with a pair of pearl earrings. She was wearing her 90 year old mother’s going away hat and her lace gloves.

The always stylish Betty Stack with her daughter Maria and their friend, Anne Leneghan.

 Noelle and her friends were studying form when I interrupted them.

Gemma and Mairead Regan gave me a tip they got “from some fellow on the way in”. It won.

 Rose Wall was accompanied by her handsome son.

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Good News on the Greenway

This is the report from the council meeting:

A dedicated team in Kerry County Council is to be appointed to progress two greenway projects to completion.

The status of the North Kerry Greenway was discussed at the monthly meeting of the Listowel Municipal District.

Councillor Mike Kennelly called for all resources to be put in place to get the multi-million-euro greenway from Listowel to the Limerick border over the line.

The Fine Gael councillor pointed to bureaucracy with Government departments with such projects.

Listowel MD Manager, Joan McCarthy told Cllr Kennelly that nobody is dragging their heels on the project adding that it is protection of public funds and not bureaucracy.

Kerry County Council says a senior engineer has been appointed to oversee both the North Kerry Greenway and the Tralee to Fenit Greenway; a team will be appointed shortly to progress both projects.

Work on the north Kerry project is expected to begin later this year and will take 18 months to complete.


Regards,


Michael Guerin, Listowel


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Upcoming Events


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The Ploughing



Photo: Radio Kerry



Daniel Burke from Causeway and Derek O’Driscoll from Ballyheigue, who both claimed an All-Ireland title at this year’s Ploughing Championships



I’ve never been to “The Ploughing” but I’m told it’s possible to spend days there without seeing a plough or a ploughman. It’s a place for shopping, socialising, entertainment and education. I was delighted to see that these young men have got back to what it’s all about, celebrating the skill and art of ploughing.

Craftfair, Aghadoe, Bothar, Christmas in Killarney and Ballybunion Radio Station

Seanchaí Craft Fair


Pat Murphy was in The Kerry Writers’ Centre on Sunday December 16 2018 with some lovely new stock.

Vincent Carmody was selling his unique new book of printed materials from 1870 to 1970.

This new hair device, Dreamy Curls, curls your locks without the aid of heat. It is invented, made and marketed in Listowel. I bought one for my granddaughters. I’ll let you know how it goes when they have road tested it.


Orla has had 2 craft fairs in a row so she had enlisted some young help with this one. Her confectionary was selling fast.

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Aghadoe, Killarney

The path to the viewing spot at Aghadoe

Remains of old tower in Aghadoe

Heavenly spot.

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Sheep May Safely Graze


When I saw this pastoral scene on may way back from Aghadoe I was reminded of the hymn;


Sheep may safely graze and pasture

Where a shepherd guards them well.

So the nation ruled in wisdom

Knows and shares the many blessings

Which both peace and plenty bring.

And then I spotted the sign on the next door fence.

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Christmas in Killarney




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Ballybunion Radio Station



(Photo and text from Liam O’Hainnín on Facebook)




Despite references in several publications, Ballybunion Station was not built by Marconi, and never operated commercially. The station was built by the Universal Radio Syndicate. Construction started in 1912, but the station had not obtained a commercial licence by the time World War 1 started. The company went into liquidation in 1915. A sister station at Newcastle New Brunswick, built to the same design as Ballybunion, suffered a similar fate. The Marconi Company bought the two stations from the liquidator in 1919, mainly to prevent their use by potential competitors. The stations were not idle in the interim, however, having been appropriated by the British Admiralty almost immediately upon outbreak of the Great War and kept in constant activity as key components of the allied communication system until the Armistice of November 1918.

The Marconi Company did not use the stations commercially, and it would appear that the Ballybunion station was only used briefly, in March 1919 for a successful telephony experiment with the Marconi station in Louisbourg, and for communication with the R34 airship in July 1919.

In March 1919, Marconi engineers H.J Round and W.T. Ditcham made the first east-west transatlantic broadcast of voice, using valve technology, from the Ballybunion station using the callsignYXQ. The first west to east voice transmission had already been achieved by Bell Systems engineers from the US Navy station at Arlington Virginia to the Eiffel Tower in October 1915.

The contents of Clifden and Ballybunion were sold for scrap to a Sheffield-based scrap merchant, Thos. W. Ward in 1925.

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