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

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McKenna’s former staff at the book launch and Wrenboys’ Night in Listowel in September 2018


To Celebrate Listowel’s win in the Tidy Town Competition 2018

Here are some more photos from our lovely town.

These were  taken last Tuesday by the Feale.

” My heart, tonight, is lonely for my sire land

Though many miles of ocean lie between

My heart tonight is home again Ireland

Upon thy banks, my silver river Feale’

These lines from Bryan MacMahon’s Silver River Feale are a thank you mention to all the emigrants who have contacted me to tell me how they long to be in Listowel to celebrate the town’s victory in the Tidy Town competition.

Listowel has a very proud diaspora.


At the Launch of Spoilt Rotten

Former staff, former customers, family and friends were on hand to congratulate Jack McKenna on reaching the 100 and on starring in this book about his life, Spoilt Rotten


Wrenboys Competition, Listowel, Sept 14 2018

As I came out of Allos after a delicious meal in great company following an enjoyable day at the Races, what is making its way down Church Street but a procession of wren boys  on their way to the Square for the annual Harvest Festival Wrenboy competition?

I learned later that this was the Ballybunion troupe who were first up on stage.The spectacle was amazing with the procession being led by 2 men with lighted sods of turf on pitchforks leading the way. The colour, the music and the sheer joy of it all was magical to behold.

A good crowd had gathered on the streets to cheer them on.

The “king’ was resplendent in crown and cape.

Bean an Tí for the night was Frances Kennedy. She played her part to perfection and she and the fear an Tí told stories to beat the band.

It was a joy to see so many talented young people among the dancers, singers and musicians. The future of Irish culture is in safe hands.

Frances won the overall prize for the best individual performance.

Owen MacMahon was an inspired choice as M.C. He did a super job.

The night was wet and cold so I didn’t stay to see the others groups. Kileedy won and they were excellent as were all the performers on a great night in town.


An Invitation

 In St. John’s on Monday evening next at 7.00p.m. Dillon Boyer is planning an information evening about Palliative Care and the work of the Palliative Care Unit in KUH.

The evening will also feature an exhibition of Dillon’s photographs.

Listowel Town Park, a walking race and some more from the Sive archive


Photo; Graham Davies on Facebook


In The Park, Winter 2018

The gas pipeline in a very wet town park.

The river rose much higher in the days after I took this photo.

Listowel Community Centre

Deserted tennis courts

Empty playgrounds

Blown down sign

Bleak house….The Dandy Lodge in the background. 1916 commemorative garden in foreground.


Mad Speed Limit at Tim Kennelly Roundabout

Would you head into a roundabout at 60km per hour?


Wren Boys and Tarbert to Listowel walking race


Sive Revisited

When The Abbey Theatre produced Sive in 2014, some kind friends of the blog shared some of their memorabilia with us.

Kay Caball whose mother was the chair of the Drama Group kept the programme and some of the newspaper cuttings.

Margaret Dillon, who played Sive sent us this photograph of the cast visit to Dáil Eireann where Dan Moloney, T.D. received them and took them on a guided triumphal tour.

Kay Caball gave us the names of all the people in this photo.

Front Row From Left:

Jeffrey O’Connnor (Cahirciveen,  Sheila Keane’s Husband)

Brendan Carroll   (Carroll’s, William St)

Margaret Dillon     (She played Sive)

John B. Keane        

Cecile Cotter  (‘Tasty Cotter’s’ daughter – Scully’s Corner used to be called Cotter’s Corner)

Nora Relihan

Dan Moloney T.D., (grandfather of Jimmy Moloney)

Second Row Left to Right

John Cahill,  (Main St.,)

Hilary Neilsen, (Bridge Road)

Siobhan Cahill (Main St.)

Bill Kearney  (Lr. William St. – where The Shebeen is now)

Harry Geraghty  (Bank of Ireland or maybe National Bank?)

Eamon Keane 

Mrs. Peggie Walsh  ( The Square)

Back Row, Left to Right

John Flaherty  (Charles St)

Margaret Moloney (Gurtinard)

Kevin Donovan (Upper William St)

Seamus Ryle  (Nora Relihan’s brother)

Ina Leahy  (Leahys, Market St)

Dr. Johnny Walsh

Peg Schuster  (John B’s sister)

Should old acquaintance……

Christmas 2016

I spent a lovely Christmas holiday in 2016 in the bosom of my family. Below is a photo of us all taken on Christmas Day in Bishopstown as we embarked on The Goal Mile.

 Meanwhile in Ballybunion, Santa led out a big group of hardy souls for the annual Christmas Day dip in aid of the Sea and Cliff Rescue.

These photos were posted by Ballybunion Tidy Towns and Ballybunion Prints. Jason of BB Prints photographed his dog, Bella, who was snug and warm in her holiday attire.

Local piper, Danny Houlihan, piped the swimmers into the water.

Caoimhín ÓSé posted these photos of the annual Wrenboy celebrations in Dingle.

Bernard Brogan, who is a second generation Listowelllian got married and the big talking point was the bridesmaids’ jumpsuits.


A Strange New Year Tradition

This information comes from Ger Greaney who got it from Maura McConnell so its a bit of Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi  (hearsay).

Don’t forget the old traditions of Jan 1st. First Footing. The first person to cross your threshold should be a dark-haired, tall, good-looking, and it would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts such as a lump of coal and some salt.

Blonde and redhead first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the house. Don’t let them near your door before a man crosses the threshold.

The first footer should knock and be let in rather than unceremoniously use a key, even if he is one of the householders. After greeting those in the house and dropping off whatever small tokens of luck he has brought with him, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door than the one through which he entered.

Nobody should leave the premises before the first footer arrives — the first traffic across the threshold must be headed in rather than striking out.

(I’m sorry that this information is coming a bit late in the day but maybe we’ll remember it for next year!)


Another Old One

The old people believed that anyone who died during the twelve days of Christmas had received a “cuireadh na Nollag” (Christmas invitation) . A soul receiving this special invitation goes straight to Heaven.


A new sign for an old club

Suddenly we’ve gone all american


Two Facts about the Irish language I learned on Twitter

The word order in Irish is verb, subject, object.  This means that ‘I thought I saw a bird’ would be translated as ‘Thought I saw I a bird’.  This word order is very rare as only 9 per cent of the world’s languages use it.

Gaeltacht Thuaisceart an Oileáin Úir (or the North American Gaeltacht) is the only Gaeltacht that exists outside of the island of Ireland.  Irish emigrants fleeing the famine settled here and managed to keep their language alive, eventually going so far as to declare themselves a Gaeltacht in 1994.


The Best idea for the New Year

A lady called Helen at Spread a Little Kindness posted an Advent calendar on the internet. It was so popular that she has made one for January

You may download it and print it for free from her website (link above)


New Year; New You

(photo: Love Listowel)

Saturday January 7 2017 and a fine crowd out walking and running the Listowel 5k park run

Séan McCarthy, more on the wren boys and some more Listowel people in November 2016

Listowel Castle 2016


Seán McCarthy at Christmas

Seán McCarthy’s poems about Christmas were gathered into an anthology sometime in the 1970s. Junior Griffin has a copy. Below is another of the poems. In it Seán is writing about Christmas in his U.S. home in South Carolina.


Human sisters

I snapped Alice and Catherine Moylan at the BOI expo back in late November 2016.


Wm. Molyneaux’s recollections of the Wrenboys of his youth

 Part 3 

But then, about the
Wren.  How the wren derived her dignity
as the king of all birds.  That was the
question.  An eagle issued a challenge
between all birds, big and small as they were-wrens, robins, sparrows,
thrushes, blackbirds, jackdaws, magpies, or else.  They commenced their flight this
day-Christmas Day-The eagle, being the bravest continues her flight and was
soaring first.  All the other birds were
soaring after, until, in the finish, after a lapse of time in her flight, the
weaker birds seemed to get weary and could not continue their flightsome  ways further. 
But the Wren pursued to the last. 
The other birds got weak and worn out and in the heel of fair  play, the eagle said that she was the king of
all birds herself now.  The wren
concealed yourself under the Eagles feathers, in the end of  fair play the Eagle got worn out.  The wren flew out from under the Eagles
feathers and declared yourselves the king of all birds.  That is how the Wren derived her dignity as
being the king of all birds.  So we hunted
her for the honour of it.  Also, when St
Stephen was in prison and as he was liberated the band went out against St
Stephen, and it was a daylight performance and the wren, when she heard the
music and the band, came out and perched yourselves on the drum.  That’s how we heard the story.

Anyway we made our
tambourines.  You’d get a hoop made (in
them days) by a cooper.  There is no
cooper hardly going now.  You’d get this
made by cooper for about half a crown.  I
used to make my tambourines always  of goat’s
skin.  You could make them of an ass foal’s
skin-anything young, do you see.  How?  I’d skinned the goat, get fresh lime and put
the fresh lime on the fleshy side of the skin-not that hairy side but the
fleshy side of the skin-fold it up then and double it up and twist it again and
get a soft string and put it around it and take it with you then to a running
stream and put it down in the running stream where the fresh water will be
always running over it, and leave it so. 
You could get a flag and attach it onto the bag, the way the water
wouldn’t carry it.  Leave it there for
about nine days and you come then and you can pull off the hair and if the hair
comes freely you can take up the skin and pull off the hair the same as you
would shave yourself.  And then you
should moisten with lukewarm water.  You
should draw it the way it wouldn’t shrink. 
You should leave it for a couple of hours.  You would get your ring and you’d have the
jingles and all in-the bells-you’d have them all in before you put the skin to
the rim. You should have two or three drawing the skin to keep it firm-pull it
from half-width, that would be the soonest way t’would stiffen.  Let the skin be halfwidth and put it down on
the rim and  have a couple  pulling it
and another man tacking it with brass tacks. 
That’s the way I used make my tambourines, anyway.  Ther’d be no sound out of it the first night.  I used always hang my tambourines
outside.  And then the following morning
t’would be hard as a pan  and a flaming
sound out of it.  And then after a bit
t’would cool down.  T’would be bad to
have them too hard, they’d crack.  Ah,
sure I made several tambourines that way.

To be continued…


People at the BOI expo in November 25 2016

Maurice Hannon and his delicious cakes all available at the Market on Fridays.

 Why not let Claire pamper your pup for Christmas?

 Sharon was giving a make over.  Just the thing for Christmas.

 One of my favourite coffee shops, The Flying Saucer.

I bought some wooden tree decorations from an enterprising Tarbert girl. The tree fell in a storm, her father cut the branches into slices and she decorated them with Christmas images…lovely!

Wren boys continued, a Christmas poem, the Clauses of The Seanchaí and people at the Coca Cola truck event

Abbey at Rattoo photographed a few years ago by Padraig O’Connor


A Very Sad Seasonal poem from Seán McCarthy


Wren boys in North Kerry by Wm. Molyneaux as reported in The Shannonside Annuals in the 1950s

Part 2

He (The Man from the BBC) asked me then what way we used to dress in the Wren boys. I told him we used dress in green and gold or any colour. I told him we had a Wren Cross (which we had in them days) and we had the Wren Cross painted in green and gold and we often took out two wrens in the morning and brought them back alive and restored them to liberty. I told him when we go in to a farmer’s house that we’d say those words to the farmer-the farmer’s houses where we’d expect to get a good reach the captain of the Wrenboys would address the man of the house by saying these words:

The man of the house is a very good men

And it was to him we brought the wran,

Wishing you a happy Christmas and a merry New Year

If you give us the price of a gallon of beer,

We’d continue on until we go to the next house-which was the landlady’s house. The captain addressed the landlady in these words

the wran, the wran, the king of all birds-

St Stephen’s Day she was cought in the furze;

although she be little, her family being great,

Rise up, landlady, and give us a trate;

Up with the kittle and down with the pan

We’ll thank your subscription to bury the Wren!

That’s the way the captain would address if he went into a big farmer’s house or into a landlady’s house.

(more tomorrow)



John (Junior) Griffn and Billy Keane at the launch of Billy’s novel some years ago.


The Seanchaí Claus family at the BOI Enterprise Town expo

Joe’s been a good boy.


Gala Christmas Sunday in Town

Eoin Enright’s photo gives a good idea of the scene in The Square as the light was fading on Sunday December 11 2016.

Here are some people I met at the Coca Cola truck on Sunday December 11 2016

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