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

Tag: WW2 Page 1 of 2

Susperstitions, St. Michael’s graveyard and a local woman’s role in the DDay landings

Listowel Town Square in Winter



(From the Dúchas collection)

Lore of Certain Days

Collector, Katherine Thornton-

 Informant, Mrs Nellie Thornton, Ballincloher, Lixnaw

The pattern day some people go to the Blessed Well to get ailments cured, such as stomach complaint, bone disease, and several others.

Old people sat (sat= planted crops) Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday the luckiest day of all, Thursday for crosses, Friday for losses, and Saturdays no luck at all. 

Some people change houses on Tuesday and not any other day, because if they changed on Monday they would be changing for the week. 

People say April the 30th or the first week in May is the best time for planting crops. The old people say rain on Friday, rain on Sunday,

“There is a well situated in Mrs. David Dillon’s farm…”

There is a well situated in Mrs. David Dillons farm at this day the well goes by the name of Tobair na Giolláin. The people say the English of it is the well of the flies. At first the well was situated near a hedge in the field but one morning a woman rinsed clothes in it and when the people came to the well it was dried up but it sprang up about four perches from the place. The people are still taking water out of it but the old people always said it was a blessed well.


In St. Michael’s Graveyard


A War Story with a Local Twist

This story comes to us from the pen of Billy McSweeney

In my Grandparents time, Kerry people understood that they were cut off from the rest of Ireland by a series of mountains; they realized that they were isolated and had to look after themselves. Life was harder in Kerry than in the Golden Vale or on the central plains of Ireland. The mothers of Kerry especially, knew that they had to look to every advantage to help their children and prized education highly to that end. In the mid-19thcentury the people of Listowel welcomed enthusiastically the establishment of St Michael’s College for Boys and the Presentation Convent Secondary schools for Girls, not forgetting the Technical School. The people who read this blog are most likely familiar with the Census’ 1901 and 1911 and will have noticed that many homes in Listowel housed not only Boarders but also welcomed Scholars who came from the villages and isolated farms scattered around North Kerry. These boys and girls spent 5-6 years in the Listowel schools to be educated for ‘life’.

The upshot of this was that from Listowel we sent out many young adults who were a credit to their teachers to take their places in many organizations and many whose names became nationally known for their talents and abilities, especially in the Arts.

Let me tell you about one such young girl, Maureen Flavin, who was born in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry. When the time came for Maureen to go on from National school she was welcomed into the Mulvihill home in Upper Church Street who themselves had a young girl, Ginny, of the same age. Maureen and Ginny became fast friends and stayed so for life. 

When Maureen finished school in 1930 she wanted a job; couldn’t get one in Kerry because of the times that were in it, so she answered an ad in the National Papers for an Assnt. Postmistress in Black Sod, in North Mayo. Her references and qualifications were suitable and in due course, as she says to her own surprise she was offered the job. This was to set Maureen on a course where she would be an integral part of one of the most momentous actions of the age. Mrs Sweeney, the Black Sod Postmistress, was married to Ted who was the Lighthouse Keeper, both operating from the Lighthouse building in Black Sod. They had a son, also Ted, who Maureen fell in love with and married in due course. They in turn had three boys and a girl and life took up a normal rhythm for the family; that is until 3rd June 1944.

The WW2 was in full swing at this stage with Gen. Eisenhower as the Allied Supreme Commander and Gen. Rommel the German Commander in Normandy. Rommel knew that an Allied invasion was prepared and imminent. Conventional Meteorological sources at the time for the US and German military said that the coming days would bring very inclement weather so that the invasion would have to be postponed. Eisenhower postponed the action and Rommel left Normandy for a weekend in Berlin based on the same information. The British Chief Meteorologist had however visited Black Sod some years previously and knew the value of Black Sod as the most westerly station in Europe and when a break in the weather was reported by Black Sod on 3rdJune he persuaded Eisenhower that 6thand 7thJune would be clear and to ignore the same conventional Met advice used by both the US and the Germans. Ted compiled the reports for the Irish Met Office and Maureen transmitted them. Maureen remembers receiving a telephone call a short time later from a lady with a ‘very posh English accent’ asking for confirmation of her report. Ted was called to the phone and he confirmed the readings, The rest, as they say, is history. 

Ted Sweeney died in 2001.  Maureen is still alive.

There must be a few morals in this story


It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas

McKenna’s Window


Manchester Martyrs

Since I posted these photos I have had lots of people contact me about this topic. The “martyrs” were Allen Larkin and O’Brien, two from Cork and one from Offally .

Here is the story;

The Manchester Martyrs— William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien—were three men executed for the murder of a police officer in Manchester, England, in 1867, during an incident that became known as the Manchester Outrages. The three were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, also known as the Fenians, an organisation dedicated to ending British rule in Ireland, and were among a group of 30–40 Fenians who attacked a horse-drawn police van transporting two arrested leaders of the Brotherhood, Thomas J. Kelly and Timothy Deasy, to Belle Vue Gaol. Police Sergeant Charles Brett, travelling inside with the keys, was shot and killed as the attackers attempted to force the van open by blowing the lock. Kelly and Deasy were released after another prisoner in the van took the keys from Brett’s body and passed them to the group outside through a ventilation grill; the pair were never recaptured, despite an extensive search.

Two others were also charged and found guilty of Brett’s murder, Thomas Maguire and Edward O’Meagher Condon, but their death sentences were overturned—O’Meagher Condon’s through the intercession of the United States government (he was an American citizen), and Maguire’s because the evidence given against him was considered unsatisfactory. Allen, Larkin, and O’Brien were publicly hanged on a temporary structure built on the wall of Salford Gaol, on 23 November 1867, in front of a crowd of 8,000–10,000.

Brett was the first Manchester City Police officer to be killed on duty, and he is memorialised in a monument in St Ann’s Church. Allen, Larkin, and O’Brien are also memorialised, both in Manchester – where the Irish community made up more than 10 percent of the population – and in Ireland, where they were regarded by many as inspirational heroes.   

Source: Wikipedia 

There are monuments to these three all over Ireland and there is one in Manchester. Commemorative ceremonies were held for years on the anniversary of their execution.

Thank you to all the people who contacted me on this one and look out for Dave O’Sullivan’s contribution next week. He trawled the papers for us and found out lots more about the Listowel monument

This impressive one is in Kilrush, Co Clare

Listowel Town Park, A Listowel chaplain in WW2 and a Church Street landmark gets a touch up

A Great Tit

Photo credit: Graham Davies


Childers’ Park

Pedestrian entrance to Listowel Town Park with Dandy Lodge in the background

The newly enlarged entrance from Bridge Road

Sign flattened by the elements

1916 commemorative garden

Dandy Lodge

Listowel Community Centre


Listowel Parish commemorates The Holocaust

This is Fr. Michael Morrison who was born in Listowel in 1908. He was a chaplain who attended at the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp at the end of WW2.

His story is here

 BBC Archive; World War 2 People’s War

Photo: Kerry’s Eye

At Sunday mass in Listowel on January 28 2018, Holocaust Memorial Day, Fr. Morrison’s grandnephew, Finbarr Walshe of Tralee presented an icon to Listowel parish. The family believe that the icon was made by inmates in the concentration camp.

The Bergen-Belsen camp was built to hold 10,000 people, but on the day it was liberated 60,000 were crammed into appalling conditions. An estimated 50,000 people died there between 1941 and 1945.

Following the war, Fr Morrison served as a parish priest in Australia, before eventually returning home to Ireland, where he died in 1973.


Plasterwork getting a Facelift

A little touching up to the famous plasterwork was in progress as I passed by on Church St. in January 2018.


The Success of Sive in 1959

Some more newspaper cuttings from the Sive 1959 archive. Thank you, David O’Sullivan.


Listowel in 1968

Newsbeat came to town to see if it was snobbery that was keeping local girls from applying for lucrative jobs in a new local factory. The interviewer was the late Bill O’Herlihy.

Newsbeat in Listowel

Veterans’ Parade, Listowel Pitch and Putt, 2007 telethon and crafts and baking at The Kingdom County Fair 2015

Veterans Parade at Listowel Military Tattoo 2015

The leading flag party

 The drums of the Killorglin Pipe Band

Michael Guerin


Band of The Ambulance Service

The excellent M.C. for the ceremony was Damien Stack.

Wreath Laying

A line of wreaths, a moving tribute.

The buzz of the helicopter was heard. Everyone looked up and cheered as the Irish Coast Guard chopper flew round the square, a symbol of modern day heroes who guard our waters.


Listowel Pitch and Putt

The course looks absolutely world class these days.  Take a bow Listowel Pitch and Putt Club


Telethon in Pres 2007

A no uniform telethon fundraiser in Pres. Listowel . Were you there?


Kingdom County Fair 2015

Unless the organizers do something drastic to revive interest in the baking and craft classes at next year’s show, I think it is time to abandon these classes. While there was some lovely work on display, in many classes there was only one or two entrants. To enter was to win even though the product was well short of show standard.


Boxing Star in Town this weekend

A wartime story

Today is Monday, May 4 2015. It is the day after Listowel Military Tattoo. I was going to post photos and an account of the weekend but I’ll leave that for later in the week and today I will tell you my late mother-in law’s story.

mother-in law, Betty Cogan, became an Irish citizen in 1967. This extraordinary
event marked her as a special woman, an independent soul, a woman willing to
defy family and tradition to be as close as possible to the man she loved.

Betty White at age 21

citizenship was definitely not in the picture when Betty was growing up in
Monument Road in Birmingham in the 1900’s. Her family was thoroughly British.
Her father, Henton White, was a local doctor, and a member of St. John’s
Ambulance. During WW1 he did his civic duty; he enlisted in the navy and served
as a ship’s doctor on board HMS Neuralia. He was knighted by the king, was awarded
a medal and his own coat of arms. He was appointed to the post of assistant physician to the king.
This meant that, if the king was in the Birmingham area, Henton White was
responsible for looking after his health.

Henton White

grew up in this most loyal of households. She trained as a physiotherapist. At 21 she met and fell in love with a
dashing young graphic artist. His name was John Patrick Thompson and he worked
in Benson’s Advertising Agency. A big client of this agency was Guinness. John Patrick drew the cartoons for the “But
there is nothing like a Guinness” series and he gave the first drafts of
“walrus and keeper” and “fish in tank” to his girlfriend, Betty. Betty kept them all her life and they are
still in the family. Unfortunately, they are not signed but one is marked
“official secret”. Even in those days,
advertisers liked an element of surprise when they unveiled a new campaign.

John Patrick is on the right

had experienced her father’s long absences and all the attendant worry for the
family during the First World War so she was none too happy when John Patrick
“went for a soldier” in 1939, a few months into WW2. He was killed in action in
France shortly after landing there. 

He wrote Betty a letter dated 6 Sept. 1939
from HMS Arethusa on his way to the front. We found this letter among her
treasures after her death. John
Patrick describes in detail the awful conditions aboard ship. Because they were
sailing through dense fog, John Patrick went below to avoid the cold and damp,
The decks “had become cold, slippery and draughty and most people seemed to
prefer the sweating between decks.” “I
went below once during the night, and some 350 men occupied the saloons and
gangways-all asleep, on stairs, across tables- it was as if living men had been
killed by gas. It was an amazing sight.”

Patrick describes in detail arriving in Dieppe and his journey through the
French countryside. “France looked so soft and peaceful.” He had visited France
previously and had hoped to see some of the sights again but their train
journey was through the night. “Arles looked like a special kind of dream
city.” He finishes by saying that the adventure was not as bad as he feared and
“that is all I can say until the whole journey is a thing of the past.”

it was his last letter and he, like so many thousands of likeminded young men
perished in the following days.

can only imagine how devastated Betty was on hearing of his death. She
remembered him always and told her children about him.

Of all the
words of tongue and pen                                                      

The saddest are; It might have been.

Tom Cogan, my father in law, and his brother John (seated)

Cork in 1921 another young man was growing up and becoming embroiled in another
war. Tom Cogan had seen his older brother, coincidentally also named John
Patrick, enlist in the British Army and
die in the third battle of Ypres in WW1. 
His name is engraved, with thousands of other casualties on the Tynecot

Tom took a different course. He took an active part in the  War of Independence.

was working as an apprentice fitter in Haulbowline, Co. Cork. and living at
home with his mother and unmarried sister. He was a trusted employee and no one
suspected that he was smuggling out materials under the noses of the British
Army and using his skills as a fitter to make  “metal plates” to be used in the making of

he finished his apprenticeship, he secured a job in Ford’s of Cork. Like many
other young Cork men at the time he moved to work in Fords in Dagenham in the
early 1940s. He did not work in the main plant but in the Ford foundry in
Leamington. In the boarding house where he lodged he met and fell in love with another lodger, Betty White. They were married in Birmingham in June 1944 and relocated to Cork
with their firstborn in 1945.

letter from his workmates to him as he was leaving England shows that Tom was a
poacher turned gamekeeper. He kept a close eye on all of Ford’s materials and
every screw was accounted for.

Cogan, my mother-in –law, lived through two world wars. She had 2 great loves
in her life, each of them an honorable hard working young man. The fickle finger of Fate decided which one she was to lose and which one to marry.

(Jim’s family,  Patricia Cogan Tangney and Martin Cogan helped me with some of
the details of this story.)

Presentation Convent For Sale,Turf and Rockchapel chapel

Sundown in Ballybunion

(photo: Ballybunion Prints)


Turf in times of war

This poster dates from 1946 and was aimed at Industry. It warned them to make sure they had enough turf supplies for their needs. The sentence about full development of our turf resources, was the coming of the ACT which changed the TDB into Bord na Móna and led to the First Development Programme after the War.

(source: Bord na Mona Heartland)


As it was then, as it is now

Listowel’s Presentation Convent is on the market again. Maybe there is a sentimental Listowel emigrant with deep pockets out there who would love to restore it to its former glory. It would make a lovely boutique hotel with its own wedding chapel.


Out and about with my camera

Fine weather last week had us all out enjoying the sunshine.



Many of us pass through this North Cork Village on our way to Cork. I stopped last week and took a few photos of their lovely chapel.

A bench in her native church is a fitting memorial to an emigrant, Sr. Nora Curtin.

In a little cabinet at the back o the church they had a display of photographs of sons and daughters of the parish who had entered the religious life.


Julie is coming to Writers’ Week

This is Julie Nugent. She will be coming to Listowel Writers’ Week 2015: May 27 to May 30. Julie will be picking up the Irish Post prize for her short story After the Party.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén