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

The Blackthorn, Home Guards and A Lost Child

St. John’s, Listowel on a quiet Covid Sunday in May 2021


The Blackthorn

A Blackthorn Stick photo by Paddy Fitzgibbomon

I have noticed that you often don’t hear or think about something for ages and then suddenly it seems to be everywhere. It was like that with me and the blackthorn stick.

Paddy sent the picture and then everywhere on my walks I seem to see the snow white flower of the blackthorn in every ditch. It is interesting that the blossom of the blackthorn is snow white and the blossom of the white thorn is pinkish white.

Blackthorn blossom in Childers’ Park in May 2021

The fruit of the blackthorn is the sloe. It is sometimes made into wine.

Whitethorn blossom in Childers’ Park in May 2021

The fruit of the white thorn is the haw, good food for the birds. Thew bush is also known as the hawthorn.

According to Joe Kennedy in The Sunday Independent May 30 2021 the blackthorn is beloved of fairies and fighters. In the 19th century it was cultivated and honed as a weapon According to Kennedy the root was dug, seasoned in warm ashes, pickled in brine and rubbed with oil. A writer named William Wright claims that a magpie was shot and its blood used to polish the cane until it became ‘glossy black with a mahogany tint.” That last bit sounds a bit farfetched to me.

The blackthorn stick was the weapon of choice of faction fighters and it features widely as a weapon in the serial battles between the Cooleens and the Mulvihills in the 19th century.


Lizzy is Moving


Early Potatoes

Raymond O’Sullivan grew some early spuds in Newmarket.

Here is what he says about them.

Home Guard, developed during World War ll in the Dad’s Army days, and now the most popular ‘early’ potato in Ireland. Planted on the 1st March, digging 92 days later on the 1st June. Just about ready – you must take the little potatoes with the big ones.


Resting, Remembering and Waiting

This piece of creative writing comes to us from Marie (Nelligan) Shaw of Listowel and the U.S.


Glentenassig, Writers’ Week 2012 and O’Connell Tailors


St. Patrick’s Hall, Lizzy’s Relocation and A Lixnaw legend

1 Comment

  1. Bridget O’Connor

    Interesting facts about the black & white thorn Thank you.

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