Listowel Courthouse

August 26th. 2019


Where Stories Begin

Maurice Kelliher and his friend, John Leahy (reluctantly) posed for me beside Kempes photo in the collage of Town faces on Lawler’s window.


Take the Soup

A story from Mattie Lennon for All Ireland Final weekend

Take the Soup

Up to today no senior Wicklow football team has ever graced the hallowed sod of Croke Park on the penultimate Sunday of September. Even Mick O Dwyer couldn’t do anything for us. Imagine letting soccer and rugby into Croke Park before Wicklow got a crack at an All- Ireland final. . and then the Queen . . . and The Pope.  And we almost had Obama. I suppose we’ll soon have Trump.

    But Wicklow men and sons of Wicklow men have played for many another county’s winning team.  

Such was the case in 1928. It was the first year of the Sam Maguire Cup and Kildare met Cavan in the final. One of the Kildare forwards was of Valleymount parentage and, of course, the locality claimed him as its own. Now, money wasn’t plentiful  in the West-Wicklow of 1928. The Wall Street crash was in 1929 but we were well ahead of them. The people in our area couldn’t afford to travel to Dublin for a match. But they were a  resourceful people. And they did a very clever thing. They took up a collection and appointed one man, a sort of an emissary, to go to the match and bring back the information. The man selected as representative was a farm-labourer, Matt Colley, who had a phenomenal memory, a good eye and ear for detail and was a good storyteller (sometimes with a little bit of embellishment).

   Though times were hard subscriptions surpassed expectation. With the proceeds Matt boarded the steam Tram, in Blessington, and set out on his journey to Terenure  or Roundtown as it was called at the time (where the tram terminated) He walked, at a leisurely pace into the city centre and in the unfamiliar surroundings of the main thoroughfare of the Metropolis he spotted an impressive building; The Gresham Hotel.  When he entered the posh foyer of the Gresham, of course the head porter and others were amused by his mountainy walk.

  He took his seat in the dining room but didn’t consult the Menu. With all due respect to the man, he had a near photographic memory, was a gifted raconteur but the written word meant very little to him. A liveried waiter with notebook, and pencil poised, materialised at his elbow. ” Soup Sir?”?

“I don’t want any soup”, says Matt.

“But the soup of the day, Sir is the Chef’s – “

“Amn’t I after telling ye I don’t want soup.”

 “All right Sir, the main course – “

   The waiter goes on the list the many choices, only to be told, “I don’t want any o’ that, I want a feed o’ bacon an’ cabbage an’ a few good floury spuds. Have ye any bacon an’ cabbage?.”

Taken aback and getting annoyed the waiter says, “I’ll see what we have in the kitchen.”

 “I don’t want to know what ye have in the kitchen, I want bacon, cabbage and potatoes.”

 The waiter now decides to teach this Russ-in-Urbe a lesson. He brings out a large serving dish (like the big Willow-pattern dishes that Matt’s mother kept on the top shelf of the dresser). It was heaped to capacity.

Matt ate and he ate and he ate – and then he ate more.

   He ambled upstairs and spotted, through an open door, a double bed. It wasn’t near match time so he stretched out on the bed; face down. Of course he was asleep in seconds.

Now – as luck would have it, sometime later, the male guest in the adjoining bedroom “took a bit of a turn.”  The Doctor was called and promptly arrived accompanied by a nurse. Seeing the prostrate figure of Matt, with a belly like a poisoned pup, he made a rapid diagnosis. “I know what’s wrong with this man,” says he.

   Without any further instruction the nurse left and reappeared quickly with a red rubber hose, tapered on one end and a funnel on the other. The necessary garments were removed, a large white enamel jug of warm, soapy, water was produced and a certain medical procedure got under way.

  Halfway through the irrigation process Matt woke up. And would you blame him?  

The match was over. He had no information for his financiers. He hadn’t done what he was sent to do.

He headed for Terenure and the tram but he wasn’t walking too well.   On the tram he met a few fellows from Brittas and Manor Kilbride who filled him in on the main points of the game.

By Tallagh he knew that Kildare been awarded ten frees in the first half and that the score at half time was one two to three points in favour of Kildare. Jobstown saw him rehearsing his “report.”  “Cavan won the toss and played with the wind, from the Railway end, for the first half. Smith of Cavan got the ball at the throw-in and passed it to Higgins who was fouled.  

Devlin of Cavan scored the first point after twenty minutes of play.  

Fitzpatrick of Kildare was injured and spent a long time on the ground. Joe Loughlin of Kildare was injured and replaced by Dan Ryan.”

   As the tram passed the brick-works in Tinode , Kildare was playing with the wind in the second half.

When Matt alighted at the tram-sheds in Blessington, in his head the match was over.  Cavan was two goals and five points and Kildare was two six and the final whistle blew.  There were men there to meet him from Kylebeg, Lacken, Blackrock, Lugnagun and Ballinastockan.

   It was like a press conference. They were shooting questions at him from all sides. ” Who won Matt?”, “Was it a good game, Matt?”, “What was the score Matt, “ “How did our man fare, Matt?”

   During a lull in the interrogation he put up his hand: “I’ll tell yez all about the match in a minute, But first I want to tell yez this, If any o’ yez ever goes to Dublin and yer in a place called the Gresham Hotel, if they ask ye d’ ye want soup, for Christ sake take it. For if you don’t they’ll put it in a big enamel jug an’ they’ll get a length o’ hose an’ a tundish. They’ll take down your trousers an’ savin’ yer presence they’ll  administer it in the most undignified manner . “


James Kissane

 At the Ballydonoghue WW1 commemoration on Saturday August 24 2019 the soldiers who fought were remembered by their relatives. No descendant was more proud than Eily Walsh who has researched in detail her soldier relative, James Kissane.

Eily is a very keen family historian and the acknowledged expert on the Kissanes of Kilcox.

James was the second youngest of 12 children of John and Catherine Kissane. He is the man at the back in the bow tie in this family photo.

He was born in 1889. James had a first cousin who had risen to the rank of Inspector in the Cairns Police Force in Queensland, Australia. James and this cousin, John Quilter, corresponded and James decided to seek his fortune in that police force down under. James emigrated to Australia in 1910 and immediately joined the Australian Police force. 

In September 1915 James took leave from the police force and joined The Australian Imperial Force. The army took him to Egypt, to England and eventually to Flanders in Belgium.

At the Battle of Ypres he was in charge of transport and supple of ammunition to the front line. Ammunition in that battle had to be transported by cart and mule in horrendous conditions.

It was for acts of gallantry  on October 12 1917 that he was awarded the Military Cross.

This is Britain’s third highest honour.

This extraordinary achievement and James’ outstanding war record could never be acknowledged at home by his very republican family.

After the war James returned to Australia. In 1924 he took up a full time paid position as Secretary of the Queensland Irish Association. He changed jobs a few times more, got married and raised a family. The family home in Brisbane was named Listowel.

James passed way in 1954. His family are tremendously proud of their Irish roots and his Irish cousins are proud of him too.

Bridget O’Connor and Eily Walsh, cousins of James Kissane at the Ballydonoghue WW1 commemoration on Saturday last.


For the Weekend that’s in it

Mattie Lennon has been in touch with a tale for you.

The All Ireland Walkover.

Come this time next week there will be a lot of sore heads around the Town as Dubs supporters celebrate having Sam AGAIN’ they begin to contemplate is it worth their while removing the buntings and flags from the front of their gaffs, after all they will have the hassle of getting out the ladders and going over the same routine come Sept 2020 when the Dubs are certain to be back at Croker picking up Sam Maguire yet again !

Anyway before a ball is kicked in Croke Park I can hear the mutterings from the Kingdom in ‘Healy Rae language’ about the advantage the Dubs had because the game is in The Capital, or how expensive it is now for a day out in the ‘big smoke’ for the small farmers etc etc etc. 

So here’s a true story that can be told relating to a Kerry Team from 1910 that can be discussed over a ‘sangwich’ on the train to Dublin.

In 1910 Kerry were due to play Louth in the All-Ireland.  There was great interest in the Kingdom and Louth for the game and a huge crowd in excess of 16,000 were expected to attend, a large majority would have been supporters who had attended the Final that was held in Jones Rd the previous year in 1909.  That year Kerry beat Louth 1-9 to 0-6, that 1909 final had attracted 16,000 supporters which was enormous for its time.  By 1910 there was great expectation from many Louth supporters who were hoping that their team could exact revenge for the previous year’s result.

So, understandably enough, all the culchies were looking forward to their day out ‘up in Dublin’, but there was a problem and that came from the expense that was incurred in getting to the venue.  In those days, by all accounts, the train fare from both counties would have been expensive, many of those travelling would have had the extra expense of at least one night if not two in Dublin, a few pints, something to eat and perhaps a ramble around the Monto’s streets (just to have a gander at the ‘quare wans’ as ye do) wouldnt have left much change out of a £5.

So hearing the mutterings from the locals, the Kerry team took the bull by the horns (as ye do in Kerry) they approached the Railway company Great Southern & Western railway and asked them to reduce their fares for those travelling for the Match, quoting the huge interest in the game, the extra business, and numbers expected to travel…the Railway wouldn’t have a bar of it, they refused point blank the Kerrymen’s request, so as a point of principle the Kerry team refused to travel and Louth were awarded the All-Ireland as a ‘walkover’.

I hope the Kerry Team spent their train fare in the Pub.

That’s an absolutely true story.  I Googled it.


Showing our colours