Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Listowel Military Tattoo 2015 continued, In Flanders Fields and some Pres. girls


This is now a permanent North Kerry War Memorial on Church St. Listowel.

Jim Halpin, seen here outside his shop and museum does trojan work in keeping the sacrifice of those who fell in war before our minds. His latest memorial on the wall outside his shop lists the names of all the North Kerry men who fell in World War 1. He has done the town a service. My photos do not do justice to the memorial. If you are in town, take a good look and say a prayer for the fallen.


Vintage Bridal Car

Snapped on Charles Street on Saturday May 2 2015


Presentation Secondary School

Any idea who these girls are, where was the photo taken and why?


From the 1960s GAA brochure


In Flanders Fields

This week exactly 100 years ago, Canadian Major John McCrae wrote his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ as a reaction to the death of his close friend in battle. McCrae discarded the poem but luckily a fellow officer saved it and sent it to a British newspaper. The Advanced Dressing Station near the Essex Farm Cemetery in Ypres marks the site where John McCrae wrote his poem.

(Photo: Flanders Fields 14-18)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The story behind the poem:

During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2nd May, 1915 in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.
As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. It is believed that later that evening, after the burial, John began the draft for his now famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.


New Business in Town

Best of luck to MK Beauty. It's a joy to see young people investing in the future of our town.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Military Tattoo 2015, Upper William St. Prince George and Enda Kenny

Today I am sharing the first of my photos from this weekend's military event.

Jim Halpin's transport for the weekend was parked outside his museum door on Friday.

The Stars and Stripes fluttered from a sign post in The Square.

 It was Friday May 1 2015. Market Day and gathering day for the now annual Listowel Military Tattoo

 Jimmy Deenihan did the official opening.

 The first event of the weekend was a lecture on Kerrymen in The Dardanelles. The SeanchaĆ­ was packed. This presentation set the bar very high for the weekend. Tom Dillon gave us an excellent talk, well researched, well illustrated with photos, letters and anecdotes and beautifully written and delivered with just the right balance of information, fact, myth, anecdote and humour.

On Saturday evening we had James Holland, historian and BBC broadcaster give us a lecture on DDay. His style was very different to Tom's; animated, seemingly off the cuff easy delivery but laced with hard facts. His talk was excellent, different from Tom's, not better.

It's Saturday morning and things are  hotting up in The Square.

A real guard chats to some local stewards for the event.

 The air corps sent a very handsome contingent. They were happy to pose for a snap for me.

Life goes on. This limo passed by on its way to collect a bride.

These reenactors were making sure no one parked in the closed off street.

I hope the wedding party are history buffs.

 Soldiers, some real and some dressed up for the day were everywhere on the streets  and in the shops of our town.

Our own man in uniform was looking well.

Parking in the square was restricted.

(More from this event tomorrow)


Presentation Convent, Listowel

The following photos I took from the advertisement for the sale of the convent on


Patrick Street from the roof of the old post office

This old photo comes from It was taken from the top of the old post office in Upper William St. St. Patrick's Hall looks a bit shabby. This description of the scene in the picture is also from Boards.

"The photo taken about 1970, shows ( I think ) Sonny Carroll. He worked with M.A. Hannon, who were the main contractors. Looking across the street is St Patrick's Hall and two houses, no's 17 & 19, which originally were owned by Mike Joe Hennessy, formally of this street and Ballyduff. When the photograph was taken, number 17, was occupied by Tony and Marie Fealy, number 19, had stood derelict for some years previously, and would remain so, until both houses were eventually bought, and renovated by the Listowel Urban Council. St Patrick's Hall, built in 1893, was at this stage (1970) also showing its age and a badly needed face-lift. Happily, the two houses were rebuilt when the council took ownership and both looked resplendent until May/June 2014 when during a change of tendency in number 17, the council or engineer, for some outlandish reason, more than likely, only known to themselves, decided to put in a new window. This box like window, ( more suited to an outhouse) is half the size of the original, and completely at variance with all the upper story dormer windows of this unique terrace of houses. 
However, I have been assured, that after nearly a full year, of kicking up an ungodly fuss, the council have at last relented, and I have been assured, this hugh mistake is to be corrected and a replacement window of similar size to the rest of the houses, will be reinstated in the very near future.
As I said St. Patrick's Hall, through the great work of a hard working committee under the chairmanship of Michael O Sullivan had a wonderful refurbishment between 1999/2003, well over 100 years after another hard working committee under the chairmanship of Lar Buckley built it first as a Temperance Hall.
The house at the lower side of lane-way had been the surgery of Doctor Timothy Buckley ( whose home was the house being knocked). Alongside the house was a wall and high railing with gateway from the street giving access to rear of the house."


Two men whose waving broke my heart this weekend

See a camera….wave. Royal infants like little George learn this early. This is big brother, George, accompanying his dad to see his new sister, Charlotte. Isn't he sweet? He has the art of waving to to the camera down to a T.

I was in The Listowel Arms on Sunday when who do I see but our taoiseach. He was in town in a private capacity to attend a funeral. As I see him leaving,I whip out my camera and, sure enough, what does our Enda do? He waves.

But he is not born to it like George and completely conceals his face.  But it is Enda alright. Don't you recognize the tie?

Monday, 4 May 2015

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.

My 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

Irish 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

Betty 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

Betty 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.”

John 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.”

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

We 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)

In 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 Memorial. 

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

When 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.

A 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.

Betty 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.)

Friday, 1 May 2015

Listowel Military Tattoo, Turf and The Field at the Gaiety

Listowel Military Tattoo 2015

It's here; the longed for weekend is upon us.

The flags are out.

The traffic management plan is in place.

The bunting is strung.

The shop windows are decorated.

Bring it on!


 Here are a few photos from previous years to whet your appetite. I hope to have lots of photos from this year's event  next week.


Turf to the Rescue

Another TDB poster from 1943, the push was really on to deal with the fuel shortage. At Mass, people were encouraged to cut turf by the local priests. County Councils, the Army, the TDB, all were involved in cutting as much turf as possible.


OConnell's Avenue last week

Beasley's light engineering works

 These Ballybunion Beach shops are set to get a facelift


Kerry Association in Dublin at the opening of The Field

Our own Keelin Kissane and friends from the Kerry Association met someone famous when they went to  The Gaiety for the opening night of John B. Keane's The Field.


Listowel Emmetts Rising Stars

Conor Cox and Jack McGuire of Listowel were honored recently for their exploits on the football playing field with UCC.