Thursday, 27 October 2016

Garden of Europe in Listowel and an Eistedfodd in Wales.

The Garden of Europe ,Autumn 2016

This new tree has been planted to replace the one below which was uprooted in the storm of 2014.

Isn't it beautiful!


Jimmy Hickey; The Early Days

Jimmy Hickey's dancing teacher was Liam Dineen.

Who was Liam Dineen?

Liam Dineen was born in Ballyduff, the second eldest of eight boys. Both of his parents died when he was very young. He was a keen Irish dancer. In the early 1930s he emigrated to Australia. While there he worked hard but still found time to teach Irish dancing. After four or five years he returned to the family pub in Ballyduff and he set to studying Irish dancing in earnest. His teacher was the great Jerry Molyneaux.

Dineen's pub became the meeting place for master and pupil and, it seems, the more liquid refreshment that was consumed the more steps that were passed on to the receptive Liam.
 Soon the student became the master.

It was to this master in his dancing school in Forge Lane, Listowel that Jimmy Hickey headed out with his sixpence clutched tightly in his fist on that first Saturday. Little did he realise that he was embarking on a course that would change his life.

Liam Dineen was the finest dancing teacher of his day. He loved the dance and he enjoyed teaching. He grew to love his star pupil and he took him to concerts, feiseanna and every traditional gathering they could get to. He entered Jimmy in competitions, local, Munster and All Ireland.

"As a hard task master, he expected me to win. As a good student I obliged!" recalls Jimmy.

Having won several local competitions, it was time  for Jimmy to take his place in a national competition. He did this in the O hUigín  Cup competition in Ballyheigue. Jimmy went on to win this competition three times, the first time when he was only 15 years old and dancing against senior dancers with much more experience of competition.

The master was justifiably proud of his pupil and Jimmy recalls dancing in every pub in Ballyheigue, Ballyduff and Listowel on the way home. The cup was filled and emptied in every one.

Jimmy comes from a family of shoemakers. He learned the trade from his father and this was the path laid out for him. Jimmy had other ideas. He had to make a choice between shoe repairs and dance teaching. The choice was an easy one.

Dancing has brought Jimmy a lifetime of enjoyment, fun, travel, shows, concerts, competitions, TV appearances and international festivals.

This is Jimmy Hickey's troupe of musicians and dancers who represented Ireland at the Welsh Eistedfodd in Llangollen.

Back Row; Marion O'Connell, Kathleen McCarthy, Phil O'Connell, Seán Murphy, Mary Murphy R.I.P., Ted Kenny, Kathleen Nola, Mary Doyle, R.I.P., Brina Keane, John Stack, Jean Lynch and Jimmy Hickey

Middle; Dan O'Connell, Philomena McCarthy, Doreen Galvin, Elaine Nolan, Mary Hartnett, Maria O'Donovan, Bob Downey,

Front: Mary Lynch, Trish Lynch and Kate Downey


Humans of Listowel

Today's humans are friends, Rose (Guiney) Treacy and Colette (Keane) Stack. I interrupted them as they were having a cuppa and a chat in Lizzy's Little Kitchen


Poem of the Year 2016

This year is the first year that Listowel Writers' Week is sponsoring a competition at The Bord Gais Book Awards. The short listed poems are all here

Listowel Writers' Week Poem of the Year 2016

Read them and then go to the Bord Gais Book of the Year site and vote for your favourite and you could win €100 in book tokens.

Book of the Year Vote Page

My favourite is Patagonia by Emma McKervey

Emma McKervey is from Co Down and studied at Dartington College of Arts. Her work has been published in Ireland and internationally.
I have read there is a tribe living in the mountains
and lakes of Patagonia who can barely count beyond five,
yet have a language so precise there is a word for;
the curious experience of unexpectedly discovering
something spherical and precious in your mouth,
formed perhaps by grit finding its way into the shellfish
(such as an oyster) you have just eaten.
Or something like that.  I identify with this conceptual position.
And as I listen to my children debate on the train
as to which is the greater – googolplex or infinity –
whilst knowing they still struggle with their 4 times table,
I can’t help but reflect that maybe we should be
on a small canoe at great altitude, trailing
our semantic home spun nets behind instead.


Road Works, Upper William Street, October 2016


Settle a Bet

Does anyone know when the one way system was introduced to Listowel, 1980, '81 or 82'?

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Listowel's Jimmy Hickey, Dancer and Dancing Teacher

St. John's in Listowel Town Square in October 2016

The roadworks are on schedule and seem to be causing a minimum of disruption.


Jimmy Hickey; His early success as a dancer

This fine display of trophies speak of Jimmy Hickey's great success as a dance teacher.
Before he became a dancing teacher, Jimmy was one of the most successful dancers of his day.

I spent a great morning with Jimmy Hickey, dancer, choreographer and cultural ambassador for Ireland. Jimmy has a great story to tell and no better man to tell it. He told me how his lifetime of involvement with Irish Dancing began.

Jimmy was first introduced to dancing while a schoolboy in the old boys’ national school in Listowel. Bryan MacMahon who was a great champion of Irish traditions, in song, music, dancing and folklore invited the local dancing master, Liam Dineen, to come into the school to teach the boys. The arrangement didn’t last very long but it was long enough for Jimmy to be bitten by the dancing bug. His mother saw his obvious talent and his enthusiasm for the dance so she sent him to dancing lessons in Liam Dineen’s hall in Church Street on Saturdays. This was the start of Jimmy’s long and successful career in Irish dancing. He went from one success to another locally and nationally. And he is still going strong today.

He won the O’Hagan cup which was a National competition and he also won the Munster Belt, in a competition in which he, as a juvenile, had to compete against senior and far more experienced dancers.

He counts among the highlights of his dancing career, appearances on BBC, on RTE, in the National Concert Hall, on countless foreign TV stations and the greatest glory of all bringing international honour to Listowel with appearances at the Harmonie festival of culture in Germany on three occasions. I'll tell you more about these foreign trips in the next few days.

Jimmy with his Munster Belt

Jimmy with the O'Hagan cup.


Early Morning in The Square

St. Marys'

St. John's

This distinction was awarded to our town in 2002 but I dont know for what. The award stands in the Square near the Feale sculpture.


News from Writers Week

Listowel Writers' Week is this year sponsoring a prize for Poem of the Year at the Bord Gais Book awards. Here are some of the short listed poets. Jane Clarke, Andrew Soye & Michael Shanks Naghten with Liz Dunn, chairperson of Listowel Writers' Week .

The poems are HERE


Eight Gary MacMahon Singing Festival

The annual Abbeyfeale festival was held last week. Below is Sonny Egan's performance of

Kerry Long Ago

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Bodhráns, Basketball and Irish Dancing

They're Still Rutting in Killarney

Photo: Jim MacSweeney


A Different Killarney Crane ?

Chris Grayson who took the photograph identified this bird as  a heron, but we all know Killarney is famous for cranes. I consulted  Charlie Nolan, our local expert on bird life in general but particularly birds who live near rivers. He tells me that there are no cranes in Ireland. That settles that. It's a heron.
Charlie Nolan told me two facts, one about cranes and one about herons.

Apparently when we had cranes in Ireland, we ate them for dinner.

The heron lays four eggs. The first fellow to hatch is the strongest and he picks off his brothers and sisters, turfing them out of the nest until he has it to himself. A classic case of survival of the fittest.


Sonny Canavan ; Bodhrán maker

( Story and Photos from Facebook)

Listowel on Facebook posted this photo of Sonny Canavan and his niece Margaret. It prompted the man below, Gerard Leahy, to share a memory.

I have a Canavan bodhran, it is the Stradivarius of bodhrans.

I was getting home from the movies at the Astor one night to 23 Market St when I was about 17 years old. It was raining, Sonny was hanging o
ut under the veranda of our shop, the pubs had just closed. He saw me and said, " Sonny Leahy, can you give me a ride home". My first thought was that he called me Sonny and I thought was what an honor to be called Sonny by the legendary Sonny Canavan.
I drove him home and we talked about bodhrans. He told me he had 4 or 5 up on the kitchen and I could have my pick for 5 pounds ( he told me he was getting 15 from the yanks! ).
I remember him reaching up to the gutter to pull down the keys and he walked into his kitchen with little kid goats running around the place.
I treasure this bodhran that he made and the stick that my old friend Tom Enright ( working at Sean Tacks ) made for me. Absolute treasures.


A Trip Down Memory Lane for Some Former Basketballers

Photo  and caption from Denis Carroll on Facebook

National League team, "Team Atlantic" sponsored by Frank Quilter. The year was 1995. We had a home fixture and if we won that we won the league that year and WE DID! We had the Tanaisté & Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dick Spring present as a guest. Great memories, we had some craic!


Funeral Cortege moves up Church Street October 21 2016


The Origins of Irish Step Dancing

information from Jimmy Hickey,  the Last of the Great North Kerry Master Dancers

Dance Dying

By John Fitzgerald
For Jimmy Hickey

Who will take me from the floor
and float me into air?
Who will make those soft black shoes
When you’re no longer there?
For I have had a master
Since first he came to town.
I put him on a new stage
He left behind the clown.
Tipping toes and tapping heels
He danced me down through time
Hornpipes and reels from far off fields
And jigs all truly mine.
From the actor to the master
The great house to the class
No one to dance my dances
When you have danced your last.

This poem was written by one talented Listowel man for another.  John Fitzgerald recognizes that we might be seeing the end of traditional dance in North Kerry.

Modern Irish dancing in the Riverdance mode or the bouncing wigs, heavy make up  and glued on socks variety is the successor to the old form of Irish dancing. It is part of an evolutionary process that began in pre Christian times.

I will give you now a short history of North Kerry dancing as told by Jimmy Hickey, one of it’s most articulate exponents. Jimmy told this story to Fr. Pat Moore in a Radio Kerry programme produced by Mike Joe Thornton in 2004. Jimmy gave me a recording of the programme.

It seems that Irish dancing was brought to these parts by a circus man called Tom Moore. He taught the steps and the technique to Ned Batt Walsh who taught Jerry Molyneaux who in turn taught Liam Dineen and Liam Dineen taught Jimmy Hickey. Jimmy has found no one who will stick with him for long enough to learn all the complicated steps. He has had some great dancers over the years but they all give up and go on to other things.

Dancing as a form of entertainment is as old as time. The Druids danced around the May bush. Dancing at the bonfire was a kind of fertility ritual. The young couple danced over the flames. Fire has traditionally symbolized life.

The influence of the Spanish Armada which was wrecked off the west coast can also be seen. The battering element of Irish jigs and hornpipes is very like the battering and heel drumming of the flamenco.

In the days of the big house, dancing was a very important accomplishment for a young lady or gentleman. Parties for the gentry took the form of shooting by day and dancing by night. These balls were where matches were made. The best and most elegant dancers stood out. They caught the eye of the prospective marriage partner or his mamma.
“ A good dancer never went home alone.”

The quadrilles and cotillions were the forerunners of our polkas today.

In the 19th century in pre Famine Ireland  there were three types of dancing master.
The top of the tree were the dancing masters who lived at The Big House and taught the young ladies and gentlemen to dance. These men claimed to be trained in France. They wore silk stockings and top coats. They dined at the table of their masters and were treated almost like one of the family.
The next tier of dancing master taught classes to ordinary people. These took the cotillion and quadrille of the Big House and customized them for ordinary folk.
The third type of dance teacher was the village hop merchant. He was a jig actor who taught basic steps to people and who organized cross roads dances.

Another influence on Irish dancing was the American factor.The Irish who emigrated to build railways in North and South Carolina often settled there  and they bought their Irish dancing and music with them. This evolved into Blue Grass and Barn Dancing. Turkey in the Straw is actually a reel.

The jig is a truly Irish dance, the reel is Scottish and the hornpipe English. Figure dances are usually reels.


Brosna church....a postscript

Castleisland Christmas Charity Weekend

December 3rd to 5th 2016

Castleisland Parish will hold a Special Appeal on behalf of Brosna
Parish on the 3rd/4th December.  It will be an invitation to support
our neighbours who have a substantial parish debt arising out of the
works done on the Parish Church some time ago. There will be an
envelope collection that weekend and a special concert featuring Liam
Lawton in Castleisland Parish Church on Monday 5th December 2016.

We hope to set up a committee to help organise the weekend. If you
would like to help please ring the parish office on 066 7141241


Brendan Kennelly Honoured at the Abbey Theatre, Sunday October 23 2016

Noel O'Grady organised the tribute and Éamon ÓMurchú shared the photo.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Schoolgirls Rathkeale lecture on horse drawn Traffic and Friends Reunited


“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.”

A MacMonagle photographer captured the moment when Dr Crokes captain, Johnny Buckley ( who has a Listowel mother) commisserates with Kenmare's Patrick Clifford who was taken off injured in the County Final on Sunday Oct 16 2016.


Down Memory Lane on Facebook

I see a few faces I know here so maybe we'll have a bit of luck with the names and the year.


The Road from Abbeyfeale

THE ROAD FROM ABBEYFEALE:  Abbeyfeale was a vital hub in the early
part of the nineteenth century in the national network of horse drawn
transport.  On November 4, 1836 Mr. Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator,
had the services of a driver and four horses on a journey from
Abbeyfeale to Newcastle West.  The four horses were named Jack, Major,
Nancy and Grey.  O’Connell paid one pound and eight shillings for this
service.  His driver was paid seven shillings.  This information is
gleaned from the books of accounts of Leahy’s Inn and Livery Station
located at the Square in Abbeyfeale at that time.  An original copy of
the accounts for the years 1834 to 1842 is the source material which
Dr. Pat Wallace will draw on for his lecture entitled “The Road from
Abbeyfeale” which he will deliver to Rathkeale & District Historical
Society this Friday evening October 21.  The lecture will examine all
the horse drawn traffic through Abbeyfeale in the years 1834 to 1842.
It will also tell of the guests, carriages, drivers and horses as well
as details of the cost of stay and other matters.   Dr. Wallace is the
former Director of the National Museum of Ireland and was the chief
archaeologist with overall responsibility for the Viking Dublin
excavations at Wood Quay and Fishamble Street in 1974.  You, your
family and friends are welcome to attend this free lecture in the Arts
Centre at the Carnegie Library in the Rathkeale area offices of
Limerick City and County Council. Starting time is 8.30pm.  The Arts
Centre can be reached by lift and by stairs.


Nana's and Aisling's First Camogie Match

(Aisling playing, Nana supporting)

On a misty moist Saturday morning I gathered with all the other parents and grandparents to watch my first game of camogie.

There is a lovely little ritual at the end of the game where they all line up and everyone shakes hands with everyone, your teammates as well as the opposition.


Humans of Listowel

I met former classmates, Betty Heathy and Miriam Kiely last week.