Friday, 5 February 2016

Bridge Rd., Junior Griffin's Memories and refurbishment at the convent

Bridge Road before the Posters Went Up


Would You Sleep in a Hearse?

Junior Griffin on his way home from mass a few years ago.

The late John Griffin (Junior's dad) of Bridge Road, Listowel  mended everything. He was a great mender of umbrellas, clocks and watches and he was the go- to man if your fuse blew and left you without power.

He once converted an old Chevrolet into a hearse for Danny Lyons. Junior and his brother, Bert, vied with one another to see who would be the first to sleep in the hearse. Junior remembers that a lovely man, John Kirby, who was a manager at Latchfords and an uncle of our present parish priest, Canon Declan O’Connor, settled that argument. Employing the wisdom of Soloman, John offered the boys 3d.  (three pence) each to allow him to be the first. The boys readily accepted the money and no one slept in Danny Lyons hearse while it was in the Bridge Rd.


Bill Kearney

Thanks to Jim Halpin for this one. The Bill Kearney of Listowel in the picture was very involved in Drama. He was a member of Listowel Drama Group.

Last year I posted here a story about Bill's widow, Pat and my friends and neighbours, Will and Peggy Collins from Kanturk.

"People my age and older will remember Bill and Pat Kearney of this parish. Bill was very involved with the Listowel Drama Group. After Bill's death, Pat lived on in Listowel on her own. One evening she was driving home from Cork when she got a puncture. In the days before mobile phones, the done thing in this instance was to call to the nearest house. Pat did. This house was the home of Willie and Peggy Collins, my lovely neighbours. Being the kind people they are, they brought her in and gave her a cup of tea and some of Peggy's legendary delicious baking. They changed her wheel and ascertained that it would have to stay in Kanturk overnight for repair. 

Peggy and Willie would not hear of Pat driving home alone with no spare wheel so they drove to Listowel with her. Pat never forgot their extraordinary kindness to her and she mentioned it often to me. There would be none more delighted than Pat Kearney to hear  that the son of her Kanturk friends is now a famous scriptwriter and if she has any influence above, that Oscar is in the bag for The Cartoon Saloon gang."

Another memory of Pat Kearney that comes to mind is her relationship with Rte's Maxi. Maxi used to present the late night (or was it very early morning) music show on RTE. During the show she would read out letters and cards that had been sent go her by fans. Many of those cards and letters were from Pat Kearney of Listowel.


Early days of flying

"….Since very few of the passengers had ever flown before, they were mostly terrified but putting a good face on it. There would be requests for large brandies before we had left the ground. Everyone would investigate the sickbag stowed in the pocket of the seat in front. Pre-pressurised planes lurched and bucked in patches of heavy cloud, even without the strain of an apprehensive stomach."
This is a short excerpt from an article by Frances O'Donoghue on  Frances was one of Aer Lingus' first air hostesses in the days  when it was exclusively a female job, before they became flight attendants.


Lily, A Brave Search and Rescue Dog

This photos was taken at Hag's Glen, one of the places where Lily , a search and rescue dog worked. Sadly, Lily passed away at the weekend after a short illness. The passing of any beloved dog is sad but the loss of such an experienced and brave working dog is a tragedy.


Work Underway at the Convent

Reroofing going on here

A reminder of its former glory….2007


Believe it or Not

This year February has 4 Sundays , 4 Mondays , 4 Tuesdays , 4 Wednesdays , 4 Thursdays , 4 Fridays , 4 Saturdays.   We will not see the likes of this February again since it will not occur again for 823 years.  (Thank You M.S. for this fun fact.)


A Toast for Terry

Photo: Joanne O'Brien

The London Irish Centre held a commemorative event for Terry Wogan this week. Irish people in Britain regarded Terry Wogan as an Ambassador without portfolio. One lady who attended the commemoration  echoed the feelings of many who had worked and lived in England at the height of the war in Northern Ireland, said, "He made it easier to be Irish in Britain."

Terry Wogan was a great supporter of the London Irish Centre.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

e car as a symbol of Progress, Tasty Cotter, Writers Week Competitions and an Emigrant's Tale

Listowel January 2016; an ecar fuels beside the Bus Eireann shelter in The Square. In the background is St. John's.


Tasty Man about town

(photos and text; Vincent Carmody)

Tasty Cotter

Timothy Fitzmarshall Cotter was also known as 'Tasty' Cotter. He was a well loved Listowel character. The family had a shop at the corner of Main Street and Church Street, Timothy worked with the Urban Council as a rent collector. He always dressed in style and was a familiar figure at all events, be entertainment, sporting or otherwise.

Tasty was a very efficient Hon.Sec.with the Listowel GAA club in the early 1900s and as you can see from this 1908 photograph of The Independents, he was a well turned out footballer as well, as were the rest.

Timothy trod the boards and was a prominent actor and performer with an early drama group, known as 'Listowel Dramatic Class'.  He also was a member of The Listowel Musical Society and he is included in that Society's rare and well preserved programme from their Grand Opening Concert in St Patrick's Hall on Tuesday March 4th, 1930.

There was a story told once by Bryan McMahon of a time when Maurice Walsh (of Quite Man fame), had invited a number of his friends from Listowel; Bryan McMahon, Tasty and a few more to attend an opening night in Dublin. Afterwards Maurice Walsh and his friends adjourned to Boland's, his local in Stillorglin for drinks. Here they were joined by some members of the press. As the evening progressed those present gave their various party pieces, Tasty sang his; an operatic number in Italian. The press people in particular, were enthralled. One was overheard to ask, how one from such a rural part of the country could have such clear diction in that language. Hearing this, Tasty's reply was spontaneous. He said, " Friend, if I had the benefit of a University education, like that lavished, like axle grease on the heads of newspaper reporters, then sir, I would have become Governor General of Hyderabad.”


Do you know a Young writer?

If you know a young person who loves to write please encourage them to visit The National Children's Literary Festival.

The competitions are free to enter and the prizes are good.

There are competitions for adult writers too.


One Listowel Emigrant's story

Junior Griffin and his late brother, Bert

Junior and Bert's father’s people come from Knockalougha outside Duagh. It was from here that Junior’s father emigrated to the U.S. in 1915. He remembered getting off the boat and seeing a paperboy announcing the main story; The sinking of the Lusitania. He found work in the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit and he worked there under the first Henry Ford. They were manufacturing the Model T.

John Griffin Senior experienced tragedy early in his life in the new world. He married a lady from Tipperary called Sheridan. Their son was very young when John’s wife died in the great flu epidemic of 1920. He brought his young son home with him in 1926 and this boy, Jimmy, was raised in Fourhane by Junior’s grandmother.

John married again. His second wife, Junior’s mother, was also Griffin from Fourhane. They married in Detroit and their first daughter, Joan, was born there in 1931. Junior’s maternal grandmother had 12 children, 11 of whom lived to adulthood but the eleven were never under the one roof together. The eldest two, Annie and Josie had emigrated to America before the youngest 2 were born.

When the Griffins returned from the U.S. they settled first in Knockalougha and their eldest daughter, Patsy was born while they were there. Her birth was well remembered in the family. Junior’s father had to travel through two feet of snow to Duagh to fetch the midwife on February 25 1933.

Jimmy Griffin, Junior’s older half brother joined the army and was one of Douglas Hyde’s official army drivers. After leaving the army he settled in Limerick and he married a lady called Eileen O’Riordan, a grandaunt of Dolores of The Cranberries. Jimmy has passed away.


Renovation Work Underway here

Hammering banging and clouds of sawdust are emerging from here recently. A big refurb job underway apparently.


Look Who Got the Golden Ticket

Bernard O'Connell, formerly of Upper William Street and his wife at the Bruce Springsteen concert.

Bernard took this picture as the stadium at the Air Canada Centre filled up.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Spring in Listowel, A memory of Tom Doodle and a Listowel teacher out on the Biddy

Spring has Sprung

It lifts my heart to see the flower containers back on the streets after a bad winter….a welcome sight indeed.


Memories of a Different kind of Election Candidate

Tom Doodle was a fictitious character who stood for election in Listowel in the 1950s. So popular was he that when the jape was over John B. and his band of supporters continued to keep his memory alive with an annual "Frolic". Junior Griffin has some of the souvenir menus from these frolics. Here is the first one for you. It gives a background picture of Doodle's early life and the menu for the meal that was to be held in 1957 in his honour.


From The Advertiser


Oh the Days of the Kerry Dances...

Liam OHainnín kept this cutting of a crowd gathered in The Square watching Jimmy Hickey's dancers perform during a Fleadh Cheoil.


Out on The Biddy

St. Bridget's Day was on Monday, February 1. Traditionally, the Biddy Boys started their rounds on St. Bridget's eve and they went from house to house "mumming", i.e. dressed in fabulous costumes and their faces disguised with straw hats, they welcomed spring with music, singing and dancing. 

I was delighted to see a series of photos from that great photographer, Valerie O'Sullivan, which told me that the tradition is still alive.

This is what Valerie wrote to accompany her photos;

Members of Kilgobnet Biddy Group, Beaufort, Co Kerry, calling to Mike McGillycuddy's House in Shanera.The tradition of the Biddies is one of the oldest and most colourful customs in Ireland, a blend of pagan and christian pageantry, held on the 1st February each year. Heralding the beginning of Springtime and honouring St Bríd the patron saint of the farming community. The Kilgobnet Biddies well spend the next few nights calling to houses and halls playing music and collecting funds for Kilgobnet National School.

When I looked a bit closer at the photos,  there I saw, among the musicians, a familiar face from my days in Presentation Seconday School. Mr. Coffey was out on the Biddy to raise funds for his local school. The man pictured making the hats is his father.

These three photos were taken by John O'Sullivan

Irish Abroad blog has this to say about this tradition;

In many of parts of Ireland ‘Biddy Boys’ (or girls) went from house to house with ‘Biddy’, an effigy of the saint, often a straw doll, collecting money and food for a party in her honour while reciting a rhyme similar to this one:

Here is Brigid dressed in white.
Give her a penny for this dark night.
She is deaf, she is dumb,
For God’s sake, give her some."

Brian Coffey gave me an account of the Biddy in Beaufort. The tradition was always in the area with rival troupes of Biddy Boys doing the rounds of the houses and the pubs. In the 60s and 70s when it was at its height there was a competition among the Kerry Biddy groups with a plaque and a sum of money as a prize. The prize money as well as the donations collected in the pubs were always given to charity.

Four or five years ago when the tradition was waning, a group decided to revive it as a means of raising funds for the local primary school. It was decided as well as doing the pubs to go back to the old traditional way and to visit houses. 
The Biddy costumes and straw hats are stored from year to year. Every year there is a need for one or two new ones or some old ones need a bit of smartening up with plaited straw or fresh tinsel.

A route is laid out and a troupe of about 20 local singers, musicians and dancers gathered. This year there were 3 troupes in Beaufort, the adults, the 6th class and the 5th class. Many houses had a candle lighting at the door to welcome the Biddy.  The leading man carried a sign announcing who they were. Often, when he knocked on the door he saw that the house was full of neighbours and friends gathered from far and near to welcome the Biddy. Chairs and sofas were moved back and a way cleared for the singing and dancing. Often a singer or musician in the house would join in and if there was room, they might dance a set ora waltz with the people off the house People were generous. Brian told me that it was not unusual to collect €100 in a house.

"It's not only about the money," said Brian. It brings the neighbours together in a spirit of community and friendship. On Monday night they called to the Community Centre where a card game was in progress. The cards were set aside as the card players welcomed the Biddy and the singing and dancing continued for a long time.

The night ended up, as per tradition, with a dance at the crossroads. The dancing area was lit by the headlights of several cars and the dancing and music continued into the small hours of the morning.

Take a look at this RTE video to see the craic they have in Kilgobnet on February 1st. Long may the tradition continue!

Keeping the Biddy Tradition alive