Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Christmas in Maine, Athea in the 17th Century and Library in Bridge Road

Rossbeigh, January 2018

Photo: Chris Grayson


Christmas in Arizona and Maine

Patty Faley who is very proud of her Irish roots and is a frequent visitor to Listowel answered my call for news of how some blog followers spent Christmas 2017.

Here is what she wrote...

"John and I spent a wonderful Christmas in Mesa, Arizona with our son and his family. We took an evening walk around the neighborhood and took some pictures. A few day after the holiday, we flew home to Maine. We had to dig the car out of the snow around the parking spot and we have had over a foot of snow since then. It has been very cold since we returned with a temperature last night of -20°C. "


Athea in the 17th. century

(Yesterday we learned that during the Cromwellian period in Ireland, Athea was relatively safe because its people were poor and its terrain virtually impenetrable.)

That English soldiery did pay occasional visits to the place, however, is certain. One summer day a body of troopers, under the command of a renegade Irishman, rode westwards from Rathkeale to Athea. At that time a church stood where the graveyard at Temple Athea is now situated, and it was in this building that the people for miles around used to attend divine worship. As can be seen from the ruins, the walls of this structure were of stone, but it appears the roof was of thatch. On seeing the approach of the troopers, a number of people fled for safety to the shelter of the sacred edifice, and perceiving this, the officer ordered the door to be fastened on the outside and the building put on fire.
The crucifix at the graveyard at Temple Athea as it is today

This appalling and barbarous crime, the commission of which is regarded as authentic, was of frequent occurrence in those evil days throughout the land, and it serves to furnish us with a sad illustration of the savage methods adopted in the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The people were without a church for a long period after this, for during the penal laws the celebration of Holy Mass, or attendance thereat, was regarded as a crime, punishable by death. In the Iong years that ensued after the death of Cromwell, when priests were hunted like wolves and had a price put on their heads, the people of Athea heard Mass in glens and woods.

The affable Fr. Bohan whom I met with my granddaughters in 2016 when i visited the church at Athea.
During this woeful period of our country's history, it is known that nunbers of youths were quietly sent abroad to be educated for the priesthood. When these were ordained, they returned secretly to Ireland to minister to the spiritual needs of the poor people at home. Among them was the son of a lady named de Lacy, who resided near Bruff. This lady, who was a widow, owned considerable property in Eastern County Limerick, but on account of her faith she was obliged to abandon everything and flee with her life to Athea, where she found refuge in an humble hut in Coole or Knocknaboul.
Eventually, this lady's only son was ordained priest abroad, and after the lapse of some time, owing to his great sanctity and talents, he was created Bishop. Bishop de Lacy then returned to Ireland, where he took up his residence in the humble home of his mother, from whence he looked after the spiritual interests of his scattered flock and discharged the duties appertaining to his sacred office.

(Continued tomorrow)


Saturday, January 13 2018

This group of fair ladies were gathered at Garveys for their Saturday morning walk.



Last week when I posted Barry O'Halloran's photo of The Dandy Lodge I said that it had once been a library.  

Not so according to Vincent Carmody's Snapshots of Listowel in he 1850 to the 1950s

The library was further up the street where the Tyre Centre is now.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Sarasota, Athea and a Listowel player who nearly made the Kerry team

Rossbeigh, Co. Kerry

Photo: Chris Grayson


Christmas in Sarasota

If you remember, before Christmas I asked people to tell me where they were spending Christmas. Well!!!! the response was poor. So I am really grateful to the people who took the time to send me photos or greetings from far or near. The rest of you are on the naughty list.

Pat del Savio lives in Sarasota in Florida. She sent me these photos of Christmas in her part of the world, complete with ice skating rink, Santa's sleigh  and light shows.

Sarasota is where the international rowing  competitions were held last year so the place will be familiar to the O'Donovan brothers. I dont think they follow the blog though.


Athea- the origins of the village

 This is how this lovely little Co. Limerick village looks nowadays. I make a point of taking all of my visitors to see it. I assure you it is worth travelling to see. It has the best public art of any small town in Ireland. It has a great fairy trail, some lovely garden centres, one with a pet farm, lots of history, great music, floral displays to rival any tidy town winner, a quiet river with ducks which are fed regularly, a lovely church and best of all, friendly welcoming people.

This mural in Athea tells much of the recent history and mythology of the village in graphic form.

It was not always such a peaceful place.

Recently the North Kerry blog outlined some of Athea's troubled past. 

This account comes from The Kerry Reporter, August 12 1933

During the 17th and 18th centuries, and also throughout the earlier part of the 19th, the district around Athea was very different to what it is to-day. In these days many places that are now green fields were then covered by treacherous bogs or marshes, while the roadways were for the most part, beaten paths, that usually became more or less impassable in winter.

The prevailing desolation was somewhat relieved by stretches of woodland here and there, where fir, spruce and oak grew profusely. There exists authentic records that at an earlier period still, these woods extended in one unbroken chain as far as Adare, and there is ample evidence to be found today in the plentiful growth of timber which exists around Ardagh, Rathkeale and Ballingran, that there is good grounds for this belief.  The river Gale, which rises in the Rooska hills and flows westwards through Athea, must have been a considerably larger stream in those days, owing to the surrounding country not being then drained, and it can be easily imagined that devastating floods must have been of frequent occurrence.
When Cromwell marched through Ireland in 1649-50, with fire and sword, ruthlessly slaughtering men, women and children, numbers of fugitives found refuge from his barbarity in the Athea district! Owing to the absence of roadways proper, the country about Athea was isolated to a great extent during this period, and for a long time afterwards, so that it was only with considerable difficulty the heavily armed and accoutred troopers could manage to reach the place. For these reasons many of the inhabitants of the place, as well as those who found refuge therein, succeeded in escaping the general slaughter. Another factor which, no doubt, contributed to the safety of the people living in that area at the time, was that the surrounding country was too wild and unproductive, and the people themselves too poor, to tempt the cupidity or rapacity of any of the regicide’s followers.
More tomorrow.....


Micko....the Listowel Connection

After last week's great TV documentary on the legend that is Micko O'Dwyer, loads of other Micko stories are surfacing on the internet.

My favourite is this one which appeared on Joe.ie and it  concerns our own Pat Healy as told in his own words:


Listowel were playing in a Northleague final in Ballylongford back in the 80s and I had a stormer from wing-back.
Got about 3-3, and we won, beat Duagh. On the Monday we were down in Tim Kennelly's pub, well on it, and Horse [Tim Kennelly] beckoned me over and said 'You should be in with Kerry, someone should ring Dwyer about you'.
Of course, I was enthralled and before I gathered myself I was shoving 20 pence into the phone box out the back of the pub, ringing Waterville.
'Mr O'Dwyer, it's Pat Healy here from Listowel. We won a North Kerry final yesterday and Tim Kennelly suggested I give you a ring'. 'About what?', says Micko.
'About myself, and maybe I should be on the Kerry team at this stage?'
'And how did you get on?', queries Dwyer.
'Ah very good Micko. I got 3-3 storming forward from wingback, the lads here reckon I could do a job for Kerry'.
'And who were ye playing?'
'Duagh, Micko'.
'Well I'll tell you what', growls Dwyer, 'the next time Kerry are playing Duagh I'll give you a call', and the phone dies.

'I went back into the bar and of course the whole lot of them were falling around the counter, bursting their holes laughing'.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Kerry in the 19th Century, a new face at Writers' Week H.Q. and Mary Young of Ballybunion

Chris Grayson took this photo of Blennerville in Winter


Family Historians Read On

If your New Year resolution is to get down to documenting the family tree and if your ancestors come from Kerry, here is the best place to start

Listowel native, Kay Caball, runs this website which is full of good advice and handy resources for tracing Kerry ancestry.

Here is an example of one of her interesting posts from her very entertaining blog;

A few pointers to life in Kerry in the 19th century:

         Very few Irish people knew (or even cared about) their exact year/date of birth. Even when they wrote down a definite date, that was just a guess.  They weren't trying to fool anyone or be evasive, it was just never of any imprtance at home and only on emigration did it become necessary in the new country for identification purposes.   So rather then settle on a particular date, take dates in a range, from x to y.
         Most Kerry people married within neighbouring townlands.   They met through neighbours, relatives, friends.   In the first half of the century, Kerry men and women mostly married in their early twenties.  After the Great Famine 1845-1852, the average age was thirty and over.   After the Famine,  the more land they tenanted or eventualy owned, dictated that 'matches' were made. These were the middle to 'strong' farmers.  To marry into a farm, a girl had to have a dowry which in turn would provide the means for the husband's sisters to get married themselves.   A man marrying into a wife's farm (known  as a 'cliamhán isteach), needed to have cash/youth (preferably both) with a view to keeping and developing that farm.
         For most of the nineteenth century, travel in County Kerry was walking or by horse or donkey & car.   A person walking will average 3 - 4 miles per hour, a person riding or on a horse or donkey cart will average 5 -8 miles per hour. Thus a person could travel up to 12 miles each day, have time to socialise or conduct business (market day) within a 12 mile radius.
         The nearest port for emigration, with ships mostly to Canada, was Blennerville, the Port of Tralee from 1828 until 1867.    The railway came to Tralee in 1859. Stopping in Rathmore, Killarney, Farranfore and Tralee it was then possible to travel to Queenstown or Dublin by rail and onwards from there with most ships from Queenstown bound for New York (some via Liverpool).  Limerick Port was also used.   Charles Bianconi's long cars started to serve Tralee to Cork at first c. 1828 and eventually called to Killarney, Killorglin and as far as Glenbeigh.  Mail cars also operated between Tralee, Dingle, Castleisland, Killarney and Listowel.  These would be used mostly by 'the gentry', ordinary folk could not afford them.
         Taking into account the travel limitations, ask yourself where they might have attended church, where would they have gone for market and fair days and to purchase the ticket for their emigration?  Where did they go for court and legal affairs?  Were there actually roads in their native townlands?   As late as 1828, the Kenmare to Derrynane road was seven hazardous hours on horseback and according to Daniel O'Connell, best approached by Killarney or by sea.  Getting to north Kerry from Limerick was best acheieved by boat to Tarbert and thence by poor and boggy roads to Tralee.
         Why did your ancestors emigrate?  To get work is the immediate answer. Opportunities for education, particularly in the first half of the century,  were very limited, especially if you lived outside the main towns, and while education was highly prized, it was not always possible for all the children in large families to avail of it.  There was no employment for the vast majority, no land available to acquire and absolutely no 'opportunities' as they are now called.
         Who paid the passage and why did they decide on particular locations?   This is probably one and the same question.  Single people emigrating got the fare from relatives already in the emigrant country, which would be paid back after arrival and employment.  This 'passage money' would then be re-cycled on to the next brother or sister whose turn would come to take the  boat.   The location was not chosen by the emigrant, he/she choose to go where there were already relatives, neighbours and friends who would try to have jobs already lined up on arrival.  Different Kerry parishes are well known for providing large numbers of immigrants who settled in the same destinations.  West Kerry and Ballyferriter/Dunquin/The Blasket Island natives almost all went to Springfield, Massachusetts.   Ballymacelligott natives went in large numbers to New Zealand and the Beara Peninsula people went to Montana.   The Five Points, Lr. Manhattan became home to hundreds of Lansdowne Estate emigrants.
         Why are names of our ancestors all spelled in different ways?   Standarised spelling was not the norm, poor education meant that a lot of people could not read or write in English.   A majority of Kerry people spoke mostly Irish up to the Great Famine with those in the Dingle Penisula and South Kerry continuing to do so.  If a clergyman or government official wrote your name down as he heard it and you were unable to read or write yourself, you just went along with that spelling for the rest of your life and indeed so did your descendants.   I have just been tracing a family of 'Corrigans' who turn out to be 'Corridons' in Kerry and I could quote many more such examples.  And we won't get into the Sullivans (or O'Sullivans) who ordinarlily went by a 'branch' name at home and still used that on arrival in the U.S., making it very very difficult to find ancestors later.
         Aother query often received.  Yes both 'Sullivan' and 'O'Sullivan' are the same as well as all the other 'O's  - O'Connor, O'Connell, O'Driscoll, O'Neill, etc.,(Connor/Connell/Driscoll/Neill).
                  Last but not least, if your ancestor seems to have married two different ladies, or two different men, check that the first has died, or that the Church marriage register (pre 1864) or Civil Marriage record (post 1864) denotes widow or widower as No, we didn't have divorce in Ireland (or Kerry) until June 1996.


A New Face in Listowel Writers' Week Office

 Sinead MacDonnell is the new kid on the block. She joins Eilish Wren, Maria McGrath and Máire Logue. This is the team who will be organising the festival for 2018.

Writers Week will run from May 30th to June 3 2018


Who is Mary Young?

On my "Twelve Cribs of Christmas" tour with my Christmas visitors I made it to Ballybunion. Above is the lovely crib in their magnificent church.

This was my first opportunity to see and photograph the new statue of Mary Young. Apart from the fact that the image made me feel cold (it was a freezing day in this exposed space), I'm not at all sure this sculpture is appropriate in its current location.

We are used to statues of saints in the grounds of our churches. It will take me a while to get used to a statue of a rich benefactor, dressed for a ball rather than a trip to mass.

Who was Mary Young?

According to a report in The Kerryman at the unveiling of the statue, Mary was a very generous contributor to the parish of Ballybunion.

She was born, Mary O'Malley, in Kilconly. She married John Young, an English tea planter whom she met in Clare where she was working and they lived in Dublin.

After John's death, she inherited his great wealth. She came to live in Ballybunion. She lived at Doon Road for 12 years. When she returned to Dublin in the early 1880s she gave her house to the the parish to be used as a school.  The Sisters of Mercy built a convent and ran a school there for over 100 years.

Mary returned from Dublin and built herself a new house in Church Road and she suggested to Fr. O'Connor that they build a new church to be called St. John's "in memory of her husband". 

Mary used much of her inherited wealth to build the church. It cost €8,500.  It was built in the style of Pugin which was a style very popular at the time.

The church was designed in 1892 by the Dublin-based architect George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921). Building began in 1894, but Mary Young died later that year before the church was completed, and she is buried with her husband in Kilehenny Cemetery. The first Mass in the church was celebrated on 6 August 1897, when Saint John’s was completed. 
(source: Patrick Comerford )

Her contribution to Ballybunion is enormous and she richly deserves to be remembered and honoured. 

However I wouldn't have put her on her own in a low cut ballgown on a cold seat outside the magnificent church she helped to build.


New Face of Tralee, 2018

Photo by Dave Curran on Facebook

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Duagh Parish Live Crib 2017 and an aerial view of Listowel in the 1950s

Sheep at The Gap of Dunloe

Photo: Chris Grayson


Duagh's Live Crib

The best of all the Christmas cribs is the one in Duagh. It gets better every year . This year my visit was tinged with much sadness as we missed Fr. Pat Moore from a place he loved so well.

Here is a link to Fr. Pat in 2015, when he was on a break from his treatment, introducing the crib;

Duagh Parish Crib, Christmas 2015

A large photo of Fr. Pat greets you as you enter the crib and his presence is everywhere in this lovely place. I hope that the local people, who are still grieving his loss, continue the tradition of the live crib for years and years. It was a project of which he was very proud and he was so so proud of his friends who worked so hard on this project, year in year out.

My boys posed for me with this lovely window in the background. I taught them about the candle and the welcome and we felt the welcome and the hospitality on our trip to Duagh.

There is lots to learn in Duagh. A visit to this crib is a time to linger and ponder the story of Christmas while we revel in community, family and remembrance.

The entrance is through a magical leafy path  which creates the atmosphere of a cave.
The first stable was a kind of cave.

Inside it's dark and intimate with the crowing of the cock and the smells of the animals bringing the story to life.

The crib tableau was a gift from the cathedral in Killarney. It forms the centrepiece of this lovely scene.

After our visit to the live crib we went into the church. It too was in all  its festive dress.


Poles Apart

Bernard O'Connell follows this blog from Brampton, Ontario in Canada.

Julie Evans follows from down under in Sydney, Australia


Listowel in the 1950s

Ned O'Sullivan posted these photos of Listowel in the 1950s on Facebook