Friday, 29 June 2012

Greenlawn and Jerry Ryan

Listowel Town Square resplendent in the sunshine of yesterday. You can't beat summer in Ireland, if we only knew on which day it was going to be.

While out and about with camera I took a few photos of the old Greenlawn or Kennedy Nursing Home. You will remember it was the residence of the very first TD for Kerry, James Crowley. Sadly, I found it looking very overgrown and neglected.

What a shame!


By contrast, isn't this only magnificent1

Puffin on Sceilig photographed by Laura Vaughan.


Every now and again something happens in town. I hear it when its over and I am kicking myself that I missed it. Such an event was the retirement of Jerry Ryan. Jerry cleaned our streets for years and his smiling amiable presence was part of what makes Listowel unique. My photograph was taken on the Monday after the Races a few years back.
 I wish Jerry a long and happy retirement, and a well deserved rest.


A Friday smile

These cute pictures are from the Pathé war archive. At least the poor children would have great eyesight!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The declining art of letter writing and a famous letter

Remember yesterday's threshing?
By pure co-incidence I came across this photo in my travels through the internet.

Children at a threshing in Dungarvan around 1940


People have always communicated with one another in some written form. For a long time it was in drawings and symbols.
The ancient Egyptians and Sumerians were the first people to create a writing system.

The first letter writing manuals started coming out 1750-1800, with 400 such works in the US alone.
Until this point, it was assumed that only men wrote letters. But from the mid  18th century, gender division of letter writing began to be questioned publicly.
In 1763, the Ladies Complete Letter Writer was published. Instructions to ladies on how to write a letter differed greatly from men's instructions. Men wrote business and formal letters. The ladies wrote invitations, acceptances and more informal and gossipy letters.
Letter writing was an important part of childhood instruction.
In 1860, the post office was invented, and then letter writing really took off.
I fear that we, in our generation are witnessing a decline in the art and practice of letter writing, certainly in the practice of writing letters to relatives to keep them up to speed with our thoughts and feelings and all the tittle tattle and minutae of our lives.

I hope you are following with me the trials and tribulations of the Gleasure family of The Square as chronicled in their letters;

I have recently come across another site called "Letters of Note". It contains all kinds of interesting correspondence. I loved this one. I hope you enjoy it too.

In April of 1962, 18-year-old Keith Richards wrote the following enthusiastic letter to his aunt, "Patty," and described, amongst other things, an encounter some months previously that would ultimately change his life — the moment he met Mick Jagger for the first time since being childhood friends.

Three months after the letter was written, "The Rollin' Stones" played their first gig at the Marquee Club in London. The rest is history.

(Source: Keith Richards' autobiography, Life; Image: Keith Richards & Mick Jagger in 1963, via.)

6 Spielman Rd

Dear Pat,

So sorry not to have written before (I plead insane) in bluebottle voice. Exit right amid deafening applause.

I do hope you're very well.

We have survived yet another glorious English Winter. I wonder which day Summer falls on this year?

Oh but my dear I have been soooo busy since Christmas beside working at school. You know I was keen on Chuck Berry and I thought I was the only fan for miles but one mornin' on Dartford Stn. (that's so I don't have to write a long word like station) I was holding one of Chuck's records when a guy I knew at primary school 7-11 yrs y'know came up to me. He's got every record Chuck Berry ever made and all his mates have too, they are all rhythm and blues fans, real R&B I mean (not this Dinah Shore, Brook Benton crap) Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Chuck, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker all the Chicago bluesmen real lowdown stuff, marvelous. Bo Diddley he's another great.

Anyways the guy on the station, he is called Mick Jagger and all the chicks and the boys meet every Saturday morning in the 'Carousel' some juke-joint well one morning in Jan I was walking past and decided to look him up. Everybody's all over me I get invited to about 10 parties. Beside that Mick is the greatest R&B singer this side of the Atlantic and I don't mean maybe. I play guitar (electric) Chuck style we got us a bass player and drummer and rhythm-guitar and we practice 2 or 3 nights a week. SWINGIN'.

Of course they're all rolling in money and in massive detached houses, crazy, one's even got a butler. I went round there with Mick (in the car of course Mick's not mine of course) OH BOY ENGLISH IS IMPOSSIBLE.

"Can I get you anything, sir?"
"Vodka and lime, please"
"Certainly, sir"

I really felt like a lord, nearly asked for my coronet when I left.

Everything here is just fine.

I just can't lay off Chuck Berry though, I recently got an LP of his straight from Chess Records Chicago cost me less than an English record.

Of course we've still got the old Lags here y'know Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and 2 new shockers Shane Fenton and Jora Leyton SUCH CRAP YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD. Except for that greaseball Sinatra ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Still I don't get bored anymore. This Saturday I am going to an all night party.

"I looked at my watch
It was four-o-five
Man I didn't know
If I was dead or alive"
Quote Chuck Berry
Reeling and a Rocking

12 galls of Beer Barrel of Cyder, 3 bottle Whiskey Wine. Her ma and pa gone away for the weekend I'll twist myself till I drop (I'm glad to say).

The Saturday after Mick and I are taking 2 girls over to our favourite Rhythm & Blues club over in Ealing, Middlesex.

They got a guy on electric harmonica Cyril Davies fabulous always half drunk unshaven plays like a mad man, marvelous.

Well then I can't think of anything else to bore you with, so I'll sign off goodnight viewers


Keith xxxxx
Who else would write such bloody crap


The picture that is in every paper today

Did we ever think we would see the day? 
No bowing, apparently, but lots of smiling.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Saving the hay and harvesting the corn

This is how it's done today, tractors, machinery and everything done quick, quick quick.

I recall a more relaxed time in the meadows, when  haymaking took several days. You watched for any sign of a settled spell and when it arrived the hay was mown with a side bar. This was a vicious looking implement with a long bar of triangular blades. If memory serves me right, these were called socks. This mowing bar would have been edged with a rasp in readiness for this day. When the hay was "down", everyone was on edge. A spell of rain now and everything would be ruined.
A meitheal was gathered and the hay was turned with pikes or a hay turner to expose the underside to the sun.

When the hay was dry or "saved" the big day came. This was haymaking day and it was a long hard backbreaking day. The hay was raked into rows, gathered into cocks and finally piled into wynnds, the field was raked and everyone rested easy. Even if it rained now, the hay was saved and so fodder for the cattle for the winter was assured.

Haymaking in 1920 from National Geographic.

Harvesting corn with a reaper and binder in 1900.

You will see from this picture that this farmer is working with three horses. This took a lot of skill. When the corn was cut it was bound by the machine into sheaves. These then had to be "stood" into stooks to await the arrival of the thresher.

I remember well the excitement of the arrival of the threshing machine. It usually pulled in the night before, in readiness for the big job of work the next day.

Threshing photograph from East Kerry Roots.

Those three men you see on top of the machine are feeding the sheaves into the machine. The 2 with pikes are keeping them supplied. The gang at the front of the machine  are filling the corn into sacks. Notice the small pile of sacks at the foot of the ladder and the filled ones in the foreground. The threshing process is separating the corn from the straw. The straw is being built into a rick at the back of the machine. This photo was taken near the end of the day as the straw rick is huge and the pile of sheaves is low. At the back of the machine there would be a pile of chaff, the horrible prickly ears that were cut from the corn. This was the only useless byproduct of threshing. The work done, the threshing machine would move on to the next farm and the farmyard fowl would be let out into the haggart for their annual post threshing feast.


A postcard depicting turfcutting in the 1900s.


On a completely different note: this is well worth a read as Billy Keane bares his soul in this honest and revealing piece in yesterday's Irish Independent.


History was made today when Queen Elizabeth visited a Roman Catholic church in Enniskillen as part of her trip the Northen Ireland. This gesture has much more profound connotations than any handshake, I think.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Fleadh Cheoil Chiarraí, Sr. Patricia Hickman

Last weekend, Fleadh Cheoil Chiarraí took place in Ballybunion. It was a resounding success.

Jer took this video of Moss Walsh dancing and Sean Breen singing:

While I'm on the subject of traditional music, here is a link to Ger Greaney's grandfather, the late great Con Greaney of Rooska singing Nancy Hogan's Goose in 1997.


So North and South Kerry are to be united into one constituency. There is nothing new in that, according to Jer Kennelly. He sends us this photograph of Kerry’s first TD, James Crowley.  James, a vet, was a member of Sinn Féin. He is pictured here with his wife Clementine Burson  c. 1930. 

They lived in this house on Upper Church St.  which later became a nursing home and is now lying derelict. There is a beautiful wooden staircase in the house, designed by Clementine herself.

This a photo of Michael Crowley, brother of James, who was a doctor. He practiced in England.


This photograph taken by Jer Kennelly on Saturday in the old Knockanure graveyard is of Sr. Patricia Hickman from Melbourne. She was in Lixnaw for a short visit and was tracing her ancestors while here. Noreen O"Connell and Jer spent some time helping her in this mission. Sr. Patricia is a descendant of Anna Pope Hennessey and she is a cousin of Sean O'Connell of New Zealand who sent us the Pope Hennessey photos some time ago.


A Tuesday laugh!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Gleasure photos, Americano then and now

My new friend, Ben has sent me these really interesting photos of his ancestors in Listowel. I'll remind you. This Gleasure family lived in the pub that is now The Americano. The family emigrated to the U.S., returned to Listowel and then one of them, Frank went back to Massachusetts. Frank kept all the letters (1897-1955) that were sent to him from his family in Listowel and now Ben is sharing them with us all here;

The letters are full of snippets of gossip and valuable social history.  The irony is not lost on me. Frank waited days or even weeks for news of home and then treasured every letter. Now Ben uploads a letter in the U.S. and we read it instantly thousands of miles away in Listowel. Letterwriting is an art that is completely undervalued in this era of instant communication.

 Annie Gleasure

This is the shop in the Square with Joseph in the doorway. The door on the left was the front door of the families living quarters. Joseph longed to go the U.S. and when he eventually got the opportunity, he was tragically killed in a railway accident only 6 months after realizing his dream and joining his brother in America.

George is a name that occurs frequently in this family. This is one of the Georges. Looks like a 19th century George to me.

This is young Geroge, Frank's brother.

Gleasure's pub in The Square Listowel in the early 1900's

As you can see, the house has changed very little,  the windows and doors have been replaced and the tree is a recent addition. The street light and electricity transformer box are a testament to progress.
Quilter's Veterinary shop was obviously a private house in the last century. The  Moloney premises, where Jimmy Deenihan's office is, seems to have been taken down a story.


I ask you, what is going on here? Some daft knitters appear to have covered Molly Malone's wheel in a knitted sleeve. Curiouser and curiouser!


Meanwhile, at home in Kerry, Jimmy Deenihan unveiled a statue of Mick O'Dwyer. The statue of the legendary footballer and manager is in Waterville and it was unveiled on Saturday.

The photo was taken by "Myrtle" and appears in Wikipaedia.


Fealegood's video of the old railway track walk is here:

Lovely! and better still.....the first of many!


Touching gesture:  Robbie Keane scored for LA Galaxy on Saturday and then held up this jersey.

Friday, 22 June 2012

St. John's Eve

Tomorrow, June 23 is Midsummer or St. John's Eve. I had never heard of this feast being observed until I came to Listowel. Here the children build bonfires at crossroads and make a nuisance of themselves to passing motorists.
Once upon a time St. John's Eve was an important ritual in the Irish calendar. Athea, which is just down the road from Listowel is mentioned in Danaher's The Year in Ireland as a place where this tradition was strong.

" In Athea a circular bonfire was made near the blessed well where the patron saint of the parish, St. Bartholemew, was honoured. Round the fire gathered young and old. There was much fun and music; a dance was started and games were played. while some young men competed in casting weights or in feats of strength, speed and agility. I gathered that it was mostly the women who shared in the prayers for gardens and for good weather. Neglect in this respect might lead to a bad harvest...."

In some areas, ashes from the fires were collected the next day and scattered on the fields. In other areas people were encouraged to leap over the fire. Sometimes, goods that had been left on people's property in order to work "piseoga" on them were thrown on to the bonfire. Still another belief was that broken rosary beads or other religious objects could be burned in the fire without any disrespect.


My niece visited Chicago recently and provided me with this pic.


In The Library of Congress there is large collection of photographs of Ireland. The caption on this one says; Kerry woman on her way to her son's funeral, 1905

This one is a Killarney sheep fair in 1901

A photo from nearer home and not in the library of congress.

This cute photograph was taken in Main St. Listowel in 1952. The boys on the rocking horse are twins, Jerry and John R.I.P. Sheehy. The photo, which the late John shared with me many years ago was taken outside their family home, now Morkan's Jewellers.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Midsummer, Festivals

Summer officially started yesterday!!!!

I made a mistake. I was about to tell you that today is the summer solstice, but if I were to say that I would be wrong for yesterday was the longest day and officially marked midsummer. 

"This year's summer solstice takes place a day earlier than it's been for the past three years, due to the fact that 2012 is a leap year—this February got an extra day, to keep our calendar year of 365 days in sync with the astronomical year, which is about 365.24 days."


May I suggest a motto for summer 2012:  
Let your dreams be bigger than your fears and your actions louder than your words.


Festivals on both sides of the Atlantic

If you are planning a visit to the Kingdom this summer, please plan your trip to coincide with our Week of Welcomes. New events are being added all the time. Danny Russell is planning a Family and Gardens Festival on the same weekend with Dog Show, Talent Competition and garden visits.  I'll bring you more details of this as soon as they are available .

Meanwhile, take a look again at NKRO's lineup and contact us if you are interested in any or all of the events.

If you are lucky enough to live in sunny San Diego, you might like to support this:

Presented by San Diego Youth Gaelic Football (SDYGAA)

For more information regarding "A Taste of Ireland" or San Diego Youth Gaelic Football, please visit


Caroline O'Callaghan sings Many Young Men of Twenty here:


One Listowel shop has closed and one is about to open: Delicates on Charles St. has ceased trading and we are soon to have a new toyshop in Olde Mill Lane. I'll keep you posted.


I took this photo during Writers' Week 2005. You'll recognize a few faces.


This photo is captioned "Shaped by history" and is part of a collection in The Hunt Museum in Limerick.

Sorchadh Wood spotted this in Clontarf, Co. Dublin yesterday and sent it to

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Martin Hickey,some shops and Killarney long ago

Martin Hickey selling a ticket to Packie Bonner in John. B.s in July 2008 when the bigwigs of Irish soccer paid Listowel Celtic a visit. BTW John Delaney did buy one too.


A few shops that have got a recent facelift:


This is lovely: North Kerry wildlife in Spring and Summer 2012


Somebody who posts as "Kerry Climbing" recently posted some lovely old photos of Killarney.

Auger Lake at The Gap of Dunloe

An early picture of Kate Kearney's Cottage with jaunting car and tourists.

Moriarty's cottage.

This is a later picture of Kate Kearney's Cottage after if was slated. Tourist trade is obviously picking up

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Billy's tribute to his father, John B. Keane

Because it fell during Writers' Week, I overlooked sharing this gem with you. I'm posting it this week instead, just after Fathers' Day, as a very appropriate time to read it.
Because  The  Irish Independent only puts part of the paper online, I had to type this up myself. I hope there are not too many typos in it.


My father the hero 1953 intermediate final

by Billy Keane

He couldn't watch an all Ireland.  Off with him then.  Out to Dirrha bog, he walked at speed for the 70 and prayed for Kerry until the rosary beads nearly fell off the chain from the constant erosion between his thumb and index finger.

My dad always knew the result of the match before he ever got back to the car.  If Kerry were beaten, walkers would be out on the wetlands within minutes of the final whistle.  They couldn't bear to watch another county lift Sam.  Their forlorn faces and funereal gait told their own story.

If not a soul appeared in the bog, on would go the car radio and Michaél O Muircheartaigh or Weeshie Fogarthy or Liam Higgins would tell him that Kerry won.

Then he would watch the recording.  And he'd watch it again every couple of days after that until the following May when the championship started and there were new games to be savoured.

His 10th anniversary was on Wednesday last.  I'm not as sad as you might think.  Not that I don't miss him.  He was great sport.

It was about a fortnight before dad died that another John Keane passed away.  John's sister Nora is married to Tadhg Moriarty and the Moriartys are our friends and allies.  Eugene Moriarty, who finished fourth in the world cycling championship, is one of the clan and is a true Corinthian.

Dad insisted on going to the graveyard.  He was weak and very wobbly on his feet.  On the way out he looked at me and said: "sure it is hardly worth my while going home."

We broke down laughing even though both of us were fully aware the ref was lifting the whistle to his mouth and that he would be back there for a good, sooner rather than later.

We planted him in the left half forward position.  There is no dice throw of pebbles over his grave.  It's grass, like the small square in the football field over the wall.

On Monday night he will hear the shouts of players and spectators in the John B Keane League.  He'll be sitting on the arch of a Celtic Cross, legs dangling as he looks out over the graveyard wall into Frank Sheehy Park.  He'd be cheering on his granddaughter.  In continuity there is a kind of here and now immortality.

Listowel Emmetts were always part of his life.  His three sons played for the club.  Conor and John made the Kerry minors and he was so proud, but he never let on in front of me.

On the night I was cut from Kerry minor training, he handed me a fiver and said: "find a nice girl in Ballybunion and tell her your troubles."

He made no attempt to have me restored even though the trainer, Seamus Mac Gearailt was a good friend.  Which is as it should be.

But he was always there to back you up when the going got tough.  I was a senior at 16 and was propelled into orbit with a cowardly punch from an opportunist assassin who specialised in taking out young lads.  Dad ran onto the pitch to save me.

I was mortified.  Someone tried to hold him back but it would have been easier to mop up the Feale and squeeze it into a bucket.  The bully bolted.  He said he was more afraid of what my dad might say to him than any physical punishment.

I was about six and he was coming to the end of his career at 36.  Some lad hit him a shoulder and  down he went.  I started to bawl crying and ran onto the pitch.  And he was mortified.  I'm told he was a very good player.  Fast, if furious, with a great leap for the ball.

He was 70 and was recovering from several courses of chemotherapy and radiation.  Dad invited  a young buck round the back of the stand in Listowel to sort things out.  He was president of Listowel Emmets at the time and  he felt he should avenge  every insult to his beloved club.

He kissed me when I won all of my one North Kerry Championship back in the days when there wasn't much paternal kissing or hugging.  Dad argued with half of Tarbert that day in the stands and 10 minutes after the match he was off drinking and singing with them.

That was him.  The temper lasted no longer than a lightning flash but it was thunderous and spectacular.

He had a dark secret.  Every family has one, but this is very, very bad.  Couldn't be worse in fact.

My dad spent some of the happiest days of his life in Doneraile in County Cork, where he was a chemist  assistant.

Dad played for Cork in the national league game against Waterford.  The game was abandoned when the pitch became flooded -- with blood.  The next round was against Kerry and he retired from Cork football before the game, undefeated.

Somewhere in the everywhere, he is with us.  Exactly where he is , I do not know but I sense his presence.  When I call to dad's allotment in the lea of the stands I feel he's advising me and I tell him my problems.

The days of rapid fire Hail Marys merging like a closing concertina have passed.  Now I talk to him.  Maybe I'm some sort of medium ventriloquist  and it is me talking to me, but I'm pretty certain he is there in that somewhere over the rainbow.

Dad died at 6:27 AM on May 30th, 2002.  On the 10th anniversary of his last act, I was up until nearly 3 getting ready for Writers' Week but I woke early.  At 6:27 AM.  And I didn't set my clock.  I wouldn't mind but never once in his life did he call us for school.

When asked how he wanted to be remembered there was no mention of Oscars or doctorates.  "I wanted to be known as the man who scored the winning point in the Kerry intermediate final of 1953."

Yes, I am happy we had him for so long and for the dad that he was.  He was a great man for bringing small boys to big matches.  It was Croke Park 1963 at the Grounds tournament final between Kerry and Dublin.  My first time.  You never forget even if it was all those years ago.  Dad lifted me up in his arms to show me the long drop from the height of the top of the Hogan stand.

"What if I fall, dad?"
"Don't worry Bill, boy," he said.
"You are safe here with me." 
And I still am.

Irish Independent/Saturday 2  June 2012


Jimmy Deenihan told a little story on the opening night of Writers' Week. He was presenting the inaurgural Con Houlihan young sports journalist award. He said that he visited Con in hospital one time and he said to him, "I think Billy Keane is figuring to be the next Con Houlihan." Con's reply was, "He  has a long way to go."
On the evidence of that article, he is well on the way.


2 Team photos both with Keane involvement.


Aung San Suu Kyi  of Burma at the Áras yesterday.