Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween, Jimmy Hickey story continued, Daisy Kearney honoured and Santa in Patrick, Street, Cork in October 2016

(photo; Chris Grayson)



This year Halloween has taken on a sinister aspect with these prank killer clowns popping up unexpectedly. I preferred it when we prayed for the salvation of the souls of our dead relatives at this time of year.


North Kerry, Cork and Limerick Dancers and Musicians at the Eistedfodd

It is often claimed that Riverdance first introduced Irish dancing to a world audience. It did not. 

Jimmy Hickey of Listowel had already made that introduction.

This is a postcard of the lovely village of Llangollen where the annual Eisteddfod takes place.

One year at the Eisteddfod, while they were waiting to perform in the marquee, Jimmy and the troupe put on a performance in the local square. The local people loved it and the prolonged applause echoed all over the town square. These open air performances became a feature of the Irish visitors schedule as did visits to old folks homes and schools, reaching an audience who would not otherwise get to see the show. The directors of the festival were very impressed with this.

The whole purpose of the Eistedfodd was to introduce the countries of the world to each other's cultures and in this way to promote peace and understanding. When Jimmy and his dancers were there there were 42 other nations taking part. In 1993 BBC Wales decided to follow the preparations of three of the participating countries. Ireland was chosen.They sent a camera crew to North Kerry and they filmed the dancers preparing, the late Mary Doyle, Kathleen McCarthy and a group of women making the costumes, a cross roads dance and a feis in Ballybunion.

The camera crew filmed the dancers dancing at Finuge crossroads and then in the programme this footage came first and then cut to the same dancers dancing in a pub in Wales.

Jimmy and his dancers appeared several times on RTE in the Bibi Baskin show, on the Late Late Show with John B. Keane and in numerous foreign television channels.

.Jimmy Hickey and his dancers at festivals and on TV


Daisy Kearney

The special guest at this year's Gary MacMahon Singing Festival was storyteller Daisy Kearney.

Daisy Kearney tells a story


Santa Has Landed

Where else but the real capital of Ireland, Cork. I just hit Pana in time to see his arrival at Brown Thomas for his photo shoot.

This lanky fellow who could be straight out of Dickens was offering us all mince pies.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Listowel, Jimmy Hickey and His Dancers in Wales,

Welcome Weather

We have had an unseasonably mild October in 2016. This thought struck me the other day as I walked through the Square. Shops still have their advertising outdoors, an unusual sight for late October


Change of Scene for the Roadworks

Just sweeping up.  William Street is all done and dusted for the time being. It will have to be revisited again but for now it's the turn of Market Street .

The road is temporarily resurfaced and life can get back to normal for a while for Lynch's Cafe and Mags Deli.


An Example to us all

This hardy lady was out bright and early do her shopping.


Jimmy Hickey in Wales

The first time Jimmy attended the Eistedfodd was in 1982 with this group from the Sliabh Luachra area.

Let me fill you in on the background.

This is how his involvement started. Jimmy’s dancers from Sliabh Luachra were performing in a hotel in Killarney. The organisers of the Welsh Eisteddfod were there and were very impressed with what they saw. 

 (An eisteddf is a Welsh festival of literature, music and performance. The tradition of such a meeting of Welsh artists dates back to at least the 12th century, when a festival of poetry and music was held by Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth at his court in Cardigan in 1176, but the decline of the bardic tradition made it fall into abeyance. The current format owes much to an 18th-century revival arising out of a number of informal eisteddfodau.   Wikipedia)
In lay man’s language it is a kind of Welsh fleadh cheoil.

The directors of the Eisteddfod saw Jimmy and his dancers in Killarney and invited them to come to Wales. They were only delighted to go and they returned there to great success year after year.
On one occasion Prince Charles attended the eisteddfod and he asked Jimmy if he could teach him to dance. He was asking the right man.
Terry Wogan was the M.C. another year.

This was the year they met Rolf Harris

Jack Leahy R.I.P. used to work as a ticket collector on the trains in London. He remembered watching the hoards boarding the train for the Eisteddfod every summer and  he envied them. He had to pinch himself to believe that not only was he finally attending the festival but he was participating.

Here is a link to video footage of Jimmy and crew chatting with Prince Charles and then putting on their show with the prince in the audience. Around 7,000 people attend the Eisteddfod every year.

 If you keep watching you will see the dancers performing at the Harmonie Festival in 1999. I'll tell you more about that anon.

I talked to one of the ladies, Sheila O’Connell of Ballydesmond, who went on that first trip to the Eisteddfod and she remembers it very fondly, They were all very aware that they were representing Ireland. They dressed in Irish traditional costumes and they carried the flag everywhere they went. They were accommodated in local houses and became firm friends with their local hosts.


Halloween Parade

This is the home of Listowel KDYS.

This is what they are planning for Halloween, October 31 2016

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