Friday, 23 August 2019

Tralee, The Phone Box and some Cork Street Art


Photo: Chris Grayson



These are some of the Rose dresses on display in Kerry County Museum until October.

These are some of the Rose bushes in the nearby Tralee Park. As you can see the new gardener   and his team are getting to grips with the sadly neglected rose beds. He has a huge task on his hands but the park is coming back to life again and, hopefully it will soon be restored to its former glory.


The phone box

Mattie Lennon

A public phone in Foley's Bar in Castle

The US presidency is a Tudor monarchy plus telephones.(Anthony Burgess)
The day of the familiar Irish phone box is drawing to a close. Earlier this year the powers-that-be decided to reduce the number of post boxes from 4,850 to 2,699. Since usage of the public phone has fallen by 80% in the past five years, how long before the total demise of the phone box? The Kiosk, especially in rural areas, provided a valuable link with the outside world. But, in the words of Clinical Psychologist, Marie Murray, “ What of their psychological significance rather than their utilitarian worth? What role did they play in the lives of people? What privacy did they afford, away from the home telephone for those lucky enough to have a telephone in the house but unfortunate enough to have no privacy using that instrument at home?”Dr. Murray goes on to say that phone boxes , “ will become but quaint memories of an older generation regaling their grandchildren with tales of trysts at the local telephone box or romance conducted through whispered confidences in that semi-private box in the middle of the village or at the end of the road . . . ”
In the days when one went through the Operator there was the story of the Cavan man who phoned his friend looking for the loan of a tenner only to be told, “It’s a bad auld line, I can’t hear you.” When the request was repeated it was, once again, met with,“ I can’t hear you”. At this stage the Operator cut in with, “I can hear him perfectly”. The answer was ready, “You give him the loan of the tenner, so.”
The first “public” phone in our area was in the Post Office in Lacken where most of the calls were to the Priest, the Guards, the Doctor, the Vet or The A.I. man (or “the collar-and-tie-bull” as he was known.) The Post Office was also a shop which opened late so nocturnal communications pertaining to illicit relationships could sometimes be conducted, albeit in whispered tones. (Or so I’m told.)
Lacken eventually got a Phone-Box and conversations could be carried out in a stentorian voice without fear of “ear-wigging.” Some “coins” used were not Legal Tender (or even legal.) Washers of a certain diameter and “push-outs” from galvanised junction-boxes, used by electricians, would suffice. (Or so I’m told.)
By “tapping out” the numbers on the top of the cradle (1,9 and 0 were free) one could get through to any number. (Or so I’m told.)
When Decimal-Currency was introduced in 1971 it took a while to have the Phones adapted. The new Decimal 1P coin was exactly the same size as the old sixpence and worked very well. (Or so I’m told.)
Another favourite trick was to block the return-chute with a piece of rolled up twine and to return for the proceeds when a number of people had pressed “Button B” without getting any refund. (Or so I’m told.)
Nowadays when I hear the Dublin joke, “What do Northside girls use for protection? A Phone-box”, it reminds me that at times in rural Ireland the Phone-box was often utilised for erotic pelvic activity while parallel with the perpendicular. (Or so I’m told.)
When a not-too-well-liked person would be retiring it would be said, “They’re holding his retirement do in a phone-box”.

On one occasion, in a neighbouring parish, a female who was presumed to have contracted a “social disease” used the phone and civic-minded local woman immersed it (the phone, not the female caller) in a bucket of Jeye’s Fluid. This caused a malfunction which the P&T engineer couldn’t find a cause for. A local wag said, “you were poxed to get it workin’ agin.”
When Mobiles were getting plentiful and it looked like the humble Phone box would soon be redundant I made a suggestion to Eircom as to the possible utilisation of same . . as Condom-Dispensers. And I even had an idea for cost cutting in the area of signage; by using some of the existing logos and slogans. For instance; wouldn’t the Eircom logo, with very slight modification, look remarkably like a rolled-up condom? And where would you leave slogans like, “Let your fingers do the walking”. Do you think they acknowledged my suggestion? They didn’t even phone me.


On a Cork Street

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Dursey, Photo exhibition in 2007, Heritage Week 2019 and National Treasures from a Pharmacy

Dursey Island, Co Cork

My Cork family took a trip to Dursey at the weekend. It's a beautiful, unspoiled place.

This speed limit sign looks like a bit of a challenge. I think maybe it was placed there by some joker.


Heritage Week 2019

So far I've been to a talk on The Power of Matchmaking, The Rose of Tralee Fashion Exhibition where I saw close up some of the gorgeous and unusual dress worn by Rose winners over the years. This exhibition is in the Kerry County Museum in Tralee. On Tuesday I was in Kerry Writers' Museum again for a seminar on architectural conservation in Listowel.

The highlight so far was a lunchtime talk, also in The Kerry County Museum by Tom Dillon on The Knights of Kerry. This knighthood, Tom told us, was awarded on the battlefield while the hero knight was still bleeding from wounds received in the service of the king.

That's me on the far right with four local North Kerry historians, Martin Moore, Declan Downey, Tom Dillon and Michael Guerin

Tom told us of the mother and father of all family rows between a Fitzmaurice and a Fitzgerald. We heard tales of political and religious intrigue, much bloodshed, imprisonment and skullduggery.
This knight from Ennismore near Listowel didn't fight his way or even talk his way to success. True to form for a man from the Literary Capital of Ireland, he wrote his way out of trouble and lived to tell the tale.
This talk was diligently researched, well prepared and eloquently delivered by the star (for me, anyway) of Heritage Week 2019.
And there are lots more Heritage Week events to come over the next few days.


Listowel Castle

Be sure to take a tour before the summer is through.


Photography Exhibition in 2007

Mattie Lennon visited this exhibition in St. John's and this is the account he posted online about it.
Earlier this year, Dillon Boyer passed away. This is a tribute to him.

Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man. --Edward Steichen
Ever since Joseph Nicephore made the first permanent picture with a camera, in 1826, photography has been evolving as an art form. But a different and separate one, unrelated to any other. 
In the words of Berenice Abbot,”Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself”. 

Saint John’s Arts and Heritage Centre

For the month of September, Saint John’s Arts and Heritage Centre (a former Church) in Listowel, will be home to the works of two Kerry-based photographers Tom Fitzgerald and Dillon Boyer. 
Seeing how the ordinary can become extraordinary, in a frame, one is obliged to concur with the words of Elliot Erwitt, “ . . .Photography has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” 

Dillon Boyer

DILLON BOYER who was born in Kent, England, has been interested in photography for almost sixty years. He was a member of Tunbridge Wells Camera Club where he won many prizes within the club and nationally. On retirement, drawn to the landscape and opportunities for portraiture in the Kingdom, he and his wife Mary moved to Listowel. 
He was a founder member of Listowel Camera Club with John Stack. Under Dillon's guidance it went on to become a major camera club within the Irish Photo scene, winning the National Shield in the mid-nineties, and also hosting the event in 1995. Dillon has won National Medals in the Nature category on two occasions in the 90's. He is also an accomplished Video and wedding photographer. The Canon is his favourite camera. 

Tom Fitzgerald

TOM FITZGERALD, a native Kerryman, has being interested in photography since the mid sixties when, as a young man, he started taking photos with a Kodak instamatic camera. He bought his first SLR camera, a Pentax K500 in 1974 and graduated to Nikon in the eighties. He was a reluctant convert to digital but won’t now travel (even to the shop) without his Digital Nikon SLR. A member of Listowel CC almost from its foundation, Tom has an extensive collection of photos of local people and places as well as prize shots from further afield. 
And his indexing system is just as baffling, to me, as quantum Physics. If you want a pictorial record of a moment frozen in time, be it a First Communion in 1970, Mount Brandon shrouded in mist, or Bill Clinton putting in Ballybunion, the image is produced in seconds. 
This is one Kerryman who doesn’t answer a question with a question. Your query about that shepherd’s cottage backlit by the rising sun will elicit a comprehensive account of the topography of that burgage, with the unpronounceable name, in the Scottish Highlands. And what about the shot of the two ponies on Glenbeigh strand? That was taken on Sunday the nineteenth of August 1979, when the wind was blowing from the east and Seefin illuminated by a waxing moon. 
Landscape (“the supreme test of the photographer”) features largely in the exhibition and includes the fruits of Tom and Dillon’s many trips to Scotland and England. And appropriately enough the exhibition (Which is supported by North Kerry Together Limited), is titled “Near & Far”. 

Sunset at Kerry Head

I attended the opening and it’s amazing the snippets of information the camera-illiterate such as myself can pick up at such a gathering. Amid terms such as “Chromatic aberration”, “Macroscopic”, “Reciprocity failure” and “Tonal range” I learned that the first photograph taken in Ireland was in 1848 and was of Young Irelander Patrick O’Donohue. 

Glen Inchaquin

David Hockney said, “ All you can do with most ordinary photographs is stare at them”. Well, these are not ordinary photographs and if you are in or near Listowel during the next month you call to Saint John’s and you can browse, buy or both. 

Waterville Lake


Artefacts from a Pharmacy

From National Treasures on Facebook

"Array of Items from a Pharmacy. My father was a pharmacist and he bought a shop in Thurles in 1962 that was originally established as Pharmacy Way in 1889. The shop was in its original state and within it, he found these objects among many others. My father, Donal P. Sammon, never threw anything out and kept all the old artefacts he found. The objects include old poison bottles, powders, and a cut-throat razor. My father continued the shop as a pharmacy from 1962 to 2004. I took over from him then and the pharmacy is still going strong. As a pharmacist, I find these objects really interesting. Back then, a pharmacist had to mix medicine in the shop. Opium, cocaine, arsenic, and morphine were regularly used. Thankfully, we don't have to do that today!"
Thanks to Carmel Sammon

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Visitors, Locals,Frederick Chute, Cobweb's Glory, a Thurles milestone and Work in Progress at The Harp and Lion

Visitors in Athea, Co. Limerick in July 2019


Two Listowel Men Taking it Easy in Summer 2019


Frederick Chute


Frederick was born in Listowel, Co Kerry in 1944. He was the eldest of six children to parents Arthur and Betty Chute. Some of his fondest memories were of growing up playing Gaelic football and learning to swim in the River Feale.  He loved the seaside and Ballybunion was the scene for many a happy day at the beach.
He was educated at Listowel Primary School and later at Rockwell College, a prestigious boarding school in Co. Tipperary.    Frederick was athletic as well as academic and did well at school but was also prone to mischief and was caned often by the Priests who taught at the school, for not turning up in time for morning mass.  In fact he was caught a number of times sleeping in the dormitory cupboard during morning mass.    Despite these incidents he enjoyed school and did well in his exams, ultimately taking a place at Trinity College Dublin, where he studied Economics.  
In Listowel as a young man, he was very well known for his football ability and he played in the position of Right Half Back for Listowel and North Kerry.   This led to a lifelong interest in sports and especially football. 
He met his first wife, Irene, at Trinity College and they married and moved to London.  They spent many happy holidays in their camper van in France, Portugal and Cornwall.  The family grew when Charles was born in 1980 and Rachel in 1981. Family meant a lot to him and he absolutely idolised his children.
Frederick trained as a teacher in London and his first permanent position was at the Jewish Free School in Camden, where he taught economics.  The pupils loved Mr. Chute and his innovative way of teaching which was lively and entertaining.  He greatly enjoyed this job and was very popular with pupils and staff.
He went on to teach at Greenwich University and the London School of Economics and completed a part time course at Birkbeck College, London, gaining a Masters Degree in Economics in 1989. Unfortunately his marriage ended in the same year and he lived on his own in Ealing for the next 10 years.
With his additional degree, he gained his next and final job teaching in the City of London School for Boys. He taught sixth form boys, who were extremely challenging and intelligent. Frederick’s commitment to teaching was such that he always prepared well for class.  His creed was that he had to be quite a few steps ahead of the game. He was much beloved by his students and had a particular talent for preparing them for interviews with detailed notes and good coaching.  Many of the boys gained places at Cambridge, Oxford and the London School of Economics.    The boys set up the Mr Chute Appreciation Society on the Internet, with many of his well-known phrases and quirky stories and they even videoed his lessons on their mobile phones in secret!
Frederick met his wife, Judith in 1999. The following year they moved to their present house in Queen Anne’s Grove.     He had many happy years there, and enjoyed numerous hobbies, especially bird keeping, fishing, carpentry, picture framing and after his retirement in 2007, his wonderful allotment where he developed a great passion for getting his hands in the soil and growing fruit and vegetables.   He so enjoyed having his own parsnips and carrots for Christmas dinner! He was also passionate about hard landscaping and completed several patios and fences on his two allotments.  Judith and Frederick also enjoyed travelling, driving from the East to West Coast of America, visiting family in the US and Canada, friends in Egypt and challenging driving and camping all around France, Italy and Switzerland for three months at a time. 
He was always busy, even in retirement, he always wanted to learn, being interested in the Arts, History and Philosophy.  He decided to study part time via the Open University and in his spare time he spent many hours in his study doing research and reading.  Seven years later he was awarded another degree, a Batchelor of Arts in History in 2015.  He proudly collected his degree with Judith in Milton Keynes at his graduation.
However his greatest love was football and he has supported Queens Park Rangers for over 40 years, going to as many games as he could.  He also loved Gaelic football and the highlight was going to the All-Ireland Semi Final and Final in Dublin, especially when Kerry were playing. 
 He enjoyed having his holiday home in Ireland and looked forward to spending time there every summer. He was determined to add joy to his life by acquiring a famous breed of Irish dog, the Kerry blue terrier.  Thus “Fritz” the dog entered our lives and brought Frederick a new dimension.  He was warned that these dogs “take you over” as they like to be the boss and needed strict training.  Frederick gave Fritz plenty of love, not so much discipline and the saying “Kerry Blues don’t have owners, they have staff”, became true.  Despite that, he was so happy with his beautiful dog.
Frederick’s health deteriorated over the last 4 years.   He had suffered with asthma and TB in his youth.  The condition was irreversible and little could be done to help him breathe. He had the most wonderful doctors at the Royal Brompton Hospital who looked after him.  He bore his illness bravely, not talking about it very much but just doing as much as he could with his limitations.  He still enjoyed life but at a slower pace.
In his last Christmas card to Judith, he wrote, “We have been together for a long time and for me it has been a wonderful and loving journey”
 Judith Chute


An Old Playbill

Liam OHainnín found this old programme

I wonder if anyone remembers the performance or knows a date.

A Milestone

This stone at Thurles railway station puzzled me. Two very kind readers helped me out. They both recognised it as a milestone. 

John Lenehan wrote from sunny California  "Hello Mary I believe the stone marker in Thurles indicates the number of miles to Dublin.  I often watched them go down in numbers as we got closer to Dublin on the train."

John had the right idea but he was going in the wrong direction.

I think Michael O'Sullivan is more likely correct. 

Michael wrote, "The milestone post at Thurles station is the distance from Thurles in miles from Thurles station to Kent station in Cork city."


Coming along Nicely

Harp and Lion, Tuesday August 20 1019

One word; WOW!

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Owens of Ballyhorgan, Bibiana Foran and A Wireless Museum

Victorian Post box

This victorian post box in beautiful condition is in the railway station in Thurles. Isn't it so much nicer than our modern rusting functional boxes?


Harriet Owen ...A History

This is Harriet Owen who has family roots in Lixnaw with Paul Kennelly at a recent family reunion and celebration in Sheahan's Cottage in Finuge.

Here in a nutshell is Harriet's family connection to North Kerry

Harriet Owen

In 1750 William Owen (Miller) came from Wales to Rathdowney with his wife, Rebecca and three children. These were Rowland who married Isabella Scissons, They had no children, Robert married Sarah Hely and they had 8 children and Rebecca Owen.
The 7thchild of Robert and Sarah was John Hely Owen (1793-1870). He married Frances Smith in 1827. They had 6 children.

Henry Amyrald Smith Owe, son of John and Frances married Maria Frances gentleman in 1874. They lived in Ballyhorgan, Lixnaw. In 1860 Maria’s father  was instrumental in bringing the first bank to Listowel, The National Bank. Until then the nearest bank was in Limerick. Henry and Maria had 2 sons, John Hely Owen and Henry George Owen.

John Hely Owen (1877- 1952) married Lurline Ellis (known as Kitty) of Glenashone near Abbeyfeale. Her father, Richard Whateley Ellis was singer with  Carl Rosa Opera Company. The Ellis’ can trace their lineage back to Thomas Ellis of Co. Monaghan in the time of James the second. John Hely and Kitty lived at Ballyhorgan in the house known as The Cottage which had been built by old Goodman Gentleman as a dower house. They later moved to Glenashrone, formerly an Ellis house. When this house was burned during the civil war in 1922, the family moved back to Ballyhorgan. They had 5 children. The eldest, Henry Robert Owen sold the house and farm at Ballyhorgan in 1952.

Henry George Owen (1879-1955) married Olive Margaret Jane Eva Eager in 1910. When he married he moved to Aghatrohis, Bedford near Listowel. His wife Olive was the daughter of Major Oliver Stokes Eager, an army surgeon who served in the Ashanti War of 1873/74. The Eagwers were an old Kerry family The first Irish Eager , Robert was granted land in Queen’s County in the reign of Charles the First. His son, Alexander sold it and settled at Ballymalis, Co Kerry in 1667. The Stokes family had also lived in Kerry for many generations, being descended from The Knights of Kerry.

John Hely Owen and Frances Smith Owen’s granddaughter Frances Ayres married Sir Thomas Myles in 1888. He was a distinguished Dublin surgeon. As surgeon on duty, he attended Lord Cavendish and Mr. Burke in the Phoenix Park. He was an active supporter of Charles Steward Parnell’s Protestant Home Rule party. He owned a yacht, Cholah. In 1914 he was recruited along with Erskine Childers and Conor O’Brien to help in the importation of guns for the Irish Volunteers. Childers landed his part of the consignment from The Asgard at Howth on July 26 1914. A week later Myes’s cargo which consisted of 600 Mauser and 20,000 rounds of ammunition was landed by the Cholah in Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow. From 1900 to 1902 he was President of The Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and was knighted on completion of his term of office. He was honorary surgeon in Ireland to King George V and during World War 1 he was consulting surgeon to HM Forces in Ireland. For this he was made a C.B.


Who was this lady?

I'm only a little bit wiser as to who this lady was and I have found no-one yet to tell me what the os in her name is all about. Could it be Oide Scoile? Was she a teacher?
Bibiana was a member of the Board of Guardians. They were originally in charge of the workhouse but their roles expanded to include all issues relating to Health and Welfare and it is here that this lady came into her own.
Bibiana from Ballyahill was the wife of a local well -to -do merchant, Jeremiah Foran. She was a friend of Lady Aberdeen and she was very supportive of this lady's Health Train initiative. This was like a travelling clinic that went round the country advising on women's health.
Bibiana also initiated school meals and she backed the purchase of a field close to the town for the purpose of putting up a sanatorium.


Listowel Vintage Wireless Museum

Eddie Moylan, collector, restorer, curator, owner and guide at Listowel Vintage Wireless Museum is a Corkman. He has made his home in Listowel and he fits right in with this town's great respect for artefacts from a bygone era. No town deserves Heritage Town status more than Listowel.

In his privately owned museum, Eddie has collected a mind blowing array of wireless, gramaphone and broadcasting memorabilia. Eddie is often visited by radio enthusiasts and people with a love for the old sounds and the old voices. He very kindly gave my visitors a tour recently and they were mightily impressed.

Breeda used to work in the post office and she remembered well the old radio licence.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Jumbo's, Serendipity, Kennedys in Ireland, a Mantila and Pipelaying in Knockanure


Jumbo's of William Street looks lovely with its new paint job and its new sign.



Serendipity is making a good discovery by accident. This is what happened to my niece recently when she was on an Aer lingus flight to the US.
Christine was scrolling through the onboard entertainment on her seatback screen when this popped up.

There before her eyes, thousands of mile from home, high among the clouds, she beheld a photograph of her late grandmother, my mother, Kathleen Ahern.
It would appear that a man who made a film about Listowel Radio Museum uploaded it to Vimeo and now it is widely available in lots of places including Aer Lingus planes to America.

The photo of my mother and her first cousin, Jo O'Riordan was taken in 1927 by Jo's dad at their home in Summerville South in Cork. I donated the photo to the Wireless Museum as photos of radios from back then are rare. Not many people had radios as 2RN, now Rte, had only started broadcasting in Cork and not too many people had cameras either. So a man who took a photo of his radio was definitely a rarity. Such a man was my great uncle, the late Eugene O'Riordan.


Rare Kennedy Photographs

These photographs of Joseph Kennedy in Ireland have turned up recently. They are now in the JFK Archive.

Joseph Kennedy at the Giants Causeway

Joseph Kennedy in Killarney

Kennedy children on horseback in The Gap of Dunloe


Do you Remember the Mantilla?

(Photo and text from The National Treasures Facebook page)

"Mantilla. This is my mantilla headscarf that I wore to church when I was young. The tradition at the time was that all women had to cover their heads going to mass. When I wore it, I thought I was very grown up. It was a very beautiful object and I thought I was very mature, just like the older ladies. I remember my aunt in particular, Noreen Ennis, having a nice mantilla with some very fine lace work. In a way, the mantilla was a way to express yourself in that there were degrees of sophistication in the headscarves and mantillas that women wore. I didn't really understand why I was wearing it and, much like everyone else, I wouldn't have understood what was said during the mass as it was in Latin, but we just accepted it for what it was. After the Second Vatican Council (Pope John XXIII), young women no longer had to cover their heads anymore. Priests could say mass in the vernacular as well, and the laity could be more involved. Despite being relegated to the bottom of the drawer, I've kept my mantilla for over 50 years."

Thanks to Mary Ennis


Pipelaying in Knockanure


All Ireland Champions 2019

Thy danced for us in The Square on the day of the Entente Florale judging .
Last week they danced for the judges at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2019 in Drgheda and they won.

Ballydonoghue Under 12 set dancers with their very proud teacher, John Stack.