The latest posts from our blog (click on title to open):

Garden of Europe and Evelyn O'Rourke's Dear Ross

Recently I took a stroll through the lovely Garden of Europe. Several lovely trees came down in the February 2014 storms.

Two men were working clearing the fallen wood on the day I visited.

They told me that they were using the wood pulp as mulch for the remaining shrubs and trees.

These hardy daffodils were blooming on regardless.

Two dogs were enjoying the early spring sunshine.

I spotted these on a tree on the path from the Garden to Gurtinard. Nest boxes?


This is definitely the end of my WIM Weekend coverage

I know that that is not really a headline but I thought it might be a relief for some of my faithful followers to know that normal service is bring resumed next week.
Before that I have to tell you that I met my friend, Evelyn O'Rourke in Ballybunion.

Me with Evelyn O'Rourke

Evelyn with her mum Peigí, her aunt Eileen and  friend Mairead

Her anxious mum watches as Evelyn relives a very hard time in their lives.

Breda Boderick from Listowel is a fan of Evelyn's and maybe its this selfie craze but I seem to be in far too many photos of the weekend.

Evelyn has written a book, Dear Ross, telling the story of a year in the life of her family. Evelyn was still on maternity leave with her first son, Óisín when she discovered she was pregnant. She was thrilled. The thrill only lasted a very short while as, within a week, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  
Evelyn wrote a series of letters to her unborn son, Ross, telling him how much she and his dad, John loved and wanted him and wanted to do everything possible not to compromise him in any way.
In the book we read of the horrors of chemotherapy compounded by the discomforts of pregnancy and the trials of looking after a small child.

In Ballybunion we saw Evelyn, the surviver, read movingly from some of the letters. We met Evelyn, the campaigner, passionately promoting the cause of breast cancer research. We  met Evelyn, the family woman, wallowing in the love of her old and her new family. And we met Evelyn, the great communicator standing before us, a testament to the triumph of will, of love and support and modern medicine over this terrible disease.


During the weekend the local Creative Writing group took the opportunity to sell a collection of their works, A Little Life Music.

As part of the weekend too we got a taster eco tour of Ballybunion.
Danny Houlihan is a man of many talents. He told us about history and wildlife in a really interesting trip to the Cashen and the Castle Green. Below are a few photos from the tour


Writers Week 2014

The programme was officially launched last night in The Seanchaí. Great night, lots of photos to come but I had to share this one.

 Eilís Wren and Máire Logue of Writers' Week fill in my lovely granddaughters on who's coming to this year's festival.

New Media symposium in Ballybunion

"Come and verbally attack me"

I wrote that headline because I was in Ballybunion on Sunday last April 13 2014 and I learned the importance of a headline.

I was attending the marvelous Women in Media Weekend and a man called David Labanyi gave us a lesson in the current state of mass media in Ireland. He was brilliant, well informed, a great communicator but what he had to say was  a little bit frightening.

This is David Labanyi on the far left with Mary Dundon, Head of Journalism at UL and local native, Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor  for The Irish Independent.

On Sunday morning they gave us a glimpse inside the newsroom of the future. The pace of change in this area is dizzying to someone like me who remembers a time when I nearly had to bring a wheelbarrow to Flavins to bring home the Sunday papers. The newspaper of the future (and the future is yesterday so fast is this happening) is a platform agnostic medium.  I picked up a bit of the jargon while I was In Ballyb and this means that we don't really care where we get our information, but we want it now.

Newsrooms now are employing as many developers as journalists and journalists nowadays have to be able to photograph, make podcasts, video, write live blogs, create data visualization graphs etc. etc. The days of the liquid lunch are long gone.

Our attention span is about 5 seconds so we have to be hooked at the first chance, i.e. the headline. I am so bad at all this that I didn't, until recently, write any headlines at all. Today I have resorted to pure sensationalism but it does have relevance, if anyone is still with me when I get to it.

 I am going to give you the words of Mickey MacConnell's great newsroom song. I'm sorry I couldn't find any clip of him singing it but here are the words;

Boys of the Byline Brigade
It’s four in the morning, the paper’s in bed

The Newsroom’s as quiet as the tomb.

When the old man gets up from his seat by the door

Another day’s nightwork has been done. 

Like a greying old shadow he peels on his coat

And he knocks off the lights on his floor

And he melts with the shadows into the grey dawn

Just before the presses start to roar.

And the glass in his hand feeds the pain in his eyes

Alone, insecure and afraid

A victim of booze, overwork and old age

And the boys of the byline brigade.

That morning the byline brigade will arrive 

Those bright keen young men -about -town. 

And they’ll shout into three different phones at one time

And get the whole damn thing written down. 

When the country edition’s being flogged on the street

And the City’s being checked on the stone, 

That old man who once interviewed princes and kings

is quietly drinking alone.

And he stands at the bar and remembers the time

When he was as good as the best. 

In those days when his shorthand was clear-cut and plain

and he’d work twenty hours without rest.

In the days when his copy ran just as it stood

lead stories and bylines galore.

The first with the angles, the first to the phone

the first with his foot in the door.

If he'd only licked more arses and got drunk with the boss

God knows where he might have been today. 

Not manning the doomwatch at the dead of the night

and curing the shakes half the day.

He had died on the day that his shorthand broke down

From too long pushing pen, soul and mind. 

And they’ll bury his body along with his pride

In six lonely lines on page nine.

Deirdre Walsh of The Radio Kerry, who introduced the panel, remembered back to when she started her career in The Kerryman. Her tools were a typewriter and a landline.

Deirdre was based in Macroom and Neville's bread van used to bring her copy to Tralee She remembers the fax machine as a innovative tool!
Finally I'm back to my headline. The online editor of The Irish Times told us that getting the headline right is more important than being first with the story. Most people nowadays don't go directly to the Irish Times page to get the news. They come on the news through Twitter, Facebook or a search engine, so you must have the right words in the headline so that your platform is where the consumer will see the story. All newsrooms now have a studio to record live interviews. News stories are fed to us piecemeal. We don't want to wait for Prime Time anymore. We want to see our resigning chief executive or embattled minister grilled now this minute.

When I came home from Ballybunion, buzzing with all my new found knowledge of how we "consume" news stories nowadays, I settled down with my cup of coffee and my Sunday Independent.

"Come and verbally attack me,"  bayed John Waters from page 5.  No, of course he did not say that in so many words but he might as well have done. What he actually said was, "I don't believe in Depression. There is no such thing. It's an invention. It's bullshit. It's a cop out."

Unable to believe my eyes, I went to the internet and there was a living example of my new found knowledge of media…online the live interview with Niamh Horan.  I now had not only read that John Waters had made these awful statements. I saw him and heard him making them.

( more from WIM Ballybunion tomorrow)

The next Michael Flatley?

Well done, Seán Slemon on coming second in The World Irish Dancing Championships in London.


Be Thankful

This is a school in Afghanistan. The photo was on So Bad so Good.


Summer's on the way!

Super needlewomen and Gender Quotas

These ladies with their teacher, Priscilla Sweeney, are doing a needlecraft course under the VEC in Listowel Family Resource Centre. When I visited them on Friday they were working on their Listowel quilt project. The ladies are taking well known images of Listowel and working them into a patchwork quilt.

Each pupil keeps a journal of the project. The journals themselves are works of Art. Here is one example of such a journal.

Another of their patchwork projects is a life-sized two dimensional horse. Here is an account, from the journal, of the processes involved in that project.

A sample of patchwork

The completed horse

Each student made their own smaller horse. This is Angela's.

The process

On Friday Priscilla had brought another piece for the students to work on. It was a clown bag suitable for laundry, toys or anything that needed tidying in a child's room


Gender Quotas: Does the end justify the means?

This is Edel Clancy of the 50/50 Group and she argued the case for gender quotas in politics  at Women in Media Weekend in Ballybunion. Mary O'Rourke and Mairead MacGuinness were her "opposition".

Edel told us that:
  •  There has never been fewer than 85% men in Dáil Eireann.
  • Since the foundation of the state there have been only 12 women in cabinet.
  • Ireland is in 92nd. place in the world in terms of representation by women in parliament.
The facts are irrefutable. Something has to be done to correct this imbalance. Gender quotas is a blunt instrument to get us over the initial hurdle. In time, like Denmark, we won't need them.
Mary O'Rourke and Mairead MacGuinness offered no argument as convincing as these statistics. 
I'm for gender quotas and I'm glad that political parties will, in future, be fined if 30% of candidates are not female.


Some people I met at the weekend

Bernie Carmody and Jackie Goddall

Bernie Carmody and me with Miriam O'Callaghan

Jimmy Deenihan, Katie Hannon, Deirdre Walshe and Mary Dundon

Women in Media Weekend in Ballybunion

Mothers and Daughters at WIM Ballybunion

Vourneen and Keelin Kissane with Róisín and Anne Ingle
It was Saturday, April 12 2014 and instead of reading Róisín Ingle in the Irish Times, we were sitting in Kilcooley's Country House in Ballybunion, Co. Kerry listening to her talk about another favourite journalist and author, Maeve Binchy.

Róisín Ingle is now Daily Features Editor of The Irish Times, a mantle which sits lightly on her shoulders. She was in Ballybunion to take us back to another editor and to help us live again the enjoyment we got form Maeve Binchy, the journalist. Róisín has recently edited a collection of Maeve's pieces for the Irish Times and so she is a bit of an expert on Maeve's best bits. She described getting this job like getting a job in quality control in a crisp factory.

Róisín did not give us my favourite anecdote about Maeve on The Late Late doing battle with a formidable lady on the necessity of etiquette and decorum but she read for us Maeve's account of an incident when she encountered a business man sitting in the Ladies' Toilet  in a posh hotel. He had mistaken it for the lobby.

Maeve's description of her first dress dance at age 16 is still hilarious today. Maeve's coverage of Princess Anne's wedding made us all regret that she had passed away before the recent state visit.

Róisín decided that Miriam Lord with her "irreverent but affectionate" approach to serious subjects is Maeve's best successor today. I think that Róisín Ingle with her ability to mine the minutiae of everyday life and produce entertaining and self deprecating pen pictures has a lot of Maeve Binchy in her too.

This is Róisín with a local lady called Christine. Christine came to Ballybunion to meet Róisín because Róisín once wrote about her. If anyone reading this knows Christine will you get that story for us please?
(more from WIM tomorrow)

I spotted this picture of Ballybunion Lady golfers on Perfect Pairs page. Looking good, ladies.


Mike Enright took this perfect picture of sunset in Ballybunion last week.


All will be revealed!

On Thursday next at 7.00 p.m. in The Seanchaí the Listowel Writers' Week programme 2014 will be launched.  Come along to hear what great things are in store for us on the June bank holiday weekend. 


spotted in a shop window on Church Street

Fishing flies, Family, New shop in town and Women in Media

Family visit to Cork

My grandsons enjoy some screen time. The boys are children of a digital age. They like TV but not as much as interactive computer games.


Boys will be boys

My lovely boys also love to read comics and they collect and swap football cards. They also play tennis and soccer and they love appearing on Nana's blog.


While I was at juvenile tennis training in Lakewood on Sunday morning I met this lady. She was helping to run their annual tournament and also attending to the nurturing of young talent by training the juveniles. She is Siobhán O'Riordan and she is soon to represent Ireland in Miami at an international seniors competition.


Another new Crafter in Craftshop na Méar

This is Listowel man, Tim O'Loughlin

These are Tim's hand tied fishing flies. He is carrying on a Listowel tradition of tying flies. Ned Sweeney and Mike Barry have hand tied flies for years and now these skills are being practiced by a new generation. Tim employed new technologies like Youtube to help him perfect his technique.


Sue Townsend R.I.P.

 So sad to hear of the death of this wonderfully entertaining witty writer. If you haven't read the first Adrien Mole book, you have missed a gem.


New tenant in 25 Church St.

These controversial e cigarette shops are popping up everywhere these days as vaping takes over from smoking. I still can't get used to the sight of people puffing on these indoors.


Women in Media

This is me in Kilcooleys in Ballybunion on Saturday April 12 2014. I was rubbing shoulders with some of the top women in Irish media at the annual Women in Media weekend. With me in the photo are Joan O'Connor, newly elected Mayor of Ballybunion and organizer of WIM, Róisín Ingle of the Irish Times and Katie Hannon of RTE.

I had a great 2 days and I was totally starstruck so you'll be hearing more of this during the week.

Graveyards, Craftshop na Méar , The Buds of Ballybunion and Michael D.

I took this photo in Ballincollig on Saturday last as I indulged with my family in a long standing tradition of picking horses in The Aintree Grand National. I had no luck but there was a little money returned to the Cork branch of the family.


While in Ballincollig I visited the grave of rock legend, Rory Gallagher.

Rory is buried in a lawn cemetery, where there is a cap on the height of the grave memorials. Good idea.


I also visited another older churchyard on the Ovens side of town.

This beautiful old graveyard is full of character but almost impossible to maintain.


This is how Craftshop na Méar looked on opening day,  Dec 10 2013. Much has happened since then and we are about to have a makeover. Painting will begin shortly and our Summer programme will be launched.

It was all systems go when I called into the shop yesterday.

New crafter in the shop, Eileen Moylan was in store assembling her glass cabinet.

Namir called in to help with the set up.

Máire Logue of Writers' Week gets a sneak preview of Eileen's Listowel range, which is still at the planning stage.

Crafters, Maureen, Mary and Isobel welcomed Eileen to shop.


Cough Syrup or night cap?

This cough syrup was once  on sale in Limerick according to the Limerick 1912 website.



I went to see John B.'s The Buds of Ballybunion on Wednesday night. It was great to see St. John's packed for this dated romping Listowel performance.

The word Buds comes from "budaire". This was a kind of tourist we see no more. Na budairí, or buds as they called them in Ballybunion were country people who came to Ballybunion in September. They rented a room in a boarding house. They brought with them their own potatoes and other vegetables, bacon, eggs, butter, jam etc. and the landlady cooked these for them.

The tradition is coming to an end in John B's play and this motley crew who come to the O'Dea house for their final summer as buds are depicted as backward, sexually repressed, frustrated but lovable characters. They are played to perfection in St. John's by some of the best character actors in North Kerry and West Limerick.

There is poetry, dancing, storytelling, song and ribaldry in this performance. The audience on Wednesday gave them a standing ovation. What more tribute can an actor or playwright ask?


The state banquet for President Michael D. Higgins  (Getty Images)

So far I haven't mentioned the triumph of the first ever state visit by an Irish president to Britain. Aren't we glad now we elected a speechmaker. I am so proud of Michael D. Higgins. He can sure talk posh and he has few equals in delivery of the bon mot. If I were to single out one speech it would be the "Ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid" bit where he explained that scáth in Irish means shadow and shade. We have emerged from the shadow and now the queen is offering us shade. Isn't the queen some lady. She is playing a blinder. We have taken a giant leap this week in terms of our nationhood and good relations with our nearest neighbours.

I think that Ireland and Britain are a bit like Cork and Kerry, the rebels and the kingdom, sworn enemies until after the Munster Final and then whichever one is out will cheer for the other. There are so many families with dual  citizenship that we are far closer than we admit. Michael D. put it well when he said that because Ireland is not going to Brazil he will raise a glass to the English soccer team. I know the feeling.

Our two are also coping very well with the pomp and ceremony of it all. They are doing us proud. I think I'll send them a card when they get home.

Our president, Michael D. Higgins with Seán Lyons, Chair of Listowel Writers Week in The Square, Listowel on May 30th. 2012.

Glamping, Dublin andJoanne O'Riordan

Glamping is coming to Listowel



This is a photo of Dublin in the 1960s from a collection called Photos of Dublin.
It looked pretty much the same last week when I visited for a theatre break. I was staying in an area a phone's throw from Dublin's digital hub. I felt ancient. "This is no country for old men."…not this Google area anyway.

Clíona Cogan on our way to Warhorse at The Bord Gáis theatre.

There was a bicycle tied to every post in my part of town.

I relied on public transport and shanks mare. This proved a very satisfactory way to get around.

This is Albert on Joey, the warhorse. From the moment that horse puppet galloped onto the stage the audience en masse was in love with him. Everything about this theatre experience was amazing. If you get a chance to see it, do. And bring tissues.

These photos are from the show's official website.


Joanne O'Riordan 

I wrote about meeting Joanne O'Riordan recently at Kanturk Arts festival. Her brother's film about her extraordinary life so far is due for release on April 11. Be sure to catch it if you can at all.

Joanne played a little April Fool's prank on her many Twitter followers. She tweeted that she had been invited to the Whitehouse because the Obamas had loved the film so much.  Such is this lady's charisma    that lots of people took it seriously and were disappointed to discover that it was a joke.

But the good news is that her robot, Robbie, is coming along nicely and her beloved Cork footballers had another victory at the weekend.


This was another April Fools' spoof ad. for interns to work on Byonce's team, but again it was so outlandish that it was nearly believable.


Jimmy Moloney with Knitwits, Killarney and Dan Keane's Listowel Castle

Jimmy Moloney, Fianna Fáil local election candidate visited the Knitwits on his campaign trail.

Left to Right: Joan Carey, Anne Moloney, Namir Karim, Mary Cogan, Kelly St. John, Jimmy Moloney, Patricia Borley, Maureen Connolly, Una Hayes and Pat Barry.


In Killarney for Mothers' Day I encountered this yoke in the grounds of Muckross House. A butterfly, apparently.

Killarney National Park never disappoints. It is the perfect place for a family day out.


Listowel Castle by Dan Keane

Grey edifice, piercing the dark
With your bare bony limbs
And shielding from searing sun
The grassy mounds.
What other use art thou?
Silent, grey, dim
Amid such sweet surrounds;
Or art thou not aware of vigiling so long/
And yet I hear thy walls
Throw back the song
Of river sweet
And every other voice
In which your playful echoes
Just rejoice.
What hands raised
Your grey skeleton so tall
Hast thou known the tramp of men
And buglers’call?
They tell me chieftains dwelt
And great men here kept guard.
That thou hast known the strum og harp
And song of bard.
I called upon your storied walls
To pour their knowledge out
And all your echoes answered back
Was, “Out”.
And out I went and out again
And do not know
The mystery of your grey wall
And so,
I brood, a child again
And in my heart

The love and mystery remain.


Do you remember playing hopscotch?    (photo from a collection called Photos of Dublin)


On tomorrow night, April 10 2014 Séan Lyons will be reading from his new book of poetry in John B.'s at 9.00 p.m. The performance will be recorded for a cd to accompany his book. All welcome.


Date for the diary

Thurs April 17 2014
The Seanchaí
Official launch of the 2014 Writers' Week programme
All welcome

Plus ça change……April horsefair

More from April 3rd's horsehair


Limerick 1853…..many young men of twenty…….

from the twitter feed Limerick 1914


Closed last week


Wigs and jigs

World Irish Dancing Championships are closer to home this year.

The very best of luck to Sean Slemon who is carrying all our hopes and dreams into this huge arena. Whatever the outcome in London this little lad is some dancer!

Well done to The Listowel Arms on winning the prize for best wedding venue at the Munster wedding awards 2014

Women in Ireland, people at the April horsefair and Kindness


Last week we celebrated the anniversary of the founding of Cumann na mBan. These woman were out in force in 1916 and worked side by side with the men to set up this nation.

It appears to me that after that, women were cast into a very inferior role. They were put in their place (the home) by the constitution and denied many basic rights until people like Mary Robinson fought very hard for them.
I remember when women couldn't serve on juries, had to give up civil service, banking and other jobs when they married, were paid less than men for doing exactly the same job, were refused membership of certain clubs, were not allowed into certain bars unless they were in the company of a man and we won't even talk about the right to contraception or divorce since these affected men too.

Cumann na mBan in 1916
The print appeared in the 1942 edition of ‘The Capuchin Annual’, which included articles marking the 25th anniversary of the Rising.


People at Listowel horsefair, April 3 2014


Beautiful Handmade jewellery

This beautiful solid silver cross is the latest  in Eileen Moylan's Claddagh Designs collection. Watch this space for some really exciting news of Eileen's collaboration with Craftshop na Méar. Details will be announced very shortly.
You heard it here first!


Kind friends

I am constantly struck by the enormous kindness of people to me in this, the first year of my grieving. I cannot list all the instances of kindness I have experienced since June 23 2013 when the course of my life changed dramatically. The following poem, which was sent to me by a kind friend is in appreciation of all the kind people in  my life.

Kindness  by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
You must lose things,
Feel the future dissolve in a moment
Like salt in weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
All must go, so you know,
How desolate the landscape can be

Between the regions of kindness.


Participating Towns

Tourist Info

Our Partners

You are here: Blogs Listowel Connection