Listowel Writers' Week Fringe

Blogging Listowel's Literary Scene

Archive for July, 2009

P J Kennedy of LWW fame opens an exhibition in Ballinamore

July 29, 2009 By: ana Category: connections, events, painters & paintings, poet

Read this report in the Anglo-Celt

The Solas Art Gallery in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, has a group exhibition of paintings – on the theme of “Painted Poems”.

Recent regulars @Listowel Writers’ Week will remember PJ Kennedy – a Belturbet, County Cavan, poet.

A new piece from Mattie Lennon: review of John Cassidy’s book

July 26, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections

Gaelic Games and Irish Transport

By Mattie Lennon

John Cassidy is a voluntary steward in Croke Park and as such he has witnessed spectacular victories, defeats and draws in football, hurling and camogie.

He is a Donegal man who won’t let you forget that his county won the all-Ireland final in 1992. His day job is as a supervisor with Dublin Bus, one of the CIE group of companies.

In October 2008 he was responsible for bringing CIE Transport Gaels to Gaelic Park, New York, to play teams from the NYPD and FDNY; the first time any CIE team played in America.

In his memoir he has written of how his childhood interest in Gaelic games was honed, “In McGettigan’s field in Clogher” and how, “two older boys would select the opposing teams: every one present was included which meant we often played twenty a side. As our pitch consisted of the entire field this was no problem. With the goalposts (four jackets) in place the game would begin. It would end for one of the following reasons: Hunger, darkness or a pitch invasion by Mc Gettigan’s cattle.”

John Cassidy’s experiences, literary ability and research skills have been, once again, juxtaposed to bring us his latest publication.

Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games” is a history of Gaelic games in Irish transport from 1885 to the present day. The author traces the path of Gaelic football, hurling, handball and camogie teams from the days of Charles Bianconi (the father of public transport, in Ireland) to the twenty-first century.

Since the foundation of Coras Iompar Eireann (CIE) in 1945 every section of the company, urban and rural, contributed to Gaelic sports and provided players at county, national and international level.

In his foreword, CIE Chairman John J. Lynch, says, “I deem it a high honour and privilege to be invited to contribute a Foreword to the history of the many CIE G.A.A. clubs nationwide.”

He goes on to praise, “ . . . the great sporting bodies within the CIE family ” and refers to the fact that their achievements “ both on and off the field, testify to the dedication of so many people . . . , which stands as a testimony to the organisational skills and tremendous sense of purpose which CIE has harnessed throughout its existence. Running a sporting organisation is a time consuming business but with the continued voluntary involvement of managers, coaches, administrators, players and supporters CIE will pass on a substantial legacy for future generations to build upon.”

Through, dedication, interviews and the relentless pursuit of source-material the author has given us a comprehensive and colourful account of clubs, teams and individual players associated with Irish transport over the generations. Some of these didn’t get the coverage they deserved, from the media, during their careers. One such, who features in this publication, was the most decorated player in the history of Gaelic games. Camogie player Kathleen Mills made her debut with the Great Southern Railway Club, Dublin, in 1938. In 1941 she played for Dublin, when they were beaten by Cork, in the All-Ireland final. She was on the winning Dublin team which beat Cork in 1942 and 1943. She went on to win all-Ireland medals in 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. She was Captain when Dublin beat Tipperary in 1957.

More All-Ireland medals were to follow in 1959, 1960 and 1961. The 1961 final was on her 38th birthday and it was the last time she wore the Dublin jersey. In retirement she was known as “the Christy Ring of the camogie world”. She died in August 1996.

Every parish in Ireland has its sporting heroes and almost every townland has someone who works, or worked, in CIE. And John Cassidy hasn’t neglected the “sporting ballad.” Many clubs and individual players are lauded in such compositions as, “Kelly’s Heroes”, “Thirteen Men From CIE” and “Transport Gaels.” “A Tribute to Sean Kelly” by Christy Fitzgerald immortalises a legend.

Einstein said, “If I knew what I was looking for I wouldn’t call it research.” Well, the gems that John Cassidy didn’t expect to find in the National Library, publications as diverse as “The Freeman’s Journal” and “Ireland’s Own” and the conversations of ordinary people, are now recorded for posterity between the covers on “Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games”.

This history of Gaelic games in Irish transport over a century and a quarter plus more than a hundred photographs is a book not to be missed.

“Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games” is available (Price €15, including postage) from; Original Writing, Spade Enterprise Centre, North King Street, Smithfield, Dublin 7. or you can get an autographed copy from the author, John Cassidy, 4 Ardmore Avenue, Dublin7. And you can contact him at;

This is the holiday season – so don’t make rash decisions

July 24, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical, Imagining, Reflections

Better give plenty of time to ensure everyone has a chance to have a say on the future of this blog…


The future of this blog

July 22, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, Imagining, Reflections

Ever since the idea of developing a blog around and in honour of Listowel Writers’ Week came to me, I’ve been thinking about the future of this blog.

  • Is it to live?
  • Is it to carry on after Writers’ Week 2009?
  • Or is it to be given a decent wake, burial & obituary?
  • If it is to live, in what form?
  • If it is to carry on, what form should it take, and in whose hands?
  • If it is to be closed down, how best to do that, and when?

I would like to invite views…

I would like to give everyone who is interested a chance to have their say?

There may be other future-oriented questions: if members of the audience, the community, the ‘tribe‘, would like to put fundamental questions on the table, please do.

There is only one now, and now is the time to have your say…

Pauline Frayne’s poem on J B Keane

July 22, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: creative writing, historical, participants, poem, poet, poetry

Pauline sent this poem in a comment to a piece by Mattie Lennon. So that it get the audience it deserves, I’m posting it in a page of its own.

A Farewell for John B Keane

It is four ten a.m.
on the morning after your funeral
and a litany of birds
broadcast a requiem of grace notes
over the mourning town
as I try to negotiate
a straight line
between the Square and Charles Street.

Finally finding the right angle to the corner
I meet your pensive gaze
from a photograph in Landys’ window
and understand
why you once barred me
for not drinking,
while Mary,who held the keys
said softly
‘Don’t worry , you’ll be alright tomorrow’

Pauline Fayne .
(from ‘I’m Fine Really
Stonebridge Publications 2005

Who’s the performer @ Listowel Writers’ Week 2009?

July 20, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: competition, creative writing, events, participants, poets

Quiz question number 8: who is the man beside James McGrath from Mayo who lives in Listowel?

A writer listens in rapture…

July 16, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: events, poet, poetry

Can you help name these people @ Listowel Writers’ Week 2009?

July 15, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: poetry, poets


John B Keane by Mattie Lennon

July 15, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: connections, historical, photographs, poem, storytelling

John B. Keane By Mattie Lennon (August 2007)

“He’ll be elected all right if he gets the Jewish vote in Lyreacrompane”.

One of the many memorable quotes of the late John B.

John B. Keane was born in Listowel on Saturday 28th July 1928. He was fourth in a family of five boys and four girls. Those who knew him in later life were surprised to learn that he didn’t speak until he was three.

As a child, living in the town, he had a great love of the countryside. In “Self-Portrait ” he says, “Always as a small boy I had a longing to go to the mountains, particularly on sunny mornings when the air was fragrant and the skies were blue”.

Towards the end of his life I interviewed him for my radio programme, “The Story and The Song”.

He told me about how he was dispatched “on the Creamery lorry” to his relatives in the Stacks Mountains during the summer holidays.

” . . . I was dropped off at the Ivy Bridge which for me was to turn out a magic bridge, because the minute I crossed over that bridge I became a new man. I began to know something about country people. And they had a beautiful language, all of their own; half Irish, half English . . . and when that was fused with the language of Elizabeth . . . it became a beautiful language altogether, with great range. You’d never be stuck for a phrase or a word. It’s such a beautiful language. I was never as happy as when I was up there. If I hadn’t crossed the Ivy Bridge on that day long ago . . . I wouldn’t have been a writer”.

He met and observed some very interesting characters in the Stacks. He told a story about a German named Karl Gutthind who acted as technical advisor to Bord na Mona and,

“When the second World War came he left for Germany. The Russians, I’m sure, must have been surprised at his Lyreacrompane accent and wondered what strange business a Stacksmountainman might have in Stalingrad. He gave me a small flashlight which I swapped a week later for ten Woodbines . . . “

Writing was to become his life. One early experience would probably have turned a lesser person against the pen. During an elocution class in school each pupil was asked to recite a poem. John B. recited “Church Street” which was his own composition. When asked who wrote it he replied,

I did Father“. ” . . . there followed the worst beating of all and ejection from the class”.

During school holidays he worked at many jobs from fowl-buying to toiling on a farm in Wicklow.

He wrote a one-act play, “The Ghost of Patrick Drury” which was performed on the top floor of the Carnegie Library, Church Street, Listowel.

After leaving school he worked as a Chemist’s Assistant in his native town for five years. When he said that he wanted to be a writer and that he was going to England his boss pointed out a fact that John B. was to fully agree with later in life, ” It’s as easy to write here as there”.

It was about this time that, with Stan Kennedy, he started a local Newspaper, The Listowel Leader. The first edition sold 960 copies. There was no second edition simply because the Editorial, in the first edition, told the truth about some local Councillors.

Prior to the 1951 General Election he set up a fictitious political party, the Independent Coulogeous Party, complete with a fictitious candidate, Tom Doodle, who appeared in Listowel.

(It’s a long story but if enough readers petition the Editor I may be permitted to tell it in a future edition)

During Writers’ week 2007 a life-size statue of John B. was unveiled in the small Square, Listowel by his friend Niall Toibin. (John B’s son, Billy, told me, with true Keane solemnity, that “the statue moves at night”

And this year a limestone monument by Kerry Sculptor, Padraig Tarrant was unveiled in the European Garden by Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker.

(left)Billy Keane with father’s statute

The following is by no means a comprehensive list of his works but it gives an idea of his prolific output:

Sive (first staged 1959)

Sharon’s Grave (1960)

The Highest House on the Mountain (1961)

No More in Dust (1961)

Many Young Men of Twenty (1961)

Hut 42 (1962)

The Man from Clare (1962)

Seven Irish Plays (1967)

The Year of the Hiker

The Field (adapted later as a film of the same name starring actor Richard Harris)

Big Maggie


The Crazy Wall

The Buds of Ballybunion

The Chastitute


The Matchmaker


The Bodhran Makers


The Contractors

A High Meadow

Letters of a successful T.D


Love Bites

Owl Sandwiches

I was always fond of quoting from his works and once when I was spouting a piece from “The Chastitute” the motley gathering listening to me shooting my mouth off thought I was making a boastful autobiographical utterance. The line in question was, ” I was seduced by a sixty-two year old deserted wife when I was fifteen. After that auspicious beginning I never looked back”.

While he could be hot-headed in matters such as Gaelic football, in the area of understanding the shortcomings of others and forgiveness he was out on his own. Didn’t one of his Characters in “The Bodhran Makers” point out that no man should be penalised because he had an industrious penis? He laughed heartily when a person, who hadn’t seen “Sive” condemned it on the grounds that, “‘Tis all about bastards isn’t it?”

During Writer’s Week 2002 I walked behind the coffin of this, the humblest of men, who only wanted to be remembered as..” . . the player who scored the winning point in the North Kerry Intermediate Football Final against Duagh in 1951“.

I was moved to take up my pen and make a feeble effort to commemorate him:


By Mattie Lennon.


Before you went you told us not to cry.

On that sad night.

“Let the show go on” you said and then “goodbye”.

We shouldn’t question why you had to die

Before you went you told us not to cry

As Writer’s Week had opened,

For it’s thirty-second year,

Where poet and peasant mingle

To absorb Listowel’s good cheer.

A cloud crossed hill and valley

From Carnsore to Malin Head,

As news went ’round our island

“The great John. B. is dead”


He who walked with King and beggar

Will lift his pen no more,

To bring out the hidden Ireland

Like no one did before.

He banished inhibitions

To put insight in their stead.

The world stage is brighter

But The “Kingdom’s King” is dead.

The dialogue of two Bococs

Is known in every town.

Now the Ivy Bridge links Broadway

To the hills of Renagown.

While men of twenty emigrate

And Sharon’s Grave is read,

Or a Chastitute ‘s forlorn

His memory won’t be dead.


They stepped out from the pages

Of The Man From Clare and Sive

To walk behind his coffin

Each character alive.

His Soul, with One-Way Ticket

To The Highest House has sped,

And this world has lost a genius;

The great John. B. is dead.


Copyright Mattie Lennon 2002

(Put to music by John Hoban.)

Masks – who was wearing a mask @ Listowel?

July 14, 2009 By: Paul O'Mahony Category: Imagining, photographs

I can’t even remember where this image took my fancy…

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