Farewell to Galway and Hello to Listowel in County Kerry

Our farewell to Galway began with a trip to the Farmer’s Market where we picked up some breakfast and some things to take with us to our next home.

Bill got a spinach crepe

Look at the fish heads!

We also got some carrot, apple, ginger juice, partly because this guy was so cute.

And donuts! Just like mini donuts at home only not mini! And the donut man was a fun character. Made me think of Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie – his looks and also there was some kissing the girls going on.

Prediction was for rain most of the day – and that’s when we got the most sun we’ve seen…

The Killimer ferry to Tarbert – the River Shannon

One bedroom in our beautiful house in Listowel.

And snacks left for us by the owners

After getting settled, we took a walk along the River Feale.

In Listowel – another colorful town.

We made our dinner that night at home – fresh salmon and vegetables

And then out to the Horseshoe with our John, our Airbnb host. One thing we quickly realized, the “brogue” is MUCH stronger in Kerry than in Galway. We have trouble understanding some of the people.

For some live music – they played a mix of  “oldies”, Irish traditional music and more current Irish music. More people joined in later. Everyone in the bar was a local, we were sitting right by the music and afterwards they talked with us awhile. Great experience!


Playing the Irish bagpipes

The man in the striped shirt was a wonderful tenor who sand a song with just slight strumming on the guitar as accompianment – obviously close to the hearts of the Irish in the bar as everyone got quiet and clapped afterwards. He is a friend of our host and John got him to come over and sing the one song for us.

Listowel Castle and town

Started out with breakfast at home – Irish sofa bread and soft Brie from the farmer’s market. It was good enough to deserve a picture – I love the breads here.

After a late night we had slept in and decided to just go to Listowel Castle ruin today. It is another tower house castle built by the Fitzmaurice family in the 15th century and was the last bastion against Queen Elizabeth’s forces in the First Desmond Rebellion.

Today only two of the four towers remain.

View from the back with our very knowledgeable tour guide. You can also see the Listowel race track where weeklong horse races will be held just after we leave. The middle is a farm and land is leased to the race company twice a year for races.

View of the castle from the river – this was actually the front.

St Mary’s Church

Listowel Arms, the orange and black building, the only hotel in Listowel. There are however countless B&Bs. Larger than it looks, it has 40 rooms and three restaurants. Also a terrace that overlooks the racetrack.

We went back to the Horseshoe for dinner – not much else was open on Sunday. But it was worth going to! Far better than we would have expected for Sunday bar food!

Brie starter

Roast Duck

Lamb Cutlets

And finally, we got to have some Banofee Pie

Did I already mention that the food is far better here than rumored? We have not had a bad meal, really not even an only so-so meal. It’s all been very good to excellent.

Ballybunion by the sea

We drove around to see the area. Coolard where one great great grandmother, Elizabeth McElligott was born. Also Gunsborough because it was written in his obituary that her brother was from there – Coolard is a “townland” of farms and Gunsborough was a town and even had a jail (per a man we met from there) but now nothing remains except the jail which is on a farmer’s land. There are still McElligotts there but that name was fairly common here and we have not had a chance to meet them.

We found this curious sign in the vicinity of Gunsborough.

Ballybunion is a pretty town on the Atlantic with its own cliffs and beaches and a world renowned golf course – oh, and a statue of Bill Clinton as you enter town! Guess he came to play golf?

And, of course, an old castle ruin

The blue and white building is the Sea and Cliff Rescue

We saw a helicopter hovering and wondered if the coast guard was actually doing a rescue but it appeared they were practicing but not sure. A person when up and down a couple of times and they hovered there quite awhile.

Kids in the surfing school doing some sort of game/exercise before getting instructions on their boards and taking off for the water.

The houses along the beach reminded us of the “long walk” in Galway. And really remind you of an older time. I can more picture women in very modest “swim clothes” instead of bikinis.

Back in the town of Ballybunion we walked down to look at the old library and talked with Tom. He was a retired banker who told us he was not originally from Ballybunion but had lived there more than 30 years but was still called a “blow-in”, someone from out of town who moved there.  He actually knew a lot about many people in the town and told us quite a bit of information on our possible relative’s family. We also found out this stone library building had been moved from another town into Ballybunion. They took it apart and labeled every stone and put it back the way it was!

Tom told us one story that stuck with us as international visitors. He had recently been talking to two young men from New Jersey who asked him how to drive to England from Ireland. He told them you can’t do that. They responded with “why not?” and he told them “Ireland is an island” (as is England) and they did not even know that.

A view of the golf course – actually there were much more scenic areas of it that we drove by but didn’t get pictures. I can see why its popular, its beautiful

We had lunch in Ballybunion. As it was Sunday, not everything was open but we found a place and got some bangers and mash – Bill has been wanting to try that.


Old Kilconly Cemetery and the Lartigue Railway

Old Kilconly Graveyard with new and old graves. It seems like every graveyard has a ruined church also.

View from Knockanore Mountain, just to the east of the area Jeremiah Lawlor came from. It is about 880 Feet high above the valley and we realized how high when we suddenly hit the (narrow of course) road going straight down.

It was way steeper than it looks here.

On the way back to Listowel we decided to stop and see the Lartigue Railway museum. This strange little railroad ran from Listowel to Ballybunion for about 30 years on its monorail, taking about 50 minutes. It was built mostly because the designer wanted to prove it could be done but it never caught on elsewhere.  It is turned around on a series of roundtables.

It runs for a short demonstration ride and then turns around.

An earlier post shows the outside of this, The Listowel Arms Hotel – we ate in the “porch” area for dinner. This hotel was definitely one with a feel of some class and we felt a little underdressed even.

Crab legs – sea food is SO good here!

Grilled Hake (fish) with a wonderful sauce and of course mash and vegetables.

The Banoffee pie was good but not as good as the one at the Horseshoe bar and restaurant.

Great view of the racetrack from the terrace.

And the River Feale

And that’s it for another day!

Bromore Cliffs

We saw a sign that said “Bromore Cliffs” and decided to take a look. When we drove in and were paying the parking fee, the owner of the land, Mike Flahive, came by and talked to us. This land is his farm and he has fenced off part of it to preserve the scenery and allow for safe viewing by the public. He also included  pictures and explanation – it was so beautiful and while maybe not quite as high as Cliffs of Moher, it was like having that beautiful scenery but all to ourselves!
 At the far end of this cliff is the ruins of Doon Castle.
Zooming in on castle ruin
we were amazed at the layers of uplifted rock and how it curved in places
This area has at least three waterfalls. When the winds are blowing hard from the Atlantic, the water blows UP the falls.
Below is the remains of an iron age promontory fort. To the left is a rock higher wall (now overgrown with grass) but it was a walled area that people would come to if under attack. They lived in nearby “ring forts” that were much smaller. Originally many of them would have wooded stockade above the rock wall.
This photo shows how large the promontory fort was. All the nearby families would gather here in times of danger.
 This is a World War II bunker used to watch for any approaching ships. Behind it are the remaining back walls of the promontory fort.
inside the bunker
Another cliff area at Bromore showing the flat edge of the shale rock. We were told that during high winds, pieces of rock also blow up to the top of the cliffs and it is a dangerous area. They sometimes have winds of over 100 mph up these cliffs.

 Heather that has faded but is bright purple when blooming
Below is one of two ringforts on Mike’s farm – all that remains is stone walls that would have enclosed the small homes of several families.
Bill with Bart the horse

Ancestral Lands and John B Keane’s

Today we met with Brendan Lawlor who lives on a farm very near where my relatives lived While he doesn’t know his family history far enough back to connect, I’m fairly certain we are fifth cousins. He has a beautiful farm and I have to feel a little sad for my relatives who had to leave this beautiful place.

We came into the kitchen to the wonderful smell of newly baked scones and muffins.

Looking towards his mother’s house and the rest of his land

We had a lovely talk and even learned where some of the next Star Wars movie was filmed in County Kerry!

Some shots looking towards Knockanore Mountain and the land my relatives farmed

Old buildings on the land – after awhile you quit stopping to look at every one but we weren’t quite there yet.

A farmer mowing the grass field behind our Airbnb house where they will not remove or mow too close to the “Fairy Tree” (to the right of the truck)

Our back yard

So out for a night with John Wade, our Airbnb host. We started at the bar in the Lisowel Arms with a special drink – named the Irish Flag – creme de menthe, baileys, and I think a brandy on top.

Then on to “John B Keane’s” for a show of storytelling, singing and poetry. Here Billy Keane performs with a guest

On the left a couple we met who farm right near where my McElligott ancestors lived.

Mickey MacConnell playing his most famous song “Only Our Rivers Run Free” You can hear here it here(not my recording). This song can bring tears to my eyes. A poignant ballad about Ireland.

Here is a recording of it

Eoin (Owen) Hand, former footballer and manager, and also musician

The Black Hills of Dakota was one of John B Keanes favourite songs and he always sang it at the end of sing along sessions in his pub in Listowel. To honour his memory the song had been adopted as an unofficial anthem and is sung at the end of every musical evening with great gusto !  We were probably about the only people who knew what the Black Hills are – or certainly the only ones who had been there! I was amazed that everyone in the bar knew this song and sang along. This is also not my recording but exactly as it was done for us. I know the song from being in the play “Calamity Jane” in high school!  What great craic! (Yes it is pronounced crack but it just means “fun”)

St Batt’s Well

One of the stranger things we found was a sign to “St Batt’s Well” aka “St Bat’s Well” near where my McElligott ancestors lived. So we went back to explore a little today. I read about these wells, they are numerous in Ireland and said to cure all sorts of ailments.

The well straight ahead

Yeah we went ahead and poured water from the well on my knee – with no noticible improvement though…

Trying to learn more about who this St Batt (or Bat) might be I found this student’s essay from 1938.

Nearby field in Coolard where my McElligott ancestors lived

Last Day in Listowel

Just kind of acted like locals today – went to the fruit market and grocery store, found a store to buy some towels. Went for a walk. Chris, Colleen and Adam arrived and we attended the last night of pub theater at John B’s. Loved it that Billy Keane and Jim (a musician we met Saturday night) came right over and greeted us like old friends.

Love the little archway over the street.

Love the painted houses

Shopping for fruit

And “SuperValu”

So many flowers here

The last night of the season at John B Keane’s
There’s John, our Airbnb host on the right – he saved us a space near the front – can’t get better service than that!

It was very crowded for this finale to the Pub Theatre season

An actory playing a part from a John B. Keane play, The Field – written 1965, nominated for an Academy Award for best actor (Richard Harris).

He was playing a bishop who is preaching to the people in a town where a murder occurred and imploring them to tell who and promising some fire and brimstone if they do not. Afterwards, Bill said he was ready to confess, it was that well written and spoken. I was ready to say it was John (our host). 🙂

Eoin Hand, former footballer and football manager  performing “Monica’s Song” written by Mickey McConnell (playing guitar). I LOVE this song.

Here is a youtube performance from another time he did this song- another very poignant song about Ireland’s history.

Gabriel Fitzmaurice, poet

Thanks for John Wade for getting us to all the fun spots in Listowel’s music/theater scene!

Here is a video done of Mickey MacConnell’ s Lidl and Aldi Song with special performance for closing night of the 2016 season of Pub Theatre at John B’s. You can see us in this video on the right side along the wall when they pan the audience.