Poetic Flowers of Listowel Poets

Poetic Flowers of Listowel Poets An image of a storyteller passing down his traditional lore to a young listener in the Kerry Writers Museum.
Autumn Blooms: A Selection of Stories, Poetry and Parable

by Paddy Glavin, Cyril Kelly, John Fitzgerald (Copies are available from Woulfe’s Independent Bookshop, 7 Church Street Listowel, Co. Kerry;  email: woulfesbookshop@gmail.com;  phone (068) 21021;  €12, with a special postage rate of €6.80).

Listowel Writers Week, the premier locally led and sustained literary festival in Ireland is an event with a global recalmé. After a short period of turmoil, it has now recovered its poise, and is refocusing on what it does best.  From today onwards the town is presenting a seven day programme filled with good things of many kinds in the way of shows, talks and exhibitions. It is a matter of cultural creation from the ground up, rather than coming down from Dublin, and good luck to it.

This book, very much a product of local culture, is the work of three proud sons of Listowel.  One is well-known, Cyril Kelly, he is of Sunday Miscellany fame.  The others, Paddy Glavin and John Fitzgerald, are not so well-known but are also cherished by their fellow-townspeople.


The book is divided into three sections. Section I, entitled ‘Workshop’, features 48 poems from Paddy Glavin.  Section II, entitled ‘Reckonings’, has 24 of Cyril Kelly’s stories.  Section III, ‘Looking Back’, concludes with 65 poems from Tom Fitzgerald.

Paddy Glavin had already published a poetry collection in 2011.  In this collection he casts a cold and perceptive eye over events, persons, places and things.  As the News of the World liked to trumpet – ‘All human life is here’.  There is a vivid poem on the Black and Tans recalling some of their atrocities.  ‘The Shoemaker’ prompts a vision of Tom Sweeney, the town’s shoemaker, in whose company I, like other youngsters, spent many hours admiring his skill and enjoying his conversation on local sport.  ‘A Visit to Skellig Mhichíl’ re-creates the unique atmosphere surrounding that legendary monastic centre.

Cyril Kelly is a master-storyteller and his stories here are enthralling.   In one he recalls how Moss McCarthy from the Gaeltacht in West Kerry was lost and found in Dublin during Christmas week.  He was spending the week with his daughter.  Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, he became separated after attending midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  Luckily, he was noticed and assisted by Cyril and after a few very traumatic days he was safely returned to his family.

In another story Cyril in probing his family background envisages his grandfather Henry, an RIC pensioner, completing the 1911 Census form.  The story develops into an encomium on his grandmother, Sarah Quaid of Drumcollogher, Co Limerick.  She was an accomplished dress-maker and established a millinery business in Listowel which flourished across many generations.

Tadhg Brennan’s forge was in a lane behind Cyril’s home.  As a youngster he spent many hours viewing Tadhg at work.  The blacksmith fitted steel bands to the wheels of ass carts, hay carts, barrows, and farm machinery.  He fashioned and fitted shoes to horses, asses and mules.  Some of the horses would be docile mares but others could be giddy, restless stallions.  Sometimes Tadhg had other commissions with gates and railings.  Cyril’s description of Tadhg at work captures every nuance of the blacksmith’s skill.  In this story there is also an interesting exchange between the two of them.  After hearing Cyril’s voice on a tape recorder, Tadhg exclaimed prophetically ‘Hanam an Diabhaill.  We’ll hear you on Radio Éireann yet’!


Cyril also describes Lent in Listowel.  There was the regime of Fast and Abstinence and the annual mission conducted by the Redemptorist fathers.  Then there was the temporary shop, bedecked with religious objects of all kinds, erected by the Murray family in front of the church.  Cyril also remembers how on one occasion during the ‘Renouncing of the devil’ a lighting candle sent a lady’s very inflammable hat alight.

They range far and wide over every aspect of his experience and include poems on two well-loved ‘characters’, his father Sandy, the restauranteur, and Seán McCarthy, the balladeer”

Tom Fitzgerald published a poetry collection in 2016 and he has been involved in Writers’ Week over the years.  His poetry has the flavour of Sigerson Clifford’s The Boys of Barr na Stráide. They range far and wide over every aspect of his experience and include poems on two well-loved ‘characters’, his father Sandy, the restauranteur, and Seán McCarthy, the balladeer.

It is a pleasure to welcome this publication from these “scribblers” as they call themselves who share a love of the world of the imagination, writing,  and their native hearth.

For information about the Listowel Writers Week, see the festivals website for all details of events and speakers; email: info@writersweek.ie ; tel: (068) 21074; or call at 24, The Square, Listowel.