The popular art of the local printer

The popular art of the local printer Seán Kelly, Nora Sheahan, Peggy Hilliard, Lilly Nolan and Vincent Carmody in The Listowel Arms at the launch of Listowel, A Printer's Legacy.
Listowel, a Printer’s Legacy: The Story of Printing in North Kerry 1870-1970, Vincent Carmody

(Vincent Carmody, €35.00; ISBN: 9780992698898; email: or call +353 (0) 87 966 7112.)

This publication provides an account of the Cuthbertson family who conducted a printing business in Listowel for almost a hundred years. Robert Irvine Cuthbertson was born in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland, on May 3, 1859. From an early age he was apprenticed to his father who was a printer.

He set up a printing office in Listowel in 1880. A Presbyterian, he became a prominent member of the small local Church of Ireland parish. When he died in 1908 his son James took over the family business. James died in 1918 and Robert (known as Bob), his youngest son, took over the business.

Bob was a popular figure in the local community and was actively involved in the Listowel Drama Group and the Badminton Club.  He had a fruitful relationship with Bryan MacMahon who drew his attention to scores of ballads. These and a number by MacMahon he printed.

The rendition of these ballads became a feature of life in North Kerry. They were sung and sold outside and sometimes inside public-houses on fair days, market days and during the autumn Races Festival. Bob’s father printed the poster which was mounted nationwide in which Sinn Féin announced the general election in December 1918 and rallied support for their cause.


Bob himself printed the signed statement of the members of the RIC who mutinied in Listowel police-barracks in June 1920. Almost certainly the fact that it was printed greatly facilitated its widespread publication.

Bob printed anything and everything: bill-heads, invitations, handbills, pamphlets, lists of fairs and markets, raffle tickets, ballad sheets and posters on auctions of houses and land. Carmody reproduces a wide selection of Bob’s handiwork.

The posters with their highly informative captions are of particular interest. Those advertising the productions of the Listowel Drama Group led with the defiant claim: “The stage shall never die.” The list is so comprehensive as to be a veritable history of the Drama group.

This publication has many other merits and items of interest. It contains scores of pictures of persons and events which will be greatly appreciated by people in North Kerry and beyond. In the foreword and afterword there are delightful reflective vignettes by Cyril Kelly and Fergal Keane of Listowel and its residents.

The lay-out, design and the printing is of the highest quality, and it is a splendid cornucopia of local history.