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We Have a Winner!

Before we put all the excitement of St. Patrick’s Day behind us for another year, we need to announce the winner of our Book Giveaway! Next time we will have to challenge you guys a bit and make the trivia question tougher – everyone who entered had the correct answer.

Source: writersweek.ie

Source: writersweek.ie

The famous Listowel Writers Week is held each year over the June Bank Holiday weekend. This year the week of writing workshops, competitions, and festivities runs May 28th – June 1st. The full program will be announced in April on the Writers Week website.

We wish we could give you all a copy of Vincent Carmody’s lovely book about Listowel, but there could be only one lucky winner.

THE WINNER IS…

ED MOONEY 

from County Kildare

Congratulations, Ed! Send us your address and your book will be on its way – click here to email us.

A big thanks to Vincent Carmody for sharing his Listowel with our readers through his stories and for donating the signed copy of his book, Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)


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Reminder: St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Just a friendly reminder to enter our St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway by 11:59pm EDT tomorrow, March 17th. The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 19th. Simply answer the Listowel trivia question below, fill in your contact information, and hit the submit button.

But first, take a look at what people have to say about the prize, a signed copy of Vincent Carmody’s Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950:

“A beautifully designed and executed book, wherein the discards of history are put on parade to become a treasure throve of insight into the life of an Irish Market town. Listowel is transfigured; If space allows movement; place is pause at every turn of a page.”     Dr. Patrick J. O’ Connor

“That Vincent Carmody’s Listowel, Snapshots of an Irish Market town is evocative and beautiful is not surprising, but it is also an artful history. Concisely and lucidly told, it is a mosaic of faces and the telling artifacts of everyday life.”    Richard White, Professor of American History, Stanford University

“This book is about more than the shops and the pubs. It is a reminder of the transience of life, of the way that humans move on but a streetscape remains. Beautifully presented, it will appeal to anyone from North Kerry and should give other towns reason to wish they had someone who would do the same for them.”    Frank O’Shea, Irish Echo 

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Good Luck!


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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend is here and it is time for our Giveaway! This is your chance to win a signed copy of Vincent Carmody’s beautiful Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950. It’s easy to enter – just answer the question at the bottom of this post, fill in your name and email address, and submit the form.

But first, a bit about the prize. Here’s what the publisher has to say about Vincent Carmody’s book:

This book by Listowel native, Vincent Carmody, is an account of life in a prosperous market town from the years 1850 to 1950. The town in question is Listowel, Co. Kerry, but it could be any town at that time. This is a valuable social history, full of information, gossip and anecdotes, amply illustrated with old billheads and photographs. You will see here handwritten receipts, gentle requests for payment to recalcitrant debtors and rare posters, flyers and other assorted memorabilia from that slower age.

Vincent Carmody’s lovely book paints a picture of a gentler age, an age of craftsmen and industry. This was the era of the horse and donkey and the handwritten letter. It was an era of fairs and markets.

Vincent takes you back in time in this comprehensive account of life back then.The book is a one off, a collector’s item, a treasure for anyone who  values historical artifacts and stories.

Now for a little Listowel trivia! Submit the form below by 11:59 pm (EDT) on Monday, March 17th. We will select the winner at random from the correct entries. We will announce the winner on Wednesday, March 19th right here on The Irish in America. Of course, all personal information will only be used for notifying the winner – we promise!

Good Luck! Winner will be announced here on Wednesday, March 19th!


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Listowel Man Remembers…

Vincent Carmody brings us a moment in history when two seemingly disparate, yet equally impactful events in his life, took place. We take a side trip to Ballybunion for this one.

Irish-singer-Bridie-Gallagher-dead-at-87

Bridie Gallagher (photo from Wikipedia)

In the latter part of July 1969 my first cousin Eileen McCaffrey (nee Buckley) and husband Brian were down in Listowel from their home in Portmarnock, County Dublin, for a holiday.

Being fairly young and carefree we decided to visit the nearby seaside resort of Ballybunion to sample the nightlife.

Entering the town we saw large signs announcing that the most famous Irish female singer of the day, Bridie Gallagher, (The Girl from Donegal) was appearing at the Hibernian Ballroom on that night, for one night only.

Cousin Eileen, was beside herself with excitement, “we have to go and see Bridie” she said, ‘did you not know that she attended the same primary school in Creeslough, County Donegal, at the same time as Brian’, she told me, ‘although she was in a more senior class’.

So after socialising ‘down town’ we made our way back to the Hibernian and the Bridie Gallagher appearance. We got some good seats and enjoyed the singing as the night enfolded, during the performance; Eileen scribbled a note which was taken to the stage, asking that Bridie sing one of her most popular songs ‘Sure their cutting the corn down in Creeslough today’ and dedicate it to an old school friend.

Looking down from the stage at the enormous crowd, she said ‘ Ach, Brian, wherever you are in the crowd, don’t leave till we meet up and catch up on old times’.

NeilArmstongSo after the performance we met up and were ushered into the residents lounge.

Already in the room was quite a sizeable crowd assembled around two black and white television sets. What was being broadcast was the live telecast of the first lunar landing. The date, July 20th/ 21st 1969.

So as the century’s most famous moment unfolded and Neil Armstrong uttered the famous words, ‘one giant leap for mankind’ I and the others were in the wonderful company and sharing hospitality with probably one of the most popular Irish artistes of her time, Bridie Gallagher.

Are you getting excited for The Irish in America St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway? We will announce the details tomorrow…


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Listowel Letters

After Vincent Carmody contacted me and told me a bit about Listowel, County Kerry, I became intrigued by the town, its history, and its place in the story of the Irish in America.  I wanted to learn more, so naturally I took to the internet.

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

I was thrilled to stumble upon The Gleasure Letters blog. There is little I enjoy more than a nice collection of emigrant letters, and what better way to get to know the history of a town than through first-hand accounts? I admit, I am rather jealous of Ben Naylor, who publishes the blog with his wife, Kathleen. Ben’s family had no idea these letters existed until an uncle passed away, leaving a trunk containing the letters behind. I don’t think I am the only person engaged in family history research for whom such a discovery is a dream come true!

A description of the collection, taken from The Gleasure Letters blog:

Full transcriptions of hundreds of letters from 1897-1955. Letters are from the Gleasures of Listowel, Ireland to Frank Gleasure in Massachusetts and from Frank’s son George Gleasure (killed in D-Day) to his father during World War II.

I urge you to browse around The Gleasure Letters – you will look up at the clock and wonder how two hours could have passed. Ben and Kathleen have done all the hard work for us in transcribing the letters. You get to sit back, read, and enjoy, without getting hung up on words because of the fancy (or illegible) script. Thanks to Ben for his generosity in allowing us a glimpse into the history of the Irish in America, through his family’s experiences.

Mary Cogan is the author of the Listowel Connections blog, “…a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home.” Mary’s most recent post is a remarkable series of photographs she took while on her morning walk through Listowel.

In October of last year, Ben and Kathleen Naylor paid a visit to Listowel and saw many of the places mentioned in The Gleasure Letters. Mary documented their visit in a post on her blog – click here. Ben and Kathleen were treated to a tour of Listowel from Vincent Carmody, author of Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950. You could be treated to a copy of the book when you enter our St. Patrick’s Day giveaway – details announced next week.

  • Click here for more on Gleasure letters and photographs.
  • Click here to get to know Listowel native Kathy Buckley, twentieth-century culinary sensation.
  • Click here to learn about a Chicago man with Listowel roots who made his mark in politics, Elmer Walsh.


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Listowel Emigrant Tales: Kathy Buckley

Vincent Carmody shares the life of Listowel native, Kathy Buckley with the readers of The Irish in America. Kathy Buckley made her way all the way to Washington, D.C. and the White House. I love Kathy’s spirit – she definitely made Listowel proud. Vincent’s account is full of great details about the people and history of Listowel, as well as entertaining anecdotes about the life and career of Kathy Buckley.

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel Scene (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

From Upper William Street to the White House: Kathy Buckley’s story

by Vincent Carmody

Kathy Buckley was born on the tenth of March 1885 at 26 Upper William Street, Listowel. She was the eldest of a family of seven, born to Lawrence and Ellen Buckley Her father worked as a cooper in his workshop at the rear of the house. Her mother’s family Kearney’s, were a long-established Church Street family of grocers and shoemakers.

Some time after Kathy had finished her formal education at the Convent Primary School in Listowel she secured employment from the Huggard family at the renowned Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville. It did not take her long to find her feet as a trainee cook and in a short time was held in high regard by both management and senior kitchen staff.

In the early years of the 1900s the hotel played host to an entourage of wealthy Americans led by the famous banker and financier J.P. Morgan, not only were they impressed by the natural beauty of the area but they were equally impressed with the quality of the cuisine prepared in the kitchen. Morgan at this time was seeking an assistant to his own chef at his mansion in Hartford, Connecticut and shortly before leaving he offered Kathy this position. She however told him that he would first have to speak to her father. Shortly after he returned to America he was in touch with Lawrence Buckley and permission was secured, however with conditions, one of which was a guarantee to send Kathy home if she was unhappy or unable to settle.

Arriving in Hartford she soon settled in as she had done previously in Waterville and busily engrossed herself in learning new culinary skills. During her time there, the head chef, a Frenchman succumbed to severe alcoholism and Kathy was his ready-made replacement. She thrived in her new position and the lavish banquets which herself and her staff prepared and served for J.P Morgan and his influential friends and guests were legendary.

One man who did not forget Kathy was an incoming President, Calvin Coolidge, a personal friend of J.P. Morgan and a frequent visitor to Hartford. He invited her to become head of the White House kitchens, an offer which she gladly accepted. She retained this position during his and the subsequent terms of Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt. After leaving the White House she worked in the Seaport City of Providence, Rhode Island with an American family for some years. She finally returned in retirement to Listowel in the early fifties.

Because of family connection and as we lived quite close I got to know Kathy quite well during these years, however when one is younger as I was at the time one does not always appreciate a sense of history or indeed the historical significance of what someone so close and from our own street had achieved.

I can recall been with my cousins in their father Paddy’s cooperage when Kathy would come to the back door and call out, ‘Come in while the meat pies are warm’, these particular pies are a local delicacy in the area and would have been widely baked and eaten especially during the Listowel Races. The recipe she used, at one time she recalled, came from publican’s two doors up the street, appropriately called Mike (the Pie) O’Connor. She first got this recipe in 1907 when the O’Connor’s bought the public house from the departing McElligott family who had decided to seek fortune in California in the aftermath of the earthquake. Kate O Connor would have baked these pies especially for fair and market days. Over one hundred years on, this public house is still known as Mike the Pies.

As in Washington, Kathy dominated Buckley’s small kitchen, her two sisters Nora and Tessie relegated to the role of, as it were domestiques, albeit happy ones. When one entered her domain the smell of cooking was ever prevailing and one never left hungry.

During a radio review of the Vincent Carmodys book, North Kerry Camera, well-known Listowel short story writer Bryan McMahon was asked by the presenter if he had a memory of Kathy. He replied as follows:

‘When I was young, my Mother, who would have grown up in the same street as Kathy, would send me up to see had Kathy White House come on her holidays, asking my Mother how she got that name, she replied, Bryan , because she works in the White House in Washington, the home of the President of America. There after I would listen, one day my Mother asked Kathy had she seen any world crises during her time in the White House, Kathy’s immediate was ,’ Joanne, if my sandwiches came back from the Oval Office uneaten, I knew then there was a world crises’

Bryan told the presenter that Kathy Buckley saw world politics with eyes glazed by gastronomy.

In the same interview Bryan recalled that Kathy had told his mother that once the White House staff had lined up to greet the new incumbent, when Kathy was introduced as head of the kitchen, she stepped forward and said, “Mr President, I have something to tell you”, and he said “yes Madame, what is it”, and she said,” Sir, I have never voted for your party and I never will”, to which the President replied, “Madame, that is your right as an American citizen”.

In a further recollection, my first cousins husband Brian recalled been told the following, Once when Kathy was about to enter the lift to take her to the dining room floor level, a senior member of the executive who already was in the lift and who had a disdain for members of the household staff advised Kathy to wait for the lift on its return, like a flash she replied, that’s fine I will share it with the President who was coming upthe corridor to use the lift as well. She was a strong woman, never afraid to speak her mind.

In 1969, Kathy fell and broke her hip, having spent some time in St. Catherine’s Hospital in Tralee she was transferred to a nursing home in Listowel. Her condition deteriorated and on many an evening, as I sat by her bedside in a darkened room, her mind used travel back to earlier days as she used bid me light a fire in the Oval Office or collect a tray from the Rose Garden.

Kathy Buckley, cook extraordinaire, to three American Presidents died on July 19th 1969. From various anecdotes she appeared to have a good personal relationship with the Presidents, the very fact that Coolidge invited her to head the kitchen staff during his time when he took over on the sudden death of Harding in 1923 and again on his election in November 1924.

On a personal note I have in my possession the key which President Coolidge got when he was given the freedom of Fort Worth Texas, this he gave as a gift to Kathy on his return from that city. I received the key as a gift from the family of Kathy’s niece, my first cousin after her death in 2007. I also have correspondence to Kathy from Lou Henry Hoover, wife of Herbert Hoover; there is a clear depth of warmth shown to her in this letter, It is also my belief that Herbert Hoover was the incoming President mentioned in the previous story of the interaction when the staff had lined up to meet the incoming President. As a lifetime Democratic supporter one would imagine that the advent of Franklin Roosevelt to the White House would have pleased Kathy, no evidence survives as such, however a conversation with her niece some years ago on her recollections on this period has given me some insight, while her relationship with the President himself was more formal than with the previous incumbents it seems she had a less than warm relationship with Eleanor, the Presidents wife. This may have stemmed from Kathy’s Irish ethnic background. Early Irish emigrants to America congregated and lived in the same neighbourhoods, as time moved on coloured families started to come into these same neighbourhoods. This resulted in the Irish having to move to new areas, because of this an inbuilt snobbery or elitism developed among the Irish emigrant population. Kathy Buckley though a very devout Catholic and a great benefactor of the poor throughout her long life possibly was an unintentional victim of this syndrome. Eleanor Roosevelt was a committed civil rights advocate all her life and during her time in the White House, 1933/1945 she was very much in favour of the employment of a greater number of non-whites especially in the area of household staff. This is where I think that Kathy Buckley had her difference with Mrs Roosevelt. Sadly we will never know the real story.

A bit about the author…

Vincent Carmody of Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland is passionate for local history. In 1985, hee helped publish a history of the local G.A.A. club, the Listowel Emmets, and in 1989, Vincent self published a historical photographic history of the town titled, North Kerry Camera (this book has become a collector’s item). Most recently, Vincent published, Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town, 1850-1950. (I just received a copy this week – it’s a gorgeous book!)

Vincent was born and raised in Listowel. He spent three years in England, 1963-1966. Returning home, Vincent spent nearly thirty-eight happy years working as a postman around and about the general North Kerry area. Vincent loved every minute of his work until his retirement in 2007.

Click here to read about Elmer Walsh – the Chicago man with roots in Listowel who defeated Richard Daley.

And there’s more from Vincent…

Tune your radio (or your internet) to RADIO Kerry tomorrow morning, Saturday February 22nd @ 9am (Ireland, 3am where I am in Minnesota, USA). If that time doesn’t work for you, check out Radio Kerry for podcasts. Some very kind words for our Listowel Emigrant Tales contributor, Vincent Carmody…
On Saturday morning next, Feb 22 2014 Radio Kerry will broadcast Frank Lewis’ Saturday Supplement  at 9.00 a.m. This programme is !by Vincent Carmody’s book, Listowel: Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850 to 1950. Vincent’s walking tour of the town is something every Listowel person should experience at least once. If you haven’t done it, put it on your Bucket List. Now, Thanks to Frank Lewis and Radio Kerry, you can experience this tour at one remove, by listening to it on the radio.
I am honoured to be part of the tour. I was invited by Vincent to read from Listowel greats like D.C Hennessey, John B. Keane, Joseph O’Connor and Seán Ashe.

Stay tuned to The Irish in America for your chance to win a signed copy of Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950 in our special St. Patrick’s Day competition. Details coming soon!


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Listowel Man Remembers Day JFK Was Shot

Vincent Carmody of Listowel, County Kerry left the following as a comment here on the blog. I thought it deserved to be seen by all followers of The Irish in America, not just the dedicated comment-readers!

PiccadillyCircus1963_LondonPostcardArchive

Piccadilly Circus, 1963 (via Vintage Everyday, click on image)

I have enjoyed reading Seamus Hora’s two poems.

I was a young man just over in London from Ireland in 1963. I went over in October, the following 22nd of November a work colleague and myself attended a showing of the film, Tom Jones, at the Odeon in Leicester Square. During the showing some people who had come in and sat nearby mentioned that they had heard rumours of President Kennedy been shot.

After the film we were in a pub, Wards of Piccadilly.  At this time news of the shooting was both on Television and in everyone’s conversation. Leaving the pub, the news vendors were selling their first edition with the news of the shooting.
As we rode down the second escalator to the Piccadilly tube platform, we came across a woman who had fainted, her boyfriend who was with her asked us to help. Together we moved her to a bench on the platform, by this time she had recovered, her boyfriend (Jack Shaefer?) told us that he was a marine working at the US. Embassy and that she had been overcome and upset when she heard of the shooting.

We traveled home together and they spoke of Jack’s tour of duty ending and of their return to Pittsburgh. The next I heard of them was nearly a year later when I received a small packet from them  which contained 4 Kennedy Dollar coins. After that we corresponded  for some time, however when I returned to Ireland a couple of years later we lost touch. All of that was over 50 years ago but the memories remain.

Impressive memory, Vincent! I wonder what ever happened to Jack Shaefer and his girl? Maybe someone from Pittsburgh knows????

Vincent also had this to say:

Some of your readers might be interested in looking up the website of a book which I had published last year, it is a social history of my hometown of Listowel. It has got some great reviews. The book’s name is, Listowel, Snapshots of an Irish Market Town, 1850-1950,  the books website address is, www.listoweloriginals.com.

This is not the last we will hear from Vincent. In the coming weeks, he will share a couple of excellent articles with The Irish in AmericaVincent has written about relatives and Listowel natives, and their experiences in America – Chicago politics, US Presidents, and more. Great stuff!

And stay tuned for another great giveaway in March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!