This weekend, November 22 and 23, Listowel will swing into Christmas mood.
The Food Fair continues. Itis one of the best ever. Full timetable of events HERE.
On Saturday Nov. 22 Craftshop na Méar is following a pendant making workshop with a celebration to mark the shop's first anniversary. There will be live music, readings, mulled wine and nibbles in the shop after 4.00p.m.
Many of Listowel's shops will have special offers on the day and many shops will be open on Sunday afternoon.
Paul Galvin will be signing his book in Woulfe's on Saturday afternoon.
The highlight of the weekend will be the switching on of the Christmas lights by Kerry Footballer, Shane Enright. It promises to be an umissable event. Details HERE
Duagh has planned a big night for Nov 22 2014 as well. Duagh's own Anthony Maher will bring the Sam Maguire to the new Sports complex. Another big night in The Mall promised.
Last Saturday I snapped this training session in the Cow's Lawn. The future of sport in Listowel is safe while we have great volunteers who are willing to give their time to training our young people. Well done!
These two lovely ladies, friends Maureen Connolly and Una Hayes are two stalwarts of Listowel's knitting group, Knitwits. The group meets to knit in Scribes on Church St. On Tuesday and Saturday mornings at 11.00. and on Thursday in the Family Centre at 7.00p.m.
New members are always welcome.
<<<<<< Believe it or Not!
Yesterday, I told you about unearthing my late grandmother's purse. I showed you her three sets of prayer beads. The purse also contained a surprise newspaper clip.
I'm flabbergasted by this piece of synchronicity. The newspaper photo shows Michael Kennelly of Listowel talking to 2 Mulcahy brothers at the scout reunion in Killarney in 1951.
Why did my Kanturk grandmother cut and keep this photo? Who were these Mulcahys and what was the connection with Michael Kennelly?
Here is the amazing answer to these questions.
These Mulcahy brothers grew up next door to my mother in Ballintubber, Kanturk. And they have a Listowel connection. Tom Mulcahy was a Garda superintendent in Listowel until his retirement in the seventies. He was a leader with the Listowel Scout Troop.
Sad to say, his brother, Daniel, who is with him in the photo, passed away on the voyage back to the U.S. after this 1952 visit. This is possibly the last photograph of him.
I knew none of this until I found the newspaper cutting, contacted my brother in Kanturk and he made contact with his friend, Tom Mulcahy,nephew of the superintendent, who still lives near the family home in Ballintubber.
Oh! the magic and interconnectivity of social history!
Also in my grandmother's purse was this Victorian hand stitched case for stamps. It is in very poor state of repair but you can still read the tapestry wording. Ironically it contained the stamps pictured below. They each cost dhá phingin go leith; two and a half old pence.
She obviously had the stamp case for a long time.
Poem from an exile
The lights of Dublin seem so far away,
Glowing dimmer day by day.
I left home to see far off lands,
beautiful islands and golden sands.
Eight years now since my departure,
And the lights of Dublin seem even further.
We travel this country following the boom,
worlds away from Ireland’s gloom.
"No work today'" Christy said,
As the youth of Ireland lay in their beds.
The pubs are empty, the shops are shut,
People are broke and stuck in a rut.
Those people in the banks and in the Dáil,
you raped the country and watched it fall.
Driven by money, corruption and greed,
You took the life from the country and watched it bleed.
There’s nothing left, there’s nothing there,
only drugs and suicide, gloom and despair.
The lights of Dublin seem so far away
Getting further day by day.
As the sun burns my skin and the sweat stings my eyes,
Covered in dust and tormented with flies,
I think of my family a life time away,
Maybe one day I'll return to stay.
This poignant poem was penned by a young Irish emigrant in Australia on the Irish in Australia website.
This photo which I snapped opportunistically on Charles Street last week has proved very popular. Vincent Carmody got in touch with me to remind me that in his book, Listowel, Snapshots of a Market Town, he has a photo taken at the same spot over 100 years ago.
J.P. McManus has purchased Adare Manor. This photo on Limerick Life shows Queen Victoria arriving there in 1897.
<<<<<< An cloch is lú ar mo phaidrín My title for my little story comes from an Irish phrase that means, literally, the littlest bead on my rosary or, figuratively, the least of my worries.
Recently I was told a story of a lady who purchased a rosary beads for an elderly relative. When she got the present home, she discovered that it had only 4 decades. She returned it to the shop where the shop assistant discovered that the whole batch of beads had only 4 decades. Everyone presumed that the rosaries were faulty and another example of shoddy workmanship.
I was, however, aware of other sets of beads beside The Holy Rosary as we know it.
I had a very saintly grandmother who, like many of the women of her day was devout and prayerful. After her death I inherited her little purse where she kept her beads. It contained 3 sets of prayer beads.
Conventional, if rather large, rosary beads
These two sets of beads are a mystery to me; one has five "decades", each of 5 beads; the other has seven "decades" each with 7 beads. Any ideas?
<<<<<< + Gus Cremin R.I.P. +
(photo; Terrace Talk on Facebook)
End of an Era Gus Cremin of Lisselton, Gaelic football legend, passed away last week.
Gus Cremin born 1921 was Kerry's oldest living winning All-Ireland
Senior medal holder in Gaelic football.
With his team mate and fellow midfielder, the great Eddie Dowling, Gus
helped the Shannon Rangers win the 1945 Kerry County Championship,
thus putting him in line for the Kerry captaincy the following year.
He was chosen for the Kerry Juniors in 1946 and then went straight
onto the senior side for the All-Ireland semi-final against Antrim.
In the final against Roscommon he captained Kerry and became the
youngest ever to lead the side in an All-Ireland final. It was a
dramatic match and late goals from Paddy Burke and 'Gega' O'Connor
helped snatch a draw for the Kingdom. Gus was shouldered high from the
field by supporters after an amazing game. However, Kerry caused a
sensation by relegating their captain to the subs; Gus was
dramatically dropped for the replay.
With fifteen minutes left in the replay the Kerry team were trailing
the Connaught men by two points, and Roscommon showed no sign of
losing their lead. Entering that last quarter Kerry made the move that
won the match by finally allowing the former captain to come on the
field as a sub. He immediately set up Paddy Burke who found the net
and the Kingdom were ahead. With a few minutes to go in the match Gus
scored a magnificent point from 50 yards. This was the decider and
Kerry went on to win. Later it was described as "one of the most
perfect and valuable points ever scored in Croke Park."
The following year Gus was most unfortunate when a broken leg
sustained in a North Kerry League game prevented him from traveling to
America for the historic 1947 Polo Grounds Final in New York. He
played his last game for Kerry in the 1948 All-Ireland semi-final loss
On Sunday Nov 9 2014 a service station for the Kilflynn to Listowel stage of the Banna Beach Hotel sponsored Mini Stages Rally was located at Listowel Racecourse. A kind lady sent me these photographs from the day. If you know someone who was there please let them know that the photos are here.
Recently I visited the capital for a weekend. I was staying on Haddington Road. On Sunday morning November 9 I found myself at mass in St. Mary's Haddington Rd. Quite unknown to me this was a red letter day in the parish. The church was celebrating its 175 th. anniversary.
It is a beautiful church with a long history but on this, its anniversary, it had a mass concelebrated by three celebrants (average age I'd guess at 65). There was no altar sever on the altar and the gifts were brought up by Phillipino people. Time was when we would have seen 30 priests and as many altar servers.
The sanctuary is particularly beautiful. The priest in his sermon told us, "We are sitting in a treasure." Like many churches, it had a mud floor, a roof with no ceiling and only a centre nave when it was built 175 years ago. Over time, a ceiling, 2 side aisles and many more features were added.
The unusual wooden altar rails survived Vatican 2.
This is the recently restored war memorial. No one could tell me if the names thereon were parishioners. The war poet, Thomas Kettle's name was there. He wrote one of the war's most poignant poems to his infant daughter, Betty;
"…..So here, while the mad guns curse overhead, And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor, Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead, Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor, But for a dream, born in a herdsmen shed, And for the secret Scripture of the poor. "
Some parishioners stayed behind after mass to view the memorial and to congratulate the priests on a wonderful job of cleaning and restoration. Apparently, up to recently, it was illegible.
A section of the mass goers who attended the little post mass celebration.
+ R.I.P. May Stack +
I took this photo in Spar on Market Street in 2011. Canon Declan O'Connor was buying a token in aid of The Irish Heart Foundation from May.
May was small in stature but she had a big heart. She dedicated her life to helping others. She was a familiar face collecting for charity, selling tickets at the parish bazaar or helping with The Laundry for the Elderly. Her generosity extended beyond her death as she donated her body to UCC for medical research.
May she rest in peace. Listowel and May's family have lost a champion.
Listowel Arms refurbished
Listowel Arms posted these photos of its revamp on its webpage.
Listowel pilgrims in Rome in 1951
(Photo; Mary Toomey Roche)
These brave souls completed marathons and ultra marathons last weekend. They are all runners with Kerry Crusaders and are a credit to North Kerry.
Saturday morning was a beautifully crisp November morning in Ballybunion. Mike Enright was out early fishing. He captured these stunning views as the sun rose. He also got some amazing flounder and bass.
Billy O'Connell of Lixnaw, Co. Kerry
Billy O'Connell hails from our very own Lixnaw. He now lives in Huntingdon Beach in California. He is in the news because he has been recently elected to public office.
His Facebook biography says this;
Billy O'Connell is the Founder and current Executive Director of Colette's Children's Home, an emergency shelter and transitional housing program for homeless women and women with children. Founded in 1998, Colette’s provides a safe home and nurturing environment where women and children receive the supportive services necessary to gain independence. Colette's is a hand up, not a hand out. Under Billy's dedicated leadership, Colette's has housed and served over 3,000 women and children helping them break the vicious cycle of homelessness.
<<<< Another Success for our Causeway neighbours
Smiling faces from Team Dairymaster after winning the Eurotier Gold Medal for Innovation for our Swiftflo Goat Rotary Milking Parlour at Eurotier, Hannover last night! ( Photo and caption from Dairymaster website) <<<<<<<< Tony O'Connor, Equine Artist
Tony O'Connor is from North Kerry. He is descended from a line of blacksmiths and he has a love of horses bred into his DNA. The above images are from his 2015 calendar which is available from his White Tree Studio <<<<<< Well worth another Look A Great Listowel weekend in June 2014 <<<<<< Beautiful Christmas Creations from the Crafters at Craftshop na Méar, Listowel
Tributes have been paid to Sean Corridon who died last week after a short illness.
The Kerryman was a loyal servant to the London GAA and had many claims to fame. He was part of the mighty Kingdom team of the 1970s and has seven London county championships medals to his name.
He was instrumental in the setting up of Fulham Irish when that club was founded in 2006 and in 2011 laid claim to be the oldest footballer ever to grace a GAA pitch when lined out for Irish in a reserve championship game at Ruislip. He was ever-present at Ruislip and could always be relied upon to the thankless jobs like linesman or umpire.
Fulham Irish issued a statement on his passing last week. It said: “It is with great regret that Fulham Irish GAA received the news of the untimely passing of Sean Corridan.
“Sean was a one of the very few people involved with the London County board who offered unflinching support during the difficult period that Fulham Irish GAA came into existence in 2006. Sean was easily identifiable as a genuine gentleman who always had the player at the forefront of his thoughts.
“In 2009, Sean joined Fulham Irish GAA to get involved with the running of the Senior football team. He remained a dedicated member right through to the end and could always be relied upon to help out when required, always there, always ready to help out.
“One of those occasions happened in 2011, when the Fulham Irish Reserve team were playing a match against St Kiernans. Playing with only 14 players, the game was close enough. To make the numbers up to 15, Sean pulled on a jersey at half time but unlike others who do this, he stayed on the field for the duration of the game, twice catching the ball and laying it off for scores.
“One of the sweet victories for the club after which Sean was researching whether he was oldest player to ever play in London. We offer our sincere sympathies to his Family and wide circle of Friends. May he rest in peace.”
He was also well-connected with the St Joseph’s club in London.
“On behalf of everyone involved with St. Joseph’s, we wish to extend our sincerest sympathy to the Corridon family following the recent sad passing of Sean. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time. Sean will be very sadly missed by everyone in the Joe’s.”
Mr Corridon was a life-long member of the Kerry Association London.
Secretary Tara Cronin said: “ It was with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of Sean Corridon. Sean was a long standing member of the Kerry Association in London and has been involved with us for a number of years. Sean was an integral part of the committee and he will be missed. My deepest sympathies to his wife and family.”
Sean is survived by his wife Mary, children Dawn and Derry and granddaughter Beth."
(C* Seán Moriarty. Irish World.)
<<<<<< In Happier Healthier Times
This picture from 1981 is on a Facebook page called Classic Pics. It shows Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve hailing a taxi in London in 1981.
R.I.P. two of cinema's legends, who died before their time.
<<<<<<< Nano Nagle remembered on Sunday
Pres girls were in the church on Wednesday preparing for their very special mass for `presentation Day. Presentation Day is on November 21st. The mass is on Sunday next Nov. 16 at 11.00 in St. Mary's
This is Cobh, Co. Cork and I visited there recently to see an art exhibition by Rory Tangney, who is my nephew in law.
The art exhibition is called
My photographs do not do justice to Rory's work, but I'm trying to give you a flavour of the pieces. It's all about sound and wood and things new and old, technology and progress. There is also a sound track to listen to and its all housed in a beautiful pace in the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh.
Here is what the people who know say about it all;
Dublin based Cork artist Rory Tangney combines found and new materials with sound in a body of work that poses the question - can science provide us with what we need in a post-religious world? Ideas about obsolescence; of technology, people and ideas, emerge through sculptural objects, sound and drawings that are carefully imagined and skillfully made.
This Way To Enchantment, is essentially a search for spirit within the machine. Through works which engage with technology, old and new, relying on conventional, modern materials as well as salvaged materials that would normally be found in other contexts.
Tangney’s history as a furniture maker informs his sculpture, sound and drawing works relying on a process of making to create aesthetically potent and formal works. He focuses on the idea that manual skills provide a rootedness in the physical world, as if to say we are still physical beings walking on solid ground.
One of his large sculptures Consensus, is composed of a forest of salvaged reel-to-reel audiotape of random radio recordings from the past 40 years. The salvaged tape, before being cut up for the sculpture work, was harvested for its audio content. Some of these sounds, along with manual tape effects, re-emerge in the sound work, which also uses field recordings and extracts from YouTube clips.
Recordings taken in a hospital MRI booth provide an explosive background to the second work When All Is Said And Done. Here, the voice of Peter Higgs, the scientist who proposed the existence of the God Particle, recounts his life's work along with an unidentified piece of music taken from one of the old tapes.
While I was in town I did a bit of exploring and I found Cobh fascinating. I'd recommend a visit.
This is The Emigration memorial. Cobh or Queenstown as it was formerly known was the point of departure for Irish emigrants to the U.S.
Pretty houses with convent in the background
Interior of Cobh Cathedral
The Lusitania memorial.
Below is the Wikipaedia account of the sinking of the Lusitania
On 7 May 1915 Lusitania was nearing the end of her eastbound crossing from New York, as she was scheduled to dock at the Prince's Landing Stage in Liverpool later that afternoon. She was running parallel to the south coast of Ireland, and was roughly 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale when the liner crossed in front of U-20 at 14:10. It was sheer chance that the liner became such a convenient target, since U-20 could hardly have caught the fast vessel otherwise. Schwieger, the commanding officer of the U-boat, gave the order to fire one torpedo, which struckLusitania on the starboard bow, just beneath the wheelhouse. Moments later, a second explosion erupted from within Lusitania's hull where the torpedo had struck, and the ship began to founder in a much more rapid procession, with a prominent list to starboard.
Almost immediately, the crew scrambled to launch the lifeboats but the conditions of the sinking made their usage extremely difficult, and in some cases impossible due to the ship's severe list. In all, only six out of 48 lifeboats were launched successfully, with several more overturning, splintering to pieces and breaking apart. Eighteen minutes after the torpedo struck, the bow struck the seabed while the stern was still above the surface, and in a manner similar to the sinking of Titanic three years earlier, the stern rose into the air and slid beneath the waves.
Of the 1,959 passengers and crew aboard Lusitania at the time of the sinking, 1,195 lost their lives that afternoon in the waters of the Celtic Sea. Just as had been seen with Titanic, most of the casualties were from drowning or from hypothermia. In the hours after the sinking, acts of heroism amongst both the survivors of the sinking and the Irish rescuers who had heard word ofLusitania's distress signals brought the survivor count to 764, three of whom later died from injuries sustained during the sinking. By the following morning, news of the disaster had spread around the world. While most of those lost in the sinking were either British or Canadians, the loss of 128 Americans in the disaster, including American writer and publisher Elbert Hubbard, outraged many in the United States.
I took this photo from the lovely park beside the children's playground.
This piece is called The Navigator. It looks to me like a very big man in a very small boat.
People were embarking to take a trip to Spike Island.
A big protest march against the government's proposed water charges was taking place.
<<<<< I attended a lovely Humanist wedding ceremony recently
What a lovely sentiment!
All of these ladies have a Pres. Listowel connection:
Diane Flavin, Sarah Buckley, Margo Spillane, Deirdre O'Connor, Maria O'Connor, Mary Cogan and Maria Keane.
<<<<<<< Strictly….the DVD
A huge bualadh bos is due to the brave people who gave up weeks of their time and all of their inhibitions and tripped the light fantastic for Kerry Parents and Friends association. By all accounts we missed great night. I can't wait for the DVD which will be available shortly. Great Christmas present….great cause.
My son, who is currently living in France, brought me this present on a recent visit home. The item is not a cap as I thought at first. It is a receptacle for putting your pocket contents in; keys, loose change, rosary beads etc. It is manufactured in Southern France in a factory called Lartigue 1910. The factory is in business since 1910 and even though it now imports the raw cotton and linen from China, all the weaving is done in the factory in the Basque area of southern France.
The people who worked in the factory had never heard of the other famous Lartigue or his railway and they were fascinated to hear that in a little corner of southern Ireland there was another Lartigue weaving its way into the fabric of the local community.
<<<<<<< Dates for the diary
November 22 is The Day for the switching on of the Christmas lights. More details later <<<<<<< From the Bord na Mona Archive
This photograph from 1934 shows Bord na Mona employees digging a trench in a bog in the midlands.
<<<<<< Micheál O'Suilleabháin
Michaél OSuilleabháin has been nominated by Ard Cúram for an award from Volunteer Ireland. He is one of 30 short listed and he will know in early December if he is to receive the award. An award would be a well earned recognition for all his volunteering work in Listowel over many years.
(photo: Christmas in Listowel) Jackie McGillicuddy and fellow William Street traders are gearing up for Christmas.
On the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the guns fell silent. Now on the eleventh day of the eleventh month 2014 we remember the people who gave their lives for a ideal.
"But young Willie McBride, it all happened again, And again and again and again."
Photo from The National Archive in Washington
Sometimes the poets said it best.
Back by Wilfred Gibson
They ask me where I've been,
And what I've done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn't I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands...
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.
<<<<<<< Some names from Kerry's Roll of Honour
ENRIGHT, THOMAS LOUIS Captain Date of Death: Age: 29
Regiment/Service: Royal Army Medical Corps Grave Reference: 1379.
Cemetery: SALONIKA (LEMBET ROAD) MILITARY CEMETERY Additional Information:
Son of James and Margaret Enright, of Church St., Listowel, Co. Kerry.
Rank: Sergeant SHEEHY, MICHAEL
Service No: 26742 Date of Death: 19/07/1918 Age: 43
Regiment/Service: Royal Garrison Artillery 13th Heavy Bty.
Grave Reference: 270. Cemetery: MIKRA BRITISH CEMETERY, KALAMARIA
Additional Information: Son of Martin and Anne Sheehy, of Carrigcannon, Listowel, Co. Kerry.
Rank: Private MacAULIFFE, MICHAEL
Service No: 5788
Date of Death: 07/09/1916 Age: 28
Army Cyclist Corps 27th Div. Coy.
Grave Reference: 1819.
Cemetery: MIKRA BRITISH CEMETERY, KALAMARIA
Son of Patrick MacAuliffe, of Church St., Listowel, Co. Kerry.
Rank: Corporal DORE, MICHAEL
Service No: 236 Date of Death: 08/10/1916, Age:27
Regiment/Service Royal Munster Fusiliers 7th Bn.
Grave Reference: I. C. 4.
Cemetery: LAHANA MILITARY CEMETERY
Son of Mr. P. and Mrs. Margaret Dore; husband of Mary Dore, of Cleveragh, Listowel, Co. Kerry.
Private William Jones
Service No: 7121
Date of Death:16/03/1917 Age: 42
Regiment/Service: Irish Guards 1st Bn.
Grave Reference: I. E. 3.
Cemetery: SAILLY-SAILLISEL BRITISH CEMETERY
Son of Hugh and Bridget Jones, of Listowel, Co. Kerry; husband of Annie Jones, of 32, Brendon St., Edgware Rd., London, W.1.
Rank: Private Service No: 4612 Date of Death: 10/10/1918
Age: 50 Regiment/Service: Royal Munster Fusiliers
transf. to (498714) Labour Corps
Memorial: HOLLYBROOK MEMORIAL, SOUTHAMPTON
Son of Thoman and Mary Canavan, of Convent St., Listowel, Co. Kerry; husband of Catherine Canavan, of 2, John St., Tralee, Co. Kerry. Served in the South African War and in India, also served at Gallipoli.
Rank: Corporal Service No: 5113
Date of Death: 13/05/1915 Age: 27
Regiment/Service: Rifle Brigade 1st Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 46 - 48 and 50.
Memorial: YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL
Son of James Lunney, of Upper Church St., Listowel, Co. Kerry.
John O Connor
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 4165
Date of Death: 13/10/1915, Age: 23
Regiment/Service: Royal Munster Fusiliers 2nd Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 127.
Memorial: LOOS MEMORIAL
Son of Mrs. Kate O'Connor, of William St., Listowel, Co. Kerry.
William O Dell
Service No: 4575 Date of Death: 25/09/1915
Royal Munster Fusiliers 2nd Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 127.
Memorial: LOOS MEMORIAL
Husband of Mary O'Dell, of Ballygowlogue, Listowel, Co. Kerry.
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 1911650 Date of Death: 20/09/1944 Age: 29
Regiment/Service: Royal Engineers 1 Parachute Sqn.
Panel Reference: Panel 2.
Memorial: GROESBEEK MEMORIAL
Son of Daniel and Mary Neville, of Listowel, Co. Kerry, Irish Republic.
James Joseph McElligott
Rank: Pilot Officer Trade: Pilot Service No: 40630
Date of Death: 19/05/1940 Age: 24
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force 12 Sqdn.
Grave Reference: Plot 19. Row D. Grave 10.
Cemetery: TERLINCTHUN BRITISH CEMETERY, WIMILLE
Son of John and Lena M. McElligott, of Listowel, Co. Kerry, Irish Republic
John Christopher Sheehy
Rank: Rifleman. Service No: 7019850
Date of Death: 26/10/1944, Age: 31
Regiment/Service: King's Royal Rifle Corps 1st Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 10.
Memorial: CASSINO MEMORIAL
Son of Morgan and Mary Agnes Sheehy, of Listowel, Co. Kerry, Irish Republic.
Liam Lynch of Knocknagoshel, who passed away last week was an extraordinary human being. As a young man, he lost his eyesight and so began his new life as "A Stranger to Darkness". This is the title of his autobiography in which he gives an account of a life well lived. He gave all the proceeds from the sale of the book to his beloved charity, Irish Guide Dogs Association. Liam travelled widely, acted in a play, gave talks on coping with blindness and remained to the end a great scholar and student of Irish history and literature. May the sod rest lightly on his gentle soul.
The following extract from The Irish Library News of 2007, kindly sent to me by Jer. Kennelly, gives you an idea of the measure of the man.
Kerry County Library
Taken from Irish Library News April 2007
Kerry County Library was recently given a donation of some newspapers relating to the early part of the 20th century.
The donor was Knocknagoshel native, Liam Lynch and among the titles were copies of
An Phoblacht(1916) and The Irish Volunteer(1920).
At the presentation in Tralee Library, Liam also donated copies of his recent autobiography A Stranger to Darkness. In his book, Liam writes about his life experiences, both before and after his sight loss, and explains how he regained his independence through mobility training and partnership with his guide dog, Yale.
Liam is very kindly donating the proceeds of the book to Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and he is well on his way to his fundraising target of €35,000 which is the total cost of a guide dog
partnership (the breeding, training and support of a dog throughout its working life). Liamʼs fundraising efforts on behalf of IGDB have been so successful that a new guide dog puppy was named Kerry, in honour of Liamʼs home county. The book is available from Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, on lo-call 1850 506 300.
Here I am pictured with Liam when he visited Presentation Secondary School, Listowel to talk to a group of students who were fundraising for Irish Guide Dogs.
Liam and his dog, Yale with Sr. Nuala who, sadly, passed away just days before Liam.
Some of the students at the handover of the cheque from their sponsored walk.
Liam and Yale with the teachers who organized the fundraiser, Breda Ferris and Teresa Deenihan
<<<<<<< You must read this
Aidan O'Connor gave one of the best speeches ever at the Kerry Stars awards. Here it is in its entirety. I challenge you to read it without a tear. Even if you hate reading a lot of text, and some of my followers tell me they hate to see chunks of prose, please read this one;
"July 1998 was a warm month. I remember it because I was living in Tralee and I had a tank of gas blow up in the heat at the back of my house.
Next door in No.28 lived Hamdun - a gorgeous little four-year-old boy with beautiful dark brown skin; the son of an Indian doctor who worked at Kerry General Hospital.
Hamdun kind of did his own thing. For hours each evening, he’d peddle his tricycle up and down the housing estate, talking out loud to himself, Indian talk.
I guess you could say Hamdun was a bit of a loner.
It was a Tuesday in that July, and a crowd of kids from the estate were playing ball on the green. As they do, like a shoal of fish, they’d all run after the ball together, up and down, back and over.
I stood inside the sittingroom window, looking out, and once they all chased the ball together to one corner of the field, I noticed a lone figure standing in the middle of the green, all alone, hands hanging by his side, just staring at the rest.
It was Oisin.
For the first time, in the four years of Oisin’s life, it struck me like never before. That was the way it was then, and that was the way it was always going to be. Oisin would always be outside, looking on; always watching it but never part of it.
There would be Oisin, and there would be them. Even Hamdun, the dark-skinned Indian boy with no English, abandoned his tricycle that evening to join the football match.
Even Hamdun, the loner, was now one of them .
I found myself in that funny place that every family member knows. Every bone in your body wants to jump in and save the day, while at the same time, you know you have to stand back too and let Oisin find his own way.
Your head starts to fast forward and you wonder about the day Mom or Dad aren’t going to be around anymore to save the day. What happens then?
It’s that place where you wonder about the unfairness of the hand of cards you’re dealt; that place where you’ve pity for yourself and pity for the one you love most; that place where you’re angry at God and mad at the world.
Why can’t every child just be the same. Why can’t one mould fit all?
That Tuesday evening wasn’t the end of the world by any means - not for me and not for Oisin. Far from it.
There are family members sitting all around you here tonight who have had to deal with so much more than Oisin or Linda, his Mom, or I. A physical or intellectual disability on its own is massive mountain to climb. Both together can turn a family and their world upside down.
There isn’t a tablet you can take to make it all go away.
All around you tonight are family members whose lives of loving and living with special needs is not easy. Anything but. There are family members here tonight where serious and often life-threatening medical conditions are part of everyday life; where tubes and drips and syringes and medication are as common as the kitchen cutlery; where speech therapy and physiotherapy and occupational therapy and trips to the doctor are all a regular part of getting on with life.
Family members do all this - and go that extra mile - because of one overwhelming reason. Love – the love they give and the love we receive.
There’s something about Oisin’s love that I have always struggled to describe.
It’s free, of course, and it comes in buckets. It’s ever- present and it’s overpowering.
But there’s one thing. Above all, it’s unconditional and non-judgemental.
It’s a love that says I’ll love you anyway, no matter what. It’s a love that refuses to be influenced by position or dress, status, wealth or title. And in a world where all of us have agendas and angles, that’s an extraordinary thing.
Linda or I have never asked for special treatment for Oisin. What we’ve always asked, and what Oisin wants most, is the help and support – not to be the best - but to be the best that he can be.
Because it shouldn’t be about being the best or about measuring up. Unless we throw away the measuring stick, neither Oisin or any one of the Kerry Stars will ever measure up in the eyes of the state.
Oisin hasn’t failed. The state has failed him.
What government, what department, or what arm of the state has the right to decide on Oisin’s happiness or well-being?
Who wrote the rules that say if you’re physically or intellectually challenged in any way, life for you is going to be made harder than it already is?
Why do special needs family members still have to beg and bang on doors and shout louder than everybody else just to get basic supports?
Is it because Oisin doesn’t need it? Is it because he doesn’t deserve it? Or is it because, in the eyes of the state, Oisin doesn’t measure up to what the state thinks Oisin should be?
I think we are lucky in Kerry to have the local government and public representatives that we have. For all the criticism they get, I believe they have been exceptional in their support for the club and all of the lads. They have met them and come to know so many of them. They get it.
To Mayor Brassil and all the Oireachtas members and councillors, this is my request to you.
Don’t give up. Lead the way. Stand up and be counted. Double your efforts to help. All of us will meet you half way. Fight for Oisin and all the lads. Don’t judge them as people. They don’t judge you.
All of us can do more. How different life would be were it not for the coaches and volunteers in the Kerry Stars who have literally changed lives. I know the athletes and all family members are eternally grateful.
I didn’t think it could be done. I was a sceptic. When Linda first mentioned the idea of Oisin joining Special Olympics, I recall thinking to myself “Great, here we go again - another glorified babysitting service where nice people give Oisin a nice pat on the head and tell him he’s a nice boy”.
How wrong I was. It has been, without doubt, one of the greatest game-changers in Oisin’s life. How glad I am that for that one and only time, I Iistened to his Mom, and sent Oisin off to Kerry Stars.
Maybe one day, other sporting organisations like the GAA will follow suit and adopt a real and meaningful approach to sport for all.
On my phone, I still have kept the countless texts from Oisin that ask “Dad, when can I play for Rathmore”, “When can I play with the minors”, “When can I play for the U-21s”.
I have never answered, because I know what the answer is.
Maybe one day, Liam O’Neill or the Croke Park Executive will come to visit Oisin and give him an answer, an answer as to why the biggest sporting organisation in this country does little or nothing to promote and facilitate GAA for people with special needs.
Oisin has the jersey. He has the socks and the boots. He has the belly for battle. All he’s asking for is a chance.
And when all is said and done, that’s what it comes down to - a chance. A chance to be the best person you can be and have the best life that can be lived.
That’s all it is for the athletes – no different to anybody else.
I know that I speak for Linda too when I say that I am privileged to be Oisin’s parent.
I know too that every family member here tonight will understand that in being Oisin’s Dad, I have received far more than I could ever possible give.
My eyes have been opened to seeing the world in a completely different way.
I started out thinking I would be his teacher – yet I was the one who had to learn.
All of us owe a tremendous debt to people with special needs. Were it not for Oisin, I’m not sure I would ever have known what it is to be loved that way. I doubt I would ever have come to know such kindness, such compassion, such forgiveness and such downright good chat up lines for the ladies.
I owe you Oisin. Big time.
All of us must keep going, keep fighting the good fight. And really, can we afford not to? If we don’t, what's the price? There's always a price.
What is the price of a dream that is not dreamed? What is the price of a word that is not spoken? What is the price of a voice that isn’t heard? Most of all, what is the price of a life not lived?
Hamdun is studying to be a doctor now, just like his Dad. I met Akiel, his father, about two months ago and he asked about Oisin.
He told me Hamdun gave up the football - said it didn’t suit him. Hamdun doesn’t have the tricycle anymore either.
He said Hamdun is so happy and loves Ireland. Isn’t it great thing, Akiel said, to be accepted in a place – just for who you are?