John B Keane: Boozy jackdaw the bane of crafty foxes

MOLL, the female jackdaw owned by the Heffernans of Inchamagillery, which lies between Listowel and Duagh, is no stranger to these columns, and it is widely known that she is a drinker of both porter and whiskey, but can carry her drink, except on the occasions when she spots a cat.

MOLL, the female jackdaw owned by the Heffernans of Inchamagillery, which lies between Listowel and Duagh, is no stranger to these columns, and it is widely known that she is a drinker of both porter and whiskey, but can carry her drink, except on the occasions when she spots a cat.

Now here is news of another intelligent jackdaw, Tom Shine, of Glenquin, Ballaugh, has been out of the news for some months now, and, as a consequence, no one knew what he was up to.

To-day he writes to explain that the reason he did not write to me was because he was training a jackdaw. Now Tom lives very near the huge forestry plantation on the Kerry-Limerick boarder, and the place is literally crawling with foxes. It is impossible to keep hens in Glenquin as a result of the constant raiding of the craftiest of all four-footed creatures.

The fox is a fast-moving animal, and he keeps very close to the ground so that he is difficult to spot, but he is neither close enough nor fast enough for Tom Shine’s jackdaw. The jackdaw is trained to remain with the hens as a sort of look-out. He keeps flying overhead for long periods when his suspicions are aroused. When a fox appears, the jackdaw makes straight for the house, screeching at the top of his voice for Tom’s dog, whose name is Jack.

“Jack, Jack, Jack,” the jackdaw calls, and immediately the hound appears, knowing by the number of calls and the alarm in them that the jackdaw has spotted a fox.

This particular jackdaw is responsible for the deaths of at least six foxes. Naturally, the foxes resent him and if they should ever lay paws or jaws on him, may heaven help him.

The jackdaw does not drink like the Heffernan jackdaw. He takes drink alright but only in the form of goody. What he likes is a half a bottle of porter poured over a hard crust and a pinch of sugar on top of that. The trouble begins when he takes more than one helping because when he does everything he sees is a fox


I HAVE before me a number of letters from people who ask me to convey their sympathy to the bereaved of the late P. J O’Sullivan of Tournafulla.

“His stories were always good,” writes one reader, “and best of all they were always clean not like many of the stories we hear these days even on the radio and TV.”

Yes, indeed, P. J O’Sullivan will be missed by all those who were fortunate to know him or indeed to read some of his stories.


THE TOWN is very proud of its mutiny which is known far and wide as the Listowel Mutiny.

There were eight R.I.C. members involved and the mutiny came about as a result of an order that they were to shoot on sight any Irish person suspected of being opposed in anyway to British domination.

The officers in question considered the order to be revolting so they threw down their arms and refused to obey. Those who were around at the time will know that this was a very courageous thing to do, especially sine the year was nineteen twenty.

It now comes as a pleasant surprise to hear that a memorial is to be set up to Constable Jerry Mee, who was one of the eight men in the question. It was Constable Mee who led the revolt.

A special committee has been set up in Glenamaddy, Co. Galway, to erect the memorial. As a reprisal in 1920 the family home of the Mees was burned. Mee and his companions, after a narrow escape, joined the I.R.B in Dublin.

Another member of the famous eight, Constable Tom Hughes, joined the Catholic Church when the troubles were over and later was ordained Bishop of Nigeria. He visited Listowel many times and I once had the pleasure of meeting him.

Nearer home, another member of the eight was the late John Sheerin of Brosna, whose daughter is married to Eddie Walsh of Knocknagoshel, the renowned Kerry footballer.

These men certainly deserve to be commemorated.


THIS NEW maxi dress is slowly taking over. I counted eight in Listowel one day last week and over a score at Abbeyfeale during the carnival. What’s the world coming to at all that when women and girls allow themselves to be rigged out in those shapeless sacks. The mini was grand and the maxi up to a point, but I have no time at all for the midi.

“I wouldn’t let Katie wear one of ‘em,” said Jack Faulkner. “If she won the sweep for it.” In fact every man to whom I have spoken on the subject has the same thing to say: “bring back the mini.”


Listowel Race Week approaches, and the town looks forward eagerly to the festivities. This year I will miss the All-Ireland Wrenboys’ Bands, as I am committed to some long neglected recording work in the city of London.

It is expected that it will be the best ever championship, with the champions of the four provinces competing for the title in the square.

No wonder the people of Listowel were able to handle the Fleadh Cheoil.

It was estimated authoritatively that the crowd at last year’s Wrenboys’ Championships was several thousand more than any time during the Fleadh Cheoil.

The Fleadh, of course, was of longer duration and more demanding than the Wrenboys’ Championship, but it is interesting to note the situation regarding the crowds.

One wonders where will next year’s Fleadh go to. If the organisers have any sense they will not be unmindful of Listowel.

Another town which I feel could handle the Fleadh is Abbeyfeale, if it had a mind to do so.

Abbeyfeale has forty public houses, and a long tradition of handling large crowds. As I say, it will be interesting to see who gets it. It should be Listowel.


LAST WEEK I referred to the small number of Paddies who came home from England this year and I gave many reasons which may or may not have been valid.

Now there comes a card from the licensee of that distinguished premises the Star and Garter of New Cross Road, London, Mr. S S Lehane.

“Dear Mr. Keane.

“I am the licensee of the above public house much frequented by our friends the Paddies. When they came back from holidays they are crying. Four bangers, two eggs, two rashers two slices of bread, seventeen and sixpence.

“What do you expect? English price 5/6.”

Undoubtedly Mr. Lehane is hitting the nail on the head. I’ll be in London for a week or so shortly so I must make exact comparisons with regard to prices.