John B Keane: There is something fishy happening near the spa well

Listowel Writers’ Week was so successful this year that it has now been decided to make it a permanent fixture. Next year it will be held from May 30 to June 3 and it is expected that the hotels and guest houses in the town will be booked out for the occasion as indeed they almost were this year.

Listowel Writers’ Week was so successful this year that it has now been decided to make it a permanent fixture. Next year it will be held from May 30 to June 3 and it is expected that the hotels and guest houses in the town will be booked out for the occasion as indeed they almost were this year.

That it was a highly successful week may be gauged from the fact that all this year’s visitors, Irish and overseas, have already made provisional bookings for next year.


Some weeks ago a survey was made on Foley’s river field near the Spa well in Listowel. I mentioned this at the time and suggested that it might have to do with the building of a dam near the Spa well.

Subsequent invest-igations have unearthed the following facts. It is not the first survey of its kind. The present survey is being carried out at the request of the Kerry and Limerick County Councils, and is being paid for both those august bodies as well.

The present survey is being carried out with a view towards building a dam at the Spa well near the town of Listowel. The water would be diverted to fill the wants of the estuarial development at this side of the Shannon River.

Those are the simple facts of the case. Reliable sources also claim that similar dams will be built at Duagh and Abbeyfeale. If this is so, then the people, all of the people, who live on or near the banks of the Feale River are in serious trouble.

To divert such masses of water would mean that fish life would ultimately be destroyed. It would also sound a death knell for badgers, otters and most other wild creatures. Many people to whom I have spoken insist that nobody would dare do a terrible thing like this. Indeed they would and already they are planning.

Now is the time to act, to make sure and certain that the Feale River will be left alone.

After the fast

I was amazed to hear from a fish merchant recently that the sales of fish in west Limerick and north Kerry rural districts have dropped drastically since the fast was lifted. It lasted a long time, and a lot of water has flowed under bridges since the Council of Trent.

It is a positive fact, however, that fish sales have dropped.

Could this mean that country people were eating mackerel and herrings for generations against their wills? It looks like it. There are many country people who distrust fish and there are many others who insist that it is good for the brains.

When Paddy Drury was told that fish was good for the brains he said: “I have brains enough for the work I’m doing.”

Paddy, as everybody knows was a labouring man.

Maybe the Tipperary man was right when he said: Good luck and success to the Council of Trent, who put fast upon mate but not upon drink.

In a day!

Somewhere, sometime, somebody said that Rome wasn’t built in a day. There’s no doubt that it wasn’t, but there’s also no doubt that it could. Modern machinery and modern planning would see it up in no time.

But what bring this up? What purpose does it serve, and where is the connection between a small farmer and the building of Rome? You shall see if you bear with me, as the grizzly said to the she bear when she asked him what sort of house he had.

Browsing through old papers recently I happened to come upon a copy of the Kerry Sentinel, dated May 17, 1881. Inside I found the following story about house building in Duagh, under the misleading heading “Duagh Land League.”

“At a recent meeting of the above league a deputation, consisting of Miss Walsh, president of the Ladies League; Miss B. Relihan, V.P.; Miss K.P. Sheehy and Miss S.K. Sheehy, awaited the members of the league, and announced that they received a sum of money from the Central Executive in Dublin through Miss Anna Parnell for the building of a house for Mrs. Dillane, lately evicted from her holding.

“The deputation now asked the assistance of the men’s league to build the house. Mr Fitzell, of Trieneragh, at once offered a site quite adjacent to the house from which Mrs. Dillane had been previously evicted.

“All the members of the league (who were present at the time) resolved to carry on the building and prove to the landlords that of they were turned out of one house they would soon get into another.

“Thursday, May 12 was accordingly appointed for the building, and, about 10am, there appeared in the field, chosen for the site, fully twelve hundred persons and about two hundred horses and carts.

“In that that vast assemblage you had masons, thatchers, carpenters, etc. and many of the farmers brought with them all the necessary elements for the building of the house, such as stones, mortar, scraws, rushes, reed etc.

“About 2pm the walls were fully built, and, as the building was carried on under the the auspices of the Ladies League at this hour, a magnificent spectacle presented itself in the appearances of a hundred members of the Ladies League wearing green banners with suitable inscriptions, amidst the deafening cheers of the assembled hundreds.

“Soon after Rev. B Scanlon, CC, accompanied by the Abbeyfeale Brass Band, came to witness the work of the Land League and received a most enthusiastic reception.

“About 5pm a neat and very substantial house was built, roofed and thatched. The Abbeyfeale Band now entered the house and played the sentimental and soul-stirring song, Home, Sweet Home.

“As all was completed, the multitude fell into line, and, headed by the band, marched four deep, into the village of Duagh, where Father Scanlon congratulated them on the work of the day, and told them it was proof to the rack-renting landlords of the district of their pluck, their union, their bravery and determination and that even when the crops put down by the league would be reduced to ashes, the house built by the league would stand for years as a monument of their zeal for the cause and of their loyalty and adhesion to the principles of the Irish National Land League.”

That’s over 90 years ago, and one wonders if the house in question is still standing. Certainly all of the names mentioned are still very much to the forefront in the locality. There are still Sheehys, Dillanes Fitzells, Walshs and Relihans.

It would also be interesting to learn who wrote the report. There is now no brass band in Abbeyfeale. Neither is there one in Listowel, which once supported a splendid one. There is now no trace, but as little of the famous Duagh Fife and Drum Band.

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