Listowel (Lios Tuathail, "Tuathal's fort", in Irish) is a market town in County Kerry, Ireland, and is situated on the River Feale, 28 km (17 miles) from the county town, Tralee. The combined population of Listowel Urban and Rural Districts is 22,668; the town itself has a population of 3,589 (CSO census 2002).

The town is sometimes described as the "Literary Capital of Ireland", and a number of internationally known playwrights and authors have lived there, including Bryan MacMahon and John B. Keane. Of Listowel, the latter wrote:

"Beautiful Listowel, serenaded night and day by the gentle waters of the River Feale.
Listowel where it is easier to write than not to write,
Where first love never dies, and the tall streets hide the loveliness,
The heartbreak and the moods, great and small,
Of all the gentle souls of a great and good community.
Sweet, incomparable hometown that shaped and made me."


Listowel is on the N69 Limerick - Foynes - Tralee road. Bus Éireann provides daily services to Tralee, Cork, and Limerick. The nearest railway station is Tralee. Listowel used to have its own railway station on a broad gauge line between Tralee and Limerick city, however this was closed to passengers in 1963, freight in 1978 and finally abandoned and lifted in 1988. The station building has been preserved as a private residence.

Listowel is located at the head of the North Kerry limestone plain. Rested in the very heart of North Kerry, on the River Feale, its hinterland is an area of mainly dairy agricultural use. To the north is the Irachticonnor barony, with Clanmaurice to the south. Surrounding villages include Asdee, Ballybunion, Ballyduff, Ballylongford, Causeway, Duagh, Lisselton, Lixnaw, Moyvane, Finuge and Tarbert.


In July 2000, Listowel was officially designated as one of Ireland's 26 "Heritage Towns" - in part because of modern environmental and renewal works, but also because of its architectural heritage and "historic importance".

Lartigue Monorailway

A unique part played by Listowel in Irish railway history is that of having hosted the world's first monorail operation. The Listowel and Ballybunion Railway was built to the Lartigue system, with a double-engined steam locomotive straddling an elevated rail. It connected the town with Ballybunion. Coaches, with a compartment on either side of the rail, had to be kept balanced. If a cow was being brought to market, two calves would be sent also, to balance it on the other side. The calves would then be returned, one on either side of the rail. In 2003, a 1000m long replica of the original monorailway was opened.

Listowel Castle

Listowel’s long history dates back to 1303 where it first appears in the Plea Roll. Fortress to the Fitzmaurice family, the town developed around Listowel Castle and its significant Square. The last bastion against Queen Elizabeth I in the Desmond campaign, Listowel Castle was built in the 15th century and was the last fortress of the Geraldines to be subdued. It fell after 28 days siege to Sir Charles Wilmot on the 5th November, 1600, who had the castle's garrison executed in the following days.

The castle became the property of the Hare family, the holders of the title of Earl of Listowel, after reverting away from the Fitzmaurices, Knights of Kerry. It is now a national monument.

Today, the remnants of the castle include two of its four towers, which are joined by a heavy curtain wall, and the unusual feature of an arch below the battlements. Archaeological excavations and records of the castle reveal that it was originally of similar form to Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare. In 2005, restoration works were commenced by the Board of Public Works. The stonework has been cleaned by a team of craftsmen, while the upper section, which had become particularly distressed with the passing of time, has been restored and rendered waterproof. An external staircase, in keeping with the architecture of the structure has been erected to enable the public to access the upper stories.

One of the best examples of Anglo-Norman architecture in Kerry, the castle has now been restored by the Office of Public Works to some of its former glory. The castle is open to the public for tours on a daily basis.

The Seanchaí Literary Centre, which is adjacently located in a Georgian town house, is intended to help visitors learn more about the castle’s history.

Another Anglo-Norman castle at Woodford, Listowel, was built in the post-1600 period by the Knight of Kerry.

Listowel Mutiny

Listowel was the site of a famous mutiny which occurred during the Irish War of Independence. On 17 June 1920, police at Listowel police station refused to obey the commanding officer's orders that they be relocated to police outposts outside of the town. The Black and Tans had occupied the town barracks, forcing the redeployment, something which was both dangerous and hopeless in the face of huge local hostility to the men in question. Police commissioner Colonel Smythe wished that the RIC constables would operate with the army in countering the IRA's fight for freedom in the more rural areas. He suggested while negotiating with the constables that they would be given the power to shoot on sight any suspect. Led by Constable Jeremiah Mee, they refused, both from a point of personal safety and possibly also from a sense of sympathy with their country men struggling against the British forces. The officers were discharged after the mutiny. The episode has come down to be known as the Listowel mutiny.


Kerry Co-Op

In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) and this accelerated the merger of many small dairies in Ireland so as to be able to compete with the larger milk companies in the existing EEC. Kerry followed suit and with an injection of capital from milk suppliers in the County it acquired the State owned milk processing company and its creameries, together with its 42.5% stake in the private NKMP company for a consideration of €1.5 million. Furthermore, six of the eight independent Co-ops, which held the other 42.5%, were acquired and accordingly the private company became a subsidiary of the newly formed Kerry Co-operative Creameries Ltd (Kerry Co-op) which began trading in January 1974. Thus Kerry started out as the smallest of Ireland's six major agricultural Co-operatives in 1974, with sales in that year of €29 million.

In the period 1974 - 1979 Kerry expanded its milk business in a similar fashion to other dairy Co-ops but did so on a consistently profitable basis, which of course was not always typical of the traditional dairy Co-op sector. EEC entry had brought better milk prices, increased milk volumes and improved farm incomes in Ireland. Kerry Co-op grew organically simply by taking the milk that came its way, processing it and meeting all other farmer requirements in terms of inputs and on-farm services. Its milk supply increased from 67 million gallons in 1974 to 87 million gallons in 1978. The new Co-op acquired the independent Killarney, Limerick and Ballinahina Dairies (Cork) which later became part of Kerry’s Dawn Dairies structure with the addition of Galway and Moate Dairies.

However in 1979 everything changed for Kerry Co-op when the county was chosen as a pilot area for a bovine disease eradication scheme. Allied to this, milk production was further depressed due to wet summer weather in 1979 and in 1980, which meant that Kerry lost almost 20% of its milk supply. This was highly significant in that it happened at a time when the Co-op was in the course of completing a €18 million capital expenditure programme at the NKMP plant in Listowel.

Kerry Group

Kerry Group today is a leader in global food ingredients and flavours markets, and a leading branded consumer foods processing and marketing organisation in selected EU markets.

The Group has grown organically and through a series of strategic acquisitions in its relatively short history, from the commissioning of its first dairy and ingredients plant in Listowel, Ireland in 1972, and has achieved sustained profitable growth with current annualised sales in excess of €4.5 billion.

Headquartered in Tralee, Ireland, the Group employs approximately 22,000 people throughout its manufacturing, sales and technical centres across Europe, North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Asian Markets.

Kerry supplies over 10,000 food, food ingredients and flavour products to customers in more than 140 countries worldwide. The Group has manufacturing facilities in 19 different countries and international sales offices in 20 other countries across the globe.

Launched as a public company in 1986, Kerry Group plc is listed on the Dublin and London Stock Markets and has a current market capitalisation of approximately €3.5 billion.

Listowel Races

The origin of Listowel races can be traced back to an annual gathering at Ballyeigh, Ballybunion, about nine miles from Listowel. This event, which can be traced back to the early nineteenth century, consisted of a variety of games, horse-racing and a pre-arranged faction fight which concluded the event. Due in no small part to the disturbances surrounding these faction fights, the meeting at Ballyeigh was suspended and racing transferred to Listowel, where the first meeting took place in 1858.

It is now the joint longest racing festival in Ireland, at 7 days in duration the same as the Galway races and second in attendances only to that great event. It is the last major festival of the Summer and the last one before Christmas so the crowds make the most of the festivities. Traditionally it was the meeting where the farmers of Ireland came to spend/gamble the money they made from the harvest but it has since grown into something much larger and more wideranging than that and everybody and anybody now attends with a warm Kerry welcome guaranteed to all.

The Listowel track consists of a 1 mile, 2 furlong mile oval left-handed track with National Hunt fences and hurdles. The hurdle course is adjustable after each day's racing to give new ground. The track has been extended over the last number of years to allow extra race permutations and to enable our Festival Meeting in September to extend to seven days. The Listowel Racecourse is located adjacent to the town and is within easy walking distance of the town centre.

Writers' Festival

Listowel is also the home of Irelands biggest literary festival. Since its beginnings in 1971 "Writers' Week" has grown to become one of Ireland’s leading literary festivals. From the beginning, Writer’s Week pioneered the concept of the literary workshop and now hosts a total of ten workshops each year during its festival, dealing with all styles of writing.



Listowel displays a broad range of architectural features, including the notable five arch bridge traversing the River Feale at the entrance to the Town, which dates back to 1829. According to local tradition, the bridge (referred to locally as the "Big Bridge") replaced a smaller wooden structure, which had been destroyed in floods.
Works of Pat McAuliffe
Local plasterer and builder Pat McAuliffe (1846-1921) used stucco or external plaster to decorate the façades of townhouses and shops in the town and surrounding area. A native of Listowel, McAuliffe created a number of unique plasterwork works, including the noted "The Maid of Erin", which depicts a Romantic image of Mother Ireland surrounded by a harp, a wolfhound and other symbols of Ireland. The Maid was at the centre of a controversy in 1999 when a new owner decided to "cover her dignity" and painted a dress on her famous bosom. A debate ensued and he was persuaded to return her to her original semi-nude state.

Published Writers with Listowel Connection

  • George Fitzmaurice, (1877 - 1963)
  • Maurice Walsh, (1879 - 1964)
  • Thomas MacGreevy, (1893 - 1967)
  • Bryan MacMahon (1909 - 1998)
  • John B. Keane, (1928 - 2002)
  • Brendan Kennelly, (1936 - )
  • Gabriel Fitzmaurice, (1952 - )
  • John O'Flaherty, (1937 - ) Listowel Races
  • John McAuliffe, (1973 - ), poet, RTÉ poet of the Future 2000, "A Better Life", "Next Door"
  • Daniel Boland MBE (1891 - 1973), born near Lisselton, Legal Texts, ABC Guide to the Practice of the Supreme Court
  • Billy Keane writer and publican, The Last of the Heroes
  • Padraig A. de Brún (1940 - )
  • Timothy Enright - Tadhg Mac Ionnrachtaigh (1926 - 1993)
  • John Moriarty (writer) (1938 - 2007) Dreamtime(1994), Turtle was Gone a Long Time I: Cross the Kedron and more
  • An tAthair Míchaél Ó Ciosáin (1920 - 1991) Cnoc an Fhomhair (1989)
  • Seán O'Quigley (1914 - 1994) Health and Travel (1979)
  • Cecile O'Rahilly (1894 - 1980) Ireland and Wales: their Literary Relations (1924)
  • Eamon Kelly (1914 - 2001) Novelist, The Apprentice (1995)
  • Seán McCarthy (1923 - 1990) Journalist and poet. Book of Ballads (1966)
  • Patrick O'Connor (1919 - 1996) Journalist, Sunday Tribune, RTÉ Guide, The Standard
  • Father Cornelius O'Keeffe (1929 - ) The Later Days are Cold (1960)
  • Christian O'Reilly (1968 - ) Scriptwriter, playwright. It Just Came Out (2000), The Good Father (2002)
  • Séamus Wilmot (1902 - 1977) The Splendid Pretence (1947)
  • Vincent Carmody (1944 - ) North Kerry Camera: Listowel and its Surroundings (1860-1960) (1989)
  • John Dennehy (1946 - ) Arts and Crafts in the Primary School (1969)
  • Michael Guerin (1946 - ) The Lartigue: Listowel and Ballybunion Railway (1988)
  • Timothy Leahy (1927 - ) Memoirs of a Garda Superintendent (1996)
  • Patrick Lysaght (1917 - ) The River Feale (1987)
  • Michael McCarthy (1918 - 2004) Early Days (1990)
  • John Molyneaux (1930 - ) Editor Clár Cuimhne 1898-1960, Páirc na h-Imearha, Lios Tuathail (1960)
  • Nora Relihan (1929 - ) Signposts to Kerry (2001)
  • Mairéad Carey (1969 - ) Journalist. Evening Herald, Magill
  • Willian Galvin (1970 - ) Journalist. Irish Press, Sunday Independent
  • Katie Hannon (1968 - ) Journalist RTÉ Primetime, The Naked Politician (2004)
  • Conor Keane (1960 - ) Journalist Limerick Leader, Kerryman, Irish Examiner. Irish Awards: Business Journalist of the Year 2004, Regional Property Journalist of the Year 1996.
  • John (Seán) Keane (1961 - ) Journalist The Kingdom, Kilkenny People
  • Father Patrick (Pat) Moore (1957 - ) Journalist, Alive-O'
  • Shane Phelan (1978 - ) Journalist, Irish Independent, Young Journalist of the Year 2003
  • Joseph Stack (1968 - ) Journalist, Radio Kerry, RTÉ
  • Noel Twomey (1970 - ) Journalist, Irish Independent, Kerryman
  • Deirdre Walsh (1968 - ) Journalist, Kerryman, Radio Kerry
  • Jimmy Woulfe (1952 - ) Journalist, Irish Examiner, Voices of Kerry (1994).

Other notable people from Listowel

Related places


  • Prideaux, J.D.C.A. (1981). Odd Man Out, in The Irish Narrow Gauge Railway, pp. 26-27. David & Charles (Publishers) Ltd. ISBN 0-7153-8071-0.
  • Gaughan, Father Anthony. Listowel and its vicinity. 1973.
  • Gaughan, Father Anthony. Listowel and its vicinity Since 1973. 2004. ISBN 1-85607-912-0
  • Fitzmaurice, Gabriel. The Listowel Literary Phenomenon. 1994. ISBN 1-874700-87-7

See also

External links

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