For the Canadian community, see Listowel, Ontario.

The Square, Listowel

Coat of arms

Location in Ireland

Coordinates: 52°26′49″N 9°29′10″W / 52.447°N 9.486°W / 52.447; -9.486Coordinates: 52°26′49″N 9°29′10″W / 52.447°N 9.486°W / 52.447; -9.486
Country Ireland
Province Munster
County County Kerry
  Town 33 km2 (13 sq mi)
Elevation 27 m (89 ft)
Population (2014)[1]
  Town 8,670
  Rank 84th
  Urban 3,901
  Environs 437
Irish Grid Reference Q988338

Listowel (/lɪsˈtl/; Irish: Lios Tuathail, meaning "Tuathal's ringfort") is a Heritage town and a market town in County Kerry, Ireland, and is situated on the River Feale, 28 km (17 mi) from the county town, Tralee. The combined population of Listowel Urban and Rural Districts is 22,668; the town itself has a population of 4,823 (CSO census 2011).

The town is sometimes described as the "Literary Capital of Ireland",[3] 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."[3]


Bridge over the River Feale at Listowel

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. Positioned in the very heart of North Kerry, on the River Feale, its hinterland is an area of mainly dairy agricultural use. The barony of Iraghticonnor[4] is to the north, with the barony of Clanmaurice to the south. Surrounding villages include Asdee, Ballybunion, Ballyduff, Ballylongford, Causeway, Duagh, Lisselton, Lixnaw, Moyvane, Finuge and Tarbert.

View of Listowel, the River Feale, and racetrack.


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".[5]

Listowel Castle

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 5 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 Office of Public Works (OPW) who operate the Irish Heritage Service. 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. A small team of OPW tour guides are based at the castle seven days a week during the summer tourist season (mid May to early September) and give free public tours of the site.[6]

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

Listowel seems to have been badly affected by the famine, as commemorated by a communal grave on the outskirts of the town.

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 Mutiny

Listowel was the site of a famous mutiny which occurred during the Irish War of Independence. On 17 June 1920, member of the Royal Irish Constabulary 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 any suspect on sight. 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.

Earl of Listowel

The title of Earl of Listowel is associated with the Hare family. The current incumbent Lord Listowel is Francis Michael Hare, one of the 92 hereditary peers elected to the British House of Lords.

Holders of the title have included the fifth Earl, who was a Labour politician and notably served as the last Secretary of State for India and Burma. Another member of the family was the Conservative politician John Hare, 1st Viscount Blakenham. He was the third son of the fourth Earl.


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 from 1974 to 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, Mariewasere 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.[7]

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.[8] in 2012 kerry group revenue was 5.8 billion.


Listowel is serviced by many primary, post-primary and post-leaving certificate education facilities. Children between five and twelve are facilitated by Presentation Primary School for girls, Scoil Realta na Maidne, for boys, and Gaelscoil Lios Tuathail, which is a mixed school. The town has two Catholic, secondary schools, Presentation Secondary School, Listowel and St. Michael's College. The town is also served by Listowel Community College, a mixed post-primary and post-leaving certificate school. The town hosts Learning Initiative of North Kerry.

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 dates 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. The racecourse is located beside the River Feale-for two of the three entrances to the course you must walk across a bridge across the river. The racecourse is called "the island" by the locals due to this fact.[9]

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 racing festival of the Summer and the last one before Christmas so the crowds make the most of the festivities. Traditionally it was a meeting where farmers 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.[10]

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 the 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.

Listowel Writers' Week

Listowel is also the home of Ireland's oldest and leading literary festival. Since its inception in 1970 Listowel Writers’ Week has been recognised as the primary event in Ireland’s literary calendar. North Kerry is the birthplace of many of Ireland’s most prominent writers past and present including Dr. John B Keane, Dr Bryan Mac Mahon, Professor Brendan Kennelly, Seamus Wilmot, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, George Fitzmaurice, Maurice Walsh and Robert Leslie Boland. The Writers’ Week Festival was established to celebrate those writers and to provide an opportunity for Irish Writers in general to develop their talents and meet new audiences.

The concept of the Literary Workshop was first introduced at Writers’ Week in 1971 by Bryan MacMahon. Since then our Literary Workshops continue to be the most popular in the country. Prominent Irish writers have shared their skills in poetry, fiction, theatre, screen, crime and more recently workshops in song writing, comic writing and storytelling have been added.

Competitions were introduced, together with a series of literary awards, which have given valuable recognition to new writers over the last number of years. In that time many eminent Irish and international literary figures have gathered in Listowel at the annual festival to celebrate the work of new and established writers.

The total prize fund of €35,000 includes the Kerry Group Novel of the Year and The Pigott Poetry Prize.

The event takes place in a unique atmosphere of learning and celebration which gives new and established writers an opportunity to discuss their work before a national and international audience.

Under the leadership of its President Colm Tóibín, together with literary advisors Professor Brendan Kennelly, Colm Tóibín, Seamus Hosey, Lawrence Block, Michael Collins and Jennifer Johnston, Writers’ Week provides a wide ranging programme of literary events including lectures, readings, workshops, book launches, seminars, theatre, literary and historical tours, art exhibitions, music and dance.

Participants have included: Nobel Laureate and Booker Prize-winner J.M. Cóetzee, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Booker Prize winners Kazuo Ishiguro, John Banville, James Kelman and Anne Enright. Poets Laureate Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy, and Andrew Motion. Award winning playwrights Tom Murphy, Brian Friel, Roddy Doyle, Frank McGuinness and Hugh Leonard. Celebrated poets Michael Hartnett, Leland Bardwell, Richard Murphy, John Montague, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Roger McGough, Rita Ann Higgins and Kate Cruise O’ Brien. Acclaimed novelists Blake Morrison, Chris Whyte, Lionel Shriver, Colm Tóibín, Jennifer Johnston, John McGahern, Joseph O’Neill, Sebastian Barry, Joseph O’ Connor, Hugo Hamilton, Edna O’Brien, Douglas Kennedy, Patrick McGrath, William Trevor, Colum McCann, Gerard Donovan, Frank McCourt, Joris Duytschaever, Irvine Welsh, Dr. Robyn Rowland, Andrew Lindsay, Michael Cunningham, Jane Urquhart, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Cees Nooteboom, Michael Dibdin, Clyde Rose, Abdel Bari Atwan, Clive James, Melvyn Bragg, Alain De Botton, Lloyd Jones, Eric P Kaufman, Robert Fisk, Jung Chang, Terry Jones, Gabriel Byrne, Christine Dwyer-Hickey, Graham Norton and many more.

We also present The National Children's Literary Festival at Listowel Writers' Week and The Young Adult Bookfest at Listowel Writers' Week, taking place annually during Listowel Writers' Week.

Listowel Food Fair

The Listowel food Fair has been running annually from 1995 to the present day. The festival is geared towards the promotion of local artisan food products. The festival attracts celebrity chefs, nutritionists and artisan food entrepreneurs. The festival will take place from 21–24 November this year.


Listowel Emmets

Listowel Emmets is a Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club which supports the traditional Irish sports of hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, handball and rounders, plus music, dance and the Irish language. The club has a tradition of GAA involvement and achievement since June 1885 when Listowel GAA (The Feale Amateurs) was established as a GAA branch. In 1956 Emmets GAA Club was formed and in the following year the senior, intermediate and minor North Kerry League titles were won. In 1979 the Listowel Emmets GAA pitch next to St.Michaels College was closed for redevelopment and re-opened again in 1981 and was renamed in honour of Mr. Frank J Sheehy who was appointed as Chairman to the County Board in 1953.

Listowel Celtic

Listowel Celtic is the local soccer club, playing in the Premier A division of the Kerry District League.

Other Sports

Listowel has clubs for Rugby, Athletics, Basketball, Badminton and Cricket.


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

The books Listowel And Its Vicinity (1973) and Listowel And Its Vicinity Since 1973 (2004), both by Father J. Anthony Gaughan, list a large number of published writers and journalists from Listowel and the surrounding area.

Mary Cogan (1950- ) Listowel Through a Lens (2009)

Matt Mooney (1943 - ). Droving (2003), Falling Apples (2010), Earth to Earth (2015), (collections of poetry).

Other notable people from Listowel

Common surnames of Listowel

According to the Irish Census of 1901 & 1911. Included rural area.

O'Connor, Carey, Dowling, Stack, Murphy, Enright, Connor, Dillon, O'Sullivan, Kennelly, Keane, Buckley, McElligot, Fitzgerald, Sullivan, Carmody, Cronin, Griffin, O'Connell, Walsh, McCarthy, Lyons, Sheehy, Nolan, Barry, Collins, Fitzmaurice, Doyle, Moloney, Healy, Kelly, Galvin, Lynch, Scanlon, McMahon, Moore, Mulvihill, Browne, Daly, Harnett, Hayes, Scannell, Moran, Joy, O'Brien, Jones, Leahy, Barrett, Carroll, Faley, Flaherty, Foley, Granville, Kirby, Moriarty, Scanlan, McKenna, MacNamara, McDonnell.

See also


  1. "Census 2006 – Volume 1 – Population Classified by Area" (PDF). Central Statistics Office Census 2006 Reports. Central Statistics Office Ireland. April 2007. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  2. and Post 1991 figures include environs of Listowel. For a discussion on the accuracy of pre-famine census returns see JJ Lee “On the accuracy of the pre-famine Irish censuses” in Irish Population, Economy and Society edited by JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson (1981) p54, and also “New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850” by Joel Mokyr and Cormac Ó Gráda in The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 37, No. 4 (November 1984), pp. 473-488.
  3. 1 2 Listowel Writers' Week - Information - Listowel
  4. Barony of Iraghticonnor at GENUKI. Retrieved: 9 September 2010
  5. Listowel Urban District Council, Kerry Local Authorities, Annual Report
  7. version 8 homepage
  8. Kerry Group - a leading food ingredients, consumer foods and flavours company
  9. Listowel Race Co
  10. Go Racing - Listowel
  11. "Monte Sereno explores sister city relationship". Los Gatos Weekly Times. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  12. City of Shawnee: sister cities. Retrieved: 9 September 2010.
  • 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
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