Listowel ( ; ) is a heritage market town in
County Kerry County Kerry ( gle, Contae Chiarraí) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers ...

County Kerry
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

. It is on the
River Feale file:Landnotfiske_irland.jpg, Beach seine fishing for salmon in River Feale near by town Ballybunion, year 1975. The River Feale (''An Fhéil'' or ''Abhainn na Féile'' in Irish language, Irish) rises near Rockchapel in the Mullaghareirk Mountains ...
, from the county town,
Tralee Tralee ( ; ga, Trá Lí, ; formerly , meaning 'strand of the Lee River') is the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage ...

. The town of Listowel had a population of 4,820 according to the CSO Census 2016. Described by the organisers of Listowel's writers festival as the "Literary Capital of Ireland", a number of internationally known playwrights and authors have lived there, including Bryan MacMahon and John B. Keane.


Listowel is on the N69
Limerick Limerick ( ; ga, Luimneach ) is a city in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chamber ...

Foynes Foynes (; ) is a town and major port in County Limerick County Limerick ( ga, Contae Luimnigh) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dic ...
– Tralee
road A road is a wide way leading from one place to another, typically one with a specially prepared surface which vehicles and bikes can use. Roads consist of one or two roadway A carriageway (British English British English (BrE) is the ...
Bus Éireann Bus Éireann (, ''Irish Bus'') is a bus and coach operator providing services throughout the Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland ('), is a country in north-western Europe occupying 26 of 32 Cou ...

Bus Éireann
provides daily services to Tralee,
Cork Cork or CORK may refer to: Materials * Cork (material), an impermeable buoyant plant product ** Cork (plug), a cylindrical or conical object used to seal a container ***Wine cork Places Ireland * Cork (city) ** Metropolitan Cork, also known as G ...
, and Limerick. The nearest
railway station Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicles include wagons, bicycles, motor veh ...

railway station
is Tralee. Listowel used to have its own railway station on a
broad gauge A broad-gauge railway is a railway Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is a man-made device that u ...
line between Tralee and Limerick city; however, this was closed to passengers in 1963, to 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 is to the north, with the
barony of Clanmaurice {{Use Irish English, date=May 2021 Clanmaurice (''Clann Mhuiris'') is a barony in County Kerry, Ireland. It contains 16 Parishes and it is roughly 485 km2. Parishes *Ardfert *Ballyheigue *Duagh *Dysert (Partly in Trughanacmy) *Finuge *Kilcarragh ...
to the south. Surrounding villages include Asdee,
Ballybunion Ballybunion or Ballybunnion () is a coast The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the ocean The ocean (also the or the world ocean) is the body of that covers approximately 70.8% o ...

, Ballyduff,
Ballylongford Ballylongford (historically ''Bealalongford'', from ) is a village near Listowel in northern County Kerry, Republic of Ireland, Ireland. Geography The village is situated at the top of a creek of Ballylongford Bay on the tidal estuary of the River ...

Causeway A causeway is a track, road or railway on the upper point of an embankment (earthworks), embankment across "a low, or wet place, or piece of water". It can be constructed of earth, masonry, wood, or concrete. One of the earliest known wooden c ...
, Duagh, Lisselton, Lixnaw, Moyvane, Finuge and Tarbert, Kerry, 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".

Origin of the name

Listowel's history dates back to at least 1303 when it first appears in the Plea rolls, Plea Roll where its name took the form of Lystothyl. By 1320 the town is referred to in ecclesiastical tax records, mis-written as Lismokill. In subsequent documents the name of the town is written variously as: Lissmoli, Listuoli, Lystuanyl, Lestovell, Lestowell, Lishtoghill, Listwohill and Listowhil. In the Annals of the Four Masters, in an entry dated 1582, the town first appears as Lios Tuathail, the currently accepted spelling of the Irish Gaelic form of the town's name. Thomas Dineley wrote the English form of the name as 'Listoel' in 1681. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century there were two versions of the name in use, Listowel and Listowell. From the late 19th Century onwards the current spelling of Listowel was generally adopted. Since the foundation of the Irish State in 1922, the town's name has been referred to as Listowel in statute law, for example in the Statutory Instrument under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, when the Municipal District of Listowel was established as one of the six municipal districts in Co Kerry.

Listowel Castle

The town developed around a fortress of the Fitzmaurice family, Listowel Castle, and its square. The last bastion against Queen Elizabeth I in the Desmond Rebellions, Desmond campaign, Listowel Castle was built in the 15th century and was the last fortress of the FitzGerald dynasty, Geraldines to be subdued. It fell after 28 days siege to Charles Wilmot, 1st Viscount Wilmot, 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, Knight of Kerry, Knights of Kerry. It is now a National Monument (Ireland), national monument, and was subject to restoration by the Office of Public Works (OPW) from 2005. OPW tour guides are now based at the castle during the summer tourist season giving free tours of the castle. Another smaller castle at Ballinruddery, Listowel, was built in the post-1600 period by the then Knight of Kerry.

Lartigue Monorailway

Listowel played a role in History of rail transport in Ireland, Irish railway history as it was the site of the world's first monorail operation. The Listowel and Ballybunion Railway was built to the Lartigue Monorail, Lartigue system, with a double-engined steam locomotive straddling an elevated rail. It officially opened on 29 February 1888, with public services beginning on 5 March 1888. It connected the town with
Ballybunion Ballybunion or Ballybunnion () is a coast The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the ocean The ocean (also the or the world ocean) is the body of that covers approximately 70.8% o ...

. 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 1000 m long replica of the original monorailway was opened.

Listowel Mutiny

Listowel was the site of a famous Listowel mutiny, mutiny which occurred during the Irish War of Independence. On 17 June 1920, members 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 Hare, 6th Earl of Listowel, Francis Michael Hare, one of the 92 hereditary peers elected to the British House of Lords. Holders of the title have included William Hare, 5th Earl of Listowel, who was a British Labour Party, Labour politician and served as the last Secretary of State for India and Burma. Another member of the family was the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative politician John Hare, 1st Viscount Blakenham. He was the third son of the fourth Earl.


Kerry Co-op

In the 1970s, many small dairies in Ireland started to merge so as to be able to compete with the larger milk companies within the European Economic Community (which Ireland joined in 1973). Dairies in County Kerry followed suit and Kerry Co-operative Creameries Ltd (Kerry Co-op) began trading in January 1974. In the period from 1974 to 1979, Kerry expanded its milk business in a similar fashion to other dairy co-ops. 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 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 some EU markets. Headquartered in Tralee, the Group employs approximately 290 people at its manufacturing plant in Listowel.


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 Listowel, 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.

Festivals and events

Listowel Races

The origin of Listowel Racecourse, 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 to disturbances surrounding these 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, and two of the three entrances to the course are accessed by bridge across the river. The racecourse is called "the island" by the locals due to this fact. Traditionally it was a meeting where farmers came to spend/gamble the money they made from the harvest but it has since grown into something larger and more wideranging. 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. Listowel's racecourse is within walking distance of the town centre.

Listowel Writers' Week

Founded in 1970, Listowel is home to Ireland's oldest literary festival. North Kerry is the birthplace of many of Ireland's most prominent writers, including John B Keane, Bryan Mac Mahon, Brendan Kennelly, Seamus Wilmot, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, George Fitzmaurice (writer), George Fitzmaurice, Maurice Walsh and Robert Leslie Boland. The Writers' Week Festival was established to celebrate those writers and to provide an opportunity for other Irish writers 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. At the event, writers share their skills in poetry, fiction, theatre, and screen – with workshops in song writing, comic writing and storytelling also subsequently added. Writers' Week also provides a programme of literary events including lectures, readings, workshops, book launches, seminars, theatre, literary and historical tours, art exhibitions, music and dance. Competitions are also held, together with a series of literary awards. The total prize fund of €35,000 includes the Kerry Group Novel of the Year and The Pigott Poetry Prize. Participants have included: Nobel Laureate and Booker Prize-winner J. M. Coetzee, 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, playwrights Tom Murphy (playwright), Tom Murphy, Brian Friel, Roddy Doyle, Frank McGuinness and Hugh Leonard, poets Michael Hartnett, Leland Bardwell, John Montague (poet), John Montague, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Roger McGough, Rita Ann Higgins and Kate Cruise O'Brien, and other novelists and writers including Blake Morrison, Chris Whyte, Lionel Shriver, Colm Tóibín, Jennifer Johnston, John McGahern, Joseph O'Neill (writer, born 1964), Joseph O'Neill, Sebastian Barry, Joseph O'Connor, Hugo Hamilton (writer), Hugo Hamilton, Edna O'Brien, Douglas Kennedy (writer), Douglas Kennedy, Patrick McGrath (novelist), Patrick McGrath, William Trevor, Colum McCann, Gerard Donovan, Frank McCourt, Irvine Welsh, Robin Rowland (author), Robyn Rowland, Andrew Lindsay, Michael Cunningham, Jane Urquhart, Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Cees Nooteboom, Michael Dibdin, Abdel Bari Atwan, Clive James, Melvyn Bragg, Alain De Botton, Lloyd Jones (Welsh writer), Lloyd Jones, Robert Fisk, Jung Chang, Terry Jones, Gabriel Byrne, and Graham Norton. John B. Keane of Listowel 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 Food Fair

The Listowel food Fair has been running annually since 1995. The festival promotes local artisan food products, and attracts celebrity chefs, nutritionists and artisan food entrepreneurs.

Political representation

At Local government in the Republic of Ireland, Irish local government level, the town of Listowel is located in the Municipal District of Listowel, which is named after the town. This is one of the six municipal districts in
County Kerry County Kerry ( gle, Contae Chiarraí) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers ...

County Kerry
, each of which also acts as a Local electoral area, Local Electoral Area (LEA) for the purpose of returning members to the local authority. The Listowel LEA currently elects six of the 33 members of Kerry County Council. In the 2019 Kerry County Council election, six councillors were elected from the Listowel LEA, three representing the Fine Gael party, two representing Sinn Féin, one representing Fianna Fáil and one independent councillor. Under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, as well as being members of Kerry County Council, the six Listowel LEA councillors are also members of Listowel Municipal District Council. As a division of a local authority, a Municipal District can exercise certain powers of the local authority. At national level, Listowel is part of the five seat of the Kerry (Dáil constituency), Kerry Dáil constituency, which returns five Teachta Dála, TDs to Dáil Éireann. For European Parliament elections, Listowel is located in the South (European Parliament constituency), Ireland South constituency, which elects five of Ireland's thirteen Member of the European Parliament, MEPs.


Listowel Emmets GAA, 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; it re-opened again in 1981, and was renamed in honour of Frank J Sheehy who was appointed as Chairman to the County Board in 1953. Listowel Celtic is the local soccer club, playing in the Premier A division of the Kerry District League. Listowel also has clubs involved in tennis, athletics, rugby, basketball, badminton and cricket. Listowel also hosts a 24hr running race; the Listowel Endurance Festival.


Listowel's architectural features include the four-arch bridge traversing the River Feale at the entrance to the town. Dating from 1829, according to local tradition this bridge (referred to locally as the "Big Bridge") replaced a smaller wooden structure, which had been destroyed in floods. 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 plasterwork works, including "''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. File:Listowel-MaidOfErin.JPG, Maid of Erin File:Listowel-ErinGoBrath.JPG, Plaster relief File:Listowel-Emporium.jpg, Emporium

Notable people

Art and academics

* Gerard Barrett (director), Gerard Barrett, writer and director * George Fitzmaurice (writer), George Fitzmaurice, writer (1877–1963) * Eamonn Keane (actor), Eamon Keane, actor and writer * John B. Keane, playwright, novelist and essayist * Brendan Kennelly, poet and novelist from Ballylongford near Listowel * Bryan MacMahon, playwright and novelist * John Moriarty (writer), John Moriarty, writer and academic * James A. O'Flaherty, uilleann piper (1942–2001) * T. F. O'Rahilly language scholar * Alfred O'Rahilly, president of University College Cork, UCC * Cecile O'Rahilly, academic * Maurice Walsh, author of The Quiet Man

Military and politics

* John Connors (VC), John Connors, Victoria Cross recipient * Ned O'Sullivan, Seanad Éireann, senator * Jimmy Deenihan, former Gaelic footballer, Teachta Dála, TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and senator * Gerard Lynch (Irish politician), Gerard Lynch, former TD and senator * Michael J. Stack, member of the United States House of Representatives * Amelia Wilmot, member of Cumann na mBan and spy during the Irish War of Independence


* Brendan Guiney, footballer, All-Ireland medal holder * Noel Kennelly, footballer, All-Ireland medal holder * Tadhg Kennelly, footballer, All-Ireland medal holder, AFL medal holder * Tim Kennelly, footballer, 5 senior All-Ireland, winning captain 1979, dual All-Star * Garry McMahon, footballer, singer-songwriter, poet, and writer

Related communities

* Listowel, Ontario, Canada (founded as Mapleton in 1852, renamed after Listowel, County Kerry in June 1856) * Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (sister city since 1981) * Shawnee, Kansas, United States, (sister city since 1985) * Panissières, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France (sister city since 1992) * Los Gatos, California, United States, (sister city since 1994)

See also

* List of towns and villages in County Kerry



* Prideaux, J.D.C.A. (1981). Odd Man Out, in ''The Irish Narrow Gauge Railway'', pp. 26–27. David & Charles (Publishers) Ltd. . * Gaughan, Father Anthony. ''Listowel and its vicinity''. 1973. * Gaughan, Father Anthony. ''Listowel and its vicinity Since 1973''. 2004. * Fitzmaurice, Gabriel. ''The Listowel Literary Phenomenon''. 1994.

External links

Official Listowel Website

Listowel Town Council website
{{Authority control Listowel, Towns and villages in County Kerry