Congratulations and best wishes to Timmy and Nancy Woulfe, Gortnagross who will celebrate 60 years of marriage on Thursday, January 14th having been married in the old Church in Abbeyfeale on Saturday, 14th January 1961 followed by a reception in The Meadowlands Hotel in Tralee. 

Athea United Soccer

The club had hoped to return the weekly lotto draw sometime this month when the committee had met before Christmas. However with the serious restrictions now back in place we have decided to postpone it for at least another month, in the hope that some level of control of the virus may have taken place. More details will be published on our Facebook page and here in the Newsletter once a safe return date has been agreed. We wish to thank our supporters and ticket sellers for their patience and understanding and hopefully we will be back in safer times in the not too distant future. Here’s to a better year in 2021 when we finally beat this virus.


Athea Tidy Towns

The Athea Tidy Towns Committee wish to thank The Children of John Timmes, Gortnagross RIP – Eileen Timmes Bruckman, Kathleen Timmes, Peter Timmes, Clare Timmes Waterloo and Margaret Timmes Bussiere for their kind donation to Athea Tidy Towns in memory of their late father.

John was part of our community for over 20 years, having first purchased ‘The Thatched House’ in Gortnagross in the 1980’s. Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam dílís.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Peg Prendeville and her family at this very difficult time. We pray that Jim will make a good recovery in time. We also want to thank her for her continued subscriptions to our Newsletter despite having such worries to cope with. Thank you Peg and God Bless.

We would also like to offer our sincere condolences to Fr. Brendan Duggan and family members on the sudden passing of his sister Celia Gleeson. May she rest in eternal peace.                 Lillian & Domhnall

Graveyard Collection

Envelopes can be handed in to Athea Credit Union which is currently open at the usual times where there is a box provided for them, or they can also be dropped in to the Athea Community Council Office.


By Domhnall de Barra

Are we Irish different?  Maybe not all that much in general but there are certain things that we do differently to other nations.. A lot has to do with the way we communicate with each other. We like to greet and acknowledge each other and not just those we know well, we like to do it to complete strangers. That is why we have our reputation for being one of the friendliest countries in the world. The way we greet, or salute each other has changed over the years. Going back a bit, at a time when Ireland was mainly a Catholic country, our salutations were tied up in religious beliefs. On meeting somebody a person would say “Dia dhuit”; God be with you. The answer was  “Dia is Muire dhuit”; God and Mary be with you. If the first person said “Dia is Muire dhuit”, the answer would be “dia is Muire dhuit is Pádraig”, St. Patrick being the patron saint and the most important one to us. This type of greeting is not unique and can be found in many other countries that have strong religious beliefs. When we lost the Irish language the greetings that were really prayers that God would bestow luck on the recipient were left behind and we went on to asking about people’s health and welfare. Some remained in the English tongue for a good while after. For example, on entering a house a visitor would always say “God bless all here”. We moved on to basically asking questions like “How are you” but we never let it go at that. It would be followed by “how are they all at home” or how’s the missus and the baby”. I remember hearing an old rhyme about a man who was hard of hearing who was digging spuds in a garden when a neighbour stopped as he was passing by and saluted him. It goes like this:

“How’s Tom”  “Digging spuds I am”

“How’re they all at home”,  “One and three halfpence a stone”

“How’s Kate and the child”,  “The finest I ever boiled

As time went on we shortened the greeting a bit. Two people would meet and one would say “how’s Tom” and the other would reply; “how’s Mick” or sometimes would reply “not too bad”.  People got so used to it that they would reply automatically. One of our neighbours used to pass by our house on the way to the creamery. If I was out and about I would say “hello Jack” and he would reply without thinking; “not too bad”  We graduated to  “how’s the going”, “how’re you getting on” and “how’s she cutting” Cowboy films gave us “hello there” but then television came and we learned how to say “hi” or “hey”.  We also got to call everyone, male and female alike “guys”. I must admit to not liking it when I hear somebody on Irish television saying “you guys” but when I think about it, we used to do something very similar. When we were going to school, children were referred to by their families as “the lads”.  My mother would tell me to call in “the lads” for dinner even though more than half of them were girls. We thought nothing of it so I suppose I should ease up on the “you guys” brigade.  The weather, of course, has also played a big part in how we communicate. “Good morning, afternoon, evening and night” are regularly heard but they are more English than Irish. We found other ways of commenting on the weather, like saying “there’s no flies out today” if it was vey cold. I remember saying that to a man called Peter Healy, who scrapped cars for a living in Abbeyfeale. Peter had a ready wit and he came straight back with “any fly you’ll meet out today; ‘tis home he’s going”  One of the Woulfes at the Glen in Cratloe was also quite witty.  When he met me on the road one day he said: “I suppose you know about the weather young Barry” The important thing is that we continue to take time to acknowledge each other. I am afraid that some of the younger generation don’t see it in the same light and would pass you by as if you were invisible. This is a great pity and I hope that my fears are unfounded and that they will also develop a habit that gives us all a little lift.

I can’t finish this week without commenting on the happenings in the US. Myself and Noreen were flicking through the TV channels and tuned into CNN as the rioters were gathered before they were encouraged to march on the capitol building. We were glued to it for the next few hours and it was hard to believe that it wasn’t a film but the real thing happening before our eyes. After watching all that it is impossible to understand how anyone with the slightest modicum of intelligence could continue to make excuses for Donald Trump. He has brought the great United States of America to a new low and he has been rightly condemned by many world leaders. Some Republicans are afraid to say anything because they fear they will lose the backing of the Trump base in forthcoming elections but there comes a time when we all have to put the national good ahead of our own ambitions and they have to ask themselves; are these the type of people I want to represent?. The lunatic fringe are planning more upheavals on the day Joe Biden gets inaugurated so the show is not over yet. It was good to see an Irish man in the thick of things for CNN. Donie O’Sullivan,, from Caherciveen, played a blinder as a reporter surrounded by those who hate CNN and regularly vilify those who work for the station. He did his career no harm the other night and fair play to him. Like the Corona Virus, Trump’s days are almost over but they are both making one last effort to have their own way. They will be defeated.

Sean McCarthy Songwriter

By Tom Aherne

SHANAGOLDEN IS one of Limerick’s best known songs and a day never passes without it being played on one of the local Radio Stations. It is also a standard number to be sung or danced to at any social gathering. The song has helped to make the village so well known all round the country and numerous artists have recorded the song including Margo and Brendan Bowyer.

 Oh! The cold wind from the mountains are calling soft to me

The smell of scented heather brings bitter memory

The wild and lonely eagle up in the summer sky

Flies high o’er Shanagolden where my young Willie lies.

I met him in the winter time when snow was on the ground

The Irish hills were peaceful, and love was all around

Scarcely twenty one years old a young man in his prime

We were married, darling Willie, by the Eve of Christmas time.

Do you remember darling we walked the moonlit road?

I held you in my arms love; I would never let you go

Our hands they were entwined my love all in the pale moonlight

By the fields of Shanagolden on a lonely winter’s night.

It was the death of Capt., Tim Madigan, Clashgannife, Shanagolden who died for the cause of Irish Freedom on December 28, 1920 that inspired Sean Mc Carthy from Finuge to compose the very popular song. Tim Madigan who was one of Shanagolden’s favourite sons was involved in the War of Independence which came into being following the 1916 Easter Rising. He was only 23 years old when he was shot by the Black and Tans close to his home.

Sean was a very talented singer/songwriter and wordsmith who passed from this world on November 1, 1990. He was a man so full of life, of joy, sympathy, understanding of human weakness, and so full of appreciation of the gifts of God all round us. He left a deep and bright imprint on the folk scene, and he had a very deep insight into the heart and soul of Ireland. Sean was a man of great humour who offered the hand of friendship and encouragement to aspiring songwriters, and he had his own column Mc McCarthy’s Women in the Kerryman.

Many of his ballads like Red Haired Mary, In Shame Love, In Shame, Step it out Mary, Mountain Tae, Highland Paddy, Red Bloomers, Where Wild Wind Blows, and My Kerry Hill have stood the test of time. There is warmth about his songs and the wild music of the Lark and Snipe entered early into his blood. He sang the sad love songs of the Gael in the language of the Invader, but the soul and spirit of the unconquered people throb proudly in every line.

The story of how Sean wrote Shanagolden in his own words from the Book Rhymes and Reasons goes as follows. William Sweeney wanted to be a soldier on horseback, and Sean wanted to be a soldier too, but he wasn’t too worried about the horse just as long as he got a nice uniform with shiny buttons and boots that didn’t leak. We grew up together near Sande’s bog Finuge where food was scarce, song plentiful, money non-existent but where love grew and flourished like reeds in a mountain stream. When we were around 15 years old, we ran away to join the Army and our destination was Limerick City. The road from Listowel to Newcastle West was long and lonely with dark shadows, strange noises, and whispering ghosts especially around midnight. The little pub on the edge of town was open late, and the dilapidated lorry parked in the forecourt looked very inviting.

We fell asleep soon after our bodies touched the loose hay, and the bright sunshine awoke us the next morning in a field outside Shanagolden. Larry the tipsy driver was a blacksmith with a problem which, he said only two fine Kerry boys could solve. He had a half-acre of potatoes ready for digging and no one to help him. He was a noted rogue but a kindly one with a fund of stories told in an alcoholic haze, punctuated with frequent spits of tobacco into an open fire.

We dug his potatoes, and it was the happiest four days that I could remember. One evening as twilight stole across the mighty Shannon; our tipsy friend strolled with us across a quiet meadow to a place where souls rest in peace. There was no inscription on the modest cross, but Larry stood and gazed at it for a long time. Just before he turned away, he spoke softly to himself, sleep well Willy, sleep well.

With the brashness and ignorance of youth I asked him who was Willy. Larry’s eyes foggy for the most part, blazed with anger. He pointed to a distant hill beyond the meadow and said: Willy died up there my young Bucko. He died fighting so that you and your pal could walk this land and walk it free.

That night when the three of us were sitting before the warm turf fire he staggered to an old wooden dresser and rummaged around until he found a small shiny snapshot. His voice still with a hint of anger in it, grated on my young ears. He shoved the snapshot towards me saying: Well my Kerry friend, There’s Willy and his family, and now you know, don’t you?

I knew that it was a combination of drink, grief and anger talking, but I took the photo and looked at it. Willy stood tall and proud as he gazed into the camera lens. It was the girl who took my breath away. Her face even in the badly taken photo, shone like an angel’s smile as she pressed the small baby to her breast. Long hair reaching her waist made me think of maidens bathing in a Grecian pool by moonlight. I wanted to shake him out of his alcoholic haze and demand her address. But when I moved close, I could see he was crying. Before we left for the City the next morning, he told me everything.

The Army turned us down. Too young they said. It was 25 years later in an apartment high above Upper Manhattan that I wrote down Willy’s story. I wrote it in song, and I called it Shanagolden.

Then came the call to arms love and the hills they were aflame

Down from the silent mountains the Saxon strangers came

I held you in my arms then my young heart wild with fear

By the fields of Shanagolden in the springtime of the year.

You fought them darling Willie all through the summer days

I heard the rifles firing in the mountains far away

I held you in my arms then our blood ran free and bright

And you died in Shanagolden on a lonely summer’s night

Oh! But that was long ago my love and your son grows fine and tall

The hills they are at peace again, the Saxon strangers gone

We’ll place a red rose on your grave by the silvery pale moonlight

And we’ll think of Shanagolden on a lonely winter’s night.

Sean McCarthy scattered songs in his wake with the same enthusiasm as he smoked his crooked pipe. Wherever he went he was wreathed in smoke and surrounded by fragments of melodies and wisps of words. While the smoke dissipated the songs did not and we are all the richer for that. The people of Ireland owe a lot to the late Sean for preserving so much of our story’s history lore and heritage in song. Spare a thought for Sean whose anniversary occurred on November 1st.