I first came to live in Bishopstown in the1960s with my young family. It was and is still a great place to live and there was at that time huge enthusiasm and interest in getting various community services and organisations established.
I became involved with a number of organisations in the area, including the Residents’ Association and the Bishopstown Community Association. With the assistance of the BCA, I, Helen O’Hea and others, set up the Bishopstown Social Services in the early 1970s. a voluntary committee that began to organise social events for the older people in the community. In 1978, Fr. John Galvin, then curate in my local Curraheen Parish suggested that we start a Senior Citizens’ group who would meet in the Church Hall. As we met on Thursdays, it was decided to call ourselves the ‘Thursday Club’. While the Thursday Club fulfilled a local parish need, we realised that there were many other older people out there in the wider community in need of friendship.
In the late 1980s Micheal O’hAodain, the local community Garda became involved with Bishopstown Social Services and also used to visit the Thursday Club. By this time we were aware that the numbers of older people in Bishopstown were growing without any parallel development of proper services for older people in the area. Fortunately, after persisting for a number of years in trying to develop such services, an opportunity arose when we became aware in the late 1990s that Gael Scoil Ui Riada was to move on from their rented rooms at Wilton Park House.
Together with a committee of older people from the locality, and with help and support from the BCA, particularly Fiona Scott (Chairperson) and P.J. Hourican (Secretary), we managed to get the use of the rooms at Wilton Park House and also to raise the necessary finance to refurbish the rooms. We received a lot of support from the Southern Health Board, particularly Brid O’Sullivan, the Community Worker at the time for the area. We also managed to get a tremendous group of people together to bring the project on and they worked tirelessly to ensure that the project would be a success. Indeed without that group, it is unlikely that we would have this centre today.
From the moment the Centre opened its doors in 2001 we have not looked back. All the worries we had about whether people would come along or not disappeared and the Centre went from strength to strength. As the numbers attending the centre grew rapidly, and as the committee were all voluntary, the need for a paid coordinator became apparent. With a lot of help from the HSE, particularly Julie Murphy and Aidan Warner from the Community Work Department, we employed a co-ordinator from November 2002.
Roger Coughlan was our new co-ordinator. He quickly settled into his role and helped to ensure the smooth running of the Centre. He introduced new programmes and services, while always keeping in mind our mission, ‘to promote social, educational and recreational opportunities for older people in the Bishopstown/ Wilton area’. The Centre has continued to expand and develop with the help of Roger and the tutors who support the various programmes, under the guidance of the voluntary management committee.