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Dublin: 10°C Sunday 18 April 2021

'An old man had been taken into Garda custody for knocking on a door. ALONE went to his rescue'

A new book chronicles the first 40 years of the charity ALONE. This is a flavour of the minutes of its meetings from 1984 to 1997.

Valerie Cox Former RTÉ radio

ALONE: The First 40 Years chronicles the poverty, isolation, and horrific conditions endured by many Dubliners 40 years ago, as well as the charity’s achievements and how its army of volunteers have befriended thousands of older people. 

The meeting dealt with a man who had been evicted from a guest house and who was now in Leopardstown hospital because no emergency accommodation was available after he was discharged from the Mater hospital.

Willie Bermingham decided to take him to his own home and to care for him until they found something suitable for him. Two further evictions were discussed, with one of the men involved now living in a caravan. A video of one of the evictions was produced and this was later screened in Deansgrange Library and in Maynooth College.

There were problems with a man who had died, as his relatives could not be found. ALONE agreed to bear the cost of the burial, which was £400.

An old man living in York Street flats had died. His flat had been on the top floor and he had to climb 69 steps from the street to the flat.

An older lady had been found unconscious in her flat on Clontarf Road. There was a report of the death of an old man they visited and they heard that the Task Force was carrying out work on a house in Glasnevin.

A house had been destroyed by fire in Ranelagh, it would cost £40,000 to rebuild. There was an eviction from a flat in Manor Street.

An old lady had died and left her clothing and furniture to ALONE in her will.

An old lady had left Dublin and returned to her relations in Ballinasloe and was said to be ‘very happy.’

The Task Force reported that Miss B’s house was in ‘too bad a state to clear,’ and would cost £3,000. Another pensioner had a gas bill with £700 arrears, and ALONE was in contact with the Gas Company.

It was reported that an old man had been found dead in his flat in Parnell Street. His body had been there for approximately ten weeks before being discovered. He had been living in terrible conditions and ‘while dead, rats had been feeding from his body.

It was reported that a 93-year-old woman had died. She had been the victim of a burglary, and had never recovered from the ordeal of the break in. The committee arranged for an old lady’s funeral. Her local Church of Ireland had refused to hold it, so they arranged for it to go ahead in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Rathmines.

The meeting organised contact with Meals on Wheels for some of their guests. They also reported the purchase of ALONE’s fourteenth house at Irwin Terrace, East Wall, for £10,000.

A call was received from a guest house owner to say a taxi had left an old woman at the guest house in Palmerstown and they had no room for her. Willie Bermingham checked her into a hotel for the night and met her the following morning when he came off night duty. It turned out that she was 69 and had been discharged from a hospital in Co Donegal the previous day. She went to another hospital, again in Donegal.

However, she was told she was not ill enough to be admitted. So, she got a lift to Leitrim but missed the train to Dublin. She then got a taxi and used all her money on the fare. The woman was from Donegal and the Gardai were involved in getting in touch with her local garda station. She agreed to return to Donegal. At 11:15 p.m. that night Willie got a phone call to say she was home and safe.

An old man had been taken into Garda custody for knocking on a door. ALONE went to his rescue.

Then, an 84-year-old woman was evicted from a Corporation flat in Dolphin’s Barn. However, it was claimed that the woman had not lived there for three years and the flat was occupied by her granddaughter and two young men. There had been complaints from neighbours. Willie Bermingham agreed with the Corporation’s action in this case.

There was an urgent call to the office to say that an old woman was sitting on a chair on the Oath in Ranelagh. She appeared to be cold and dejected and had all her belongings beside her on the path. The concern was that she had been evicted. Willie Bermingham went to investigate immediately, only to discover that she was a flower seller waiting on a delivery of flowers from the markets.

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The body of an older man from Devitt House had been found in the canal. The meeting had an update on another older man who had been injured in a break in into his house in May.

Willie Bermingham had received a phone call to say that the wife of a couple admitted to Dr Stephen’s hospital suffering from malnutrition had died.

Willie also reported on attending court for a man who had received an eviction notice due to £70 arrears on his rent. ALONE paid it off and the case was struck out.
Another guest had died and had no life insurance so ALONE paid for the funeral.

Valerie Cox spent over twenty years working on RTÉ radio programmes Morning Ireland, Drivetime and the Today Programme, bringing listeners stories of joy and sorrow, of happiness and loneliness, of crime and its effect on an older community. ALONE: The First 40 Years by Valerie is available in selected bookshops at €15.

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About the author:

Valerie Cox  / Former RTÉ radio

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