COLOURFUL hanging baskets adorning the houses of Alexander Street stand as a symbol of the pride of place and community spirit that encapsulates this amiable and tight knit inner city community.
Judges from the national Pride of Place visited Alexander Street last week to inspect Waterford’s inner city entry in this year’s national competition and to meet with residents and Council officials.
Frank Hynes, a resident of Alexander Street for the past 15 years, outlined the street’s entry.
He explained that the residents committee, which consists of four members, tries to “help each other in every way that we can”.
“We have different nationalities living here including people from Kosovo, Poland, India as well as our own Irish people. Most residents are aged between 50 and 90. At times, the older residents need a bit of help. We provide that in the best way that we can in areas including hospital visits, clinics, dentists and opticians,” he explained.
In entering the competition, Frank said: “We wanted to bring the community together and upgrade the area.”
Development of the area has been ongoing for the past two years. “In the pipeline is the Michael Street Shopping Centre, which is earmarked (for construction) behind some of the houses,” he added. “That’s a major issue. Obviously we welcome it and would help in every way that we can. Maybe, in times to come, the long-term objective would be to try and pedestrianise Alexander Street.”
In the meantime to keep the area looking well, residents purchased the floral arrangements to decorate the street. They have also received great help from Waterford City and County Council to get the area looking its best. The change in direction of traffic on the street and the installation of bollards to prevent cars parking have been among the area’s more recent changes.
“Parking and dumping have been major issues and we are trying to alleviate all those problems with everyone’s help, especially the Council,” said Frank.
“Councillor Jason Murphy was a great help to kick start what we are doing, along with Henry Maloney and Kevin Moynihan from the Council.”
The standard of living for the residents is particularly good given that they can go to Lady Lane for recreational purposes. “We have residents here that would need meals delivered to their homes and they deliver them. It is great to also have the Library nearby.”
Eileen Ryan, who moved to the street 19 years ago, said she loves living there. “I wouldn’t move out for anything. It is so convenient. It is in walking distance of everywhere.”
“There is a good mix of nationalities here and they all fit in,” she said. Adding that the neighbourhood has a great sense of community, Eileen recalled how two years ago an elderly neighbour fell and broke her wrist.
“She put a note in one of the doors which said ‘can you help me please. I have no shopping and I’m hungry’. She couldn’t go out and do her shopping and since then we look after her.” Neither Eileen nor Frank would hesitate when it comes to getting up in the middle of the night to help anyone in need.
Having lived on the street for 21 years, Bernard Butler said he couldn’t ask for nicer neighbours. “We all help each other as best we can, especially the older people,” he said.
“It is a quiet area. There’s a lot of older people living here, but many have gone too. There used to be a fortune teller across the road – Maureen Kavanagh was her name. She used to use tea leaves or the cards.” He added: “If you don’t converse and mix with neighbours you are on your own. It’s a bad way to be.”
Both Eileen and Bernard reflected on changes in the area and impact of the development of the new shopping centre will have. While they recognise the long-term benefit, they hope it won’t block out light from their homes. Both heartily encouraged people to consider living in the city centre.