THREE decades of community spirit will be celebrated in Abbeyfeale next weekend when residents of Collins Park, one of the oldest council housing estates in the county, mark its 30th birthday.
Past and present residents will attend a sell-out reunion at the nearby Abbeyfeale RFC club house on October 29 for an evening full of cakes, music and memories.
The event has been organised by a recently revived Collins Park residents’ committee, with a helping hand from a Limerick County Council housing department which is making fresh efforts to reach out to its tenants.
While stirring a cup of strong tea in her kitchen in number 17 this Tuesday, Yvonne Murphy, one of the reunion’s organisers, said that living in Collins Park has had a lasting impact on everyone there, not least herself.
“I grew up over in number 12. My husband was in number 14. I was best friends with his sister, but I couldn’t stand him! We ended up getting married in 2007. We bought the house here a year ago last February.”
The couple now have a two-year-old daughter, Abigail.
Collins Park was originally a development of just over 20 homes which was officially opened by former Fianna Fail TD Gerry Collins in 1981. Originally named ‘The Grove’, it was later renamed in Collins’ honour and quickly expanded to 82 homes.
Patrick Smith, chairman of the reunion organising committee, was one of 15 children who grew up under one roof here. “It was a busy house alright. You wouldn’t want to be late for dinner”.
In recent months, the Collins Park residents’ group have cut their teeth organising estate fun days and barbeques. They have been aided by Christy O’Donovan and Kate McGrath of council’s tenant liaison office. Ms McGrath said that by organising residents’ committees and opening up lines of communication with the housing office, locals in Collins Park and other estates can make their views heard that bit easier.
“The perception was around for a long time that the council don’t care”, she said. “That’s starting to change”.
Pointing at recent work carried out around the estate by the residents themselves, Mr O’Donovan said that simple concerns are now being tackled. “Just here, they wanted new paint for the front of the houses. So we organised the paint. We put up new signs over there, and sorted out access there. Basic things. It’s about helping them to do things for themselves.”
Over at number 28, 92-year-old Mary Nelligan, the oldest person in Collins Park, waves a welcoming hand in from the cold and sits down next to an open fire in a living room filled with family photos. Like many residents, she’s been here from day one. “They’re grand”, she says, when asked about the houses. “Grand and warm”.