Living here: Jack Reilly has lived in the Iveagh Flats, Dublin, for almost 60 years

The city was a very different place when Jack Reilly and his wife moved into the Iveagh Flats. “People seemed to be friendlier. They didn’t have an awful lot but they interacted a lot more,” he says . Despite the changes, he never thought of living anywhere else.

 

The Iveagh Trust, set up by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness in 1890 to provide “housing and related amenities for the labouring poor”, gave Dublin some of its most iconic buildings. These include the tall, elegant red-bricked blocks of flats near St Patrick’s Cathedral known as the Iveagh Flats.

Jack Reilly, who has lived in the Iveagh Flats for nearly 60 years, wouldn’t live anywhere else.

“I got married in 1956 and moved into the top floor on the front block with my wife Lil. You had two families up there, and a laundry – washboard and bath – along with a common toilet for two families.

“It wasn’t suitable, not at all suitable. Lil had to horse the pram up the five flights and wanted to move to this flat. They wouldn’t give it at first, but she stuck it out. We moved here when Anthony, our son, was 18 months old. I’m here ever since.

“When we moved, there was a bedroom, kitchen, scullery, toilet, one electricity point and a mark on the wall from the mantling for the original gas. The dimensions were the same as now, but about seven years ago the Iveagh Trust did a modernisation. They did a great job. All the flats are modernised now.


Home bird
“It was different then. Neighbours were very close. We couldn’t have looked for a better next door neighbour than Liz Owens. She died at 88. Would you believe, I only know the names of two people in the block now. Lil, my wife, used to go to the neighbours for a cup of tea and a chat. There’s none of that now.

“Families grew up here but it’s single people now, mostly. Lil loved the flats. She was a home bird, with family here; her two sisters and father lived in the flats too. She originally came down from Crumlin, in the late 1940s.

“She used be in and out of Sadie Whelan’s shop on Bride Street, where you’d get tins of stuff, and bread and milk. Directly across the road was a factory called Boileau & Boyd, where I worked. She used see me coming in and put her eye on me! It’s going into 13 years now since she died.

“Dublin was totally different then and to be quite honest I can’t come to terms with the new Dublin. I lived in a Dublin where people went around in bare feet.

“I was born in 29 James Street, which is still there. I’m a real Liberties boy. I grew up in Ladies Lane, Kilmainham, those cottages are still there too. I lived there until I was 10, six of us and my parents. We had to divide the place in the nighttime.


Delighted
“Then we moved to Oliver Bond Flats, Usher’s Quay. We’d had gas in Kilmainham but we had electricity in Oliver Bond, and an inside toilet. We were delighted with ourselves.

“We reared Anthony here. Lil used to think it would be nice to have a house with a garden and made applications for a place in Iveagh Gardens, on Crumlin Road. But we only had one child, so we never got a house. I’ve no regrets.

“It’s a bit different here now. Patrick Street used have pubs on one side and Kennedys Bakery had an outlet.

“People seemed to be friendlier. They didn’t have an awful lot but they interacted a lot more. It’s hard to hear a Dublin accent in Dublin now.

“I never thought about living anywhere else. Thankfully, from the day I left school at 14 years to the day I retired I was never out of work. If I’d been out of work it might have been different. Anthony wanted to get out and he did. He got a lovely house.

“I’ve absolutely no regrets. This all holds great memories for me. I still talk with my wife every day – mind you she doesn’t answer! She wasn’t only my wife, she was my mentor and my pal.”

In conversation with Rose Doyle

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