Cork community answers call to help make a residential centre more like a home

People in Macroom have rallied round to transform a residential centre run by the HSE into a more homely place for those living there, reveals ADRIENNE ACTON
Cork community answers call to help make a residential centre more like a home

HELPING OUT: Peter Tinsley and staff nurse Jerry Kelleher, and the Men’s Shed crew John Kelleher, Richard Manning, Murt Lehane, Dick Manning, Paddy Buckley, Kevin Martin, Coleman McCarthy, Sean O Leary

ST Colman’s House is a beautiful Georgian two storey building tucked away on a hill in Macroom.

Built in the 1920s, it was originally used as a parochial house before being taken over by the HSE and turned into a community health care facility.

When bosses there sent out a call to improve the house and its surroundings during the pandemic, the locals weren’t found wanting.

The minute I arrived, I was warmly received by Ann, who insisted I had a cup of tea or coffee. 

A gorgeous smell of home baking was coming from the kitchen and the noise of happy chatter was heard in the hall.

Peter Tinsley, the manager, came to meet me and show me around the impressive facility. Peter has been there 11 months, having taken over from Martina Flynn.

St Colman’s House manager Peter Tinsley at his desk. He has been in the job for 11 months.
St Colman’s House manager Peter Tinsley at his desk. He has been in the job for 11 months.

Currently they have eight full time residents, down from 13 pre-Covid. Each resident has their own room and they come and go as they wish.

They have art classes, art therapy, they bake and enjoy walks. The local priest calls regularly to say Mass and a local horticulturist assists with the garden.

Thankfully, there were no cases of Covid-19 detected in the facility. However Peter, tells me how difficult it was during lockdown as the residents couldn’t leave the house, and even though they had visitors coming to chat through the window and they had the use of tablets for video calls, it was hard to keep spirits up.

With this in mind, the call went out to the local community to help in any way they could. Peter says they were overwhelmed by the response.

It started off with a sensory garden. Vouchers they had received for Christmas were put to good use in Twomey’s hardware store and the local company Danone sponsored the stonework. 

Matt and Henry Murphy, from the pharmacy in Macroom, helped to rally the gents from the town’s Men’s Shed, while Catherine Ross Murphy raised funds and gave countless hours in help.

St Coleman's House vegetable garden.
St Coleman's House vegetable garden.

Brendan McCarthy, from Cork Mental Health Services, helped to organise the finances, Anne O’Mahony in the community hospital office and the building’s caretaker Tadgh Dineen also answered the call and offered their expertise and anything else that was needed.

St Colman’s House was originally built in the 1920s as a parochial house.
St Colman’s House was originally built in the 1920s as a parochial house.

Peter says it was amazing when he looked out the window and saw an army of people arriving to start the work.

“We were stunned,” he says, “we offered tea and cake and watched in awe as they proceeded to lay the concrete for our gazebo.”

It’s hugely impressive and a testament to what a community can do for the care of the vulnerable in our society.

St Coleman's House garden.
St Coleman's House garden.

As I leave, the staff nurse Noride O Leary and two of the residents are bringing tea, sandwiches and cakes and other delights to the lads from the Men’s shed as a thank you for their hard work.

They’re joined by Henry Murphy and his young family in the very colourful and comfortable gazebo.

The garden at St Coleman’s House shows community spirit at its best, and is a credit to everyone that got involved.

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