It is the first meal I have in the day. I am always hungry for it

It is the first meal I have in the day. I am always hungry for it
Volunteers Eddie Nodwell and Colm Monahan at work at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins

Penny Dinners has been providing hot dinners for the people of Cork since 1888.

Beyond offering a plate of hot food for anyone who wants it, the staff of Penny Dinners offer a friendly face, a listening ear and some good advice to its patrons.

One such patron is Paddy Coughlan, 79, from Clonakilty. Paddy travels up every day for his dinner on the bus.

Paddy Coughlan at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins
Paddy Coughlan at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins

Paddy told the Evening Echo that he loves the company and the food at Penny Dinners and would come on Christmas Day if the bus service was functioning.

Catriona Twomey, who runs the kitchen, said Paddy is loved and adored by all at the centre and they are always glad to see his face coming through the doors.

Back in Clonakilty, Paddy works on a farm, bringing in the cows to milk every morning and once the work is done, he hops on the one o’clock bus to the city to have his dinner with his friends in Penny Dinners.

“I love chatting with people and the food is very good,” Paddy said, “I look forward to it.” 

Paddy said he is a clean living type of man. “I don’t drink or smoke, I have a cup of milk for my breakfast every day and then into town for the dinner. There is something different every day and I like the variety.” 

It is not just the patrons who appreciate the service that is offered at Penny Dinners, Daniel Kenny, 21, is a volunteer who gives up his time to help at the centre as he is trying to get back on the straight and narrow. 

“I was raised by my grandparents with my 12 uncles and aunts.

Volunteer Daniel Kenny, Knocknaheeny at work at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins
Volunteer Daniel Kenny, Knocknaheeny at work at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins

“I lost my first child last year and I went a bit mental and started getting into trouble with the guards, for the first time ever.

“Now I am trying to get my head back together, so I am here volunteering.” 

When the Evening Echo was chatting to Daniel, he was very excited as he was expecting a child with his girlfriend. “I am having a baby next week, I can’t wait.” 

John Fouhy, 86, is another regular who enjoys coming in for his dinner. He has been coming for the past five years as he has no one to cook for him at home.

John Fouhy at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins
John Fouhy at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins

“I come in for my dinner and the company. It is the first meal I have in the day. I am always hungry for it and the food is very good.” 

John said he had a varied work life in his day, from building houses to setting up a taxi-cab service.

“I’m a bit of a tradesman, I still make the odd few bits at home for myself. I have built three houses in my day.” 

Eddie Nodwell has been working in the centre for the past six months and he says he is really enjoying the experience.

“I retired in November and I wanted to give something back so I started volunteering at the centre. I couldn’t have picked a better place.

“I get great satisfaction from coming in and helping others. I really love it. I work Monday and Thursday evening and I look forward to my shifts.

“It’s very enjoyable coming in here twice a week, chatting with people.” 

Speaking about the importance of Penny Dinners, Eddie said they feed up to 2,000 people a week.

“So many would be in a lot of trouble only for Penny Dinners, the work that Catriona Twomey does is amazing.” 

“A man said to me recently he would be dead on the street if it was not for Penny Dinners.

“He loves coming in for the welcome, we are not a bit judgemental. We accept everyone.” 

Catriona Twomey, one of the longest running volunteers of the centre said since the recession they, as well as other services, have really had to step it up to cater for the demand.

Caitriona Twomey at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins
Caitriona Twomey at Cork Penny Dinners. Pic; Larry Cummins

“We go above and beyond for the people that come in here and the volunteers are incredible.

“I do this for two reasons, people are so grateful and it transports them to another place, it puts them in a better place to be mentally and our service is needed and will be needed it seems for some time to come.”

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