This month we managed to nab Rose, who has been part of the staff of the Dublin International Hostel since before many of us were born.
Tell us a bit about yourself. I grew up just down the road from the hostel in Dublin. It was a place called Henrietta St but I live just across the road now. I made my First Communion right here in the church which is now part of the hostel in Dublin. I went to Kings Inn St Girls School and the nuns from here taught down there too. I love it around here. When we grew up, we lived in a tenement house. We didn’t know we were poor, but we were poor, y’know that kind of way? Everyone was poor! We had one room for 11 children. There was another family in the house too and they had 14 children. All the houses were like that. There were no cars back then so we had the whole street to play in. No-one was worried about traffic back then. The biggest problem was breaking someone’s window with a ball or getting it stuck in a garden. It was only after that playgrounds were built. We would be outside all day up until you would be dragged in to bed.
What was Kings Inn like? It was grand but I was never particularly fond of school. I didn’t like the Nuns either. The nuns here would, y’know if a mother died, they would take them in as boarders because back then the men weren’t seen as being able to look after girls.I remember having to bring a penny in every so often for the black babies and every one of us had to have it. It wasn’t like they used to say to me mother, well you just bring in one penny for all your children. No, they had to have one penny from each child. That is good that all that has changed.
When did you start with An Óige? 1989. Clare Claffey was the warden of the hostel in Dublin. She used to run Killarney Hostel before that. She came here to open the hostel in Dublin. She was actually down in the pub, having her lunch, and she mentioned that she was looking for someone. My husband was there that day so he tells me that she is looking for someone and myself and the sister started here. We actually got the hostel in Dublin ready to open up. The builders were still here. We got two floors open. The bathrooms were in the process of being done. I started on the first of May. There would have been a few people in but at that time the hostel in Dublin wasn’t busy all the year. You could leave on the last Friday in June and there would be maybe 40 people here. Then when you came in on the first Sunday in July (because I didn’t work Saturdays) there would be 400 people here. For July and August you had 400 people in the hostel in Dublin every day. Clare used to send a coach down to the boats and anyone coming to the hostel in Dublin would get a free trip from the boat.
What was it like working in the hostel in Dublin back then? There wasn’t many staff. My job was in housekeeping with the sister. In the summer we would get schoolgirls in to help us but they were only part-time. It is better now because we have full-time staff so it is more reliable. I don’t have to scrub bathrooms anymore. I have a team that I manage now.
What is your favourite thing about the job? Working with the young people. They are always in good form. I like meeting people so I get to talk to the hostellers too. Some of them will want to talk. That is why they come here I think. They want to know about the area and the building.
Why do you think people are attracted to hostels? Well, if they are travelling on their own, it is good. That is what they like about it. They know that they are going to be in a dorm and they will meet other people. Y’know, they make friends. If you go to a hotel you are in a room on your own and you don’t see anybody. It is very impersonal. You’ll see it here in the hostel in Dublin. Someone is on their own. The next day you will see them and they are after getting chatting to somebody else and there is the two of them going off for the day and things like that.
What are the changes you have seen with hostellers? They are always taking pictures now. Everyone has them smart phones and they want to take your picture. You get a lot now coming for weekends. People travel more. In the past, it was hassle to travel so if they came they usually stayed for a week. So you see shorter stays now, I think. Mind you, we had one woman here one year who visited Newgrange Hostel and she entered the draw for the Winter Solstice and she won, so she extended her stay for a month so she could get inside the place. Left her husband and kids go on home. Also, some of them now get here and then hire a car between them. They have more freedom that way especially if they want to leave the city.
Why do you think people come to Dublin? I suppose it is just one of those places they hear about that they want to visit. I mean, we have nice places to see. Howth is a great favourite with them. They all like to go to Howth for whatever reason. I don’t know why! I do tell them to get the day pass for the DART. I say to them, you are going out early, get the day ticket and you can get off and see different places. I’d tell them to walk through Killiney and Dalkey villages along the coast. It’s lovely! Or Greystones and Bray.
Have you any tips for a first time visitor to Dublin? They might ask you where should I go and I would say get yourself one of the maps there and walk. Walk around Dublin. Let’s face it, you can’t get lost in Dublin. If you are staying in the city you can go in and out of the museums. They are free. Have a look around and see what you think. If they wanted nice looking places I’d send them to the Botanic Gardens. If they wanted to get out of the city, I’d suggest they head west. From Donegal down as far as Kerry.