The Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers' Society set up to aid the poor of Georgian Dublin continues to provide help for families in need.

The Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers' Society established 200 years ago is preparing to look after a new generation of Dubliners in need of its help.

The society was founded in Dublin’s golden age when the grandeur of Georgian architecture flourished alongside widespread squalor. It was set up by a group of tradesmen headed by linen draper Samuel Roseborough with the objective of helping the needy of the city. Each member donated tuppence a week and in the first year helped over five hundred people. Within three years, it was helping over seven thousand with much of its financing coming from fundraising activities including an annual ball at The Rotunda. However, the ball came to an end in 1877 after allegations that it had become a drunken orgy.

The society is located at Palace Street next to Dublin Castle, where Robert Emmet’s father once lived. In 1790, the society paid out relief totalling twenty pounds. Nowadays, the figure is around one hundred thousand pounds.

Frank Coffey of the Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers’ Association talks about the society’s activities and the kind of people they help.

There are many families with young children who need extra help as a result of illness or family difficulties or various problems.

Despite the old-fashioned title for the society, Frank Coffey says there are no plans to change it.

It’s a relic of the past. It’s part of Dublin’s history.

Marking 200 years, the society has brought out a book charting the history of the charity. There are also plans to refurbish the building as part of its relief campaign for the 21st century.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 14 December 1990. The reporter is George Devlin.