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doing the mi lk round could be the cream of job s for the digital age

For many generations Irish people have been waking up to fresh milk on their doorstep. While advances in technology changed everything from communication to shopping in recent years, the trusty milk float continued making its rounds while its customers slumbered on.

But change is afloat as the traditional milkman (and woman) has received a modern makeover. Produce, delivery and good old-fashioned banter will remain the same, but orders and payment can now be done online.

The new facility at www.mymilkman.ie comprises an enthusiastic team who will take dairy orders and settle accounts online. A new app has also been set up which lets customers order their milk at any time of the day, allows for last-minute changes up to 9pm and offers the facility to pause an order.

We spoke to two milkmen and one milk woman to find out what life is like on the early morning delivery route and how they are affected by the modern twist to their traditional role.

>Stephen Lawlor is married to Elaine and has five-year-old twins, Isobel and Abbie. He has been delivering around the Finglas/Glasnevin area for 4 and a half years and says he likes nothing better than a bit of a laugh with his customers - so the new online system allows him to spend more time chatting and less collecting money.

"I am an electrician by trade and became a milkman by chance when my wife's uncle decided to give up his round after 30 years. There wasn't a lot of work at the time so I said I would give it a go and have been doing it ever since.

"My Dad used to work as a bread man and from the age of ten, I used to go out in the van with him to do deliveries so I wasn't bothered by the hours on the milk round.

"I start every night at around 12.30am by loading up the van. I usually make my first delivery around 1am and this carries on until 6am. I deliver three nights a week and usually the rest of the week is spent collecting the money.

"But since we have gone online, there is a lot less to collect because most people pay with their card online.

"This means firstly I get to finish earlier on those days and secondly, I have more time to chat to the people I am collecting from - this is my favourite part of the job and there is always an offer of a cup of tea.

"I have about 400 customers and most really seem to like the new service as it means they have full control over their order and can keep track of their bills. They also don't have to worry about waiting in to pay me if I get delayed or something.

"The first people to sign up were an elderly couple in their mid-80s. I was all prepared to do everything for them but they called me in for a cup of tea, got out an IPad and sorted it all out themselves - so that put me in my place. "

>Matt Davis is married to Annie and has three children - Ben (9), Holly (8) and Charley (3). He lives in Ashbourne, Co Meath and is fairly new to the milk round as he only started a year ago. But even in that short time, has noticed a great deal of change.

"I have only been a milkman for just over a year and have 350 customers. Prior to that I used to help out a guy who emigrated to Australia and offered his round to me.

"I get up at midnight, have a bite to eat and head over to the dairy to load up the van. I will then do around six hours of delivering and be home about 7.30am.

"During the school term, I don't get to see the kids much so I try to get back to give them breakfast and take them to school. Then I am usually shattered so will head off to bed until about 2pm - I might do the school run at this time so I can have a chat with the kids.

"Not getting enough family time during the school year is the only downside but it isn't too bad because I only deliver on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

"When I was helping out on the milk round before, I thought it was a really easy job but it wasn't until I started running as my own business that I realised there was more to it than delivering milk.

"But I still love the face-to-face interaction with customers and now that they have known me for a year, we have a great banter going and I get to hear all sorts of stories." >Sharon Flynn has two children - Alan (26) and Jessica (15). She is one of only two female 'milkmen' in Waterford and has been delivering milk for 24 years. She loves her job and says while she puts in around 50 hours a week, she wouldn't change it for the world - the fact that accounts can be taken care of online means that she has more time to spend with her family.

"I was only 20 when I started this job and it was completely by accident - I did someone a favour by driving the van for them one night when they were unable to and I loved it so much that I have been on the road ever since.

"I have 720 customers in Waterford city and my working week varies. On Mondays I work from 3am to 10am, on Tuesdays from 5am until 9am and for the rest of the week from 4am until 8pm.

"The last three are my longest days because I deliver early in the morning and then do my collecting in the afternoon.

"I love the job so much that it's almost like a hobby to me. I've been doing this for so long that everyone knows me and I love having a bit of craic with the customers. I think the fact that I'm a woman makes it easier for other women to relate to me on the doorstep.

"I have never had an incident in all the years I have been doing the job. I suppose it's because most people are asleep and there is usually someone else out and about delivering."

To find out who delivers in your area visit www.mymilkman.ie