Irish community’s resilience captured in new book documenting highs and lows of life in lockdown

Irish community’s resilience captured in new book documenting highs and lows of life in lockdown

THE RESILIENCE and determination of the people in one Irish town to get through the Covid-19 lockdown has been captured in a new book dedicated to their stories.

Killarney Behind the Mask launched just before Christmas, documenting the lives of the people of the Co. Kerry town as they lived through the toughest period during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While they were forced to be physically apart during lockdown, their patience, determination and commitment to one another was captured by local freelance photographer Marie Carroll-O’Sullivan.

Photographer Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan compiled the 364-page book with the help of Graphic Designer Sinead Collins and editing skills of John O'Mahony for three worthy local charities (Pic: Marek Hajdasz)

Ms Carroll-O’Sullivan took photographs of the people of Killarney throughout lockdown.

She used the short range of distance she was allowed to travel within while the country was under its most limiting Covid-19 restrictions to capture the experiences of her neighbours in pictures and stories.

Her work became something of a diary of the life of the town while in lockdown.

When she realised the content she had accumulated, she decided to publish it as a book to raise money for local charities.

She then spent much of last year fundraising to cover the publication costs.

Just before Christmas that book, Killarney Behind the Mask: Lockdown 2020, was finally launched and has since received rave reviews.

Mayor of Killarney, Marie Maloney, who attended the launch, believes the impressive photobook is an important read for Irish people everywhere.

“While everybody featured in the stories and photographs between the covers of Killarney Behind the Mask has a unique and individual story to tell, there is one common thread running through it all and one word that keeps springing to mind as you read it – resilience,” she said.

“This is a book that wonderfully captures the stories of ordinary men, women and children whose lives were turned upside down and inside out, during the period from January to December 2020, as the country encountered a devastating pandemic and Killarney, like everywhere else, had to adjust to a new way of living.

“It tells very personal stories about the fear and anxiety felt, the sorrow experienced, the sacrifices made, the friends and family that were missed and the sudden loss of life as we knew it.

Pictured at the launch of Behind the Mask, a book dedicated to the late Garda Paudie Twohig (and Marie's parents Pat & Mary Carroll) were (L-R) Paudie's sister Mairead Twohig, his brother Tadhg Twohig, Author/Photograher Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan, his daughter Olivia Twohig, Paudie's Wife Diane Twohig, his Mum Maura & Dad John (Pic: Marek Hajdasz)

“But don’t get me wrong: this is not a sad book – far from it,” she added.

“It’s a fabulously uplifting publication that shows the world how one great town lived with Covid-19 and came out the other side, bruised, battered, shaken but, in a funny way, stronger, more determined and more together than ever before.”

Ms Carroll-O’Sullivan, a native of Tipperary who has lived in Killarney since 1997, where she runs the Little Memory Gallery, decided to publish the book after seeing the positive response her photos of life in lockdown were receiving among the community in early 2020.

The Irish Cancer Society and Pieta House will both receive proceeds from sales of the book, which will also cover the cost of thank you gift tokens for staff working at the Covid-19 ward at University Hospital Kerry in 2020.

Fundraising support to the tune of tens of thousands of Euros has come from the residents of Killarney as well as Kerry people further afield – including a generous donation from the Kerry Association London.

“I took the challenge of opting to publish my findings in book form to raise funds for very worthy local charities who I believe have lost out so badly during the pandemic,” Ms Carroll-O’Sullivan told The Irish Post.

“I felt it my duty to Killarney,” she added, “God only knows when we will need any of these services.”

Killarney Behind the Mask is available now

Mayor Delaney is understandably grateful that the photographer took it upon herself to complete this challenge and to all those who helped make the stunning history book a reality.

“Great credit is due to Marie Carroll O’Sullivan, who made it her business to photograph and chat to as many local people as possible, initially within her 2km travel limit, and later further afield, to record how Killarney dealt with the pandemic,” she said.

“She displayed remarkable dedication, passion, drive and energy and we all owe her an enormous debt of gratitude.”

The Mayor added: “Killarney Behind the Mask was a real labour of love for the three-person team involved in its production.

“Marie took all the photographs and enjoyed the chats with those featured, the book was edited by John O’Mahony of O’Mahony Media and KillarneyToday and it was designed by Sinead Collins of Design by Sinead who is a sister-in-law of Garda Diane Collins, a Community Garda here in Killarney and the wife of the late and greatly admired and appreciated Garda Paudie Twohig".

Now available to buy, Killarney Behind the Mask charts the incredible sacrifices made by so many in the town.

It includes the story of Kerry’s oldest man and how he adjusted to the new circumstances, how parents of babies born during lockdown coped and how neighbours and friends reached out like never before to those needing a little extra support.

It tells the stories of frontline personnel working through Covid times, elderly people cocooning at home and desperately missing their families, children gutted that their communion or confirmation ceremonies had to be cancelled – in some cases three times – and families finding meaningful ways to pass the long days and nights under lockdown.

Ultimately this book reveals the remarkable compassion and selflessness displayed by so many.

To purchase the book click here.