‘lockdown? I called it the lockdown: care home residents share memories of Covid in culture project


“I called it the lockdown. It was awful,” says Christy Curley, 75, when asked what life was like in our care homes during the darkest days of the pandemic lockdown.

The care homes have been the true frontline of Covid and for most of us it is difficult to imagine what life was like for the residents who suffered many sad losses and often experienced fear and helpless isolation.

And yet alongside the all too common stories of tragedy lay resilience, courage – and some even managing to thrive despite the shrunken boundaries of their lives during Tier 5 Covid restrictions.

A Dublin City Council Culture Company project aims to understand what happened and collect the stories of care home residents and tell them in the form of a graphic novel by artist Alan Dunne. This became a graphic short which was released at the Culture Company’s headquarters in Richmond Barracks in Inchicore.

Culture Company executive director Iseult Byrne explained that after developing a relationship with residents at nearby Croft Nursing Home in Goldenbridge and Hollybrook Lodge in Inchicore, they felt it was important that they be allowed to tell their stories.

“We’ve all been through trauma, including people in care homes, and we need to acknowledge that to make sure we can move beyond that in terms of our own well-being,” she said, adding that she hoped the project could do that be part of this recovery.

One of the stars of the novel is Christy, who was admitted to the Croft Nursing Home prior to Covid due to deteriorating health.

“I’m down to one lung because I’ve smoked my whole life,” he said. “When we were seven, we went around collecting empty milk bottles and the shopkeeper paid us in cigarettes.”

He told that Irish Independent that when images from the novel were projected onto the side of Dublin City Hall for Christmas 2020 as part of the Winter Lights campaign, it had a very special and poignant meaning for him.

Originally from Gardiner Street in Dublin city centre, he was arrested in 1959 at the age of 13 for taking a piece of old wood from a derelict house to use in a pigeon coop. He ended up before a judge in the old children’s court, which was then located in City Hall.

“My parents were at odds in court,” he recalls. “Two more honest and decent people you could never meet.

“It’s amazing – I got out of there when I was just 13 years old in a black Mariah van and 63 years later I was standing on the wall with lights on. It was emotional.”

Christy spent a month at Marlborough House where he was physically abused. Decades later, he spent his compensation from the State’s Redress Board on a wheelchair, claiming, “If you waited for the HSE, you would get it when you were dead and they would put it on your coffin.”

He spent his life working hard, from driving a truck to working as a fellow bricklayer to working down on the docks and on the coal and lumber boats.

There was also some petty crime growing up, he admitted, saying, “If things have fallen off a truck, it’s because I pushed them off.”

“It took me a long time to learn my lesson,” said Christy, who still feels guilty at this point in his life.

“Life is just beginning for me now,” he said of life in a nursing home. He has learned to paint portraits, which he donated to charity two years ago with an exhibition in the library at Dolphin’s Barn. He has also sung with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra on Zoom.

“I never sang a note when I was out, but here I am like a lark in the morning,” Christy explained. ‘lockdown? I called it the lockdown: care home residents share memories of Covid in culture project

Fry Electronics Team

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