They Left this Spring Empty

Press play to hear our student, Cian Moran, read his poem about lockdown, accompanied by photos and music by university staff. Read the poem below

'They Left This Spring Empty' - a poem by Cian Moran (student)

They left this spring empty for reflection
For working from home
For cleaning out the garage
For getting to know your brothers again

For good and bad memories
For all of your mistakes
For all those decisions
you've already made

For living other's lives,
waiting for your own
For sitting still and quiet,
watching nature's show

They left this spring empty
to let the wild things grow

Working on the Front Line -  Cathal Doherty (student)

My name is Cathal Doherty. I am a doctor working in a Dublin Hospital. I worked as part of a covid-19 medical team for the majority of the pandemic. The past few months have been a very busy and stressful time with many new challenges to face in the work place. NUIG have been brilliant at accommodating me with the work schedule involved in working in a hospital and my masters. I'd like to particularly thank Dr Alanna Stanley for her help and NUIG as a whole.  NUIG has a great sense of community which was only highlighted during the past few months. Thanks, Cathal.

'Dear HR...' - a sketch by Olivia McBride (staff)

Dear HR,

I don’t mean to complain or to be a nuisance but the new girls in my office are really interfering with my work ethic. One is trying to make a 1,000 piece jigsaw while completing a "make and do" project using an egg carton, she is not keeping within her own desk boundaries.

The other is studying for a Science exam while munching loudly on toast. I’m finding it very distracting and difficult to focus – please help?

Yours sincerely,


From Week 1 of lockdown (we have since rectified our work stations :) )


'The Other Side' - a poem by Eithne O'Connell (staff)

Hi, I wrote a poem about Galway during the lockdown. My friends encouraged me to send it into the paper and I sent it to the City Tribune and am pleased to say they printed it. - Eithne O’Connell, May 2020

     The Other Side
     Protective, intimidating, the orange cones line Salthill promenade but the sea behind them smiles, ignoring them, glistening in the sunshine and looking for attention.
     Around the corner the Spanish Arch is quiet, with its colourful Long Walk enhancing the blue-grey Corrib.
     The seagulls hover overhead and flapping and screaming, seem bigger and louder than before.
     Walking over the narrow bridge, cautious, checking, “Who’s ahead, who’s behind me?” Distancing, two metres, “Be careful, stay safe!”
     Ahead of me Jurys Hotel stands proudly, imposing, watching, guarding it’s street but welcoming me.
     No people, no tables, no chairs; Quay Street is wider, different, prettier. Along with peace comes space.
     But while the street seems happy the buildings tell a different story.
     Lonely dark pub doors cry out “Unfortunately we are closed. Missing you! Looking forward to seeing you soon!” but the cobblestones are not.
     Restaurants with menus and signs on display “We’re delivering! Call us! Order online!”
     Deliveroo waiting, checking their phones, collecting food, off on their bikes – the link between the restaurants and their dwindling customers.
     A busker, an unusual sight outside Garavans. But it’s not the right time, the right place, and lacking an audience, he strums his guitar for the last time today, picking up his empty hat from the ground.
     Mannequins look out Brown Thomas’ window, smirking, goading, “We’re safe!”
     Dressed spectacularly in colourful summer clothes, at least they can show off their new clothes, but we can’t.
     Eyre Square needs a cut, but not a colour. The grass looks richer, healthier, greener than usual.
     Seagulls territorial, angry to see humans in what they consider their space now; hungry, pulling at halfempty bins, flapping, trying to intimidate, giving threatening looks.
     But they know they need us.
     The city needs us, it was made for us. And after it has rested, rejuvenated, it will be ready for us again.
     No more lonely pubs and restaurants or attention-seeking sea. The seagulls will reluctantly give back their space, happily knowing they won’t go hungry with a supply from the bins and crumbs on the pavements again.
    But underneath the hustle and bustle, the noise, the busyness, the people, we’ve seen the other side to it,
the empty, peaceful city, a more personal city, and we were lucky we caught a glimpse of it, albeit briefly.
     And somehow, I’ll miss it too.

'Making hand sanitiser... from gin!' - a reflection by Emily Gavigan (student)

Hello, I am Emily Gavigan, a third year Medicinal Chemistry student. During lockdown I got a new job working for Mór Irish Gin in the production of liquid hand sanitizer. This working environment was a drastic change compared to any other job I’ve had before. It’s not everyday your job involves full PPE and constant temperature checks, even though it was fun that we all resemble ghostbusters. Trying to balance online exams and working basically full time was a challenge. However my management was extremely supportive of my studies and encouraged me to complete my exams to the best of my ability. The experience gained however from working in industry during the most uncertain of times was invaluable.


Love in a time of COVID! - A lockdown love story from Natalia (student)

It started two weeks before all the chaos. This guy I met only once for a cup of tea added me on Facebook. We started chatting. I asked him for help with study and in exchange I was going to pay him, however he offered me a deal. ‘If you go with me on a date, I’ll help you with your study.’ So cheeky.

And so he helped me with my study and in exchange I went with him for this date.

We had a picnic on a sunny day by a little lake. He baked cookies for me. We sat there till sunset laughing and getting to know each other. It was a good deal.

It was only a couple days later when we both wanted to meet each other again. It’s rare to meet someone so mature, likeminded and with a good sense of humour.

We both suspected this virus to be deadly and the anxiety started kicking in and the awareness of how the society was going to go into a panic buying mode just like a couple years back when the snowstorm hit Ireland and there was no bread to be found.

The country went into lockdown. The world pandemic viral all over social media. People stock buying. Healthcare workers in world war with the virus.

I decided to take on the HCA COVID-19 contract and soon I left family home having to isolate from them, hence I took out all of my savings and felt ready to leave wherever the HSE would send me. Soon enough I received the job position. I was sent to a small town to work as an extra pair of hands.

I missed my family. I video chatted with my worried parents if I was definitely eating enough and we exchanged pictures of our quarantine life’s.

‘So what happened with you and that guy?’

Well, we really enjoyed each other’s company. We wanted to continue our dating life, however we had to think of the safest way of doing it in order to protect my patients, staff and ourselves of course.

During this hectic chaos of a deadly respiratory virus going around, we decided that the safest way for us to date was to move in together. It was the best idea we both could think of which would protect us from the risk of contracting Covid. We both lived far from each other. Travel on buses and trains was a no.

We moved into a hotel for two weeks and it was definitely a very fun and interesting experience. By day I worked with patients helping them through their recovery journey, protecting them from COVID-19 and by the evening I would arrive to a warm cooked dinner. He even baked a homemade brown bread for me. We brought our own toaster, kettle, hot plates, fridge, pots, pans and more. We had our own tiny kitchenette and I am glad the hotel didn’t catch us making porridge in our own pots on hot plates in that hotel room. Laundry was a challenge but we managed. We walked through fields and countryside with our laundry, carrying it to a supermarket behind which stood washing machines and after waiting couple hours and walking around in the sun together we would collect our freshly clean clothes and walk back to the hotel, hanging them up on the balcony.

Soon enough we found an accommodation and moved to a tiny, little village with a river running through it. The fresh country air and the sunrises and the sunsets. It was special. We didn’t save any money because of bills and having to pay for taxis to work and back, however getting to help people throughout this difficult time was a privilege for us. We fell in love with each other and even when my work contract finished we moved in together. Once travelling constrictions left, we visited my parents keeping a safe distance as a precaution.

It’s going to be okay.


'We Stage a Pause' - a poem by Eva Galvin (student)

Air we breathe, not safe for some,
For we can’t see, the harm we cause,
Lockdown terror, and rage for all,
Fear all for, we stage a pause.

A grandchild’s hug, embrace of a father,
A partner's touch, a friend's laughter
Bereft of all, we miss it dearly
Take the fall, for a safer after.

A sitting room workout, a 2k run,
Zoom call hangouts, virtual company,
Amused by all, we wish for none,
That cases fall, along with numbered bodies.

Hope for future, for days to come,
That will be freer, what normal once was,
For our frontline heroes we bow,
with the journey we’ve lost some,
But for now, we stage a pause.


'My family contracted COVID-19' - a reflection by Claire Twomey (student)

I contracted the virus and tested positive on March 29th. Both of my parents also tested positive on the same day. All 3 of us were under the care of the Mater Hospital in Dublin, where my Mam spent 4 weeks in ICU. We are all struggling with the recovery process and lingering symptoms; however, we are all still here and are very grateful for that.  The family, friends and neighbours that rallied round us carried us through and it has ignited an even stronger connection to our community, not just where we live, but all the world over. - We are indebted to all of these people.

But more importantly, the support I received and the care and kindness I was met with from Tuuli Kuosmanen and Professor Margaret Barry from the school of Health Sciences enabled me to complete my final assignment during a very challenging time, and they allowed me to do it well. I also have to mention my fellow students, who were on hand to help me process even after they had completed their own projects. - I cannot thank them enough.

I am disappointed about the impact COVID-19 had on my postgraduate experience as I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the campus each month, meeting fellow students and learning from incredible academics.  My time there was short and sweet, but very memorable.

I think of all the staff and students, and what we have achieved this year. The efforts made to transition to working around this crisis and adapting to different circumstances, in order to complete the academic year. And to my classmates in particular, who completed a postgrad in the middle of a pandemic. - We should all congratulate ourselves.

This story is about the power of people, and what we can achieve, together. How we can survive anything, if we lead with our hearts and lift people up.

I hope you all stay safe and well, and I hope I get the chance to carry out further studies with NUIG.


'There is great value in appreciating the small things' - a reflection and photo by Deirdre Lydon (staff)

I have always been a lover of life's simple pleasures. Covid-19 ushered in necessary restrictions, limiting our movements and human interactions, necessitating the need to work remotely and home school (a big challenge at times!), and hugely changed routine activities - the way we shopped for groceries, for example. While the continuing 'lockdown' has been a big challenge to our family life and has brought noticeable impacts and frustrations, it has also helped to highlight to me that so much of what we think is important and necessary, really is not.

There is great value in appreciating the small things: beautiful birdsong, the returning house martins taking up residence again in our eaves. Silver linings: I have had more time to spend with our children, going for walks, playing old-fashioned outdoor 'chalk' games, baking, and have had time to help a cocooning friend with her grocery shopping (all that was before I injured my foot during lockdown, but that is another story!) I have enjoyed not rushing to and fro on a regular basis e.g. on the work commute, the school run, to after school activities. Overall, I have had a renewed realisation as to what is important to me.

Since our planned family holiday to Spain could not be realised this year due to Covid's outbreak, we have designated the sunniest spot on our patio to be Spain! Add Lorca's collected poems and it's a very good place to be! Finally, let's hope that humanity will review and drastically change with meaningful measures, the way it interacts with the natural world going forward. On an important note of appreciation and thanks: I have been amazed at the numerous wonderful projects carried out by our university researchers as they respond to Covid's impact, in practical ways - these advances have had, and will continue to have, a positive impact on the lives of many.


'Nature’s wrath' - a poem by Akanksha (student)

We invaded jungles and interfered in their lives 
We added and increased species in extinction archive 
It wasn’t our earth we were supposed to share 
It wasn’t our heritage, we have been unfair. 
We gifted pollution, global warming and cheerfully dined 
Homo sapiens have been painfully unkind. 

Blue skies were blur and nature’s beauty was thrashed 
We laughed and enjoyed while forests were slashed 
Temperature rose, soil degraded, and ozone depleted 
We shamelessly poached and earth’s health deteriorated 
It wasn’t funny to see headlines about animals encroaching schools and markets 
Remember! We encroached their territories and put them into shrinking brackets 
Nature finds its own ways to heal and revive 
It locked us all like zoo animals survived 

Covid19 is way of telling us to stop, reflect since it has lessons to derive  
Mother earth is ordering us to let her breathe, rejuvenate, and remain alive  
Mankind is not above her she has graciously given us a place to exist 
We are not that important, a weapon unseen to our eyes has us dismissed 
The environment is reclaiming her charm, previously mugged by people 
Industrial waste is clearing, the pollution is reducing, and mother nature is becoming regal 
Wildlife and life under water can be seen liberated 
Nilgai on streets and dolphins back to the coasts should be celebrated  

It's time we mend our ways, or we would see more of Earth’s outcry 
She gave us selflessly everything we needed, so why this hue and cry 
Our very being belongs to her, she nurtures our soul 
All we must do is, keep our greed under control


'The dilemma to go home to India or stay put' - a reflection by Alex Arulraj (student)

I was indeed having fun in Galway - then the pandemic took over. We left our apartment only to buy groceries and we bought for a whole week or so. The virus was rapidly spreading all over the world. We were stuck in a dilemma to leave to our hometown or to stay put. We then decided to take the risk and booked our flight.

When the day came to board our flights, the airlines cancelled our ticket without our knowledge. Luckily, my ticket was cancelled one day earlier so my agent booked a ticket on an alternative flight. The airport was filled with people and I denied to take my mask off.

The flight journey was not a pleasant one. I reached India the next day but no such precautions were taken for the passengers who arrived from other countries. Later I wanted to go to the airport to pick up my brother and friend - that's when I found out that they were still stuck in Dublin Airport waiting for their flight. They apparently reached two days later and they were too exhausted to even stand.

We took a separate hotel and stayed there for 14 days before going to our house. We travelled through an outbreak zone and feared we might be infected. Luckily, we were all fine but the cases in India are increasing drastically.

We keep ourselves busy at home with our projects and reports. We can't wait to go back to Galway. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. #staysafe

'An opportunity to learn new things' - a video message and musical performance by Sagnik Chakraborty (student)

This lockdown period have been a roller-coaster ride for me, good days, tough days and perhaps tougher nights. I am a bit introverted, so had been taking the help of art to express myself, but this time I took music, and that became a miracle. In a very short time, my instruments became my best friends and I started finding peace though it. I have attached a video, a small story of my creative journey during this crisis.

P.S A huge thanks to all my friends, Deirdre and the university to being a continuous support.  

The Joys of Remote Working - Eric Mortimer (staff)

The lockdown has opened mine and many colleagues eyes to remote working. A greener solution in terms of decreased traffic, less stress for parking and more family time. It has also faciliated our unit (ISS) to deliver the platform to provide those that need remote working. Remote working was always been on the long finger but we hope it is here to stay.

That said, we all have missed the University and the lockdown has me appreciate the great colleagues I work with and the wonderful campus we have. I have taken time to walk around campus (when lockdown restrictions permitted so) and to enjoy it at the slower pace of life we were afforded duirng the pandemic. So thank you to all of my colleagues for making the University a special place to work. Special thanks to the ground staff for maintaining such a one of the most beautiful and spectacular campuses in the world.

My own creative response has been more on a personal level following a green theme. Again something accelerated by the pandemic - the purchase of an eBike! I have always wanted to play a part in a greener, more sustainable planet. Hopefully the Galway weather will allow me continue my two wheeled journey through life!