Laois lockdown experience recorded in verse and pictures in new book

Rathdowney poetry and photography from the lockdown

Stan Henderson


Stan Henderson

lockdown rathdowney

Helen Campion and Hugh Finn, Nicola Ryan Hugh

A book titled Rathdowney’s Own 2020 which is an anthology of poetry and photography gathered during the first lockdown has been published by Helen Campion of Dankirk Publishing on behalf of the Rathdowney Arts Group.

In the midst of the first Lockdown a young man from Rathdowney in Co. Laois named Hugh Finn decided to raise the spirits of his community by creating The Rathdowney Song and Poem contest.

Unknown to Hugh but at that very same time a young woman named Nicola Ryan who is a rigorous amateur photographer from Rathdowney had the very same idea.

As an amateur photographer, Nicola travelled around the town and surrounding villages socially distancing while taking spontaneous doorstep portraits or as she likes to call them Doortraits of cocooning and social distancing families while unknown to her Hugh Finn was focused on creating the Rathdowney Song and Poem Contest.

What happened next is contained in the little gem that became a combination of both Hugh's and Nicola’s work called Rathdowney’s Own - An Anthology of Poetry & Photography.

In her introduction to her first ever book to publish, narrator, co-editor and publisher Helen Campion says, “Early in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic began to ravage the world Rathdowney entered lockdown along with the rest of our country.

“As summer gently approached and the community bravely fought with unprecedented restrictions and new social regulations a young Rathdowney professional singer-songwriter hatched a plot to lift the spirits of the community. Hugh Finn would launch the first ever Rathdowney Song & Poem Contest in May 2020 celebrating local stories, places and people through song-writing and poetry.

“Backed and sponsored by local businesses Midland Hardware and Supervalu the contest was embraced by the community and poets and songwriters emerged from every corner of our talented town, surrounding villages and from across the water.

“At the same time a dedicated amateur photographer had her own ideas on how she could uplift her fellow local ‘lockdownees’, particularly self-isolating families who had to cocoon themselves away from loved ones and neighbours. Nicola Ryan embarked upon a mission of doorstep portraits or Doortraits. What transpired was an emotional portfolio that captured a moment in time that will be forever remembered by all of us that had to live through it with most of us thankfully surviving it, all of us still struggling to survive it, but never losing faith or hope.

“Watching on from the side-lines with admiration and pride I immediately made the decision to invite them to combine their two creations into this publication to forever remain in print, lest we might ever forget or our descendants might wonder.”
Nicola Ryan was born and bred in Rathdowney and is married with two boys aged nine and 14.

“I have loved photography forever and am really just an amateur mainly taking photos of my kids and our dogs mostly.

“I follow a photographer on Instagram called Katie Kavanagh and saw her going around taking photos of people during the lockdown at their front doors and gates. I thought I'd love to do something similar so decided to do doortraits. I thought I'd convince my family and friends to take part but in the end I got over 50 requests from people on my Facebook post to take part.

“I had to take the post down in the end as I knew I wouldn't get to them all as I was working full time during the lockdown. In hindsight I'm sorry I didn't continue it over a number of weeks as there are so many characters I'd love to have snapped.

“Helen Campion saw my post on Facebook and got in touch with me saying she had an idea and to leave it with her. Her idea was to put together the photos with the poems from the poem competition into a book.

“I didn't expect first of all that my doortraits would get such a reaction let alone be asked to contribute to a book. I was thrilled to take part and glad people will have something nice to take from lockdown 2020.” she said.

Rathdowney’s Own is narrated by Helen Campion, collated & edited by Helen Campion and Hugh Finn, printed by Print Central in Portlaoise and the photography is by Nicola Ryan Hugh is from the Conoboro in Rathdowney and he currently lives in Dublin.

Hugh has been professionally involved in the music industry for over a decade. He is a talented singer and songwriter who loves writing songs and is a huge fan of creativity. He also has a keen interest in local stories and in the history of Rathdowney.

Helen Campion is also a Rathdowney native and is a tutor and programme developer with Laois Sports Partnership and Sport Ireland. Helen has been a professional musician for over 30 years. Retired from playing music she now tutors and writes.

Further information is available from Helen Campion on 089 4081693 or by emailing

The book can be purchased in local shops and on Rathdowney’s Own Facebook page by clicking Shop Now.