Friday 13th February 1981 was a regular night. I had recently turned 19 and was working for JWT in their head office in Baggot Street. I very likely went for a drink after work – a habit that used to drive my mother mad in the days before mobile phones and microwave ovens. Most Fridays I arrived home to find some congealed, dried out dinner resting in the oven which I had to eat assuring my very cross mother “it’s fine – not dried out all.” She didn’t believe a word and I am sure got a fair amount of pleasure from the sight of my attempting to eat it without grimacing.

Anyway I do know that I was in bed at a respectable hour. I know because I remember vividly waking up at about 2am having had the most horrific nightmare I think I have ever had. I dreamt that I was in the JWT office at 109 Grafton Street. This was an office I had worked in for over a year. It was located at the bottom of Grafton Street just opposite the side wall of Trinity College. We were regularly asked by tourists where they could catch the bus to Dun Log-a-hair (the 46a to Dun Laoghaire stopped opposite).

Anyway in my dream I am working away when I look up to see a bus at the stop on the opposite side of the road. As I look, a huge crack opens in the ground and the bus begins to fall into the gaping hole. I watch horrified as desperate passengers try to escape. Some make it out the doors but there are a group on the top deck desperately trying to get the small rear window to open. It is stuck. I am helpless to assist them and watch in horror. The nightmare was so vivid and the horror so real that I woke up.

I was really disturbed by the image of the desperate passengers trying to escape disaster. I sat up and decided to read for a while in order to rid my mind of the horrible images from my dream. I looked at the clock on my bedside table. It was 2am.

Like the rest of Dublin and indeed Ireland, I woke the next morning to the news of what had happened at the Stardust Disco in Artane. That night 44 people lost their lives in what is still the greatest disaster to have occurred in this state. A further 4 people died in the following days and weeks. Their average age was 19 years, same age I was. The full scale of the tragedy that unfolded in the former jam factory was conveyed by the news images. Blackened young people stumbling out the main entrance, fire brigade and ambulance personnel assisting them in the general chaos. But what struck me most, 30 years ago were the unfortunates who sought escape through the toilet windows, which were barred. A photo of a ladder placed against the wall in an attempt to rescue them was a poignant symbol. Was it their desperation I picked up, as I slept in my bed on the other side of the city?

I don’t know the answer to that. But I know that my nightmare was one of the most vivid and horrific I have ever experienced. As a Reiki Master I believe in the energetic nature of the universe. The energy of horror created in Dublin that night must have been powerful.

In the following weeks, the reality of how huge a tragedy this was for not just the northside suburbs of Artane, Kilmore and Coolock but for the whole of Dublin was brought to life when I found myself dealing with phone calls from bereaved families and friends as they cancelled holidays they were due to take that summer.

30 years on as I go to bed tonight I will remember the 48 young people who lost their lives in Artane that night. They had a future ahead of them on that night in 1981 just like I did. I thankfully am still living mine. They were not so blessed.

May they all rest in peace.

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Writing and Talking.... on the radio, on the telly and in the papers. Debut book out in Spring 2022

13 thoughts on “STARDUST”

  1. Gosh Barbara I never knew you had that nightmare that night! I remember that terrible morning so well hearing the terrible news. Have we learnt from it I wonder? Or are young people still crammed into overcrowded venues as profit input before safety?
    Thanks for nudging us to stop and think about the deceased and their brave families who fought so hard for justice and answers.

  2. Excellent post – well done. A friend of mine David Morton died that night. I will never forget the funeral and the sense of total loss among the community – it still exists today.

  3. I was a bit older – by 6 years – and it was a very special night for me as we decided to set a wedding date that night. Now-hubby and me were in the Abbey Mooney for a a drink (soft!) before I went to Mount Carmel for the 11-7 night shift (agency nursing) and he went off home. Sometime during a quiet night shift news began to filter in of a fire in a nightclub on the Northside. I lived in Drumcondra and often cycled out to Raheny to St. Joseph's Hospital and I knew every corner of Dublin by bike from the diversity of agency nursing. I remember cycling home after that night not knowing the full extent of the disaster – no Twitter or FB then, and no mobile phones. I think I had phone contact with Jan at some stage, but that's a bit blurry. What I do recall is the chill cycling down Orwell Road and home through a deserted city at dawn. Horrific days followed as the hospitals filled with injured and I was on night duty in the Mater and Jervis Street a lot. It was desolation like I hadn't seen since the Dublin bombings in 74 when I was a student. I missed those by minutes as I slept in a friend's flat in Dartry that day – on nights and would normally cycle from Drumcondra thru' Parnell St. or North Earl St. Horrific times. We talked about it last night – every year it comes back to haunt us, the Stardust. RIP to all and may their families find justice one day, though I fear they won't – big developers will probably take over the site one day.

  4. Such horrible tragedies that people endure! And how close it still is to you or you wouldn't have such nightmares. And how blessed you were, as you say, to still be here. And I'm certain that those who died that day ARE resting in peace. Now it is for us to go on and try to help create a more peaceful world for those of us who are still on earth, living out our lives, however brief or long they might be.

  5. I'm sure you did feel that energy, that pain and it translated into a nightmare that you still remember to this day. I've had dreams that are comforting, ones that scare me so bad I wake up shaking, and ones that are recurring. Fascinating stuff, what dreams are made of.

  6. Barbara, I lived about 10minutes away from the Stardust and a lot of the people who so sadly died were related to school friends.
    It was a horrible tragedy and when I pass by the area where it was even nowadays I get a shiver up my spine. I would say you definitely picked up the pain and sadness in your dreams. May they rest in peace!

  7. Again thank you all for your comments. those of us in Ireland are familiar with the fact that the families are still waiting for justice and for answers. This makes me very cross indeed. 30 years is a cruel length of time to have passed with no real closure. One wonders if this disaster had happened in (as it was known then) Blinkers (Leopardstown) would the outcome have been the same?

    I want to thank particularly audreyb and mofraz for their comments and their poignant links. Your contribution makes this story real again. Maurice – we probably met – all those years ago!

  8. I remember that awful tragedy. My first child was born, well actually today is his birthday, and the headlines in the paper on Feb. 17, 1981 were the first of the Stardust funerals. I am relieved to find someone else experiences dreams like this.

  9. My uncle is a fireman, and he went back into the fire so many times to bring people out, his lungs collapsed. He spent a week in hospital and was awarded a medal for bravery. Such a terrible tragedy. Lovely piece Barbara

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