The tragic story of the murder of an eighteen year old at a punk gig in Belfield’s main canteen
Sitting upstairs in the relatively quiet main canteen in Belfield today, it’s hard to imagine it as the scene of an event that altered the Irish music industry forever.
In the summer of 1977, Belfield Canteen was host to Ireland’s first ever Punk Festival. During the gig, a fight broke out in which an eighteen year old youth was stabbed to death.
The concert, billed as the ‘Belfield Festival’, saw the cream of the crop of Ireland’s emerging punk and new wave talent. Headlining were The Radiators from Space, a Dublin-based punk band fronted by Philip Chevron who later became lead guitarist with The Pogues. Their debut single Television Screen, released in April of that year made history by becoming the first punk single to make the Top Twenty anywhere in the world. 
Next on the bill were Derry’s power-pop Punk legends; The Undertones who released their classic hit Teenage Kicks a few months after the gig.
Supporting were The Vipers, a Dublin punk and rhythm and blues band who had supported The Clash in their second Irish visit.  Brian Foley, the band’s bassist later joined Paul Cleary’s power pop, mod influenced Dublin group, The Blades.
The next band on the line-up was Revolver, a prominent group on the late 1970s Dublin Punk scene. Their first demo, Bombscare Thoroughfare, was recorded in “a shopping centre in Crumlin” . The band never made the breakthrough they wanted and broke up in late 1979.
The final band was The Gamblers, a group whose main claim to fame was that U2 supported them in The Project Arts Centre in May 1978. 
According to Mark Perry, music journalist and founder of the UK’s first punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue, “the show attracted over 600 fans – an unprecedented figure”.  The Irish Times put the figure at closer to 800.  Perry is quoted as saying that ten minutes after the first band had started, a scuffle broke out in front of the stage, which, according to The Irish Times involved “about eight or nine people”. Michael Bradley, bassist from The Undertones, recalls that the fight was “over very quickly and the band played on”.  Suddenly though, as Perry recalls, “the news crawled out on all fours – somebody (had) been stabbed”. An ambulance was called to take the injured man away.
The show continued, albeit with a tenser atmosphere. Shortly before The Radiators from Space were due on stage, their guitarist was surrounded by four bouncers and bundled into the dressing room. Rumours abounded that the individual who was stabbed was in a pretty bad way and someone had got the wrong impression that Pete Holidai from The Radiators had been involved in the fight. After “rough questioning”, he was allowed to go on stage with the band.
During their set, the police arrived, stationed officers at all exits of the canteen and prevented the band from playing an encore. It was almost three o’clock in the morning. No one in the crowd was allowed to leave without showing identification and getting searched. The five bands were all forced into one dressing room where they gave written statements. At this point, word had gone around that the victim was in a critical condition in St. Vincent’s Hospital. An hour later news spread that the boy had died.
The police finally allowed the bands to leave at 6.30am that morning.
The dead youth was indentified as Patrick Coultry, an eighteen year old from Cabra in North Dublin who suffered two stab wounds during the fracas. The boy who killed him was only seventeen. Charged with manslaughter, he said in court that he “panicked during the row as he felt he was going to get beat up”. He also admitted that he had drunk excessively that evening.
The killing had an immediate effect on the music industry in Ireland. John Fisher, gig promoter at the time, remembers that before the stabbing “gigs in Ireland were pretty simple affairs, really. They were run mostly by enthusiastic amateurs with very little security … after Belfield, it became more regulated, more professional and safer”. 
After the Punk Festival, the college authorities banned all gigs in Belfield for weeks after. This directly affected the Students Union which lost a much-needed income. The Radiators from Space found their gigs cancelled by promoters all over the country. The tabloid press wrote sensational, often fabricated stories on the inherent violent nature of punk rock. For the musicians it proved to be long lasting emotional event as members of The Radiators from Space refused to talk about the night for years after, The Undertones, traumatised by the incident, didn’t play a gig outside the North of Ireland for over eighteen months. 
Gavin Friday, lead singer with The Virgin Prunes recalls the night’s significance – “I think that was the first murder at a rock gig in the British Isles”. As a result, music promoters found it much more difficult to organise gigs with the increased expenses of extra security and the personal insurance premiums.
It was a night that was formative in changing the face of the Irish music industry forever. Just how many students sipping their coffee in the canteen today know of the tragedy that took place a few feet away from they are sitting? It’s true hidden history.
Irish Punk and New Wave Discography; Radiators from Space. http://irishrock.org/ipnw/bands/radiators.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).
Irish Punk and New Wave Discography; The Vipers. http://irishrock.org/ipnw/bands/vipers.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).
Irish Punk and New Wave Discography; Revolver http://irishrock.org/ipnw/bands/revolver.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).
History of U2 http://www.geocities.com/lucagianp/u2history.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).
Mark Perry quoted in Barry Cain’s 77 Sulphate Strip, (Ovolo Books, 2007),134.
Anon, “Gardai treat UCD stabbing as murder”, The Irish Times, June 27, 1977.
Michael Bradley, My Life As An Undertone (Part Two) http://www.theundertones.com/__/My_Life_As_Part_2.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).
Anon, “Manslaughter Conviction”, The Irish Times, October 27, 1978.
Fisher, John, 2008, email to author, 4 November 2008.
Gig timeline of The Undertones; http://www.theundertones.com/__/Shows_1976-1983.html (Accessed April 22, 2009).
Gavin Friday quoted in Steve Cummin’s article “Go ahead, punk, make my day…” The Irish Independent, May 19, 2007.
The entire history of the Saturday night gigs and discos at the Belfield restaurant calls out for further documentation – it was a real institution in the 70s and (I guess) early 80s, with a live band upstairs, a chill-out area on the middle floor and a top-notch rock disco in the basement, which transformed the entire building into something from a different world for a few hours every weekend – Clannad, Skid Row, the Boomtown Rats, The Pirates, Mushroom, Eddie & The Hotrods, Horslips, The Radiators, Rodeo & Planxty are just some of the bands I heard there during four years as a patron. Is the restaurant ever used for anything like that nowadays?
Likewise with Theatre L as a concert venue – anybody who was anybody in the Irish folk and rock scene of the 70s played there – the lunchtime concerts alone must be the stuff of legend by now!
Brilliant post. A decent bit of research into the music history of Belfield is well overdue.
At the moment, the top floor of the restaurant is the canteen, the middle part has a post office, small soup/sandwich place, some computers and bathrooms and the basement has two rooms (full of seats for students) which are used sometimes for graduation events/talks etc…
If those walls could only talk they’d have some tales to relate of wild Saturday nights back in the mists of time! Live bands always played upstairs on a stage constructed in front of the windows that face you as you come up the stairs (the stage was made up of tables from the restaurant, as far as I remember) – I never heard of any noise issues with local residents, the building being quite a distance from any houses, so bands could play really LOUD! One musical highlight off the top of my head: Horslips playing the entire Tain album there in an unusual Sunday night concert just after the album was released.
The Silver Spear/More Than You Can Chew in dynamic STEREO:
You need to add &fmt=18 at the end of the url to hear it in stereo
I was the Students Union President at that time and I was there on the night. I may even have a poster for the event which I think was correctly called ‘Belfield’s Burning’, organised by Marcus De Cogan for the SU. The murder weapon was a ‘stilleto knife’ which I saw and which had been hidden behind panelling in one of the toilets (I think it took the Gardai a few days to find it). I don’t remember what the outcome of the court case was, however? Re those opinions on the level of security, we had the heaviest (in both senses) security presence there, we had students on the inside and pretty uncompromising bouncers (moonlighting from the army I think) outside the doors….the issue had nothing to do with lack of security, simply a few young drunk guys, one of whom was carrying a very offensive weapon on him, for some reason. If my memory is correct this was not the first time that the person who committed the offence had been involved in violence.
I saw the poor man who died with his shirt off and you could see he was stabbed twice in the back, once above his shoulder blade and once in the middle of his back (which I believe punctured his heart). The reaction of the college authorities was wrong, if understandable and it cost the Students’ Union the main source of its funding at the time. I don’t believe I ever saw the outcome of the court case regarding the killing – and I was naturally extremely interested in it?
Conall O Morain
I BELIVE THE GUY WHO DID THE MURDER GOT FIVE YEARS AND NOW HAS HIS OWN BUSINESS.
How do you no this ?
The guy actually only got 18 months for manslaughter. Claimed it was self defence even though he stabbed the young lad in the back. Daddy got him a good barrister and a job for life. He’s doing very nicely for himself and living out his life in a very prestigous area.
Didn’t the Ramones play in cabra in 1978, and there were about 7 people stabbed?
ramones played cabra in 1980 and the guy from the band the epidemix was stabbed…………not 7
Sat The Resturant 1977
16-Oct Frankie Millars Full House 10.30–2.00
23-Oct Burlesque FRESHERS BALL
30-Oct The Pink Faries Toe Jam 10.30-2.00 80p
06-Nov De Danann 10.30-2.00 75p
13-Nov Eddie & the Hot Rods The Radiators 10.30-2.00
20-Nov Stefan Grossman Dave Evans & Duck Baker 10.30-2.00
27-Nov Casino Sleepless Nights 10.00- 80p
11-Dec Bees Make Honey Stepaside 10.30-2.00 80p
18-Dec The Boomtown Rats
15-Jan George Hatcher Band Campus 10.00-2.00 80p
22-Jan Supply Demand & Curve Chestnut 10.30-2.00 80p
29-Jan Bert Jansch & Tim Rose 10.30-2.00 90p
05-Feb Giggles Spud 10.30-2.00 80p
12-Feb Albertos y Los Trios Paranoias 10.00-2.00 90p
19-Feb The Flying Aces TRAMPS BALL 11.00-3.00 80p
26-Feb Toe Jam Aurthur Phyres
05-Mar Streach 10.30-2.00 80p
26-Mar Sunwheell Sabre plus 2 Films 10.30-2.30
02-Apr Jimmy slevin Band 10.30-2.30
23-Apr Sassafras Dead End Kids 10.30-2.00 90p
30-Apr Cado Belle 10.30-
06-May Racing Cars 10.30-2.00 £1
20-Oct National Stadium Dr Feelgood 8pm £1
05-Nov Th L Nightbus & Barry Moore 8.30- 75p
19-Nov Great Hall Earlsfort The Boomtown Rats & Sabre 8pm 70p
03-Dec Th L Paul Brady & Andy Irvine 8.30pm
26-Jan Th L De Danann 8pm 75p
07-Feb Th L Mark Turner Lunchtime 20p
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Hey Guys, great thread! I remember those gigs so well, used to leave from McDonaghs in Dalkey as part of a huge convoy of motorcycles and head for UCD running the gauntlet of Gardai who would try and predict which route we would take and try and do us for speeding/broken lights etc. The night Horselips played was magic! I still have the Albertos y Los Trios Paranoias single in my collection. I have a recollection of UB40 playing there but the “smoke” in the venue may have effected my recollection of the time..
just saw this thread.alberto y los trios paranoias were a great fun punk take the piss band.burlesque,if they are the band I recall,were a small time English punk band like the nosebleeds,art attax,neon hearts etc.I actually purchased the NME from the following week and it has the headline of that poor lads death with an accompanying article.Bought it in the last specialist magazine and vintage newspaper shop in London in Soho.Harrowing read.I remember another belfield festival around the same time where bootboys and punks clashed and the branch got involved.Mostly good days though I have to say.
I remember The George Hatcher Band playing in the restaurant (and at lunchtime too I believe) – absolutely epic! – they played at least twice during my time there – George had that signature long blond hair and the real rockstar shapes. Bought their Album ‘Dry Run’ and wore it out I played it so much. I lent it to someone years ago and never got it back, but was thinking of a great track ‘Luck Guy’ today. On the off chance I looked on Spotify and there it was – great album and still sounds great today – check it out.
Did you do geography? Poland 1977?
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Hi, I played in the Vipers and went on after the band split up to study in Belfield during the 80s. I was not in the band for the 1977 Punk show though was subsequently for great shows in Theatre L – late 1978 – and the Restaurant February 1979 with The Troggs. Both venues were great places to play as far as sound and crowd were concerned. The stage in the restaurant was made out of table as I recall. For some reason our “Vipers” backdrop was disappeared after the show and I was told, (years later), later ended up at the bottom of the UCD lake. I loved UCD and this site too. My kids are in Belfield now
Went to several of the gigs in the late70s/early 80s. SLF and Motorhead just before my Leaving Cert was a bad idea – had my ears ringing for weeks. The ceiling was too low on the top floor so the release of dry ice was horrendous – I remember dozens outside spluttering their guts up.
Did Tom Robinson Band play the same night? I think Starjets supported SLF too but maybe another night.
Spent my 17th birthday watching XTC, Squeeze and Patrik Fitzgerald there too.
Also recall seeing the Blades and a local reggae band called Zebra.