Category Archives: Social History

U.C.D. Students Union gigs (March 1980)

Scanned up by Brand New Retro. (

John Cooper Clarke (UCD, 1981)

Belfield Fringe Festival – October 1978

Thanks to Ed Butler for sending this (recently scanned) advertisement from the In Dublin magazine showcasing the 1978 Belfield Fringe Festival. What a line up!

Belfield Fringe Festival (1978)

Hibernia newspaper, 1967.

Peter Henry, who writes the Old Trinity column in Trinity News, has kindly passed me on a scan of an article about UCD student politics from 1967.

The article deals with the Fianna Fail, Fine Gael (including a feature on Vincent Browne) and Labour Party UCD branches.

You can read some of Henry’s articles on Trinity College here.

'Student Politics in UCD'. Hibernia newspaper. March 1967.

‘Instead’ (Radical Student Newspaper, 1971)

‘Instead’, was a “left wing Oz look alike” magazine that was published in Belfied in the early 1970s.

Aidan Magill, who read science at Belfield from 1968-72 and was involved with ‘Instead’, has kindly sent on a full issue of the paper and jotted down some of his memories of the magazine’s production.

I seem to remember we produced an issue about every two weeks and basically spent the entire Sunday through to the early hours locked in the Arts Block to do it. The entire place closed on a Sunday so we had to get let in by the Porters and had to get let out a certain times for food. It was quite a party atmosphere though we had to ban the smoking of dope as we made too many mistakes and didn’t get any work done.

You can read the full issue here.

Section from the front page of Instead, Vol. 1 No. 3.

Belfield’s 1980s Rave Scene

In this instalment of UCD Hidden History, we talk to François Pittion (former Ents Officer) about Belfield’s infamous late 1980s rave scene…

Pittion began studying French and Linguistics in UCD in 1985 as part of an Arts Degree. He became involved in the UCD Students Union (UCDSU) early on, being elected as a class representitive and joining the Ents Committee.

He admits that facilities in Belfield at the time “weren’t really bad” but there was always an underlying feeling that students had to “get the degree and emigrate”. As there were no jobs going, students had the choice of either leaving the country or “stay and party”. Pittion chose the latter.

Francois. UCD Student Bar, Late 80s.

Up until then, there was no (electronic) dance scene in Belfield (or Dublin for that matter). The highlight of the week on campus was the disco in the Student Bar on a Saturday night. The DJ was Dave Lowe a.k.a Bambi who played “all sorts” Pittion remembers. He admits that cheap pints of beer during an extended Happy Hour were the main attraction for most students.

After a couple of years in the Ents committee, Pittion ran for Ents officer in 1987. The elections were hotly contested and he came up against the Kevin Barry Cumann i.e. the “Fianna Fail machine”. Fortunately, due to his contacts in Agricultural Science and Science, Pittion won by 260 votes.

Soon after his victory, Pittion and a close friend Mick Heaney began organising nights in the bar on Fridays “as an alternative to the Saturday disco”. The Friday nights, soon to be known as the ‘Unlimited Freak Out’ (UFO), would go down in Belfield campus infamy.

UCD Student Bar - UFO.

They began by playing a mixture of indie, 70’s punk and techno – “about 50% rave 50% guitar”. “I suppose”, Pittion ponders, “it would have been called madchester/balearic beats stuff”. (Quick music history lesson. Madchester – Alternative/indie/psychedelic 90s rock music. The Stones Roses, Happy Mondays, The Charlatans etc.. Balearic Beat – Genre of ‘house’ electronic dance music that originally emerged in the mid-1980s. The sound was initially typified by a distinctive, relatively heavy, slow (90–110 bpm), R&B-influenced beat.)

UCD Student Bar - UFO.

The UFO nights really took off. Pittion remembers that “the place would be packed by 8, and crazy by 11”. Due to this success, Pittion and Heaney had the idea of continuing the club after the UCD bar shut by running buses from UCD into The Rock Garden (until recently known as Eamon Doran’s) where the fun continued well into the early hours.

UFO - Rock Garden

When questioned about drugs and the rave scene in UCD, Pittion is honest. He admits that the UCD authorities had no idea that every Friday night “half the bar was mashed on speed, acid and mushrooms”. The barmen knew what was going on, he says, but they turned a blind eye.

'Bray Mafia' -Barney Davy, F & Gary. UCD Student Bar.

Though always associated with the rave scene, Ecstasy was not a popular drug during the late 1980s in UCD. It was too expensive. At the time, a single tablet of ecstasy could set you back £20-25. The widespread use of the drug in the rave scene didn’t come into play until the prices dropped in the early 1990s.

Pittion’s personal high point (“no pun intended!”) during his time in UCD was convincing Mark Collins (Ents Officer 1990/91) to put on The Shamen, the Scottish electronic band, at the 1991 Rag Ball. Well after graduating, Pittion was still asked to come back to Belfield to DJ the big Rag and Fresher Balls; he did this up to 1993.

The Shamen. UCD Rag Ball 1991.

Francois ran the UFO/Alien nights until 1997. From there he moved onto a Friday night residency in The Kitchen (which was based in The Clarence Hotel) a position which he held until 2001. For the last few years, he has taken a back seat in Ireland’s dance scene but still plays about four gigs a year, most recently in Tripod at the end of November 2009.

(Huge thanks to François for the interview and pictures)

UCD Rag Week 1979 Poster

Thanks to The Vipers’ myspace for the image.

UCD Student Club Lifetime Membership Card 1973/4

Please send us in more of your old UCD membership cards, ticket stubs, magazines, newspapers, photographs and leaflets.

UCD Students Club Bookled

UCD Students Club

UCD 73/74

Belfield drugs raid

UCD made the headlines in October 1981 for all the wrong reasons after a drugs raid on the Student’ Club.

The bar was then only a large prefab situated in the carpark behind the current 10 Bus Stop depot.

Were you there that day or have any memories of what the Student Bar was like in the early 1980s? Get in touch.

The Irish Times, October 10 1981

The Irish Times, October 10 1981

6. Rag Week

A look at UCD’s infamous Rag Week past.

February’s Rag Week shenanigans in NUI Galway, which saw forty-two people arrested, prompted widespread condemnation and criticism. In this issue of Hidden History, we focus in on UCD’s own Rag Week, which in the late 1960s and 1970s gained widespread notoriety.

Rag Week was banned in the 1950s by UCD authorities after pranks marred the celebrations including the “kidnapping of sales girls from Clerys” by students. It was renamed ‘College Week’ in the mid 1960s and allowed to take place but as we’ll see the name didn’t stick and the trouble didn’t end. [1]

In 1966, to raise publicity for their Rag Week Queen’s University students kidnapped Miss UCD prompting UCD students to travel to Queen’s to recapture their queen and in the process seizing a “female member of the Queen’s Students’ Representative Council”. [2]

UCD students in 1967 travelled to Queen’s University in Belfast to kidnap Miss Ursula White, their Rag ‘princess’. According to newspaper reports of the time, she was taken “by car to an undividulged Dublin address” where UCD students sent out a press release demanding a ransom of £25 for the girls freedom. [3]

Queen's University Belfast which UCD students visited in 1967

Queen's University Belfast which UCD students visited in 1967

The following year, a vanload of Queen’s students visited Dublin, kidnapping Jean Power, a UCD secretary. She was later held in the offices of the Queen’s University Students’ Union. The Irish Times reported that “Miss Power … (was) at ease (but) was not available for comment as she was shopping in Belfast”. While in the city, Queen’s students took a 350-year-old doorknocker from the Graduates Memorial Building in TCD, demanding a ransom of £10 for its retrieval. [4]

During their trip to UCD, the students also tried to steal the Literary and Historical Society’s recently won debating trophy, valued at £300. Seven of the group slipped into the private business meeting of the L. and H where they the grabbed the trophy and rushed out the door. Their getaway attempt was foiled by a member of the society who shut the college gates. The Queen’s students van, which damaged its headlights after colliding with the gate, was “instantly besieged by (UCD) students”. After minor scuffles, the trophy was retrieved and handed back to the Auditor Mr. Henry Kelly. [5]

During Rag Week in 1969, four U.C.D. students raided the R.T.E. television studios in Montrose, appropriating a replica of the moon, which was used in the background set for the national song contest. [6]

RTE Montrose, Donnybrook where UCD students 'raided' in 1969

RTE Montrose, Donnybrook which was 'raided' by UCD students in 1969

Deceiving security, the students disguised themselves as building workmen and drove up to the studio in a lorry. The “moon”, devised by the R.T.E. head of design, Mr. Alpho O’Reilly, was over nine feet in diameter and made of a plastic substance stretched over a frame. An embarrassed R.T.E. spokesperson, when questioned over the incident, could not explain how the visitors entered and left the studios “unchallenged and unquestioned”. The students ‘borrowed’ the moon to use for publicity to raise funds for charity during Rag Week. A trawl of the newspaper archives failed to establish whether the students gave the “moon” back or not.

UCD Rag Week hit the headlines again in 1976 when hundreds of students ran riot through the centre of Dublin. Traffic was severely disrupted when “several hundred undergraduates … congregated at the top of Grafton Street”. The first garda called on the scene was pelted with eggs and flowers and was forced to retreat. The assistant manager of the Ambassador Cinema on O’Connell Street rang the UCD Students’ Union to complain about what he called the “disgraceful” behaviour of students who tried to force their way into the cinema without paying. UCD students also jumped into the River Liffey en masse. Later that evening, a group of students from Bolton Street College of Technology telephoned The Irish Independent and claimed that they had kidnapped the organiser of the UCD Rag Week, Mr. Billy McGrath “in retaliation for their attack on Bolton Street”. ‘Captain Blue’, a spokesperson for the Bolton St. students demanded back the College clock which they accused UCD students of stealing. They were also requested a barrel of Guinness and a £10 donation to a charity of the Irish Independent’s choice. [7]

In February 1977 as part of Rag Week celebrations, over one hundred UCD students invaded Trinity College, the College of Surgeons and Kevin Street College causing £3,200 worth of damage. [6]

Newspaper reports describe how the UCD students “scaled the walls of Trinity by rope” after the gates were closed to them.

Trinity College Gates which UCD students scaled in 1977

Trinity College Gates which UCD students scaled in 1977

Once inside, the UCD mob used a car belonging to a member of TCD staff as a battering ram to get into the Museum building. They also stole a large notice from the college entrance. A Kevin Street College of Technology laboratory was also damaged during the rampage. Eamon Gilmore, current Labour Party president and the then president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), blamed the trouble on a “fringe hooligan” element who he said should be identified and made to pay the bill for the damages they cost. [10]

Condemnation came from various circles in society including the Irish Housewives’ Association. Charles McNally, the then UCDSU president announced, that the Union had voted for fundamental changes to the College’s Rag Week, in future “it would be a Community Week devoted to helping the community and city centre forways would be banned” [11]

The Rag Week pranks and “high jinks” of UCD which were a staple annual event are now just a distant memory. Who knows if they’ll ever return?

[1]UCD Correspondent, “College Week in U.C.D.”, The Irish Times, March 1, 1967.
[2]UCD Correspondent’, College Week in U.C.D., The Irish Times – Wednesday March 1st 1967
[3]Irish Times Reporter, “Royal ransom will help Gorta”, The Irish Times, March 11, 1967.
[4]Irish Times Reporter, “Still captive of Belfast students”, The Irish Times, February 17, 1968.
[5]Sunday Independent Reporter, “Students’ high jinks were a gimmick”, The Sunday Independent, March 10, 1968.
[6]Irish Times Reporter, “Moon replica taken from R.T.E. studios”, The Irish Times, February 27, 1969.
[7]John Walsh, “Complaints as Rag gets out of control”, The Irish Independent, February 26, 1976.
[8]Irish Independent Reporter, “UCD rag week wreckers face expulsion”, The Sunday Independent, February 27, 1977.
[9]Christina Murphy, “UCD students condemned for damage”, The Irish Times, February 17, 1977.
[10]John Walsh, “Hunt is on for UCD ‘raggers’”, The Irish Independent, February 17, 1977.
[11]Irish Independent Reporter, “‘Rag’ Wreckers told: ‘Own Up’”, The Irish Independent, February 24, 1977.