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Hells Bells by Ruth O’Leary

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Ruth O'Leary

Ruth O'Leary

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We were standing in the RDS arena Dublin at an AC/DC concert in 1982, when Breda roared in my ear, “I don’t feel very well…” before fainting into a group of long-haired denim-clad lads from Navan.

This was our very first gig and required weeks of preparation. Breda and I were 16, best friends, and in 4th year of an all-girls convent school. I had the money for my AC/DC ticket from my Saturday job in a corner shop, but Breda had to be more inventive. Her older brother trained every Saturday in the FCA reserves. It was very popular for teenage boys in the ’80s who were both too old for scouts and too young for the army. Every Saturday night, on the way home from a hard days training, her brother and his mates would head to the local pub for some sneaky underage pints. The barmen would turn a blind eye as they were in uniform and the lads chance of scoring or “getting off with someone” were also greatly enhanced by the glamour of a sweaty FCA uniform.  On these nights he would stagger home and fall asleep exhausted on the couch. Every Sunday morning Breda got up before him and searched the couch for the coins that had fallen out of his pockets from the night before. This loot combined with some babysitting money, paid for Breda’s AC/DC ticket.

We bought our tickets in Golden Discs record store before heading to Woolworths in Henry Street to buy lip-gloss.  We spent ages trying the different testers before deciding on the sweet strawberry flavoured one. You didn’t buy new clothes for gigs in those days. We wore our tightest jeans, and I wore an old shirt of my Dads with the collar cut off because we couldn’t afford the grandfather shirts that were in fashion at the time. On the night of the gig, we met up at my house and got ready. This involved squeezing the last of the blackheads from around my nose, putting loads of black eyeliner on, reapplying the new lip-gloss, and covering ourselves in patchouli oil. We thought we looked deadly. My mother took a picture of us in the back garden and off we went. Once we were near the RDS we took out the cans of beer that Breda had smuggled out of her house. Having three big brothers was a huge advantage in this regard as they never suspect their innocent younger sister and instead end up fighting with each other over the missing beer cans. The beer was warm and horrible, but we thought we were so cool drinking our one can each on the way to the gig.

The RDS was a huge venue and we were mesmerized by the size of the crowd.  As we queued up to get in, buses pulled up from Belfast, Cork and Ballina. Crowds of mostly young long-haired lads and girls poured out of them to join the queue. Every second person seemed to have a flagon of cider with them that they passed around their group. Excitement rose whenever the queue moved, bringing us a step closer to the entrance.

Once inside we found the toilets first to recheck our hair and reapply the new lip-gloss before heading out into the main arena. We were gobsmacked by the size of the arena. It was huge and dark and loud. I have no idea who the support band was, but we swayed along to their songs, smiling to look as if we knew them. A cloud of smoke hung over the crowd and the smell of leather, beer, and cigarettes was everywhere.  Then the whole place went pitch black and a giant bell was lowered from the roof of the stage. The crowd went wild and rushed forward sweeping me and Breda along with them. We linked arms so we wouldn’t get separated. Then the giant bell rang so loud sending vibrations around the stadium and thousands of fans roared out “Hell’s Bells! It was amazing and deafening. We were squashed between thousands of people jumping up and down. We jumped with them laughing and shouting. We were having the best time of our lives! And then Breda fainted.

As she fainted, she fell forward into a group of lads in front of us. The biggest one held Breda up under her arms and pointed to the side of the arena. I followed the giant of a man as he somehow managed to get Breda out of the crowd and sat her down outside the ladies’ toilets. He then told me to get someone from St John’s ambulance to check on her. Then he disappeared back into the crowd. I was afraid to leave Breda on her own to get help. She was coming around, was feeling lightheaded, and looked very pale.

“Stay there,” I said picking up one of the empty plastic beer glasses that covered the floor. I ran into the ladies and filled it with cold water. Then I ran back to Breda and threw it over her!

“Jesus Christ! What the hell are you doing!” She managed to shout while gasping for air.

“I saw it on the telly,” I said, delighted that I had come to her rescue.

She stood up dripping in cold water from the used beer cup.

“Do you feel better?” I asked

But before she could answer, AC/DC started the intro for Whole Lotta Rosie.

We looked at each other and without saying a word we linked arms and ran we ran back into the roaring crowd to be squashed again.

It was the funniest and best night ever.

(c) Ruth O’Leary

About the author

My name is Ruth O’Leary and I live in Dublin with my husband, three sons and our golden retriever called Rusky. I write short stories and flash fiction and my stories have been published in Womans Way and Irelands own magazines. I am a member of Writers Ink and I am currently writing my first novel. I work as a freelance movie extra and have worked on Irish and UK TV dramas as well as big screen movies. I love working in this creative field. The variety of the work, and the opportunity to work with people of all ages and from many different backgrounds, is both interesting and fulfilling.

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