Caroline McHugh (17), Artane: ‘A day never goes by without us thinking of our beautiful daughter’

Read by her parents Phyllis and Maurice McHugh

Caroline McHugh

The inquests into the deaths of the 48 young people who died in the Stardust fire in Artane, Dublin, in 1981 feature pen portraits of each of the deceased by bereaved family members. Find all of the portraits and more coverage here.

Caroline was a beautiful young lady with dark complexion, lovely long black hair. She was tall for her age, about 5ft 4in.

Caroline ... finished her schooling in Loreto College, Stephen’s Green. [She] was an avid reader and as a young girl and teenager enjoyed Enid Blyton’s books and reading romantic novels.

[She] loved swimming with her daddy in the local pool. We had birthday parties in the house once a year, and regular get-togethers ... There would be at least 20 or so friends and school chums there with music, singing, dancing and having a great time altogether.


On leaving school ...[she] went to a large building services contractor and enjoyed working in the estimating department. Her excellence in mathematics was of great benefit ... and this may have been the start of her career. Caroline loved the work and got on extremely well with all the office staff.

Phyllis’s cousin was getting married in Manchester on Valentine’s Day 1981 ... A couple of weeks before the wedding, Caroline said she did not want to go but wanted to stay home and go to the dancing competition in the Stardust.

On Friday ... we had arranged to travel by ferry to Holyhead and drive on to Manchester. On the way, we dropped Caroline into her workplace.

We stayed that night in Manchester in Phyllis’s uncle’s house.

Caroline set out on Friday night with three friends: Ann Marie Murphy, Linda Bermingham and Julie Stone. Caroline remarked to them that she felt that this was going to be a great night.

The following morning ... we decided to walk up to the Stretford shopping mall, about 10-minute walk away. We noticed Phyllis’ uncle catching up with us and [he] told us that there had been a fire in the Stardust and Caroline was missing. The earliest flight we could get ... was from Liverpool at seven o’clock that night.

We were advised not to see the remains because of severe burns and that she had no hair, was unrecognisable and unidentifiable. We were informed that Caroline had been bagged and tagged as number six.

We got a phone call from gardaí to say that Caroline had been coffined ... The coffin remained closed, and it was a horrible feeling that we couldn’t see Caroline and we were deeply upset.

Over the last 40 years, a day never goes by without us thinking of our beautiful daughter. We visit the grave once a week without fail to tend to the grave and adorn it with flowers.

We would often discuss between ourselves what could have been if Caroline had of lived, would she have had a successful career, got married, have children and have given us grandchildren. We feel that we have missed out on a lot.

Caroline grew up to be a very talented young lady whom we dearly loved. She loved her dad and mam in return and we were very happy together.

The following poem written a year ago, by her father:

‘It’s been 41 years tomorrow, 14th February

Try as I may

I can’t escape the sorrow since you’ve gone away

The sorrow of losing my only child

She who made my life full and worthwhile

It’s hard to be happy

So hard to smile

I try to be strong during this – the utmost trial

A father’s love is the lasting kind

In my mind is a movie stuck on rewind

All I can do is live it over and over

Blessed by the time I got to be your father

Surviving on memories, good and bad

But that’s all I’ve got now – the times we had

I cherish those memories one by one

They are so deep in my heart

You are so deep in my heart

You are a piece of me, my daughter

You’ll always be with me, this much is true

Till the day I come home to put my arms back around you.

Read by her mother:

To my beautiful daughter

No words can tell, no tears express

The love, the loss

The emptiness

You’re not just a memory, or part of the past

You are mine to remember

As long as life lasts

To say it’s a beautiful journey

From the old world to the new

Some day I will make the journey/ Just to be with you.

Thank you for listening.