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Razing of QUB Students' Union evokes many happy memories

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Queen’s Students’ Union

Queen’s Students’ Union

Freddie Parkinson

Zoe Salmon

Zoe Salmon

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Queen’s Students’ Union

Well-known faces have been recalling their fond memories of Queen's University's Students' Union building after demolition work began this week.

The old union building closed in July 2018 for major redevelopment at its University Road site with a new temporary building opened on the Lisburn Road.

Its entertainment venue, the Mandela Hall, known as the McMordie until 1986, hosted top music acts including U2, The Clash, Ed Sheeran and Radiohead.

The union was over 50 years old and among those who passed through its doors was former Miss Northern Ireland Zoe Salmon (40), who spent five years studying law at QUB before qualifying as a solicitor in 2004.

The ex-Blue Peter presenter told the Belfast Telegraph: "I went to many gigs in the Mandela Hall and loved all the live music and student atmosphere.

"After lectures and tutorials, The Speakeasy was the place to go for drinks and to meet friends.

"I had many a great night walking home late after partying and thinking that I had to get up for lectures the next day.

"I'm really sad to see it gone because I do get very attached to buildings. My old primary and secondary schools were knocked down and now the union is going, so I feel like I'm at the age where everything is being demolished around me."

Fr Eugene O'Hagan (60) from The Priests specialised in English and scholastic philosophy during his time from 1979 to 1982.

"It was a place where there was always things happening and it had a great buzz about it," he said.

"In the midst of the Troubles it was probably the safest place to be to talk about what was happening around us."

Kellie Armstrong (49), the Alliance MLA for Strangford, undertook Byzantine studies before graduating in 1993 and has many recollections of the "party-zone".

"I was the president of GRAS (Greek Roman and Semitic Studies) so I used the union for partying too hard and being up on the fourth floor with the other clubs and societies," she said. "I recall seeing Patrick Kielty doing a gig in the Bunatee Bar, while the second-hand bookshop saved me a fortune.

"I spent many a sad hour in the laundrette where you saw people with vacant stares either doing their washing or warming up if they had a hangover."

Comedian and actress Nuala McKeever (55) spent four years studying English, Spanish and drinking coffee in The Speakeasy.

She recalled: "When I went to university, my life took off. The freedom was great and I spent a lot of time in the union and got to know every nook and cranny.

"I worked in the bar for a couple of years and watched Katmandu the band every Tuesday night so I knew their set off by heart. It's a place of very happy memories of the best of times."

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