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DJ Legend Chris Hurley dies after battle with cancer

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A well-known DJ has passed away after a battle with cancer. Christopher Hurley (47) who put Kelly’s nightclub on the map in the early 1990 has been described as INSPIRATIONAL, A LEGEND, PIONEER and a true GENTLEMAN.

Hundreds of friends and fans have taken to social media over the last number of days to pay their condolences.

Mr Hurley died on Wednesday at his mother’s house in Coleraine.  His funeral Mass will take place this afternoon at 12pm in St Patrick’s Church, Ballymoney, with interment in the adjoining churchyard.

Speaking  to Causeway Coast Community this morning Downtown Radio / Cool FM’s housemaster Neal McClelland ( DJ Milky ) talks exclusively about his memories with the ‘LEGEND Chris Hurley.

“Let’s go back to 1990’s.  A time with very little widespread mobile phones, ‘Taping The Top 40’ was still very much in vogue for the youth of the time, CDs had just arrived & Vinyl was King for the DJs of the day and the Rave scene in Northern Ireland was still in its infancy.

I was 17, I’d been DJing a residency in Carrickfergus called Sparkles Nightclub, Black Box had just had a massive hit with Ride On Time, The Happy Mondays were just about to have the hit ‘Step On’ and I was hooked on a new sound, HOUSE MUSIC.

My love of House Music was created by innovators of the scene here in NI, David Holmes & Iain McCready, along with some of my mates, Robbie Nelson & Peter Spence.

The Helmsman in Bangor was a weekly underground Monday night, Tokyo Joes in Belfast was a weekly Friday & Saturday night, underground club night FACE  & Sugar Sweet were Saturday nights in the Art College along with One World and ‘Em Er Raves’ were the talk of a small band of the youth and lovers of the music.

‘Dance Music started the peace process in Northern Ireland, it was the first time the Protestants & Catholics had danced together in years’  Peter Spence explains.  ‘We played music and the kids danced all night’ 

Along with the city of Belfast, another major driving force in Dance Music was evolving, a little unknown venue in Banbridge….it was to be known later as Circus Circus with DJs including again Robbie Nelson, Glen Molloy, Gleave Dobbin, Marty C, Jacko & Computer. 

Rewind a year prior to 1990 – 1989 I had been visiting with my friends from Glengormley every now and again on a ‘Bus to Kellys in Portrush’ with ‘our troops’. ‘DJ Aluminium’ aka Alan Simpson & Gerry were the DJs on the North Coast venue. They played everything from Technotronic ‘Pump Up The Jam’, Talking Heads ‘Once In A Lifetime’, I remember walking in from Gerry’s gig downstairs in Kellys round a corner in the venue to a big open space.  Somebody called it…

‘The Barn’. 

‘The Barn’ in Kellys from what I remember originally was a ‘Live’ venue for Bands, Tribute Bands etc, and had been going very successfully for years along with the caravan park beside it. The Barn was famous many years prior to that for hosting regular visits from a band called Thin Lizzy & primarily used by Young Farmers club gatherings and ‘get togethers’.

‘It was a time a time of no social media’ says Alan Simpson, ‘EVERYTHING WAS WORD OF MOUTH’, this is exactly how our subculture was created.  ‘A few flyers were put out, it was very much youth of today thing, however it crossed boundaries’, ‘It always reminded me of the punk movement, but A LOT bigger!’ ‘IT had the ethos of punk’ explains Simpson.  The sound system was compared to now was ‘a rake of speakers set up for a Live band’  this was owned by the legendary ‘Sticky’ Sound engineer.

Fast forward back to 1990….Northern Ireland was a dark place.  Chris Hurley approached James Kelly who himself ‘was a visionary’ explains Simpson, Chris simply asked James could he DJ in the barn.  In a later interview with Chris Hurley he describes the amount of people as being 40 -50 the nearly 4000 within 6 months this continued for 3 years. 

My first time at The Barn in Kellys was early 1991, It was incredible, I was very much into House Music and had a good load of records either through promos sent from London record companies to me or by daily visits to the Gramophone Shop with Mark One at the helm, how I ever had any money I’ll never to this day know.  Big Anthems & lots of pianos was the music of the day, and Hurley knew how to land them in front of 4000 people continually for up to 5 hours in his marathon Dj sets at The Barn.

I remember making eye contact with Chris Hurley, or ‘Hurley’ as he was known to his mates. He had heard of Milky, my then DJ name. 

We started to talk about tracks that we loved, during the gig.  I remember him inviting me to the House that they lived in above Troggs in Portrush, to play some music and have a ‘cuppa tea’…. I can still clearly remember walking down the street,  down from the White House in Portrush and wrapping his big Blue door. 

This was to be the proper start of my friendship with Hurley and a lifetime of respect for him. 

Nearly every other week I would make the trip to Portrush for Kellys, I’d DJ with him there, every now and again ( I think I played there with him about 6 or 7 times).  The atmosphere was without a shadow of a doubt the single best atmosphere I have ever seen in a club. 

At the time Northern Ireland was on the crest of a wave of Youth Culture that had the energy of a hurricane spreading across the UK.  ‘Rave’ was here and it was never to go away.  Nights in Kellys continued overnight with illegal raves at the ‘White Rocks’, ‘Ballintoy Caves’ ‘Castle Rock Beach’ and early mornings on the beach chilling out. Romances were formed between people who would never have met otherwise in other sides of our country if it had not been for Kellys & The Raves.

Hurley himself was a quiet fella, always humble, & thoughtful, his success lead him to be one of the first DJs heading to the mainland to DJ regularly. 

He became good friends with the legendary DJ Vertigo, who played many times in Kellys with him. Vertigo or Steve was tall, and had long hair too, Vertigo on his own Facebook tribute to Chris this week says they were ‘both bang in the middle of an incredible love affair with house music’, that’s exactly were Chris & I was too.

We would go to legendary club in Donegal ‘The Point’ where Chris played regularly, he loved the North West and he loved ‘Derry’ as he called it…I had to learn to call it that, this was our gag.

Derry loved him, it was the city that he played in a lot. Many years later he was to reunite with the city in a series of successful reunions & other House Music events.

I lost contact with Hurley for years after 1994 through my own life journey, BUT I always have had incredible respect for the man that essentially brought our country together for the love of Dance Music at a time when we REALLY needed it.

It’s for that reason that on my radio show ‘Cool Old Skool’ on Cool FM tonight at 7.20pm I’ll be paying my own little tribute to this trailblazer who left the Stage far too early.

Heaven has gained a serious House Music lover and DJ to its roster.”

Commenting on social media Alan Simpson said ‘Chris was a unique, talented person who lit up many peoples lives in very dark and difficult days in N.Ireland and was sadly taken too soon.’

Funeral Mass in Our Lady and St. Patrick’s Church, Ballymoney on Saturday at 12noon followed by interment in the adjoining churchyard.

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