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Remembering when Willie ‘Dracula’ Nugent stopped traffic dead and had Armagh ‘coffin’ up for charity

"I'd be interested in asking Armagh I readers if they were there 33 years ago? It has to be said, I've done Dracula in many other places after that, but the day I played him in Dessie’s window will always be my favourite."

Willie Nugent Dracula Halloween charity fundraiser

It’s that time of year when ghosts and ghouls and all things gruesome are said to walk the earth.

Things going bump in the night are to be expected, one might say.

Well, that got us to thinking about the time, way back in 1990, when Armagh’s champion fundraiser turned from the madcap to the macabre in pursuit of his charity quests.

Did it really happen? Oh yes…

And what a Hallowe’en hullabaloo it was!

For suitably attired as Bram Stoker’s timeless Transylvanian Count, the inimitable Willie Nugent was laid out in a shop window, ‘doing Dracula’ for all he was worth. Seven hours and he didn’t ‘bat’ an eyelid!

The man who has performed hundreds of fundraising feats – from walking backwards for 83 miles to crawling lap after lap around the Mall – was keeping to the same ‘vein’ with the good folk of Armagh ‘coffin’ up once again.

He quite literally stopped the traffic as a crowd gathered on Upper English Street to see what was going on.

Turning quite a few heads (or was that the Exorcist?), the mischievous money-maker had people digging deep once again.

There was a lot at stake – (although most of it, to be fair, was driven through the Armagh man’s chest!) – as he unveiled his shocking costume to maximum effect, laid out in an open casket, a gravestone at his head to complete his deathly disguise.

The windows of Dessie’s shop have never been so misted over as they were that day, as dozens of faces pressed against the glass gaping inside in awe of such spine-tingling antics.

Now Willie – who in recent years has turned his hand to writing festive books for audiences young and old – laughs when pictures provide a throwback to that blood-thirsty Thursday!

“It was Hallowe’en – 33 years ago – and I decided to lie all day in that coffin in Dessie’s shop window  to raise money for charity,” he said.

Willie Nugent as Dracula lying in his coffin in Dessie’s window in Armagh city centre

“I think it was the first time anyone did something like this in Armagh, so it drew large crowds.

“Everyone enjoyed the day – I know I certainly did!

“I had asked Dessie a few weeks before hand would it be OK to use his window. When l told him it was to raise money for charity he answered: ‘No problem!’.

“I’d be interested in asking Armagh I readers if they were there 33 years ago and if they can remember Dracula in the window?”

“It has to be said, I’ve done Dracula in many other places after that, but the day I played Dracula in Dessie’s window will always be my favourite.”

It certainly was fun to see these photographs again after all this time.

For decades Willie has entertained and inspired and has continued to make his life’s work ‘Count’ – just like the cash that keeps rolling in.

He’s a true Armagh legend and what can we say?

‘Fangs for the memories, Willie… we’re all suckers for a good scare!”

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