| 12.5°C Dublin

CRAZY WORLD Christy Dignam says he fears death and recalls terrifying moment 'he flatlined' in hospital

ASLAN frontman Christy Dignam reveals his brush with death in hospital


Christy Dignam reveals the big events in his life in the series.

Christy Dignam reveals the big events in his life in the series.

Christy Dignam reveals the big events in his life in the series.

Christy Dignam has revealed his 'sheer terror' when he believed he was going to die in hospital.

The Aslan frontman has had several brushes with death over the years as a former heroin addict and cancer sufferer.

And the 60-year-old confesses in RTE's Keys To My Life that he takes after his father in believing there is no afterlife.

"I just can't see it," Christy admits.

Asked by the show's presenter Brendan Courtney if he's terrified of dying, Christy confirms: "Yeah. I flatlined a couple of years ago. A doctor told me had I not been in Blanchardstown heart unit 'that was it'.

"So I'm in the thing and nurses ran in. I said 'I'm not dying am I?' She looked away. I have never felt fear like it, just the sheer terror of it, I just wanted a few more minutes of life."


Christy on his confirmation day.

Christy on his confirmation day.

Christy on his confirmation day.

Christy grew up with seven siblings in a loving home in Finglas, north Dublin, the son of CIE upholsterer Christopher Snr and his wife Teresa.

The singer has previously spoken about the sexual abuse he endured as a child from a man living in the area, and believes that was the trigger for many of his inner demons and drug abuse.

"I remember this darkness coming over my life around six or seven years of age and everything changed from that moment on," he recalls.

"But for years it was locked away."

Christy says the abuse "steals your peace".

"I never had any peace from that moment till I was nearly 30 years of age," he explains. "I went to the Rutland centre as I was using heroin and stuff.

"So when I was going through treatment, on the fourth week everybody has this epiphany where they come in and they start bawling their eyes out and they'd say 'well my da used to come in on a Friday with all the wages spent and he'd beat my ma up and we'd have no food for the week'.

"And I was saying 'but nothing happened to me'. After the Rutland I came into the gaff, they said 'what kind of an eejit are you, how did you take it, what sort of a thick are you?' I was saying 'look Da, maybe it was something that happened when I was a kid, some trauma'.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

"My da was 'are you saying we didn't love you enough, are you saying we done something?' and my da was appalled.

"When I walked out of here, I looked at the house where this happened and it just came back to me like a video reel. A lot of the reason I was an addict was because of that.

"Every time I talk about it, it loses a bit of its power, a bit of its grip."

While growing up Christy used to mitch from school.

He tells Brendan a story about trying to intercept post which would have school attendance records, but one day he missed it and his mother got one of the letters.

Christy says he did not like school and when he was doing his Inter Cert, he asked "what am I doing this for? I only want to sing. I only wanted to learn English and maths so I could count my money".

As he visits his childhood home, he marvels at how small it seems now.

"Looks so small now - how did we all fit, we must have been sitting on each other's laps," he says.


Christy Dignam as a teenager

Christy Dignam as a teenager

Christy Dignam as a teenager

Christy remembers how his father grew cabbage, peas and potatoes in the back garden and recalls his sister saying that the cabbage tasted so much better than cabbage from shops.

His father passed away last year, while his mother died nine years ago.

The singer reveals that his musical awakening came when as a boy he learned that Slade came from a place in Birmingham like Finglas.

He and some friends from Finglas and Ballymun formed Aslan.

The band started rehearsals in the back garden and the noise of the amps stirred up dust from the furniture his dad was upholstering. "You'd be swallowing all this dust, it was great, it served its purpose," he recalls.

Aslan moved their rehearsals to a pigsty near the airport and they used shopping trolleys to wheel all their gear up there.

The group signed a deal with EMI and scored a major success in Ireland with their first album Feel No Shame.

When Aslan tried to make it in America they went on the road. Christy enjoyed a rock'n'roll lifestyle of cocaine and Champagne, and the band was on the verge of achieving the same level of success as fellow northsiders U2 after This Is topped the charts.

But things spiralled out of control in 1988 when Christy's heroin addiction forced his bandmates to fire him.

He admits that only for his wife Kathryn he would not be here today.

The couple were childhood sweethearts and bought their first home together after the band had just signed a deal with EMI and their album was top of the charts.

"We bought it for €11,000 and sold it for €29,000 so I thought I was a property developer!" he giggles.

"I've never said this before but I made a load of bad decisions in my life, but I always thank God I married Kathryn. Without her I don't think I would have survived physically. I remember thinking if she behaved the way I behaved - if we switched - I don't think I could have tolerated what she tolerated. I don't think I'd have been big enough to do that. She's amazing."

Christy was leading a double life. Initially, Kathryn didn't know about the drugs but "from the moment she found out I knew I couldn't fool her again".


Christy with his wife Kathryn and grandchildren on his daughter Kiera's wedding day.

Christy with his wife Kathryn and grandchildren on his daughter Kiera's wedding day.

Christy with his wife Kathryn and grandchildren on his daughter Kiera's wedding day.

The couple now live in a semi-detached house in Ashtown in north Dublin, where they have a collection of dogs, cats and birds.

The couple have one child, daughter Kiera, and Christy is also a proud grandfather.

Adoring dad Christy remembers once looking at Kiera and thinking "how am I going to protect her in this world when I can't make sense of it myself?"

Aslan reunited in 1994 for a charity gig and Christy wound up writing the song that would define him, as the band unveiled Crazy World as an acoustic number on a TV show.

But Christy reveals that when Aslan were releasing their new album they thought Crazy World was "a piece of s**t… the worst single, and it was a massive hit."

He is still receiving treatment for a rare form of blood cancer.

"It's weird that the cancer was probably the best thing that ever happened to me in a way," he confesses.

"It got me to stop and look at what was important in life.

"When I was diagnosed it didn't matter what car I drove, what band I was in, whether the single was number one or number 20 - none of it mattered."

  • Keys To My Life is on RTE1 at 7.30pm tonight.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World