On a recent visit to beautiful Ireland, we were walking along the promenade in Portstewart; I don’t know how many times we’ve sauntered along, admiring the view and popping into the varied and interesting shops along the sea front. Portstewart is a little town with a population of nearly 9,000 people, and although people have lived along this coast for literally thousands of years, going back to neolithic times and beyond, the actual settlement was only started at the end of the eighteenth century. Like many seaside towns, it was little more than a fishing village until the Victorians took to enjoying seaside holidays, when building started to accommodate and service the new tourist industry.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about Portstewart and a wonderful sculpture, ‘Fishing Boat’ by the Wicklow based artist Niall O’ Neill. The ten foot tall, rather surreal Fishing Boat was created in 1996 and is on the promenade :
Walking along the seafront, along the promenade at Portstewart in Northern Ireland, we came across this extraordinary and beautiful sculpture. At first we couldn’t make out what it was but just circled it admiringly, was it seaweed, was it a boat, a sea-bird, a fish, was it something from some Irish legend? It didn’t take long to find a plaque explaining what it was, and then we found this information board close by:
Portstewart is a pretty little town with great shops, cafés, pubs and friendly people too. The beautiful sculpture commemorates Jimmy Kennedy who wrote ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’ and amazing number of other very popular and well-known songs. He wrote the lyrics of ‘The Teddy-bears’ Picnic’, ‘My Prayer’, ‘South of the Border’, ‘The Isle of Capri’, ‘Love is Like a Violin’, ‘The Hokey-Cokey’ and that song which seems to epitomise the 2nd World War, ‘We’re Going to Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line’.
Although Jimmy Perry was born near Omagh in 1902, he grew up in Portstewart where no doubt he got the inspiration for ‘Red Sails’. He taught in England and then became a civil servant, but he was above all a songwriter, until the arrival of the Beatles, he had more hits than any other British, Irish or American writer. He served in the 2nd World War in the Royal Artillery.
He died in Cheltenham in 1984, but he is actually interred in our county town of Somerset… a link from Northern Ireland to Somerset!