Belfast Telegraph

That’s your lot: Kelly’s Nightclub memorabilia up for sale

By Claire Weir

Generations of party-goers from all over Ireland have flocked to the landmark Kelly’s complex in Portrush over the years.

Now the end of an era is on the way as some of the head-turning items which adorned the hotel, restaurant and bar are on their way out to make way for a regeneration project.

But all is not lost, as for those married couples who shared their first canoodle in one of the nooks and crannies of the venue, or for those who have hung up their dancing shoes and want a memento of their hedonistic younger days, there will be an opportunity to take home a piece of the place where the action happened.

Many of the fixtures and fittings from Beetles Bar and the main hotel, including the many exotic and unique pieces picked up by the late James Kelly at auction houses, markets and bazaars all over the world, are going under the hammer next week.

Also available will be ceramics, fireplaces, mirrors, golfing memorabilia, furniture, planters and much more — including a stuffed tiger’s head and half a car.

Gerard McAfee of McAfee Auctions said it is one of the most unusual sales he had ever come across.

“This is truly a sale to outdo every other I have known in terms of the variety and quirkiness of the lots,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong, there is quality in abundance, but with stuffed tiger heads, large toy aeroplanes and half of a wall-mounted car it’s a little distracting to say the least.

“The lots include a large scale model of an eagle made by the world-famous Moignor factory which stands pride of place in the entrance hall.

“There is a large scale model aeroplane, sweeping staircases, varied taxidermy, African tribal

masks and the half car which was bought at auction in New York.”

Peter Wilson, managing director of Kelly’s Portrush, said some of the more loved items will stay.

“There are great lots to be auctioned off but what was important to us was keeping the pieces which were closest to James’s heart on view for his friends and the public to enjoy,” he said.

“We want to ensure that those who knew James will still see his influence and remember him for the great man that he was. And to make sure he is not forgotten we plan to name the new bar in his honour as the JK Bar.

“The improvements we are making will provide a jaw dropping entertainment venue, hotel, bar and restaurant which will continue to attract people from all over Ireland and the UK, helping to boost local tourism and generate income for the local economy.”

The sale will be held in the Kelly’s complex on August 26 at 12pm.

Collection reflected larger-than-life owner

My view: Alan Simpson

A stuffed cheetah, an eight-man rowing boat and the rear end of a springbok are just some of the quirky collectables I remember from my time at Kelly’s Complex.

The unusual collection of fixtures and fittings at Beetles Bar reflect the “larger-than-life” character of the late James Kelly. He would pop out the door and appear back again, three weeks later, in tribal dress or a safari suit, as if he’d just gone out to buy some milk. And then the evidence of his travels would arrive in a van, like a large elephant’s foot.

James loved animals and this showed in his mind-blowing collection. I remember, when the safari park was still going, James bought a dead cheetah and put it in a freezer. He then found a taxidermist to stuff it.

Now people usually stuff their budgies, but can you imagine a lorry pulling up with a freezer and a dead cheetah inside it?

You never knew what you were going to see at Beetle’s Bar. The hind quarter of the springbok hung above the bar and when you lifted its tail, whiskey would come out.

Like the man himself, his collection put a smile on your face.

BBC Radio Ulster presenter Alan Simpson is a former Kelly’s manager

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