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'Barry's Amusements in Portrush was such a big part of my daughter's life'... mum of tragic Joanne Downey calls for arcade to be saved


Joanne Downey with mum Liz and sister Megan

Joanne Downey with mum Liz and sister Megan

Barry’s in Portrush

Barry’s in Portrush

Joanne Downey with mum Liz and sister Megan

A Co Antrim mother who lost her daughter to suicide has said that she would be "heartbroken" if Barry's Amusements was knocked down, after spending many happy holidays there.

Liz Downey (59) said seeing the news that the 1920s amusement park in Portrush could potentially be replaced by apartments "came as a shock".

She said she has many special family memories from spending time there with her late daughter Joanne and her youngest daughter Megan (24).

Last Wednesday, Causeway Coast and Glens councillors voted not to issue a building preservation notice for the complex.

It leaves the future of the venue up in the air.

Joanne, a talented languages student at Nottingham University, took her own life in January 2013 at the age of 19.

"If Joanne was here today she would have been heartbroken about this news of Barry's. It sounds twee, but it was a big part of her life," said Liz.

"Joanne particularly had so many happy times at Barry's.

"She had an August birthday and we had a towing caravan at the time in Portrush at Skerries.

"It always would have been the focal point for her birthday parties, particularly in her teens when we all would have went there together as a family, along with her circle of friends."

The uncertainty around the future of Barry's has cast the Ballymena woman's mind back to some of the most vivid memories of the seaside resort.

Indeed, Liz explained that the sights and sounds and familiar faces among the staff always brought her back to "nostalgic happier times", both as a child herself and later with her own family.

"Barry's has been part of my life since I was a child and then I would have encouraged my children to enjoy it as well," she added.

"What stands out is when the girls always laughed at me when I used to tell them that I loved the smell of Barry's.

"It was that distinctive mechanical smell when you walk in and they used to always laugh and joke with me each time saying: 'Oh mummy you love that'.

"Joanne was more interested in all the rides. Megan would have been a bit more timid and so I always remember Joanne being the one wanting to go on everything.

"I remember the helter skelter originally coming to Barry's myself as a child. When the girls used to go on it they loved it and it was brilliant that it was the same one from when I was young.

"They both loved the two-penny machines, Megan particularly. She would have been quite small and couldn't reach the arm so I would have put her up on the table and stood her beside the handle so she could pull it.

"The ride we all liked was the Cyclone. There was a particular man who wore glasses that worked there. He was working the Cyclone when I was a child and it was the same as when I was taking the girls.

"There were always a lot of familiar faces around. You always bumped into people, friends you hadn't seen for years. Every time you pass it reminds you of happier times."

Liz, now a grandmother to Chloe through her stepdaughter, is hoping Barry's will remain as it is, in order that she can continue to pass down those happy memories to the next generation of her family. She worries about the future of the famous seaside town if they lose the landmark amusement park.

"If it is pulled down it would just be heartbreaking and such a loss to the north coast. I would like to think when Megan has a family of her own they will be going back there," said Liz.

"The Arcadia, the paddling pools - all those wee things over the years have all gradually gone but Barry's has held on. If they just build flats on the site, it would be awful I think.

"My granddaughter Chloe is not even a year old. However, I would be looking forward to that time I could take her. You couldn't create the memory of Barry's from telling her, it's something you have to experience. I think it has a special place in the heart for us all."

Belfast Telegraph