Belfast Telegraph

'It was everything to us as children going there - it was our Las Vegas' - Portrush public stunned at Barry's sale

Locals Willie Gregg of the Harbour Bar
Locals Willie Gregg of the Harbour Bar
Anne Lamont, who owns Portrush Toys and Souvenirs
Institution: Heather Williamson
Happy memories: Kristina and Lisa Trufelli with their father Frank
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

For generations of young people it has been a rite of passage - a day out at Barry's Amusements, experiencing the bright lights, loud music and smell of electricity from the dodgem cars.

And in Portrush yesterday there was a sense of shock at the news that the seaside town's most famous tourist attraction has been put up for sale.

Barry's has been in the ownership of the Trufelli family for 93 years.

For many, it is unimaginable that a day out on the north coast would not include a ride on the ghost train, the big dipper or dodgem cars.

Willie Gregg of the town's famous Harbour Bar said he was stunned by the news.

He said: "Our family and the Trufelli family go back generations so I know that they won't have taken this decision lightly.

"They are the backbone of Portrush and have been part and parcel of the town for generations. The Trufelli family gave this town its colour, spice and drama in Barry's and I don't think there is a child in Northern Ireland that hasn't been to Barry's."

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People enjoying an afternoon stroll in the November sunshine yesterday had fond memories of Barry's and struggled to think of the town without it.

Among them was Maureen Little, who was visiting from Belfast. She said: "I remember coming to Portrush on my holidays or even just for the day and that was the one place as a child I was excited to go to.

"It would be such a shame if it closed, but I hope it can be sold as it is because it is such a part of Portrush."

William McKitterick from Panky Doos tea shop
William McKitterick from Panky Doos tea shop

Local resident Heather Williamson added that Barry's was "an institution" locally.

"It is the destination we kids came to on Sunday school outings and now when my grandkids come up, it is Barry's they want to go to," she explained.

"During the summertime this place is crazy, so it would be hard to imagine Portrush without it."

George Mann from Ballyclare has been coming to Portrush since he was four.

He said: "Portrush and Barry's just go together. One is part of the other.

"My earliest memory of going to Barry's was the dodgems... such great times.

A shame: Maureen Little
A shame: Maureen Little

"It has an atmosphere all of its own and it meant everything to us as children, going into Barry's, it was our Las Vegas, absolutely."

Nostalgia aside, the possibility that Barry's will be anything other than a funfair will have serious repercussions for other businesses in the town. Some are already concerned.

Anne Lamont, who owns Portrush Toys and Souvenirs, said: "I was shocked when I heard.

"The first thing I thought was if there is no Barry's there is no Portrush, because people do come here to go to Barry's.

"I was relieved to see it is being sold as a going concern and I hope that ends up the case, because without Barry's we would do very little trade.

"We get so much footfall from Barry's because we are so close to it, so without it I wouldn't like to imagine what things would be like."

William McKitterick, proprietor of Panky Doos tea shop, said he was disappointed to hear the news. He has concerns about the effect it could have on his own business.

He said: "Barry's brings in a lot of trade to Portrush and it would be a crying shame if it closes down.

"The street I am on means I am first port of call for the footfall coming from Barry's, so if it isn't there it will have a big impact."

Mr McKitterick said disruption caused by the redevelopment of the town for the Open Championship this summer had already affected his trade.

He added: "If Barry's is sold quickly and stays in the same line of business things for other small businesses like me might be okay, but if it is sold as something else I can't see me surviving."

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