Portrush without Barry's Amusements unimaginable, says ex-worker
A former worker at Barry's Amusements said she "can't imagine" Portrush without the iconic attraction, following the announcement of its sale.
Olivia Mullan recalled the "extremely fun atmosphere" working at Barry's in the 80s alongside a young James Nesbitt and said there will be "a few tears shed" over Friday's announcement.
Barry's Amusements has entertained children and adults alike since 1926, when it was opened by Evelyn Chipperfield and Franceso Trufelli, who met when the Royal Italian Circus toured Ireland a few years previously.
In a statement, the Trufelli family said the decision to put Barry's up for sale was "not taken lightly" and followed "significant and emotion consideration" over a long period.
Olivia (56) worked at the amusement park from 1983 to 1986 when she was a university student and said the news was "absolutely heartbreaking".
Her father was friends with Francesco Trufelli and she approached him for a job in the cafe.
"Thankfully he gave it to me, and I was able to get a few of my friends from University work there too. We were the 'cafe girls' and we had a couple of great summers there," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"When you grew up as a kid in Portrush everyone wanted to work in Barry's. The boys especially - once you got one of the Barry's green jackets you were automatically cool.
"My fondest memories of Barry's are just of the fun we had. We had a wee tea room out the back of the cafe and us three girls would have fun winding up the boys who worked there and flirting outrageously - Jimmy Nesbitt being one of them. He was actually quite shy in the day, believe it or not, working away on the Big Dipper."
Barry's grew from humble beginnings - originally featuring just one carousel - into one of Northern Ireland's premier family attractions, with dodgems, a ghost train, Swing Boats and a ferris wheel.
Olivia, who now runs a travel business in Spain, said the work at Barry's was extremely hard, especially during the summer months when the queues would "go on for miles" as the served ice cream and candy floss to the endless crowds of children.
But despite the pressure, she explained, the management and other employees made the job "endlessly enjoyable".
"They're all good memories. Everybody just had fun when they were there, the atmosphere was great, the bosses were great - I'll have nothing but good memories about Barry's. It was all very light-hearted," she said.
In their statement, the Trufelli family thanked all Barry's customers and employees who were "pivotal" to the success of the business over the years.
"We understand the special place that Barry’s holds in the hearts of many Northern Ireland families, but none closer than our own," they said.
"As family operators, we feel we can no longer give the considerable commitment required to effectively manage the business."
Olivia said she hopes someone will takeover the business and "keep the tradition going".
"Portrush definitely needs Barry's and I can't really imagine the town without it, to be honest. All my friends back home are just in shock, there will definitely be a few tears shed tonight," she said.
Belfast Telegraph Digital