When we were kids we went on holiday for a week to a place called Portrush up on the Antrim coast. It’s hard to describe Portrush (and it’s even less illustrious sister town of Portstewart) to folk that haven’t been there but I think if you look up the definition of the word ‘decrepit’ in the dictionary then there will only be two words there; ‘Portrush’ and ‘Portstewart’.
I’ve never been to Cooney Island but I suspect that during the 1940’s a bit of it broke off during a terrific storm and floated off in the sea, eventually to be washed up shipwreaked on the beaches of Portrush and it’s been there ever since, unchanging since the 40’s, the Land That Time Forgot. I imagine the few good folk of Portrush and the sheep were overjoyed to see this piece of Cooney Island float in with it’s magical lights and Helter Skelter. Why the sheep? Errm the rather rude joke we had about Portrush involved sheep-shagging so they would have been please for the distraction!
The two main features of Portrush, apart from the driving rain, was the long beach with huge waves and Barry’s Amusement Park, I say ‘Amusement Park’ but I suspect Barry’s was the first company ever to be sued under the Trades Description Act 1977 for describing themselves as an amusement park. I’m not sure what school Barry went to or what childhood issues he had but there was little chance of anyone finding any amusement in his park and yet still we flocked in like lambs to the slaughter, drawn in by the bright shining lights like the gullible foolish sheep we were. Actually I think the main reason Barrys made any money wasn’t because of the attraction of the Dodge’em and the Whirly Gig but because it was indoors and offered some respite from the relentless wind and the rain.
Barry’s did offer some thrilling rides but not for reasons they hoped for, you see, the completely true story (as in alligator’s in sewer’s tale) was that one of the cars in the Dig Dipper (aka the pathetic roller coaster that normally wouldn’t scare anyone above Telly-Tubbie age) had actually come off the rails and seriously injured the occupants, so the big thrill for users was to actually be brave enough to go on one of the damn rides, the Big Dipper, the Whirly Gig, the Teacup Spinner, the Spinning Wall of Death, all of them amazingly dull and boring – right up to the moment when you wonder if the ride has been properly maintained ..but by then it’s too late as you hurtle screaming towards your death!
There was the usual Penny Arcade there as well, roll a penny down a slot into base of a veritable mountain of penny’s in the hope that the machines rotating pusher would finally push them all out into your grubby little mitts but of course I don’t know of anyone who every succeeded in winning their penny back. As kids we had very few pennies to insert in slots, so we got our thrills through an early form of voyeurism by standing beside more affluent kids and watching them lose their own pennies in the slot machines (though I do wonder just how many Peeping Toms Barry’s was incubating for later life, how many men have been arrested for peeking in on ladies and they can trace their habit back to Barry’s Amusement Park..).
Anyway, we didn’t have much money but what few coins we did have was spent on coke and crisps. This meant that for most of us kids our day went along the lines of run, scream, splash, slide, crisps, coke, run, scream, slide, fall, crisps, coke, run, scream, slide, coke, crisps – throw up –pause- run, scream, splash, slide and repeat (ahem) ad nauseum. Ahhh childhood, those were the days!
So that was Barry’s, a childhood full of coke, pushers, users, big dippers, sheep shaggers, peeping toms and puking up, it’s probably not affected me one bit, your honour.