Earlier this year, I cleaned up an old photograph that I had encountered on the internet, of one of the beach areas at Portrush. This area was known as the ladies bathing place.  The image was subsequently colourised. 

It must have been taken around 1900 or early 1900s, and showed a gathering of young people around some type of show – magic, drama, or juggling, perhaps.  

Despite combing through old newspapers of the era, there were no clues to be had, as to what type of show it could have been.

An Old Portrush Letter

Anyway, the photograph sat on my hard drive.   Then a few months ago, I came across an old letter of the same era, written to the editor of a local newspaper.   The letter from 1921 complained of the lack of local services in Portrush, namely tennis courts and public shelter. It appears at the bottom of this article.

Portrush Photos from the late 1970s

In the subsequent weeks, I started to reminisce of the times that we spent there.  And it got me thinking of the late 1970s, when the local council revamped the tennis and bowling facilities at Portrush. I was pretty sure that somewhere in my mother’s picture albums, there existed some photos of that era. Sure enough.  

These photos were taken at Portrush in the late 1970s, somewhere between 1977 and 1980.  One shows yours truly trying to play tennis.  The others show my father playing bowls with my parent’s very good friends, Billy Kelso and Elsie Kelso (from near Upperlands). Dad passed on a couple of years later, and then mum too.  I moved away from the area. All four friends are now gone.

But looking at these old images, I see a moment caught forever in time. 

playing bowls at Portrush, late 1970s

Billy Kelso playing bowls at Portrush, late 1970s

playing bowls at Portrush, late 1970s

Elsie Kelso

playing bowls at Portrush, late 1970s

Elsie Kelso about to launch a bowl

Portrush Billy Kelso Upperlands

Billy Kelso resting between deliveries

playing bowls at Portrush, late 1970s

Richard Mulholland, Billy Kelso, Marian Kelso

playing tennis at Portrush, late 1970s

yours truly playing tennis at Portrush, late 1970s

For international readers, I thought you especially might like to see the beauty of this area, in and around Portrush.  The north coast is unbeatable.  We just need the weather.


Here is that old enhanced Portrush image that I referred to at the start of this article, followed by the 1921 letter of complaint.

Ladies' Bathing Place at Portrush, County Antrim

Ladies’ Bathing Place at Portrush


Dear Mr. Editor,

As one of the constant visitors to Portrush, season by season, I venture to make a suggestion or two.

Probably no prominent health resort has suffered less than Portrush at the hands of “improvers” — it remains almost as nature had left it.

The rolling billows of a thousand years, cut and carved the rock masses of the peninsula, and gave us a finished work where our bodily system can be renewed and our minds stimulated, by admiring the handiwork of the Maker of the Universe.

But the young of our generation hanker after a little more.

Where are the lawn tennis courts, or adequate public shelter for times of heavy rain or storms!

Does this fall under the watchful eyes of the Urban Council, or do they take cognisance of what other live watering-places provide!

Last year when at Douglas (in the Isle of Man), I was one of a thousand who on a Sabbath morning went to Kirk Braddan, to the open air religious service and appreciated the prayer and praise conducted by an earnest clergyman.

Would it be possible to try something of this sort at Old Ballywillan Church, near Portrush!  Many absent themselves from places of worship when on holiday, and this might induce a few hundred to worship God in the calm and impressive surroundings of the resting place of generations of those who have gone on before us.

It was a progressive step to have such helpful services in the Picture House; why not try the open air!



Ballymoney Free Press & Northern Counties Advertiser,
Thursday 28th July 1921