Vikings, Earl Bishop and Co!

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Am audience of over 100 attended Portrush Heritage Group’s meeting in the Ramada Hotel.

The first speaker, Professor Séamus Mac Mathúna,provided a fascinating insight into the far-reaching influence of the Vikings, with a particular emphasis on their activities in Ireland.

Our language bears witness to the Viking legacy, for example, the name Skerries ,off Portrush, came from Viking for rocky islands, verbs such as get, and names like Higgins are derivations of Viking words.

Stephen Price’s account of the Earl Bishop Hervey was both entertaining and revealing.

The Earl is probably best known locally for building the (now derelict) house at Downhill and the Mussenden Temple; the former named after one of his female obsessions, and the latter modelled on the Temple of Vesta in his beloved Italy.

Stephen explained how the Earl was very ahead of the times in his tolerance of and support for the repressed Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, who he allowed to worship at Mussenden Temple, and help fund Catholic churches. He was also responsible for making the Giant’s Causeway world famous, thanks to his obsession with vulcanology, funding research into the Causeway. Despite this,

He died in a byre in Rome, and and his memorial at the family seat at Ickworth was paid for by the people of Derry who held him in high esteem.

Vice Chair of Portrush Heritage Group, John Moore, gave an excellent, informative and very well received video presentation of the Group’s Strategic Plan for Portrush, which resulted from engaging with local people and subsequent discussion. The Group’s main aim is to raise awareness of and appreciation of Portrush and area; it hopes to: Establish Portrush as a Heritage Town; Ensure the preservation of Portrush’s Heritage; Increase public engagement and enjoyment of our heritage; Influence decision -makers and policy regarding heritage ( for example, by engaging with the Council in initiatives such as the current Lansdowne plan); and continue to develop an effective and sustainable organisation.

Colum McCloskey, Committee member, gave a report on a recent very informative visit Group members made to P.R.O.N.I.,Belfast .

The final speaker of the evening was Alan Jeffers, Regeneration Manager at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council ,who had been invited by PHG to discuss the proposed Council application for Heritage Lottery Funding for Regeneration of the Lansdowne Area, in advance of a Public Engagement Evening next Wednesday, January 27 in Portrush Town Hall.

Previous Portrush regeneration plans were discussed, and Mr Jeffers stressed how the HLF would look more favourably on applications with a significant local input and the input of a Heritage Group.

HLF support was essential, as CCGBC could not otherwise finance the 7 figure sum required to regenerate the area from the Arcadia to Ramore Head and out to the Skerries, including Antrim Gardens.

It is hoped that local people will attend the event next week and make their views known, and Heritage Group members will be present with displays, and for discussion purposes.

The evening closed with thanks to all concerned by Hugh McGrattan.