Memories of Try A Boat and King William, countered by the enlightened views of a new generation.

Grand Tour 12 June 1999
Kim Hollamby reports:

We’re still dining out on some of the fond memories of a visit to Carrickfergus Marina in the early 1990s to assist the running of a Try A Boat event. At any other place the wet weather would have kept visitors away, but the yacht club’s pontoon and access ramp was always full of a soaking line of enthusiastic would-be boaters. Full, that was, until an equally enthusiastic owner of an only partially restored fishing boat saw the problem, swept alongside and vacuumed them all up in one go. So much for booking systems!

The marina, run by the local borough council, fills a purpose built harbour opened in 1985 just to the west of the old port. When we visited it was quite plain, but now it is part of a major development of the town’s waterfront which is seeing the belated construction of permanent marina buildings, due to be completed early next year.

They will replace the basic but clean and effective Portakabin amenities. Between it and the block of apartments already bordering the marina, the foundations of a multiplex cinema are taking shape.

In the old harbour are a handful of pontoon berths, run by the marina, and a fuel berth (diesel only), 45-ton boat hoist and hard standing operated by Carrick Marine Projects who claim the hoist is the biggest in Ireland. The company is run by Wendy Moore and her partner Norman Grant. Wendy, a celebrated yachtswoman in these parts, also runs a sail repair and marine upholstery business in the town, and Norman a boat repair yard.

As we sat onboard during today, the sound of pipes and drums drifted across the marina from the town. In the Marine Gardens the local Orange Order were celebrating the 209th anniversary of the landing at Carrickfergus of their hero King William. We were a little pressed to think of any other 209th anniversary that might be celebrated anywhere, but then that is the strange paradox of the region. On the one hand you have people who are friendly and apparently laid-back beyond measure; goodness knows what will happen if I take the habit of saying hello to every stranger I meet back to London! On the other hand there are serious issues at stake that may have been eclipsed on newspaper front pages by the Kosovo crisis, but certainly have not gone away.

Not that the future is all gloomy by any means. We were very much taken with a book of poetry, ‘Life On The Lough’ that marina manager John McCormick gave us, written by the pupils and teachers from four of the area’s primary schools, two Protestant and two Roman Catholic. Tucked near the back are Kathleen Savage’s thoughts about her ‘Father-Land’:

“Let my home be heathery hills
And peaceful valleys; leafy lanes
With honeysuckles-scented breeze;
Stony byroads, fuschia-lined
And bramble-hedged; paths where
Foxglove, primrose, bluebells grow.

“Let my wealth be mossy tones
And fragrant lilac; thirsty earth
Where rushes, gorse and daisies thrive;
Murmuring streams through shady woods
Where cuckoo calls, and hawthord,
Sycamore and oak abound.”

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