Barry’s Amusements: Concerns that iconic business could soon be turned into hotel or apartments

There have been concerns that the iconic Barry’s Amusements in Portrush may soon be turned into a new hotel or apartments.

Monday, 2nd August 2021, 8:28 pm
Updated Monday, 2nd August 2021, 8:38 pm

The BBC and local sources report that it has been bought by wealthy property developer and former Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) magnate, Michael Herbert. However elected representatives last night called for the legacy of Barry’s to be preserved in some form.

UUP Alderman Norman Hillis said: “I will be very sorry to see Barry’s most likely go off the face of the map in Portrush

“It has been an institution and attraction for generations. Most people in Northern Ireland would have very very fond memories of it as children, and then of taking their own children and grandchildren.

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The amusements park opened on the north coast in 1926. Photo: Pacemaker.

He added: “I understand a property developer has bought the site with a view to developing it as a hotel and apartments. It was inevitable that something like this would happen after it was closed for the second season.

 “But this is a big wrench for Portrush. No family ever went for a trip to Portrush without going to Barry’s. It is a very valuable site.”

“There is almost no obstruction [from the site] right onto the beach - and it has fantastic views of the west strand, Donegal and the harbour.”

He hopes that if it must be turned into a hotel, the name could be retained.

A feasibility study by Savills site could be developed for several uses, including a 120-bed hotel, 23 residential dwellings or a combination of both, in addition to leisure and recreational facilities. Photo: Pacemaker

“It would be quite interesting if they might theme any hotel after Barry’s, it would be a good marketing strategy.”

Citing memories of the Big Dipper, the Ghost Train and the dodgems, he said he had known Frank Trufelli personally, whose parents started the business in 1926.

However even the agent selling the site thinks the site still has potential for recreation. A feasibility study by Savills found the site could be developed for a hotel and/or residential dwellings, “in addition to leisure and recreational facilities”.

SDLP MLA Cara Hunter said she would urge the new buyer to keep Barry’s in some form. It is welcome the site has been bought - but there are local concerns, she added.

She is seeking a meeting with buyers, the Herberts’ Group, to find out about their plans “and will be encouraging them to consider the history of the site and its significance to the local population”.

“The public have been clear that they want to keep Barry’s in some shape or form and I would hope the new owners will take this into consideration,” she added. “There is an opportunity to develop a modern family entertainment complex on this site.

“There are also concerns around the building of more expensive apartments in this area, local people already feel they are being priced out of Portrush.”

According to Barry’s website, the business began when the five Chipperfield sisters and one brother brought their unique blend of plays and musical show to Ireland in the 1920s.

Barry's in Portrush. Photo: Press Eye.

“As they toured local towns they built a reputation for themselves and such was the esteem in which they held that, when the Royal Italian Circus came to tour Ireland in 1923, they asked Evelyn Chipperfield, the eldest of the sisters, if she would act as their agent,” it said.

“This was how Evelyn met Francesco Trufelli. He was the director of the circus and a former high trapeze artist. The two fell in love. Evelyn was already in love with Ireland and it was not too difficult to persuade her sweetheart to stay.”

Together they continued to tour Ireland before, in 1926, being invited by the Railway Company to set up a permanent site in Portrush. The company had invested heavily in the new station and the Northern Counties Railway Hotel and felt they needed some form of entertainment for the expected visitors. The young couple jumped at the chance, and Barry’s was born.

When looking for a name, the couple considered that neither ‘Chipperfield’s’ nor ‘Trufelli’s’ was going to work.

It just so happened that the first delivery lorry had the name ‘Barr’ on it - and so ‘Barry’s’ was chosen.

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