Red Sails, Grey Skies
Back in 1935, the songwriter Jimmy Kennedy was so inspired by the prospects of a Portstewart evening that he wrote the awe-struck ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’. His lyric featured in the songbooks of Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. So here I am 72 years later, walking the rain-lashed seafront and I’m asking myself, what did Jimmy see in the place?
Was the author a romantic soul who could find a transcendent glory in an average seaside town? Or did Portstewart have something special back the, before the shops started peddling their plastic tat? Was there a vibrant harbour with real, red sails? These are things that I need to know.
Yes I know, it’s a great place if you like golf. And if you’re in the market for Terylene twin sets and ancient Gabicci sweaters, then the shopping prospects are also pretty hot. Mind you, there are some new-fangled coffee shops, but if it’s internet access you need, then the town library is your only chance. They’ve got an arts centre, but little sign of life aside from an amateur gallery and summer scheme.
Portstewart Strand is genuinely lovely and the toilet facilities may even be open by the end of the summer season. Just in time for the Red Sails festival, with its fireworks and the appearance of Jimmy Crickett. They’ve got a version of It’s A Knock Out and live music from Pickled Onions and The Duvet Brothers.
I’m thinking about ‘Red Sails In The Sunset’, but I’m hearing a Morrissey song: ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’.