Author Hugh McGrattan’s latest book

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A number of books have been written about Portrush in recent years, but The Port on the Promontory, which has just published, is the first to present a comprehensive history of the resort from its beginnings 200 years ago.

This is the third book by the retired journalist Hugh McGrattan, whose family has lived in the town for three generations.

Hugh spent most of his life in the town, working as a reporter and editor for local newspapers, a career spanned 40 years and included a spell as a Coleraine Times columnist.

He was born in old Ramore Street, right on the peninsula of Portrush, with - as he says in his Introduction to his book - “the sea on three sides... the sound of the waves a constant reminder that the Atlantic was mere yards away”.

His grandfather (after whom he was named) arrived in Portrush from Portaferry as a young seaman in 1884 but in 1916, as a sea captain, went down with his ship in a storm off Anglesey along with four of his crew.

His second son Patrick (Hugh’s father), undeterred by the tragedy, chose a career in the Royal Navy, in which he served for almost 30 years.

Hugh’s grandmother was Mary Doherty, a member of one of the north coast’s best known fishing families and the first in Portrush to own a motor boat. Portrush as a town or village has existed only since the early 1800s.

It developed rapidly from half a dozen tiny thatched cottages overlooking a natural inlet into a busy seaport with commercial links all over the world.

This largely remarkable change in fortune was due mainly to the construction of a large and modern harbour in the late 1820s followed by the arrival of the railway in 1855.

These two factors, combined with the growth of the tourist industry – and particularly the popularity of sea bathing – saw Port Rush (as it was known 200 years ago) spectacularly increase in importance and population over a period of some 50 years.

The first seaside villas had been built in the 1820s for the benefit of wealthy visitors and were quickly followed by modern shops and business premises. With these came several fine church buildings, congregations having moved into town from the surrounding rural area as the urban population increased.

The Port on the Promontory traces these 19th century developments within the growing town and describes the impact of increasing urbanisation on what had been an isolated peninsular townland in the Parish of Ballywillan.

Local government arrived in 1892 when the first Town Commissioners were elected and this new book traces the contribution of local representatives until 1973 when the Portrush Urban District Council was disbanded and an expanded Coleraine Borough Council took control.

Descriptions of life in the town include the momentous impact of the two world wars.

The author has added some of his own memories of growing up in the post-war town and of later being responsible for newspaper coverage of local events as a reporter.

Extracts from local and provincial newspapers, as well as personal letters and official reports from the 18th and 19th centuries add life and colour to the historical text from the 18th and 19th centuries add life and colour to the historical text and there are even a couple of short poems about Portrush written by Maud Peden, an aunt of Hugh’s, whose work was widely published in various newspapers from the 1940s to the 1970s under the pseudonym M.I.P..

More than 130 pictures are included, largely from the author’s own collection, built up during his years as a journalist. Some were taken by Hugh himself and have never been published before.