Ten years ago, in 2006, a planning appeals commissioner made the following observations about a proposed development in Portballintrae prior to rejecting the developer's appeal:
The existing cottages and seascape on the seaward side of Beach Road are part of the defining character of Portballintrae and are an indispensable element of its scenic surroundings. The intended development area has been a favourite location for painters and photographers seeking to capture the majestic qualities of this coastal landscape. These features are internationally recognised and attract many visitors and regular holiday-makers to Portballintrae. The appeal schemes would be very visible features when viewed from the western approach into the village because they would be directly in the line of sight across the Bay to Runkerry Strand and the Giant’s Causeway. They would intrude markedly into the existing most attractive vista towards the Causeway Coast when descending into the settlement for more than 1km along Bayhead Road. The beach that adjoins the north-eastern edge of the appeal sites together with the nearby rocks and sea pools comprise the most intensively used area of passive recreation in the village. The appeal proposals, if approved, would transform the western perimeter of this well used cove from a semi-natural grassy environment with a few traditional low-profile buildings set within it to a high and dense modern housing complex, to its overall detriment. Beach Road should act as the edge of the village rather than the high tide level on the foreshore. Development, if sanctioned at the appeal sites, would downgrade Portballintrae’s importance as a coastal resort, with adverse economic consequences.
The commissioner's observations and decision were subsequently ignored by the local planning service.
The clachan at Portbraddan is one of the tourism gems on the north coast of County Antrim. It nestles in a small gorge at the western end of Whitepark Bay and is well sheltered from the prevailing westerlies. The clachan is accessible on foot along the coastline as well as by vehicle from the main road.
One of its unique attractions is the miniature private church of St Gobban's, constructed by the Rev Con Auld, until recently owner of the adjacent The Braddan, 22 Portbraddon Road; the small building had previously been used for livestock and appears in an old photograph from the 1890s.
The Braddan is currently being refurbished and a rather less than welcome sign appears on the wood shuttering.
PRIVATE PROPERTY KEEP OUT
Will the small church be reopened or is it closed for good? It would be a great shame if such a magical part of our local heritage was hidden from public view; it's been very much appreciated by local people as well as by visitors from distant shores.
Will this door withstand the pummelling raging seas?
Portbraddan in Templastragh townland
Griffith's Valuation map circa 1860
Fishery leased from the Leslie family
and, later, the Macnaghtens
A copy of this R J Welch photo can be purchased
from the National Museums of Northern Ireland
Added July 23
Added May 30, 2017
Small building known as St Gobban's has been demolished
If anyone knows what happened to its interior and exterior artefacts please email me.
Added June 4, 2017
Con Auld bought his former property at Portbraddan in 1962 and converted a small outbuilding into St Gobbans. In 1993 he described it:
"It is an anti-sectarian, non-denominational, proprietary chapel dedicated to peace, open to everyone and therefore not consecrated by any particular denomination. To consecrate is to set apart for a special (usually religious use) use, or to devote to a special purpose .... St Gobban's purpose was and still is irenic"
St Gobban's was officially listed in 1990 (HB.5.10.9) for its
"particular contribution to Northern Ireland heritage and to the character of the community .... and to ensure it would receive special consideration whenever proposals for development are contemplated."
Following an objection it was eventually delisted in 1993.
Over the generations, Portbraddan has been transformed from a farmyard and fishery, where those who lived there earned their living from the land and the sea, to holiday lets and holiday homes.
Con has departed, the iconography has gone and St Gobban's has been erased - but the memories will linger on.
I was told that my grandfather used to take his family for an annual picnic to Portbraddan - probably by horse, trap and bicycle; he also gathered dulse there. One of my great-aunts lived there; her husband was a fisherman.
Visitors from distant shores will continue to come, including the descendants of those who emigrated over the generations, but St Gobban's will not be there to greet them.