UPDATEDThe 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.
Rev McConnell Auld
St Gobban's July 2011
[I'm told that £100,000 has been raised
for charity during Con's ownership]
St Gobban's interior July 2011
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
G B Yeats 1916
Added July 15
New chain barrier
For whom the bell tolls no more?
Added July 21
Regular visitors are in for a surprise
The padlocked wooden shuttering
has been painted a bright yellow
The little gothic-style window has been removed
as has the familiar colour blue
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.