A few years ago I found myself visiting Northern Ireland. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was driving to Newcastle, County Down for a beach walk on what was a gorgeous Autumn day.
The CD (remember them? ) I was listening to was Van Morrison’s Avalon Sunset. A genius of an album. As the Autumn sun fell on my face and my feet walked blissfully through the golden sand, the song Coney Island came on, where Morrison revisits his youthful trips to the seaside in Lough Neagh.
The lyrics capture you and take you to the days he spent at Coney Island. So much so, that on the spur of the moment, I decided to recreate the journey that he would have once taken – well recreate as best I could. Perhaps it’s best I tell you the lyrics.
Coney Island Coming down from Downpatrick Stopping off at St John’s Point Out all day birdwatching And the craic was good Stopped off at Strangford Lough Early in the morning Drive through Shrigley taking pictures And onto Killyleagh Stopped off for Sunday papers at the Lecale District Just before Coney Island On and on, over the hill to Ardglass In the jam jar, autumn sunshine, magnificent And all shining through Stop off at Ardglass for a couple of jars of Mussels and some potted herrings in case We get famished before dinner On and on, over the hill and the craic is good Heading towards Coney Island I look at the side of your face as the sunlight comes Streaming through the window in the autumn sunshine And all the time going to Coney Island I’m thinking Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?
Playing the song, which is spoken by Morrison in his thick Irish brogue and backed by lush instrumentation, I headed north to Downpatrick – the start point and then onto St John’s Point which is a cape at the southern tip of the Lecale Peninsula. The cape is mostly surrounded by the Irish Sea and derives its name from a now-ruined Church dedicated to St John. A well-known beacon in the north eastern Irish Sea, St John’s Point lighthouse, was built in 1844 and sits near its southern tip.
Well, in the song, Van spent all day birdwatching but I was on a mission and gave them passing glances. But I stopped off at the magnificent Strangford Lough, soaking in the silence and the views. Then I drove through Shrigley a village dating back to 1824. Then onto Killyleagh a village in County Down on the western side of Strangford Lough and best known for its twelfth-century Killyleagh Castle.
I didn’t have time to stop for papers in the Lecale District but this peninsula is an area of outstanding beauty. Then it was on and on over the hill to the coastal fishing village of Ardglass for a couple of jars of Mussels and potted herrings. The truth be told it was more of Mars Bar and sparkling water! Even though I was famished before dinner!
On I went heading towards, Coney Island, arriving there as Van would have done in his youth. I switched the car engine off and listened to his lyrics as I sat peacefully, completely content. The sun was beginning to set, as sailboats gently and peacefully made their way through the dark blue waters to the harbour.
And what was so true was the last line…..Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time……