Walking along the seafront, along the promenade at Portstewart in Northern Ireland, we came across this extraordinary and beautiful sculpture. At first we couldn’t make out what it was but just circled it admiringly, was it seaweed, was it a boat, a sea-bird, a fish, was it something from some Irish legend? It didn’t take long to find a plaque explaining what it was, and then we found this information board close by:Portstewart is a pretty little town with great shops, cafés, pubs and friendly people too. The beautiful sculpture commemorates Jimmy Kennedy who wrote ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’ and amazing number of other very popular and well-known songs. He wrote the lyrics of ‘The Teddy-bears’ Picnic’, ‘My Prayer’, ‘South of the Border’, ‘The Isle of Capri’, ‘Love is Like a Violin’, ‘The Hokey-Cokey’ and that song which seems to epitomise the 2nd World War, ‘We’re Going to Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line’.
Although Jimmy Perry was born near Omagh in 1902, he grew up in Portstewart where no doubt he got the inspiration for ‘Red Sails’. He taught in England and then became a civil servant, but he was above all a songwriter, until the arrival of the Beatles, he had more hits than any other British, Irish or American writer. He served in the 2nd World War in the Royal Artillery.
He died in Cheltenham in 1984, but he is actually interred in our county town of Somerset… a link from Northern Ireland to Somerset!