Notable Influencers

Dave Glover

Dave Glover
Dave Glover

Dave Glover was a band leader and trumpet player who put the Arcadia Ballroom and Portrush on the musical map during the 1950s.

Born in Belfast in 1925 Dave grew up in a musical family and played with various concert bands and groups. In 1947 he started his professional career as a trumpet player with the Bruce Robinson Orchestra, the resident band in the then famous Floral Hall in Belfast.

In 1948 he left the orchestra and formed a four piece group which played functions and dinner dances in Belfast before taking the big plunge in late 1952 when he formed his own 14 piece orchestra which was listed in adverts for the band as the resident band in the Midland Hotel in Belfast”.

In 1953 Bert Blundell, an English entrepreneur opened a new ballroom as an extension to the Arcadia Café. That summer The Dave Glover Orchestra became the resident band.

They were an immediate hit and would remain as the resident summer band for the next decade. In 1956 Dave introduced a 20 minute “show” into the act where band members dressed up and performed sketches and skits. He changed the name of the orchestra to the Dave Glover Showband and, in doing so, created a new genre of entertainment.

The ballroom and its resident band attracted thousands of people from across Ireland and further afield and gained the name “The Ballroom of Romance”. In those days bands normally played from 9.00 pm to 1.00 am and the skills of dancing were learned by everyone. It was in the Arcadia that many romances began with “boy meeting girl” and leading, in many cases, to marriage.

The Dave Glover Showband with Muriel Day
The Dave Glover Showband with Muriel Day

The band split in 1963 and Dave Glover left the Arcadia. He soon put together a new line up and the Dave Glover Showband took to the road touring widely throughout Ireland, across England and playing in Irish Clubs abroad.

In 1964 Dave had married Muriel Day and in 1965 she joined the band as a vocalist. In 1967 the band undertook their second tour of North America playing for three weeks across the northeast of the USA and Canada.

In 1971 Muriel and Dave split up and the Dave Glover Showband ceased to be although Dave set up a jazz band and continued to play well into his 80s. On one memorable night in the 1980s Dave and his band played to a packed house in the ballroom of the Northern Counties Hotel. This was his last gig in Portrush.

On 27th April 2009 Dave Glover passed away but his legend lives on in Portrush where he is remembered with great fondness by many people.

Arcadia Ballroom advertising the Dave Glover Showband
Arcadia Ballroom advertising the Dave Glover Showband

Sir Charles Lanyon

Sir Charles Lanyon
Sir Charles Lanyon

Sir Charles Lanyon was the renowned architect responsible for the design of Portrush Town Hall.

Originally called The Assembly Rooms it opened in 1872 and was greeted with admiration and enthusiasm. Sir Charles was a partner in the firm of distinguished Belfast architects, Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon who were responsible for many fine buildings across the Province including Queen’s University, Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol & Courthouse, Belfast and Ballymoney Courthouse.

Born in Eastbourne in 1813 to John Jenkinson Lanyon, a purser in the Royal Navy and Catherine Anne Mortimer, following his education, he became an apprentice civil engineer with Jacob Owen in Portsmouth. When Owen was made senior Engineer and Architect of the Irish Board of Works and moved to Dublin, Lanyon followed.

In 1835 he married Owen’s daughter, Elizabeth Helen. They had ten children, including Sir William Owen Lanyon, an army officer and colonial administrator. Charles Lanyon was County Surveyor in Kildare briefly, before moving on to Antrim in 1836. He remained County Surveyor of Antrim until 1860, during which time he was responsible for the now famous Antrim Coast Road and the Frosses tree-lined sections of road.

Elected Mayor of Belfast in 1862, and Conservative MP for the city between 1865 and 1868 he was knighted in 1868 and served on the Select Committee on Scientific Instruction, which laid the groundwork for the Education Act for Universal Education of 1871.

Sir Charles lost his seat in Westminster, but became a councillor in Belfast Town Council from 1861 to 1871. From 1862 to 1886 he was Belfast Harbour Commissioner. He served as Deputy Lieutenant for County Antrim and was appointed High Sheriff of Antrim in 1876. He was also a Justice of the Peace for many years.

Lanyon lived at ‘The Abbey’ a grand house in Whiteabbey, which eventually became a sanitorium during World War I and is now part of Whiteabbey Hospital. He died there on 31 May 1889 and is buried in Knockbreda Cemetery.

John Playfair

People - John Playfair FRSE FRS
John Playfair FRSE FRS

John Playfair was a Church of Scotland Minister and also a renowned mathematician and professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. Born on 10th March 1748 at Benvie, Forfarshire, Scotland he was a friend and supporter of James Hutton, an Edinburgh natural philosopher, who had put forward a theory that some rocks once existed in a molten state. This theory went against the thinking of that time which was based on the work of Abraham Gottlob Werner, a lecturer in the Freiberg Mining Academy.

Werner believed that all rocks were formed by crystallization or precipitation from a primeval ocean. His views were revolutionary but influential and he garnered great support from around the world. He and his supporters were known a “Neptunists”, so called because they believed all rocks were formed in the oceans, the realm of the Roman God of the sea, Neptune. Hutton and his supporters became known as “Plutonists” or “Vulcanists”, after the Roman gods of the underworld, Pluto, and of fire, Vulcan respectively.

In 1786 rocks containing ammonites were discovered in Portrush on a section of the eastern side of the Ramore Head peninsula. These dark grey and black rocks were identified by natural philosophers (learned scholars engaged in  the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science) as basalts.

Neptunists immediately argued that if, as Vulcanists claimed, basalts were solidified lava flows how could living creatures have survived the extreme heat of molten rock, and they appeared to have won the debate. However, soon after Hutton’s death in 1797 John Playfair saw samples of the famous “Portrush Rocks” and having visited the site in 1802 correctly identified the fossil bearing rock as a hornfels, an early Jurassic mudstone baked by its close proximity to a massive sill of molten dolerite immediately beneath. The result was a rock superficially resembling basalt. This view was later upheld by influential observers and has prevailed ever since.

The eastern shore of Ramore Head thus became the last battleground between the Neptunists and the Plutonists with the latter claiming victory. In many respects it can be said that geology as a science was born from that moment of victory. This site in Portrush is one of the most culturally significant places in international geology and has been described as a “pilgrimage” site for geologists due to its historic and unique contributions to science. It is rightly both an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and a National Nature Reserve (NNR).

Sharman Dermott Neill

Portrush Railway Station
Portrush Railway Station Clock

Sharman D. Neill is the maker’s name shown on the iconic long case clock which stood in the concourse of Portrush Railway Station from 1892 until its closure in the 1970’s.

Sharman D. Neill was a watch & clock making, silversmiths and jewellers business active from 1884 at Donegall Place, Belfast. The owner, Sharman Dermott Neill was a descendant of Robert Neill, who in partnership with Henry Gardner, advertised “Telescopes” in 1810.

The clock is reputed to be the tallest “grandfather clock” in the world standing 17½ feet (5.3 metres) tall with a 3 feet (0.9 metres) diameter face front and back, enabling it to be read from the station concourse and the platforms. It has an eight-day mechanical movement with a single weight that is wound from the face. The maker’s name is ‘Sharman D. Neill’ of Belfast and the clock is dated 1892 on the centre wheel. The pendulum is some 44″ (1.1 metres)  long and weighs 14lbs (6.4 kg). The striking gong weight is 40lbs (18.1 kg).

The clock was removed from the station in 1971 when modernisation was taking place and was rescued from scrap in 1984.  It has now been restored and returned to Portrush. It is on display in the foyer of Causeway Coast & Glens Council Offices in Coleraine.