Newcastle is a town of two halves. The Harbour and South Promenade with the Church of Ireland Church, the old open air sea Swimming Pool, the new indoor sea salt baths, the Police Service of Northern Ireland secure within its Great Granite Wall of China-the cop shop formerly known as the RUC. Few shops, no tack, smartly genteel in a sea side resort sort of way. Where Huttonian has his family cottage. Huttonian's formative years were spent in the Salt water pool which is now open only in July and August-like its smarter counterpart in the other half of Newcastle-busy, traffic infested, ugly and with many tacky shops and amusement arcades aimed at the day tripper from Belfast.Where the 'Joyland' Games Arcade with its pokies and other mechanical money gobbling devices is near the site of the old Savoy cinema with the Ritz just down the street.
With all its faults Newcastle services its clientele satisfactorily. The golfer has the best course in Ireland to enjoy; the walker has the Mournes, the island's most accessible and most spectacular mountain range rising dramatically from the sea. The day tripper can park his car, read his paper and enjoy his cone. The biker can drink the pubs dry and Kareaoke with the best of them. The young hoodie can make a generous contribution to the vast Saturday nights lakes of vomit.We crumblies can ignore it all in South Promenade and look forward to October. And we can ease our rheumy joints in the warm sea baths and dream of the Dead Sea.
And what would Mr Ferguson have made of it. A Granite plaque marks his feat of winning £100 for flying his home made plane a few hundred yards over the strand before the First World War. Pleased with this he then invented the Tractor and with his Canadian colleague, a Mr Massey went on to market it. Thats the way to do it as Mr.Punch used to say whacking his baby over the head with a truncheon in those Punch and Judy shows on the promenade-such charecter shaping events for the young Huttonian.
The Child Protection Act did for Mr Punch and his routine. The end of innocence, alas.