I have recently been in correspondence with a long-time friend of our island, Adrian McDowell, who these days lives in Musselburgh, near Edinburgh.

He was previously town clerk of Bangor in Northern Ireland for a number of years and in August 1996 made a civic visit to Douglas with Mayor Ruby Cooling.

At the request of the Chamber of Commerce he addressed a meeting in the Palace attended by business leaders, Members of the House of Keys and councillors on the subject of seafront development.

He was part of a double act addressing the gathered parties, the other being a director of ‘Crest Nicholson’ who managed Bangor marina on behalf of the council.

It was during this visit that he met the then Douglas town clerk, the late David King.

He started his address by expressing his great pleasure to be in the Isle of Man again.

It was about 15 years since his last visit and about 45 years since his first.

He enjoyed many holidays on our island and has a real fondness for it.

He described how Bangor, in the greater part of the last century, enjoyed an unrivalled reputation as the number one seaside town in Northern Ireland, a traditional place for summer holidays.

Families came from across Ireland for their annual fortnight and the holiday season ranged from June to September.

The town was busy with all types of entertainment similar to our island but, like us, saw a decline that he considered was because of a lack of investment, the weather and continental holidays.

In Bangor the seafront was degenerating, the shopping environment was in decline and some buildings along the promenade were in decay.

It was the sea that had helped put Bangor on the map before and it was to the sea that the council turned again.

In the 1970s a decision was made to regenerate Bangor with the construction of a marina. The town had long been the mooring area for the Ballyholme Yacht Club and the bay was overlooked by the famous Royal Ulster Yacht Club.

Unlike the island, Bangor was eligible for a European regional development fund grant and the first phase of the development, which was completed in the early 1980s at a cost of £1.5m, received grant aid of about 75%.

Further phases followed with the marina opening in 1989 with around 300 pontoons and, in view of its success, a further 250 followed.

The council came in for a fair amount of criticism as the whole area looked like a builders’ yard during construction and they worked hard on the public consultation aspect.

Since then the award-winning marina has received much acclaim and in 1995 more than 1,900 visiting boats berthed with an estimated spend of £350k.

Commercial development took place alongside the marina and the seafront was regenerated.

Adrian suggested in 1996 that the island was strategically placed as a convenient stopover point.

There are many yacht havens on the west coast of Scotland and along the Welsh coast. In Bangor they looked out to the excellent marina in Carrickfergus.

Outside Dublin was Howth Marina and also one at Malahide.

He suggested that although we did not have the visitor catchment area that Bangor enjoyed, we have a strategic position in the Irish Sea providing a logical stopover point.

We have since then seen the developments in Douglas and Peel which have encouraged new commercial activities adjacent. Is there room for marinas in other areas around the island?

Adrian is now 83 and made his first visit in 1950, travelling over from Belfast on the Steam Packet’s ferry the ‘Snaefell’ and returning on the ‘Tynwald’.

They stayed at the Mitre Hotel on Loch Promenade.

He remembers sailing his toy yacht on the pool in front of the hotel. They visited Rushen Abbey and Silverdale where he went on one of the pedal boats.

His dad loved Silverdale so much that he named their house in Belfast after the pleasure grounds.

They returned again in 1954 and this time stayed in the Beresford Hotel on Central Promenade at that time owned by Mrs Pye who also owned a hotel at Perwick Bay.

The Beresford holds memories for me as well. John and Sue Thompson were the proprietors and they employed me as night porter for a few weeks to earn extra money on top of my day job to pay for my Manx Grand Prix campaign.

A number of top MGP riders stayed there and in particular I remember Kev Riley.

Back to Adrian, he recalled going on Clague’s blue Bedford coach and also a very rackety chair lift, which many of us will remember, going up to Cunningham’s holiday camp.

He returned aged 19 and this time stayed at the Mereside. Cliff Townshend of the Squadronaires was staying there with his young son Pete who later achieved great fame with The Who.

The Ivy Benson all girls band were playing in the Villa Marina Gardens and on Thursday afternoons talent concerts took place.

Adrian and his friend Ed decided to take part. They got decked out wearing white shorts, red ties, grey trousers and straw boaters.

They decided that Adrian would play drums and Ed would go on the piano.

They worked out a routine but Adrian made such a racket on the drums and was playing a march that he didn’t realise Ed was playing a waltz.

At the end of their act Ivy asked the audience of a couple of thousand in the Villa Gardens to show their appreciation by clapping.

Four people clapped - his uncle, aunt and two cousins Pauline and Jennifer.

He remembers delicious Manx Ices and loved the unique horse trams and the Isle of Man bug bit him. He returned again with his wife to be and two friends and they danced most nights in the wonderful Palace Ballroom.

The Squadronaires always played the latest hits. He remembers also seeing Freddie and the Dreamers relaxing with a game of crazy golf at the Derby Castle, Susan Maughan was also appearing at the Crescent.

They also went to see Karma ‘The Lightning Hypnotist’ at the Royalty Theatre.

They usually finished off the night having supper on the veranda of the Swiss Cafe. They were in the island when the ‘Manx Maid’ completed her maiden voyage and he remembers morning coffees at the Groudle Glen Cafe before a railway trip.

In 1992, jazz musician and Port St Mary resident Ronnie Aldrich sailed in to Bangor Marina on his beloved yacht ‘Margaret’.

Adrian was then town clerk and he was welcomed on board and they shared a bottle of wine. Sadly Ronnie passed away not long after.

Happy memories of the Isle of Man, thank you for getting in touch and sharing them. They will strike a chord with many readers.

David Cretney - (Isle of Man Newspapers)