IT is the small hamlet on the Lecale coastline that has captured the hearts of thousands of Van Morrison fans.
Coney Island was made famous by the legendary Belfast-born singer songwriter in his 1990 song of the same name that tells the story of a childhood trip with his mother to the seaside.
The trip from Belfast in the song names the localities of Downpatrick, St John’s Point, Strangford Lough, Shrigley, Killyleagh, Lecale and Ardglass. The narrative vividly pictures a bright autumn day of birdwatching, stopping for Sunday papers, and for “a couple of jars of mussels and some potted herrings in case we get famished before dinner.”
The song has enchanted his millions of fans worldwide and has spawned a mini tourist industry taking fans to the various places names in the song.
But top of the list is Coney Island where local residents regularly meet up with visitors from far afield looking to experience some of the beauty that so inspired the youthful Van Morrison.
However, the theft of the sign welcoming visitors to the area has left tourists with nothing to be photographed beside on their journey around the singer’s Lecale coastline.
The sign disappeared several weeks ago and now one local councillor is urging Newry, Mourne and Down Council to capitalise on the tourist potential of the area and erect an appropriate sign.
Councillor Cadogan Enright said a bus load of American tourists were the latest “Van tourists” to visit Coney Island last week who he claimed were disappointed there was no sign.
“Increasing numbers of visitors are flocking this way on account of the Van Morrison connection and Van tours are coming through Ardglass, Coney Island and Killough,” he said.
“Annoyingly someone has stolen the street/village sign and we had a bunch of Americans here yesterday, much put out by the absence of the sign.
“This would be an opportunity to put up a nice sign with an explanation of the origins of Inis Coinín for both locals and visitors. I hope Newry, Mourne and Down Council doesn’t miss out on this excellent opportunity to pay tribute to a wonderful song from a famous singer and to appropriately sell this beautiful part of the world,” said councillor Enright.