RADIO Ulster DJ Alan Simpson yesterday paid tribute to “one of a kind” nightclub owner James Kelly who was buried this week. The presenter, speaking after the Portrush entertainment legend’s funeral on Wednesday, said:
“James was an extraordinary visionary always one step ahead with incredible style, vision and passion.
“There will never be another like him again – a unique one-off character and a gentleman who will be dearly missed.”
Mr Kelly, 65, died last Friday at his Randal Park home after a short illness, leaving one of Ulster’s most popular nightspots as his legacy.
Kelly’s club in Portrush draws thousands of revellers every weekend and has showcased top entertainers including Thin Lizzy, Boy George and Fat Boy Slim.
Mr Simpson – now the voice of BBC Radio Ulster’s flagship daily afternoon show – got into the DJ business because of the flamboyant businessman.
He added: “I got involved in entertainment through Kelly’s and after playing there became part of the Kelly’s family.”
Mr Simpson, who spoke at his old friend’s funeral in Portrush, said it was attended by around 1,000 people.
“It was the biggest service I’ve ever been at, filled with friends and family,” he said.
Mr Kelly started out in the 1960s hosting barn dances in farm buildings in the seaside town of Portrush. He proved himself as an ideas man, cashing in on the disco craze of the 1970s and transforming one of the barns he used into one of the world’s best-known clubs.
It’s Lush! events attracted top-name DJs including Carl Cox, Pete Tong and Boy George over its 40-year history.
Mr Simpson said: “Despite all of James’s achievements, he was an intensely private man, and would never want to take credit for what he did.
“But to build a humble farmhouse into a world-famous nightclub takes a very special person.”