Colin Middleton was an Irish artist. Heavily influenced by van Gogh, he regarded himself as the only surrealist working in Ireland in the 1930s. During the 1960s, he was head of art at my old school – Friends’ School in Lisburn – but long before I was there!
The local story – as told to me – is that Middleton was staying in a house in Portstewart. He didn’t have the cash to pay for his lodging, so supplied the design for a mosaic instead. The artistic equivalent of having to do the dishes in a restaurant. (Has anyone ever tried this?)
The mosaic was eventually made to Middleton’s design, and still adorns the front wall of the property, which has an unrivalled view across the Portstewart Strand beach, across to Castlerock and beyond.
Years later, Middleton’s work became highly valued, and the mosaic caused the house to be listed. While the site could be worth between and half and one million pounds, it would be difficult to ever make the major changes needed to improve the existing structure and expoit the location while satisfying the planning restrictions.
Today the house looks unloved, though not entirely derelict.