Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Rocks sell for £20,000 at auction — but are they really from Giant’s Causeway?

One of seven stones believed to be from the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland

They might only be big lumps of rock — but these seven stones have just fetched almost £20,000 at auction.

The collection of monoliths believed to be from the world-famous Giant’s Causeway in Co Antrim, went under the hammer in England yesterday and were sold to an overseas buyer —thought to be in America — for £19,112.50.

“Following significant interest in both the room and on the telephone, they were bought by an overseas telephone bidder,” a spokeswoman for Summers Place Auctions in West Sussex said.

For the past 35 years the stones were used to protect Rathmore Golf Club in Portrush, where US Open Champion Graeme McDowell began his golfing career during the height of the Troubles.

The stones were bought by the club in 1974 and positioned in the car park between the locker rooms and entrance hall to prevent a car bomb attack after several other clubhouses and sports pavilions across Northern Ireland were damaged in explosions.

Rathmore is the club where McDowell (31) learned to play before going on to win this year's US Open at Pebble Beach and then the match which clinched the Ryder Cup for Europe against the United States at Celtic Manor, South Wales, earlier this month.

The club bought the stones from a quarry company more than 35 years ago.

The golfers decided they were no longer needed last year, and had them hoisted onto the back of two lorries and taken away.

They agreed a nominal fee with a man who wanted them as part of plans to landscape his garden.

It is understood the rocks were too big for the project and were then sold on.

Yesterday they went up for sale as Lot Number 132 at a sale in Billingshurst in West Sussex.

Willie McIntyre from Rathmore Golf Club said: “We sold them to somebody else, who wanted them for a landscape garden project but they were far too big.

“He then sold them on to a third party.

“They were security stones back in the ‘70s. Whether or not they are actually from the Causeway is debatable.

“The figure they went for at auction for is nothing like what we sold them for.”

It is understood the bidder might make a donation to the Portrush club.

Despite their hefty price tag, there is much scepticism about the stones’ authenticity.

Moyle District Councillor Price McConaghy, whose constituency includes the Causeway said: “I doubt if they even came from the Causeway.

“I know a few people locally that have real Causeway stones in their gardens and I think they should all be rushing out to sell them now.”

Meanwhile a spokeswoman for the National Trust said: “Naturally we would be concerned that someone would want to sell basaltic columns at auction.

“We are genuinely concerned that someone is trying to make money from the stones that may have been from the Causeway.

“That said, we cannot actually prove they are from the World Heritage site, or if, or when, they would have been taken from the Giant’s Causeway.

“The fact is that the Giant’s Causeway has been under National Trust ownership since 1961 and a World Heritage Site since 1986. It is protected so people cannot exploit it.”

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