Giant's Causeway shop owner to carry on despite eviction by National Trust
"We're not beat yet!"
That was the defiant message last night from Giant's Causeway souvenir shop owner Tommy McConaghy and his daughter Julie.
The famous family souvenir shop closed its doors yesterday when Julie locked up for the last time.
The National Trust, which runs a visitor centre at Northern Ireland's only Unesco World Heritage site, plans to build a toilet block on the site of the shop.
"It's a sad day, a sad day surely," Tommy said last night.
"But I'm not going to go away.
"I'm looking at ways and means of staying in business.
"As General McArthur used to say: 'I'll be back'."
Tommy's father opened the shop after he came out of the Navy back in 1947 and both he, wife Ann and Julie have spent their working lives there.
Mr McConaghy said his father made blackthorn walking sticks - including one presented to Prince Charles on a visit in 1998 - and musical shillelaghs.
A blackthorn stick from the McConaghy family was also presented to Prince Philip by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley on a royal visit last year.
After locking up the shop for the final time yesterday, an emotional Julie said: "This has been a very difficult, very sad day for all of us.
"I've been working in that shop for 50 years - and now that's gone."
But, she said, as one door closes, another opens. She and her dad (70) will be working together to open up a new souvenir shop close by in Bushmills, near the famous distillery.
"It will be beside the Distiller's Arms" she said.
"The new shop needs a lot of work to get it ready, but I'm aiming to open on March 9, just before St Patrick's Day".
Both Julie and Tommy are grateful - and have been heartened by - the massive outpouring of support they have experienced since the National Trust decided not to renew their lease on the Giant's Causeway shop.
Tommy was given an eviction notice by the National Trust last year.
The family challenged the order, but were told to shut up their shop by the end of this month.