‘GIANT’S CAUSEWAY’ STONES GO UNDER THE HAMMER

Giant’s Causeway-shaped stones once used to protect

US

Open golf champion Graeme McDowell’s

home club from IRA car bombs have been put up for sale, it was

revealed today.

The collection of seven hexagonal basalt column sections which

were outside the Rathmore clubhouse at Portrush, Co Antrim, at the

height of the terrorist campaign, is being auctioned in England

with a £10,000-£25,000 asking price.

The stones were bought by the club in 1974 and positioned in the

car park between the locker rooms and entrance hall to try to

prevent an attack after several other clubhouses and sports

pavilions across Northern Ireland were damaged in explosions.

The firm handling next week’s sale said the stones originated

from the famous North Coast tourist attraction.

Rathmore, 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, bought the stones

from a quarry company more than 35 years ago.

The club decided they were no longer needed and got rid of them

when they were hoisted onto the back of two lorries last year and

taken away. They agreed a nominal fee with a man who wanted them as

part of plans to landscape his garden.

He then sold them on to another man, and next Tuesday they will

go under the hammer as Lot Number 132 at a sale in Billingshurst,

West Sussex.

Catalogue details said: ”Preliminary research would suggest

that stones of this size and magnificence, with each example

weighing in the region of two tonnes, are possibly unique outside

their original location and as such represents a ‘once only’

opportunity to acquire such rarities.”

James Rylands, director of Summers Place Auctions Ltd, said

today: ”We’ve never had anything like this before. It’s incredibly

rare. We have heard that some people may have carried away stones

from the Giant’s Causeway before, but nothing on this scale.

”There are very few other locations in the UK, or indeed

throughout the world, where there are similar geologically

configured stones like these.

”It’s a pity they came out of the Giant’s Causeway. We can’t

put them back, but I want to give them as wide an audience as

possible, and they go to good home, hopefully back in Northern

Ireland, where they will be appreciated. It’s a real piece of

history.”

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s top tourist attraction

with 750,000 visitors a year, was declared a World Heritage site by

Unesco in 1986. It has been owned by the National Trust since 1961.

A new £18.5 million visitors’ centre is due to open in

2012.

A trust spokeswoman said the removal of stones from the site

would be in breach of conservation regulations.

She said: ”Naturally as custodians of the Giant’s Causeway

World Heritage site we are disappointed to see basaltic columns for

auction. That said, we cannot actually prove they are from the

World Heritage site, or if, or when, they would have been from the

Giant’s Causeway.”