Monday, 7 May 2007

Digging for gold

Well, who'd have thought it? Under a soggy carpet of peat, heather and gorse near Omagh in County Tyrone, grazed by innocent sheep for generations, lie around 14 tonnes of gold, worth tens of millions of pounds. And there could be a lot more.

Farmer Sam McKinley was staggered when he heard the news. He thought the only benefit of the Cavanacaw bog was his glowing skin after tending the sheep on a summer's day.

But yes, there really is gold in them thar bogs. Enough to compete seriously in the global gold jewellery business, worth £3 billion. Enough to produce rings, earrings and pendants as good as those last made by Celtic goldsmiths in the Bronze Age.

The company running the new mine is called Galantas - Gaelic for "elegant thing". The sole jeweller in Omagh selling Galantas gold has been almost cleared out, such is the demand. They've had customers not just from Northern and Southern Ireland but as far away as Brazil. A price tag of £1,200 on some items is no deterrent.

Local residents still can't quite believe something so glamorous has emerged from Omagh, the town best-known up till now for the Real IRA car-bomb that killed 29 people in August 1998, the worst single atrocity of the Troubles. Now Omagh will be known for jewellery as beautiful as the pottery from Belleek, a few miles away on Lower Lough Erne, and the glassware from Tyrone Crystal at nearby Dungannon.

It's a well-deserved economic boost for this pretty and unassuming town, perhaps providing some compensation for the dreadful misery unleashed on it nine years ago.

And who knows what might be lying under all those other bogs? Has anyone got a spade?

(For more details, see today's story in the Independent)


  1. Ok, how serious should I take this story?

  2. Hmmm, why do you ask, Flirty? Do you know something I don't know? Is it actually plastic with a gold veneer??