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Assume Nothing - The Shankill Gold Rush

Black and white photo of the Shankill Road in 1960’s Belfast.
The Shankill Road in 1960’s Belfast.

Summer 1969, weeks before Northern Ireland changes completely, and young Billy Stevenson is playing in the rubble of a demolition site on Belfast’s Lower Shankill Road.

He climbs what’s left of an old chimney stack and is about to drop back down when he notices a tin box hidden in the brick. When he pries the box open hundreds, maybe thousands of gold sovereigns hidden and forgotten years before, tumble to the ground. He’s struck gold!

He can’t wait to get back to school and tell his friends, but within two weeks headlines of the gold rush are replaced by those of violence and terror.

A rumour has persisted locally about who owned the gold found in 1969, but as author Glenn Patterson investigates, he's stunned to find that it might have links to an ancient insurgency. Half a century on, he visits the Lower Shankill Road to find out who the coins really belonged to.

The Shankill Gold Rush Graphic

Why were they hidden? And where are they now?

Assume Nothing - The Shankill Gold Rush is available now in its entirety on the BBC Sounds App.


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