The Australian Standing Stones began as an ambitious project by a small, dedicated group of citizens who wanted to mark Glen Innes’ Celtic heritage.
It was in Australia’s 1988 Bicentenary Year that the Celtic Council of Australia developed the idea of erecting a national monument to honour all Celtic peoples who helped pioneer Australia. Glen Innes responded with a 46-page submission for Australian Standing Stones, inspired by the Ring of Brodgar in Scotland’s Orkneys.
In announcements from Scotland by David Donnelly, then Glen Innes’ Mayor, and from Sydney by Peter Alexander, then convener of the Celtic Council of Australia, it was official: Glen Innes was chosen. But no money came with the right to build the Stones.
John Tregurtha, a pharmacist, chairman of the committee delegated to build the array, and Lex Ritchie, then the town’s tourist officer and an expert bushman, spent three months scouring the bush within 50km of Glen Innes for the stones. They had to stand 3.7 metres from ground level, which meant each to be 5.5 metres in total length.
They found only three stones which could be used in their natural state – others had to be split from larger rock bodies. A former Snowy Mountains Scheme worker and local alderman George Rozynski, who at 17 migrated with his family from Poland, came up with the solution. He remembered his rock drilling work on the Snowy and heard of a new expanding compound which could split rocks without using explosives.
With another alderman, Bill Tyson, he spent hours in the bush drilling massive granite rocks. “The compound was a powder which was mixed to the consistency of a slurry and poured into the drill holes,” Mr Rozynski recalled. “When we returned the next morning the rock was cracked…”
It took more than six months of further effort, spearheaded by Bob Dwyer, who went on to become Glen Innes’ Mayor, and businessman Ted Nowlan, using a 12 tonne forklift and other heavy equipment to load and transport the stones on a timber loader to the Centennial Parklands site. The weight of the stones averaged 17 tonnes.
Sponsors were invited to pay $1000 each to help defray the cost of the Stones. Clans, families and others from across Australia and the world responded and within a fortnight all were snapped up.
The three central Stones were excluded from sponsorship: the Australis Stone for all Australians, the Gaelic Stone for Gaelic speaking Celts from Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, and the Brythonic Stone for the Brythonic-speaking Celts of Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.
The Australian Standing Stones were officially opened by the then NSW Governor, Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, on February 1, 1992.
Increasingly, the Standing Stones are becoming known throughout Australia because of the success of the Australian Celtic Festival and continual media exposure. As well as being the national monument to Australia’s Celtic pioneers, they are recognised by the Celtic Council of Australia as the national gathering point for Celtic descendants and clans. They have also, through the Australian Celtic Festival’s success, attracted government funding to help promote further Celtic events throughout the year.
Details of the Australian Standing Stones are provided by the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre.
Discover all that Glen Innes and the surrounding district has to offer. Don’t miss the Celtic Activities at the Standing Stones and Glen Innes. For details visit the Calendar of Events.
This book, a definite history of the Australian Standing Stones by a pioneer of the array and former teacher John Mathew, was launched during the 2012 Australian Celtic Festival.
“The History of the Australian Standing Stones” features an extensive collection of black and white and full colour photos. It details the history and significance of the Australian Standing Stones and is a tribute to the people of Glen Innes who value their Celtic heritage and culture.
This collectors’ item is on sale at the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre, priced at $25.00. For more information contact the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre on (02) 6730 2400.