Back in the day, maybe when you were a bit younger, you used to have a lot of fun with metal detectors. I used to spend quite a few weekends at the park with my metal detector, and I can tell you from personal experience that there are few sensations that match the rush you get when you come across some metal, and your contraption squeals along in delight.
Most of the time, I would excitedly dig up an empty beer can or a cigarette lighter, but with each new excavation, I harboured new hope that I would discover something cool, like a murder weapon or a treasure chest, inside which would be untold riches for me to spend on an obscene amount of candy.
Neither of those things happened for me, but Derek McLennan had significantly better luck. Hailing from Scotland, Derek came across something quite spectacular with his metal detector in 2014, and his hobby has now made the humble metal detectorist a millionaire.
In the Dumfries and Galloway region of south western Scotland, Derek McLennan discovered a collection of rare Viking artefacts from the 10th century. Three years ago, Derek and his metal detector came across a hoard expensive jewellery, including a gold ring and an enamelled Christian cross.
Derek shares his metal detecting hobby with his partner, Sharon McKee, and on Facebook, she expressed her delight at the discovery being featured in Scotland’s museums.
We are honoured and feel privileged to have saved this internationally significant treasure and we look forward to the many exciting discoveries that will be further revealed. We cannot wait for its eventual display in Scotland’s National Museum.
Derek passed his findings over to the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (QLTR), which has the final say on goods and properties without an owner. David Harvie, who works at the QLTR and passed the hoard on to the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) declared Derek’s discovery one of the most “important finds ever discovered” in the country.
I am pleased to announce that I am minded to accept the recommendation of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel [Safap] that these wonderful items be allocated to National Museums Scotland, subject to it meeting the ex gratia award which would then be payable to the finder.
Payable to the finder indeed: in the rest of the United Kingdom, any reward of this kind is split between the discoverer and the landowner, but north of Hadrian’s Wall, the finder is truly the keeper. The QLTR ruled that the NMS must now pay Derek nearly £2 million to display his findings, and the NMS’ Dr Gordon Rintoul said he was “delighted” to welcome the hoard into the museums.
We now have six months to raise £1.98m to acquire this unique treasure for the nation and ensure it can be enjoyed by future generations both at home and abroad.
They say that if you do your hobby for a living, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Derek McLennan started metal detecting with the understanding that he’d probably never make a dime out of his hobby, but although he didn’t strike gold that day in the Galloway field, he came pretty darned close.