FOR aspiring treasure hunters reluctant to brave the elements to find their bounty, it is proof that patience and persistence will reveal a silver lining.
Two men using metal detectors have uncovered what is believed to be Scotland’s largest ever haul of medieval silver coins after bracing atrocious gale-force weather.
Derek McLennan and Gus Paterson spent five hours in heavy rain and biting winds during their search near Kirkcudbright, and had been on the verge of calling it quits.
However, after “stumbling across” a few silver coins, they decided to press on with their hunt and eventually unearthed more than 300. The coins, which date from around 1249 to 1325, bear the profiles of monarchs including Alexander III of Scotland and John Balliol, who ruled from 1292 to 1296, as well as Edward I, Edward II and Edward III.
The find has now been declared to Scotland’s Treasure Trove, the body which ensures significant objects from the nation’s past are preserved in museums for public benefit.
The two men were searching in a field near Twynholm shortly before Christmas when they came close to giving up. Mr McLennan, 46, explained: “We’d been searching for about five hours in atrocious weather, with horizontal rain and 60mph gales and we were both feeling rather scunnered in the last field before we were heading for the car.
“I went one direction and Gus went the other. Gus was lucky enough to hit the first two coins. There was jubilation all round, as I’m sure you can imagine.”
The friends, who both live in Hollybush, near Ayr, said they had an inkling they might find something in the field, but nothing quite prepared them for what they found under the earth – no fewer than 322 coins.
“We’d done quite a lot of research and targeted that particular area,” added Mr McLennan, a semi-retired businessman. “We’d searched several fields around it before we stumbled across it – a little bit of luck. Although it’s a hobby we are serious about it so we immediately recognised it was medieval hammered coins.
“It was actually two stuck together, which is highly unusual, so that led us to believe there was a possible hoard of coins in the area and we just started searching.”
On the first day of looking they netted about 40 coins as darkness fell, but subsequent return trips to the site saw them find a further 282.
Mr Paterson, a 48-year-old social care worker who has been detecting for just ten months, recalled: “We knew right away it could be a hoard of coins stacked on top of each other.
“I couldn’t turn for signals, my detector was just making the noise, ‘ding, ding, ding’. You get to know when you hit silver.”
He said the estimated value of the coins has been put at around £15,000, but added: “We estimate it at between £25,000 and £45,000, for there are some very rare ones.”
Although the finders of treasure have no legal claim to a reward, it is likely both men will receive an ex gratia payment for their haul based on its market value.
Mr McLennan said the find had been declared to Scotland’s Treasure Trove Unit and that neither of them were looking to profit from their find.
He said: “We’re not in it for the money.
“We just do it for the history and the love of the hobby and being out with other like-minded people.”
Archeologists from the Treasure Trove unit, managed by the Crown Office, have yet to inspect the coins.
• Photos courtesy of ayrshirephotography.co.uk