A HISTORIC pendant belonging to one of Scotland’s most famous noblemen has been discovered by a metal detector enthusiast in what has been described as “the find of a lifetime.”
The seven century-old treasure is believed to have belonged to Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, who was stabbed to death by his rival to the Scottish throne, Robert the Bruce, in 1306.
The hobbyist who uncovered the harness pendant from a muddy Kinross-shire field near Loch Leven Castle has told that he assumed the item was a worthless prefect’s badge dating from the 1960s, given it was in such good condition.
However, it is thought the rare medieval artefact fell from the bridle of Sir John’s horse, with the history books showing the knight defeated invading English armies at the castle five years before his bloody death.
The red and gold ornament is now in the possession of Treasure Trove Scotland, the body which ensures that significant objects from the nation’s past are preserved in museums for the wider public benefit.
Sir John, also known as the Red Comyn, was the son of one of the many contenders to the Scottish throne following the death of Alexander III and his granddaughter, the Maid of Norway.
He was infamously murdered before the altar of a Dumfries church by Robert the Bruce, who would be crowned King of Scotland just six weeks later.
The pendant was found by John Eldridge from North Berwick who said that he had never made such a discovery in three decades of scouring fields with his metal detector. The 67-year-old made the find during an organised metal detecting outing near the castle on 3 February.
Later analysis showed that the crest on the pendant matches that of the Comyn coat of arms with both depicting three sheaves of wheat.
Recalling the moment he stumbled across the shield-shaped decoration, Mr Eldridge said the group he was with became excited after he showed them what he had plucked from the soil.
He said: “It’s the find of a lifetime. I’ve been searching for historic gems for more than 30 years and found nothing like this. It was just two or three inches down in the soil.
“It’s been in the ground for 700 years but it was in such good condition that when I picked it up I thought it might be a prefect’s badge or something from the 1950s or 60s.
“I put it in my pocket and asked some of the others. The first person I showed it to became very excited and said, ‘This is a horse pendant’.”
He added: “I did some research and found the crest of the Comyn family. It has three sheaves of wheat in silver, but the pennant is in gold. There was a strict code in the medieval period. The only people who were allowed to wear gold at that time were people of high status - earls and above.
“It seems to me this belonged to John Comyn. If so then it’s an important part of Scottish history.”
The pendant features a pin with the ring at the top, although the ring is broken, suggesting it fallen off the decorated harness worn around the bridle or chest of Sir John’s steed.
The exact location of the discovery is being kept secret to prevent “nighthawks” - described by Mr Eldridge described as “common thieves” from digging up the land without permission and stealing other valuable artefacts which may be in the area.
The pendant is currently being examined by experts, and once verified, it is expected it will be allocated to a museum.
A spokeswoman for Treasure Trove Scotland said: “There is little doubt that harness pendants were prominent symbols of status during the medieval period, sending out a clear message about the prestige of the rider, a knight, as well as their family connections or allegiances.”