Gold rush hope after £10k Wanlockhead nugget find

The most significant find of Scottish gold in the past 70 years was hauled from a river near Wanlockhead. Picture: JP
The most significant find of Scottish gold in the past 70 years was hauled from a river near Wanlockhead. Picture: JP
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LOCALS in Scotland’s highest village are preparing for a mini gold rush after a 20-carat nugget of the precious metal was discovered in a local river.

Locals in Scotland’s highest village are preparing for a mini gold rush after a 20-carat nugget of the precious metal was discovered in a local river.

The 18.1-gram lump of gold, worth an estimated £10,000, is the largest to be found in Scotland in seven decades.

But the “sizeable” gold chunk was nearly thrown back in the water by the Canadian tourist who spotted it.

The amateur prospector, who would give his name only as John, hails from the “gold rush” province of British Columbia in Canada.

He spied the nugget during a gold panning course run by expert Leon Kirk at the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway.

The Canadian said: “Leon was telling me how to look out for haematite, the red-coloured mineral which is often found with gold.

“We were a few minutes into panning when I found the nugget with a bean tin, an underwater viewing tin with a glass base.

“I saw the piece lying just under the surface of the water and picked it up.

“It didn’t look like much and I was just about to throw it back when I thought I should double check with Leon first. I said, ‘Is this gold?’, and couldn’t understand his excitement.

“Looking at the size of the piece, I still can’t believe it’s such a big deal but it’s very interesting to watch the reactions.”

Nuggets of this scale are very rare in Scotland, a country that is currently home to a single gold mine, near Tyndrum in Argyll.

But its scarcity and purity means Scottish gold often commands higher prices than pieces found elsewhere.

Most larger pieces have been found in this same small area of the Lowther Hills as this latest nugget. The area , which was once known as “God’s treasure house of Scotland” and the Scottish Parliament’s mace is gilded with flakes of metal found in the same region.

However, discoveries have also been made across the country – the Scottish crown jewels contain gold from Lanarkshire.

“This is such a major discovery that people will be talking about it in 30 years’ time,” according to Mr Kirk.

He added: “I like to tell my students that everyone goes home with a flake or two of gold, but this is exceptional.

“I always knew there were sizable nuggets in these hills but in my decades of panning have only found very small pieces or flakes.”

Staff at the museum are keeping the exact location of the find secret, over fears a stampede of modern-day prospectors could damage the delicate riverbed.

Museum trustee Gerard Godfrey said: “No doubt there will be a mini gold rush once this gets out, but we are very happy with that. There is now no doubt that there are some very large pieces of gold in these hills which are just waiting to be discovered.

“We are absolutely delighted with such a significant find.”

The new find nugget is not the biggest ever found in the UK. A lump of gold weighing 37.7 grams was unearthed in Devon last year.

The biggest discovery in Mr Kirk’s own 20-year collection is a Perthshire nugget of 16.5 grams.

He added.: “This find leaves a really positive message that there are still big nuggets out there to be found just a few inches beneath the water.”

Wanlockhead has played host to international gold panning contests, and this year’s Scottish and British championships took place there last month.