I have churned the idea around in my head when I’ve been awake and when fitfully sleeping, but I still don’t know how to present this blog post. The idea continues to fascinate, but the structure eludes me. I know it’s going to be a hotchpotch, but I ask that you stick with me as I explore a few possibilities.
We need a Patron Saint of Metal Detecting! But how do we go about it? First, It may be educational if we knew the name of the Patron Saint of the Internet, and how he was chosen. Perhaps this is a lesson for all detectorists.
Around 1997, down in Apple’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, in Microsoft’s corporate facilities in California and in all parts of the world where Internet whizz-kids worked, schemed and ‘innovated’, there was one burning question. “Isn’t it about time we had a Patron Saint of the Internet?
The movement sprang up mostly among Catholic dot-com workers (as you might expect), who organised a petition – with a suggestion, and sent it to Pope John Paul II. Of course they had thought this through and had someone in mind, Saint Isidore of Seville.
Saint Isidore of Seville
There was a small detail that didn’t seem bother the petitioners and that was the fact Isidore popped his clogs in the year 625 or 636 or thereabouts – depending on what version of his life you read – and had never surfed the Web. But what was known is that during his lifetime he had compiled a very large encyclopaedia of existing knowledge called the ‘Etymologiae’, which could be regarded as the world’s first database. The saint was duly nominated for the role by the late Pope John Paul II.
Do you see where I am going with this? Saints are the patrons for particular causes including almost anything you can imagine from sports, to hobbies, to areas of interest in the world around us.
Normally, in the Catholic church, the process to make someone a saint cannot start until at least five years they after death, and you also have to have two confirmed miracles. But is that what sainthood is all about? Do you really have to be dead in order to be a saint? Is there any living person you know whom you’d call a saint?
I’ve thought about this and think that detectorists should have somebody of their own and not shared by other hobbies, pastimes or jobs. Somebody we can appeal to and ask advice after unearthing yet another pice of crap. But there’s the rub. Can you suggest anyone familiar to UK detectorists who might fit the role?
A Few Suggestions
My first contender is Dr Roger Bland, formerly a BM curator in the Department of Coins and Medals and was seconded to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport from 1994 to 2003. He was responsible for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a project to record all archaeological objects found by the public in England and Wales, and for the Museum’s operation of the Treasure Act.
Trevor Austin, former General Secretary of the National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD), until his death in 2016. Trevor worked tirelessly on behalf of the hobby and detectorists and is remembered with great affection.
David Lindon Lammy FRSA MP is a British Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Tottenham since 2000. When Minister for Culture and at at the launch of the PAS and Treasure Report for 2007, he described metal detectorists as “the unsung heroes of the UK’s heritage.” For that he will always be remembered.
Jim Halliday was a kind, thoughtful man, very modest about his talents as a detectorist and archeologist. Having spent his working life in the building industry he went on to build bridges between metal detectorists and archaeologists long before the start of the PAS. He was a stalwart at The Searcher for many years. Jim died in 2014 and is missed by many, including me.
BBC4 attracted a lot of attention in February 2014 when it was announced that Mackenzie Crook was filming a comedy series in which he plays a ‘wannabee archaeologist’. The comments on online detecting forums ranged from how the show might be very entertaining and worth watching, to how it would be detrimental to detectorists and the hobby. It’s probably the best thing to have happened to the hobby recently!
The list wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory candidate from the Monster Raving Looney Party. Realistically this blogger has done more with his bitter and abusive remarks to highlight metal detectorists than anyone else I know. I cannot bring myself to mention the name but many of you will know the guy. I include him because of Trump’s insistence that ‘all publicity’ (whether good or bad) is beneficial. He needs a new wig, I reckon!