Dame Evelyn Glennie … Detectorist

13th November 2017 — 11 Comments

There have been some exciting detecting discoveries in recent years and the Staffordshire, Galloway and Lenborough Hoards are just an example. Working as Assistant Editor with the Searcher magazine, I have been fortunate enjoyed bringing you the exclusive finders’ stories on those and many other important and significant finds.

There has also been the ‘bread-and- butter’ tales that are the staple of any detecting magazine, plus the rather unusual. For example, I was the first – to interview Mackenzie Crook before his highly acclaimed, award-winning TV series ‘Detectorists’ aired.

I can give you many other past examples of innovative and interesting content, but my story today is about a remarkable lady who will hopefully motivate and inspire you.

You may have heard of 52 year-old Dame Evelyn Glennie CH, DBE, and you may also know that she is a percussionist, celebrated worldwide and held in high esteem. But did you know that when not performing with leading orchestras or collaborating with fellow virtuosos, she is a detectorist who has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12.

Pictures courtesy of Rosie Matheson

Detecting – a Tactile Experience

Maybe it sounds a strange concept to you, but as well as listening to music with her body and not her ears, that is also how she hears the sounds of those targets under the ground. For Evelyn, detecting, like music, is very much a tactile experience,

She doesn’t use headphones and finds that the body pays attention to so much more. In a recent interview she said that low sounds are alive in the bottom part of her body and high sounds she feels in the cheekbones. “Clearly it’s happening to us all she said but I’d never paid attention because I thought everything came through here, (pointing to her ears). Hearing and feeling are difficult to separate.”

Evelyn chose to speak with me on Skype, no doubt expecting to pick up valuable clues from my ugly face and animated lips. Alas, my scraggy moustache and beard can’t have helped with communication but with a little help from her PA Maria, there were few difficulties.

A hobby you can do most of the year

Evelyn has been intrigued by detecting for a number of years but hadn’t done anything about it until about three years ago, when her partner bought a Garrett Ace 250 as a Christmas present. She was so thrilled, couldn’t wait to give it a whirl, and enjoyed searching the garden in the freezing cold. “Rain, wind, snow – it doesn’t matter and it’s a hobby you can do most of the year. I embrace the fact that you can get outside; enjoy looking at the countryside in a way you may not have done before.”

© Rosie Matheson

What she likes about the hobby is that is a completely different ‘place’ from what she does as a musician, and further explained, ‘’It gets me out into the countryside. Going out alone or with others, not expecting to find anything and then making a find is a pleasurable experience.”

“The Garrett is an easy machine to use and understand with few controls to master,” explained Evelyn. She then went on to explain how she depends a lot on what the control box indicator is telling her, and whether what lies under the coil is iron or something else. She is ‘very happy’ with the Garrett and told me that a more advanced model is out of the question … unless she finds the time to get out more often.

Advantages Being a Geek?

One of the advantages of the hobby is that the gear doesn’t take up too much room and is easily transportable; she usually keeps it in her vehicle. Useful on that occasion when she finds herself in a situation when swinging is possible and permission has been granted.

Then, I put words into her mouth by suggesting that her new hobby was ‘geeky’ and asking what her friends thought. She politely laughed, then confided, “I’ve never really asked them, but once they realise they are intrigued. I think it’s a fascinating subject. I really do.”

Evelyn © Jim Callaghan

One of Evelyn’s finds that first year was a horseshoe, which she showed on her Facebook page proudly saying, “Santa gave me a metal detector for Christmas which I’ve wanted to try for a long time. Here is one of my first finds! Who could ask for a better omen? Happy – and lucky – 2015 to all of you!”

On top of Evelyn’s wish list is a crotal bell, especially one with the ‘clanger’ still intact and capable of making a noise. She has kept everything found so far including all kinds of nails, lead, assorted dross and “all sorts of interesting things
I don’t recognise.” And I reckon that day will come.

In the course of the discussion, I was advised that a new hobby requires patience and novices shouldn’t be disheartened if at first they don’t find anything of note. There was more to detecting than finding things.

Although I don’t profess to understand fully, I realise that music and the sounds experienced in detecting have a lot in common … and more than just what comes through the ears. How you interpret the resonance of that sound in its journey through the body is massively important. I was beginning to understand.

Evelyn said, “It all starts before that just looking at a piece of ground … is it a good place to detect? Is it too wet, muddy or sandy? Taking time to study the terrain is important. I’m picking up every clue possible and not relying on just one thing. Detecting for me is a massive learning curve. I also believe that what you are viewing is as important as how you are feeling at the time.”

Evelyn concluded by saying, “I’m not an expert in detecting, but like my music, it’s all about listening, concentration and not being easily distracted. Understand your machine, the ground you are walking on and bring all the ingredients together … give yourself an experience!”

Some of Evelyn’s Finds

Short Biography 

Evelyn Glennie is the first person in history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist, performing worldwide with the greatest conductors, orchestras, and artists. She had the honour of a leading role in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

With over 80 international awards to date, Evelyn is also a leading commissioner of new works for solo percussion, with more than 200 pieces to her name from many of the world’s most eminent composers. 

Evelyn continues to invest in realising her vision – to Teach the World to Listen – while looking to open a centre that embodies her mission: “to improve communication and social cohesion by encouraging everyone to discover new ways of listening. We want to inspire, to create, to engage and to empower”. 

Evelyn was awarded an OBE in 1993, a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2007 and the Companion of Honour in 2016. 


Adapted from an article previously published in the UK Searcher magazine



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11 responses to Dame Evelyn Glennie … Detectorist

  1. “she is a detectorist who has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12.” And what a handicap to, well not overcome, but adapt to.. A very inspiring story John.

    This lady has had accolades heaped upon her and they are well deserved.

    Thank you my friend


  2. I think I may have mentioned to John that I contacted her and let her know that the Nokta and maybe others have a Vibrating handle which would alert her when she went over a target.

  3. Awesome John… Awesome….

  4. very interesting read.
    I was in this niche for a while but haven’t found something that i can share proudly on my website 🙁

    I was looking for some inspiration and landed on this page and this really fills my hope of finding something great like Evelyn did.

  5. Oh for a total crotal. I know that feeling. This lady has my deepest respect. Her achievements as a percussionist are outstanding.

  6. What an amazing lady…full of admiration… I hope she finds that Crotal Bell soon.

  7. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 14th November 2017 at 6:15 AM

    It’s amazing how our bodies can adapt, if we just listen to what it is saying to us.

    I know a girl who is legally deaf as well, and a few years ago I taught her how to hear underwater. She told me it changed her life.

    A not so ordinary story is likely the most interesting to me John.

  8. When I first read this in Searcher magazine, the first though was, what an inspirational lady.

    The last was, and remains, I would like to meet her. Totally incredible person. Thank you.

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