Celtic Brooch Saved for Irish Heritage

22nd March 2018 — 16 Comments

Les Graydon of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland had been detecting for about two and a half years when he made a significant find of a Celtic brooch on boggy-type land – with his Garrett Ace 250. The discovery attracted a lot of attention, and for many reasons. “My friends and I often search in mud covered up to the eyeballs,” he ruefully commented.


The mud-splattered Les didn’t really expect to nd anything of great age and value on the land he detects. He’d searched the field – owned by his father-in-law – many times and found only bullets, the remains of ration packs and other associated military equipment. Over the years there had been a prolonged army presence on the land, and the brooch came as a complete surprise, even though he had found a few Georgian bronze coins on previous visits.

Kevin Leahy, National Adviser, Early Medieval Metalwork commented: ‘It’s a typical Irish penannular brooch and is strikingly similar to one from Carrafin Lough, Rivory, Co. Cavan (Youngs, The Work of Angels, 1989, No. 191). Both share the openwork along their edges which, on Carrafin, represent animals. It will date to the 9th century.’

The magnificent Celtic bronze brooch was found in an area that had once, during the troubles (the violent 30 year conflict in Northern Ireland) housed an observation tower. The boggy-type land had been relatively kind to it, because it is complete with pin.


Less than two miles away is Southern Ireland, also referred to as the Republic, where the situation is very different and detecting is illegal, unless you have a licence. Les’ exciting discovery is a prime example of how Ireland’s buried history can be recovered from the soil and become part of its proud heritage.

Yet, if the brooch had been found a couple of fields away using a detector, I might have been writing about the trials, tribulations and imprisonment of Les Graydon for breaking Republican law. Perhaps it is time to pause and think for a moment on the idiocy of the present metal detecting situation in Ireland.

Les admits that he is a comparative novice and has a lot to learn. He had some idea on what he had found. “When you read about Irish history, this brooch seems to me a definitive item, worn by kings and chieftains. I picture them wearing this brooch on a cape.” Regarding his find as, “quite cool,” he didn’t think the brooch was that important as it wasn’t gold or silver.


Les Graydon

Not having the relevant experience, he immediately sort advice from an online detecting forum on how he should clean the item and, especially, what he should do next.

He wrote, “I was only two minutes on one of my permissions near home in Northern Ireland, when I got the lovely wee double-ding and pulled this out of the dark brown soil. The pin is four inches long and the detail is brilliant. What is the best way to preserve it? Should I wipe it with Vaseline? And what do I do next?”

There’s a lot of dubious cleaning advice on forums, but luckily Les’ request caught the attention of Liam Nolan who said, “… (This is) a beautiful and very valuable (historically speaking) item of Irish heritage. Please DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY cleaning and show it to the nearest museum. It deserves to be recorded as soon as possible. Try to remember the exact nd spot but don’t detect it any more as there may be some contextual material there that the archaeologists will want to examine first …”


Les took his (uncleaned) find to Enniskillen Museum, as there isn’t a FLO in Northern Ireland, he handed it over and signed a piece of paper. The curator admitted not knowing much about the brooch, placed it in a drawer and said that someone would come down from the Ulster Museum to look at it.

And that’s how it stands at the moment. I shall bring you and update when there is more to report. When conditions improve Les will visit the field again … even though he has searched it “a million times.”


The brooch was duly collected by the Ulster Museum and, hopefully, will be on display soon. Les received a cheque for £2250. He’s looking for more off the same …


Adapted from a UK Searcher magazine article


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16 responses to Celtic Brooch Saved for Irish Heritage

  1. That’s a cracking find John and a great story with a nice cheque to boot, I certainly hope that he gives the area a good going over and that he comes up with more of the same. It’s a beautiful item and the find of a lifetime.

    Thanks for the Blog John.

  2. Bruce D Campbell 22nd March 2018 at 4:47 PM

    That is a cracking find John. I appreciate the fact that he was well compensated for turning it over to the authorities.

  3. Great Article John and a great find. I can only imagine how galvanised he must feel at the moment. A great day for him and Ireland.

  4. wow …well done Les and many thanks john for doing a write up on it …great reading my friend

  5. A very nice Tara brooch indeed. Not a grand, showy-offy one, but an honest-to-goodness one which somehow commands your attention. We do like it (the wife, being Irish, likes it too.) The Repulic antiquarian types don’t like metal detecting; as one might say over there, it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to get your mitts on a detecting licence. However, the beach seems to be OK. When we visit the in-laws in the West I always check with the lads in the cop-shop and they’re always fine about it, but they do like to run through what kind of finds will involve them; not that I’ve found anything of interest except a George II penny and the brass label from a copper-sulphate hand-sprayer for the blight… A grand wee story John… Cheers!

  6. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 23rd March 2018 at 3:52 AM

    Wow Les what a great find.

    Thanks for pointing it out to us John.

    It’s clear I need to sell my CTX 3030 and upgrade to the Ace 250. LOL……

  7. I’m always awe-struck by the amazing talent of the Celtic craftsmen. Fantastic find and great story, John. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for this story John, perhaps the find by Les will lead to changes, which are long overdue, in the way those who uphold antiquated laws in Ireland think.
    Then we can all enjoy seeing the history of the country come to life.

  9. Great story John. I think the Republic should adapt to the rest of the U.K. regarding metal detecting laws and thus providing an extra resource to discovering Irish history. I wonder if Les used his reward to upgrade his detector or save it?


  10. I know so many people – and written about their marvellous discoveries – who have immediately ‘upgraded’ the ACE for a ‘better’ and more expensive machine. As my mate in the States might say: ‘Go Figure’.

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