Detectorist Del Dorman has a rare form of lymphoma and daughter Anna had a plan to cheer him up. Wouldn’t it be great if one of his many visits to hospital, he happened to pick up a Searcher magazine and realise that he was featured in one of the articles. A scheme was devised.
Under the pretence of collecting information for her son’s homework, she sent in a voice recorder and asked Dal to say something about himself and detecting finds. What follows is a distillation of that tape, the information supplied by Anna, and my interpretation.
I’ve written on several occasions how the hobby has helped people with varying disabilities – ranging from cancer, dementia and ADHD – to cope with and enjoy a better quality of life. I’m beginning to think it wouldn’t be a bad idea if detecting was one of the remedies recommended by the NHS … sponsored by Garrett or one of the other leading manufacturers, of course.
Which brings me nicely to my next subject. Sixty-five year old Shropshire lad Del Dorman has been an avid detectorist for about seven years, ever since he borrowed a friend’s machine. All it took to make him a ‘detecting junkie’ was the finding of a lone musket ball, a coin and a scrap piece of iron. He was hooked! One of his favourite phrases became, “I’m going digging!”
Since then, Del’s detecting has grown into his passion and he will tell anyone about ‘the greatest hobby in the world’. His home in the historic mark town of Bridgnorth, which he shares with his wife Bridget, is testament to this. He has a dedicated room with his collections, books, magazines, maps, research and equipment – any spare space is filled up with his finds – even the kitchen tiles are lined with old tokens lined atop of them.
Anna says, “My Dad gets real enjoyment out of detecting and, like the Ancient Mariner, will stop anyone who cares to listen to his tales. He will nervously laugh as he tells the story how he heard a strange noise and upon turning around saw two fully-grown stags coming toward him. Thankfully the sight of him with all his gear on meant they darted off into the nearby woods. He is often followed by sheep, gets his car stuck and has to wait for a tractor to pull him out.
The beautiful engraved gold wedding ring, which he thinks was associated with a Tolkien novel, is a favourite tale. He even wrote and sent an entire script to Mackenzie Crook for his series ‘Detectorists’. Unfortunately, it was never used … perhaps in the next series?”
Living where he does in Shropshire means good searching opportunities for the metal detecting enthusiast are always available. Whilst many fellow detectorists have difficulty finding places to go, Del, always jokes that he has too many fields to search.
He does have an advantage. Because of his work as the Managing Director of a corrugated steel and gates firm, most of the local farmers and landowners know him and give permission. They are always the first to know if anything of interest is found and are pleased to receive their share when finds are valued.
Despite Del being diagnosed with a rare form of Lymphoma in September 2016 and undergoing six months of chemotherapy, he still went detecting almost daily.
In May 2017 he underwent intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy before a stem cell transplant, donated by his brother John – also a detectorist. This grueling therapy means that Del has an entirely new immune system and thus is very prone to infections as even the mildest illness can become very serious, very quickly.
When returning home, Del must live in an almost sterile environment whilst his immune system develops. This means that for the coming months, metal detecting is out of the question. Although the fresh air will be beneficial, being around dirt can be very dangerous.
Del has had many successful digs and often comes back with ‘the find to change history’. His daughter Anna often examines with the magnifying glass and cleans with a toothbrush; she also spends time researching unusual finds.
Anna’s son Jacob also loves to go out digging with his Granddad, and ‘Bridget’ will go out too – the spare detector never languishes in the corner for long. Del says that it is fortunate that little development has occurred in the area so that there are hundreds of fields which have been untouched and each harvest time when they are turned over, new secrets are revealed.
Amongst all the farm machinery parts and pieces of metal, Del has found hundreds, if not thousands, of coins, tokens, beautiful little artefacts, pocket watches, Roman brooches, pieces of swords and axes. Peter Reavill, the Finds Liaison Officer in Ludlow, is always keen to hear what he has to say.
A favourite find is an Iron Age Linchpin found in a field just outside Bridgnorth in 2015. Peter said it was the oldest and only complete one found in Shropshire. Due to the intricate detail on the Linchpin, it is believed that the chariot was owned by someone of status and Del says that it is ‘mindboggling’ to think how it got there; it could have been a votive offering to the Gods or just have snapped off the chariot wheel. He looks forward to finding more out when it is returned.
There are also Roman brooches and a Roman coin found in one small field and it is believed that this particular location, because of these and other finds, there could be an undiscovered Roman camp. Del is adamant that once he is better he will continue in the search for more evidence.
Although Del will no doubt miss digging whilst recuperating, he will be able to spend time reading and researching. I’m sure he will endeavour to get back out there as soon as possible to find that elusive hoard … even though covered with suitable protective gear! Maybe in the follow-up I will be writing about the ‘Determined Detectorist in the Protective Bubble!’
April 2018 – From Anna
My Dad doesn’t get to go detecting now but is still an avid reader of The Searcher. Your blog will be good to read!
1st May 2018. Latest update from Anna on her Father’s health:
Wow! Just read the article and all the comments. How wonderful! Have sent link to my dad. He’ll be thrilled.
He plans on going detecting again – he has caught every illness from pneumonia to kidney failure since Christmas but is finally on the mend. His new immune system has definitely been put to the test but it will be worth it in the long run. He has planned all the fields he’s going to go detecting in the summer – I said you better go wrapped up in a bubble from head to toe!
Please thank all the commenters all the kind messages and prayers are very much appreciated..
And thanks again for such a wonderful article.
All the very best to you. Anna
This article has been adapted from one that originally appeared in The Searcher magazine