The Honest Law Abiding Detectorist

13th May 2016 — 10 Comments

PotIn September 2014, Scottish detectorist Derek McLennan found a large Viking hoard, the largest of its kind found in the United Kingdom and Scotland’s finest treasure discovery. At that time it was called the ‘Dumfriesshire Hoard’, but is now known as the ‘Galloway Hoard’. I reported the fact in a blog post of October 2014 followed by an update at the bottom of that post in November of the same year. Derek wrote exclusive articles about the hoard in the UK Searcher magazines of December 2014 and January 2015. The latter two articles are reproduced here, courtesy of Harry Bain, the editor of The Searcher magazine. 

In a six-page article in the current (June 2016) edition of the Searcher magazine, entitled Be Careful What you Wish for – the Continuing Story of the Galloway Hoard, Derek brings us up-to-date with what is currently happening in his ‘long, frustrating, political and very, very complicated story. In a measured and dispassionate way he relates his experiences in a story that should be read by all detectorists.

The newspaper heraldscotland picked up on the story that can be seen here: Metal detectorist who found biggest treasure find ‘sidelined’. Please read itThere is a response from Treasure Trove Scotland and I sense that they are not very pleased! Don’t forget to read the comments right at the bottom of the page. The Times headlined, Detectorist’s delight at finding treasure loses its lustre over time …


Credit: Derek McLennan

Derek’s article is positive in many ways and encourages detectorists to do the right thing when finding artefacts of significance, From what I have read, he ‘respects’ the system in England and Scotland, but is rather dismayed at how he has been treated. Wasn’t this a good opportunity for the ‘authorities’ to recognise the way in which Derek has handled this whole affair and present it as an exemplar to other detectorists of the correct thing to do. They have missed a trick there!

With a find of this importance, those professionals in authority should have ensured that the integrity and honesty of the detectorist was treated in a fully transparent way. Derek may be miffed at the lack of communication, and so would any of us. Being sidelined, missing out on important stages and kept in the dark doesn’t bode well for any future significant Scottish discoveries.

At the moment the authorities in Scotland appear to have dropped a rather large ball. They should take a hard look at themselves and learn from mistakes. Only then will significant change will happen for the better … all those involved in historic and archaeological discovery will undoubtably benefit. Derek’s second part of the Searcher article will be in the July issue, due out on the 27 May.

NB: This blog relates my own thoughts as a former detectorist. I express them on behalf of myself and no other person or organisation.



In January 2014 I reported on a metal die-cast toy known as a clicker. There has been an interesting update.



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10 responses to The Honest Law Abiding Detectorist

  1. Thanks for promulgating. I’ve made my comment on DS. Cheers John!

  2. They should have treated him better. “We have sought to ensure he has been kept in the loop and updated wherever possible and we have worked to ensure he is made aware of, and involved, with media and other events surrounding the hoard. “”

    They may ( or may not ) have ” sought ” and ” worked ” to ensure, but it seems they have failed and are not admitting to that.

    This is a problem we would not face here in the States because we keep what we find and are not required by law to turn it over. Of course, we don’t have metallic objects in the ground that old and if we did they might be protected too.

    It seems like Mr. McLennan got robbed of the opportunity to be involved in important parts of the discovery. I’m not sure they are any wiser to the reality of the situation when they stated —
    “We appreciate that the time taken on this very necessary work can often be frustrating but we are doing everything within our power to ensure a timeous outcome whilst at the some protecting the integrity of this incredible find.

    “I am sure that Mr McLennan will agree this is the foremost priority. ”

    I think Mr. McLennan protected the integrity of the find and he is not included in the ” We ” in those regards. They seem to think that as long as he gets a monetary reward they have done their part. Protecting the integrity of the find may be everyone’s foremost priority but should not be used as an excuse for not protecting the integrity of the system.

  3. A quote from Alex Kerr commenting in “The Herald” Scotland says it all.

    “It appears this person followed the rules and reported the find, therefore he has an interest ( whether curiosity or financial who knows) in the find. The snobs have barred him,(I agree, not one of the boys), he has a passion whereas they have sterile academic scruples, have they thought of the consequences, others who have the same passion may in future may think, why should I tell them.”

    Oh how true.

  4. I echo those final remarks …

  5. I agree with the academic snobbery observation. This attitude often accompanied detecting finds made in England during the 70/80/90’s when as the man in the street you were considered a lower class of person who lacked the many years of study and academic profile etc.

    Thankfully this situation has become less frequent down here so i suppose the Scottish bods, ( where large finds are fewer) are taking more time to come around to an acceptable level of appreciation of the finders who have located major finds.

    Perhaps they need a PAS based system to develop a proper interface between finders and academics/researchers/conservators and the rest often seeing their jobs and careers being somewhat reliant on the finds made by the man in the street.

  6. Time after time we hear these stories when somebody makes a good find, and good luck to them, but the way the authorities museums, PAS and the like grab our finds and then shun the finders interest etc is beyond belief. the authorities should have more compassion and not give the out to grab everything they can approach they seem to have after all detectorists do not work for them, this is our hobby so treat us with the respect we deserve!

    • Yes, we hear a lot when things don’t pan out well … but there are lots of cases where the system works very well … talking about England here. Must keep everything in perspective.

      • I have Yet to meet a detectorist who totaly sings full praise to the system in England,
        It is to slow, just look how the big finds jump the line and the smaller ones have to wait two-three years. we have to declare things in two weeks yet once the system obtains items they can sit in a drawer for months without a glance, what should happen is that once declared a finder should have more time to study their find and if required obtain valuations, and then hand it over when the museum is ready to look at it.

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