The Real McCoy

28th May 2018 — 11 Comments

Harry McCoy – Click to Enlarge

The Whisky Connection

Anyone checking up on the origin of the common expression, ‘The Real McCoy’, will come across an astonishing wide range of suggestions. Most of them rely on ingenuity rather than hard fact, but the one I prefer emanates from Scotland, simply because there’s plenty of evidence plus it sounds plausible.

The earliest example of its usage is recorded in the Scottish National Dictionary of 1856 and states that the original McCoy was actually a MacKay. Well, they would, wouldn’t they! “A drappie (drop) o’ the real McKay”. The same work says that in 1870 the slogan was adopted by G Mackay and Co, whisky distillers of Edinburgh to describe their product.

In this article I am adopting the phrase to describe third generation ten-year-old detectorist, Harry McCoy, of the Taynton MDC in Gloucestershire.

Club Report Catalyst

The monthly club reports sent in by dedicated detectorists are an essential part of the magazine, and what help make it complete. Geoff Blindell, who sends the Taynton club reports, alerted us at The Searcher to Harry’s accomplishments. They were the catalyst for my unimaginative title. Harry is a member of the club, which is also attended by his father and granddad.

Geoff said, “ … the youngest club member stole the night with his cracking medieval horse harness pendant and his recent Detectorist of the Day win … he has set the bar high for his dad and granddad and the future looks bright for him and the club.”

In my book, that makes him in the running for The Real McCoy. My sincere apologies go to dad Steven and granddad Peter (he said, laughing).

When John met Harry

I arranged to speak with Harry after he’d returned from a day at Severnbanks Primary School where he is in Year 5. I was rather anxious, but I needn’t have worried. He was a joy to talk with and put me at ease from the outset. He was a sociable, articulate and interesting young man.

Dad Steven interjected occasionally during our conversation. One of the facts he shared at the time was that Harry would be going ‘up’ to the secondary school in about 15 months. I didn’t think that this was relevant at the time but, on reflection, it served to show just how young my subject really is!

The Horse Harness Pendant

Harry was detecting on a club dig in large stubble field on the day he found the ‘cracking medieval pendant’. Excitedly, he waved it around. From a distance, his father thought it might have been something like a Victorian coronation medal, but granddad later confirmed that it was a harness pendant.

At the time of writing it was still in Harry’s possession, but will eventually be reported to Kurt Adams, the Finds Liaison Officer for Gloucestershire and Avon.

First Hammered Coin and the Joys of Detecting

Interestingly, Harry’s ‘Detectorist of the Day’ award was for a rather special earlier find, his first hammered coin, an Edward I penny! That’s a fine picture taken by his dad and one he will always remember. Before that he’d found lots of Georgian coppers and musket balls.

It had taken nearly two years to find the coin. Harry started detecting with his granddad Peter and now accompanies both him and his dad on club digs. He enjoys the hobby very much. I asked him, “How much?”

His comprehensive reply first complimented the club to which he belongs.

“The advantage of belonging to the Taynton Club is that I see what others have found and meeting people with a similar interest. We also get the opportunity to visit different places and get out in the fresh air. What I don’t like is the cold and the rain!” Father agreed and I visualised him emphatically nodding his head in agreement. Like father, like son.

After a little prodding Harry continued, “The hobby sometimes helps with my history projects at school and some of my friends are very interested in seeing my finds and hearing more about them.”

Harry’s first hammered coin …

Good to hear that they don’t regard the hobby as a ‘geeky’ thing to do. If pursuits like sport ( and others ) don’t take over, I can see Harry still engaged in this absorbing pastime in 10 or 15 years time. By then he should be a very experienced and knowledgeable detectorist. And deservedly so, for it’s all in the McCoy genes, and he’s had a good start. Granddad and dad have taught him well!

No change

Harry is very happy with his Garrett Ace 250, is determined to understand it better, and sees no reason to change. I enjoyed talking with him and wish him every success in the future.

I take the opportunity to thank Steve McCoy for supplying me with the superb pictures you see accompanying this article.

Must tell you this. At the end of our conversation, Harry’s dad happened to mention that his father Peter had appeared in a previous magazine in November 2015. Out of interest I looked, but couldn’t find anything, so I contacted him. As a result I spent more time scouring other months to no avail. It wasn’t until Mrs McCoy ( bless her ) eventually produced the magazine, that I realised it wasn’t a Searcher!


A version of this article originally appeared in the August 2016 Searcher magazine. Harry is a little older now … 🙂



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11 responses to The Real McCoy

  1. That truly is ‘The Real McCoy’, John.. and a delightful tale to go with.

    He sounds like an intelligent, engaging young man who will probably go quite far in life.

    Thank you for an inspiring story


  2. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 29th May 2018 at 4:43 AM

    Fantastic finds for such a wonderful young man.

    I wonder which he prefers, play football with his mates or detecting with his family? I suspect family wins this one.

  3. I was told years ago that McCoy was a black American who invented a self lubricating box for steam engine wheels. Previously trains could only travel a few miles then had to stop for the wheels to be oiled. Others tried to invent a way of lubricating them but none were as good as McCoy. People began the say we want the “real McCoy” He was the first Black man allow a Patent

  4. Not everyone knows that the “Kay” in McKay rhymes with “eye”, so McCoy would be a natural, emmigrant variation of that, so I’ll be patriotic on my Scots and Irish sides and endorse your excellent choice of the whisky theory :o) …Well done Harry! There’s always something special when youngsters find good stuff; their delight tends to be unalloyed and much deeper…  so good luck to him! He may well reprioritise the hobby in a couple of years, but… the bug has bitten… …long live the bug! Thanks John ! Cheers!

  5. I can always rely on you for an extra little tit-bit.
    Thank you, Dave.

    BTW, the Yanks prefer to write TIDBIT

  6. Interesting feel good post there John.
    Very happy for the wee laddy!

  7. What a brilliant story John, thank you for introducing Harry to us. His obvious personality
    shines through in the photographs, as well as a lovely enthusiasm for detecting, within a club.
    He certainly has his head screwed on the right way.
    Reminds me of another “youngster” from way back, from Felixstowe, in Suffolk, whose name escapes me sad to say.
    Harry, keep it up mate you are going a long way in the detecting world.

  8. A real hats off to the Dad – Harry is lucky to have someone who encourages his interest at such an early age. Great story, John.

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