Posy rings derive their name from the word ‘posy’ or ‘poesy’ – a derivative of the word poetry meaning short rhyme. The rings were popular from the late medieval period onwards and were primarily used to communicate secret messages of love between the giver and the recipient. The wearing of words against the skin was believed to increase their poignancy.
This blogpost features 16 yeasr old Lucas Harvey who has been detecting for about four years and is a member of the Highland Historical Search Society, based in Scotland.
His interest in the hobby was kindled the day he followed a guy who was beach detecting. Lucas tells me that he was not only curious as to what had been found, but in all the stuff that had been discarded! From that experience, he decided to try the hobby himself. His Mum contacted a local detectorist who invited Lucas on a dig. Subsequently, he bought a Garrett Euro Ace … and that’s how it all started.
Lucas was looking forward to the next Club dig and was especially keen to get on the site as lots of hammered coins had been found on a previous occasion. Except there was a problem!
The night before the dig, when preparing, he realised that he’d left his detector in the boot of his Mother’s car, which was now unavailable as the vehicle was garaged at Edinburgh Airport. Dilemma. What was he to do?
Lucas exclaimed, “I rushed to the computer and sent an email to the Club Chairman asking if anyone had a spare detector I could borrow!” Luckily, Vince had a spare machine he said he could use. Fortunately, it was a Minelab X-Terra 705, and Lucas tried one of those on another dig.
Lucas takes up the story: “When my friend Dennis and I reached the field we set off detecting side by side. We found lots of pennies and buttons and all sorts of things and then just before lunch Dennis struck it lucky with a hammered coin.
After lunch I was determined to find something silver so set off on my own to the far corner of the field. After a good hour of pulling up lead I got a solid 14 signal on the detector, shoved my spade into the ground and flicked over the clump.”
Lucas thought that he’d unearthed a gold bottle top, but when he investigated further, realised that the find was a band of gold. When he removed the tightly packed soil from the middle and saw “a beautiful inscription”, and knew he’d found a posy ring!
“I grabbed my radio and belted out GOLD at the top of my voice. The guys thought I was shouting OLD, until I made an even louder bellow. Now they definitely heard – members from every corner of the field heard my excited call.
I started jumping around and dancing in circles; I couldn’t believe what I’d found. Soon there was a crowd of members around me looking at the ring. One of them sank to his knees. He’d been detecting for over 30 years and never found one. He was disconsolate”. Lucas says, “What started as a really bad weekend turned out to be the best weekend of my detecting career.”
Up until then, Lucas had found about 20 hammered coins with his Euro Ace, but the posy ring is his best find so far! He didn’t “have a clue” what the inscription meant and the Scottish Treasure Trove hadn’t yet responded, but we can help him.
The inscription QVHAIR LYFE TS TREV baffled me also so I sent it to Dr Kevin Leahy, a National Finds Adviserat the PAS, who referred me to Malcolm Jones, a Consultant to the PAS.
Malcolm was very excited with “the wonderful’ ring. Evidently they don’t see much of 16thcentury Scots dialect in posy ring inscriptions. He told me that in modern Standard English it would be spelled WHERE LOVE IS TRUE. The spelling shows the type of English the engraver knew and doubtless the commissioner too was Scots. The spelling also indicates 16th Century or even 15th.
Malcolm went on to say, “Of course we still don’t know exactly what ‘where love is true’ means! Clearly an amatory phrase but where is the ‘where’ of the legend? Could it be the giver’s heart?”He also mused that the ring is just about construable in its own right. “It is worn on the wearer’s finger, so he wearer is the ‘place’ where love is true.”
Malcolm also said, “There is the distinct possibility (that the ring found by Lucas) is only half the story and that the legend is a rhyming couplet spread over two rings and that his/her has the other one.” Wouldn’t it make a wonderful story if the second ring was eventually found? Now, there’s a challenge for the Highland Searchers.
I thank Lucas for his story and Malcolm for his explanation of the inscription.
Adapted from a story originally published in the UK Searcher magazine