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Giving back the past

There are many reasons to start on the path of metal detecting, a love of the outdoors or a passion for history. It could be that you were hoping to find your fortune or become one of the many well known tv and social media-based detectorists, or is it that you just like the solitary nature of the hobby?

For me it was a combination of all the above and many more besides that, the elation of unearthing a find is addictive and it makes us go back time and again. We all have our bucket list, a list that for whatever reason contains some carefully thought out items that we strive to find. Over the years I have slowly ticked off my bucket list, there are still a few key items that I would like to find but a little part of me hopes that I never complete the list. My list has become more selective as time has passed by, rightly or wrongly (probably the latter) I have craved better and older finds. I can only assume that this has arisen from finding older and more significant finds as I accrue more and more time metal detecting.

With rare and wonderful finds gracing my bucket list, it came as surprise to me that one of the most poignant finds for me was something that was not even particularly old, relatively speaking that is, or that interesting. What gave this find its provenance was its story and sentimental value to a person that at the time of finding, I didn’t even know existed.

Several years ago, a friend and detecting partner and I had decided to continue detecting a stubble field close to the perimeter of RAF Lossiemouth. RAF Lossiemouth is in Morayshire in the north east of Scotland, it was built and put into action shortly before WWII. It served as a heavy bomber base during the war, supporting a conversion unit and Coastal command. The field in question was a favourite of ours, its sandy soil makes for easy digging and copper coins maintain their detail beautifully. For some reason unknown to us this field was littered with post medieval coins, Charles Turners, Bawbee’s and many others, all the way through to George I and II. There were so many coins in this field that it wasn’t uncommon to see them sunbathing on the surface.

We arrived at the field on a bright and warm morning, there was a stiff westerly wind which is a constant here in Morayshire. That wind was a deciding factor for the construction of so many wartime airfields in this area as it helped ensure that any mist or fog couldn’t linger. We turned on our machines and set off, I decided to follow the hedgerow to the left hand side of the field, it was furthest point from the RAF camp perimeter fence. I made one or two passes up and down the field plucking out various coins as I went, my machine of choice for the day was an XP Deus.

As I neared the field gate the Deus began to chirp, in the tone that only a Deus can, it was a strange signal and had the hint of a coke can to it. I dug the signal anyway and to my surprise as I dug out a spade full of sandy soil there in the hole was an old 3 draw telescope. The telescope was a bit battered as you would expect but the optics were still complete and still worked! After having a good look at my new find I placed it in my finds pouch and carried on with the day.

That evening I cleaned up my finds and as usual I posted them up on my metal detecting group page. Not more than 30 minutes had passed before one of the group members commented on the group and claimed that he may know its original owner!

I wasn’t sure if he was just having a bit of fun, or as a collector of wartime memorabilia he was trying to get his hands on it for himself? It was neither of the above!

David, the group member, is renowned for finding random items in the most random of places, and he is always on the hunt for wartime items and is constantly researching the local area. It was on one of his many outings that he got chatting to an elderly local gentleman called Davie, knowing that David was a detectorist Davie told David his story.

When Davie was a child in the early 1960’s he would often be found close to RAF Lossiemouth, excitedly watching the aircraft come and go. On his trips to watch the aircraft Davie would always take with him his Grandads’ WWI telescope, it was treasured by him not only for its practical use but for its tangible connection to his grandad. It was on one of these many trips that Davie set off home after an exciting day watching the aircraft and to his horror he realised that he had left his telescope behind in the field. He rushed back to find it but sadly after a lengthy search it was nowhere to be seen. Devastated he headed home and subsequently returned to the field many times but never found his beloved telescope.

Fast forward 55 years or so and you know where this is going, David came to my house that evening, he chatted with me and confirmed the location that I found the telescope. Off he went with the telescope cleaned and carefully placed in a box to see Davie, I didn’t go with him as Davie was at the time slightly unwell and I thought too many visitors might be too much.

Davie instantly recognised his long-lost telescope and became overwhelmed with emotion, he couldn’t believe that not only had it been found but that it had somehow found its way back to him.

A strange turn of events and the ever-sharp eye and memory of David the group member resulted in me being able to give back the past to someone who I had never met. In turn it meant that the telescope will always stay in my memory as one of my most memorable finds.


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