The Stupid Brothers Spend some Money
© Mark Gatter, 2005

Not too far from where my fellow Stupid Brother, Martin Savage, lives, there is a small and - until recently - very overgrown field. It's only a couple of hundred yards from a river; on its lowest edge it runs alongside some ancient and venerable thatched cottages; and in one corner is the entrance to an equally ancient and venerable farmyard, surrounded by some small barns. In other words, aside from being overgrown, it's a prime location for anyone interested in metal detecting.

Clearly, it required some attention. The difficulty lay in securing permission from the landowner.

Martin and I have known the two sons of said owner for some time. While they themselves are affable, pleasant people, happy to have demented anoraks wandering around on their land, their dad is famous for being a 'tight-fisted, miserable awld bugger' (to quote son number one) and a 'mean, vicious, 'orrible bastard' (to quote son number two).

Neither Martin nor myself really thought that we'd ever get permission to get in there, but while it was in such an overgrown condition, it was a moot point. However, about three weeks ago, we noticed that it had been miraculously cleared of three-year-old lucerne stubble, and was now so clean and flat that it was almost bright and shiny. Ooops, sorry - I nearly said 'almost as bright and shiny as Martin's head', but of course, I would never be so rude. After all, it's not his fault. He was probably dropped on it as a baby, and all the hair just decided to stay inside rather than venture out into what was clearly dangerous territory.

Anyway: as luck should have it, a few days after noticing this welcome change to our prospective field, my esteemed colleague Mr. Savage happened to run into the mean, vicious, tight-fisted awld gentleman himself.

The conversation between them went something like this:

"Oh, hi Mr. M*s*r*ble *ld B*st*rd, I'm very glad to run into you - I've been meaning to ask if I could have a look around in that field of yours (mentions exact location) with a metal detector?"

"Mumble mumble harumph mumble, hack, spit?" (Translation: "An outstanding idea, young sir. Prithee, what's in it for me?")

"Well, with most of our farms, we give the farmer a bottle of Scotch at Christmas, or sherry, or, or, well, a bottle of whatever you'd like...?

"Hack, grumph, mumble mumble, spiiiiit, nah geroff, mumble harumph!" (Translation: "Well, that's awfully kind of you, young man, but since seeing the light some time ago I have foresworn the demon drink, and beseech you to do likewise."

"Ah...OK, well then, we normally give the farmer 50% of the value of whatever we find."

No question about it, Martin drives a hard bargain. Unfortunately, there aren't too many opportunities for bartering in Dorset, but I'm sure he would do well in places like Iran. We should probably all club together, and send him, on the condition that he leaves his Minelab Explorer II behind. I'm happy to look after it, no problem - I'm just generous by nature.

"Bah, humbug, spit, hack hack, mutter, mumble mumble bugger mumble off." (Translation: "Ah, kind sir, but in the event of great fortune, that may leave you forever in my debt. Perchance I would have to plague thee with bailiffs, or even send The Boys round for a wee chat. Nay, forsooth, perchance also that I would also be signing up for fity percent of nowt. So be off about your loathsome business, before I lay about thee with my hatchet, or set my ferrets upon thee, to boot."

"Ah. Right-o. about a tenner?"


Knowing something of the character of the man, Martin already had the tenner in question neatly folded in the top pocket of his jacket. No sooner had he produced it, it had vanished.

"It was like watching a chameleon catching a fly", he laughed. "You've never seen a tenner disappear so fast in your life!"

Permission granted, we were off and running. Well, walking funny.

The field was so flat that I almost started looking around for a 'pay to stay' parking ticket machine. Martin decided to tootle around in the lower corner, near the farmyard, while I opted to wander around at random and see what turned up.

It was cold. Extremely cold. In fact, I don't think that I've ever been out detecting in such cold air. Still, the ground wasn't frozen, so digging up hoards of treasure wasn't going to pose a problem. Finding it, however, might.

Not long ago, Peter Woodward, resident archaeologist at the Dorchester Museum, asked members of the Dorchester and Weymouth club to record and hand in 'bronze blobs'. These may be simply fairly boring bits of damaged bronze things, but on the other hand they may be slag remnants of Bronze Age, or Iron Age, smelting activities. The plan is to send the pieces to the British Museum for metallurgical tests, the results of which will be compared to similar tests which will be done on their large collection of bronze axe-heads. Thus, they hope to be able to identify where some of those axes were made. If they also know the findspot for the axe-heads, it might produce other valuable clues to trade routes, population centres, and so forth.

If your local FLO hasn't already asked you to do the same, may I suggest that this would be a good time to start? The more of us who do this, the more complete the survey will be, in the end, and the better we will all sleep at night. If your local museum hasn't heard of this project, why not send them - suitably labelled, of course - to the Dorset County Museum, Dorchester, c/o Peter Woodward, and he can forward them to the BM with all the rest? I'm assured that active participation in this project will also make us at least 20 years younger - instantly - rich, successful, irresistible, wise, immortal and so forth. It will also stop people asking "where did you find it?" And, your name will be recorded as having participated in a major study run by the BM. Ah, fame. So, stop whizzing those bronze blobs into the hedge! Unlike the rest of our usual finds, it seems that they aren't junk, after all.

As you might have guessed, by the end of our detecting session I had a pocket full of, well, blobs isn't really the word. How about 'chunks'? Or perhaps 'whopping great lumps of the stuff'? So much so, in fact, that I felt completely weighed down, and was beginning to regret my promise to collect them! And, right next to one of them, I also dug up what looks as if it might be a strap end of roughly the same age. I could certainly be wrong about that, not being particularly strong (hah!) on identifying such things. But the colour is exactly the same as the blobs (whereas every other copper alloy object I dug up that day was completely different) and the degree of corrosion looks identical, too. Any (helpful!) comments from readers would be much appreciated, as I would love to know what it actually is.

Martin, way down at the foot of the field, was having a good time unearthing Georgian silver. And more Georgian silver. By the end of our bracing little outing, he had collected a very presentable William III shilling, an equally nice George III shilling, plus two sixpences: one of George III and another of George IV. Up in the rarefied atmosphere of the higher ground, however, Georgian silver was being far less common. I only found one, an 1787 sixpence. However, it was obviously from higher strata of society than the mere currency from down below, as it had been gilded, and looks as if it might have fallen from some kind of mount.

On the way back to the car, Martin confirmed his Stupid Brother status in no uncertain terms. "Every time I swung to the right," he told me, "I got this cold blast of air down one leg. After about half an hour, I noticed that my trousers were unzipped! What a twit!"

If that wasn't bad enough, he capped it in style:

"It must have been Mr. Huge, trying to escape!"

I have absolutely no comment on that, except to say that in general, it was definitely, a tenner well spent - especially as Martin is the one who spent it! And we'll be back...

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