The Stupid Brothers Stand and Weep
© Mark Gatter, 2005

The Club had its annual rally last month, close to a small and very out-of-the-way village not too far from, well, lots of places. But, to avoid confusion, and a possible knee-cap job at the hands of fellow Club members, I’ll just call it ‘Surbiton’.

Our event there last year had produced a reasonable array of finds, and there was no question that the land itself was had been absolutely perfect detecting condition. The farmer, bless him, had ploughed and rolled everything for us. After about 20 minutes, the random spread of detectorists wandering around on the biggest, flattest field made me think of a bag of marbles tipped out onto a concrete floor.

This year, the weather clearly threatened to drench our expectations of a good day out, a fact I mentioned a couple of times on the way there with Paul Rainford (esteemed Club Presidento, who had organised the whole thing), and Ron Dancy.

‘Nah’, Ron scoffed, ‘It’s NOT going to bloody rain.’

Ok, I thought to myself. Clearly Ron gets messages from...above. I wondered whether he heard voices, too - voices that perhaps said things like, ‘no, dig over here, the gold is over here...’ Just on the offchance, I decided to keep an eye on him in case he found a good patch and needed some friendly help.

Once again, the farmer had done us proud. Between himself and his brother, they own a stretch of land 7 miles long. He has roughly 11,000 acres, and just about all of it was perfectly prepared, and ready for us to dig big holes all over it. The plan was for all of us to detect on one half of the farm on day 1, and on the other half on day 2. Of course, if the vast hoards of treasure found on day 1 were to need further exploration on day 2, it was permitted to continue. And all the proceeds were going to charity.

Rain definitely threatened, no question about it. In the distance to the south the horizon was completely obscured by it, and as the day progressed it was clearly coming down both to the east and west of us, as well. I mentioned it to Ron. ‘Won’t be long now,’ I told him. ‘We’re all going to get wet, for sure.’ Of course, I had my trusty ‘wet gear’ in a bag his truck, which had cost me a whole £5 at a rally last year. I was sure that such vast expenditure would protect me from just about anything the heavens could throw down, and that I could therefore continue to dig up Ron’s gold while he sat muttering in the truck. But, strangely enough, the rain held off.

The finds were definitely being found that day. Between about 40 of us, just about everyone had a hammered coin, and I heard that Hugh Vincent had turned up a Saxon something or other. I had several lovely buttons (humph!), a very poor hammered (I still haven’t identified it!) and a couple of buckles. Ron had found a hammered cut half, which we thought was probably a Henry III penny.

Ron and I were detecting in a long field, flat as a pancake and adjacent to the road. Every so often a car would whizz by, and one of the occupants would shout something encouraging, like ‘Bloody anoraks!’. However, despite the fact that it was clearly going to rain at some point in the proceedings (as I told Ron, whenever the opportunity arose), so far that day it had been warm - and even sunny from time to time. There wasn’t an anorak in sight, but plenty of T-shirts.

The only part of the field I hadn’t really bothered with was at one end, close to a hedge, with some abandoned cars and a couple of farm buildings just on the other side. I thought the earth there would be contaminated with all sorts of rusty objects, and decided to stay out on the nice flat bits. Then I noticed Val and Brian Read coming around the corner just at the end of the hedge. Val stopped to check out a signal, which I assumed to be a nice bottle top. However, when we stopped to chat, it turned out to be a very respectable Roman coin, which Val said she had been very surprised to find so close to the road. Towards the end of the afternoon, however, there were several other club members sharing the field with us - and most of them seemed to be concentrating on the very part of the field which I had been avoiding. I walked over to one of them, Kevin McNie, to see what he’d found.

Kevin has been coming to the club regularly for some time now. He’s a keen detectorist, and apart from an unfortunate tendency to find better stuff than me in my own fields, a very nice chap. He would probably be the first to agree with me that, if the truth be known, we could both afford to lose a couple of pounds - no more than that, mind you - and this led to a fun little episode at the club a few meetings back.

Kevin had arrived with his best find of the month, a lovely Henry VIII groat. It was being handed around, eventually getting to Paul Rainford. ‘Cor, just look at that fat bastard,’ he muttered, gazing at the unmistakable portrait on the obverse. ‘Well!’ replied Kevin, mistakenly thinking that he himself was the subject of the discussion. ‘There’s no need to be like that. Just ‘cos YOU didn’t find it!’

Laughter, all round.

Today, Kevin’s finds were about the same as mine, although one of them literally stood out. It has to be the biggest buckle I’ve ever seen, and probably fell from the shoe of the Jolly Green Giant. While we stood chatting, I noticed another friend, Steve Wootton (who also has a disturbing habit of finding Great Stuff) starting to dig a small hole about 20 feet away from us. Then I saw him reach down and pick something up. He walked over wearing a grin like a Cheshire cat, and showed us what he had found.

A gold Celtic stater.

Nice. Very, very very nice indeed. Of course, we immediately pronounced him Club Bastard of the Month, a coveted award, and one rarely granted in the field, so to speak.

I decided that perhaps, maybe, I should just sort of wander around for a bit in this, the one area of the field that I had so far completely ignored.

However, as I cruised along by the hedge, all I got were scrap signals - just as I had expected. After a while I gave up, and went for another look at Steve’s bit of Celtic. It had a copperish gleam to it, which led several of us to comment that clearly the gold was not exactly 22 carat. In fact, I suggested that it was probably so debased that it would be a really good idea to swap it for my entire bag of finds so far. Oddly enough, he didn’t seem to think so.

Mike Pittard had now arrived, and a couple of us watched in quiet amazement as he carefully went over a patch of ground not much bigger than a billiards table, pulling roman coin after roman coin out of it. How he managed to separate those signals from the abundant scrap I have no idea, but it made me realise that it probably doesn’t matter what kind of detector you have, it’s how well you understand what it is telling you that really counts. My Minelab had been right across the same patch, but it could have been talking Greek for all the good it did me. Still, Mike is one of those ‘Venerable Sage’ detectorists. He’s been at it for so long that it’s probably more a case of remembering where he dropped the coins in the first place.

I ran into Ron again a little later. ‘Looks like rain,’ I told him.

‘Oh, for Pete’s sake,’ he replied, ‘will you please SHUT THE F*** UP ABOUT THE BLOODY WEATHER!!’. You’ve been the Voice of Bleedin’ Doom, all day!’

The following day the rally continued, although I was unable to attend. Besides, I thought, all the good stuff will have been found by now.


Franchesca Tracy has been coming to Club meetings for only a short time, with father Alan. And, of course, novices are NOT supposed to find medieval gold rings, are they?

It’s just not fair. Not fair at all.

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