Are the time bandits plundering our local treasures?

Roman coin found at Libberton
Roman coin found at Libberton

Historical treasures, found after centuries buried under the Clydesdale countryside, are quickly disappearing again into private collections and websites advertising them for sale.

Even vital evidence which could prove or disprove the many legends surrounding the lives and deeds of William Wallace and his wife Marion Braidfute may already have been plundered and taken far away from this area, never to be seen in public again.

So claims the well-known head of Lanark and District Archaeology Society Ed Archer, the Gazette’s long-time acting local history correspondent.

He fears that commercial exploitation of the area’s almost uniquely archaeologically-rich farmlands by organisers of mass metal detectorist trips might have already harmed the area’s heritage.

He said: “This is a relatively new phenomena. This takes the form of a company paying farmers for permission to use their land and then charging detector enthusiasts for the opportunity to search there.

“This problem occurred in our neighbourhood at Lamington where a group of 60 people descended on a farm which is associated with the legend of Marion Braidfute and William Wallace .

“Several finds were alleged to have been made there, including a silver Roman denarius coin. Where that has gone nobody knows but it could be very important regarding our knowledge of the Romans in this part of Scotland.

“Indeed, I detect myself along with three other people as part of an archaeological field walking programme.

“Following the rules, I have a Roman coin going through the Treasure Trove panel which is the latest known Roman coin in Lanarkshire, dating to 380 AD which adds to other late fourth century coins found many years ago.

“These finds help to confirm a story in Ammianus Marcellinus’ book on the late Roman Emperors that the Romans recovered Southern Scotland .

“What may appear to be a coin of little commercial value, is of great historical importance. Thus I think that commercial metal detecting should be banned and maybe some form of licensing should take place. South of the border changes in legislation on detecting are being considered.”

He is now contacting local politicians of all parties to back his campaign to persuade Holyrood to take action to protect the very fabric of Scotland’s history from disappearing into private hands.