Man who unearthed 'Galloway hoard' of Viking artefacts in line for £2m reward

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A metal detectorist who discovered the "richest collection" of rare Viking artefacts ever found in the UK is set to receive a reward of almost £2 million.

Derek McLennan uncovered the 10th-century hoard, which includes silver bracelets and brooches, a gold ring, an enamelled Christian cross and a bird-shaped gold pin, in a Dumfries and Galloway field in 2014.

He passed it on to experts and the body which rules on ownerless goods and property, the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR), has now ruled the 100 or so items should be allocated to National Museums Scotland (NMS) for display, provided it pays £1.98 million to Mr McLennan.

The amount is ex gratia and has been set to reflect the market value of the find.

Rules on discoveries in Scotland mean only the finder receives payment, differing from the rest of the UK where awards are split with the land owner.

NMS has six months to raise the funds.

QLTR David Harvie described the "Galloway hoard" as of international significance and "one of the most important finds ever discovered in Scotland".

He said: "I am pleased to announce that I am minded to accept the recommendation of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel (SAFAP) that these wonderful items be allocated to National Museums Scotland, subject to it meeting the ex gratia award which would then be payable to the finder."

Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of NMS, said: "The Galloway hoard is of outstanding international significance and we are absolutely delighted that QLTR has decided to allocate it to NMS.

"We now have six months to raise £1.98 million to acquire this unique treasure for the nation and ensure it can be enjoyed by future generations both at home and abroad."

The bulk of the hoard is silver jewellery but it also contains textiles and an "outstanding range of exceptional precious metal and jewelled items", including a rare gold ingot, beads, crystals and a decorated silver-gilt cup thought to be of Byzantine origin.

NMS said other finds around Britain or Ireland have been exceptional for a single type of item but the Galloway hoard is "unique" in bringing together a variety of objects "hinting at previously unknown connections" between people across Europe in the 10th century.

The Galloway Viking Hoard campaign group had been calling for the items to be displayed in the south-west of Scotland close to where they were discovered.

NMS said it supports the call and will work with Dumfries and Galloway Council to have some of the hoard on display in the region.

SAFAP chair Evelyn Silber said: "The panel is grateful to the finder for reporting these stunning artefacts which include decorative glass beads, silver bracelets and brooches, a gold ring, a bird-shaped gold pin and a highly-decorated gilt vessel recognised as being one of only three known examples.

"These will now be preserved and put on display for the people of Scotland, and the world, to enjoy.

"The mysterious circumstances of their deposition and unique quality will attract researchers and enthusiasts alike."

Cathy Agnew, chair of the Galloway Viking Hoard campaign, said: "The support from the public, from academics, politicians of all parties, and so many others - across Scotland and the world - to keep the hoard in Galloway, where it would be cherished, has been magnificent. It is a real shame their voices and their passion have gone unheeded.

"Dumfries and Galloway Council's bid was outstanding. It would have saved the hoard for the region and the nation in a superb, specially designed exhibition area at the new Kirkcudbright Gallery - near to where it was found.

"We very much hope that even at this late stage discussions will continue and a fair compromise can be reached."