Northern Ireland news

Farmer uncovers ancient 'gold hoard' while digging drain

The four gold bracelets found in Co Donegal at the weekend
Seamus McKinney

A County Donegal farmer has uncovered a quantity of gold which Ireland’s National Museum believes could be of archaeological significance.

Norman Witherow was digging a drain on land near Convoy close to the Donegal-Derry border when he found four gold bracelets believed to be thousands of years old.

While detailed analysis of the find will take more time, initial observations indicate they could date from the bronze age or earlier, according to Maeve Sikora, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland. The bronze age came to an end around 1,000 years BC.

Ms Sikora travelled from Dublin yesterday to meet Mr Witherow and view the site of the find.

Saturday's find was initially handed over to the Donegal county museum, however, the discovery was thought to be of such archaeological significance that it was dispatched to Dublin for full analysis.

Ms Sikora told The Irish News the find appeared to be a “gold hoard” but further detail would not be available until later. She said while the four pieces appeared to be in the shape of bracelets, this could be because of the way in which they were stored.

Mr Witherow said the gold was found while a digger was being used to drain a field.

“In all honesty, I can’t claim that it was me who found it although I was there when it was found. It was in a field that I’ve leased and it was a fella who was helping the digger man who found it.

The scene where the ancient gold was discovered. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

The Donegal man said: “They were about 2 ft down, hidden under a stone and they look like bracelets. We weighed them and they’re about 1.7 ounces in weight.”

Mr Witherow took the gold home and cleaned it before showing it to friends as they tried to work out what it was.

“I didn’t get too carried away. In fact, they lay in the back of my car for a while. But I showed it to a friend of mine who works in the jewellery business and when I saw the excitement in her eyes I started thinking this is important.”

The area where the gold was found is rich in antiquity. Within five miles of the find, stands the ancient Beltany Stone Circle near Raphoe which dates back to pre-Christian times.

“This would be a valley where people settled and moved through to places like Beltany and Grianan (fort at Burt),” Mr Witherow said.

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