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Irish historic sword found by 10-year old Fionntan Hughes in Northern Ireland with his new metal detector on his first day of treasure hunting.            Source: Brian Quinn / Clonoe Gallery

Boy With A Metal Detector Finds Historic Irish Sword On A Riverbank

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A young boy with a metal detector has made an amazing discovery in Northern Ireland . With the detector, given to him on his birthday, he found an Irish historic sword that could be up to 300 years old. The Irish historic sword find is once again showing how metal detectorists are helping to find buried treasures around the world.

Fionntan Hughes is ten years old and lives with his family in rural Derrylaughan in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He has had a metal detector for some time and enjoyed looking for buried artifacts. Fionntan had a “cheap detector which was little more than a toy’” according to Vintage News . He received a brand-new metal detector that was more sophisticated than his previous one, for his 10 th birthday. Fionntan, his dad, Paul and a cousin were trying out the new detector on the banks of the local Blackwater River when they discovered the Irish historic sword.

Irish Historic Sword Found Less Than A Foot Below Ground

The new metal detector rang out twice on the river bank, but according to Fionntan’s father “both objects turned out to be insignificant trinkets,” reports the BBC. Then a third signal came from the detector and about a foot underneath the ground they found something very promising. Fionntan found a rusted object that was caked in soil and mud, which he took home and washed with a garden hose.

Fionntan Hughes with his new metal detector and the historic Irish sword he found on his first day of searching for treasure. (Brian Quinn / Clonoe Gallery)

Fionntan Hughes with his new metal detector and the historic Irish sword he found on his first day of searching for treasure. (Brian Quinn / Clonoe Gallery )

Amazingly, the young boy had found a weapon, almost certainly a sword. The Smithson quotes the boy as saying that he was excited “because it was a sword and it was just here, and I didn’t really expect anything too big.” The was the very first time he had used his latest birthday. His father told the BBC that his son’s discovery was “a case of beginner's luck.” It is believed that the sword was originally in the river but was dislodged by dredging several decades ago and came to rest on the bank.

The Mystery Of The Long-Lost Irish Historic Sword

The Hughes family did not know what the weapon was or its origin. They decided to take some photographs of their find and sent them to antique arms dealers. The weapon was provisionally dated to between the 17 th and 19 th century by one expert.

Vintage News quotes Phillip Spooner as saying that “The sword is basket hilt-type sword as used by English officers and dragoons from about 1720 to 1780.” It could also be a type of sword known as a Scottish basket hilt, from the eighteenth or early nineteenth century AD.  However, the thick mud that still encases the weapon and the fact that the top of the blade has broken off makes identifying the sword difficult.

Mark and David Hawkins, two brothers who have years of experience in the antique arms trade, told The Smithsonian that “We think it is likely an English basket-hilted broadsword, with flattened bars and large, plum pudding pommel - typical of the early types.” Some elements of the design are possibly from the early 17 th century. Mark and David Hawkins believe that “this sword most likely dates from the late 17th to the early 18th Century” reports Vintage News .

An example of a “perfect” basket-hilted broadsword that is similar to the one Fionntan Hughes found with his new metal detector in Northern Ireland. (Rama / CC SA-BY 2.0)

An example of a “perfect” basket-hilted broadsword that is similar to the one Fionntan Hughes found with his new metal detector in Northern Ireland. (Rama / CC SA-BY 2.0 )

The Sword Probably Belonged To An English Officer

Mr Spooner added that the weapon was “most likely an English officer's sword,” reports the BBC. This was because of its ornate design. The sword would have been both a weapon and used for ceremonial purposes. It could also have belonged to a civilian, as members of the elite still owned swords at this time in Ireland, like elsewhere in Europe. Indeed, duels with swords were very common in the 18 th century AD.

Fionntan’s father is quoted by the BBC as saying that “he now needed advice on how to preserve the artifact.” He fears that the condition of the weapon is deteriorating every day. Paul hopes that a museum will help to conserve the weapon and possibly put it on display.

Lucky 10-year-olds

The BBC quotes Fionntan as saying that “he wasn't sure what should happen to the sword next but he hoped it might be worth ‘some money’.” What is certain is that the 10-year-old cannot wait to go detecting again and find more historical artifacts. Coincidentally another ten-year-old detectorist in the United Kingdom made major discovery in recent times. The young man, who was also with his father, found a delicate ribbon of beaten gold that could date back 5000 years.

Top image: Irish historic sword found by 10-year old Fionntan Hughes in Northern Ireland with his new metal detector on his first day of treasure hunting.            Source: Brian Quinn / Clonoe Gallery

By Ed Whelan

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