The Church of Scotland sues a metal detector for a share of the £2 million Viking treasure hoard he discovered on its land.
Derek McLennan uncovered a stunning find of gold, silver and religious items in a Dumfries and Galloway field five years ago.
The impressive ‘Galloway Hoard’, thought to have been buried sometime between 850AD and 950AD, was heralded as ‘one of the most significant Viking hoards ever found in Scotland’.
Silver bracelets and brooches, a gold ring, an enamelled Christian cross and a bird-shaped gold pin were among the fascinating items unearthed. In Scotland, the finder receives payment for such discoveries whereas awards are split with the landowner in England.
Initially, it was reported the church would share in the proceeds but now trustees are taking legal action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
A Church of Scotland spokesman said: ‘It can be confirmed the general trustees of the Church of Scotland have raised an action against Derek McLennan. ‘As that is now a matter before the court it would be inappropriate for us to provide any further commentary at this time.’
Mr McLennan, a retired businessman and amateur detectorist, had been searching the unidentified area for a year with the church’s permission before he came across the incredible haul. At the time, he said:
‘I unearthed the first piece, initially, I didn’t understand what I had found because I thought it was a silver spoon and then I turned it over and wiped my thumb across it and I saw the Saltire-type of design and knew instantly it was Viking. ‘Then my senses exploded, I went into shock, endorphins flooded my system and away I went stumbling towards my colleagues waving it in the air.’Derek McLennan
The haul included a large Carolingian pot from what is now France which could have been 100 years old when it was deposited.
Inside they found silver Anglo-Saxon disc brooches, an Irish silver brooch, Byzantine silk from the area around Constantinople (now Istanbul), a gold ingot and gold and crystal objects wrapped in cloth.
It is not known why the treasures were deposited.
Vikings from Scandinavia terrorised Britain and Ireland for more than 250 years from 793AD and frequently targeted monasteries where valuables were stored.
The raiders failed to conquer mainland Scotland but settled in outlying islands such as Orkney and Shetland.
In Galloway and Dumfries, the word ‘Kirk’ which means church, features on many places and personal names is of Scandinavian origin.
The Galloway Hoard will be displayed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh from May to November next year, before visiting Kirkcudbright, Dundee and Aberdeen.