Published: 11/10/2017 13:00 - Updated: 10/10/2017 10:30

Treasure hunter coining it in from school playgrounds

Written byDonna MacAllister

 

Eric Soane
Eric Soane with his metal detector at Raigmore Primary School.

A 79-year-old metal detectorist famed for finding the north’s largest hoard of Roman coins has turned his attention to school playing fields picking up nearly £2000 worth of change that has dropped out of pupils’ pockets.

Eric Soane spends entire days combing playgrounds for coins to boost the coffers of cash-strapped schools.

And the amateur treasure hunter, who is one of Scotland’s top suppliers of treasure trove, has been reaping the rewards of his past time by banking more than 20,000 coins.

He said the reaction from the school pupils when he hand-delivers a wad of notes was priceless.

"I couldn’t believe the reception I got at Obsdale Primary School in Alness," he said.

"The head-teacher was over the moon. And one of the little girls who took the money from me made a fan out of all the notes and held it out to her classmates and they were all going ‘ooooh wow’. It was the best reception that I have ever had."

Mr Soane took up metal detecting 15 years ago after a career in gunsmithing and social care.

The pensioner, who lives at Tornagrain, works with the National Museums of Scotland, Inverness Museum and the Highlanders Museum to piece together the past at significant sites in the local area.

He prides himself on being the "fastest finder" in the north and has hit the national news headlines for his discoveries.

His biggest yield came when his metal detector struck on part of a 36 denarii Roman coin hoard during a clean up of discarded tent pegs at Belladrum.

A dig led by archaeologist Dr Fraser Hunter uncovered the rest of what was the first Roman coin hoard to be discovered in the Beauly area.

And one of his proudest moments was unearthing a gold wedding band that had slipped off a newlywed’s finger when she was helping to gather corn in 1958.

He was delighted to reunite Joan MacLeod, of Cabrich, Kirkhill, with her cherished ring. although it would no longer go on her arthritically swelled finger.

His work on school playing fields is ongoing and he has so far scoured the grounds of 17 schools in the Inverness and Easter Ross areas.

He has uncovered 22,331 coins worth £1710 with his most lucrative days spent at Raigmore Primary in Inverness, where he picked up 3500 coins worth £185.

Rosebank Primary in Nairn was his second best hit where he found 3127 coins with when banked returned £160.

He said the idea for the venture came to him on a whim.

"I was up at Raigmore Primary fixing a fence one day and I saw all the kids playing out in the fields and that’s when I thought ‘they’re bound to be losing stuff and if every one of them just lost a coin per year that would be quite a lot’.

"As it turned out they were losing more than one per year, a lot more."

Carla Tunnicliffe, acting head teacher at Raigmore Primary, said: "The school is really appreciative of receiving the money Mr Soane finds in the school grounds."

A Highland Council spokeswoman added: "Mr Soane sought permission from the schools’ head teachers that he metal detects at. It is important to note that some people cannot metal detect on land without the owner’s permission."

There are also strict Treasure Trove laws that metal detectorists must abide by.

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