Church settles unholy row over £2m Viking-age haul

Church settles unholy row over £2m Viking-age haul

It is a breathtaking £2million treasure trove that pitted the Church of Scotland against a metal detectorist.

But now the legal dispute over the spoils of the richest Viking-age discovery in Britain has been settled out of court.

Buried around the year 900, the Galloway Hoard was discovered in 2014 on Church of Scotland land in Dumfries and Galloway by metal detectorist Derek McLennan.

Described by the National Museums of Scotland as the ‘richest, most varied and well-preserved collection of precious and exotic objects’ in British history, it contained around 100 items including silver, gold, and jewellery.

But soon after the discovery, a row emerged over exactly how the haul would be divided.

Derek McLennan has settled out of court with the Church of Scotland

Standard practice in the world of metal detecting is half to the finder and half to the landowner.

At the time, it was reported that Mr McLennan, 54, would share any proceeds with the church.

But it was soon claimed he had gone back on the deal.

The Church of Scotland launched legal action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to recover its alleged share in 2019.

The Mail can reveal today that the dispute has now been settled for an undisclosed fee.

Church of Scotland minister David Bartholomew was a friend of Mr McLennan and was with him on the day the discovery was made in 2014.

Talking about the settlement, the 67-year-old said yesterday: ‘They reached an agreement. In the end Derek agreed to give a significant amount.

‘He more than covered the church’s legal costs. I do not know the amount.

‘But I think for both it was better than the legal costs.’

The Galloway Hoard was processed by the King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, which is the Crown’s representative in Scotland responsible for ownerless property.

But in contrast to the English system, it operates on Scottish common law and awards are paid solely to the finder – not divided beforehand with the landowner.

The National Museum of Scotland was able to raise the enormous sum of £1.98million and purchased all of the items from Mr McLennan in 2017.

The hoard found by detectorist Derek McLennan included: 1. A gold pendant; 2. Anglo-Saxon cross; 3. Annular silver bracelet arm rings; 4. A bird pin; 5. Model of a vessel from the hoard; 6. Disc brooch; 7. A crystal vessel

Since the row over the Galloway Hoard, the small metal detectorist community in Scotland has said there has been a ‘landscape shift’ – with landowners preferring written agreements before allowing any digging to commence.

Mr McLennan and his wife experienced a near-fatal car accident in 2016, with Mr McLennan later writing in a blog post that ‘every day is a challenge’.

The couple sold their rural Ayrshire home in 2021 for £485,000 and are now believed to be living abroad in Cyprus.

Mr McLennan did not respond to attempts by the Mail to contact him. Mr Bartholomew, who lost touch with Mr McLennan in early 2017, added: ‘He was initially very interested in the history of the hoard, but felt he had been pushed to the side by the museum authorities.

‘It is sad the way it has turned out but it is such a wonderful find. At least a line can be drawn under the whole thing.

At least some justice has been done.’

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: ‘The parties record that the dispute between them in relation to the Galloway Hoard has been resolved by agreement.’

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