[Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 2 pp242/245]



On Tuesday, June, 12th, 1894, some workmen, in the employ of a Douglas builder, were digging the foundation of a new house on the north side of Derby-road, Douglas, in the field adjoining Woodbourne House. The new house fronts on Derby-road. In digging a cross trench, parallel to the fronting and about five yards back from the road, for a, dwarf wall to support the joists of the floor, one of the workmen stuck his pick into a receptacle, which may be described as a miniature stone grave, consisting of three pieces of clay slate, of a. roughly rectangular shape, about the size of the face of a common brick, one on each side and one on the top, and also smaller pieces of slate closing the ends. The receptacle was little more than a foot below the surface. From the nature of the ground, it had never before been disturbed. It was common mould, and underneath stiff clay. There were no traces of any ancient foundations of buildings; nor any evidence that the ground had been used in ancient times as a burying ground, or in any way opened. The person who had made the stone receptacle had manifestly dug a hole, lined it with the slaty stones, and covered it up again. It was just sufficiently deep to have escaped the plough, which no doubt might many times have passed over the spot.

The contents of the receptacle consisted of a quantity of coins, seemingly several hundred in number, and a quantity of jewellery. The workmen at once took possession of the articles of jewellery, and most of the coins. As the spot was so near the street, people were very soon attracted to the find, and get possession of numbers of coins, which the workmen seem to have practically given away, as being of little value. In this way a large number of the coins became dispersed, and passed into the hands of persons throughout the town. On the information of Mr J. L. Kneale, brother of Mr. W. Kneale, our veteran Insular antiquary, I went to the spot soon after the discovery of the treasure. The workman who had made the discovery showed me the situation in which the treasure had been found, and the slates which had lined it. He also placed in my hand sixteen of the coins. They were encrusted with a greenish coating, which obscured the inscription. On examination I found that the encrustation could be easily removed without injuring the coins, and succeeded in cleaning half a dozen. They proved to be unquestionably Saxon silver coins, of the reigns of Athelstan, Edwy, and Edgar, all in excellent preservation, and the inscriptions, in every case, perfectly legible.

On further inquiry I found that, besides the coins, there had been articles of jewellery. On the evening of the same day, at the house of the workman, I saw over ten dozen coins, practically all in the same state as those which I had in my possession, and eleven articles of jewellery. I was informed that another workman had in his possession a considerable quantity of coins and jewellery. The articles of jewellery which I examined were (1) a fine gold bracelet of cable pattern, (2) two fine silver bracelets of cable pattern, (3) four bracelets or bangles, plain, and seemingly of silver, and open to- the extent of about half an inch ; (4) a plain silver ring (not closed) about the size of a finger ring ; (5) half of a beautifully-twisted silver circlet for the hair, of about 18 inches circumference; terminating in a book; (6) a piece of metal, about 15 inches in length, round in section, with a hollow socket at one end, and becoming square in section, and thinning to a point at the other end, but roughly coiled round, as if by the workman, to put in his pocket, though possibly` found so by him; (7) a round hollow piece of metal, which I understand to be the knob or head of a large brooch pin. Subsequently I saw another head of a brooch pin, and much more perfect, that had been taken possession of by another workman. I have had no opportunity of examining the articles further, but I am assured that the workmanship is Danish, and that they are very similar to many examples of Danish work of the 10th century in the Copenhagen collection. On Wednesday, June 13th, the authorities were communicated with, and steps were at once taken to secure the find of any treasure trove by the agent of the Crown. A part, if not the whole, of the jewellery has been recovered; and a considerable number of coins. The coins recovered have been placed in the hands of Mr. W. Kneale for examination; and it may be presumed that a report. of some kind will be made by that antiquary on the subject of the coins examined by him. So far as I have been able to gather, the coins belonged mainly to the reigns of Athelstan and subsequent kings down to the time of Edgar; and there are no coins of any later reign than Edgar's. The inference that may be drawn from this seems to be that the treasure was deposited during the reign of Edgar, towards the close of that reign, or, at the latest, very soon after his death. The coins of Edgar's reign seem in a, somewhat better state of preservation, or, rather, seem to have been very little worn by use prior to being deposited in the earth.

It remains to point out, in connection with this presumption, some facts that may have some relation to the Isle of Man at that period. Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, came to the throne in 925. In his reign, 937, was fought the famous battle of Brunnaburgh, in Lincolnshire, where Athelstan gained a great victory over Anlaf or Olaf of Northumbria; with whom were united the King of Scots, the people of Strathclyde and Cumbria, and the northern Welsh. This Olaf, who had already taken Dublin, after the battle of Brunnaburgh, fled to Ireland. He died in 940. Edmund, his succe-or, reigned six years. In his reign he conquered King Dunmail, "last King of Rocky Cumberland," and gave his country, as a feof, to the King of Scot,. Edred, his successor, reigned nine years. In his time the great St. Dunstan flourished. It was a period of intense activity on the part of the Danish sea chiefs. Edred, however, subdued Northumbria. Edwy reigned three years. It was a period of internal disorder rather than of trouble from the Danes of the North. Edgar succeeded him, and reigned for about 17 years 958--975. This is the king to whose reign most of the coins referred to belong. He increased his fleet to 360 sail, and held in complete check the sea kings on their own element. At the suggestion of the mighty Dunstan, now Arebbishop of Canterbury, he visited annually every part of his kingdom, and Dunstan accompanied him. In his progress courts of justice were held in the different counties, audiences and feasts were given, appeals were heard, and the king cultivated the acquaintance of all the nobles and chief men of the kingdom. When he held his court at Chester, A.D. 973, and had one day a wish to visit the monastery of St. John's, on the river Dee, the story goes that eight crowned kings plied the oars of his barge, while he guided the helm. These are said to have been Kenneth, King of Scot land ; Malcolin (his son), King of Cumbria; Maccus the Dane, King of Anglesey, Mann, and the Hebrides; the King of Galloway; the King of Westmere ; and the three Welsh Kings of Dynwall, Siferth, and Edwal. Edgar obtained the honourable epithet of the Peaceable or Pacific; for during his reign his kingdom was not troubled by a single war. He commuted a tribute he received from a part or the whole of Wales into 300 wolves' heads annually. The currency in Edgar's reign had been so diminished in weight by the fraudulent practice of clipping that the actual value was ! inferior to the nominal. He, therefore, reformed the coinage, and had new coinage issued all over the kingdom. He died A.D. 975. It may be remembered again that the greater number of Saxon coins in the recent find in Douglas are of his reign. On two of the coins the minting places are Chester and Durham respectively; and also, so far as my brief examination of those that came under my eye, the minting place of another was Langport. Before passing from the coins themselves, I may remark that very few of the coins had an effigy. The only coin with an effigy seen by me was a coin of Athelstan, in excellent preservation. There may, of course, have been many more, but the majority seem to have had only inscriptions. Among the Edgar coins I may also observe that several distinct coinages of his reign are represented in the find. Among the existing coins of the reigns of all these kings there are both kinds of coins, viz, some with the king's portrait and others without it. The next point that remains to be mentioned is with reference to Maccus, the prince said to have rowed an oar in the royal barge on the river Dec. About this period there appears in the ancient annals, as Lord of the Isles, a king of chieftian named "Maccus, son of Harold." This is said to be a translation of the Irish Ma Arailt, via., son of Harold, his personal name being unknown. This "Mac Arailt" conquered Anglesey, but was subsequently ousted from that island. He is said to have occupied an island at the mouth of the Shannon in the succeeding year, to have robbed the tomb of St. Senan, ,and to have delivered from captivity Ivar, the King of Limerick. He maintained his position_ at the mouth of the Shannon for three years, and was then defeated and killed, along with his two sons, by Brian Boroimhe. Ivar of Limerick, who aided him, was also defeated and put to flight. There now appears, as King of Man and the Isles, a Godred, son of Harold, whose patronymic makes it probable that he was a brother of the former MacArailt. Elsewhere it appears, "Magnus," King of Man, who died 976, and Godfrey (Godred?), slain in 9S9, were the sons of Sitric, Lord of Limerick. (See notes to the Chronicle of Man and the Sudreys, by Prof. Munch. Manks Soc., vol. xxii.)

I have referred to the general historical material of the period when the treasure lately unearthed was most probably deposited in its place of concealment, with a hope that any members of this Society who take any further interest in the matter may be induced to look into it for themselves. The writer from whom an accurate and strictly historical examination of the period can be loosed for is, without question, the Rev. T. Talbot, to whom the whole find should be submitted for examination, apart from Mr. W. Kneale's examination of the treasure, from whom, it is to, be trusted, a catalogue and list of the articles of jewellery may be looked for. In conclusion, this discovery only forces on us more than ever the necessity of a small Insular museum. It is much to be regretted that the various finds, whether of pre-historic or historic materials, should, for want of a museum on the Island, be, of necessity, sent to the, British Museum, or fall into the hands of private collectors. And perhaps occasion may be taken by the Society, at this juncture, to adopt a resolution and submit it to his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, asking the consideration of his Excellency to the subject of an Insular museum. It is possible that the Crown, to whom the treasure belongs, might sanction all objects found in the Island being retained in the Island, if a fitting place could be provided in which they may be kept, in permanence, with a sufficient guarantee of their security.


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