Trio of metal detectorists uncover secret Jacobite hoard on shore of Lochaber loch

Paul Macdonald, Gary Burton and David McGovern made the discovery near Lochailort in September. NO F47 jacobite hoard 02
Paul Macdonald, Gary Burton and David McGovern made the discovery near Lochailort in September. Photograph: Conflicts of Interest. NO F47 jacobite hoard 02

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A secret arms shipment intended for the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie have been discovered on the shores of a remote Lochaber loch.

Artefacts including more than 200 musket balls, gold and gilt buttons were found by a trio of amateur archaeologists hunting for weapons sent from France for the doomed Jacobite military rising of 1745-46.

The items are thought to be part of a shipment landed just a fortnight after the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746.

Paul Macdonald, David McGovern and Gary Burton were using metal detecting equipment – with the landowner’s permission – when they made the find recently on the shore of Loch nan Uamh, near Lochailort.

The historical items were uncovered near a ruined croft house that once belong to the prince’s Gaelic tutor, and have now been reported to Treasure Trove in Scotland.

This is an official organisation which ensures objects of cultural significance from Scotland’s past are protected for the benefit of the nation and preserved in museums across the country.

Over 200 musket balls were among the finds. Photograph: Conflicts of Interest. NO F47 jacobite hoard 01
Over 200 musket balls were among the finds. Photograph: Conflicts of Interest.
NO F47 jacobite hoard 01

Originally from Glenuig, Mr Macdonald, of the Conflicts of Interest battlefield archaeology group, said the find had been made in early September on the Rhu peninsula.

‘For around 250 years there, a hoard had lain undisturbed by one particular croft.
The complete hoard included 215 musket balls and a number of gold and silver gilt buttons, coins and some other non-ferrous items on the northern coast of Loch nan Uamh,’ said Mr Macdonald.

‘It was really just a case of joining the dots so to speak, from what history records. It is known that arms had been landed in 1746 in this area.

‘From what the finds tell us to date, the musket balls were cast for use, yet never fired and correspond with the same calibre of musket balls landed nearby with French arms for the Jacobite Rising by the ships Mars and Bellone on the 30th April 1746.

‘The arms were, of course, landed a couple of weeks after the Battle of Culloden and never saw service, but were rapidly distributed and hidden locally.

‘What we also know about the find-spot is that the now-ruined croft was once inhabited by the famous Clanranald bard, Alasdair MacMhaighstir Alasdair, who was an officer in the ’45 Rising and served as Gaelic tutor to Prince Charles Edward Stuart. He lived out his later years here at this croft until his death in 1770.

‘The find has been reported to Treasure Trove where it may through process from there hopefully find its way to a Scottish museum.’

Bonnie Prince Charlie. Photograph: Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland. NO F16 Prince Charlie
Bonnie Prince Charlie. Photograph: Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

As to the value of the aretfacts, Mr Macdonald said the find is significant but more in terms of historical worth than financial.

‘It is a very nice find and we were delighted with locating another part of the story of the prince and the Jacobite Rising.’