One of the most significant gold finds made in Ireland – the Broighter hoard – is coming home to Limavady to mark the 400th anniversary of the Co Londonderry town.
Discovered by a farmer in a field in 1896, the priceless first century Iron Age hoard – made up of a 7in-long gold boat, torc, bowl and other jewellery – is housed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, which has agreed the loan.
The distinctive and delicate workings of the hoard is regarded as the finest example of Irish Le Tene goldworking. The intricate works have featured on the British £1 coin as well as postage stamps in Ireland.
For years Limavady councillors have campaigned for the gold to be brought home – and no one is more excited about the news than Ronnie Nicholl, whose grandfather Tom found it.
Ronnie (80) has fond memories of his grandfather telling him all about his discovery.
He recalled: "I remember hearing about how he was in the field ploughing with James Morrow and how they came across the gold.
"At first they didn't know it was gold but that's what it turned out to be – and it ended up at the National Museum in Dublin.
"I went there myself years ago to see it and when the man I was with happened to mention to one of the curators that I was the grandson of the man who discovered it, there was some excitement in the museum.
"They told me how the gold was so important and how it was the single biggest attraction in the museum, but they quizzed me for a long time and wanted to know everything about my grandfather and how he found it.
"Our whole family is very excited that it is being brought back to Limavady, even for a short while."
Councillors have made several representation to the National Museum requesting its return.
The haul will be exhibited at Roe Valley Cultural Centre.
Councillor Edwin Stevenson, who has been at the forefront of the campaign for its return, described the news as a great opportunity to celebrate. He said: "This is certainly one of the best news stories to come out of Limavady for a long time and it is fitting that the hoard comes back this year commemorating the 400th anniversary.
"The return of the Broighter gold has been something that has been raised at council several times in the past, but I suppose that it was not realistic until we had the new cultural centre.
"It is a big responsibility having something that is considered priceless on your doorstep.
"It is a great opportunity to celebrate this most significant find in the town where it was discovered all those years ago and I have no doubt thousands of people will take the chance to view the gold in its home town."
What they said...
"I am 74 and I grew up hearing about the Broighter gold and it is great that it is coming back to Limavady. I will certainly go and see the exhibition."
"It would be brilliant to see it here permanently given that it was found not far away, but I don't know how they could justify it when you think of the cost of keeping it safe."
"I live in Ballykelly – which is actually nearer to where the gold was found than Limavady. The way I look at it, if this is where it was found, then this is where it should come back to."