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Could metal detectorist's Napoleonic coin find on Black Isle help write Ross-shire history?

By Louise Glen

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Michael Gallon with his find.
Michael Gallon with his find.

A METAL detectorist has unearthed a rare silver coin which could help rewrite part of Ross-shire’s history.

Michael Gallon (49) says that while the value of the Napoleonic coin is relatively low, the place where he found it tells a very interesting story.

Mr Gallon, the activities manager at Skebo Castle in Sutherland, said the quarter franc coin found in a field near Fortrose and Rosemarkie means a solider returning from the Napoleonic Wars from France must have also been in the Highlands.

Mr Gallon, who has been a metal detector enthusiast for 40 years, said finding coins like this one can rewrite the history of an area.

He discovered it sitting on top of soil which had recently been ploughed using a Mine Lab Equinox 800.

He said: “I was working in a field that is for rape seed oil. It looks like a cover crop and the farmer said I could go in the field. As I was detecting, I saw the coin on the top of the soil. I didn’t have my glasses on, so at first I didn’t know what it was so I took it back to the van and I was surprised to see it was a silver quarter franc from 1807, the time of Napoleon.

“Obviously I cannot say for certain, but I would suggest that a Highland solider was being paid to fight against Napoleon in France and one of the people that he killed had this coin on him.

“He would then have pillaged the bodies, as soliders did then, and took this coin.”

He continued: “When I Googled the coin I saw it was reasonably valuable – but I don’t detect to make money. This one is in perfect condition and was not made in huge numbers.”

The French Quarter Franc found in a field.
The French Quarter Franc found in a field.

Similar coins, but not to the same quality, are currently selling for upwards of £500 online.

“It is an interesting piece of history that a Highlander came back from fighting in France and happened to drop the coin here, and more than 200 years later I managed to find it, sitting on top of the soil,” Mr Gallon said.

“I am nuts about metal detecting – if I could, I would go out about 18 hours a week.

“I have not been out as much over the last few years as I have been enjoying family life with my wife and two kids, but over the years I have found things that have rewritten the history of the area. For example, coins can show the way in which ancient people bartered. I have found amazing things that are now part of Scotland’s Treasure Trove and are in the national museum.

“The things that we find can tell a lot about a community.”

The coin will now be recorded with Scotland’s Treasure Trove, and a decision will be made on whether or not it will be returned to Mr Gallon.

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