Dame Evelyn Glennie on her Love of Metal Detecting …

There have been some exciting detecting discoveries in recent years and the Staffordshire, Galloway and Lenborough Hoards are just an example. I have enjoyed bringing you the exclusive finders’ stories on these and many other important and significant finds.

My blog today is about a remarkable lady who will hopefully motivate and inspire you; Dame Evelyn Glennie CH, DBE. Evelyn is a percussionist, celebrated worldwide and held in high esteem. But did you know that when not performing with leading orchestras or collaborating with fellow virtuosos, she is a metal detectorist who has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12.

Detecting – a Tactile Experience

Maybe it sounds a strange concept to you, but as well as listening to music with her body and not her ears, that is how she hears the sounds of those targets under the ground. For her, detecting, like music, is very much a tactile experience. She doesn’t use headphones and finds that the body pays attention to so much more. In a recent interview she said that low sounds are alive in the bottom part of her body and high sounds she feels in the cheekbones. “Clearly it’s happening to us all she said but I’d never paid attention because I thought everything came through here, (pointing to her ears). Hearing and feeling are difficult to separate.”

Evelyn chose to speak with me on Skype, no doubt expecting to pick up valuable clues from my ugly face and animated lips. Alas, my scraggy moustache and beard can’t have helped with communication but with a little help from her PA Maria, there were few difficulties.

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Lead ‘Makes the Mind Give Way’

The dangers of lead exposure have been recognised for millennia. In the first century A.D. Dioscorides observed in his De Materia Medica that “lead makes the mind give way”Read more by clicking HERE, and also at the end of this post.


Can you remember the time you embarked on your first metal detecting spree? Do you recollect the excitement, dreams and anticipation of what you might find? Was it a coin, something special or just a load of dross? Whatever it was, from that moment on, were you hooked?

I remember seeing a young boy – must have been about 12 – being shown the ropes by his father. They had been detecting for a couple of hours and dad was back at the car having a drink, but the lad’s swinging continued. 

Keep the coil flat”, urged dad as the boy hit on a promising signal. And then, “Sounds like iron to me!”

The boy had been taught well and the target was in the plug he extracted. The signal was much stronger now and I quietly willed the find to be a hammered coin, but it wasn’t to be. Everyone gathered around as he expertly eliminated clods of earth until nothing remained but … a lump of lead! The young lad wasn’t too disappointed; the thrill of the chase itself had been compensation enough.

By this time, his Mum had returned from a car boot sale to take him home after this first lesson, leaving dad to do some serious searching. The boy had found it exciting. An interested bystander asked what he was going to do with the lead. Mum suggested that they take it home and frame it!

A Full Pouch

I’m reminded of all those days detecting in a freshly ploughed sticky field staggering about in wellies that had collected so much mud, I was at least 6” taller. I complained to anyone who would listen that my feet were ‘as heavy as lead’. My finds’ pouch was often weighed down with the same non-ferrous grey ballast!

Indeed, many lead objects are unearthed by detectorists and assigned to the scrap box with little investigation. Which is a pity, for it is always worth washing and closely examining each lead find. I’ll give you a few examples why.

Just a Lump of Lead

You should always be careful what you throw away. A chunk of unidentified lead hidden in a tin for almost 20 years turned out to be a very interesting find for a detectorist from Maidstone in Kent. He found the item in a small orchard in the mid 1990’s long before the Internet and detecting forums made identification of items easy. Books on Roman coins were researched at the time but nothing could be found relating to the item.

Valens Trial Piece [possibly] : KENT-7F3206 : Courtesy of the PAS : Unknown Finder

After registering the find, the old piece of lead was taken to London to be viewed by Dr. Sam Moorhead, National Finds Adviser, Ancient Coins at the British Museum. The detectorist was surprised when his ‘piece of lead’ was confirmed as (quite possibly) a trial piece of the reverse die of a silver medallion of Valens (AD 364-78). How it came to be in a small field in Kent is a mystery, as the mintmark is from Trier, in Germany. 

The Ubiquitous Spindle Whorl

In an an article for The Searcher magazine in December 2016, detectorist Pat Law said that one of his favourite finds was the humble lead spindle whorl. Friends jokingly say that Pat has a ‘Whorl Pool’. Why does the ubiquitous spindle whorl get him ‘buzzing’? I’ll let him explain.

Spindle whorls have been made from many materials throughout history. It is the ones cast in lead that I find enthralling and I remember that incredulity when I found my first one. They are fascinating!”

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The Oldest Trade in the World

No, not that. Flint knapping is perhaps the oldest trade in existence, dating back to the Stone Age when arrow heads were chipped from pieces of flint. Probably the best exponent of the art in the UK is Will Lord who has been involved in knapping and prehistoric technology since 1975. I was privileged to see him in action [thanks to Jon Adkin] during a metal detecting rally held East Sussex a few years ago. Please click HERE to learn more about Will. There is a wealth of information and videos on to Net. This is simply an introduction to a remarkable guy.

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Tin Can Alley

When I was a kid growing up in the 1940’s new toys were few and far between, but we were quite resourceful and spent many happy hours with old, throw-away tin cans. For example, we made holes in the bottom, fitted with string and used them as stilts. What a racket we made clanging up and down the street! Now, we’d probably be issued with an #Antisocial Behaviour Order [ASBO] for disturbing the peace. 

Because of stage-4 decrepit amnesia I can’t remember all the games we played, but several involved the humble tin can. Can you remember the tin-can telephone connected with a length of string for talking to your mates? Just two old tin cans, but it’s the stuff that memories are made of. Cans played a big part in weddings too. When was the last time you saw the happily married couple’s car clumping and clattering down the road with half a dozen cans tied to the bumper?

#Now called Criminal Behaviour Order.

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