Safe Secrets: The Story of the Coggalbeg Hoard

Coggalbeg Hoard
Coggalbeg Hoard

Many of you may have read the story of a gold Early Bronze Age collar which was found in a skip after the robbery of a Co. Roscomon pharmacy.

Apparently when Sheehans pharmacy in  Strokestown Co. Roscommon was robbed the burglars  turned out the contents of the safe into a skip after taking the money and valuables of interest to them. What they didn’t realise was that buried in the papers was a priceless gold torc.

Following the robbery the Sheehan family told gardaí that the safe contained three items of gold jewellery. The detectives established that the papers from the safe had been dumped in a skip nearby. Because of the flat, thin nature of these gold pieces (weighing only 78 grams in total) they went unnoticed by the robbers. After trawling through the skip the gardaí found the crescent shaped collar and two small gold discs.

Gold Lunulae
Gold Lunulae

It transpires that these items had been kept in the Sheehan’s safe since 1947.  The hoard was originally found by Hubert Lannon when he was cutting turf in his bog at Coggalbeg, Co. Roscommon. It was discovered when investigating the provenance of the hoard that Mr Lannon had died at age 93  just three weeks before the robbery in March 2009. His family were able to confirm that he had found the gold in his bog and had given it to Mr Sheehan the Strokestown chemist.

Once the gold had been recovered it was sent to the National Museum of Ireland to be cataloged and dated. This hoard is extremely important as it contains the first pair of discs to be found since the nineteenth century.  The find is also important as it represents the first recorded association of a lunula and gold discs. This is very significant for archaeologists as they study the period in which collars and discs would be worn.

Last week the Coggalbeg hoard went on display in the Museum of Country Life in Turlough Park, Castlebar. This amazing find will remain there for all to see until June 2012.

What a strange set of circumstances resulted in this hoard finding  its way into public view. How many other treasures are buried in safes and under beds around the country?!

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