Irish boy uncovers ancient basket-hilted broadsword with new metal detector

A ten-year-old boy from the north of Ireland has uncovered what is thought to be a 300-year-old possible “English basket-hilted broadsword”.

Birthday present

Fionntan Hughes was using a metal detector he got for his birthday in July.  He was out fishing with his father and cousin and found the sword about a foot under ground on the banks of the River Blackwater near his home.

Ornate pommel

After they dug up the large, mud-covered object, they took it home and washed it off with a garden hose.  That revealed half of a rusted, old sword with an ornate pommel.


Fionntan told BBC Newsline that he “felt excited because it was a sword and it was just here.  I didn’t really expect anything too big”.

Centuries old

The sword’s ornate handle is its most identifiable feature, but antiques experts Mark and David Hawkins told BBC News that the sword is difficult to identify from photographs because the rust may be exaggerating its size.  But it looks like an English basket-hilted broadsword that was introduced between 1610 to 1640.

English officers

It seems to have a plum pudding pommel, which is “typical of the early types,” the Hawkins’ told BBC News.  But because some designs were used by English officers for more than a century, they suspect this sword is from the late 1600s or early 1700s.

Basket hilt

Another antique dealer, Philip Spooner, told BBC’s Newsround:  “What a fine thing to find.  The sword is a basket hilt-type sword as used by English officers and dragoons from about 1720 to 1780, or it could be a Scottish basket hilt of about 1700 to 1850.”


The U.K.’s Treasure Act of 1996 requires those who discover caches of buried treasure to report their finds to the local coroner’s office.  They then notify local authorities. Last year, four men received sentences of between five and ten years in prison because they didn’t report the Viking artifacts they found in 2015,   


Fionntan and his father immediately contacted the authorities when they realized what they’d found. Paul, the proud treasure hunter’s father said “The last thing I want is for it to be left rusting away in my garage.”

National Museum

He added that it’s “deteriorating by the day.”

The Hughes hope that it will be handed over to the National Museum of Northern Ireland and eventually be put on display.




Niall Ó Brolcháin
Niall Ó Brolcháin

is a journalist based in Derry in the North of Ireland. He is an Irish speaker with a BA (Hons) degree in Irish Language and Literature and a Master's degree in International Journalism: Hostile Environment Reporting. Passionate about local, national and international human, cultural, language and equality rights, he has extensive experience telling rich stories in words, photo and video both in Ireland and Palestine.

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