“It was a little touching,” said Donald MacPhee, of how he reunited a woman with the alliance she lost in a potato field in the Western Isles 50 years ago.
Peggy MacSween, now 86, believed she had lost the golden ring forever after it slipped off her finger while she was picking up potatoes at her home in Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.
But after learning of the Lost Ring’s existence during a conversation between neighbors, MacPhee, another islander and determined metal detector, made it his mission to unearth the treasure.
He spent three days searching Liniclate Machair, the sandy coastal meadow where the potato plot once stood with a metal detector. The area had become a popular drinking spot over the years, resulting in a significant number of buried can ring draws that disrupted sound research for the ring.
MacPhee, who runs the Nunton House Hostel in Benbecula, explained: “For three days I searched and dug 90 holes. The problem is, gold rings sound the same [on the detector] like rings and I got a lot of them – as well as a lot of other stuff like horseshoes and cans.
“But on the third day, I found the ring. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I had searched an area of 5,000 square meters. It was a one in 100,000 chance and certainly my best find. It was a fluke. There was some technique involved, but I just got lucky.
After dislodging it from the turf, MacPhee brought the ring straight to its owner. “It was in immaculate condition. She put it on her finger and it still fitted perfectly.
Picking up the story, MacSween said, “He just came to the door and said, ‘I have something to show you.’ It was the ring. I couldn’t believe it, but it was there. I thought I would never see him again.
She said of her loss: “I shook the sand off my gloves and the ring was gone. I didn’t know until I got home. I went out once or twice to look for it, but there was no way to find it.
Her husband, John, whom she married in July 1958 and died a few years ago, bought her a replacement while they were on vacation.
MacPhee said he started detecting metals seven years ago after watching YouTube videos. “It interested me and it is my best find for many reasons,” he said.