HC Deb 29 March 1898 vol 55 cc1243-4

On behalf of the hon. Member for North Louth, I beg to ask Mr. Attorney General for Ireland whether the Celtic ornaments discovered recently in Donegal were treasure trove; if so, was an offence committed in handing them over to the agents of the British Museum; and, will the Executive call for a Report on this matter, or take any steps to prevent ancient remains passing out of Ireland in future?


On the facts, so far as I have been able to ascertain them, these articles were, in my opinion, treasure trove, and belonged to the Crown. The first finder was primâ facie guilty of the offence of unlawfully, wilfully, and knowingly concealing the finding from the Crown. The ornaments were purchased by the trustees of the British Museum in the usual way of business from a private person, who, it is understood, had obtained them from a dealer. The first finder was, I am informed, a man named Thomas Nichol, a farm servant in the employment of a Mr. Gibson, who lives near Limavady. I have not as yet been able to ascertain the number of intermediaries through whose hands the ornaments passed before their acquisition by the British Museum. The police have already all necessary directions as to their duties to prevent treasure trove from being improperly disposed of by persons who may find it.

MR. W. H. K. REDMOND (Clare, E.)

May I ask the right hon. gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury if, in view of the statement just made, he cannot make representations to the British Museum authorities with a view to having these ornaments returned to Ireland?


I do not think the trustees of the British Museum have power to let them out of their custody unless it were proved that they had acquired them illegally.


Will any proceedings be taken against the finder of these articles, so as to make better known the state of the law?


On the information in my possession at present I cannot answer that question.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the propriety of prosecuting the trustees of the British Museum?


No, Sir.