TO FIND a treasure must be a great delight.
You have not earned it. It is better than a win on the pools, which is a barren and destructive thing. But to take a thing of beauty and worth out of the earth, this must he the ultimate in greedy pleasures.
For, of course, there is no defence of this sort of treasure seeking. The Empires of South America, the tombs of China, the putative grave of St Cuthbert at Durham, the great high tomb of St Edward the Confessor have all had rude hands thrust into them and have produced things that Little Jack Horner never dreamed of.
But the modern way to look is with metal detectors and these were designed to map out mine fields in war and so prevent the truncation of our soldiers advancing.
Now their clicks can go anywhere, the electronic disk weaving to and fro over the over -historic English earth. One of them found a "bun" penny.
'Archaeologists who regard digging and recording and brushing away ancient dirt off anything from a broken skull to the glass phial in which some silly Roman collected his own tears as a sacred, scholarly, selfless pursuit, hate such things. They are destructive, like gelignite to safes. They often do irreparable damage to some unexplored site. It is notable that in Ireland it was first said that this chance discovery on a monastic site of treasure was made by Englishmen. The Swines! (ah! but which?)
It is certainly a most marvellous Thing. There are only a few of these Things in the world that absolutely grab you. There is the Alfred jewel and the terrible great crown of the Holy Roman Empire and an Irish crozier or two and a great Byzantine altar cross in the sacristy of St Peter's and the denuded church of the Holy Wisdom in Istanbul — hut, I am making lists again. The thing is that beauty and history and a highly personal emotion suddenly come together and you stand in awe in front of a Thing. There is, thank God, almost no end to the list one could make of such Things.
But with this, 1 he Derrynaflan chalice, there seem many mysteries to the mysteries. I have been sent a copy of a letter from an Irish Carmelite monk who has not helped me much. Part of it reads: "May I focus attention on the significance of the find'? In a book which I published some years ago, "The Spirituality of the Celi De Movement 750-900," this monastery seems to have had, considerable importance in the early stages of the movement. It is situated a few miles from Hoist. and Jockey, Co. Tipperitrv. It was founded by St Ruan. A monk. Ferdacrich, hailed from the district. He was an uncle to Maelrusin, who was later to become the founder of the monastery of Taught. Co. Dublin, in 774." . .
It is rather frightening to read something of which not a single important word means anything at all to you. I would love to give you Fr Peter O'Dwyer's full learning. But it came out on March 12 in '[he Irish Times.
The chalice had a "strainer" with it. What on earth did they strain? No newspaper has given an inkling of thepurpose of this object. It was all found under an upturned brass howl and you can bet your last outmoded Missale Romanum to a well weevield ship's biscuit that it was hidden from the Vikings.
Talking of the Vikings, I had to write a piece about them lately for The Observer. A gentleman from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation telephoned to ask if I would be interviewed on the subject. So off I went to our local BBC studio. This is in the basement of a handsome building of a provincial city. It can only be described as cottage radio.
You go to the Castle where the City Council reigns. You cross a great courtyard to find a warm and well hidden porter. bow slightly and ask for the key to the "unattended studio". He is polite and hands it over. Then it's off past a medieval gate. down some area steps, unlock the door, switch on the lights, turn on the power, disconnect the police, sit in front of the mike, telephone around a bit until you find someone who both knows and cares and you wait. Eventually you are through. D.I.Y. could go no further and it works.
Then, clamping on earphones
you do this disembodied dialogue. I do not think this one was a success. Canadian from London ended on a note of incredulity — "But you really don't like the Vikings, do you?" and I was in one of the cities they had smashed. Then you do everything again reverse and then go hack, neurotically, to see if you've left anything out, like leaving the police disconnectuct t disconnected. B