Gold hoard thrown in skip displayed
A hoard of Early Bronze Age gold that was salvaged from a skip following a botched robbery has gone on display.
The ancient artefacts were recovered by gardai in 2009 after being dumped along with the stolen safe they had been kept in at Sheehan's Pharmacy in Strokestown, Co Roscommon.
The thieves had not realised that the 5,000-year-old gold was hidden among documents when they tipped out what they thought were the safe's worthless contents.
Tony Candon, manager at the National Museum of Ireland where the gold will go on display, said: "Those thieves missed out big time when they unknowingly threw this treasure away."
The Sheehan family acquired the artefacts - a gold crescent shaped collar known as a lunula and two gold discs - in 1947, two years after Hubert Lannon dug them up in a Coggalbeg bog near Strokestown. They kept them in the pharmacy's safe ever since, only occasionally taking them out through the years.
Mr Candon explained: "Mr Lannon found the gold when he was cutting up turf in 1945. Two years later he gave it to Patrick Sheehan and he kept it in the safe.
"The family knew over the years that they had something valuable and important. They treated it as a family heirloom and it had been at the back of their minds. But then when the safe was stolen, it occurred to them the gold was inside. That's when they got in touch with the museum about it."
It is believed the thieves failed to notice the artefacts when they threw the safe's contents in a skip. The gold weighs 78 grams or 2.5 ounces.
Minister for arts Jimmy Deenihan opened the exhibition at the Museum of Country Life in Turlough Park, Castlebar. He said: "An extraordinary series of unlikely events led to the discovery of the most significant hoard of Early Bronze Age goldwork from Ireland for many years. From an archaeological perspective this hoard is of great significance."
The exhibition will run until next summer before the gold is moved to the main National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street in Dublin.