Rare Viking silver coins find a first for Northern Ireland

An extremely rare Viking Hiberno-Manx silver coin found on farmland near Newcastle in Co Down, as it has been declared as treasure. Credit: PA

A treasure-hunter has discovered two extremely rare Viking silver coins near Newcastle in Co Down.

Brian Morton, 43, from Moneymore in Co Londonderry, has spoken about his exciting find in May.

A treasure inquest in Belfast has heard the discovery of the Hiberno-Manx silver coins are a first for Northern Ireland, with less than a handful found anywhere on the island of Ireland during the last four decades.

Brian Morton pictured with the rare Viking coins he discovered which have been declared treasure. Credit: PA

Mr Morton was searching on farmland with his metal detector but he said he had not been looking for anything specific.

“It was just a general place to go out. I was looking for a wee bit of history and this popped out.

“I had never seen anything like it.”

The coins were mainly circulated in the Isle of Man during the eleventh century and are 93% silver.

They were found under about 10cm of mud about 1.5m apart.

The court heard the coins could have ended up in the Co Down hinterland after being taken during a Viking raid on a nearby monastery at Maghera, or they could have been the result of a trade or strategic link with the Isle of Man and south-east Ulster.

A former curator at the Ulster Museum speculated that they were dropped by someone passing rather than being deliberately hidden.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson said she was “happy” to declare the discovery treasure at the inquest in Belfast's Laganside House.

“I congratulate Mr Morton and thank him for giving them over to the Ulster Museum.”

The coins will now be sent to the British Museum for independent valuation and the money will be split between Mr Morton and landowner.

Dr Greer Ramsey, of National Museums Northern Ireland, said: "We take coinage totally for granted but, prior to the Viking period in Ireland, there wasn't coinage and silver was the main form of currency.

"Different areas had their own styles of coins so finding different coins from different areas gives you a measure of contact.

"The Hibernia-Manx coins seem to have been circulated mainly in the Isle of Man and maybe in Scotland, but there have been no authenticated finds from Ireland.

"There are some Manx finds in collections but that's what they are, collections.

"The significance is that these coins are really the first that we can say were found in Ireland. It is a measure of contact - that people from the Isle of Man were travelling over."