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Man who found £10,000 gold nugget in Scottish stream almost threw it away

The 18.13 gsm gold nugget found in waters at Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway
The 18.13 gsm gold nugget found in waters at Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway

A gold nugget, thought to be the most significant discovery in Scotland in the past 70 years, was almost thrown away by the lucky man who found it.

The Canadian enthusiast, who asked to be named only as John, found the precious metal, worth about £10,000, while panning in the southern uplands.

The 20-carat nugget, weighing just over 18 grams, was hauled from a river near Wanlockhead, in Dumfries and Galloway on Thursday morning.

Its finder, who hails from the Gold Rush province of British Columbia, was learning to pan for gold under the watchful eye of local expert Leon Kirk.

He said: “Leon was telling me how to look out for haematite, the red coloured mineral which is often found with gold.

Gold panning expert Leon Kirk with the 18.13 golden nugget and his 20-year haul of panned Scottish gold.
Gold panning expert Leon Kirk with the 18.13 golden nugget and his 20-year haul of panned Scottish gold.
The 18.13 gsm gold nugget found in waters at Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway
The 18.13 gsm gold nugget found in waters at Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway

“We were a few minutes into panning when I found the nugget with a bean tin, an underwater viewing tin with a glass base.

“It didn’t look like much and I was just about to throw it back when I thought I should double-check with Leon first.

“I said ‘is this gold?’ and couldn’t understand his excitement.”

Golden nuggets of this size are extremely rare in Scotland, but most of the larger pieces have been found in the small area of the Lowther Hills once known as “God’s treasure house of Scotland”.

Mr Kirk, who runs courses from the Museum of Lead Mining in Scotland’s highest village, said: “I like to tell my students that everyone goes home with a flake or two of gold, but this is exceptional.

“I always knew there were sizable nuggets in these hills but, in my decades of panning, have only found very small pieces or flakes.

“This is such a major discovery that people will be talking about it in 30 years time.”

Wanlockhead Museum of Lead Mining Trustee Gerard Godfrey and gold panning expert Leon Kirk
Wanlockhead Museum of Lead Mining Trustee Gerard Godfrey and gold panning expert Leon Kirk
The 18.13 gsm gold nugget found in waters at Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway
The 18.13 gsm gold nugget found in waters at Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway

The pride of Mr King’s own collection of gold is a piece he panned in Perthshire, weighing in at 16.5 grams – the biggest nugget he has found since he started out more than 20 years ago.

Museum trustee Gerard Godfrey said: “We are absolutely delighted with such a significant find.

“No doubt there will be a mini gold rush once this gets out but we are very happy with that.

“We welcome responsible panners to the area and there is now no doubt that there are some very large pieces of gold in these hills which are just waiting to be discovered.”

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