THERE’S GOLD IN THEM HILLS

September 17th 2020

At various points throughout history, the supply of gold has been taken for granted or the opening up of new supplies has, more or less, kept pace as the demand for gold expanded.

Times changed, however, and the Romans found that their supply of gold for coinage constantly fell short of their needs.

“Nature sets the ceiling on the supply of gold and silver,” writes Peter L. Bernstein in his book, The Power of Gold; “you cannot create metal out of nothing.”

In August 2020, it was widely reported that a price has been agreed for a proposed community buyout at Scotland’s highest village, Wanlockhead.

A joint valuation of nearly £1.5m has been put on almost 4000 acres of land owned by the Buccleuch group,  including various sites of natural, historical and recreational significance.

Wanlockhead Community Trust (WCT) wants to transform the village and its surrounding area into a sustainable tourist destination with ski slopes, biking, hiking and nature trails, in addition to music and art-themed festivals.

Business development, affordable housing for families and environmental restoration are also part of the plans.

It is gold however, that first put Wanlockhead on the map.

According to the Museum of Lead Mining, gold can be found in many areas of Scotland and particularly in the Lowther Hills around Wanlockhead and Leadhills where gold panning has been popular for centuries. In fact, in medieval times, the Leadhills area was so rich in precious metals that it earned the title “God’s Treasure House in Scotland”.

Gold is found in the sands and gravels in the burns which act as a natural means of concentrating the gold. At various times prospectors were drawn to the Wanlockhead locality in search of gold. The first documented evidence of the recovery of gold in the area is from the reign of King James IV of Scotland in the early 16th century.

During the reign of King James V, gold from the Crawford Muir (now known as Leadhills) was incorporated in the new crowns for the King and Queen. Much of the gold coinage of King James V (1513 – 1542) and Mary Queen of Scots (1542 – 1567) was minted in Edinburgh from gold from this area.

Gold continues to be found in Wanlockhead and in 2015, a 20 carat nugget with an estimated value of £10,000 was discovered by a Canadian man during a gold panning course.

“The random location of mineral deposits makes (some) countries rich as a matter of good luck and other countries greedy for gold as a consequence of bad luck,” states Bernstein.

Scotland, it seems – and Wanlockhead in particular – has a rich and golden history, if you’re willing to look for it.