When I sent a copy of the interview to John Howland I pretty much knew how he would respond. Guffaws (learned that word from Wally), “are you shittin me” comments and ROFLMAO repetitions. (what a pal…). So I got thinking about the question and answer thing and decided to send pretty much the same questions to him. I asked him to look them over, respond and allow me the chance to ROFLMAO too. I also thought it would be a chance for those of you who are not that familiar with my good friend in the UK to learn a little more about him.
You may cringe at some of his responses and choice of words, but he’s always told it like it is, and I guess that’s why we’ve been friends for almost 30 years. That’s not to say he hasn’t gotten me in trouble a few times but I can honestly say we always had fun even then. Someday maybe we’ll write a book together, although I suspect the detector manufacturers would not take a liking to it, nor would it be suitable for all ages.
Q. At what age did you first realize that you enjoyed looking for lost treasures? Where would you look and What types of items did you collect back then?
A. I first went coin hunting when aged about twelve, on the site of Curium in Cyprus, with the then Curator and a few friends. I found a coin and hoiked it out with a penknife.
Q. When did you get your first metal detector? What kind was it, and What types of treasure did you find with it? Do you still have your first metal detector?
A. My first machine was TR-type Fieldmaster back in 1976/7. I donated it to the Detecting Museum at Regton Ltd.
Q. When you first started detecting, did you have a mentor that you learned most of your detecting knowledge from, or was most of what you learned just trial and error?
A. Nope…it was mostly suck-it-and-see.
Q. When did you really become serious about metal detecting? What had changed that made you take your hobby to the next level?
A. I eventually got access to a friend’s farmland on which was a roman villa, and the roman coins came rolling in from the ploughsoil!
Q. What was your first real metal detector, and how did it differ from most detectors today?
A. I moved up to a VLF Garrett ADS Groundhog. It was back in 1979, cutting-edge stuff, but with the coming of improved circuitry, chips, Graphic Target Imaging, and All-Terrain design and weatherproofing, we are now light years away.
Q. Have you ever been a product tester for metal detectors? If so, how did you like doing that?
A. Yes, I have tested a few and did not like the experience at all. I’m still amazed that many manufacturers put their reputations in the hands of so-called ‘reviewers’ who simply haven’t the faintest idea how to review a product. It’s a bit like a car manufacturer asking a cyclist to write a review on a sports car! I was eventually banned from writing reviews because in one notorious case, the machine I tested was so good – and I said so – that retailers locked into dealerships with rival manufacturers, threatened to withdraw their advertising. I got the boot!
Q. How has the hobby evolved from when you first started metal detecting and now?
A. For over thirty years, radical archaeologists have smeared the hobby and its practitioners, and some still are trying to eradicate the hobby entirely, or to bring the hobby under their direct control with such stringent rules and regulations that it becomes pointless. With the advent of the 1996 Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, all backed by the British Government, the British Museum, and successive Culture Ministers the hobby has come of age and is well-respected and valued.
Q. Do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing?
A. Er…what do you think?
Q. Would you consider yourself to be a pioneer in the detecting community?
A. Not so much a pioneer, but I’ve always have been in the Vanguard in the fight for, and to protect the hobby. I simply object to people — mostly from the Marxist/Socialist school — telling me what I can or cannot do, based solely on their detestable political views. I don’t remember ever voting for these swine who’d just love to change the politics of it all. Frankly, I don’t give a shit for them! And they know it.
Q. Who is someone that you consider yourself lucky to have had the chance to go metal detecting with?
A. Oh, my late friend Ron Scearce.
Q. Take us down memory lane, tell us about one of your all time favourite hunts. What did you find and where?
A. In 1986 while on a visit to Atlantic City to help set up the World Council for Metal Detecting I had the chance to hunt close to, not on, the field of Gettysburg. Time was at a premium having just about two hours allotted for the hunt but I managed to lift a Confederate Minnie Ball. It sits at home in pride of place.
Q. Do you have any humorous adventures that you’d like to share with us? Maybe something funny that happened to you while metal detecting or a memory that you get a chuckle out of when you think about it?
A. Oh, there are many! But one favourite was on the site of the aforementioned roman villa; my pal had to answer a call of nature and disappeared behind some bushes on the perimeter of the field, followed by a piercing scream and him emerging clutching a smoking organ…he’d peed on an electric cattle fence.
Q. Have you ever returned a lost item to someone? If so, what was it and how did that make you feel. What are your thoughts on returning lost items?
A. Many times. It makes the hobby that much more worthwhile and personal. In one instance it led to an offer of farmland to hunt, anytime.
Q. If you could add one new feature to a metal detector design, what would it be?
A. A bottle opener/corkscrew?
Q. Where do you see the hobby of metal detecting in the next 10 years? Do you think the scale will tip towards more regulations against metal detecting, or do you think that organizations like Task Force For Metal Detecting Rights will help open more places to detecting in the future?
A. The hobby in the UK at least, has survived not because of organisations such as the National Council for Metal Detecting, but in spite of them! I wouldn’t mind betting the same applies in the States. Fortunately, with so many people in the hobby, both here and Stateside, hobby numbers mean votes. ‘I hunt and I vote’ is the new mantra that’s not wasted on politicians. The hobby is very weak in the States where by all accounts, the antis are successfully spreading the poison with increased land now off limits. It’s not because the antis are smarter, simply that the hobby has failed to defend themselves. It will get worse, but not here in the UK.
Q. Do you still get out metal detecting, and if so, what types of hunting do you like to do most?
A. I live by the sea on the England’s south coast so beachcombing is my game.
Q. How has metal detecting affected or changed your life?
A. It’s taken me around the world where I’ve met some the best people in the world in this hobby of ours. On the downside though, it’s brought me into close proximity with mad-hatter academics and others in the ‘anti’ lobby, some of whom are the most detestable creatures imaginable, over whom I wouldn’t urinate even if they were on fire. Some display obvious mental peculiarities which are ruthlessly exploited by the ‘back-room’ boys back behind the lines to fire the bullets they lack the courage to fire themselves.
Q. What do you think of the general standard of hobby websites & blogs?
A. Mostly pretty good, but I do wonder why some bloggers set themselves up as being holier-than-thou and actually link to the likes of Barford and Swift, or Paul and Nigel as they like to refer to them. When you look at their profiles all is revealed….”I’m new to this…only been detecting for a year”…and so on, ad nauseum. Why on earth would anyone think it’s important, even desirable, to have Barford or Swift’s approbation? Beats me. These naivetés are swimming with sharks as one humiliatingly found to his cost.
Q. You are probably the most hated detectorist in some archaeological circles there’s ever been. Why is that?
A. They hate me alright, but they respect me. Not out of love, but they know if they start with their usual bullshit I’ll step all over them. When they describe me as a ‘dangerous nutcase’ I know I’m striking home.
Q. Tell us about another hobby that you enjoy that we may not know about.
A. Fly fishing for trout and lure fishing for coastal bass. Sampling the wares of local micro-breweries!
Q. Lastly, If there was one message that you would like to share with the detecting community as a whole, what would you like everyone to know or remember?
A. You only get the hobby you deserve or are prepared to fight for. It’s an honourable hobby; a legal hobby and adds significantly to the greater knowledge of our common past. It is not archaeology, nor should it ever be; it’s all about looking for casual losses through the ages. Now if some academics don’t like it they can **** off!