It Takes All Sorts…

John Howland

This time around yours truly will yield to the Brit John Howland. Thanks Bubba and congratulations on the new addition.

One man’s treasure hunter is another man’s…treasure hunter?

Treasure seekers come in all shapes, sizes, and guises; some see themselves as higher mortals opting for that thin veneer of BS masquerading as ethically correct (ethics?! Depends on whose. He, he!). Some have in the past made and served the tea on an excavation and now believe themselves to be ‘proper’ archaeologists complete with the usual hypocritical bovine scatology; “One is not in it for the money” they chorus, (yeah, right!)  but others – those with an eye to the main chance – are less mendacious and come straight out with it saying – refreshingly – “Yup, I’m here for more than the beer.”  Whatever their pretensions, there’s a particular Mother Lode they’d all like to get their mitts on…and it’s still out there…somewhere. Waiting. Better it’s found by a died-in-the-wool treasure hunter methinks, rather than some po-faced arkie.

The Mother Lode in question is the ‘Treasure of Lima’ estimated to be worth north of £160 million, or $208 million, is many believe, still out there. Back in the 16C when Spain dominated the Americas, she amassed a huge fortune in gold and silver bullion, all shipped back to the king of Spain’s coffers. By 1820, Spain’s grip on Peru and Lima loosened resulting in the evacuation of Lima, and this is where the facts become blurred.

Central to the story is William Thompson, a Newfoundlander, appointed to transport the fabulous riches to Mexico aboard his ship the Mary Dear. Unable to resist the temptation, Thompson and his crew slit the throats of the treasure’s on-board guards along with the accompanying priests and dumping their bodies overboard. With the dirty deed done Thompson laid a course for the Cocos Islands off the coast of Costa Rica.

Here, he and his crew hid (or buried) their murderously ill-gotten gains; then laid low while the heat died down. Later, so their plan went, they would divvy-up the treasure in fair shares for all. As with the best of laid plans, fate strode in and Thompson and his crew were captured along with his ship. Only Thompson and his First Mate escaped retribution; defeating the hangman by pleading they would reveal the location of the treasure. The rest of the crew ‘Danced the Hempen Jig,’ on the gallows.

Thompson and his First Mate led the authorities to the Cocos Islands but managed to escape into the island’s jungles. Neither Thompson, nor his First Mate, or indeed the treasure, were ever seen or heard of again.

The ‘Treasure of Lima’ has been a cause celebre’ in treasure hunting circles ever since, with hundreds of hopeful treasure hunters spending weeks, years even, in the fruitless search for this el dorado bankrupting many in the process.

Of all the treasure hunters, one who had much in common with Thompson was the infamous US gangster and racketeer, Ben ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a suave mobster who rubbed shoulders with Hollywood’s elite. He detested the nickname ‘Bugsy’ and few dared defy him and for good reason.  “My friends call me Ben,” he once said, “strangers call me Mr. Siegel, and guys I don’t like call me Bugsy, but not to my face.”

“Bugsy Siegel (left) with famed Hollywood actor George Raft.”

Siegel’s reputation gained ground in 1938, when he, along with selected Hollywood ‘faces’, set out aboard a luxury schooner to the Cocos Islands. Here they spent many days digging, drilling, even dynamiting, in what turned out to be another fruitless venture.  The Lima Treasure remained safe.

Siegel’s treasure adventure ended in chaos – at least it seemed that way –  with his schooner having to be rescued and towed to a Mexican port for repairs. Some reckoned Siegel’s crew mutinied (which I strongly doubt!), others think the whole enterprise was a cover for some large-scale narcotics smuggling operation; even a gun-running trip.

Siegel was terminated with extreme prejudice on the night of June 20th 1947, when a hitman unloaded an M1 carbine magazine into his head and body while he was relaxing on the sofa reading the Los Angeles Times in the Beverley Hills home of associate Allen Smiley. The murder remains unsolved.

So, get your super-sized coils on – it’s still out there, just waiting for yer!


My new digging tool

Just thought some of you might like to see my new treasure hunting pal, Chesney. He’s a Cockapoo; his mum’s a Cocker Spaniel and his dad’s a Poodle (both pedigree of course!). He is at the time of my writing this epistle, ten weeks old, and unlike me, he’s fully house-trained; something I mention before Stouty gets in with one of his cheap jibes!


I’m hoping to train Chesney in Beach Target Retrieval techniques to dig in the sand on the command words “77”, “58”and “65” – all ‘goodie’ digital readouts on my ATPro.

Why the name Chesney you might ask? It’s like this; Chesney Allen whose birthday, co-incidentally, was the same as my late father’s, was a music-hall entertainer and member of the Crazy Gang. For many years Allen performed a renowned comedy double act partnering ‘Bud’ Flanagan, whom he met by chance in a Poperinge café during a few days leave from the trenches of the Western Front in 1917.

Over a plate of egg and chips the two men got into conversation and found they had a common interest; both having ‘trod the boards’ of the pre-war music halls. The other soldier’s name was Chaim Reuben Weintrop, whose post-war stage name was an act of revenge on a particularly unpleasant, anti-Semitic Sergeant by the name of Flanagan. “You’re a bastard,” he told the sergeant, “and one day I’m going to make your name the laughing stock of England.” And so he did, finding fame and fortune as ‘Bud Flanagan’, in an enduring comedy partnership with Chesney Allen.

‘Bud Flanagan’ was born 14th October 1896 at #12 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, in London’s East End. In another of those odd quirks of co-incidence, eight years earlier on the 8th September in 1888, the mutilated body of 47-yr old of Annie Chapman was discovered in the backyard of #29 Hanbury Street; the second victim of the Victorian serial killer, ‘Jack the Ripper’.


Après hunt – Tuna steaks

Down at the beach hut after a few hours detecting and as the sinks in the West, this BBQ recipe is one of our favourites and goes down well with a can of beer. It’s Antipodean – of course, by Gordon Holland, who recommends serving the tuna medium rare.

You’ll need:

(Serves 4)

4 tuna steaks about 3cm thick

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon each of salt, and ground black pepper

juice of 1 lime

handful of bbq wood chips. Hickory is fine. Put the chips in a smoke box, or wrap them in foil in which you’ve made several slits with a knife, then submerge the package/box in a bucket of water and leave for an hour to soak and absorb water.


  1. Put the tuna steak and olive oil in a large re-sealable plastic bag. Seal and put in the refrigerator for an hour, or in cool box if cooking at or near the beach.
  2. Preheat the bbq and when the coals are ashen put the smoke box/foil package on the coals and close the bbq lid. Leave for 20 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil the steaks. Season them and place on the grill and cook for 6-mins on each side. Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with the freshly squeezed lime juice. Serve straight away.


A dour arkie who lived in Eastern Europe had pretensions of becoming a great writer. When asked to define “great” he replied, “I want to write stuff the entire world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, and howl in pain and anger.”

He’s now writing error messages for Microsoft.  Allegedly.


I’ll see y’all in the bar





Filed under Metal Detecting

6 responses to “It Takes All Sorts…

  1. BigTony

    Love the treasure tail but my money is on William Thompson and first mate had a happy fruitful life under different names. Best of luck training the pooch to dig in sand for you but maybe you would do better training the dog to sniff out cash instead!

  2. I guess my first thought concerning ‘Treasure of Lima’ would be that one of the main reasons it may not have been found, could be the fact that William Thompson just might have lied about it being in the Cocos Islands in the first place. It always stumps me why anyone would believe anything a thief would say, even under the threat of death. So they promptly head for the island, go ashore and Ol’ Billy boy heads for the hills and is never seen again.

    I wish we’d been able to see the greedy bastards expressions after Billy ducked deftly into the bush to be seen no more! Of course, because of it’s “beauty” (nothing whatsoever to do with the missing gold and silver bullion, of course) the islands were quickly made into a Unesco World Heritage Site, as so many other areas that may hold unclaimed treasure.

    Interesting post, John. Oh, Patti said she would be glad to dog-sit Chesney should you come to next year’s Central Florida Sunshine Shootout and Relic hunt here in Orlando!

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