Surprise for rector as family heirloom found

from left, Gavin McMahon, Jim Campbell and Adrian McStraw. INPT05-208.
from left, Gavin McMahon, Jim Campbell and Adrian McStraw. INPT05-208.

A gold watch unearthed by two metal detectorists near Aghagallon has been reunited with the owner’s grandson, who has turned out to be the former rector of St Mark’s Church in Portadown, the Rev Jim Campbell.

The watch, which is made of brass and 10 carat rolled gold, was found in a farmer’s field at Colane Road a fortnight ago.

An appeal through the Lurgan Mail to find the owner or any relatives led the search to the Rev Campbell who was somewhat surprised to say the least!

And on Monday, he was presented with the timepiece by the two men who found it - Adrian McStraw, from Aghagallon, and Gavin McMahon from Lurgan.

Also there was the Rev Campbell’s cousin, Francis McConville from Lurgan.

The Rev Campbell’s grandfather, also James Campbell, lived in the Colane area and worked as a manager for Lipton’s grocery company in Belfast.

The watch, according to an inscription, was presented to him by the directors of Lipton’s on his retirement after 50 years’ service in March 1943.

Said the Rev Campbell, “My grandfather died in 1972/73 at the age of 94. I remember my mother talking about him and saying that he stayed in Belfast during the week and came home to Aghagallon at the weekends.

“They had a farm at Colane, which had belonged to his wife’s family. He used to walk from the railway station to the Colane in his bowler hat, carrying his umbrella and briefcase!”

Because the Rev Campbell’s parents moved to England shortly after they were married, and stayed there for nearly 20 years, he recalls meeting his grandfather only once, when the family returned to Northern Ireland.

“He was a very old man living in Camden Street in Belfast,” he said. “I remember my dad being very upset when he went to visit my grandfather when he was ill.”

Mr McConville, meanwhile, recalls his mother telling him how her father spent weeks looking for the watch, and even paid some local people to search the fields for it.

He said, “James is the last of the Campbells and my brother Brian and myself are delighted he now has the watch.”

Adrian said he and Gavin had got a “real buzz” not just from unearthing the watch, but from returning it to the family. He added, “We have turned up all sorts of things over the years and always ask farmers’ permission to go on their land.”

The pair are happy to help with searching for lost personal items, such as jewellery, and can be contacted via Twitter @nidetect.