Johnnie's in hunt to detect treasure
Posted on August 30, 2006
People often say that where they live is full of hidden treasures, but one man who can testify that this is true around Dunstable is Johnnie Condon.
He's been passionate about digging up treasure using metal detectors for more than 40 years, and said there are masses of interesting things waiting to be found.
Johnnie, of Bower Close, Eaton Bray, now also offers a free recovery service for people who have lost metal objects out in the open, and has an impressive recovery record.
"It's in my blood after 40 years," he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the country enjoy going out in search of valuables, and Johnnie believes he played a major part in making it such a popular pastime.
"I was the original acorn that's grown into an oak tree," he said.
In 1967 he started importing metal detectors from America, and in 1969 set up the country's first specialist shop for treasure hunters.
But Johnnie is unhappy at being labelled a treasure hunter. "We like to be known as history seekers, not treasure hunters," he said.
Among the people to call in his services was former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Johnnie met the Wilsons on holiday in the Isles of Scilly.
"Apparently his next door neighbour had lost a ring in his garden, so I said I'd help," he said.
Johnnie moved to Eaton Bray 16 years ago with his wife Joan, who sadly passed away in 2002.
After living within a stone's throw of Wembley Stadium, life in the Bedfordshire countryside is a breath of fresh air.
"It's like going from hell to heaven," he said.
Johnnie has build up an impressive collection of historical artefacts around Eaton Bray, including musket balls dating back to the English Civil War, and tunic buttons that are up to 500 years old.
It's not just historical items that he uncovers though.
Recently he was using his metal detector in Eaton Bray when he discovered a wallet and a mobile hpone that someone had lost. He took them to Dunstable police station, where officers contacted their owner.
"Apparently he was over the moon, it was like a Christmas present," Johnnie said.
He now plans to display his contact details on the police notice board to encourage people to get in touch if they lose something imporant.
Johnnie has built up a collection of around 25 metal detectors.
"Some of them are from the early days when metal detectors were in their infancy," he said.
And he feels that using metal detectors can be a very rewarding hobby.
Johnnie said: "The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the adventure you're going to get involved in. It's the excitement of not knowing what you're going to find that gets the adrenaline going."
He's now passing his passion on to granddaughters Chloe, 13, and Clare, 14, after he bough them metal detectors two years ago.
Source: Dave Burke, Dunstable Gazette, 2 August 2006
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