Celtic blood boils after heritage items pillaged

By Mike Dinsdale

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A silver-plated case swiped from Waipu Museum.
A silver-plated case swiped from Waipu Museum.

Thieves who raided rare gold, sliver and bronze items from the Waipu Museum - including rare, potentially ancient Celtic brooches - don't just have police to worry about, there's more than 79,000 angry descendants of Scottish migrants to Waipu who want them caught.

Nine rare items, all linked to the story of the Scottish migration to Nova Scotia then Waipu between 1817 and 1854 have been taken and Waipu Museum manager Patsy Montgomery said the theft sometime in the last two weeks had left the museum, its community and the descendants angry and upset.

The stolen items were kept in display cases at the museum and were removed without any damage being done to the display cases so the theft was only noticed on Wednesday, Ms Montgomery said. The cases were checked every two weeks so the items could have been missing that long.

They included two silver brooches, which are over 200 years old, that made the historic journey from Scotland to Nova Scotia then on to Waipu with Mrs J McLennan; three gold fob watches; a silver vesta matchbox circa 1903; a silver spectacle case, bronze coin and an engraved Masonic Jewel presented FJ McKay in 1930.

Ms Montgomery said the items were not particularly valuable, but they had priceless spiritual and cultural value to the people of Waipu and the more than 79,000 descendants of those 1000 settlers, led by Norman McLeod.

"Maybe they wanted them to cash them in or something, but it has devastated the museum and the 70 volunteers that work here. They are all items linked to our migration story and the families involved in that," she said.

"To us they are priceless and irreplaceable and we want them back. It's not the monetary value, it's that connection to the early migrants and the sense of history to the district that they represent."

The museum didn't have any CCTV cameras, and had now stepped up its security. She said the engraved Masonic Jewel was particularly distinctive. "Anybody who sees that will know it's been stolen," she said.

Ms Montgomery had contacted companies holding gold, silver and collectible buying tours in Northland last week and next week and had provided them photographs of the stolen items.

Anybody with information on the thefts can contact Whangarei police on 4304500 or the Crimestoppers line anonymously on 0800 555 111.

- Northern Advocate

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