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WWI medal found buried in Wyman

Digging Dudes discover family heirloom just in time for Remembrance Day

Camilla Faragalli
Wyman Nov. 11, 2023
Carol-Ann Finlan didn’t know she was in for the surprise of a lifetime when she gave the okay to The Digging Dudes to survey her family’s generational home in Wyman.
“I was just curious,” she said, explaining that the farm has been in her family since 1855.
“I certainly never expected they would find what they found.”
It was a dark Monday evening in late October when Finlan got the text from Digging Dudes co-founder, Will (Willy) Webb.
“You won’t believe what I have found,” it read.
Finlan said she was “almost overwhelmed” when he placed the WWI war medal – engraved with the name of her great uncle, Herbert Finlan – in her hand.
“So many emotions were running through my mind,” Finlan said. “But the main one was, ‘If only Kelly was here to share in this moment…to rejoice in this finding’.”
Kelly Finlan was Carol-Ann’s brother, who passed away four years ago. She explained that he had always had “a great interest” in their Uncle Herbert.
“But I thought, ‘I’m sure he’s looking down on me and knows that the metal has been found’,” she said.
Herbert Finlan (1884-1918) was born in Wyman. Son of Andrew and Ellen Finlan, who settled in Bristol after migrating from Ireland in 1855, Herbert worked on the family farm until he enlisted. He was killed in action in Somme, northern France.
“[Kelly] just always had this great interest in the fact that he [Herbert] served Canada in the First World War, and he gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Finlan said of her brother.
“He was always researching,” she added. “He got all the information that he possibly could have.”
Finlan said that in August of 2012, Kelly was able to visit Herbert’s grave in Somme, adding that his visit fell on the eve of the anniversary of Herbert’s passing.
“I forget how many countries in Europe he [Kelly] visited that year, but he said the highlight of his trip was definitely and by far, visiting uncle Herbert’s final resting place,” she said.
“When he came home, he was just thrilled.”
Finlan described her relationship with her brother as having been “very close, noting that they were the only two siblings in the family,” she said.
“I’m honoured to have this medal in my possession,” she said, adding that she is not keeping the family heirloom in her home.
“The first thing I did was put the medal in safe-keeping, I am not having that medal that’s been lost for so long… go missing again,” she said.
“But it’s an honour to have it now back in the family, where it should be.”
In addition to the medal, The Digging Dudes’ property search yielded a pocket watch, an ear tag engraved with Finlan’s father’s name, and a cufflink, engraved with the initials E.F., “which would have been Uncle Earnest Finlan, a brother of Uncle Herbert,” Finlan said.
Buried treasure
Webb described The Digging Dudes as a passionate group of local history enthusiasts; metal detectorists who search for, and often find, lost objects.
“We don’t leave holes. We don’t leave a mess. We don’t take up the whole lawn,” Webb said.
“We specifically aim for super-specific targets that we think are going to have some value, historically, to the potential land owners.”
He said he put out feelers in all of the local Facebook groups, letting people know that The Digging Dudes were looking “to go out to these homes and save some of their family history.”
Webb added that he’s been trying to make it out to Finlan’s property, specifically, for nearly a year.
“We [detectorists] have specific seasons, believe it or not,” Webb explained, adding that for field-work in particular, summers are tricky with local crops, and winter is challenging because of the frozen ground.
Webb said the recently-ploughed field on Finlan’s property actually made his job much easier.
“I heard the [metal detector] signal, I knew it was going to be good on the sound,” he said.
Webb said his heart stopped when he read what was written on the round of the coin-like object he pulled from the earth: Private H. Finlan, 29th Canadian Infantry.
“When I saw the ‘1914 to 1918’… I was stunned, speechless,” Webb said. “We find lots of cool stuff, but not to this calibre.”
He added that of the thousands of artifacts and objects he’s discovered, Finlan’s medal is in the top five.
“Ninety five per cent of the stuff I pull out is going to be a trash or junk signal. And then five per cent of it will be worth preserving,” he said.
“I’ve found some pretty cool things, but nothing as personal and so defined, and so memorable and so unique,” he said.
Webb said that being able to share his find with Finlan made the experience even better.
“Just the fact that there’s so little of her family left to appreciate it, and the fact that she was there to be able to appreciate it…You could tell it really meant a lot,” he said.
More than a hobby
Webb, perhaps better known as professional country musician Levi Hart, said he and Digging Dudes co-founders Erikin Isayev and Jeff Bardell came together nearly three years ago via a Facebook group for detectorists in the area.
At the end of their first year “hunting” together, they decided to take their hobby more seriously.
“We said, ‘Let’s make this hobby the best we can, by trying to preserve as much history as we can up and down the Ottawa Valley, while helping people find and recover lost objects’.”
According to Webb, both his and co-founder Jeff Bardells’ families have lived in the Bristol and Shawville areas for generations.
“If we’re going to save some history, it’s going to be local to where we grew up,” he said.
Webb stressed that while archaeologists may do work of a similar nature, “there are no archaeologists going around to the homes that we are, doing what we do.”
“If we didn’t go out there and do what we did, all the stuff that we find … would be lost forever.”

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