Is there gold in the rivers of County Wicklow? According to Gerry Stanley of the Geological Society of Ireland it would take you at least two years to collect enough gold to have a ring made – but it wasn’t always so.
In September 1795 a 682 gram single nugget of gold, enough to make 100 rings, was found near the town of Avoca, County Wicklow – a cast of the ‘Wicklow Nugget’ is held in the Natural History Museum in London. The stories of how the nugget was discovered are many. One story is it was found by workers felling trees on an estate owned by Lord Carysfort. Another that it was found by a local school teacher walking on the banks of what is now the Goldmines River. Either way the nugget sparked the first and only gold rush in Ireland. The gold rush lasted six weeks with many leaving their jobs to head for the Wicklow Hills to find their fortune. Such was the rush that the Kildare Militia moved in and took charge of operations.
The search for the source of the gold that can still be panned today in the rivers of Wicklow has gone on since 1795 but the mother lode has never been found. Many geologists believe it has already been eroded away but the search continues and in 2012 an Irish mining company announced a gold find in Wicklow. It hasn’t triggered a second gold rush but who knows?
And how many rings were made of the Wicklow nugget? The story is that it was melted down for a snuff box for King George III.