It has been revealed that Lord Ian Stewartby, who resided near Biggar and died in March at the age of 82, left £1.8m worth of his nationally-renowned collection of ancient coins to Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum. However, the currency, some minted in Lanark almost 900 years ago, has a far higher historic than monetary value. Born Ian Stewart, he started his lifelong coin-collecting hobby at the age of 15 and went on to become one of the greatest experts on Scottish coinage.
As a schoolboy in Barnet, he discovered that there had been no comprehensive book written on the subject since 1887 and set about compiling and writing his own, ‘Scottish Coinage’, published in 1955 and still recognised as the definitive work on the subject. He suffered a major blow in 2007 when thieves stole half a million pounds worth of the most ancient coins in his collection. Despite offering a huge reward for their return, they were never recovered. In 2016 the English coins in his collection, some dating back to the early days of the Anglo-Saxons, were auctioned off at a series of sales, realising £500,000. It was almost exactly a year before his death following a long illness that he handed his remaining collection to the Hunterian. The fact thjat the coins were worth close to £2m was only revealed recently with the publishing of his will.
Lord Stewartby, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s as an Economic Secretary and Armed Forces minister, left an estate worth a total of £6.1m. This included a stocks and shares worth over £3m and a home valued at £430,000. The collection includes around 6000 coins, some dating from the reign of the Scottish king Alexander III to the Act of Union in 1707. Coins minted in Lanark are understood to be within the collection as are coins issued in the reigns of Robert the Bruce and the first three King Jameses. The donation of the coins apart, all the estate has been left to his wife Deborah.