Shropshire Star

Shropshire dairy farmer, 95, is reunited with treasured watch he lost to a hungry cow 50 years ago

A metal detectorist has reunited a farmer with his Rolex watch – 50 years after it was eaten by a cow.

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Farmer James Steele, 95, lost the treasured timepiece in the early 1970s when the strap broke while he tended his cattle.

It is thought one of his animals must have swallowed the watch, which ended up in a cowpat in the field.

He searched the field at his dairy farm in Morda, near Oswestry, but there was no sign of the watch.

Incredibly, half a century later, he has now been reunited with the timepiece after metal detectorist Liam King found it buried in the mud.

Detectorist Liam King with farmer, James Steele. Photo: SWNS

Liam had been given permission to search the Steeles' land for coins by James' son, Andrew.

James said: "The cow could have eaten it with a mouthful of grass, the vet said. It was an amazing stroke of luck for it to turn up again after all this time lost in the earth.

"I was really pleased because I never thought I would see the watch again. I only have half the bracelet because the other half must have disintegrated.

"Unfortunately it is not going. The face has gone a greenish colour but it has not rusted up. It shows how well-made it was, to survive 50 years under a field.

Farmer James Steele was convinced he would never see his prized timepiece again. Photo: SWNS

“I’m most grateful to Liam who found the watch. He could have quite easily not owned up to his discovery.

“I’m not going to bother getting the Rolex fixed. It’d cost a bomb to repair but it’ll make a lovely keepsake.”

James bought the Rolex watch for £100 - around £4,500 in today's money - after his 21st birthday in 1950.

A metal detectorist has found a farmer's Rolex watch 50 years after it was eaten by a cow. Photo: SWNS

He said: "I remember my neighbour had a very smart Rolex and I really fancied having one myself. I saved up and dug deep in my pockets for it and wore it all the time.

"I remember the day I lost it I'd been out early with the cows. It was very cold so I'd had my hands in my pockets but at some point I must have been feeding a cow and it had slipped off or the strap had broken.

"When we were taking the cows in to milk I realised the watch was missing but we had to wait until we'd finished before we could look for it.

"We looked everywhere but I already knew it was gone and had probably been eaten by one of the cows.

Farmer James Steele said the watch had, unsurprisingly, stopped working. Photo: SWNS

"I was gutted but I saved up again and bought another one. It's remarkable that the watch has turned up again.

"I'm delighted to have it back."