Magnet fisherman drags up rare firearm from Edinburgh canal


Left: James Pearson with a previous find. Right: The gun he fished out yesterday (Picture: James Pearson)

A magnet fisherman dragged up a grimy old firearm from the mud of an Edinburgh canal yesterday.

James Pearson, 46, has previously made headlines for strange hauls – such as a a semi-automatic assault rifle dating back to World War Two.

So he knew what to do when his magnet clicked onto another unexpected item.

It is believed to be a ship’s flare gun, used to fire a distress signal similar to a firework into the sky.

Mr Pearson found the gun around midday yesterday while fishing in the Union Canal, and says he will be handing it into the police.

Magnet fishing became popular during lockdown and involves using a large magnet on the end of a rope to trawl rivers, canals and lakes for metal objects.

Mr Pearson started doing it with the intention of moving things that might harm wildlife, such as trolleys and bikes.


The firearm is believed to be a ship's flare

The firearm is believed to be a ship’s flare (Picture: James Pearson)

Mr Pearson has found more than shopping trolleys, however.

He also recently a pistol and two grenades while a colleague also found five large rifle bullets last December.

James, from Musselburgh in East Lothian, said following his previous finds he has called out the police to deal with the disposal.

Canals are designated as scheduled monuments in Scotland, in recognition of their historical importance and unauthorised magnet fishing could potentially lead to a fine of up to £50,000.

He set up Musselburgh Magnet Fishing group, which has official permission to fish Edinburgh’s canals by Historic Environment Scotland, with further applications submitted in Inverness and Glasgow.

Catherine Topley, Scottish Canals chief executive, previously said she was ‘delighted’ to allow ‘safe, responsible and accessible magnet fishing’.


Magnet fisherman pulls out rare firearm from Edinburgh canal

James Pearson is a regular magnet fisher (Picture: James Pearson)

‘Magnet fishing will have a positive impact on our network and this activity will help our operations staff ensure that our canals remain positive green and blue spaces for the people of Scotland and navigable for our boating customers.’

In July 2020, a six-year-old boy found an unexploded World War Two bomb while on his first trip out magnet fishing with his dad.

Ben Austin and son Finley, six, dropped the line from a bridge in Surrey into the River Mole – and the family day trip ended up with the bomb squad being called for a controlled explosion.

Describing the moment they found the bomb, Ben told Metro.co.uk: ‘I imagined them to be much bigger – I was in disbelief because it was so small, but it was the right shape.’

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