Durham University Professor to Present Lecture on “Prisoners of War: Durham and the fate of the Scots in 1650”

From:
Cari Quater, Development Director
Old Berwick Historical Society
207-451-7672 or cquater@comcast.net

Durham University Professor to Present Lecture on “Prisoners of War: Durham and the fate of the Scots in 1650”

Durham University,
North News and Pictures

andrew-2Photo: Dr. Andrew Millard during research on some of the remains of the 17th century Scottish soldiers.

New light has been shed on a centuries-old mystery surrounding the last resting place of Scottish soldiers who died after their capture at the brutal Battle of Dunbar in 1650.  A mass grave in Durham, England, unearthed in 2013, has revealed the skeletons of some of those soldiers—men whose battle comrades are buried an ocean away in New England.

On Wednesday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Art Center at Berwick Academy in South Berwick, Dr. Chris Gerrard, head of the department of archeology at Durham University, will present a pioneering lecture on the fate of soldiers imprisoned at Durham, who were caught in a religious war that catapulted them across Europe and America. The lecture is open to the public and is presented by the Old Berwick Historical Society, which is currently researching the lives of Scots prisoners who settled here in preparation for a major new exhibit, Forgotten Frontier: Untold Stories of the Piscataqua, opening at the Counting House Museum in South Berwick in May 2017.

On the morning of September 3, 1650, on the southeast border of Scotland near a town called Dunbar, the English army under the command of Oliver Cromwell defeated the Scottish royalist army in less than an hour. The Battle of Dunbar was one of the most fierce, bloody and short battles of the English civil wars, leaving up to 5,000 soldiers dead.

Around 3,000 Scottish soldiers were marched south from the Scottish border to the abandoned Durham Cathedral and Castle in northeast England, where they were imprisoned. An estimated 1,700 of those prisoners died of malnutrition, disease and cold and were buried at Durham.

What happened to their bodies has been a mystery for almost 400 years, but a team of researchers at Durham University in England now believes they have the answer.  During construction of a new café for the university’s library in 2013, human remains were uncovered by archaeologists testing the site.  Jumbled skeletons of at least 17 and up to 28 individuals were excavated from two burial pits.  The research team has concluded that the “only plausible explanation” of the scientific data, matched with historical accounts, is that the skeletal remains on their library site are those of the Dunbar prisoners.

Survivors from Dunbar were conscripted into the English army or sold into forced labor in mines, forges, mills and plantations in New England and elsewhere in the Americas. Of the 350 men destined for transport to New England, only about 100 arrived in Boston, where they were sold for between £20 and £30 each.   Some were sent to cut lumber at a remote sawmill on the Salmon Falls River in what is now South Berwick, Maine, and others were sold as indentured servants, for terms of six or seven years. Those who built lives here 400 years ago are remembered by local landmarks such as the McIntire Garrison and Scotland Bridge in York, and, of course, the town name of Berwick.  FMI visit www.oldberwick.org or call 207-384-0000.

Cari Quater, Development Director
Old Berwick Historical Society
207-451-7672 or cquater@comcast.net

 

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2 Responses to Durham University Professor to Present Lecture on “Prisoners of War: Durham and the fate of the Scots in 1650”

  1. David B. Crawford says:

    the link http://www.oldberiwk.org is broken and does not work.

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