Battle of Dunbar prisoner’s stories are told 400 years on

The stories of what happened to the Scottish soldiers taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 are now being told.
The stories of what happened to the Scottish soldiers taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 are now being told.

A new book that tells the stories of the Scottish soldiers taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 has just been published.

In November 2013, two mass burials were discovered on a construction site in the city of Durham and over the next two years, a complex jigsaw of evidence was pieced together by a team of archaeologists from Durham University to establish the identity of the human remains, their conclusion being that “the only plausible explanation” was that they were the remains of the Dunbar prisoners.

The Battle of Dunbar was one of the most brutal, bloody and short battles of the 17th century civil wars. In less than an hour the English Parliamentarian army, under the command of Oliver Cromwell, defeated the Scottish Covenanting army who supported the claims of Charles II to the Scottish throne.

Although the exact figures are not known, it is thought that around 1,700 Scottish soldiers died of malnutrition, disease and cold after being marched over 100 miles from the South East of Scotland to Durham, in north east England, where they were imprisoned in Durham Cathedral and Castle, by then disused for several years.

The authors of ‘Lost Lives New Voices - Unlocking the stories of the Scottish Soldiers at the Battle of Dunbar 1650’, Christopher Gerrard, Pam Graves, Andrew Millard, 
Richard Annis and Anwen Caffell give back to these men a voice through an understanding of their childhood and later lives.

Archaeological and historical evidence also allows an accurate reconstruction as to how and why these men vanished off the historical radar for over 400 years.

The book also uncovers the fate of the prisoners who survived their ordeal after Dunbar, as new evidence shows their involvement in local industries and the draining of the Fens — while others were sent far away, transported to the colonies as indentured servants to begin a new life at the edge of the known world.

The book is published by Oxbowbooks price £20.