A PERMANENT memorial to soldiers who were imprisoned and died in Durham following the Battle of Dunbar has been unveiled.
A special event – including a minute’s silence – took place at the English city, with a plaque unveiled at the site where the remains were discovered in a mass grave in 2013.
The skeletons were found during construction work of a cafe at Durham University’s Palace Green Library.
Speaking ahead of the event Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor and warden of the university, said: “The plaque will serve as a permanent memorial to the soldiers’ presence here on Palace Green.
“Since the discovery of the remains in 2013, experts from the university’s department of archaeology have undertaken a significant programme of research to learn more about the lives of the soldiers, including what became of those who survived.
“It is our intention through this project to give these individuals a voice in our history.”
Mounted on stone cut from the quarry located on the site where the Battle of Dunbar took place in 1650 – stone donated by Tarmac – the plaque’s inscription and imagery were designed in consultation with stakeholders, including direct descendants of soldiers who survived the battle and subsequent imprisonment.
An existing plaque within Durham Cathedral, installed in 2011 in memory of the Scottish soldiers, has also been updated to remove the reference to the soldiers’ place of burial being unknown.
The updated plaque was rededicated last Friday, with special prayers and a blessing during the Cathedral’s Evensong service.
Canon Rosalind Brown, of Durham Cathedral, said: “The updated plaque within Durham Cathedral, and the new plaque at Palace Green Library, provide an important commemoration of those soldiers who lost their lives and one which we hope honours their memory in a dignified manner.”
Following discovery of the remains in November 2013, analysis by experts from the university’s department of archaeology concluded that they were those of Scottish soldiers taken prisoner after the 1650 Battle of Dunbar, solving a near-400-year-old mystery about what became of those soldiers who died in Durham.
The Battle of Dunbar was one of the most brutal and short battles of the 17th-century civil wars, after which thousands of soldiers were marched over 100 miles from the south-east of Scotland to Durham in north-east England. About 3,000 soldiers were imprisoned in Durham Cathedral and Castle, at a time when the cathedral was empty and abandoned.
Those that survived imprisonment in Durham were transported to different parts of the world, including France and New England, USA, where they worked as indentured servants.
Research on the remains is ongoing and has so far revealed details about the early lives of soldiers and their health.
In autumn 2016, the research team also visited the USA to learn more about what became of soldiers who survived imprisonment in Durham and were later transported to areas including Massachusetts.
The research findings are helping to piece together the stories of the soldiers.
Professor David Cowling, pro-vice-chancellor of arts and humanities at Durham University, said: “Through the discovery of these remains, and the ongoing research on them, we have been granted a privileged insight into the lives of the soldiers.
“The university plans to share their stories through an exhibition at Palace Green Library in 2018 which will be entitled Lost Lives, Hidden Voices: Unlocking the Story of the Scottish Soldiers 1650-2018.
“Our hope is that this exhibition will give people the opportunity to learn more about the lives of these soldiers, and the fascinating archaeological research which has helped us to get to know them better.”