Scottish soldiers commemorated in Durham
(12 May 2017)
The seventeenth Century Scottish soldiers, who were imprisoned and died in Durham following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, were commemorated with a series of events in the City on Friday 12 May 2017.
Durham University hosted an event to dedicate a new plaque, as a lasting memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives in Durham. A minute’s silence was also observed.
The plaque has been installed in the courtyard of the café at the University’s Palace Green Library, within the City’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was during construction work for this courtyard that the remains of the soldiers were discovered in a mass grave in 2013.
Speaking ahead of the event Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham 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.”
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 today, 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.”
Battle site links
The plaque at Palace Green Library is mounted on stone cut from the quarry which now operates on the site where the Battle of Dunbar took place in 1650. The plaque’s inscription and imagery were designed in consultation with stakeholders, including direct descendants of soldiers who survived the battle and subsequent imprisonment.
In addition to events to dedicate plaques at Palace Green Library and Durham Cathedral, a public lecture about the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project was also held at Palace Green Library.
The lecture was jointly delivered by Dr Pam Graves of Durham University’s Department of Archaeology and Professor Emerson Baker of Salem State University Massachusetts. A video of this lecture, together with a video of the commemorative event held at Palace Green Library, will be available on line shortly.
Research on the remains is ongoing and has so far revealed fascinating details about the early lives of the soldiers and their health.
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.”
Once research on the remains is completed they will be reburied at the Elvet Hill Road Cemetery in Durham City, close to where the remains were originally found.
The decision on where to rebury the remains was taken following extensive consultation and mindful of the University’s ethical, moral and legal responsibilities. More information about the decisions taken on reburial is available here.