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‘Band of brothers’

08 June 2017

Jeff Veitch, Durham University

A plaque in Durham Cathedral in memory of Scottish royalist troops who died while imprisoned in the church after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, during the English Civil War (Real Life, 27 January 2012), was rededicated during evensong last Friday.

It has been updated to take into account the discovery, in 2013, of the remains of up to 17 soldiers during building work at Durham University’s Palace Green Library. A second plaque was unveiled at the Library. Canon Rosalind Brown, of Durham Cathedral, said that they would “provide an important commemoration of those soldiers who lost their lives, and one which, we hope, honours their memory in a dignified manner”.

Dr Anwen Caffell, a teaching Fellow at the university’s Department of Archaeology, said that their latest examination of the remains showed that some were boys as young as 13. “We don’t know whether they were fighting in the army, were some sort of camp followers, or had another non-military role” she said.

They were among 5000 prisoners that were force-marched south into captivity. On the way, many fell sick, probably with dysentery, which spread in the confined conditions of the cathedral, killing thousands.

The project leader, Professor Chris Gerrard, said: “You get the impression that their sense of Scottish identity really bound them together throughout their lives. They all knew each other in Scotland, they fought alongside each other at Dunbar, they walked together in the march to Durham, they stayed together in the cathedral. They really were a band of brothers.”

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