17th Century Scots soldiers reburied in England

The remains of around 20 Scottish soldiers who fought during the 17th century have been reburied in a simple cermony in England after their skeletons were discovered during building work.

The face of a 17th Century Scots soldier was reconstructed by experts from John Moores University in Liverpool in collaboration with colleagues from Durham. PIC: Durham University/John Moores University.

The remains of the soldiers were found five years ago at Durham Cathedral, where the men were held captive following the 1650 Battle of Dunbar.

The jumbled skeletons of at between 17 and 28 men were subsequently excavated from two burial pits.

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A reburial service to reflect 17th century religious custom was held yesterday at Elvet Hill Road Cemetery in the city, less than a mile from where they were found. Scottish soil was sprinkled on the communal grave. The Church of Scotland and Scottish Episcopal Church were consulted on the conduct of the service.

Metrical Psalms from the 1650 Scottish Psalter and a Bible reading from the 1611 King James Version of the Bible were included in the service, in keeping with the traditions of those who died.

Canon Rosalind Brown, of Durham Cathedral, said: “The simple graveside ceremony not only reflects the traditions of the 17th century, but is also respectful of the circumstances that led to these men dying in Durham.”

Given that the men were imprisoned in Durham Cathedral, it was felt inappropriate to hold a funeral service at the landmark.

The discovery of the skeletons led to a major programme of research, with analysis carried out to determine the origin of the remains and physical condition of the men.

Bone condition suggested some of the men were suffering from scurvy at the time of their capture, with analysis of dental plaque under way to determine other diseases carried by the soldiers. Teeth and bone were also used to help identify the composition of the drinking water consumed by the soldiers, in order to pinpoint where they came from.

The Battle of Dunbar was one of the shortest and most brutal 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.

After the battle, thousands of soldiers were marched more than 100 miles to Durham in north-east England.

Around 3,000 soldiers were imprisoned in Durham Cathedral and Castle. Those who survived were transported to different parts of the world including France and New England in the US. A consultation was carried out to determine where the men should have their final resting place.