US relatives of Scots soldiers shipped overseas in 17th Century arrive for commemoration of their ancestors

Descendants of Scots soldiers who were shipped to North America as indentured servants following the 1650 Battle of Dunbar have arrived in East Lothian to commemorate their relatives on the anniversary of the clash. PIC: Contributed.
Descendants of Scots soldiers who were shipped to North America as indentured servants following the 1650 Battle of Dunbar have arrived in East Lothian to commemorate their relatives on the anniversary of the clash. PIC: Contributed.
Share this article
0
Have your say

Around 30 descendants of Scots soldiers who were  deported to North America  as indentured servants in the 17th Century have arrived in Scotland to pay tribute to their ancestors.

The group, who have travelled from the United States, are in East Lothian to mark the anniversary of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar that was sparked when Oliver Cromwell's men invaded the quiet harbour town.

A re-enactment of pivotal moments of the Battle of Dunbar will take place in the town this weekend. PIC: Scottish Battlefields Trust.

A re-enactment of pivotal moments of the Battle of Dunbar will take place in the town this weekend. PIC: Scottish Battlefields Trust.

READ MORE: The Highlander immigrants who helped build America

The battle is described as one of the most bloody and brutal of the 17th Century civil wars.

Around 1,400 men were sent overseas after surviving capture and imprisonment at Durham Cathedral where an estimated 1,700 fighters died of malnutrition and disease.

Now, the Scottish Battlefields Trust has helped to bring their descendants to Scotland to pay tribute to their relatives, most of whom remained in North America once their period of servitude in iron works, sawmills and mines ended.

Many settled in the Boston area.

Jeanne Martin Chown, from Maine, is among the group. She said: " For me, it feels like a homecoming of sorts and I am honoured to represent the many descendants in Maine of our Dunbar Scot, George Gray.

" I am amazed that I will walk in his footsteps, but also feel a sadness that he was forced to leave his homeland never to return."

Another visitor, Bill Norbert, said: "I expect to be greatly moved as I stand where my forebear, William Furbish, stood, a young and brave Scot of 18 or so, who incredibly survived the ordeal and eventually was banished to New England to labour for years and eventually become one of the first Americans, free and independent.

"I'm proud to descend from him and grateful that his native land hasn't forgotten him and his sacrifice."

Stephanie Winchester, another descendant of a Dunbar fighter, added: "My ancestor George Bruce, suffered defeat, capture, the horrors of imprisonment before being shipped off to be sold into indentured servitude.

"Yet they survived, and when their servitude was over, they married and flourished, producing a multitude of descendants.

"They were amazing men. So, I would say that this trip for me is a great privilege to visit the homeland of these awesome men, our ancestors, and get a glimpse of what they experienced before they were forced to leave Scotland, their homes and loved ones, forever. I’m sure tears on my part will be involved.

The Battle of Dunbar has been described as one of the most bloody and short battles of the 17th Century civil wars.

READ MORE: Outlander: The real Highlanders of North Carolina

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.

By the time it was fought, there had been civil war in the British Isles for eleven long years, and the alliance between the English Parliamentarians and the Scottish Covenanters had broken down after the English executed King Charles I.

The Scots chose to support the old king’s son, prompting Oliver Cromwell to invade in retaliation.

On 3 September 1650, Cromwell unexpectedly attacked the larger army of General David Leslie outside the small harbour town of Dunbar and destroyed it.

The Scottish Battlefield Trust has organised a number of events to mark the anniversary of the battle.

Today (Friday), a commemoration will be held in Dunbar Harbour with a parade through the town tomorrow.

Visitors can expect to hear the thundering of hooves and the crack of muskets as a re-enactment of a key part of the battle takes place, with a separate display of cavalry tactics also planned. Immersive military camps for visitors to explore will also be found in the town

The living history event is part of a triennial calendar of commemorative re-enactment weekends designed to entertain and educate people about this important period in Scotland’s history.

Historian, Dr. Arran Johnston will also be launching his new book at the weekend revealing exciting insights into this tumultuous period of history.

Many of the surviving soldiers were sent to Saugus Iron Works, which is about 10 miles north east of Boston, Massachusetts, after being released from Durham Cathedral.

Some went on to work in mines and saw mills, with the men playing an important role in the development of these new colonies.