UK Archaeologists to Present Lecture on Scottish Prisoners of War

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Date: October 12, 2016

Contact: Emily A. Murphy, 781-231-7351

Saugus, MA - On September 3, 1650, The English army defeated the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar. Thousands of Scottish men were taken prisoner. Sixty-one Scots ended up in Saugus, Massachusetts working at the Iron Works. Who were these men? How did they get here? And what was the fate of their fellow soldiers?

Join us on October 25, 2016 at 6:30 PM for a presentation on the archaeological dig in Durham, England that solved a 400-year old mystery about these prisoners of war. The program will be held at the Saugus Public Library, 295 Central Street, Saugus MA 01906, and is jointly sponsored by the National Park Service, the Saugus Public Library, and Durham University. 

Archaeologists from Durham University, UK, will tell the fascinating story of how surviving prisoners from a seventeenth century battle between England and Scotland came to work as indentured servants in New England. The talk will also reveal how research on human remains, discovered during construction of a new café at Durham University in 2013, has solved the almost 400-year-old mystery of where hundreds of soldiers who died whilst held captive after the battle were buried. 

In 1650 around 3,000 Scottish soldiers were captured by Oliver Cromwell’s army at the Battle of Dunbar. They were marched over 100 miles from Dunbar, in South East of Scotland, to Durham, in North East England, and held prisoner in Durham Cathedral, which at the time was empty and abandoned. Of the soldiers who survived imprisonment, many were transported to different parts of the world including Virginia and New England, USA, where they worked as indentured servants. Some of the Scottish soldiers are known to have worked at the Saugus Iron Works. The soldiers were able to gain their freedom if they saved enough to redeem their sale price, or if they worked the full term of their indenture, and a number went on to become successful farmers in New England. The legacy of these soldiers continues to live on as there are now thought to be hundreds of their descendants living in New England and beyond. 

Following confirmation that the human remains were those of soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar, a programme of research has been undertaken to learn more about both the soldiers who died during imprisonment and those who survived. The team has been in touch with interested individuals in the USA, some of whom are descendants of surviving soldiers. 

In August 2016 it was announced that, once the research is complete, the remains will be reburied in Durham City and a commemorative plaque will also be installed near to the site of the original discovery as a permanent memorial. The decision follows an extensive period of consultation with a range of stakeholders. 

Last updated: October 12, 2016

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