(7:30pm - Berwick Academy - Whipple Arts Center)

A scholar investigating the centuries-old mystery surrounding the last resting place of captive Scottish will visit a region in America where some of their comrades were taken after the brutal Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

 Dr. Chris Gerrard, head of the department of archaeology at Durham University, England, will present a lecture on the fate of 17th century soldiers imprisoned at Durham.

These men had been caught in a religious war that catapulted them across Europe and America—including southeastern Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire, where many descendants live today. 

Photo: Dr. Andrew Millard, Durham University, North News and Pictures

The lecture is open to the public and is presented by the Old Berwick Historical Society.  It will be held at the Whipple Art Center at Berwick Academy.  Admission is by donation and refreshments will be served.

The historical society is currently researching the lives of Scots prisoners who settled here in preparation for a major new exhibit, Forgotten Frontier: Untold Stories of the Piscataqua, opening at the Counting House Museum in South Berwick in May 2017.

Those who built lives here 400 years ago are remembered by local landmarks such as the McIntire Garrison and Scotland Bridge in York, and, of course, the town name of Berwick, named after a town on the Scottish-English border.  

READ MORE ABOUT THE SCOTTISH PRISONERS WHO CAME TO MAINE

A mass grave in Durham, England, unearthed in 2013, has revealed the skeletons of some of those soldiers—men whose battle comrades are buried an ocean away in New England.

On the morning of September 3, 1650, in the southeast of Scotland near a border town called Berwick, the English army under the command of Oliver Cromwell defeated the Scottish royalist army in less than an hour. The Battle of Dunbar was one of the most fierce, bloody and short battles of the English civil wars, leaving up to 5,000 soldiers dead.

Around 3,000 Scottish soldiers were marched south across the Scottish border and through Berwick and on to the abandoned Durham Cathedral and Castle in northeast England, where they were imprisoned. An estimated 1,700 of those prisoners died of malnutrition, disease and cold and were buried at Durham.  

What happened to their bodies has been a mystery for almost 400 years, but a team of researchers at Durham University now believes they have the answer.  During construction of a new café for the university’s library in 2013, human remains were uncovered by archaeologists testing the site.  Jumbled skeletons of at least 17 and up to 28 individuals were excavated from two burial pits.  The research team has concluded that the “only plausible explanation” of the scientific data, matched with historical accounts, is that the skeletal remains on their library site are those of the Dunbar prisoners. 

Survivors from Dunbar were conscripted into the English army or sold into forced labor in mines, forges, mills and plantations in New England and elsewhere in the Americas. Of the 350 men destined for transport to New England, only about 100 arrived in Boston, where they were sold for between £20 and £30 each.   

Some were sent to cut lumber at a remote sawmill on the Salmon Falls River in what is now South Berwick, and others were sold as indentured servants, for terms of six or seven years. 

 

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