Memorial held for forgotten fallen of Battle of Dunbar

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They are the forgotten victims of the 17th-century Battle of Dunbar.

But finally – after a five-year campaign led by an amateur historian – a memorial is to be unveiled to commemorate the hundreds of Scots prisoners who died in the grounds of Durham Cathedral.

After the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, 5000 Scots were imprisoned and marched south over seven days and nights – with 2000 having died or disappeared on the way.

Three thousand arrived at Durham Cathedral, but within weeks 1600 are said to have perished from starvation and disease – leaving 1400 who were sold as slaves in the New World.

Human resources director George Wilson, 45, spearheaded the campaign to have the victims commemorated, supported by historian Roy Pugh and now a memorial plaque is to be unveiled at Durham Cathedral at Evensong on St Andrew’s Day.

Mr Wilson said: “These people were forgotten about for so many years – now there will be a memorial to remember them in the cathedral.

“I got involved in this campaign by accident after I moved to Dunbar – I’m a bit of a trainspotter when it comes to history.

“I was doing a bit of research and came across an article written by a cathedral librarian – it referred to the prisoners who had been captured.”

Mr Wilson got in touch with Durham Cathedral to ask if there was a memorial to commemorate those who died – and found out there was not.

“A mass grave was reputedly discovered following mechanical works at the cathedral. There was no evidence of a Christian burial,” he said.

“I was horrified by this and started a campaign to respect and remember those who died.”

The dead – predominantly Highland clansmen – are said to lie within or near the grounds of Durham Cathedral. Many of the survivors of the events were sold into slavery in the US, mostly in Massachusetts – with one of the biggest donations to the memorial campaign coming from an American, who said: “Our ancestors deserve it.”

Cathedral staff claim there is no evidence of a mass grave, but after years of dialogue the cathedral agreed to the creation and erection of a memorial to the soldiers, commonly referred to as the Dunbar Martyrs.

The memorial will be situated at St Margaret’s Alter, already commonly known as Scots’ Corner.

Mr Wilson self-funded the project – attracting donations on his Just Giving web page and raising funds by running a number of marathons.

There is, however, still a funding shortfall – with a further £450 required to reach the £2000 target.

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