Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsThe year of 1649

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 secondsParliament declares the king must die Now poor women and men Will suffer once again

Skip to 0 minutes and 29 secondsThe traumas of a strange and troubled time

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 secondsThe covenant of Scotland did declare

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsThat the people always should beware When kings and bishops and the like Claim to have the right

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 secondsTo stand between the spirit and the earth

Skip to 1 minute and 1 secondA wealthy man named Cromwell boldly claims

Skip to 1 minute and 7 secondsThat he is blessed and acts in Jesus’ name But one tyrant he slew

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsOnly for to prove That he could be a tyrant just the same So the covenanters decided that they must

Skip to 1 minute and 33 secondsPut aside their doubts and place their trust In the very same king’s son Who Cromwell had undone

Skip to 1 minute and 46 secondsAnd so the land was plunged back into war

Skip to 1 minute and 53 secondsO you long forgotten sons Peace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters May our song help to guide your spirits home

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 secondsNow General Leslie fought a bold campaign

Skip to 2 minutes and 23 secondsHarrying his foes on home terrain But a council full of fools His wisdom overruled And bade them march to doom upon the plain

Skip to 2 minutes and 43 secondsOn pious grounds those elders did insist

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 secondsThree thousand hardened soldiers be dismissed And left the task of war To men who’d never fought before Facing Cromwell and the mighty model army O you long forgotten sons Peace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters May our song help to guide your spirits home In the mournful morning time

Skip to 3 minutes and 39 secondsButchered bodies lay on every side And did a sad wind blow Like an echo Of the wailing of the ones they left behind

Skip to 3 minutes and 58 secondsOh what a cruel and bitter harvest On that sad September day for fair Dunbar And the captives were marched down Down to Durham town Though they were cold and wet and starving

Skip to 4 minutes and 24 secondsOn that weary road men started dying

Skip to 4 minutes and 30 secondsA few escaped, more were killed in trying

Skip to 4 minutes and 36 secondsThey drank puddles from the ground And diseases spread around

Skip to 4 minutes and 44 secondsAnd they were locked in a living hell on their arrival

Skip to 4 minutes and 51 secondsO you long forgotten sons

Skip to 4 minutes and 57 secondsPeace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters May our song help to guide your spirits home

Skip to 5 minutes and 15 secondsHaselrigge had care for the captive men And ordered they be given fuel and fed

Skip to 5 minutes and 27 secondsBut the guards sold the supplies And cloaked their deeds in lies To profit from the dying and the dead

Skip to 5 minutes and 40 secondsIt must have seemed like hell was drawing near With the sorrow and the sickness, the violence and the fear And if you had a scrap or two Someone might turn on you And precious love had all but disappeared

Skip to 6 minutes and 8 secondsThey planned to ship the living o’er the waves To work in distant colonies as slaves And the world grew so depraved Men were cast in unmarked graves

Skip to 6 minutes and 27 secondsNo one there to grieve or give them names Is there any ending to the story It happened again and again And everywhere you see

Skip to 6 minutes and 47 secondsPeople longing to be free And still we haven’t built Jerusalem

Skip to 6 minutes and 58 secondsO you long forgotten sons Peace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters May our song help to guide your spirits home O you long forgotten sons

Skip to 7 minutes and 28 secondsPeace and honour on your bones And if you are travelling o’er dark waters We are singing now to guide your spirit home We are singing now to guide your spirit home We are singing now to guide your spirit home We are singing now to guide your spirit home We are singing now to guide your spirit home

Story-telling in song

In this video The Brothers Gillespie sing one of their songs inspired by the discovery of the Scottish soldiers. You can find the lyrics on the PDF below.

Archaeology and music have long been associated. There are many songs and album covers creatively inspired by archaeological sites such as Glastonbury Tor and stone circles such as Callanish in the Outer Hebrides. Musicians like Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones have declared their love for the subject; Julian Cope apparently recorded part of one his albums inside the chamber of a Neolithic long barrow. The fields around Stonehenge once hosted the largest free pop festival in Europe between 1974 and 1984 and there is even a 1996 album entitled ‘Archaeology’ by the Beatles parody band The Rutles. Many more people will have become aware of archaeology through this kind of tangential promotion than have ever read an excavation report.

Sound, images and broader cultural links to time, identity, deity, landscape, folklore and tradition – all these themes link archaeology to musicians. It is, however, much rarer to find music inspired by specific archaeological discoveries, although there are in fact recent examples of this. ‘The Chalk Legend’, an oratorio in two parts composed for the London 2012 Festival for Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, was inspired by the discovery of Viking burials near Weymouth in Dorset. In the case of the Scottish soldiers, the folk duo The Brothers Gillespie, Sam and James, were inspired to write a selection of pieces after they heard about the story. Theirs is a sound rooted in the tradition of the troubadour with lyrics which draw on the power of place and the power of story-telling.

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This video is from the free online course:

Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World

Durham University