Friday, 14 December 2018

King Arthur of Angus (and Gowrie)? Constantine, King and Saint

   Firstly, I must make it clear that I don't think that King Arthur (whoever he was) personally ruled Angus, or whatever the area was called before it was Angus.  That would, of course, be absurd.  I have in fact a love/hate relationship with Arthurianism.  Is it undoubtedly a historical cul-de-sac, diverting attention from its Celtic origins and cynically hiding the theft of native British culture by cynical Norman overlords?  Or is it a fascinating world where a dizzying array of cultures and influences clollide to create - in some cases - astounding art and legend?  Bit of both.

   The Northern Arthur means different things to different people. Every bit of the byzantine world of Arthuriana means different things to different people - many of whom would describe themselves as 'experts', and a fair number of whom repeatedly claim to have uncovered the 'real' Arthur.  Recent decades have seen a trend to claim that the historical Arthur was primarily active in the area of north Britain which later became Scotland.  They cite the early epic The Gododdin (set around Edinburgh, but in its present form much later than its supposed composition around 600 A.D.) which mentions Arthur in passing.  Also there is the extremely active and warlike ruler Aedan of Dal Riata, around the same time, who named one of his sons Arthur.  But enough of that unsolvable stuff. What arbout Arthur of Angus?  We should actually broaden that to Strathmore, since the traditions are shared with Gowrie, that Perthshire region which shared the great broad valley of Strathmore.

King Arthur in the Nurmberg Chronicles

 Arthur of Strathmore - a Sidlaws Idyll?

   First thing to say, (and I will not fully develop this observation) is that the traditions of Arthur in Strathmore seem to lie alongside - possibly underneath - a rich seam of traditions about Macbeth.  I leave that thought there. It seems to be true that the traditions of Arthur, Merlin, et al, which exist in Scotland seem to exist either in the Welsh-British areas of southern Scotland or in the adjacent regions of Pictland which would have spoken a similar language and shared some of the British cultural heritage.  There are only a few outlier Arthurian place-names in the Gaelic region.

   One of the earliest propagators of the northern Arthur conjecture was the Victorian John S. Stuart Glennie, whose book Arthurian Localities (1869) throws a mass of evidence excitedly at the reader, and some of it sticks.  Glennie tramped much of Scotland on foot, looking at sites first hand and becoming more convinced every step of the way that he was on to something.  Maybe he was. A myriad of modern writers have, in essence, ripped him off.


Barry Hill, Meigle

   Glennie started his survey of our area from the hill of Barry in Alyth parish (Perthshire), from where he was able to survey the broad valley of Strathmore beneath him. On this site of an old hillfort, Stuart Glennie noted that tradition held this spot as 'the Castle to which the Pictish king Mordred, having defeated King Arthur in a great battle, carried off his Queen Quenivere, or, as she is locally named, Ganora, Vanora, or Wander.'

   The queen succumbed to Mordred and Arthur had her torn apart by wild horses when he reunited with her.  This barbarous execution was thought to have been represented in a carving on a Pictish stone erected at nearby Meigle. This monument marked the poor dismembered lady's grave.  Glennie asserted that the queen was buried in four different places in the locality, though one Meigle worthy was sceptical and remarked, 'Thae auld histories are maistly lees, I'm thinkin'.'

   The local minister, reporting for the Old Statistical Account in 1795 described this stone (now classified as Meigle 2) as, ' the remains of the grand sepulchral monument of Vanora'.  Anna Ritchie notes: 'This tradition may have derived from the early legend known among the Britons but is more likely to belong to the developed Arthurian cycle of the 12th century and later; it is one of the most northerly of the surviving traces of the legend, most of which are south of the Forth.' ('Meigle and Lay Patronage in Tayside in the 9th and 10th centuries AD,' Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal 1, 1995, 1-10.) There is a place (and a stone) nearby called Arthurstone and a farm once named Arthur's Fold. The associations with the deeply significant Pictish settlement of Meigle are profound, even if not necessarily early.

   A full examination of the traditions here will have to be put off  - and completed by another person. That arch dissembler, the dubious historian Hector Boece included perhaps local traditions of Arthur, Guinever, Mordred in a locality that was known intimately to him as a native of Angus.  Did he incorporate genuine local traditions?  That would be too much to say.  Yet the 'traditions' are alluring, despite what that old local man once said.  Here's what it says in Our Meigle Book, published in 1932 say about the spot where the queen was slain (p.11):

Many were the stories and superstitions that grew up around Venora's Mound, and up to a hundred years ago even, it was believed that if a young woman were to walk over this spot no baby of hers would ever gladden her home! We can afford to laugh at these quaint superstitions in our enlightened mand matter-of -fact days, but we cannot altogether explain away these legends of Arthur.

   The local authors gained the tradition about the fearsome infertility causing grave from national historian and Angus man Hector Boece, who was certainly a liar in one sense,but did he here, in this instance, tap into something genuine, or at least traditional?  What rational reason would there be for a belief that the grave of an unfaithful queen make young women infertile. A passage from Boece, via his Scots translator John  Bellenden, sits at the bottom of this piece - though it hardly sheds much light.

Meigle Pictish stone, once known as Queen Guinevere's Grave

Dumbarrow Hill, Dunnichen - Arthur's Seat

   The author of the New Statistical Account for Dunnichen parish related of Dumbarrow Hill in the parish of Dunnichen: '...a rock on the north side of Dumbarrow Hill...has long borne, in the tradition of the country, the distinguished name of Arthur's Seat'.  The earlier aurthor of the Old Statistical Account (1791) commented: 'The only other hill in this parish [apart from Dunnichen Hill itself] is called Dumbarrow, probably from having been the burial place of some person of eminence. A rock on its north side is still called Arthur's Seat. This hill is not so high as that of Dunnichen.'

   This, in a sense, is where the trail grows cold.  It is also where it becomes more intriguing. The fortification on Dumbarrow has never been excavated.  Nor are there many legends that would explain the association of this site with King Arthur.  We are left with mystery.  Alexander Warden in the third volume of Angus or Forfarshire (p. 190) gives this information:
The Hill of Dumbarrow (anciently Dunberach), in the parish, disputes with
the Hill of Barry, near Alyth, the honour of having been the prison of
Arthur's frail Queen, Guanora, and the claim is strengthened by a jutting rock
on the hill being called Arthur's Seat.
   So the original element in the place-name would seem to be a Celtic personal name - Berach - rather than barrow, which English word would suggest a burial.  Possibly this commemorates St Berach of Termonbarry, an Irish cleric who died in 595.  His placement in the landscape here chimes in well with other Irish saints, such as St Buitte, associated with nearby Carbuddo (Kirkbuddo), another fort.  Possibly Irish saints or their acolytes were drawn by the power and prestige of local Pictish royalty.  Here then is a possibly dedicant of this hill site before Arthur was imposed upon it.  This is to assume that Warden is correct and Dunberach applies to Dumbarrow and not Barry. There is clearly a confusion between Barry Hill and Dumbarrow, though whether this goes back beyond the 16th century and the historian Boece is anyone's guess.

Dunnichen's Importance & The Case of Constantine - King or Saint?

   The contention here is whether there is any significance in the fact that the name of Arthur - the most important legendary Brittonic figure - is attached to a landscape feature in the parish of Dunnichen.  Dunnichen , as Dun Nechtan, was an important power centre of the Picts and likely, in the 5th century, the site of power of a king named Nechtan.  Unfortunately, we cannot go much further back than Boece in teasing out any Arthurian connection here.  We can however bring out to the light another name with Arthurian connections, Constantine.  Constantine was the parish saint of Dunnichen. St Constantine sometimes known by the diminuative of Causnan - was marked by St Causnan's Fair, held here every March (second Wednesday of March, Old Style, and latterly devoted only to the sale of toys).  There was St Causnan's Well in the parish, and also of course the church dedicated to him.  The Old Statistical Account also informs us, intriguingly, that the falls of snow which were frequently observed in March were known here as St Causnan's Slaw (or Flaw), co-iniciding with his feast date. The word slaw may generally refer to a blast of wind, but its association with icy, snowy blasts in March is a natural extension of meaning. The writer James Murray Mackinlay noted an interesting parallel in Norfolk (of all places), where the Whinwall Storm was alocal name for early March foul weather, taken from the saint named St Winwal or Winwaloe, significally a British Celtic saint of the 6th century (Influence of the Pre-Reformation Church on Scottish Place-names, Edinburgh and London, 1904, p. 95).

   Dedications to Constantine, whoever this saint was, are rare in Scotland, but he church of Kinnoull, at the western end of the Carse of Gowrie (Perthshire) is relatively close to Dunnichen, also honoured Constantine. But who was this Constatine?  The son of some confusion, I fear.  There was, in Boece and other unscrupulous sources a King of the Britons known as Constantine, of uncertain ancestry.  There was an Irish saint named Constantine of Rahan.  More regionally significant, possibly, the Aberdeen Breviary has Constantine son of Paternus.  Intriguingly, there were a number of late Pictish and early Scottish kings name Constatine (Pictish variant Castatin).  The reason for this sudden appearance of the name in their genealogies is unknown.

  In Argyll, we have a place name Kilchousland dedicated to one of these saints.  He was specifically names as Constantine, king and saint of Cornwall, who came north and founded a monastery at Gobvan (a very significant ecclesiastical site linked with the British kingdom of Strathclyde).  In his old age he retreated to Kintyre and here, at Kilchousland, he was martyred.

   The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 589, records 'The conversion of Constantine to the Lord...'  The British writer Gildas castigated a powerful ruler of Dumnonia (Devon/Cornwall) called Constantine as a 'tyrannical whelp'.  I currently live in Cornwall and there are various, significant  remembrances of this ruler in the local place-names.

   The Aberdeen Breviery links this person , the son of Paternus, who went into exile in Ireland after his wife died and became a humble monk.  After seven years forgetting himself he had a moment of dark epiphany while working at a mill.  he asked himself:
Am I Constantine, king of Cornwall, whose head has sustained so many helmets, his body so many coats of mail?
Am I? he enquired of himself.
And he replied, I am not.
  By the 12th century Constantine was Arthur's successor as King of Britain, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth.  I believe there is some wispy, intangible connection between this faded Arthurian strands in Strathmore, though I can't quite put my finger on it yet...

Le Mort d'Arthur by Aubrey Beardsley

Hector Boece's Account of Guinevere in Angus

Book Nine, Chapter 12
Guanora, the Quene of Britane, and spouse of King Arthure, was tane, with mony ladyis and knichtis depending on hir for the time. The hors, riches, and cofteris gottin with hir fell in pray to the Scottis; bot hirself, hir ladyis and knichtis, fell to the Pichtis, and was brocht in Angus, to ane castell calht Dunbarre, of quhilk na thing remanis now bot the prent of the wallis; quhare thay leiffit the remanent dayis of thair life. In memorie heirof, in Megile, ane towne of Angus, ten mile fra Dunde, ar mony anciant sepulturis, had in gret reverence of pepill; and specially the sepulture of Guanora, as the title writtin thairapon schawls: "All" wenien that strampis on this sepulture sail be ay barrant, but ony" frute of thair wamb, siclike as Guanora was." And quhidder that this be of verite or nocht, latte thaim schawe that hes experience thairof; bot ane thing we knaw: all wemen abhorris to strampe on that sepulture. It is said be Galfride, writare of the History of Britane, that Modrede and Arthure faucht nocht at Humbir, bot at the town of Gwintoun, and come out of the feild on live; and Guanora, for displeseir, enterit in religioun: quhilkis ar not far discrepant fra the history, as we have writtin. Nochtheles, we follow Veremond, Turgot, and otheris mony autentike authouris, quhilkis writis the trew deidis of nobill men, but ony fictioun. Attoure, quharevir this maist dangerus battal was strikin, sic displesour come, efter, to the Britons, Scottis, and Pichtis, be huge slauchter, that, mony yeris efter, thay micht nocht recover the dammage thairof.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Tales of the Whales (Part Two): the Rise of Dundee and Montrose

This piece acts as a follow on to my first post on Dundee whaling (Tales of the Whales (Part One)  Due to the large amount of material on whaling, I thought it best to break down the subject into bit sized chunks (is that possibly a pun?).  This piece concentrates on the general development of Dundee and Montrose as whaling ports.  At the outset, what has to be said, is that the whaling industry was subject to massive unpswings and down-turns, not only dependent on economics, but also the transitory nature of the raw material - the whales themselves.  Even though Dundee was indisputedly the premier whaling port in the British Isles for a period, it did not last long.  Maybe that's a good thing.

Crunching the Numbers, Seeking the Fish.  The 18th and 19th Centuries

   Reasons for the rise of Dundee in the decades to follow are no more easy to definitively pinpoint than it is to trace the beginnings of the industry as a whole.  The first concerted efforts to encourage whaling had taken place in the 17th century, but state intervention intensified in the middle of the following century and the trade grew in the following decades.  By 1753 there were 48 whaling ships operational in Great Britain. In that year Dundee's first recorded whaler - naturally called the Dundee - which had been bought from London was sent north on its maiden exploratory mission to the frozen northern fishing waters. (There were 14 whalers in Scotland in 1760.) British whaling was  still heavily outmatched by a huge Dutch fleet.  In 1791 details of Dundee's modest whaling fleet were captured as follows:

W. Soutar
Davis Straits
C. Frogget
J. Lundie
R. Webster

There was only apparently a single whaler operating out of the Tay at the very beginning of the 19th century, though two decades later there were 10 Dundee vessels engaged in the industry.  The table below lists the operational whaling vessels in British ports in 1813, at which time Dundee was only third in rank of Scottish ports and fifth overall in the U.K.  


   During the next few decades Hull, which of course does not even figure in the above list, was competing for whaling business with the port now at the forefront, Peterhead.  But the middle of the century saw Dundee heavily invest in auxiliary steam-powered ships which gave the port the technological advantage which enabled it to leapfrog to the premier position in terms of number of whalers. From the 1860s through to the 1880s the tide was hide for Dundee whales, in terms of technological advances, profits and - generally - very good hunting.  There was an all-time high of 17 whaling vessels afloat from Dundee in the year 1885, yet the very next year saw the sart of a decline.  Part of this was due to sheer bad luck, with four ships lost to the treacherous conditions of the remote far north.  Decline was also further evident generally throughout the next decade.  There was a variation in hunting grounds and prey. Most vessels were engaged in Newfoundland and Davis Strait whaling, though several in the 1890s sought seals in Greenland.  The sum of seals caught was 50,296 in 1890, but fell dramatically to 809 in 1898.  There were only a hand of the ttraditional whale prey, the Right Whales, caught each season.

Captain Robertson of the Dundee whaling vessel the 'Active'

Into the Twentieth Century, the Twilight Era

  Into the 20th century the whaling industry as a whole was likely dwindling due to over exploitation and for other reasons.  According to Norman Watson in The Dundee Whalers (2003, p. 144): 'The new century accelerated the decline and brought an end to Dundee's pre-eminence as a whaling port.'  An industry dependent of highly changeable raw materials, added to high risk to its operating personnel was always going to be incapable of surviving forever.  The whalers had to be versatile in terms of what prey they took, as this snapshot of the catch of the Dundee fleet in the 1904 season shows:

This year the Scottish whaling fleet from Dundee consisted of seven vessels, which fished in Hudson Bay and Davis Strait. They captured eleven Greenland Whales (Black Whales) with one thousand one hundred and fifty barrels of train oil and twelve thousand five hundred pounds of whalebone, as well as one hundred and sixty-eight White Whales, one thousand one hundred and thirty-five seals, one hundred and nine polar bears, two hundred and eleven foxes, and thirty musk-ox.

(A History of the Whale Fisheries, J. T. Jenkins, 1921, p. 283) 
   The following year, eight Dundonian vessels (Eclipse, Balaena, Morning, Scotia, Windward, Diana, Snowdrop, Active) caught right whales, white whales, walrus, seals, bears, foxes, but the numbers were not encouraging.  The First World War marked the real end. There were only a couple of the old ships afloat at the beginning of that conflict and by the end only the Balaena was still active as a whaling ship.  

Whaling in Montrose

The whaling industry of Montrose got off to a find start in the late 18th century, encouraged by an Act of Parliament in 1771 which encouraged the formation of the Montrose Greenland Whale Fishery Company, which bought the vessel the Little Fanny.  A rival was formed in the port, the New Whale Fishing Company, and its first ship was the Eliza Swan. (The Union Whale Fishing Company was formed later in Montrose.) A third vessel, the George Dempster, bolstered the small fleet towards the end of the century.  The number of ships setting out from Montrose was never great and the high point of the port's industry seems to have been the 1820s. In 1823 the four whaling ships in Montrose had a bumper and unprecedented catch - but it all seems to have been downhill thereafter.

   There must have been many circumstances which kept Montrose's whaling fleet at a modest number.  One of these may have been the predation of hostile American vessels, preying on anything British during a period of tension between the nations.  In August 1813 the U.S. warship President captured Eliza Swan (the second vessel of that name) 'and after robbing her of fishing-lines, spare sails, bread etc, ransomed her for the sum of five thousand guineas.' (reported in the Dundee Advertiser).  She continued whaling again for several more years.  A ship named the Hero (Union Whale Fishing Company) was lost in 1822, though all of the crew were saved.  In 1833 the Montrose Whale Fishing Company went bust.  The following year the ship London was lost and its operators, the Union Whale Fishing Company, also went into liquidation.  As reported below, the Montrose New Whale Fishing Company also ceased operation several years later.  

Sailor's scrimshaw work on sperm whale tooth

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Battle of Stracathro and A Chilling Extinction

Stracathro is a quiet place which does not deserve notoriety.  Its claim to fame, historically, is the humiliating resignation of King John Balliol.  Nearby there was another, larger scale event, which took place in the year 1130, which marked the culmination of a power struggle between the Scottish crown and the rulers of Moray in the north who believed they had a legitimate right to rule. As some modern writers have asserted, what happened here was the end of the de facto situation whereby there were two functioning and rival kingdoms in the north: Scotia and Moray.

   The encounter took place on 16th April, 1130, beside the River Esk, at a place in that river which gave an alternative name to the battle, Inchbare ('island of the headland').  In the northern forces there were 5,000 men under the mormaer of Moray, Angus, and his brother Malcolm. The northerners had filtered down Glen Esk and were met by a large army coming from the south, which included a large number of cavalry and Norman knights.

 The royal forces meeting them were commanded by Edward, Constable of Scotland, representing King David I.  According to the English historian Orderic Vitalis, it was a resounding royal victory.  Some 4,000 of the northerners were slaughtered in the field, including Malcolm (although this may be an exaggerated number). Angus, 'king' or Moray, was slain. On the royalist side, the earls of Dunbar and Fife were slain too.

   Place-name students were certainly wrong several centuries ago when they interpreted the meaning of Stracathro as 'valley where the king fought'.  A more accurate name perhaps is Auchenreoch, 300 metres south of the North Water Bridge, which can be interpreted as 'field of great sorrow', remembering the encounter.

The North Esk at the North Water Bridge

Shadow Warriors of the North

   The men of the far north who fought the forces of the crown at Stracathro were representing a cause which had been in existence for a long period of time, although the identity of the groups they mustered under, and the lineage of their leaders was not always clear cut.  From the late 12th to the mid 13th century, two northern groups active in Ross and Moray - the MacWilliams and the MacHeths - strove to take the kingship of Scotland. One noteable participant at Stracatho was Angus's ally Malcolm Macheth, son of King Alexander I of Scotland.  He survived the carnage, but was imprisoned four years later. 

   Historians have traditionally identified the MacWilliams as descendants of William, son of King Duncan II of Scotland (who died in 1094), though this is not certain.  The historian G. W. S. Barrow suggested that this William's first wife was a cousin or sister of the Angus of Moray. Whoever he may have been, between 1179 and 1186, Donald Bán MacWilliam probably invaded Scotland on three different occasions, making him an exceptionally persistent and powerful enemy of the state.

   Guthred MacWilliam raised men and support from the north of Ireland, but when he came back to Scotland for another campaign he was defeated by a royal army in 1211 and defeated.  He was betrayed by some of his own, captured and beheaded.  But that was not the end of the unrest. Further incusions were dealt with in the 1220s.  In 1223 Gillescop MacWilliam and his sons were on the rampage in the far north. A few years later Iverness was burnt and the king's lands plundered.  Gillescop perished in the year 1229. One final, exceptionally brutal act remained to be done and it took place in Angus exactly a century after the Battle of Stracathro.

MacWilliam Line Extinguished in Angus

   The English Chronicle of Lanercost reports the end game of the Scottish regime which played out conclusively in a cold blooded act which took place in the centre of Angus in the year 1230:

In this year there arose in Scotland certain wicked men of the race of Mac-William; and his son; and one Roderic.  They raised up treachery in the remotest terriories of Scotland; and wished to obtain the kingdom by force, by allying with themselves a great number of wicked men of that ralm.  But by the vengeance of God, they and their accomplices were betrayed.  And after the enemy had been successfully overcome, a somewhat too cruel vengeance was taken for the blood of the slain:- the same MacWilliam's daughter, who had not long left her mother's womb, innocent as she was, was put to death, in the burgh of Forfar, in view of the market-place, after a proclamation by the public crier: her head was struck against the column of the market cross, and her brains dashed out.  Yet God says to the contrary effect, Sons shall not be slain for their fathers [Deuteronomy, XXIV, 16]; and so on...

   We will never know the background detail of how this infact was captured and what happened to its mother.  The poor infant may have been the daughter of either Donald Bán MacWilliam or Gillescop; we shall never know now. Unknown also is why this dreadful state execution took place in the heart of Strathmore, so far from the heartland of these 'rebels' in the far north.  Stracathro was a century-old memory.  Old men in Angus and neighbouring Gowrie might just have remembered the last major incursion of the northern hordes, when sixty of the MacWilliams, led by one Adam son of Donald, were hemmed up in the abbot's house at Coupar Angus Abbey and burned to death by Earl Malcolm of Atholl in December 1186, despite having claimed sanctuary. (The story can be revisited in my earlier post here.) 

Forfar and the Angus mountains from Balmashanner Hill

Sunday, 18 November 2018

General Monck Storms Dundee. Bloodshed, Marriage, Court-Martials. Shipwrecked Treasure Still There!

Conventional folk memory (if there is such a thing) in Dundee recalls the sack and occupation of the town by General Monck in the middle of the 17th century as a particularly barbarous event which effectively ended the burgh's growing aspiration to be the second city of the kingdom.  Although the Cromwellian assault was not on the scale of attrocities witness elsewhere, and particularly in Ireland, it remains a bitter strata in the civic history.

In the year 1651, Dundee was ripe for the picking.  It was an obvious strategic target, the only remaining large town in Scotland that remained loyal to King Charles II.  As a consequence, not only were its inhabitants suspect and legitimate targets in the eyes of Parliamentarian enemies, they were also hosts to traitors who flocked to the burgh from other places now overwhelmed and quelled.

   Dundee prepared itself, knowing that an attack was inevitable.  During most of August Stirling Castle had been the subject of seige, then assault, and strongly defended Dundee was in the firing line.  As S. G. E. Lythe describes it:

As Monk and his Parliamentary forces drew nearer the Council went into a frenzy of activity. It enlisted women to wheel barrow-loads of turfs to strengthen the fortifications, demolished outlying buildings that might serve the invaders as sniping posts, and appointed 'General Major Robert Lumsden of Montquhanie' as its garrison commander., On the whole the defence was in good heart.

   By the middle of August, Dundee was dangerously isolated and signed its own fate by refusing to surrender.  The siege of the burgh began and led to an attack on the first day of September, when the drunken defenders were overwhelmed by cavalry and infantry forces (Monck's forces numbered 4,000 men).

   The following is from the contemporary Narrative or Diary of the Proceedings of the Forces under Lt. General Monck, after their parting from the Army:

About 11 o'clock the signal was given, and breaches being made into the enemy's forts on the east and west sides of the town, our men entered, and after about half an hour of hot dispute, diverse of the enemy retreated to the church and steeple, and amongst the rest the Governor, who was killed with between four and five hundred soldiers and townsmen... There was killed of ours Capt. Hart and about 20 soldiers, and as many wounded. When our men got to the marketplace they gave quarter, and took about 500 prisoners, and amongst the rest Col. Coningham, Governor of Sterling, who was in the town with many of his soldiers which marched thence [after their surrender August 14].
The soldiers had the plunder of the town for all that day and night, and had very large prize, many inhabitants of Edinburgh and other places having sent their ware and gear thither.

 Lumsden retreated to St Mary's Church, barricaded within the Old Steeple.  Then he was forced out by smoke and killed.  Here's where events get confused.  The numbers of plain townsfolk slaughtered varies, from five or six hundred, upwards to 800.  One source claims that 200 women and children were put to death by the invaders.  Another historian wrote that 200 ships carried away the wealth of the town, though some of the booty sank in the Tay (a tale we shall return to below).  The fact that theatrocity was nowhere near the devastation suffered similarly by Drogheda in Ireland two years earlier does not mitigate the effect the event had.

The Dundee Churches in more peaceful times, several centuries after their destruction.

Drilling into the Details of Death and the Aftermath

   A full study of the the details surrounding the initial assault on Dundee would fill up far too much space, but a little elaboration is called for.  Some sources say that Lumsden's men were slain  in the kirk yard, where two battallions of Lord Duffus's forces were also slaughtered.  Baker's Chronicle gives the information that Lunsden himself surrendered to a Captain Kelly, who hoped to lead him to Monck and intercede to save his life.  However, on the way to Monck, an English major named Butler shot him dead.Yet more defenders were killed immediately in the Fishmarket.  Lumsden's severed head was placed upon an abutment in south-west corner of the Old Steeple.  The Rev. Small records the tradition concerning the slaughter in the late 18th century: '...the carnage did not cease until the third day, when a child was seen in a lane, called the Thorter-Row, sucking its murdered mother'.  This sounds very much like a folk legend, though whether contemporary or invented later, it is difficult to say. Some 300 men are said to have been captured by Monck's men at Alyth (from a force which had gathered in the hopes of relieving the siege of Dundee) and transported to London, where they remained imprisoned for two years.  

  It is likely the Commonwealth troops were given, officially or unoffically, free reign to plunder the captured town for a period of twenty-four hours, but the looting and violence may actually have carried on to some extent for as long as a fortnight and was not sufficiently kept in check by army commanders. A proclamation was issued by Monck against plundering, but not until the 15th September.

   The deliberate intention to slaughter townsfolk is as much a matter of debate as the actual numbers killed. (It is interesting to note that the provost, Sir Thomas Mudie, survived the onslaught and remained in office for several years.)  General Monck was no remote commander, but a front line leader who was on site and remained so for a considerable period.  According to James Thompson, he:

is said to have occupied the house at the foot of the Overgate, next the High Street [and] was detained for some weeks in Dundee by illness, which even his panegryrists appear to have regarded as a judgment upon the terrible service he had been engaged in. On the 19th October, he received a letter written from Inverary by the Marquis of Argyll, on hearing of the atrocities at Dundee, imploring him to assemble a Convention at some convenient place to devise means for stopping bloodshed.  To this he refused to accede without an order from Parliament.  Shortly after, he withdrew to the south with his troops, and the town was garrisoned by another body of Cromwell's troops, who conducted themselves with strict discipline and propriety. Many of the soldeirs were tradesmen, and seem to have exercised their callings, and cultivated friendly relations among the inhabitants.  Amor vincit omnia ['love conquers all'] within eight years, sixty-six of the garrison married as many of the townswomen, and 255 baptisms appear on the register as the result of these unions.
   I may mention here that my paternal grandmother's maiden name was Inglis, which leads me to suspect that she was a descendant of one of these mid-seventeenth century Scottish-English unions.

    There are occasional remainders of the darker side of the event.  When the Nethergate was dug up for road widening in 1810, vast quantities of human bones were found, buried in shallow graves and a haphazard fashion - possibly victims of Monck's shock troops.

   Whatever the extent of the killing, it seems clear that the economy and life force of Dundee were shattered by the event. Maxwell summons up an Englishman's sympathetic view of the town not long after the event:

The town did not for a long time recover from the heavy blow it had sustained by the merciless slaughter of its inhabitants, and the pitiless plunder of their goods. Its commerce was crippled and its energies prostrated, and during the rule of Cromwell it continued to be a quiet member of the Commonwealth. Richard Franck, who was
a captain of cavalry in the army that invaded Scotland, and appears from his acquaintance with the circumstances to have been present at the assault upon Dundee, made another visit to the country in 1656 on an angling expedition, and wrote an account of that peaceful enterprise, which was published some time afterwards. Upon his return journey he passed through the town, and gives a lamentable picture of its sufferings and desolation in language of inflated hyperbole, for which the old trooper might have profitably substituted a plain description. 'Deplorable Dundee!' he exclaims, 'and not to be exprest without a deluge of tears, because stormed and spoiled by the rash precipitancy of mercenaries, whose rapinous hands put a fatal period to her stately imbellishments, with the loss of many innocent lives,altogether unconcerned in that unnatural controversy Can honour shine in such bloody sacrifices, to lick up the lives of inhabitants as if by a studied revenge ? Can nothing sweeten the conqueror's sword but the reeking blood of orphans and innocents? There was wealth enough to answer their ambitions, and probably that, as soon as anything, betrayed her. Could nothing satisfy the insatiable swordbut the life of Dundee to atone as a sacrifice  Englishmen without mercy are like Christians without Christianity. Disconsolate Dundee! where the merciless conquerour stuck down his standard in streams of blood.' [The History of Old Dundee, p. 552.]

Court-Martials in the Occupying Army

   For those who wish to delve deeper into the circumstances of defeated Dundee just after the killing ceased, the court-martial records of the Parliamentary army make fascinating reading.   They are, 'The only complete records of the proceedings of any courts - martial which have survived from the Puritan Revolution,' and cover a scanty four month period. The trials are for the most part mundane, but show the army had a firm grip on its men and would not tolerate law breaking.

   Typical is the charge against Thomas Edgecouf (17th September), accused of stealing six cows, three miles outside the burgh.  At the other end of the scale are George Scutter and Laurence Milton of Captain Lee's troop, 'accus'd about the killing of a boy'.  The detail is missing, but the men were said to have taken the boy unwillingly on the back of a horse and then threw him violently off, causing his death.  They were apparently acquitted, due to lack of evidence (the boy may not have died).  Breaking orders of discipline, plus incidents of blashpemy, fornication and common disorder, are also recorded, and this more detailed incident:

Information of Major Dorney against Henry Sparkes, corporall to Major Rede in Col. Fenwick's regiment, David Pew and John Humphries. Read as followeth: The information of Major Henry Dorney taken upon oath in the Court Marshall, Sept. 19, 1651. That yesterday, being Thursday the 18 instant, haveing newly given out orders on the churchyard at Dundee, he heard a souldier whose name is David Pew (as he cals himself being with them that play'd), swearing in a grosse manner, which to his remembrance was 'by God's bloud and wounds'; that afterwards about 11 of the clock att night, walking to view the guards neere the Lt. Generall's quarters in Dundee, he heard much swearing amongst a company of souldiers, and amongst the rest hee looked in at a window and tooke particular notice of 2, whose names are (as hee is since inform'd), John Humphryes and Henry Sparkes, to be more emenently swearing 'by God,' or 'as God shall judge mee,' with other oathes and execrations to that effect. 
Hen: Dorney. Question. Whether to proceede against Corporall Henry Sparkes, being of another garrison? Resolved in the affirmative.
Uppon debate by the testimony of Major Dorney and others, Henry Sparkes, David Pew and John Humphries were found guilty of swearing, and theruppon sentenc't:  To bee gagy'd (sitting uppon the horse) for an hower, with their faults written uppon their backs, vizte. For swearing.
Wm. Wells call'd in about striking of Capt. Lee, who hindred him from carrying away of bookes. Left to Capt. Lee to take his submission. Francis Mencour of Capt. Fitche's company in regiment, inform'd against by Capt. Dawborne, who mett him with 3 seamen carrying a sayle of a shippe. Seamen's names Geo. Maners, Jo. Mason, and Wm. Hamonds, belonging to Capt. Wheeler, saves, that they fetch't itt out of an house where noe body dwelt. Souldier sayes that itt was in his Landladyes house. That hee knew nott that the plunder of the towne was done.
Dismis't with a sharpe reproof.

   Despite the probably large scale distribution of wealth among the occupiers, some troopers were allegedly not adverse to trying to extort more from the subjugated locals.   A violent incident occurred at Dronley, between Auchterhouse and Muirhead, to the north-west of Dundee.  On Friday 19th September 1651 a corporal named Phillip Rackham had been in the house of Robert Haye at Dronley when he saw two troopers forcibly driving two local men before them.  One of the soldiers knocked down a Scot with his pistol '3 severall times'.  Rackham followed the men and saw them steal a horse.  He then sent word to Dundee, where his criminal countrymen were captured.

   A local man named Andrew Tindall, who had been gathering peat and fowls with his father in law near Dronley, was returning home to Newtyle when they met two English troopers around 4 p.m. on 19th September.  The soldiers were identified later as Henry Brigges and Brian Carter.  One of the troops accosted Tindall and threatened him:  'You Scottish roge, give's your mony.'  And he threatened to pistol whip him.  The locals were then robbed.  James Terry, the father in law, said he was struck over the head several times by the flat of Carter's sword, after which he was deprived of 1s. 6d. and the soldiers rode away.

   The two thieving soldiers were tried and convicted by the 'Article of Misdemeanour'.  Their punishment was as follows:

Tryed and found guilty by testimony and their owne confession of plundering and offering violence to the persons of two countrymen. Resolved that Brian Carter and Henry Brigges bee brought from the prison, with ropes about their neckes, and their faults uppon their brests, to the gallowes att the time of the parade, and being tide uppe by the neck receive 30 stripes appeece uppon their bare backes. Afterwards to aske forgivenesse uppon their knees for the injury done to the poore men and the army. And after that to bee kept with bread and water till they have restor'd fower fold to the countrymen for what they have taken away.

[Further extracts from these records may be included in future posts.]

The Man Monck, Before and After

   For some people, the sucessful career and life of Monck after his part in the wars will make for depressing assurance that, more often than not, great deeds of bloodshed do not adversely affect the principal aggressors.  George Monck was born in Devon in 1608.  He served as a solider in Spain and France, and other places, at one time under the flag of the Prince of Orange.  Following service with the crown in the British Isles and imprisonment, he eventually switched sides and fought for Parliamentary forces.  In July 1650, Monck was given command of a regiment of foot in Cromwell's army for the invasion of Scotland. Following the Scottish campaign, he suffered a downturn in health and returned to England in February 1652.He was back in Scotland two years later and suppressed a Royalist uprising.  Eight years later the death of Cromwell and significant changes in the political landscape allowed him to reconcile with the crown and he became an important supported of Charles II.

   When the restored King landed at Dover on 25 May, Monck was the first to greet him as he came ashore. He was invested with the Order of the Garter the following day.  For his role in the Restoration, Monck was appointed captain-general of the army and created Earl of Torrington and Duke of Albemarle.  He died in January 1670 and received a state funeral.  His son Christopher died childless and the earldom and dukedom became extinct.

  Consideration of the man must be seen, to some extent, through the prism of his times. You could apply the saying given by G. K. Chesterson (through the mouth of Father Brown) about another man of blood from the same century, Graham of Claverhouse: for all the calumny heaped upon the man, he was something less than the demonised caricature he was sometimes characterised as, and in the end he was a dragoon, not a dragon. Yet, the collective memory of Dundee may take a long time yet to forgive him and his associates.

Murderer or merely professional soldier?

Treasure in the Tay?

   It is rumoured that Dundee's captured wealth was so immense that all of Monck's troops gained £60 out of the pillage. (The total was £2.5 million Scots, according to one source.) Dr Gamble, Monck's chaplain, who wrote an account of the campaign stated that the concentrated wealth had been bolstered by those Royalists bringing in their loot from Edinburgh and other places. Sixty vessels of the town were captured in the harbour, but allegedly lost on the bar of the Tay when the English forces sought to take them away. 

   Six years ago there were press reports regarding plans to locate the ships which Monck's forces were taking bath to Leith and which had sunk in the mouth of the Tay.  Marine archaeologist Neil Cunningham Dobson (of Odyssey Marine Exploration) reckoned that the submerged hoard could be estimated at a value of £2.5 billion. Historic Scotland cautiously agreed that the presence of sunken ships was a possibility in the vicinity.  This plan came a decade after businessman Gary Alsopp also set forward a scheme to explore the underwater area, but it cam to nothing due to funding issues.  However, Dundee city archivist cautiously advised at the time of Dobson's plan that there was no hard and fast evidence about the wrecks and there was no confirmation in the scrupulous contemporary Cromwellian records about sinkings.  The story, he thought, was 'part of Dundee's folklore-.  No gfull-scale exploration appears to have ensued.

   A decade before this theCoventry based exploration company Internet Subsea Explorer, which conducted a ten week survey of the area. The notion of treasure was stirred up by plans for an underwater survey of the mouth of the Tay, carried out in conjunction with Scottish National Heritage. A canonball was brought up to the surface, but (as far as I know) there was no treasure recovered.

Selected Sources

A. Colville, Dundee Delineated (Dundee, 1822).

Godfrey Davies, ed., 'Dundee Court-Martial Records, 1651', Publications of the Scottish History Society, Vol. 19, Miscellany, vol. 3.

S. G. E. Lythe, Life and Labour in Dundee, From the Reformation to the Civil War, Abertay Historical Publication No. 5, 1958.

Alexander Maxwell, The History of Old Dundee (Edinburgh, 1884).

Rev. Robert Small, The (Old) Statistical Account of Dundee, 1792.

James Thompson, The History of Dundee (new edition, Dundee, 1974).

Golden Touch in Treasure Hunt (BBC News)