Monday, 22 September 2014

Scotland September 2014

In 2008 we visited Barbados after we discovered that many Irish Catholics had been deported there on slave ships during the Civil War, and that there are still direct descendants living there today (for more information on this trip click on Past Events). Whilst there we were taken to an area called Little Scotland and were soon to learn that it wasn't just the Irish who had suffered but the Scottish people too. On our return I started my research to find out more, beginning at the Battle of Dunbar. I was deeply moved as I read the plight of these Scottish soldiers.

In 1649, following the execution of King Charles I, his son Charles, Prince of Wales, was proclaimed his successor by the Scottish Parliament. This came to Cromwell's attention and when he returned from his campaign in Ireland, he turned his focus to Scotland. As a result, on 3rd September 1650 having won the Battle of Dunbar, Cromwell took around 5,000 Scottish soldiers prisoner and they were marched south to Durham Cathedral. Only 3,000 arrived on 11th September as some were forced to work the mines or salt works at Newcastle and Shields and many others died en route of hunger and cold. In the months that followed conditions imposed by Cromwell's army in Durham were so harsh that only around 1,600 survived their imprisonment in the Cathedral, and they were sold as bonded labour to Virginia and the Caribbean.

When news of the victory reached London, members of the Rump Parliament decided that a Dunbar medal should be struck for both the officers and men. It was the first time such a military medal had ever been issued in Britain and there wouldn't be another until the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. As you can see it was inscribed with their battle cry "THE LORD OF HOSTS" and the bust of Cromwell. How sad for a man who hated idolatry.

I knew one day we would be going to Scotland. However it has taken all these years since 2008 for us to make any connections there. In the meantime we have been led to unravel other areas that were also affected by Cromwell (all of which are recorded on this blog). In June this year I was invited to Edinburgh. God had made the connection needed with prayer leaders from Scotland and we were invited to address the issue of the Battle of Dunbar on 3rd September 2014. We agreed. God's timing is always perfect.


As Cromwell was a son of Huntingdon our plan was to take a letter of apology to the Scottish people signed by myself and many leaders from Huntingdon Churches Together.

Rev'd Scott Watts signing the letter
Rev'd Andrew Milton signing the letter

Berwick upon Tweed

On 2nd of September the Arise team set off for Scotland calling at Berwick-upon-Tweed as Berwick played its part in Cromwell's Scottish campaign. As we prayed on the old bridge we could imagine the soldiers crossing over going into battle and the Scottish prisoners as they were marched south, never knowing if they would see their families or land again.

Bridge at Berwick built in 1645


Rev'd Andrew Bain welcoming the Arise Team

Rev'd Andrew Bain at the monument commemorating the Battle of Dunbar that stands outside the town.

On the morning of the 3rd September a service was held in St Anne's Church.

It was a wonderful occasion as ministers of every denomination were not only present but also took part in the service. Rev'd Andrew Bain opened our worship with these words, and I quote; 

"We're here today commemorating a battle which in many ways seems a very long time ago. And yet the Battle of Dunbar and indeed all the battles of that war have echoes of what's happening in our world today. The war between King and Parliament was as much as anything a war about religion, and certainly manifested in that way here in Scotland. Men went into battle with the name of God on their lips and even on their banners, utterly believing that God was on their side and ready too smite down their enemies in God's name. It's not a world away from what's happening now and it shows us starkly how religion can be twisted into something evil when we lose sight of mercy and compassion. In a world where we're daily hearing about hostages, refugees, people driven cruelly far from their homes, we remember those who died on a battle field that's just walking distance from where we are now, and the fate that lay in store for the 5,000 defeated Scottish soldiers who were captured, walked south to Durham, starved on the way, half of them dying on the road and the rest sent into servitude for the plantations of the West Indies. You can only imagine the grief that must have brought such anguish to so many Scottish homes and families. The crying we see from broken-hearted people in Gaza and Iraq and Syria was heard on these streets of ours. So as we come to pray for healing and forgiveness for the shedding of human blood on the beautiful red earth of East Lothian, so we pray for healing for all the wounds of war: For the historic wounds of the Battle of Dunbar, for the First. World War we're remembering this year and for all wars in all times. We have made so many sacrifices, but God tells us through the prophet Micah that He wants only one:"This is the sacrifice I want, says the Lord, that you do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God". 

Afterward the singing of the hymn "Make me a channel of your peace" I was invited to speak and present the letter of apology to the Lord Lieutenant Michael Williams MBE. I was able to share a small part of my story, explaining how I felt called to address this part of history before I read the letter. I could feel the emotion rising up in me as I struggled to keep my voice from breaking. You could have heard a pin drop. The Lord Lieutenant replied saying "I am honoured to receive this letter on behalf of the people of Dunbar and East Lothian. I receive it with humility and hope".

Shirley presenting letter of apology to The Lord Lieutenant
This spirit continued with a real sense of peace and healing as everyone received their own copy of the letter and then we all shared lunch together.

The next day we went prayer walking around the battle sites. First we visited the grounds of Broxmouth House, the site of Cromwell's Mount. It was from here that he is believed to have directed his army.

Cromwell's Mount

View from the Mount
Next we crossed over the road and climbed up Doon Hill, where the Scottish army camped. We prayed here for sometime asking for God's healing and blessing on the land, its people, as well as the descendants of those who were deported on slave ships. As we walked back one of the team saw the sky full of huge angels blowing trumpets. We knew we must have hit the right note.

Doon Hill

View from Doon Hill

The Scottish Parliament

 Arise team with Andy Philip

As Parliament was in recess due to the referendum on independence, we were unable to leave the letter, however we do plan to return. Instead we enjoyed a tour of the building.


We watched as God put people in our path as we went to many places which had been affected by Cromwell's invasion. This happened on the street in Linlithgow when we bumped into Rev'd Stewart Gillan, the Minister from St Michael's Church. St Michael's is set in the grounds of Linlithgow Palace and was where Cromwell had stabled his horses. After sharing the reasons for our trip I asked if I could read him the letter. He agreed and was so impressed he invited us back the next day to share this with his congregation.
Shirley, Rev'd Stewart Gillan and Andy Philip

Presenting the letter to Rev'd Stewart Gillan

The House of the Binns

We were amazed how God kept opening doors, doors we could never have imagined. One of these was on Saturday 6th Sept when we received an invitation to The House of the Binns, an historic house near Linlithgow, the seat of the Dalyell family. It dates from the early 17th Century, and is currently in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. We had been invited to afternoon tea with Sir Thomas Dalyell, 11th Baronet, known as Tam Dalyell, and his wife Kathleen. Tam, as he asked me to call him, is a direct descendant of his namesake Thomas (Tam) Dalyell a staunch Royalist, who fought for the King in the Civil War. Soon after our arrival Tam asked me what "this apology thing" was all about. God was so gracious as He helped me share over tea what we had done in Ireland and Barbados. It was very clear that both Tam and Kathleen were touched by the story of the people in Barbados. I continued to tell them why we were in Scotland and again they understood. When I came to read the letter, they were both deeply touched and promised that the letter would be hung in the house for the public to see.

Tam and Kathleen Dalyell with the Arise Team

Callendar House

Callendar House

In 1651 Callendar House in Falkirk was besieged by Cromwell's army. We loved this beautiful house and grounds. It was so interesting, well kept and free entry for everyone to enjoy. The staff were very interested to hear about our trip and promised to pass the letter on to the right authorities. I have since been contacted by an Archivist in Falkirk and the Curator of the National Library in Edinburgh, asking if they can put the letter in the National Collection.

There are so many stories we could tell, from ministers who had come to realise that unless history is healed you can't move into the future, to a lady in Glasgow who is a descendant of a young man who was hanged by Cromwell's troops. She has his last letter to prove it. She had tears in her eyes as I read her the letter. There are many prayer groups we met too who have such a heart for healing of their land and its people.


St Peter's Church


Glasgow Cathedral
 Praying on street with Katrina and Liz 


 Prayer Group


Life Church, Paisley


Duke of Hamilton's Estate
As a Royalist, the Duke of Hamilton and the estate suffered under Cromwell. I hadn't planned to meet anyone here but the estate manager expressed an interest when I told him what we were doing. He was so impressed with the letter and our desire to bring healing to this part of history that he promised to make sure that the letter would be passed on to the correct authorities.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Cromwell hadn't made any headway at Stirling Castle but in 1651, after months of fighting and people starved of food, the Castle fell to the Parliamentarians. We gathered to pray on the battlements along with some of the prayer leaders who had invited us to Scotland in the first place. After a time I went to see  who I could leave the letter with. I spoke to the gentleman at the Gatehouse. When I told him we had come from Cromwell's home town, he jokingly said "to apologise?". When I replied "Yes" he laughed. I showed him the letter, telling him that we would like to leave it with someone. As he read it his reaction was more than we could have expected.  He said "This is wonderful, fantastic. This is too important, you need someone in higher authority than me to give this to".  So he called the duty manager. Once again God opened the right door. She was so moved as I read the letter that she promised to pass it on to the guides so it can be part of the story of the Castle. She then took us through the gates and into the Castle to see for ourselves where the people spent their last days.
Chapel inside the Castle grounds
Parliamentarians took over this Almshouse 

 Reading the letter to the lady who runs a lovely coffee shop in the old Almshouse 

On the journey back to Lanarkshire, we called in at St Ninians, Bannockburn, Kilsyth and Muirhead, leaving a letter in the Church at each place.

Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh

Rev'd Dr George Whyte, Presbytery Clerk of Edinburgh

We met Rev'd Dr Whyte at Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh. He told us that one of his churches at Collington was where Cromwell's troops were camped.  He was grateful for the letter and promised that it would be shared with other church leaders in the City.

Greyfriars Kirk yard

Many were imprisoned here and some died of starvation as they waited to be deported to the Caribbean and Virginia. As we stood a while you could so easily imagine the people crying for those they had left behind. It's hard to believe that people could be treated this way. We spent quite a time praying, asking the Lord's forgiveness and His healing for all.
Afterwards we headed off to visit Musselburgh, and Kelso.


Liz and Vanessa
At Kelso, we had arranged to meet up with an old university friend of Vanessa's and we were so blessed by this connection. We shared what we had been doing over a very relaxed meal, and showed her the map of where Cromwell had been. To our amazement she has family in many of the places we had not been able to get to on this trip and she took the remainder of the scrolls and promised to take them to those places. It was a wonderful way to finish our time in Scotland.

St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle

 The very Reverend Christopher Dalliston 
Our last day, September 11th, began in Newcastle with a meeting with the Very Rev'd Christopher Dalliston.  Rev'd Andrew Milton from Huntingdon went to college with him and made this visit possible. We were joined here by a gentleman who had come down from Scotland and a lady from Newcastle. The Dean was very impressed with what we had done over the years, and as an historian himself, he too believed that there must be healing and forgiveness. He said the daily readings were so appropriate for that day and he believed that the Holy Spirit was in this. He invited us to stay for their lunchtime Communion Service, where he gave me the opportunity to say a few words before reading and presenting the letter. Once again we saw how God touched lives.

Durham Cathedral

The Rev'd Anthony Bash, Chaplain of Hatfield College at the University
At Durham Cathedral we were met outside by Rev'd Dr Anthony Bash and Rev'd Robin Fletcher and invited to a private service in the Gregory Chapel led by Rev'd Bash who himself has a research interest in forgiveness and reconciliation. It was a very simple and moving service. The letter this time apologised for the plight of these men and the desecration of the Cathedral. After it was read it was placed on the altar. Rev'd Bash prayed, "Gracious Father, we gladly accept this token of love and friendship knowing that it represents a longing and desire for continued grace to undo the hurts of the past. We look to you for continued healing in our lives, and commit ourselves to work together for the good of all people. Together we long for the daily, renewing grace of God, and pray that the stain of our past may continually be transformed by the renewal of our minds. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, and for His glory. Amen". 

 Arise team with Andy Philips and Rev'd Robin Fletcher, Voluntary Chaplin  
Rev'd Robin Fletcher then invited us all to a short service at the Shrine of St Cuthbert where he continued thanking God for our visit. Afterwards as we said our goodbyes he kissed my hand. This moved me, as I felt it was a kiss from God. The perfect end to an amazing journey.

To God be the Glory!

Shirley Bowers

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