SCOTTISH soil will be scattered into the graves of soldiers who died almost 400 years ago as their bones are reburied tomorrow.

The remains of fighters defeated at the 1650 Battle of Dunbar and marched more than 100 miles to Durham were discovered during building work five years ago.

Analysis of the remains established that some were as young as 13 and many were non-professional soldiers drawn from weaving backgrounds.

The National:

A painting of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar

Now the remains are to be reburied less than one mile from the exhumation site on what is now Palace Green, part of the Durham University campus.

Both the “simple” graveside service at Elvet Hill Road Cemetery and bespoke casket have been designed to reflect the customs of the 17th century, with input from the Church of Scotland and Scottish Episcopal Church.

The move follows the failure of a petition aimed at securing reburial north of the Border. The university said this was rejected following consideration of its "legal, moral and ethical responsibilities in relation to the remains".

Canon Rosalind Brown of Durham Cathedral said the service will be “respectful of the circumstances that led to these men dying” in the English city.

They were marched there after the crushing defeat by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, with many of their fellow fighters from the Covenanting army dying on the journey.

After reaching their destination, they were held at the then disused Durham Cathedral, which became the prison for an estimated 3000 men and boys.

Some were then sent to fight in Ireland and France, others were put to work draining the Fens in Eastern England or on salt pans in South Shields, and around 150 were sold into indentured servitude in America at the cost of £20-25 a head.

Tests on the remains uncovered by workmen preparing the ground for the construction of a cafe established that the eldest was around 25. The find ended a centuries-old mystery about the resting place of the Scots troops who died there.

The “jumbled bones” lay in an area the size of a kitchen table and analysis of the teeth shows signs of malnutrition. A small sample of these have been retained for future work as new techniques emerge.

Metrical Psalms from the 1650 Scottish Psalter and a bible reading from the 1611 King James Version will form part of tomorrow’s remembrances.

Those in attendance, which includes community representatives from Dunbar and Durham, as well as interested groups and the academics who undertook research on the remains, will have the chance to scatter a handful of Scottish earth into the grave.

Brown said a cathedral service would not have been right, explaining: “A service in an Anglican church, and in particular a service within Durham Cathedral, would be inappropriate given the history of these men and the fact that, although not used as a place of worship at the time, the cathedral represented a place of imprisonment for them.”

She went on: "The service draws on the liturgical materials principally from Scottish traditions and the rites of the Church of Scotland, and in a spirit of ecumenism and reconciliation, honours the memory of the soldiers and commends them to God.”

The full research findings gathered by Durham University experts will be published later this year.

Professor David Cowling, pro-vice-chancellor of Arts and Humanities, said: “Through the discovery of these remains, and the research on them, we have been granted a privileged insight into the lives of the soldiers.

“The research findings are helping us to piece together the story of their lives. Through this work we hope to give a voice back to these individuals, who were captured at the Battle of Dunbar before being held prisoner, and sadly dying, here in Durham.”