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General Fairfax



The indefatigable Judy Fisken, the ex-Curator of Rosslyn Chapel, may have moved to pastures
new at Falkland Palace but her enthusiasm for research into the Sinclair family continues and
her recent overtures to the famous Bodleian Library in Oxford has brought a real breakthrough.

After the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, when the forces of Oliver Cromwell defeated the Scots, the
English army proceeded their triumphal march towards Edinburgh and were greatly elated when
the Ramsays surrendered Dalhousie Castle which became a comfortable billet for Cromwell's
officers.

However, their high spirits received something of a shock when they reached Rosslyn Castle
which stubbornly refused to surrender.  General Monk positioned his battery of artillery on the
other side of the North Esk River and proceeded to bombard the Castle until it became a pile
of stones.    John Sinclair was taken prisoner and remained in English custody for 29 long years.
 In ill health, he was allowed to return home where he died shortly afterwards.  His brother, Sir
William Sinclair, had been killed at the Battle of Dunbar.  He was the last Sinclair to be buried
in the vaults of the Chapel which were hastily sealed just before Cromwell's troops arrived under
the command of General Monk who proceeded to stable his horses within the Chapel until
he received a direct order from Cromwell himself: "Do not touch Rosslyn Chapel"

Cromwell had been a Barrister at the Temple in London.  He was also Master Mason of England.
He knew the importance of the Chapel to the Masonic movement and it is thanks to his timely
intervention that Rosslyn Chapel did not join the other ruined Chapels which lay in the wake of
the Covenanter Army.

 There was another General with Cromwell's forces who wasn't looking for booty in the normally
accepted sense of that word.  He was the scholarly General Fairfax.  He was looking for rare
books and manuscripts. He knew that the Library at Rosslyn Castle was the most renowned
in Scotland.  For example, it contained a copy of the Wycliffite New Testament,  the writings of 
Bede on the early English Church and the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and the King's Quair.

But there was another manuscript which Judy's researches has now unearthed.  Let me quote
the answer she received from Dr Bruce Barker-Bentfield of the Bodleian Library:

                        "The manuscript itself is so important and the facsimile's
                          introduction so full of references to the Sinclair family
                          that you should certainly try to obtain a copy of this
                          facsimile which, I'm afraid, is priced at 395.00"

The facsimile is the collation of the researches of Julia Boffey and A.S.G. Edwards three years
ago.  They had access to the Fairfax papers which are now housed at the Bodleian.  It would
seem that they throw considerable light on the history of the Sinclair family.

Needless to say, I have ordered the book together with complete microfilm copies of the
other Fairfax papers which were stolen from the Rosslyn Library.  The Bodleian is cooperating
with  although it will take them up to six weeks to complete the microfilming.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am elated. 
Ladies and gentlemen, I am impatient.

I can't wait to get my hands on the facsimile and to devour every word because I have been
aware of a huge gap in our knowledge about our family and it may be within my grasp in days.

Do you share my excitement?  Don't you often wish you were me at the cutting edge of
research and discovery?

I also wish I could dredge the harbour at Kirkwall to find out if the Orcadian papers which
James III ordered to be sent to Edinburgh are lying on the bottom of the sea. These were (allegedly)
placed in a hogshead which was subsequently washed overboard.  There are those who do not believe
that story. They believe the papers (which would reveal a great deal about Prince Henry's voyage to the
New World) were hidden away somewhere because the fiercely independent islanders hated the idea
of giving up their Norwegian sovereignty and Norse identity to become part of Scotland!  They were
damned if they were going to risk the eradication of the history of the islands by surrendering the
papers.  They knew that conquerors invariably destroyed all evidence of past culture and achievement
in order to instill their own brand of nationalism.  The English tried to do this in Scotland.  The Scots,
in their turn, tried to do it in Orkney.  Neither succeeded.

Thanks Judy.  You are a treasure.  Pity, I will see the book before you....you deserve to be the first
to flick over the pages.......

Niven Sinclair