AN Edinburgh hobby historian is claiming the Yarrow Stone marks the grave of King Arthur, writes Sally Gillespie.
Self-styled literary archaeologist Damian Bullen says academic consensus has the Liberalis Stone as the burial ground of two Christian princes of the fifth to sixth centuries AD. And one of those he believes was King Arthur.
Mr Bullen, 35, said: “When we strip away the mediaeval romancing of our legendary king, we are left with genuine nuggets of historicity. One of them is the stone at Yarrow which I am convinced is his grave marker.”
It has been reported that the famous regent died with Medrawt (said to be his nephew Mordred) during “the strife of Camlann”. Camlann means “crooked glen” which Mr Bullen says is “a perfect match” for the river bends in the Yarrow Valley near the Liberalis Sonte.
Ploughing in the area three hundred years ago revealed a large flat stone inscribed in Latin.
Mr Bullen says: “The accepted translation reads;
This is an everlasting memorial.
In this place lie the most famous princes
Nudus and Dumnogenus.
In this tomb lie the two sons of Liberalis,
“Academic consensus states that the site was a burial ground for two Christian princes of the fifth to sixth centuries AD – but which two? At first glance it seems that Prince Nudos and Prince Dumnogenus were the sons of King Liberalis, but there is more to these names than meets the eye.”
He looked up “liberalis” and “nudus” in the 1968 Oxford Latin Dictionary from which he believes the former means gentlemanly and argues: “Calling our two princes, ‘sons of Liberalis,’ would be a poetic way of saying that they were very noble princes.”
Nudus, he says, implies loss of all one’s material possessions.
“In the context of a burial chamber, the word nudus is surely used as a deterrent to would-be grave robbers of the future.”
He further claims: “Moving on to the second prince, Dumnogenus, the whole key to the Yarrow Stone and its significance to British history is revealed. The word is actually made up of two components, Dumno and Genus. Genus – descent, birth, origin – with implication of high or noble descent – nationality, race, nation. The genus element means ‘born of,’ as in our modern word ‘genes.’ This makes the two princes ‘born of the Dumno’. This has to be the Dumnonii, a tribe of ancient Britons, whose lands encompassed Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.
“This knowledge renders the inscription as, ‘Here lie two famous and very noble princes of Dumnonia, buried without possessions’ Of all the princes of antiquity who have heralded from this region, there is one who stands head and shoulders above all the rest – King Arthur! That he died with a family member – Mordred – fits the inscription on the Yarrow Stone completely.”
He says the monks of Glastonbury where Arthur is currently believed to be buried, made the story up to raise money.
“When we look deeper into the initial discovery (of Arthur’s coffin), we learn that the abbey was, at that time, in deep financial trouble. A few years before the discovery, in 1184, the monastic buildings and church of Glastonbury had been burnt to the ground. Money was needed, and with the relics of saints being big business at the time, these wily monks ‘found’ the bones of Saint Patrick. Widespread belief in an Irish burial site soon put paid to that particular claim, and the bones of Saint Dunstan ‘discovered,’ not long after were dismissed as swiftly. By 1189, with Richard the Lionheart pressing the churches for financial assistance to aid his crusade, the monks were getting desperate. How fortuitous it was, then, that the bones of King Arthur were unearthed the next year.
“As seems likely, the monks of Glastonbury had made the whole thing up, meaning the search for Arthur’s grave is back on.”
Other clues to support his theory, he says, are the “crooked” element of Camlann being echoed in a hill overlooking the river called Crook Hill and the moor on which the stone was found having the name Annan Street, which he says is a possible shortened form of Camlannan. He continues: “There is a ‘Dead Lake,’ near Yarrow bridge, which local tradition says was the final resting place of warriors slain in battle. It could well be the lake in which Arthur ordered his knight Bedivere to throw Excalibur into as he lay dying.”
And Mr Bullen says: “ There is a real likelihood of a battle having taken place at Yarrow. In the area one finds a host of Cath- names – Cath is Brythonic for battle – such as Cat Craig, Catslackburn, Catslack Knowe and Cat Holes.”
He notes there are battlefield burials in the area and he believes Arthur’s corpse was the well-preserved skeleton found on Whitehope Farm in the mid-19th century but which was gradually lost to curio-seekers.
And from letters dating back to the period, Mr Bullen also thinks King Arthur’s skull may be in the vaults of a local museum.
“It seems Arthur was buried near Selkirk. I’m convinced of this and until we find another site in a crooked glen, where two princes of Devon or Cornwall are buried side by side, and surrounded by the bodies of many warriors, I shall remain so.”
Asked to comment on Mr Bullen’s hypothesis, a spokesperson for Historic Scotland said: “The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) records indicate that ‘the Yarrow Stone was set up to mark the grave of two British Christian chieftains. It dates from the early 6th century and falls into place in the early Christian series more richly represented in Wales and Cornwall.’ As such, we certainly believe it is of national importance.”