ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
The Sun, Thursday, July 4, 2002

FOR 350 years the muddy estuary of the River Tay at Dundee has hidden a blood-tainted treasure trove worth billions of pounds. But’ today a salvage team starts a £1 million operation to find a lost fleet - and the fortune that went down with it in 1651.

Experts believe the fleet’s cargo included around 200,000 gold coins, now worth up to £10,000 each, and other plunder, including gold and silver and religious artefacts. The hoard was pillaged from Dundee after the town was ransacked and its population slaughtered - and the salvagers believe if it is all still there it could be worth up to £2.5 BlLLION.

This incredible cargo, known as General Monck’s Loot, went down when a fleet of 60 ships commandeered by the general foundered on one of the Tay’s notorious sandbanks in heavy seas. The fleet is believed to lie just 40ft below the waves somewhere between Tayport and Broughty Ferry Castle.

Local divers have tried for centuries to find the wrecks. But the underwater currents run so strong in the Tay estuary that even divers with modern equipment have so far found it impossible. But now a team led by Internet dive site Subsea Explorer believes it has the satellite, sonar and submarine technology - backed up by historical information and local knowledge - to succeed. Yesterday they started a three-day reconnaissance mission.

If they salvage the ships and their cargoes it will mark the end of a centuries-old story of rape, murder, betrayal, butchery and poetic justice. The story of how General Monck gained his loot is bloody and brutal.

Dundee was a royalist stronghold. Indeed, Charles II wrote to town clerk Alexander Wedderburn from exile in Brussels on July 6, 1649 to thank the clerk and its inhabitants for their faithful services to the late Charles I. The walled town was among the safest in Britain and the city of Edinburgh lodged its gold reserves there. The wealth of the viscount of Newburgh and the earls of Tweeddale and Buccleuch were also kept in the town. Dundee's monarchist stance enraged republican statesman Oliver Cromwell, who had overcome royalist forces south of the border in 1649.

To take revenge, Monck, who was Cromwell's commander-in-chief in Scotland. laid siege to Dundee in August 1651 with his Puritan army of 7.000. He recruited a short young man who, because of his size and appearance, could join the games of the town's children, inside and outside the walls, as a cover for spying. He reported that Dundee's soldiers were usually drunk by lunchtime. So after breaching the town's northern wall with three days of cannon fire. Monck waited until he thought the guards were drunk before he attacked.

To spur on his troops he promised them they could pillage the town for 24 hours "without licence" if they got in. The sozzled guards defended the breach for just 15 minutes before the invaders flooded through. Dundee governer Robert Lumsden and a band of men retreated to the town's Old Steeple and made a stand for three days, despite attempts to smoke them out. They surrendered when they were promised "honourable terms" but Lumsden and his men were promptly executed and his head was displayed in the town on a spike.

Monck's army had by then rounded up most of the town's surrendering defenders and massacred them. They then set about pillaging the town, raping the women and killing men, women and children for three days. Up to 500 were slaughtered. Stories tell that Monck's conscience only got the better of him when he saw an infant trying to suckle on the slashed breast of its murdered mother.
At the end of the attack. Monck decided to take his loot to Leith and commandeered more than 60 ships from Dundee's harbour. The treasure-laden vessels set sail in early September 1651. But the closely-crowded fleet did not get far before disaster struck. Monck's chaplain. Dr Gumble, wrote: "The ships were cast away within sight of the town, the great wealth perished."


Monck's ship. which was one of the biggest, did not sink but he watched in despair as his treasure was lost ~ with about 200 of his men drowned. And there it is thought to lie today, sparking this summer's amazing treasure hunt.

The salvage was conceived when the Dundee branch of the Maritime Volunteer Service met Internet dive site boss Garry Allsopp, whose firm organises submarine dives to the Titanic. Brian Collison of the MVS – a charity set up to preserve maritime skills and educate youngsters about Britain’s seagoing heritage – said “We got talking to Gary about salvage and told him how George Monck’s fleet went down. We said it would be great if someone came to look for it.

The expedition team, which includes St Andrews University history student Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the late deep-sea explorer Jacques Cousteau, hope their initial high-tech search will pinpoint the wrecks. They then have just ten weeks to find the treasure before the end of the summer when the shallow waters of the Tay are whipped into a treacherous swell. Team leader Gary Allsopp said: “It is one of the most exciting jobs we’ve undertaken.
“The history of this wreck is fascinating, the technology we’ll be using to find it is incredible and the amount of treasure we think is down there is just mind-boggling.
“This would be the largest find in UK history and everyone just loves the romance of a treasure hunt.
“But this trip is more than that. It is a search for heritage and culture and it will be fantastic to be involved in filling in the blanks of history with the artefacts we find.
“There are enormous problems in recovering these artefacts but I am confident we can overcome them
“Although the wrecks have lain out of reach for 350 years. no one has ever used the technology that we have to try to reach them.”
Dundee East MSP John McAllion says: “Monck’s visit had a disastrous effect on the city’s economy I hope this project brings more benefits than Monck did.”

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