In Adam Ardrey’s book Finding Merlin: the truth behind the legend, the reader is told categorically that although it is documented clearly that Merlin met Mungo in 580 where the Pausayl Burn met the River Tweed in Drumelzier, he is not buried there, nor did he have a triple death.
Instead in 618 he was assassinated and buried quickly at the top of a beautiful hill by another Drumelzier Castle which was much closer to Glasgow. Merlin was heading to Dunipace from his home in Glasgow. This was the second time he had been summoned there to try to agree a truce between Mordred, the Christian king, and the old way, druidism, which most of the population still supported, with Merlin being their figurehead. If an agreement could be made then a united front could be put to the Saxons when the expected attack came again. Dunipace was a renowned location at that time for sorting out alliances and cross-border disputes. Whether Merlin expected foul play we do not know but on the previous occasion he had been summoned to appear at Dunipace, he had been imprisoned and left without food and water for three days in the mistaken view that this would make him more amenable. Then he had been released in 615 after his refusal to co-operate. However three years later, two miles from Dunipace, he was murdered and speedily put to rest on this hill by the side of Northfield Quarry, close to the M80. This was to minimalise any reaction from his supporters.
The written record of the burial find was by Robert Watson, a local teacher, who saw the remains. He thought it was an ancient chief because there was nothing Christian about the burial and yet no weapons either; just ‘a vase of coarse unglazed earthenware, containing a small quantity of material resembling the lining of a wasp’s nest, probably decayed paper and parchment’ together with the bones and skull of a human body. Dunipace means hill of death, yet there are no more bodies which means that this would be in keeping with someone of Merlin’s stature. He had been an advisor of Kings, a defender of the old ways of the Celts, a druid, a scholar and a man of science who had spent his days fighting the Christian Church which had gone on to control the lives of the people around him. Because the ‘winners’ write the historical records he and his extremely powerful and sister, Languoreth, who married Rydderch, the king of Strathclyde were written out or trivialised in the documents the Christians of that time have left us.
It has taken Adam Ardrey six years of research to find the real Merlin and uncover the truth behind the legends that we all know so well, beginning with his birth in 540 at Cadzow and ending with his murder in 618. It is a fascinating story. As a result of Ardrey’s studies Merlin has been listed alongside Sir Alec Ferguson and Donald Dewar in a roll of famous Glaswegians produced by the city council.
The book is a great read, especially because it looks at this part of Scotland where we all live. Merlin did not have magical powers, nor was he a madman or a wizard. He was far more interesting and important than these labels have led us to believe yet he knew the places that we know and that makes us a part of his story.
Adam Ardrey is finishing his second book ‘Finding Arthur’ and will be looking to publish soon.