The Legend of the Lost 9th Legion

by Andrew Hennessey

 At the height of the Roman Empire, the Emperor Titus was determined to bring the whole of Britain under Roman rule. His iron grip on western Europe  reached into Caledonii, Scotland to quell the barbarian menace and to acquire other assets..

In 83AD he ordered Agricola his general to advance north of the river Tay and subjugate the Picts.

The Picts in Scotland leave their legacy in the many standing stones in East and Central Scotland, famous for their serpent carvings.

They also had a tendency to paint themselves with blue woad, perhaps attempting to embody the prowess and godlike characteristics of some blueblooded being such as e.g. the Blue Men of the Minches [Kirk, 1697AD] or, the Bronze Age Stone Reptilian head at Rosslyn Glen below the famous chapel.

The Picts ultimately dwindled to one Kingdom of Fife and their tribes were called the Tribe of Orc, or the Orcs, and also the Tribe of Caat.

At the height of Pictish resistance though they were more numerous and geographically spread out.

In 83AD Tacitus a Roman commander and chronicler used his fleet to harass the Pictish army on the eastern Scottish seaboard, and the following year confronted the Picts in a great pitched battle at a place called Mons Graupius, near Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.

At that place on the Scottish moors, the Ninth Legion, numbering about 5000 men decisively defeated an army of 30,000 led by the hero Calgacus, a name which means ‘the swordsman’.

In his speech to his troops, Calgacus utters the words … ‘they make a desert and they call it peace’ [solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant].

This was chronicled by Tacitus a Roman general.

They were no match collectively for the Roman military machine that is a trained and co-operative legion.

They were cut down.

 After the battle, Agricola the Roman general, headed south to Hadrian’s wall by way of Inchtuthil, near Dunkeld, Perth in Perthshire and that is where the 9th Legion step off the Roman road and into the pages of Legend and history.

For they were never seen of or heard of again … not one of those invincible fighters made it back.

 There were no remains, no clues, no stories … they vanished.

 For sure Dr ‘Sullivan’ of the School of Scottish Studies notes that the Roman history of central Scotland from Perthshire down to the Scottish borders has been systematically defaced throughout the centuries, though this is perhaps a natural behaviour in such a historically turbulent region.

 Funereal Lions pulled out of the Roman fort at Cramond near Edinburgh do suggest more than a scanty presence in the Edinburgh area, whilst there are legends in Perthshire e.g. by Barry Dunsford that Pontious Pilate may have originated there at Fortingale.

 If any of this heresay is true, then the 9th Legion could not have been heading back into an unsupported zone in central Scotland.

Two years prior to that, in 81AD over a period of 14 months, Agricola had subjugated the lowland tribes of the Forth and Clyde river valleys and had established a chain of forts from coast to coast called the Antonine Wall.

 It would not be for another 120 years that the Romans would abandon Northern Britain beyond Hadrian’s Wall in 212AD.

In all that time, for one hundred years and more after the 9th Legion went missing after the defeat of Calgacus not one clue or line of Roman questioning about the fate of the 9th appears to have left its mark on history.

 Rolling the mystery forward through thousands of years of Scottish issues, Big Issues, small issues and bloodshed, centuries after the Scots invented the game of football in the Borders town of Jedburgh, a Dark Ages game played with the heads of slain enemies [Banks I, British Calendar Customs, 1930. 1931] our historic focus arrives in the time of Margaret Thatcher, another epic Romanesque Prime Minister who was making of Scottish Industrial infrastructure a desert and calling it progress.

The coalminers rebellion with their ‘Picts’ and shovels left at home in their hovels were confronted by the Light Cavalry of the ‘Polis’.

In that decisive battle, the power of the coalmining unions were broken at one sweep of Thatcher’s biro on a white paper.

 In a climate of the have and not haves that was Thatcher’s Yuppie era, folks in Scotland tended to have an eye for an opportunity should one arise.

The Lothians, and Scottish Borders in particular were noted for centuries of battle, looting and pillaging as various armies with various issues and numerous claims to provenance went to and fro doing what they felt like.

As a result, the place tended to be littered with the debris and flotsam of battle and its conquests .. i.e. Treasure.

Indeed it is recorded in the Edinburgh City archives of the 1550’s in a letter from Mary Queen of Scots that she would never disclose the secret that she had been shown at Rosslyn castle.

In this context then, Scottish Water opened up the massive cavern system of Cousland which is directly adjacent to the estates of the Earl Sinclair of Rosslyn. Indeed amongst his many titles, the Earl Sinclair is also Baron of Cousland.

Given the historic provenance of the area then, with the legend of the three Templar treasure ships that docked and offloaded on the Isle of May shortly after the battle of Bannockburn in 1314AD, there was plenty of speculation that the area was full of loot. After the European demise of the Templars, the local Knights Templar HQ near Rosslyn, paid the Archbishop of Edinburgh the equivalent of the Gross national product of Scotland at the time to buy the island outright from under the feet of the Order of St Adrian. They also bought a secluded beach at Gullane, south east of Edinburgh in the early 14th century, presumably to land the treasure that was to rebuild their temple only a few miles from Cousland and Rosslyn castle..

Hence by the time of massive unemployment in the Scotland of the mid 1980’s most people were up for a bit of entrepreneurial look see.

 Stories started emerging from Scottish Water about the enormous cavern system under the area which was predominately limestone, sandstone and coal shale.

It was possible to enter the caves at Cousland in an SUV and go driving.

One such exploration turned up an amazing spectacle – the sight of an underground lake with an enormous and perpetual blue yellow fireball of burning methane gas. A spectacular if deadly warning that some of the air had been contaminated by the adjacent coal seams and their methane seepage.

Scottish Water securely manage the area though and it tends to have stringent safety measures and preconditions of access.

 The local farmland itself tended on occasion after rainfall to subside in this 400 square mile area and gaps would open up in the roofs of these caverns.

Now being so close to the Templar fortresses and secret headquarters it did seem to make sense that when local access to potentially secret Templar Treasure-houses became possible that one would naturally want to see how such wealth could be redistributed.

 This was to be a mistake, for the idea of a Scotsman wearing anything that interfered with his profile or his pride except perhaps a T Shirt would be considered unmanly.

So it was then that Mr X got his mates to lower him down into the cavern below on a basic rope. He was equipped with a torch.

 Mr X got to the bottom of the cavern and reported back up in an excited voice … he could see dead horses and horse armour, skeletons wearing Roman armour and there were Roman weapons and shields and then he shouted loudly that there was a Roman Standard.

He was going to retrieve it.

Come up, come up, come back to the rope shouted his friends, but things were quiet, too quiet.

His friends pulled and pulled but when they got Mr X back to the top he was dead and could not be revived.

Some say the cave was sealed after that, some may suspect that a team of people with the proper kit would have been employed to excavate it secretly.

It doesn’t seem likely that an incredibly important Roman Standard would not again see the light of day or a jar of preservative.

Mr X paid with his life to discover the truth about the Lost Roman Legion.

Harassed  by the allies of Calgacus on their way south to Hadrian’s Wall and safety, they had been driven and hounded towards the cavern system of Cousland by Pictish forces.

Using their local knowledge of the terrain and its conditions the Picts forced the 9th to overnight in the cavern system and effectively gassed them to death.

Thus was the death of the hero Calgacus avenged, and that terrible secret has lain undisturbed and untold for almost 2000 years.

It was a sad price to pay for the truth of that millennium old conspiracy and victory that had kept Rome guessing about what horrors lay north of Hadrian’s Wall.