The Stone of Destiny that some call The Wee Magic Stane is where Scottish monarchs sat to be crowned until it was stolen by Edward Longshanks in 1296 as a deliberate affront to Scottish Nationhood.
On Christmas Day 1950 four students from Glasgow recover the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey where it’s been since it was stolen.
The Stone of Destiny is then sent to London in 1952 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and doesn’t arrive back in Scotland until 1996, 700 years after it was stolen.
A new monarch will be crowned on 06 May 2023, and the southern neighbour will ask to borrow a stone for their ceremony. Will it be the real one?
LISTEN TO THE STORY NOW.
The Wee Magic Stane.
Sung by Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor.
Well worth a listen by the way …
13 Sep 1925 – 03 Oct 2022.
Ian Hamilton was born in Paisley. He had been in the RAF and matriculated to study Law at Glasgow University in 1948. He believed passionately that Scotland should be an independent country, and signed the Scottish Covenant along with around two million others demanding Home Rule for Scotland.
Together with a group of fellow students Ian devised the plan to retrieve the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. The recovery took place on Christmas Day 1950, and the Stone was returned to Scotland.
While all those involved were interviewed by Police they were not arrested. Ian wrote to King George VI offering information about the Stone providing it would stay in Scotland while being available for future coronations.
Ian and the others acknowledged their roles in the recovery after the English Attorney General said there would be no prosecutions.
After graduating Ian became a renowned criminal lawyer, and was an active member of the Scottish National Party. His book of the story “The Stone of Destiny” , which was published in 2008 was made into a film.
Ian was the last survivor of the recovery group. He died at North Connel in October 2022.
Ian once told a newspaper that he was proud and “it felt like holding Scotland’s Soul when he touched the Stone for the first time.”
07 Dec 1928 – 06 Jul 2013.
Kay Matheson was born into a crofting family near Loch Ewe. In 1950 she was studying Domestic Science in Glasgow when she met the others who went to London through the Scottish Covenant Association.
Although she wasn’t named in the first reports of the raid, Kay was interviewed by Police and claimed that the Stone was buried in a bog not far from her home.
Kay became a teacher and taught in Gaelic and English. She worked at Gairloch, where she founded the Gairloch Heritage Museum, and at other schools in Wester Ross. Kay was a Gaelic scholar working with An Comunn Gàidhealach to promote the teaching and use of Gaelic. She was an active member of the Scottish National Party and was a candidate in the 1983 UK General Election when she stood for the Party against Charles Kennedy. A prolific letter-writer, Kay’s papers include a letter from Bertie Gray, the Councillor and stonemason who repaired the Stone of Destiny, saying he had enclosed a small fragment of the Stone, not now to be found.
Kay was the only one of the group who attended the Repatriation Ceremony in 1996. She never married and latterly was cared for by former pupils until she died at Altbea in July 2013.
Kay said, “Our recovery, not theft, of the Stone informed our whole lives.”
11 Aug 1926 – 19 Mar 2004
Gavin, from Kintore in Aberdeenshire went to school near Perth and did his National Service with the Royal Signals around the Mediterranean. He went on to study Electrical Engineering at Glasgow University, where he was a member of the Scottish Covenant Association.
Gavin emigrated to Canada, and worked on engineering projects across the world.
On Christmas Eve 2000, the fiftieth anniversary of the Stone’s retrieval, Westminster Abbey was opened especially for him with words acknowledging his previous visit, “Welcome back, Mr Vernon.”
Gavin died not long after a cancer diagnosis in March 2004.
Robert “Bertie” Gray.
1895 – 12 Apr 1975.
Bertie was a founder of the National Party of Scotland along with Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, the poet Hugh MacDiarmid and John MacCormick.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to be elected for the National Party in UK General Elections, Bertie eventually joined an anti-Labour coalition and was elected to Glasgow City Council in 1948.
Bertie maintained his National sympathies and was a committee member of the Scottish Covenant Association. He part funded the London sortie along with John MacCormick, a republican and joint founder of the NPS.
As a stonemason, Bertie took on the repair of the broken Stone of Destiny when it returned to Scotland. He and Ian Hamilton delivered it to Arbroath Abbey in April 1951 to be discovered by the authorities.
Bertie himself claimed to have made two replica (not forgery) Stones. He said his widow would reveal the text of the note inside the real Stone of Destiny as part of his will. That secret died with him in 1975.
Christmas Day by Foster.
Golden Tooth by Eyal Talmudi.
Replica Stone of Destiny at Scone Palace, Perth by Aaron Bradley used under CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46994554
3 Replies to “The Wee Magic Stane.”
I was under the impression that since its “recovery” by the English authorities in April 1951, it [the Stone of Destiny] had been in Westminster Abbey continuously until its repatriation in 1996. Am I labouring under a misapprehension? [By e-mail]
The Stone of Destiny may well have been taken to London soon after Ian Hamilton and the others delivered it up to the Scottish Nation at Arbroath Abbey. They did this because even people in Scotland were beginning to ask about the Stone’s whereabouts, wondering if it had gone forever.
One story goes that the Stone was taken first from Arbroath to Forfar Police Station, where it was locked in a cell, before going to Turnbull Street Police Station in Glasgow.
The Police had instructions that the Stone was to be taken to London, “without attracting public attention”. I ask why so, if this were a legitimate thing to do, but there had been rumours of an attempt to keep the Stone in Scotland.
It is said the Stone was taken to London on 13 April by Glasgow Detective Inspector Kerr in the back of a Police Jaguar car. The Police had arranged a decoy involving a limousine and a fast escort that only went to collect the Scotland Yard detectives who had been conducting the search, before the whole convoy met up in Newcastle.
There has to be a link in the story to the death of George VI and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. I have no information about its actual whereabouts, but the Stone was not replaced in the Coronation Chair until shortly before the Queen’s coronation. You must draw your own conclusions.
Great story – I can’t help wondering where the real one is? 🤔