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Ian Hamilton On Stone Of Destiny - HISTORY

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Bianca
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« on: December 14, 2008, 10:02:03 am »



Hamilton, retired after a distinguished legal career

Photo:
CHRIS WATT








                           Ian Hamilton on Stone of Destiny: I felt I was holding Scotland's soul


                             It was the 1950s student jape that re-ignited Scottish nationalism.

                                As the 'liberation' of the Stone of Destiny is turned into a film,

                    ringleader Ian Hamilton, now 83, tells Olga Craig why he is still proud of the heist.





 
By Olga Craig
14 Dec 2008
Telegraph.co.uk

It was, Ian Hamilton calmly acknowledges, the moment of no return. ''You sort of know that when you take a crowbar to a side door of Westminster Abbey and jemmy the lock that there isn't really any going back, don't you?'' he says philosophically. ''Not when you know that the next thing you are going to do is steal one of the ancient relics inside.''

Hamilton is lost in reverie for a moment. A wry smile crosses his face and then a thought strikes him. ''Not,'' he says urgently, ''that it was stealing. It was a liberation. A returning of a venerable relic to its rightful ownership.''

Hamilton stretches out his legs and turns his gaze to the slate gray waters of Loch Lomond. ''Of course back then I didn't realise the scale of the thing. That it would become an international incident,'' he says, with the air of a man who has been describing something no more outrageous than picking the lock of his own front door after forgetting the key.

Hamilton allows himself another wry smile. At 83, he is spry, impish, dapper and, though a little hard of hearing, he isn't in danger of losing his marbles any time soon. Which is hardly surprising. An eminent Scottish lawyer who rose to be a Queen's Counsel, and who retired only three years ago, he is a shrewd man. One who could easily be mistaken for a pillar of the establishment. But then, appearances can be deceptive.
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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2008, 10:08:12 am »









Almost 60 years ago, on Christmas Day 1950, Hamilton, then a brash and idealistic young student studying law at Glasgow University, became notorious in England and achieved nigh-on hero status in his native Scotland when he and a trio of friends staged one of the most audacious heists imaginable. In a caper worthy of an Ealing comedy, they motored from Glasgow to London (in those days no mean feat), broke into the Abbey, and stole the symbol of Scottish pride, the Stone of Scone – with one of the ''thieves'' breaking two toes when it fell on them.

The borders were closed, a posse of police vans gave chase, and a national outcry ensued. Whereupon our intrepid quartet calmly held the Stone hostage, deftly tap-danced their way through police interviews and triumphantly ended the escapade by evading arrest. The Scots were ecstatic. The English, by contrast, were bewildered. Was it, they asked themselves, a student jape or an insult to the majesty of the British state?

No self-respecting Scot should read the next paragraph and, if they do, shame upon them. But, for the benefit of some English readers, a brief history lesson becomes necessary. The Stone of Scone, you might ask – what exactly is it? More than a mere 336 lb slab of ancient sandstone, for a start.

Alleged to once have been Jacob's pillow, where the Biblical figure laid his head while he dreamt of a ladder to Heaven, it became the symbol of Scottish pride and independence, upon which the nation's kings were crowned. Then, in 1299, King Edward I, known as Longshanks, infuriated by the rebellious Scots, stormed Scone Abbey and stole it.

Its new home was Westminster Abbey, where it was placed beneath the Coronation chair as a scornful symbol of Scotland's subservience to England. Ever since then, its theft has been a thorn in the side of Scottish nationalists, symbolising England's arrogance and Scotland's shame at the loss of a sacred relic.
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« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2008, 10:09:48 am »









Hamilton's retaliation could have been lifted from a Boy's Own adventure. Which is exactly what film producer Charles Martin Smith thought when he first read about it nine years ago. It was the utter exuberant amateurism and audacity of the raid that appealed to him. ''This,'' he said to himself, ''is the stuff of movies.'' But he found few takers. ''Nobody in the States was interested in the story of four Scots stealing a rock. They wanted Superman V,'' he says ruefully. Undeterred, he kept looking for backers. And then the Canadians and British became involved.

The resulting film opens this week: Stone of Destiny, a perfect festive feel-good movie starring Robert Carlyle. Smith has gone to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy, even winning approval to film in the Abbey. Determined not to be duped a second time, its officials agreed only "as long as Hamilton doesn't take the whole Coronation chair".

The idea makes Hamilton laugh. ''No more breaking and entering for me,'' he says. ''I'm no longer a particularly political person. I believe deeply in my country. But as we say here: 'No Scotland, no me.' I'm no hero, the title doesn't fit. Yes, though, I am immensely proud that that young man is me.''

For years, he has refused to discuss it. In fact, young lawyers in his chambers were warned never to mention the Stone of Scone in his presence. Now, with the passing of time, Hamilton has mellowed. ''I'm not ashamed,'' he says. ''In fact I'm rather proud. We drove down the bleak, narrow roads to London to hurt no one. Rather to puncture England's pride. To save no one but the ruined hopes of our country.
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« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2008, 10:11:10 am »









To understand the raid's significance, one has to recall the political climate of the time. Fresh from the privations of war, and with a new welfare state, Britain at the dawn of the Fifties was a cohesive nation, and the idea of devolution had little currency. Support for the Scottish National Party stood at 0.7 per cent; Labour had withdrawn the commitment to Home Rule from its manifesto; and the Conservatives were at the high point of their electoral history north of the border.

"I wanted to waken the Scots up, that was all,'' says Hamilton. He could never remember a time when his imagination hadn't been fired by the Stone. His mother had told him the tale when he was eight and, at the back of his mind, he always hankered to be the man who brought it home.

Soured by the lack of patriotism shown by his countrymen, he decided to do just that. He enlisted the help of Gavin Vernon, Alan Stuart and Kay Matheson and, with a £50 note from SNP leader John MacCormick in Hamilton's pocket, the four drove to London in two cars on Christmas Eve. ''It took 20 hours and there were no heaters in cars then,'' Hamilton recalls.

He knew the best way to break in was by a door at the east end which was made of pine rather than stout oak. He had discovered this on an earlier trip, when he had been chanced upon by a security man who, thinking him homeless, gave him half a crown. ''I've always felt a bit guilty about that but I couldn't blow my cover,'' Hamilton says ruefully.

With Kay at the wheel of one of the get-away cars, the trio pulled and tugged at the Stone but were unable to free it. When they did it toppled over and smashed in two. ''People always think I must have been horrified,'' Hamilton laughs. ''But it made it easier to carry.''
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« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2008, 10:12:47 am »









He carried the smaller piece to the car and returned for the rest. Then they heard the car moving. Hamilton ran out to find a policeman. He jumped in the car and gave Kay a passionate kiss, telling the officer they couldn't find a bed and breakfast. Kay drove the fragment to Birmingham for safe-keeping and Hamilton returned to find that his friends had fled. Undeterred, he rolled the remaining piece onto his coat and dragged it to the second car. By coincidence, he encountered his friends and they set off for Scotland.

As they sped off, the nightwatchman was phoning 999. When they reached the border, they marked the Stone's homecoming after 600 years by dousing it in whisky.

The hue and cry was enormous, but though the foursome were questioned police, once the Stone was found, did not press charges, fearing an even bigger incident. Hamilton gave up the Stone a year later, after a very public and fruitless police search, by leaving it at Arbroath Abbey, where the Scots had signed a declaration to fight for freedom in 1320.

The Stone remained in Westminster Abbey until 1996, when it was returned to Scotland on the condition that it be used for crowning the British monarchy.

Hamilton, meanwhile, spent the intervening years trying to forget about it. Until now. ''Am I proud? You bet I am,'' he says. ''I felt I was holding Scotland's soul when I touched it for the first time. Times have changed; I have mellowed. But ashamed? Never.''




• Stone of Destiny (Cert PG) will be in cinemas from

Friday, December 19
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« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2008, 10:15:49 am »


               








                               The Day the Stone of Destiny came back to Scotland.






On St Andrews Day, 30th November 1996, Scotland's coronation stone, the Stone of Destiny, was installed in Edinburgh Castle.

About 10,000 people lined the Royal Mile to watch the procession of dignitaries and troops escort the stone from Holyrood Palace to the castle. In a service at St Giles cathedral the Church of Scotland Moderator, the Right Reverend John MacIndoe, formally accepted the stone's return saying it would "strengthen the proud distinctiveness of the people of Scotland"

                                   

Once inside the castle the stone was laid on an oak table before the grand fireplace of the early 16th century Great Hall. The Scottish Secretary of State Michael Forsyth ceremoniously received it from Prince Andrew, who was representing the Queen.

Outside the castle, under clear blue skies, a twenty-one gun salute was fired from the Half-Moon Battery, echoed by HMS Newcastle lying anchored off Leith harbour in the Firth of Forth.
   
I asked an official why the Scottish flag, the Saltire (St Andrews Cross) was not flying at the highest point. He replied that because Prince Andrew, (second son of the Queen) was inside, the flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack, had to fly on top.

The Stone of Destiny, traditional coronation stone of Scottish Kings and Queens was stolen by English King Edward I 700 years ago and is still a powerful symbol of Scottish independence.





Because of luck - and their ability to run faster than anyone else up the Lang Stairs to the top of the castle - About Scotland Editors, John and Roselle Boyd-Brent, were the first from the public to see and photograph the stone in the Great Hall
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« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2008, 10:19:59 am »




               






                                                                     
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« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2008, 10:22:18 am »



               



Michael Forsyth, then Secretary of State for Scotland,

talking to invited guests after the handing-over ceremony.




           Today the stone is behind armoured glass surrounded by a sophisticated security system.




http://www.aboutscotland.co.uk/stone/destiny.html
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« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2008, 10:33:54 am »





               









                                                    T H E   S T O N E   O F   S C O N E






The Stone of Scone (pronounced /ˈskuːn/), also commonly known as the Stone of Destiny or the Coronation Stone is an oblong block of red sandstone, about 26 inches (660 mm) by 16 inches (410 mm) by 10.5 inches (270 mm) in size and weighing approximately 336 pounds (152 kg).

The top bears chisel-marks.

At each end of the stone is an iron ring, apparently intended to make transport easier.

Historically, the artifact was kept at the now-ruined abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland.

It was used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland, the monarchs of England, and, more recently, British monarchs.

Other names by which it has sometimes been known include Jacob's Pillow Stone and the Tanist Stone, and in Scottish Gaelic, clach-na-cinneamhain, clach Sgàin, and Lia(th) Fàil[
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« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2008, 10:37:18 am »








Traditionally, it is supposed to be the pillow stone said to have been used by the Biblical Jacob. According to one legend, it was the Coronation Stone of the early Dál Riata Gaels when they lived in Ireland, which they brought with them when settling Caledonia.

Another legend holds that the stone was actually the travelling altar used by St Columba in his missionary activities throughout what is now Scotland.



                                           

Certainly, since the time of Kenneth Mac Alpin, the first King of Scots, at around 847, Scottish monarchs were seated upon the stone during their coronation ceremony. At this time the stone was situated at Scone, a few miles north of Perth.  (See BBC Excavation article below)

Another tradition holds that, in gratitude for Irish support at the battle of Bannockburn (1314), Robert the Bruce gave a portion of the stone to Cormac McCarthy, king of Munster. Installed at McCarthy's stronghold, Blarney Castle, it became the Blarney Stone.




A contemporary account by a Walter Hemingford, a canon of Guisborough Priory in Yorkshire says:



"Apud Monasterium de Scone positus eat lapis pergrandis in ecclesia Dei, juxta manum altare,

concavus quidam ad modum rotundae catherdeaie confectus, in quo future reges loco quasi coronatis."



(In the monastery of Scone, in the church of God, near to the high altar, is kept a large stone,
hollowed out/concave as a round chair, on which their kings were placed for their ordination,
according to custom.)
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« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2008, 10:38:27 am »





               

                ST. EDWARD'S CHAIR
                Coronation Chair In Westminster Abbey









In 1296 the Stone was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into a wooden chair, known as St. Edward's Chair, on which all subsequent English sovereigns except Queen Mary II have been crowned. Doubtless by this he intended to symbolize his claim to be "Lord Paramount" of Scotland with right to oversee its King. Underlining this symbolism, he once referred to the Stone contemptuously as a 'turd'.

Some doubt exists over the stone captured by Edward I. The Westminster Stone theory posits that the monks at Scone Palace hid the real stone in the River Tay or buried it on Dunsinane Hill, and that the English troops were fooled into taking a substitute. Some proponents of the theory claim that historic descriptions of the stone do not match the present stone. If the monks did hide the stone, they hid it well; no other stone fitting its description has ever been found.

In 1328, in the peace talks between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England, Edward III is said to have agreed to return the captured Stone to Scotland. However, this did not form part of the Treaty of Northampton. The Stone was to remain in England for another six centuries. In the course of time James VI of Scotland came to the English throne as James I of England but the stone remained in London; for the next century, the Stuart Kings and Queens of Scotland once again sat on the stone — but at their coronation as Kings and Queens of England. Since the Act of Union 1707, the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey has applied to the whole of Great Britain, and since the Act of Union 1801 to the United Kingdom, so the stone may be said to have returned, once again, to its ancient use.
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« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2008, 10:46:02 am »





             

               WESTMINSTER ABBEY









On Christmas Day 1950, a group of four Scottish students (Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart) took the Stone from Westminster Abbey for return to Scotland.

In the process of removing it from the Abbey, the students broke it into two pieces.

After hiding the greater part of the stone with gypsies in Kent for a few days, they risked the road blocks on the border and returned to Scotland with this piece, which they had hidden in the back of a borrowed car, along with a new accomplice John Josselyn.

The smaller piece was similarly brought north a little while later.

This journey involved a break in Leeds, where a group of sympathetic students and graduates took the fragment to Ilkley Moor for an overnight stay, accompanied by renditions of



                                                     "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at."



The Stone was then passed to a senior Glasgow politician who arranged for it to be professionally repaired by Glasgow stonemason Robert Gray.

A major search for the stone had been ordered by the British Government, but this proved unsuccessful.

Perhaps assuming that the Church would not return it to England, the stone's custodians left it on the altar of Arbroath Abbey, on 11 April 1951, in the safekeeping of the Church of Scotland.

Once the London police were informed of its whereabouts, the Stone was returned to Westminster. Afterwards, rumours circulated that copies had been made of the Stone, and that the returned Stone was not in fact the original.

In October 2008, a feature film, The Stone of Destiny, fancifully based on the Scots students' hijacking of the Stone, was released by Infinity Entertainment of Vancouver. It was written and directed by Charles Martin Smith, and produced by Rob Neville and the late William Vince. The role of the nationalist Scots politician was played by Robert Carlyle.
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« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2008, 10:48:12 am »



EDINBURGH CASTLE









In 1996, in a symbolic response to growing dissatisfaction among Scots at the prevailing constitutional settlement, the British Conservative Government decided that the Stone should be kept in Scotland when not in use at coronations, and on 3 July 1996 the Stone was returned to Scotland, and on 15 November 1996, after a handover ceremony at the border between representatives of the Home Office and of the Scottish Office, it was transported to Edinburgh Castle where it remains.

Provision has been made to transport the stone to Westminster Abbey when it is required there for future coronation ceremonies.

There was much comment of course that the stone being transferred was not the real stone at all, but a replica which had taken its place either in ancient times or in the 1950s.



Retrieved from

wikipedia.org
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« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2008, 10:58:49 am »



               

               Archaeologists dig in the Scone Palace grounds









                                                     Historic abbey uncovered in dig 






BBC NEWS
July 21, 2008

Parts of one of Scotland's most influential religious and historic buildings have been uncovered for the first time
in centuries.

Archaeologists have been digging at Scone Palace and believe they have found the walls of the lost abbey.

Despite the site's significance, there is very little sign of the 12th century building above ground.

The team is also examining the Moot Hill - where kings, including Macbeth and Robert the Bruce, were crowned.

The first time the early monastery was referred to was in 906 AD when King Constantine II met the Bishop of St Andrews on the Moot Hill.

Scone developed from an early medieval royal settlement into a great 12th century Augustinian Abbey, before the palace was created in the years around 1600.
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« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2008, 11:04:05 am »






               

                Pottery, oyster shells and an old coin have been found









'Extended pedigree'



Archaeologist Peter Yeoman said: "We worked here last year to look at the radar and did remote sensing across the whole area.

"From the plot we got from that we've now laid out these trenches and are starting to investigate and find parts of the medieval abbey. 

"We've found a range of artefacts which tell us quite a lot about both the nature of the physical remains of the abbey church, but also the kinds of economic activities and food and so on that were being brought in here in fairly large quantities to keep the monastic house going."

The team have unearthed skeletons, bits of pottery, oyster shells and an old coin.

Archaeologist Oliver O'Grady said: "One of the important things about the site is it has such an extended pedigree, an extended history and we're also trying to understand the evocative Moot Hill.

"We've put some trenches across what we think is a large buried ditch around the site in order to gather environmental information and dating evidence to answer some of the questions about whether this was a pictish centre, which then led on to become the inaugural site of the kings of Scotland."

The trenches will be filled in at the end of this week and the artefacts taken away for a thorough examination.
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