The Stone Of Destiny. MSM Articles

I’ve been doing some more research on the Stone o Destiny & it was pointed out to me that a few o the articles, which i think are particularly relevant, can’t be read in full unless you pay subscription.

So I “liberated” them. {Justified in my head, as bein for the greater good & all that!}

Anyhoo, here are a couple for now, copied & pasted word for word. The only amendment i made was that I highlighted bits that I personally think are important & i will be adding links at some point! 

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

 By Olga Craig 12:32am GMT 14 Dec 2008

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.

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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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

Related Articles  Sacred Mysteries: The stone at the next Coronation

source  The Telegraph

Why Tranter never looks back  29 Dec 1993

After more than 100 books the master of Scottish historical reconstruction, always striving for accuracy, plans at least five more ALLAN MASSIE was not exaggerating when he said that fellow-writer Nigel Tranter had taught many Scots the only Scottish history they know.

At least the task of filling those shameful gaps in our knowledge could not have fallen to better hands than the doyen of historical novelists himself, for Tranter lives with the story of Scotland’s past as if he were a witness to events of only yesterday.
”Those happenings in our history are much more real to me than what I read today about things like Gatt,” says the 84-year-old novelist who writes his books while walking upwards of 12 miles a day along the southern shores of the Forth by Aberlady, eastward of Edinburgh. This ritual of fresh air and freedom, sustained through all seasons with the help of an apple, a cake of chocolate and a protective pair of gloves, has produced well over 100 books, jotted down during pauses on the daily marathon (Tranter means ”walker”).
When I visited him at his splendid old house by the bridge at Aberlady, he had just returned with the daily dose of 1200 words, written more neatly than most of us could achieve at a table. But Nigel Tranter has not only heightened our history by turning it into plausible and highly-readable fiction. He has also played his own powerful part in seeking to shape our nation’s destinyas well as becoming involved in the dramatic events of 1950, following the removal of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey.
Whereas the strident voice of revolution alienates the majority, the sheer moderation of a man like Tranter is the argument for Scottish self-government most likely to succeed.
Nationalism didn’t enter his thoughts until he was censoring soldiers’ letters during the war and realised that he could tell the Scots by the quality of their vocabulary. They may not have been better people than the English (their letters certainly were!) but they were distinctly different.
”I am a nationalist with a small ‘n’ and I have nothing against the English,” he explains. ”But I do believe that, if you are a self-respecting nation, you should be managing your own affairs and not leaving it to a neighbour.”
Ironically, he blames himself very largely for the fact that we didn’t get our own government more than 40 years ago. That was when he became closely associated with John MacCormick in the Scottish Covenant movement which gathered an astonishing 2,000,000 signatures in support of a Scottish parliament.
Even that figure didn’t reach the necessary level but such a massive demonstration of a nation’s feelings wouldn’t have been ignored if that Covenant had included one vital phrase.
”We failed to say that we would not vote for anyone who opposed this idea,” says Tranter, ”and the Government lawyers picked this up. I blame myself for not seeing it. John MacCormick was a lawyer and he should have seen it too.”
He believes that one additional sentence would have brought results. But, though he is not himself a socialist, he now expects a Labour victory at the next election and, with it, the implementation of the promise to give Scotland what it might have had in 1950.
”I was never a republican,” he emphasises. ”The Scots had governed themselved until 1707 and all we were asking was self-government within the United Kingdom. I was always in favour of the Crown and we would have left that, along with defence and foreign policy, to the UK.”
Around that same period, Nigel Tranter wrote a novel called The Freebooters, about someone removing the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. Within months it had happened, not only creating one of the most sensational newspaper stories of the century but raising the question of whether Glasgow law student Ian Hamilton had copied the idea.
”It turned out that Ian had not even read the book,” says Nigel Tranter, ”and I knew nothing about what he was doing until a 2am phone-call from the Chief Constable of Edinburgh, Willie Merrilees. If Ian Hamilton had asked me I would have told him not to waste his time because the stone in Westminster Abbey was not the real one. It was a 700-year-old fake which Edward took away with him. I think you would find that the real stone lies somewhere about Loch Finlaggan on Islay. But you would have to be a Macdonald to know that.”
Whatever the stone, its disappearance from the abbey over the Christmas of 1950 caused a worldwide sensation. George VI, who would soon die of cancer, was very upset by the symbolism of it all. Labour’s Home Secretary, Chuter Ede, swung into action, Scotland Yard men were everywhere and Scottish Secretary Hector McNeill, who happened to be a friend of John MacCormick, said that if the Stone could come to light in a dignified manner, it would remain in Scotland for a month till feelings cooled. (In the event, that didn’t happen.)
”I didn’t know where the stone was,” says Tranter, ”but Hugh MacDiarmid and his republican friends had a boat ready to take it out and dump it in the Firth of Clyde. In fact it was lying in a cellar belonging to businessman John Rollo at Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire.
Nigel Tranter was on a committee seeking to arrange that dignified re-appearance of the historic stone. The minister of St Giles refused to have it there, as did the minister of Dunfermline Abbey. It was the legal luminary John Cameron who struck on the idea of the ruined Arbroath Abbey, where no minister would object.
NIGEL TRANTER hot-footed it to MacCormick’s Glasgow home at 2am, only to find he was in session with the Secretary of State for Scotland. Once the coast was clear, however, the plan was implemented immediately — and the Stone of Destiny was taken to Arbroath by Ian Hamilton and Bertie Gray, the Glasgow monumental sculptor.
There it was discovered at dawn, covered with the Saltire, before being taken into the custody of a cell at Forfar Police Station. Such dramas could hardly have been anticipated by the young Nigel Tranter, who was born in Glasgow in 1909 but moved to Edinburgh as a small boy and attended George Heriot’s. Though he showed no particular interest in history, a passion for architecture took him on cycling expeditions to the Borders, sketching historic mansions with details of their background. After school he went to work for Aldjo Jamieson Arnott, the restoring architects in Edinburgh, but with the early death of his father he joined the Scottish National Insurance Company, which had been founded by his uncle.
But books were already stirring. At 25 he produced the unlikely title of The Fortalicles and Early Mansions of Southern Scotland.
”I was very pleased with myself, now that I was an author,” he says, ”but my wife May pulled me down a peg by saying I wasn’t a real author, by which she meant a novelist. So I wrote a novel, which turned out to be unreadable.”
By 1937, however, while living at Macdonald Place, Edinburgh, he did produce his first novel, Trespass, a romantic story set in the Highlands. But his publisher, Moray Press, went bankrupt and he didn’t receive a penny for it.
By the time war broke out in 1939 he was making #500 a year from his books, while still retaining his post in insurance. By then, the Tranters had moved with their two children, Frances May and Philip, to live at Aberlady, where the author had already been spending much time on duck-shooting.
His war was mostly in East Anglia, as a Royal Artillery officer shooting down German planes, but there was still enough time to write five novels. Returning to Aberlady, Nigel Tranter had not yet become the historical novelist and was writing whatever would support a wife and two children. There would be school fees and university days ahead. So he wrote some splendid children’s books and as he cottoned on to the potential of the Western, he simply read one and wrote 14, under the pen-name of Nye Tredgold.
But Tranter realised he needed another dimension to his writing and that, in his researches for five non-fiction volumes of the The Fortified House in Scotland, he had amassed a great deal of material, even dating back to those days as a schoolboy on his bike. That was when he became, unwittingly, a significant ”teacher” of Scottish history, a role he accepts with utmost responsibility.
Since it is the only account of history many people will read, they will take the story as factual. That is why he believes you mustn’t tamper with character.
”If you are dealing with real people,” he insists, ”you must be as honest as possible. Not everyone believes that. Sir Walter Scott made Rob Roy come late to the Battle of Sheriffmuir, as if it was his fault, which was not true. I don’t know why he did that — except to suit his story.
”In the present day, Dorothy Dunnett turned Macbeth and his half-brother into the same person for the sake of her story. She feels differently from me about this.”
Tranter is meticulous about his source material, where possible seeking out the loser’s version of events as well as the winner’s. Though his trilogy on Bruce has been a massive seller, it is Wallace who quite understandably remains his hero, as the man who fought for the ideal of Scottish freedom, as opposed to the former who fought for a crown.
THOUGH Tranter’s books sell in large numbers, it is an insight into the financial position of successful authors to learn that his royalties bring no more than around #25,000 per year — ”Not as much as my bank manager earns,” he tells you. His public is worldwide, creating a fan mail which receives his personal attention. It can also bring problems.
”People fall in love with authors and I have had propositions,” he says. ”A woman came all the way from Spain and hid in my summer-house. She even threatened suicide. An American lady sent me a photograph of the bed we would occupy if I came to her!”
Age doesn’t bother Nigel Tranter. Apart from his latest novel, Tapestry of the Boar,* which came out this month, he has five more awaiting the publisher — and those notes he showed me the other day were the beginnings of yet another.
A strong religious faith saw him through the worst experience of his life. Son Philip, a civil engineer with Babtie Shaw and Morton and a distinguished climber, was on his way home from a mountaineering expedition when he was killed in a car crash in France. He was only 27.
A Highland road which Philip had built near Dornie was named after him and his father had the sad task of declaring it open. Philip is buried at Aberlady, beside with his mother, May. Nigel Tranter has no fear of death and anticipates the day when he will join them. But there is much living to be done in his charming old house, where he almost apologises for a modern wing which was built as recently as 1746, the year of Culloden.
How would he like to be remembered?
He has no doubt: ”As a storyteller who tried to get people to appreciate Scotland’s story and to realise how exciting, colourful and dramatic it really is.”
Now it was time to type up his day’s work, not on any new-fangled word-processor but on the battered old typewriter which has served him well for a lifetime.

* Tapestry of the Boar, from Hodder and Stoughton at #15.99.

Source  The Herald

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