The Stone of Destiny
Christmas Day 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of an ambitious scheme by a small group of Glasgow University students to steal back the Stone of Scone, commonly known as the Stone of Destiny. A short history of the stone goes as follows:
For centuries a block of red standstone has been used as a coronation stone for Scottish monarchs. There is debate over its origins, but such a stone existing at Scone Abbey in Perthshire has been mentioned by writers for centuries, and several sources claim it having been brought over from Ireland centuries before that, possibly as far back as 840AD. The Celtic name of the stone is Lia Fail, or “the speaking stone”. Further accounts suggest that the stone could date to Biblical times, from Jacob in Bethel. From there is has been moved to Syria, Egypt, Spain and to Ireland over the centuries.
In 1296 the stone was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and brought to Westminster Abbey in London, where it was incorporated into a Coronation Chair, known as King Edward’s Chair. From then, English, and subsequently British, monarchs were crowned on the stone, a tradition which remains to this day.
Fastforward to 1950. On Christmas Day four Glasgow University Students (Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart) travelled to London and stole the Stone from the Coronation Chair, transporting it back to Glasgow. The stone was found to be damaged and was repaired by a stonemason.
The Stone then disappeared for four months, while a major search operation was undertaken by the British Government. In April 1951 the Stone resurfaced, left on the altar of Arbroath Abbey, draped in a Scottish flag. It was returned to the authorities by the Church of Scotland.
On St Andrew’s Day, November 30th 1996, the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland for the first time in 700 years. It now resides at Edinburgh Castle, where it awaits for the next coronation of a British monarch, while at the same time existing as a strong symbol of Scottish Independence.
It should be noted that modern lore does dispute the authenticity of the Stone in Edinburgh. There were rumours that replicas of the Stone had been made to confuse the authorities. The real Stone of Scone could be one of three, which are on display at the Scone Abbey (“officially” a replica), Edinburgh Castle (“officially” the real thing), and The Arlington Bar in Glasgow’s Woodlands area, just down the street from the Glasgow University Union. The above photo is from the aforementioned bar. The text above it reads:
Seven centuries after Edward Longshanks marched triumphantly out of Scotland with the ancient symbol of Caledonian nationhood effectively tucked under his arm, the Stone of Destiny crossed the border again in 1996 receiving an emotional homecoming in Edinburgh, after being held at Westminster Abbey for seven centuries.
The Stone however already came back in 1950. Daring students from Glasgow University stole it from Westminster Abbey on Christmas morning! Roadblocks were set up yet the Stone still made it north to Glasgow. For a respite these thirsty students carried it from their car and placed it on the bar of “The Arlington” whilst enjoying a pint.
Within two weeks the game was up and the police were tipped off that the Stone could be found at “The Arlington”. Under pressure the students decided to hand it back… Or did they? Stories abound across Scotland that the Students handed a replica to the police and that the “real” Stone is here in “The Arlington Bar”.
Other stories tell that the monks at Scone Abbey hid the Stone and replaced it with a similar stone as King Edward I was approaching the Abbey. They hid it so well in fact, if this story is true, that the real Stone has not been seen since. Be it one of the three in Scotland, or hidden in Perthshire, or even still tucked away in a secret basement in Westminster Abbey, it’s a very interesting tale, some of it legend but much of it true.
The tale was recounted in a 2008 film by the name of Stone of Destiny, starring Charlie Cox, Kate Mara, Robert Carlyle, and Billy Boyd. Parts of the film were shot on location at the University of Glasgow campus.
Which Stone do you believe is the real one?
[Nov-Dec 2010 Poll: Should the University Library be open 24 hours a day?] Click on the photo above for a larger version. Please rate the photo below! © 2010 GlasgowUniPhoto.com