by Ian Hamilton

Today I have been correcting the proofs of a book. It is called STONE of DESTINY. It was first published in 1952 in London and New York under the title NO STONE UNTURNED. It reached the New York stage a year later in a musical called THE HOT ROCK. Twenty years ago Lochar and then Corgi published it under the title THE TAKING OF THE STONE of DESTINY. A rewritten version will be published in June by Birlinn under the simple title STONE of DESTINY.

To reach simplicity has taken a long time. It has taken fifty-six years. I chose Birlinn over Penguin to be the publisher of this edition as Birlinn is a great Scottish publishing house. It is the only publisher to have four representatives on the road in Scotland and one in London. It has an agreement with Tesco. My book will be on sale in every town and village in Scotland and it will appear on the bookshelves in every Tesco store. The cover price will be £7.99, maybe less in Tesco. It will be widely read. At the same time and under the same title a film will be released. It was shot last year in and around Glasgow University and in and around Westminster Abbey, the first film to be shot there for forty-seven years. It has an all star cast.

Both film and book tell the story of how on Christmas Day 1950 four young Scots broke into Westminster Abbey and stole back the Stone of Destiny looted from Scotland by Edward of England in 1296. I was one of these young people. The Stone was kept there in a Coronation Chair specially made for the purpose. The English know it as the Coronation Stone. For five hundred years before 1296 every Scottish King had been crowned on it. Every English King and Queen since 1296 has been crowned on that chair with that Stone in its shelf under the seat.

If you want to conquer a country humiliate its people and steal its historical treasures. The Stone of Destiny is Scotland’s greatest historical treasure. We never forgot it. Yet to this day it has national eloquence for English Royalists. When it was returned in 1996 it was only returned on loan. It has to be taken back to Westminster for the next Coronation, and the next, and the next, and the next. They will come and take it back to Westminster Abbey without first asking permission of the Scottish people in our Parliament assembled. (I think they should come to Edinburgh and be crowned with the Scottish Crown, the oldest in Europe. Why should it just be the English Crown if we’re a United Kingdom? But that has nothing to do with this article.)

My book is a simple statement of facts. It is not political. It ends with these words.

“When, on 25 March 1707, James Ogilvie, Earl of Seafield, Chancellor of Scotland, signed the Act of Union, ending Scotland’s ancient independence, and merging the two Parliaments of Scotland and England into the United Kingdom Parliament, he threw down the quill with these words, ‘Now there’s the end of an auld sang.’

It may be, it just may be, that on Christmas Day 1950 four young people wrote a new verse to that old song. Whatever we did, the song is still being sung.”

I am the second son of a Paisley tailor. He was not well educated in a conventional fashion, yet he read widely. Among his favourite authors was Rudyard Kipling. For people who have forgotten Kipling he was the poet and writer of Empire. He was a great author. He created the myth of the inviolability of the British Empire. It was this myth which guarded the Stone for we found it an easy theft. It was screwing up the courage to do it that was a bit harder. Kipling also created the myth of England as a land of rolling shires and kindly children. In Puck of Pook’s Hill, one of my favourite books, he creates two children in an idealized setting. To Dan and Una comes Puck of Pook’s Hill who tells them sanitized stories of their country’s past. In Scotland we have nothing like it. TALES of a GRAND-FATHER is a poor wordy thing, but we shouldn’t be envious of Puck. Instead we should read it because it tells us how the writers of a country and the story-tellers of a country help to create that country in the eyes of those who live in it. The book has music in it, the music of words.

Here is Dan and Una’s song, so powerful that it has made Church hymn-books both here and in England and rightly so.

The Children’s Song
Rudyard Kipling

LAND of our Birth, we pledge to thee
Our love and toil in the years to be;
When we are grown and take our place,
As men and women with our race.

Father in Heaven who lovest all.
Oh help Thy children when they call;
That they may build from age to age,
An undefiled heritage.

Teach us to bear the yoke in youth,
With steadfastness and careful truth;
That, in our time, Thy Grace may give
The Truth whereby the Nations live.

Teach us to look in all our ends,
On Thee for judge, and not our friends;
That we, with Thee, may walk uncowed
By fear or favour of the crowd.

Teach us the Strength that cannot seek,
By deed or thought, to hurt the weak;
That, under Thee, we may possess
Man’s strength to comfort man’s distress.

Teach us Delight in simple things,
And Mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And Love to all men ’neath the sun!

Land of our Birth, our faith, our pride,
For whose dear sake our fathers died;
Oh Motherland, we pledge to thee,
Head, heart, and hand through the years to be!


With such words as these Kipling made the English nation proud. Do not mock them. This is a very powerful nationalist song in a very powerful nationalist book. Some people may find the references to God offensive but as an atheist I can live with Him. Until you read the prose that goes with it this song sings for any country

In future editions of the   blog I’m going to consider the effect of writing on the existence of a nation. I’m going to leave space for others to join in. Politicians would call it a dialogue. Even if you don’t join in I’ll go on writing anyway.

‘Old men forget,’ said Shakespeare. I haven’t. Not yet anyway.



Take a note in your diary. The publication date for STONE OF DESTINY, the book whose proofs I’ve been correcting, is set firmly for 1st August.





  1. webmaster Says:

    This comment has come in from Alan Clayton of mediawatch2008@aol.com

    Enjoyable piece indeed Ian. Some memories also. I recall very vividly singing ‘Land of Our Birth’ at a BB camp in Norway in 1948 in the hostel’s wee Lutheran chapel, with about 100 other boys. We toured Norway wearing our kilts and with the Union Flag on the front of the bus and thought it was great as the Norwegians still tended to look on us as liberators. Another memory a few years later was standing at Glasgow Cross with my Uncle Willie circa 1951 or 1952 and suddenly he went berky shouting ‘the stone the stone’. If my memory is correct there was a car stopped at the traffic lights with a box on the back with something like ‘hame again’ written on it. A powerful memory . How correct is it? I also went to a mass meeting at St Andrews Halls a while later at which I am sure you were speaking.



    I spoke in St Andrews Halls in 1951, Alan. ‘Halls’becasue there was an overflow meeting. It was my first big Home Rule speaking engagement. I was all of twenty-five years old.


  2. Ken MacColl Says:

    Good to see Ian back again, and at his ascerbic best!

    I noticed how indignant Scottish Labour party members became when it was revealed that Alex Salmond, as MSP for Gordon, had spoken with the Trump developers on a constituency matter.
    I see too that Sir Richard Branson, who has emerged as the favoured candidate for preferential treatment in the Northern Rock “business,” is accompanying the Prime Minister on an extended tour of China.
    Do you suppose that Gordon Brown is Sir Richard’s MP?
    I wonder if Lord Foulkes has noticed?

  3. webmaster Says:

    Another comment. This time anonymous.

    Whatever your nationality, without language, culture and history you are
    nothing, and we are depriving our young people of their roots.

  4. lou Says:


    I shall certainly be buying your book. I also look forward to watching the film. I think what you and the others did inspired a generation. I think your book and the film will inspire other generations.

  5. Yok Finney Says:

    Gold from Picts is the Concept of Nation beyond clan loyalties and super-tribal allegiances, race, religion, profession or creed : comme la grande amitié de choses crées.

    “Not much is known of their history.” Fancy that; I am one. Our territory once stretched from Swansea in Wales to the frontier town of Aberdeen (mouth of the Dee) when we were welsh-speaking Britons! We built brochs, crannogs and SHIPS; engineering is our soul! Mobilize we did against marauding Danes and Vikings and defeated the world’s then biggest mercenary war machine at Bannockburn. 1314 AD.

    This fervour drives the successful nations of New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and modern Vietnam. Alba Confracta!

  6. Keith Says:

    Looking forward to the book & film and much more besides. Trust you received your copy of the Herald’s 225th Year Anniversary Supplement in December with their then and now coverage of your repatriating rather than stealing back the Stone (whilst i was appropriating candies from my baby brother’s sock, selflessly mindful of his teeth and what i wished to sink mine into).
    The article has a photo of the young inexperienced Ian with Alan and Stuart but not Kay of the 4 known student removers. I miss the likeness of the young experienced Ian which used to adorn this blog and was a fair reflection of the reality smiling with the lassies at Aviemore last autumn.
    Perhaps the two might feature alongside each other, if not in the book or film then here on the day of their release. And remain so.
    But was the stone looted from Scotland in 1296 the original? And was that which was first taken that which the removers returned and has been returned ever since? Or was the removed stone repaired and replaced by a replica whilst in the hands of the stonemason Robert Gray in the 3 months or so before its seeming reappearance at Arbroath Abbey and Edinburgh Castle since? Will all be revealed now in the book? Are there prizes to be won if the truth is made known?
    Surely our Sovereign would not be alone in wishing to know before next sitting on our stone, rising a digit less but recognising an older kingdom in its own right? If she did, it might be a habit her family could get used to until we might prefer a head of state more worthy of her example were she to whip a few more privy councillors into line behind Alex Salmond. I’m sure she and we can all afford the £7.99 to read it there first, even if the full story is to be revealed at the crowning moment.
    Yours aye,
    Keith McBurney

  7. ian hamilton Says:

    Of course I deal with the identity of the Stonwe in my book, I think. It’s a long time since I read it, and old men forget.

    As for the Queen I am sure my publisher will find a complimentary copy for her.

    Thank you for your kind words.


  8. Y Mason Says:

    Dear Ian. In 1996 I was a volunteer (the youngest!) at Westminster Abbey, and was one of the first to see the Throne without the Stone! I had done a lot of research on the Stone and its legends, and was absolutely riveted by your book about the 1951 repatriation. I am now a tutor teaching history, and have been teaching my young students all about the Stone and your adventure. They have been equally fascinated, and it’s my great joy as a fellow ‘Celt’ (I’m Welsh) to share this fantastic piece of history with them. I was overjoyed this morning to discover that a film is at last being made, because I’ve always felt it would make a great movie. I have a copy of your original book, but will be buying the new one for my students! Regards!

  9. ian hamilton Says:

    Dear Y Mason,

    If you care to give an indication of where you are I am sure my publisher will ensure that your pupils will find my book THE STONE OF DESTINY in a bookshop near them.

    My agent is still looking for a publisher in Canada, Australia and the States.

    There is every indication of massive sales in Scotland.


  10. wen d Says:

    Strong stuff from the sassenachs:-


  11. Alan Clayton Says:

    I disitinctly recall you speaking Ian at St Andrew’s Halls. There was some guy I also distincly remember shouting verbal abuse at you from the floor. Some things never change!

  12. Geoff Patterson Says:

    People should use the technology to it’s full potential, and order Ian’s book online:


    It is a fascinating read.


  13. Jean Hubble Says:

    Dear Ian,
    While visiting Scotland recently, my husband and I, and another couple from the USA attended your book signing in Oban. I read the first half of the book on the flight home today, and found it to be very enjoyable! What a great adventure!
    We hope that the movie will be released in the States, as we would love to see it.

    Please tell Helen and Mike that we were so glad to have visited with them in the store that night. They were very gracious!

    Jean Hubble, Virginia USA

  14. Henry Wright Says:

    Ian, I arrived in Glasgow with your brother Ron on 30th Jan 1951. We were on the way to Smiths factory where they had trouble with an 11kV switch. I was a graduate engineer at the time. I spent a very enjoyable evening in a restaurant with you regaling us with stories about the stupidity of the police. They seemed to think you had stolen (if I can use that word) the Stone because they kept shadowing you. We agreed that it was terrible for police to waste their time like that. Ha! Ha!
    You were prosecuted shortly afterwards. I hope you and Ron are keeping in good health. I cannot feel any emotion over national symbols and legends. There are so many more important aspects of life. 850 millions near starvation and world population growth, for example. Thanks for that enjoyable evening. Henry Wright

  15. David Reade Says:

    I am very interested to read your story about the stone and what it means to the Scottish people. We here in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia Canada, scottish traditions run strong and I think your story of the stone would find a wide audiance; however I have been unable to find your book. I have tried all the major book sellers here in Canada (the Chapters, Indigo, Barnes and Noble as well as Coles book outlets) with no joy. Not only do they not carry it, I can not even order it from them - something about it being from UK publishers.

    I’ve also been looking for the new film without success. Blockbuster never heard of it.

    Where might I find a place to buy the book and hopefully a DVD of the movie. I’ve talked the story up to friends and their interested in too.

    Please advise.

    Thank You.



  16. Kenneth Cowan Says:

    Dear Ian.
    Sorry I hav’t read your book yet. but on hearing that a film has been made look forward to it being released
    I often think back to my days as member of St Columba’s Church, Dundee, (1968-1977) and remember having the STONE of DESTINY, which our minister the Rev. J. MacKay Nimmo firmly believed was the real STONE. kept in the porch for more than twenty years. However I can’t find any reference to this on several websites or reviews.
    This stone was moved from St. Columba’s to the church at Dull, near Aberfeldy, then to a secret location in Perthshire, and I read somewhere that the last person knowing of it’s exact location took the secret to her grave.
    Yours faithfully, Ken, Kirby Muxloe, Leics.

  17. Kyle Says:

    Dear Ian,
    I have just watched the movie Stone of Destiny on t.v. tonight! On it finishing I got on wikipedia to research yourself and co conspirators. What a great story, and thankyou for playing your part.

    I think i was told of the story when i was younger but had forgotten and as a 30 year old Scot living in London like to be reminded of our peoples patriotism as i feel my nationalism diminishing.

    I was intrigued by the others too.. Kay, Gavin and Alan, and was saddened to learn of Gavins death, and heart-warmed to hear Kay was presented with film while in a nursing home. I wondered if you all had kept in touch?
    I think you should all be remembered with vehement enthusiasm, id even go as far to say i think it would be great if the New Parliament got together and commissioned a sculpture made for display in Scotland. Wouldn’t that be great eh? I really hope yourself and team have had lives that reflected the magnificence of your achievement! Well Done and Thank-you again.
    All the Best Sir,

  18. maggie mcnicoll Says:

    Just watched the movie and I was riveted to my seat….What brave young people you were back then…
    Now I know there has been a book published, its on my list to read..
    Thank you all for bringing the Stone home.

  19. iain duncan Says:

    I was watching the film ‘Stone Of Destiny’ last night.
    A wonderful story!

    Got me to thinking about my mother,who was a Scottish Nationalist from the beginning of the movement. My father used to chide her ,telling her “ach! they will come tae nuthin”.

    But she lived to hear the heartwarming words - ‘The Scottish parliament, adjourned on 25th March 1707, is hereby reconvened’

    On behalf of her,

    Thanks for bringing back the stone!

  20. breege smyth Says:

    Dear Ian,
    Great story.
    I am researching the Loughcrew Tombs in Co. Meath, Ireland and one of the suggetions is that the Stone of Destiny originated there . . . .
    its a long shot do you have any comment?

    stay well

  21. Ian Finlayson Says:


    You did a hell of a thing when you were young and woke up a country both to its heritage and its potential. Im glad the stone is where it is now, in Edinburgh Castle, but I object to the rules and regulations still surrounding it (do you know you cant even take a picture of it without an official moaning, excuse me but it happens to belong to me as well and if I want to take a photo of it I bloody well will!).

    Without wishing any undue unhappiness to our current monarch, when the day comes that they intend to pinch it back to England for a coronation on an English throne in an English city….they might just find a few Scots on the street disagreeing with them. Possesion is 9/10ths of the law my anglo chums!

    Wishing you all the best,


  22. Don Graham Says:

    In 1950, when Ian Hamilton and his friends recovered the Stone from Westminster Abbey, I was 12 years old. My father, David Graham, was an ardent Scottish Nationalist, who wrote and spoke articulately and passionately on the subject, both under his own name and under the nom-de-plume Sandy McIntosh. He was a prime suspect in the investigation. There is a chapter in the story of the Stone that I experienced directly at that time, and which I have recorded in a document that was printed in a private publication a few months back. So far as I am aware, this incident has not been described elsewhere, and I would like to pass it on to Mr. Hamilton. If there is any way to do this, I would appreciate hearing of it.

  23. David MacPhail Says:

    Long have I left my country to live overseas but never have I forgotten I am a Scot. I am proud to say that I am Scottish and I am equally as proud of my roots. I know that even to this day many a man will attempt to make us down trodden but thats what gives us character and we are not afraid to look them in the eye and tell them to bring it on. You did a noblething with the stone and I too thank you sir. Godbless.

  24. LAM Says:

    I live in the USA and just watched the movie on Netflix. Wonderful and inspiring! I am one of many descendants of three brothers who left Scotland for the new world. Also am Episcopalian and recently learned that the Episcopal Church in the USA is a direct descendant of the Scottish Church — NOT the English Church! We also learned in my church class that the public educational system in the USA is very much a legacy from Scotland. I think the stone should be left in Scotland forever — transporting it back and forth for coronations cannot be good for it. Thank you for doing what you and your friends did!

  25. Shona Says:

    Hi there,
    I have been researching my family history which has led me to this story. My father has passed away, and my elderly mother just told me that there was a secret in our family. She was told that my father was involved in the stealing of the stone. I would love to talk to someone to find out if this is true or not. Does anyone have any suggestions, or a way to talk to the author directly or by email?

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  32. Paula McRae Carlson Says:

    Just watched The Stone of Destiny…I thought it a great, historical romp of a movie…and I bawled like a baby at the end. I am an American and have a deep and abiding love for Scotland. Visited in 2000 for a MacRae Gathering, a world wide family reunion at Eilean Donan.
    Scotland’s pastors were instrumental in America’s Independence from England…they were the great men that stood and warned that a 3 cent tax on tea was only the beginning…give 3 cents to England and they will take your home, livestock and lives…(the land clearances).
    Oh, how I wish you would have let the stone disintegrate on Scottish soil to forever be a part of your great land.
    Now, the powers that be are trying to disarm us here…I believe that if you would have held the line and kept your firearms, you too could be a free people. Pray for us (I think God will surely love to hear an atheist pray! :-)…we are on the verge of falling and a dictator/tyrant is at the helm and wanting to disarm us. God save America…just as He has continued to save the Queen.

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