Ian Hamilton, a fond farewell

  04 Oct '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn
Stone of Destiny

Ian Hamilton KC has died. Simply one of Scotland’s good people, Ian was an exceptional lawyer, an inspirational nationalist and a man who lived life well. Towards the end of his life (he turned 97 just three short weeks ago), he was perhaps a little irritated still to be known best for his role in returning the Stone of Destiny to Scotland. But his actions in 1950, in post-war Scotland, inspired a nation and a generation and cannot easily be put to one side. It was a symbolic act but one that stirred the collective conscience of a country.

Ian was a good friend to Birlinn and we have many fond memories of working with him over the years. He will be much missed.

Ian wrote about his role in the removal of the Stone of Destiny in a book of the same name.  He was one of four students to take the stone from its place under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey in London and return it to Scotland. It was handed over to the English authorities in 1951.

The stone had been used for the coronation of British monarchs from the date of the Acts of Union in 1707.  Its official return to Scotland in 1996 carried with it the provision for subsequent use in the coronations of monarchs. Will it travel south once again for the coronation of King Charles III in the Spring of 2023?

‘On Christmas Day 1950, four students from Glasgow, removed the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey and transported it back to Scotland. One of them, Ian Hamilton, later wrote about his involvement in the raid in his book The Stone of Destiny. Ian was a law student at the University of Glasgow at the time. On Christmas night, 1950 he – along with Alan Stewart, Gavin Vernon and Kay Matheson –removed the the Stone from beneath the Coronation Chair. In Scotland he became a national hero, in London the band of students were seen as vandals. A man-hunt ensued and eventually the students gave the location of the stone up – it had been hidden for months but was now in Arbroath Abbey – and it was returned to London were it remained until the speech from John Major almost 50 years later. Ian Hamilton’s book is the story of how a nation’s conscience was stirred by a symbolic act that changed lives of many.

The stone was returned to Scotland in 1996.’

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