Thursday 5 April 2012


Despite what Niko might think, Ian Hamilton's a hero to me, not just for what he did with the stone, however brave it was) but for all the other things he's done since. One of my proudest moments in blogging was when Ian printed a post of mine on his blog, saying that it encapsulated what he wanted to say...Imagine!

I don't know whether he'll like this song or not, but I'll play it anyway and hope for the best. John brought it to my attention, and I played a couple of versions. This is the best, in my opinion. 

And for us who are not too fluent in the Gaelic and for whom it would take a wee while to translate (60 years in my case), there are English lyrics on the Youtube post!!!!

As the heading says....Enjoy!


  1. verse 1

    The Stone that my grandmother
    And grandfather used to talk about
    Has returned as it left
    My brave Stone
    And I don't care whether it's in Kerrera
    Callendar or Calvay
    As long as it's in
    Steep, rugged Scotland

    verse 2

    To be put in a place of refuge
    Which will conceal it safely
    So that they can't, they won't manage to
    Remove a single fragment of it
    The Stone that was lost to us
    Prised from their grasp
    And certainly, if it has returned
    That's a very good thing

    verse 3

    Let us swear by our hand
    Each and every one of us
    That we will allow nothing to endanger
    The man who unloosed it
    And dared to rescue it
    From an unpleasant place
    If they lay hands on him
    We'll need to be strong
    And strike a blow for him
    Using steel

    verse 4

    The Minister was so sorrowful
    When he woke that morning
    His eyes bleary
    As he turned out
    Walking the floor
    Sighing and praying
    And looking at the nook
    Where he'd found the Stone missing

    verse 5

    There was much pacing
    And running 'round the floor
    And all he could say was
    "Where did the Stone go?"
    And, "By the Holy Mother
    What will I do tomorrow
    I know the Queen
    Will be beside herself"

    verse 6

    Said he, looking deathly pale
    "I'd never have believed
    It could have been raised from the floor
    By someone no bigger than a wasp
    Something is to happen to me
    And Heaven help me
    The man who unloosed it
    Must be as strong as a horse"

  2. Och fancy you translating and typing all that out, CH. That was awffy kind o ye.


  3. Auld AcquaintanceApril 06, 2012 3:47 am

    I think Ian Hamiltons co conspirator in lifting the stone, Kay Matheson who is native Gaelic speaker would certainly appreciate the song :)

  4. Thanks to CH for typing it out.
    Of course it loses something in the English translation. ;-)

    What a wonderful piece by Ian Hamilton.

    The debate that attends the birth (or rebirth) of nations can be stirring and ennobling.

    "Declaring our independence at a time like this is like burning down our house before we have another."
    John Dickinson, July 1, 1776

    "All that I have, All that I am, All that I hope for in this life, I stake on our cause. For me the die is cast. Sink or swim, Live or die, To survive or perish with my country! That is my unalterable resolution."
    John Adams, July 1, 1776

    "The river is past. The bridge is cut away."
    John Adams, July 4, 1776

  5. And Hamilton's reference to age brought to mind the young Wordsworth who was in France in 1789:

    "OH! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
    For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
    Upon our side, we who were strong in love!

    Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
    But to be young was very heaven!"

    William Wordsworth. "The Prelude"

  6. Yes, I'm sure she would, AA. There was another boy too, wasn't there? Is he still alive?

  7. Now Danny, do you think you can learn our language, before you come here to take up your place in the aristocracy of Scotland.


    It certainly does lose the poetry in translation into English.

    People can get incredibly poetic, and profound about their love of country.

    I'm not that kind of nationalist, mind you. I'm far less poetic in these matters. I just want to not be run by a pile of toffs that I didn't vote for, over and over and over again, on an economic and social platform that is suited to the area surrounding London, and takes no account of the political, economic and social conditions of my own country.

    Try to make poetry out of that!!!! :)

    But I am impressed by your knowledge of English poetry. Wordsworth does seem to say the same thing as Hamilton there, and you can understand the sentiment. Whist being old and seeing something that you have felt keenly, and worked for, risked your career for, come to fruition is exciting; indeed it's a reason to go on living. But to be young and to see it happen, and know that you will live your life in a free country is surely an even greater excitement.

  8. Pravda Alba do some good music. These are my two favourite singers at the moment ( their beauty is pure coincidence - it's the voice honest :) )



  9. Tris: Perhaps your personal declaration can be poetically rendered in Gaelic. I'll work on that. ;-)

    As for the abduction of the Stone, there were four "perpetrators," Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Alan Stuart, and Kay Matheson. Vernon died in 2004. And I found this in a 2008 article in the Guradian:

    The stone was eventually returned, on loan, to Scotland in 1996 and now lies in Edinburgh castle. Gavin Vernon is dead. Kay Matheson lives in a care home, with a copy of the Declaration of Arbroath on her wall. Alan Stuart chooses to remain anonymous. Hamilton became a QC.

    And Wordsworth's way with words didn't desert him in a visit to Scotland. These are the beginning and ending stanzas of "Yarrow Unvisited" from "Memorials of a Tour In Scotland, 1803":

    FROM Stirling castle we had seen
    The mazy Forth unravelled;
    Had trod the banks of Clyde, and Tay,
    And with the Tweed had travelled;
    And when we came to Clovenford,
    Then said my "winsome Marrow,"
    "Whate'er betide, we'll turn aside,
    And see the Braes of Yarrow."

    "If Care with freezing years should come,
    And wandering seem but folly,--
    Should we be loth to stir from home,
    And yet be melancholy;

    Should life be dull, and spirits low,
    'Twill soothe us in our sorrow,
    That earth has something yet to show,
    The bonny holms of Yarrow!"

  10. PS: I read that the decision of the Home Secretary not to prosecute Hamilton and the others might have involved a desire not to raise the legal issue of ownership of the stone. In any event, it would have been a serious PR problem for the British establishment.

  11. Monty... I'm just off to eat now... I'll listen to them later.

    And of course I believe you about the music... Of course I do.

  12. Well thank you, Danny. I'd never seen that poem (which indicates how shoddy our education system is). I shall now be reading it.

    As for rendering my heartfelt thoughts in the Gaelic... hmmm. I have a feeling they would still lack the stuff of which great statements are made.

    I'll try it in French and see!

  13. And thank you too for your research on my behalf on the stone men and women.

    You and Google... inseparable. :)

    Yes, it's on loan and I'm sure they will be able to have it the next time they crown one of their royals.

    They insist that it is theirs. It's probably a fake, and the real one is some place only a three or four people know.

    But hey, it's only a stone, and if the royals are happy with it being under their seat, hey, who are we to spoil their fun?

    What I do remember is the fuss that idiot Forsyth made about "lending" our stone back to us. He was of the opinion that it would put all this nationalism nonsense back in its box.

    But, about this, as about most things, Mr Forsyth's reasoning was faulty.

    It probably made a lot of people more determined in their efforts. That they would "lend" us our stone was an outrage!

  14. Indeed Tris....Google never fails me. Or Munguin's Republic in supplying topics of interest.

    As for the stone, I didn't realize that there are perhaps two times that the original (the stone of the ancient Scottish Kings and perhaps St. Columba's altar stone) may have been switched to keep it out of English hands. One of course was in 1950 when it may have been switched with a copy made by the stonemason who repaired the one taken from the Abbey, and the copy taken to Arbroath Abbey and draped with a Saltire, where the British authorities found it.

    But it also seems that THAT stone might have been a copy too. The idea being that the REAL Stone of Destiny in Scone Abbey was spirited away and hidden, and replaced with a copy in 1296. And THAT copy may have been the one that Edward I took to England and stashed at Westminster under his new coronation chair.

    Ian Hamilton says that the one now in Edinburgh is the one that he took from the Abbey. But that he can't personally attest to what might have happened in 1296.

    I found a wonderfully funny account by Hamilton, written in 1952, of the Westminster Abbey operation. About seeing the tomb of Edward I (Hammer of the Scots) in the light of the torches as they retaliated for his thievery. And about Kay Matheson, the "getaway driver" for the operation.

    As for the meaning of the stone in 1950 and the present day, these are interesting words in the Guardian from Professor Devine and Ian Hamilton:

    "To understand the significance of the raid, you have to understand the political climate of the time. Fresh from the privations of war, and with a new welfare state, Britain in 1950 was a cohesive nation, and the idea of devolution was one that held little currency. Support for the Scottish National party stood at 0.7%; the Labour party had withdrawn a commitment to Home Rule from its manifesto; and the Conservatives were, for the first time in Scottish electoral history, popular north of the border."

    "It was probably the high noon of unionism," says Professor Tom Devine, one of Scotland's leading historians."

    "Scotland, [now], has changed beyond recognition; Hamilton and Devine believe the stone has lost much of its symbolism. "Nationalism has become a reality," says Devine. "We no longer need stunts or symbols." Hamilton agrees: "I don't give a damn for crowns and stones," he says. "It is the ordinary people I am interested in."

  15. PS Tris:

    As for symbols, I take the point that national historical symbols are not the most important thing. But a few old things are kind of nice to have as the years go by.

    Thing is, when you hide the originals from foreign authorities and armies, you're supposed to be able to go back and find them later. A point that the 13th and/or 20th century Scots may have missed. ;-)

    Now we Americans spirited our famous Liberty Bell away under some straw in a horse drawn wagon, to keep it out of the hands of the advancing British Army. But we DID remember where we hid it. That said, we did allow it to fall off the wagon at one point, and it suffered damage, which may have been a factor in its cracking later.

    So when it comes to old national historical artifacts, your stone and our bell are the same in one respect. They are now cracked and broken. And in the world of revered national treasures, that's VERY desirable. Our bell would not be half so interesting if it weren't cracked. Same for your stone, IMHO. Even if St. Columba, the old Kings of Scotland, or for that matter Edward I, might not exactly “recognize” the one now in Edinburg. ;-)

  16. Tris, As for Wordsworth, I too like "Yarrow Unvisited." Here is a link to the entire poem which describes a part of his tour of Scotland with his sister Dorothy. He paints a lovely picture with the Scotish place names.

    But the story behind the poem is interesting too. Just why DID Wordsworth want to leave the beautiful "Braes of Yarrow" "unvisited," much to his sister's chagrin?

    And for historical and literary provenance, look into the border ballad "The Dowie Dens o Yarrow," and the poem "The Braes of Yarrow," by William Hamilton of Bangour, published in Edinburgh in 1724.

    Hamilton was no Wordsworth. But Wordsworth obviously knew Hamilton and the border ballad.

    GAWD how I love Google!

  17. Once again Danny... I am overawed by your seemingly endless knowledge, or at least that of Google. He must be a very clever fellow this Google blokey!!

    All you say is true. These things are not important, but they are nice to have, and can mean a great deal to some people as symbols of nationality...

    I am particularly struck by Ian Hamilton's words on crowns and stones. They're not just empty words.

    When he stole what at least passed for the stone (and who knows if the perfidious Albion might not have hidden away the one they pinched from Scone, which may have been a facsimile of the real one which WE hid).... anyway, where was I...? yes...

    When that happened he was a university student 20 or 21 at the most. For a few people (not many I'd agree), Scotland and being Scottish as opposed to British was important. Young Hamilton was one of these people. He cared then for these little things because perhaps they were all that he had in a world where all around him thought of themselves as British (and maybe even English, if they had spent time in the forces and had been treated as English).

    But Mr Hamilton has spent his adult life working as a solicitor (attorney) and a lot of what he has done is protect the poor from the rich. It's something we need a lot of in the UK.

    Latterly he was a sheriff (which is a small court judge in Scotland, rather than a police man as it is in the USA). Sitting on the bench he has always looked at the motivations of the crime. He has tried to see the struggles which may have caused people to commit crimes... hungry children, family problems, homelessness...

    It's not the way so many of the pompous sheriffs see things, but it's the right way.

  18. PS... thanks for the links to the poems.

  19. Monty... Lovely both of them!!!

  20. I wonder if the original Lia Fail will be "discovered" when the nation is again freely in control of its own destiny?

    If so, we could say "Thanks for the loan" and send the cess-pit cover back to the Laird of Drumlean.

  21. I'm sure, Barney, that Ian will tell the new authorities where it is.

    Yes, they can send the (LOL) "cess-pit cover" back to old Forsyth. I'm sure he'll find a use for it.