Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Taking of the Stone of Destiny

While looking for an historic event that happened on Christmas Day in Scotland, the first thing that came to my mind was that Christmas Eve night in 1950 when four young people broke into Westminster Abbey, liberated the Stone of Destiny, and drove it back over the Border of Scotland.

The Stone of Destiny; the symbol of sovereignty in Scotland. Wherever the stone rested, there would Scotland be ruled, said the old legends. It was taken by Edward Longshanks during the Wars for Independence and brought to England, resting there for nearly seven centuries until a young man, Ian Hamilton, and three compatriots decided to take it back.

If you read Ian Hamilton's biography, Stone of Destiny, you find that he had grown up with stories of Bruce and Wallace and the devastation Scotland had suffered through the ages by many English rulers. Times in Scotland in the mid 20th century were hard, pleas for home rule kept being denied by Parliament; the people of Scotland needed a symbol to bring back their pride and Ian Hamilton and his three companions, Alan Stewart, Gavin Vernon and Kay Matheson decided they were going to take back the Stone of Destiny.

They planned for months, studying maps and layouts of the Abbey and procuring funds and everything they would need to do it. The entire story of the taking of the Stone is something right out of a fiction thriller, in fact, I've read fiction with less exciting plots! Going down to London in middle of winter, sleeping in freezing cars, nearly getting caught on more than one occasion, struggling to drag the stone out of the Abbey into their waiting vehicle... I'm not going to attempt to tell the whole story for I could not do the it justice here, so I would suggest highly that you all go and find a copy of Ian Hamilton's book. There's no better way to describe it than he does, for, obviously, he was there, and he lived it.

When they drove the Stone back over the Border, it was the first time the Stone had been back in Scotland since Longshanks took it in 1296. That Christmas Day in 1950 was one Scotland will remember for centuries to come as the day that true Patriots of Scotland won a victory as big as Bannockburn and brought hope back to the people.

They eluded the police for months, and probably never would have been found by them if they hadn't given the Stone back, putting it in Arbroath Abbey where the famous Declaration of Arbroath was signed by Robert the Bruce and his followers in 1320. The Stone was sent back to England, Ian and his friends were arrested, but never were put in prison, and Scotland was given the hope it needed to thrive once again.

And of course, now the Stone is back in Scotland where it belongs, having come over the Border in 1996 to much exaltation; then 1997 brought the Yes-Yes vote and Scotland's own Parliament.

So at the end of this post, I wish to quote that famous passage from the Declaration of Arbroath:

"For as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we shall not submit to the domination of the English. It is in truth not for glory, or honor, or riches that we fight, but for Freedom alone. Which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

Go read Ian Hamilton's book Stone of Destiny and also watch the wonderful film of the same name. Both are spectacular, and the fact that it's a true story only makes it more so.

Merry Christmas, and a Guid Hogmany to you all!

Alba gu Brath

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shortbread Galore

I just wanted to post a quick thanks to the people who sent me shortbread recipes, particularly, Karen and Mara who's recipes I tried yesterday and found they turned out quite wonderful! I even tried them on friends and we shared them over hot chocolate. Again, thank you very much! If anyone still has any recopies, you may send them, even any other traditional Scottish/Irish/English desert, especially surrounding the holidays would be a treat. =)

I feel terribly awful for not posting anything historical in a long time, but I have truthfully been so busy I have not had time to research. I usually wrote along the lines of what I was writing in novel form, but I have not been working on any particularly Scottish novels in a long time. However, I am planning a special Christmas post this week about a very wonderful, and amazing true story that happened on Christmas Eve and was to change Scotland forever. So keep a look out for that, and do have a wonderful holiday!

Slainte, Hazel