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Issue 62 - Arlington's Stone

Scotland Magazine Issue 62
April 2012


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Arlington's Stone

The Editor and the Stone of Destiny

Across the road from a flat I used to live in sits the Glasgow institution of the Arlington Bar. A classic pub, one of those places where you could happily sit and spend an evening drinking and chatting, without spending a fortune. In fact one of the great things the pub did was off sales, so my flat mates and I would often bag a bottle or two of whisky for some late night card games.

However the Arlington, on Woodlands Road holds a stunning and very royal secret; one linked to Scotland's nationhood: the Stone of Destiny.

Now whether this is the real one or not is still up for debate, but what is certain that in 1950 four patriotic Glasgow University students, Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Alan Stuart and Kay Matheson, liberated the stone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.

After a 500-mile journey back home to Scotland, they hoisted it on to the bar top of the Arlington Bar and celebrated their new acquisition with a pint, and of course started the long debated issue of where the real stone is.

There are also conflicting accounts of what happened to it after it was removed from Westminster. In one the students switched the stone for a replica made by a city stonemason after it split in two during the theft. Another account says they realised the error of their ways and left the stone on the High Altar of Arbroath Abbey where it was recovered by police in April, 1951, and returned to Westminster Abbey.

Historically, the stone had been part of the coronation throne in Scone Palace, Perthshire, where the Scottish kings were crowned. Until Edward I, King of England plundered the Scottish symbols of state, taking the country's records, the crown and the stone to London following the turmoil of the Ragman Rolls (see pages 14 and 15 for more). This effectively emasculated the Scottish ruling system.

The records and the crown were lost to history, but the stone was taken to Westminster Abbey where it stayed for seven centuries and became part of the coronation ceremony of English rulers.

Whatever the truth is, there is a wonderful wrapping of romance that surrounds what ever lies in the Arlington, or in fact in Edinburgh Castle.

The Stone, real or not, was returned to Scotland's Capital in 1996 in a day filled with pomp and ceremony.