The book first appeared as No Stone Unturned in 1952, less than two years after Mr Hamilton and three other young persons from Glasgow had successfully abstracted the Stone from its then place in Westminster Abbey and brought it back to Scotland, some 650 years after King Edward I of England had plundered it from Scone Abbey in Perthshire. There hitherto the Stone had for an indefinite period played a significant role in the inauguration ceremony of the kings of Scots; now it became a key element in the English and, after 1707, the British coronation ritual. Although in 1951 the Stone returned to Westminster after its brief Scottish adventure, in 1996 it was officially brought back to Scotland (see No 2), and now reposes in Edinburgh Castle, although it will continue to be used in any future coronation ceremonies at Westminster.
No Stone Unturned was first republished in 1991 as The Taking of the Stone of Destiny, and Ian Hamilton has also written about the events of 1950 in his entertaining memoirs, A Touch of Treason (1990) and A Touch More Treason (1994). The new edition of his first book has of course everything to do with the film Stone of Destiny, which premieres at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 21 June.
The latest edition of Mr Hamilton's work boasts a foreword by no less an authority than the First Minister, who writes that "the Stone (or at least a stone!) now resides in Scotland", hinting at the ever-green old story that the Stone Edward got in 1296 was a fake, passed off on him by Scots as always tricky and resourceful in the face of otherwise overwhelming defeat. As noted before in these columns, this idea overlooks the attempts of the Scots, once independence had been firmly reasserted after Bannockburn in 1314, to get the Stone back from England and their complete failure to produce the "real" Stone from wherever it had been concealed in 1296 (see No 664). Probably however the myth has been given fresh currency by Andrew Greig's recent (and slightly disappointing) novel, Romanno Bridge (2008). The discerning readers of Scots Law News are recommended to go instead to Mr Greig's other writings, notably the superb novels In Another Light (2004) and The Return of John MacNab (1996), and his splendidly titled and perceptive work on golf, Preferred Lies (2006), all of which have been much more enjoyed by your correspondent in recent months.
Scots Law News is grateful to Ian Hamilton's publishers, Birlinn Ltd, and their amiable chief, Hugh Andrew, for the opportunity to meet at last one of the great modern Scots, as well as many other delightful and interesting people, and looks forward to re-reading the magnum opus. Film review to follow … perhaps.