Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional and newer songs sung by Sangschule of Linlithgow

The Wee Magic Stane

by John McEvoy  1950

Oh the Dean o Westminster wis a powerful man,
He held a’ the strings o the state in his hand
But wi a’ this great business, it flustered him nane,
Till some rogue ran away wi his wee magic stane.

Wi a too-ra-li-oor-a-li-oor-a-li-ay.

Noo the stane had great pow'rs that could dae such a thing
And withoot it, it seemed, we'd be wantin a king,
So he called in the polis and gave this decree--
"Go an hunt oot the Stane and return it tae me."

So the polis went beetlin up tae the North
They huntit the Clyde and they huntit the Forth 
But the wild folk up yonder jist kiddit them a’
Fur they didnae believe it wis magic at a’.

Noo the Provost o Glesga, Sir Victor by name,
Was awfy pit oot when he heard o the Stane
So he offered the statues that staun in the Square 
That the high churches' masons might mak a few mair

When the Dean o Westminster wi this was acquaint,
He sent for Sir Victor and made him a saint,
"Now it's no use you sending your statues down heah"
Said the Dean, "But you've given me a jolly good ideah."

So he quarried a stane o the very same stuff
An he dressed it a’ up till it looked like enough
Then he sent for the Press and announced that the Stane
Had been found and returned to Westminster again.

When the reivers found oot what Westminster had done,   
They went aboot diggin up stanes by the ton
And fur each wan they quarried they entered the claim
That THIS was the true and original stane.

Noo the cream o the joke still remains tae be tellt,
Fur the bloke that was turnin them aff on the belt
At the peak o production was so sorely pressed
That the real yin got bunged in alang wi the rest
 

So if ever ye come on a stane wi a ring

Jist sit yersel doon and appoint yersel King

Fur there's nane wud be able to challenge yir claim

 That ye'd croont yersel King on the Destiny Stane.

Words:
Beetlin: hurrying
Reivers: robbers, originally the cattle rustlers of the Borders.

This song celebrates the secret operation to liberate the Scottish Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve 1950 and return it to Scotland.

According to Ewan McVicar’s book, The Eskimo Republic, its return was greeted with delight. “Half the best poets in Scotland wrote songs to praise the act, to assert Scotland’s rights and to ridicule the Scotland Yard searchers.”  Many of these songs are contained in The Sangs of the Stane, a booklet compiled by the Bo’ness Rebels Literary Society, a group of left-wing writers and political activists. Of all the songs listed, “The Wee Magic Stane” has been the most successful survivor.  It seems that John McEvoy never wrote another.

 The Stane of Scone, the Scottish Stone of Destiny, on which Scottish monarchs used to sit to be crowned in the abbey of Scone near Perth, had been reived away to England in 1296 by Edward 1st on one of his Rough Wooing raids, as an insult and challenge to Scottish independence. It was placed under the English coronation throne.

The stone was removed from the Abbey and returned to Scotland in 1950 by a team of four students led by law student Ian Hamilton with accomplice and driver Kay Matheson – though they were not the only ones to have the idea. There had been a surge in Nationalist feeling and other plots were afoot.

 The stone, which broke into two pieces as soon as it was handled (perhaps as a result of an earlier suffragette bomb going off close to the throne) was passed from place to place and hidden by different people. A reward of £2000 was offered for its betrayal– and ignored.

Broken off “crumbs” are still treasured by those who had helped. In April 1950, the stone, by now repaired, was left at the High Altar of the ruined Arbroath Abbey, and the adventure was over.

But, as the song says, there are no final answers about the identity of the stone that was returned. We may even wonder whether the stone Edward took in 1296 was really the Stane of Scone in the first place.  Pat Gerber’s book The Search for the Stone of Destiny tells of the many Stone legends and theories as well as giving a detailed account of its 1950 travels and its guardians along the way.

The Stone that was returned to Westminster was formally restored to Scotland in 1996, the 700th anniversary of Edward’s raid, and is currently to be seen in Edinburgh Castle.