Kay Matheson, Stone of Destiny raider, dies at 84

THE only woman among a group of students who stole the Stone of Destiny in a daring raid on Westminster Abbey has died.
Kay Matheson pictured with the Stone. Picture: ComplimentaryKay Matheson pictured with the Stone. Picture: Complimentary
Kay Matheson pictured with the Stone. Picture: Complimentary

Kay Matheson was one of four Scots who became nationalist heroes after the heist on Christmas Day in 1950. The quartet also included Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon and Alan Stuart.

They seized the block of red sandstone on which Scotland’s kings were traditionally crowned at Scone Palace and returned it to Scotland.

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However, while transporting the stone they dropped it, cracking it in two. Ms Matheson told how it fell on her foot, breaking one of her toes.

Gavin Vernon, Ian Hamilton and Alan Stuart. Picture: ComplimentaryGavin Vernon, Ian Hamilton and Alan Stuart. Picture: Complimentary
Gavin Vernon, Ian Hamilton and Alan Stuart. Picture: Complimentary

Yesterday, SNP MP Angus MacNeil led tributes to her, describing her as a “feisty and funny woman”.

He said: “Long before I was voting SNP, I thought her story both amazing and daring – and, more importantly, just. It has passed into modern folklore.

“Her story will never be forgotten, nor will she.”

After leaving Westminster Abbey, the four members of the Covenant home rule movement separated.

Mr Hamilton and Mr Stuart dumped their piece of the stone in a Kent field before returning to Scotland. Ms Matheson left her car, containing the smaller piece, at a friend’s place in the Midlands and made her way home to Scotland by train, as did Mr Vernon.

The theft led to a nationwide hunt, with the Border closed for the first time in 400 years.

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The students later returned south and drove the two pieces up to Scotland, sneaking them through Border road blocks.

After Mr Hamilton repaired the two pieces, the Stone of Destiny was found in Arbroath Abbey in 1951, draped in a saltire.

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While three of the four admitted to taking the artefact police did not pursue charges.

Ms Matheson, who continued to believe strongly in Scottish independence, died on Saturday, at the age of 84.

The Gaelic scholar passed away peacefully at a residential home on the shores of Loch Ewe, where she had lived for 20 years.

First Minister Alex Salmond described her as “one of the giants of the SNP story”.

She was a domestic science teacher at the old Achtercairn School, which later became Gareloch High, when she joined the plot to seize the stone. She later said she had been in awe of Mr Hamilton, although they were never romantically involved.

In 2004, she described the death of Mr Vernon, who had emigrated to Canada, as “the beginning of the end of an era”. She added: “Our recovery, not theft, of the stone informed our whole lives.”

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Ms Matheson, who never married, also said she still suffered sore toes as a result of the raid.

The Stone of Destiny had originally been taken from Scone Palace by King Edward I, known as the Hammer of the Scots, and placed in London.

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It now sits in Edinburgh Castle, with the crown jewels of Scotland, after the Queen released it back to this country. Ms Matheson was a guest at the castle when it arrived there on St Andrew’s Day, 1996.

A special covenant says it will be returned to Westminster Abbey for coronations.

However, there are rumours the stone in Edinburgh is one of many replicas made to confuse the authorities.

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