Gail's Gab: on my hero Ian Hamilton QC, his support for independence and the Stone of Destiny

Living legends are few and far between, and getting to spend time with one is an even rarer pleasure.

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Robert Carlyle starred in the Stone of Destiny
Robert Carlyle starred in the Stone of Destiny

Yet Tommy, Gabrielle and I will later this month travel to Oban to dine with and speak alongside just such a legend in the shape of Ian Hamilton QC at a YES Oban public meeting.

Ian has been a friend of ours for over 10 years now. We have shared several lunches at his favourite Glasgow Restaurant, the world renowned Rogano. It was the first restaurant Ian ever ate in after being demobbed from the army in 1947. He confessed to us he couldn't really afford to eat there but was anxious to impress a lady and his love affair with the Rogano began.

Many readers may not know who Ian is but anyone remotely interested in Scotland's history will know he was the mastermind of the most popular theft on record. He and three Glasgow University friends decided to take back from England the ceremonial stone that had been used in crowning ceremonies for Scottish Monarchs in ancient times.

Now I'm not into Royals or Monarchs but this stone was a symbol of Scotland's sovereignty as a nation and was removed by the brutal Edward the 1st in 1296. He removed it to Westminster Abbey to effectively promote himself as the King of Scotland. After 1707 and the Act of Union Scotland was no longer a sovereign nation, and Ian and many others resented this fact and felt then, as he does now, that Scotland deserved its independence from England. In an act of incredible guile and courage Ian and his three friends drove to London and stole back what was known as the 'stone of destiny' on Christmas Eve 1950.

The story was dramatised on the big screen in 2008 in the film entitled The Stone of Destiny with actor Charlie Cox playing Ian and featuring Robert Carlyle as another prominent Scot, John MacCormick. Ian even had a small part in the film, ironically enough playing an English businessman.

Ian and his three friends managed to transport the stone back to Scotland and successfully hid it it until it was handed over to the Church of Scotland in April 1951.

There remains some mystery though whether it was the real stone that was returned. In any event Ian and his three friends were charged with this daring theft but such was the popular support for what they had done the authorities never dared bring them to court as any trial would have been a huge focus for nationalist fervour. Ian went on to become a leading QC in Scotland and championed many causes. He remains one of the country's most articulate advocates for independence.

It will be a real pleasure to share his company again. He has stories by the dozen of political and legal intrigues as well as scores of funny and often romantic tales. He has not been very well of late and recently suffered a heart attack but at the age of 88 he is determined to live long enough to see Scotland become a nation again.

With his guts, determination and guile I wouldn't bet against him celebrating his wish on September 18 and going on for some years after to be an elder statesman in an independent Scotland.

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