Gavin Vernon

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Gavin Harold Russell Vernon (11 August 1926 – 19 March 2004) was a Scottish engineer who along with his accomplices, removed the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey in London on Christmas Day 1950 and took the Stone to Scotland.[1][2][3]


Vernon was born in Kintore, Aberdeenshire, the son of a doctor and educated at Strathallan School in Perthshire, Scotland.[1] After Strathallan, Vernon completed his national service with the Royal Signals serving in Malta, Palestine and Cyprus.[1] He then attended the University of Glasgow where he studied electrical engineering.[4] Whilst studying in Glasgow he became a member of the Scottish Covenant Association, a group which supported home rule for Scotland.[5]

Removal of the Stone of Scone[edit]

Whilst studying at the University of Glasgow, Gavin Vernon, was approached by a fellow student, Ian Hamilton, to participate in a daring plan to remove the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey in London and take it to Scotland.[5] The heist was a success and set off one of the biggest manhunts in British history.[6] The border between Scotland and England was closed for the first time in over four hundred years.[5][7] All but one of the group, Ian Hamilton, admitted to their role in the raid.[1] The authorities decided not to prosecute the students for fear it would politicise the incident.[8]

The incident created considerable publicity in the United Kingdom and beyond.[1][5] The four students became household names both at the time and to later generations.[2] Vernon's name would become inextricably linked with the raid and amongst the devolution and nationalist movements in Scotland he gained iconic status.[8] For the rest of his life he would be remembered for his role in the events of Christmas Day 1950.[2] In 2008 the incident was made into a film called Stone of Destiny, where Vernon was played by Stephen McCole.[9]

Later life[edit]

In 1960 Vernon got married to Anne Fraser with whom he had one son in addition to her two sons from a previous marriage.[1] In 1963 he emigrated with his family to Canada and initially found work on a pot ash mining project in Saskatchewan.[6] Vernon worked on several engineering projects around the world in Vancouver, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, London, Saudi Arabia and Aberdeen before finally settling in West Vancouver.[5][6] In Vancouver he became a consulting engineer and contributed to the establishment of The Western Canada Group of Chartered Engineers.[5][6]

When the Stone of Scone was officially returned to Scotland in 1996 Gavin Vernon attended the ceremony in Edinburgh.[1] On Christmas Eve 2000, the fiftieth anniversary of the event, Vernon returned to Westminster Abbey which was specially opened for him with the words: 'Welcome back, Mr Vernon'.[10] In early 2004 Vernon was diagnosed with cancer, and in March 2004, he died.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Gavin Vernon". The Daily Telegraph. 26 March 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Defining our destiny". The Scotsman. 29 March 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "Prankster struck blow for Scottish nationalism". Ottawa Citizen. 26 March 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  4. ^ "Gavin Vernon". The Times. 2 April 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Gavin Vernon Engineer who helped return the Stone of Destiny to Scotland". The Herald (Glasgow). 1 April 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Gavin Vernon". The Globe and Mail. 29 June 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Call of destiny ; As one of their peers dies, the group who returned the Stone of Destiny to Scotland recall their incredible story". Daily Mail. 30 March 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "First Stone raider meets his final destiny". The Scotsman. 29 March 2004. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "Film review: Stone of Destiny". The Scotsman. 3 October 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  10. ^ "Took part in Stone of Scone theft". The Gazette (Montreal). 26 March 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2013.