Kathleen MacInnes is a Scottish singer who hails from South Uist, one of the islands of the Outer Hebrides archipelago off the coast of Scotland. Kathleen MacInnes’ material includes contemporary and traditional songs performed in her native Scottish Gaelic. Òran na Cloiche (the song of the stone) is in fact a recent composition written in the 1950s by Scottish poet Donald McIntyre (1889-1964) and refers to an unusual episode of contemporary Scottish history.

On Christmas day 1950, a group of four Scottish students attempted to bring back to Scotland the “Stone of Scone” or the “Stone of Destiny” as it is often referred to from Westminster Abbey. Originally kept in Scotland, the stone had been used for centuries as a coronation seat for monarchs but was captured in 1296 by Edward I and brought to Westminster Abbey. (See articles on The Stone of Scone or the removal of the Stone of Scone in 1950 for the complete background story). The song documents humorously the unsuccessful attempt to bring the stone back to Scotland in 1951.

Kathleen MacInnes - Òg-Mhadainn Shamhraidh (2006)
Kathleen MacInnes – Òg-Mhadainn Shamhraidh (2006)

Òran na Cloiche originally appeared on Kathleen MacInnes début album Òg-Mhadainn Shamhraidh (2006). Captured here in 2011 as part of series 5 of the excellent Transatlantic Sessions, the singer is accompanied by a stellar line-up of musicians including contemporary bluegrass singer Sarah Jarosz on guitar, Michael McGoldrick on flute, Donald Shaw on accordion and Nollaig Casey on fiddle.

[…] And running ’round the floor
And all he could say was
“Where did the Stone go?”
And, “By the Holy Mother
What will I do tomorrow
I know the Queen
Will be beside herself”

Said he, looking deathly pale
“I’d never have believed
It could have been raised from the floor
By someone no bigger than a wasp
Something is to happen to me
And Heaven help me
The man who unloosed it
Must be as strong as a horse”

The stone was officially returned to Scotland in 1996 and transported to Edinburgh Castle where it can be viewed by the public. A happy ending for a remarkable story which has featured in countless novels, plays or TV episodes, generated a film…and a fantastic song.