6th February 1951

Guernsey watchmaker helps Stone of Scone manhunt

A Guernsey watchmaker came to London on 6 February 1951 to help police with inquiries into the theft of the Stone of Scone. The Stone, part of the chair used to crown Britain’s kings and queens, had been stolen by supporters of Scottish independence, on Christmas day 1950.

There were very few clues to go on. This was the pre-CCTV era, after all. Police shut the border between England and Scotland for the first time in 400 years, but didn’t manage to stop it being transported to Scotland, perhaps because it wasn’t taken there directly.

Replica of the Stone of Scone

Broken stone

Its theft was an audacious and brave operation. Four students from the University of Glasgow had broken in to Westminster Abbey and stolen it from the Coronation Chair. They had dropped it as they took it out of the chair’s based, and it had broken into two unequal parts, which they loaded into a car.

They buried the larger part in a field in Kent for a few days, before taking both pieces across the border to Scotland.

The police had only one lead: a wrist watch found on the floor by the chair. “JGC 148” was scratched into the back of the case.

JCG were the initials of James Griffiths. He was a 28-year-old watchmaker in Guernsey who had cleaned the watch in late December 1947. The number 148 signified that the work had been completed in January 1948: three years before the Stone’s theft.

A million to one chance

He came to London on 6 February 1951 and poisitively identified the marking as his own. The Coventry Evening Telegraph reported that he’d stated “the chances of there being any other repairer’s markings being idencical with his are about a million to one [and] that it was highly unlikely that any other watch repairer with the same initials would have cleaned a watch on the very same day as himself”.

Unfortunately, Griffiths couldn’t remember who had brought in the watch, or claimed it.

The stone returned to England in April 1951. It had been left on the altar at Arbroath Abbey, where Scotland had declared its independence in 1320.

Police charged the four students who had taken it, but didn’t prosecute.

Stone of Scone photo by Bubobubo2 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


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Other events that occured in February

Mail ship wrecked on Black Rock 1st
Oil rig stranded at Grandes Rocques
Birth of Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann 2nd
Death of Sir Charles Hayward 3rd
St Martin’s parish church consecrated 4th
Guernsey suffers its worst storm in 35 years 5th
Guernsey watchmaker helps Stone of Scone manhunt 6th
Guernsey Language Commission formed 7th
Queen Mary executed while wearing Guernsey stockings 8th
Guernsey gets its first postbox
Guernsey Society celebrates its 70th anniversary 9th
Guernsey’s last execution didn’t go according to plan 10th
The last issue of GUNS was distributed 11th
Alderney gets its first full-time radio station 12th
Guernsey’s last duel 13th
Specsavers’ Mary Perkins was born 14th
Blue Islands takes to the skies
Guernsey gets its own flag 15th
Birth of concrete poet Dom Sylvester Houedard 16th
HMS Guernsey launched in Aberdeen 17th
Guernsey’s first Methodist minister arrives 18th
Aurigny Air Services founded 19th
Guernsey Railway Company runs its first services 20th
The Channel Islands were cut off from the outside world 21st
St Sampson was ordained a bishop 22nd
Death of Thomas Fiott de Havilland 23rd
Murder inquiry ends with suicide 24th
Death of occupation resister Marie Ozanne 25th
Guernsey’s first banker dies 26th
Release of Reverend Harry Samuel 27th
Plans for St Sampson power station approved 28th
Second World War bomb detonated 29th