Businessman and one of the students who took the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey

Born: August 20, 1930;

Died: March 12, 2019

ALEXANDER Alfred Stuart, known as Alan, who has died aged 88, was widely known as one of the four Glasgow University students who broke into Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950 and removed the Stone of Destiny.

Mr Stuart, a well-respected Glasgow businessman, lived and worked in Glasgow for most of his life. Born in Shettleston, in the east end of Glasgow, he was the second child of Mary and Bill Stuart. His family then moved to Bishopbriggs from where, after completing his primary years at the local school, he went to Glasgow High School in 1939.

At the end of the first term, war broke out and Alan was sent to boarding school at Strathallan where he completed his Scottish Higher Leaving Certificate. In September 1948 he enrolled in a degree in civil engineering at the University of Glasgow and graduated in April 1953.

It was at Glasgow University that he met the other Stone of Destiny plotters, Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon and Kay Mathieson. Alan was by some measure the youngest of the group but did have access to his mother’s car. This was duly borrowed to take the plotters to London and, removing the coronation stone, they carried it away from the capital, returning it to Scotland from where it had been stolen by Edward I in 1296.

Having anticipated that the police would be searching for cars going north, they drove south to Kent and buried the stone with a plan to collect it a week or so later. After returning to Glasgow, Alan Stuart drove south again, once the initial furore had died down, to collect the stone from where they had concealed it.

By chance, a Gypsy encampment had set up right where the stone lay but with some negotiation and sleight of hand, they collected the ancient artefact and drove it back to Scotland where it was repaired and hidden in a variety of safe houses, before eventually being left at Arbroath Abbey. The stone was consequently handed back to the authorities on 11th April 1951 after having been in the custody of the Church of Scotland.

The act of daring in removing the stone had led to a national manhunt which was subsequently featured in several books, television dramas, radio plays and the 2008 film Stone of Destiny. After much popular pressure, the Stone of Destiny finally returned to Scotland on St Andrew’s Day, 30th November 1996, and is now kept in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle.

Unlike the others, Alan Stuart was never a convinced nationalist, but became involved in the plot as it sounded an exciting way to spend the festive period. He was a man who enjoyed fun and always made his own decisions in life irrespective of the view of the crowd.

After a brief period in the family building firm, he set up his own highly successful property business, Lyndene Development Company. He was a skilled and astute businessman who was known for his fair-minded approach to business, his scrupulous honesty and his disdain for unnecessary bureaucracy.

He married Lilian, a farmer’s daughter, in September 1955 and, with their three small children, moved to Milngavie in 1962. The family remained in Milngavie from then on and their house, Woodlands, became known as a place of superb hospitality and happy family life.

Alan Stuart was a knowledgeable collector of Scottish art and a longstanding member of Glasgow Art Club. As a young man he was active in Round Table and when, aged 40, he was obliged to move on, he remained a member of the 41 Club with the same group of friends for over 45 years.

He was a keen golfer, an ardent curler and an avid supporter of the Scottish International Rugby team and, more recently, Glasgow Warriors whose exciting brand of rugby was a huge source of pleasure to him.

He was a great family man and is survived by his children Fiona, Graham and Elspeth, their spouses Kenny, Maggie and Tim, his nine grandchildren and his four great-grandchildren – in all of whom he took great delight.

Alan Stuart died after a fall in March. Aware of the risks, and in keeping with his characteristically positive attitude, as he was being anaesthetised for an attempt at high risk surgery, he was asked how he felt. He replied that he would feel a lot better if Scotland won against England that coming Saturday. On Saturday 16th March, after 30 minutes into the game, Scotland were losing to England at Twickenham by 31 points to 0. Alan’s family are pretty sure he had a ‘word’ with the team at half-time. Scotland went on to draw 38 points all and retain the Calcutta Cup.