Scottish Visitors

Students at Athens City Schools learn about the Scottish crown jewels and other matters Monday during a remote broadcast from Athens' sister city in Stonehaven, Scotland.

Some Athens City Schools students heard a great story Monday from Scottish friends across the pond.

Students in Veronica Brakewait's third-grade class at iAcademy at Athens Elementary School and Kyle Turner's sixth-grade class at Athens Renaissance School conversed with some of the Scots who visited Athens in May as part of a city twinning agreement between Athens and Stonehaven, Scotland. As part of the exchange, Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks, Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay, Athens-Limestone Tourism Director Teresa Todd and city grant coordinator and communications specialist Holly Hollman visited Scotland in July.

On Monday at Athens Elementary School, the students and the Scots were able to see and speak with each other via computer. Marks and Holman also attended the event and spoke.

During the visit, students learned about the Scottish crown jewels and other facts, such as the parts of a traditional Scottish Highlands dress. But it was the story of the crown jewels that seemed to pique their interest most.

Richard Holman-Baird, the Baird of Ury, Rickarton and Lochwood and the Clan Baird chieftain, and Philip Mills-Bishop, chair of the Stonehaven and North East Scotland Twinning Council, were among those who told the story and answered students' questions about it. The story, according to, goes like this:

When English military and political leader Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland in the 1650s, the Scottish crown jewels were put in jeopardy. Cromwell and his cronies had already destroyed the English crown jewels, and Scotland's jewels — a symbol of monarchy known as the Honours — were next. The jewels — which include a crown, scepter and sword — couldn't be returned to their home in Edinburgh Castle, because Cromwell's army had overtaken it. So, the Scots devised a plan.

King Charles II, the Scottish president, ordered the Earl Marischal to take the jewels and his personal papers to Dunnottar Castle, for safekeeping. But after eight months, the castle was about to fall, so the crown, scepter and sword were lowered over the seaward side of the castle to a serving woman, or maid, who was pretending to gather seaweed.

She took the jewels to the church at Kinneff and hid them at the bottom of the Rev. James Grainger's bed. The minister and his wife later wrapped the jewels in linen and buried them beneath the clay floor under the pulpit.

The jewels remained hidden for nine years during the Commonwealth, despite the English army searching for them. When the Scottish Parliament was dissolved in 1707, the jewels were locked in a chest in the castle and forgotten. Scotland's famous literary son, Sir Walter Scott, rediscovered the Honours in 1818, wrapped in linen and locked inside an oak chest in a strong room at Edinburgh Castle. The jewels have been on display in the castle since 1819, and thousands of people visit Edinburgh Castle yearly to see them. Considered the oldest set of crown jewels in the world, they were created sometime before 1540, when they were remodeled by order of James V. The Honours were first used together in 1543 for the coronation of 9-month-old Mary, Queen of Scots.

Highland dress

Also during the visit, one student asked if the camera could fully pan Baird, who was in full Highland dress, including a bonnet with crest badge and two eagle feathers that acknowledge his position as Clan Baird chieftain; a waistcoat; a plaid kilt bearing his clan's colors; a sporran, which is a bag worn in front of the kilt on a chain and used as a pocket; kilt hose; and a sgian dubh, or type of knife.

Athens students will get another chance to learn from their Scottish friends in the future.

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