TO THE LORD LYON
For nearly 7 centuries, the Lord Lyon King of Arms has been Scotland's "other King." He is a Judge of the Realm in all matters of heraldry, charged with ordering all State and Royal ceremony and occasions. He has powers of imprisonment as well, and enjoys a coronation of his own when he accedes to office. His ceremonial Collar of State, something like an overgrown gold necklace, is worn on all State affairs and has for 250 years contained an unfortunate collection of English symbols. No one knows what happened to the original one pictured in his Arms. It may have been stolen at the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie, or lost. Or maybe it never existed at all.
A scheme to replace the original was hatched over cigars and drinks by Charles Burnett (Ross Herald) and Mark Dennis of the Heraldry Society.
Eventually they received donations for 40 St. Andrew Societies around the world, and called Don McKee to ask if he'd care to do the work. Don was therefore awake all night, ricocheting from wall to wall.
The creation went more smoothly than the unexpected difficulties of delivery. His wife Barbara takes up the story......
We delivered the Collar on 4th December, 1998, encountering the Scots twilit winter that turned out to be as cozy as quilts and cocoa. The presentation itself was full of my lording and my ladying and courteous little bows, and a form of exquisite courtesy and kindness that was quite charming and not at all what happens, say, when Don and I each want to watch a different TV channel.
Preparing for the Saint Andrew's Day procession at the cathedral was an event in itself. The fussing and preening and donning of cloaks and caps and feathers went on nearby in the Signet Library, where one poor old trout (now recovered) had a heart attack just as the procession was to begin. But the fact that the ageless procession must not be delayed meant that we were treated to the sight of swaying columns of cloaks and kilts and capes trundling out one side of the massive doorway, while a clatter of ambulance blokes in day-glo plastic ponchos and 20th century electronics pelted in the other.
Just before we left for Scotland, we discovered through an appraisal that the piece was worth $80,000. So we suddenly experienced panic about security, and life became a cartoon. We started locking the doors. Cops agreed to hang around. We went everywhere with the thing locked in the spare tire well, but carried an empty briefcase as a decoy. When we left it at a jewelry company for display, we instilled such fear in the owner that when one of his armed guards was called away to an emergency, said owner dug out his shot gun, slammed in an ounce and a half slug, and nervously blasted a hole in his own wall. (Clever soul craftily hung a picture over the hole, threw the collar in the safe, and crept silently home.)
However, the finance company next door appeared to his baffled wife in the morning, wanting urgently to know why (1) there was a hole in their wall, (2) there was a chasm in their roof, (3) all surfaces were coated with powdered ceiling, and, (4) none of the computers worked and their power was off....
But we delivered it to Whitehall in London after a complex spat with a smug little power-wielding customs troll, having kept it coiled cozily inside Don's pillow without which he does not travel, and dropped it exhaustedly into the hands of Scotland's Secretary of State and Went to Bed. It was sent to Scotland by diplomatic courier and we followed it later. Of course there was a mix up. Lyon, roused early by news that his Collar had at last arrived, roared into the city to collect the secure package, drove home, and ripped it open to find only the Queen's banner, which had been sent up to signify her Royal presence when she opened the new National Museum of Scotland that week. He performed some forlorn groping in an empty box. Museum officials, on the other hand, were left to puzzle over how and why they had been sent a huge gold necklace to run up their new flagpole.
Deliberations still go on concerning the official name. The whole Court is involved, Heralds and Pursuivants, trying out phrases like "The Thistle Collar" or "The Saint Andrew Collar of Thistles." When they saw its true size, a motion was made to call it simply "The Saint Andrew Anaconda." If we hear the official results, we'll tell you."
Sir Malcolm Innes of Edingight, then Lord Lyon, thought Don's work such a great service to Scotland that he was worthy of a Scottish grant of arms.