Tag Archives: police

It’s a Rat Trap – and I was Caught

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, June 2021


‘Glasgow swings like a pendulum do

Bobbies on bicycles, two  by two

Bobbies on bicycles with ripped up hats

And the rosy red cheeks of the Westerton Rats’

Gang warfare was rife in Glasgow and its environs around the start of the 1970s, and due to its location, the village of Westerton, to the north west of the city, found itself, perhaps unwittingly, caught up in the whole Ya bass culture which was apparent at that time.

Westerton, a small working class enclave which clung on the skilfully embroidered coat-tails of leafy Bearsden to its north, was surrounded on its three other sides by some of the roughest areas of Glasgow and, by consequence some of the toughest gangs in the city.

If one assumed a vantage point looking down from the top of Maxwell Avenue, a glance to the right would capture the sprawling post war housing scheme of Drumchapel, an area famously described by comedian Billy Connolly as ‘a desert wi windaes’ and arguably one of the few places on the planet which, if photographed, would look the same in colour as it would in monochrome.

Drumchapel was home to the feared Drum Buck gang along with some of its wannabe offshoots like the Peel Glen Boys and, years before the Lion King hit the cinema screens, Westerton’s parents would often adopt the phrase later used by Musafa to Simba –‘son, you must never go there’.

Further along from the Drum, and just across the physical barrier of the Forth and Clyde canal, was the less terrifying area of Knightswood, whose principal group of warriors, the K-Wood would often be seen marauding through the canal tunnel towards Westerton with malice aforethought, their ranks often bolstered by stragglers from the infinitely more menacing Partick Cross gang.

Looking straight ahead from the top of the hill, one could just about pick out Temple, a small scheme right on the city frontier. I’ve no idea what gangs prowled these mean streets, I just know I got jumped by a group of neds after walking a girl home there after a date. Fortunately I was a lot lighter in these days and managed to break free and outrun them until I reached the welcoming sanctuary of the Fulton Street police station.

And finally, the main event, look left and if you look hard enough you’ll see Maryhill – home to the Fleet, without doubt the toughest, meanest and probably biggest gang in the north side of Glasgow.

All of these gangs and their associates, had one thing in common – they liked to cross their borders and terrorise the people of Westerton.

Solution – form our own gang, hence the birth of the WessyRats.

The invaders from the aforementioned areas may have regarded Westerton as something of a soft target but we had our share of guys who were not to be messed with and they formed the nucleus of the fledgling rats.

Step forward Campbell ‘Fagin’ Chaal, Iain ‘Big Stone’ Johnstone (aka the Drum Basher), George ‘Krug’ Craig and his younger brother titch, Christopher ‘Topper’ James, Billy ‘Hatchet’ Hogg and Gordon Kelly.

Gordon didn’t need a moniker. The very mention of his name was enough to strike fear into the hearts of anyone who dared cross his path, as one knife wielding Drum boy found out to his cost when he launched a daring raid on the Bearsden Academy playground only to be sent homeward tae think again after feeling the might of Gordon’s fist of fury.
Gordon, a martial arts aficionado, did sustain a slash wound across his face in the skirmish, something he wore proudly as a badge of honour in the aftermath of the incident.

Me? I never really saw myself as a street fighter. I’d been involved in a few scraps during my schooldays. Won some, lost some but I always felt capable of looking after myself should the need arise.

I was on nodding terms with most of the boys in the Rats but never really aspired to reaching that particular level howeverall that changed on the bus home from school one day when a classmate, Ewan Miller, unwisely challenged me to a ‘square go’.

I’d seen Ewan fight before. He was useful but he was a one-trick pony. His tactic was to come at you like a windmill, arms flailing at high speed and delivering rapid fire punches to his opponent’s head.

With this in mind I let him come at me but, in the style of professional boxers I’d watched on television, held both arms in the regulation defensive position to protect my face and head.  

Sure he was hitting me but only on my forearms so I soaked it up until he stopped and asked, rather hopefully, ‘had enough yet?’

My response was to deliver what was the sweetest punch I’d ever thrown in my life, a beautifully timed right hook which caught him square on the jaw and left him lying on the floor of the bus.
It was a shot the then champion Ken Buchanan would have been proud of.

I looked up and saw some senior members of the Rats nodding their approval and the next morning when I went  to catch the bus to school at the co-op, one of them shouted – ‘here he is, Fairley the hard man’.

I cringed at the comment, largely because when someone attaches a label like that on you, the one certainty is that someone else will be coming after you very soon.

However, my new found notoriety enabled me to become a fringe member of the Rats but, to be honest, I was more a rearguard member, shouting and posturing at the back of the group while those in the frontline battled against any ‘Drummies’ or ‘Knightsies’ who had made the mistake of encroaching upon our territory.

It all changed for me one day during the school holidays. We were relaxing on the school hill when the news was relayed that a gang from Drumchapel were heading in our direction.

One of the boys said ‘Ill get the pickies’ and within a few minutes I found myself holding a fearsome looking wooden pick axe handle which was to be the weapon of choice for this particular altercation.

Weapons. This was a whole new ball game for me.
To quote Nena – ‘this is it boys, this is war’ and I wasn’t comfortable with it.

We charged down the hill and met the invading gang at the old nursery school playground and the battle raged until there were only two Drum boys left, the rest having scarpered at the sight of our weaponry.
One of them then pulled what looked like a meat cleaver from his jacket and we all froze. All except one, who I will choose not to name, who raced forward and slammed his pickie across the top of the boys head.
Even now, I can still hear the thud of timber crashing against bone.

As he lay on the ground someone shouted ‘here’s the polis’ and, as two squad cars came haring down Maxwell Avenue, sirens blaring, we all scampered back up the hill, the pickies being safely secreted in their hiding place before we all split up and disappeared amongst the labyrinthine network of lanes and alleyways throughout the village.

The cops came back the following night as we hung around the co-op trying to get statements but the law of omertwas adhered to and all they got was our names and addresses.

The next day the police paid a visit to my parents house and warned them about the company their son was keeping and the likely ramifications thereof.

My Dad was no soft touch. He grew up in Govanhill, the youngest of seven brothers and I’m pretty sure he’d been involved in a few rucks during his younger days, which was probably why he was dead against the idea of his son following in these particular footsteps.

The perfunctory father/son chat took place and I made up my mind that my short lived career as a Wessy Rat was over and that I would channel my energies towards my two main interests in life, football and music.

I always looked upon the Rats as more of a peace-keeping force than a violent gang. Their actions were largely defensive rather than aggressive and, perhaps subconsciously, they viewed their existence as a means of protecting the people of Westerton from invading forces and, to that extent, their mission was, in the main, accomplished.

I enjoyed my short spell running with the pack but I’m glad it ended when I did. If it hadn’t who know where I’d have ended up. I still feel I can look after myself but I’ve adopted the philosophy subscribed to by Bruce Lee in the movie Enter the Dragon of….. ‘Fighting without Fighting.’

If you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I mean. There are more ways to win a battle than knocking ten bells out of your opponent and I can say in all honesty, that in the 50 or so years since I decked Ewan Miller on the school bus, I’ve never once struck a single human being.

C’est la guerre

Police Encounters in the 70s.

Russ Stewart: London, May 2021

I do not have any tattoos….
Resisted peer pressure whilst drunk in parlours. 
Witnessed too many pallid limbs celebrating non-existent Maori heritage.

Rationale: a tattoo might compromise any future capability to go off grid and anonymise.   
Now in my 60s that scenario is unlikely, having led a blameless life. 

However I have been subject to stop and subsequent questioning by the police, in the 70s in particular.

Typical scenario:  Aged 14 to 16 or so walking back home to Hillfoot, from Ray Norris parents’ house in the Switchback area, at about 1am, usually carrying a guitar case. 
Sober, fizzing with caffeine, (we  liked figuring out Humble Pie riffs whilst drinking coffee).
Milngavie Road seemed to be awash with cops in those days….. obviously on the lookout for guitar rustlers. 

No small talk.  Non negotiable attitude.  Did not bother me. 

Glasgow in the 70s had a much higher crime rate, particularly in relation to violent crime than it has now. 
Bearsden was deemed safe. 
As Ken Dodd would say “you could have a reign of terror with a balloon on a stick”.  

Well, almost, I was once mildly chibbed.

Not only was 70s policing more robust, the coppers were too. 
I recall being stopped a couple of times by a gigantic 6’ 6” sergeant who worked out of Milngavie nick. 

70s doctrine example 1:   
Mr Mac managed the RIO cinema at Canniesburn Toll. 
He was a great guy who let all his late son’s pals in for free to see any film.
One time the cops were called to deal with rowdy, rather simian of countenance, Maryhill neds in the foyer. 
Order restored… cops ask Mr Mac if he’s agreeable to the neds being taken to the rear of cinema for some moderate correction. 
Of course he declined.

70s doctrine example 2:  
The late Paul Murdoch was caught travelling on the blue train without a ticket. The cops were doing a planned sweep at Hillfoot station.  
Cop : “Have you anything to say?” 
Paul : “in future I’ll take the bus”.  
As a juvenile they let him off.  Actually all cops hate arresting juveniles as the paperwork is arduous and the waiting for social workers, parents etc. takes up a whole shift.

The noughties:
Police are very polite and approachable now.

A few years ago a pair visited to counsel me with respect to post burglary trauma.  A daytime “express”  burglary”  had occurred, the intent being  acquisition of cash and jewellery.
None of either in my gaff.   

The burglars did find my Katana (short Japanese sword),  my antique (legal) Adams Revolver and my souvenir handcuffs from a previous career.  They left these items on the floor.

I appreciated the officers cod psychology… however I would have preferred it if they had re-directed their efforts to the smiting of footpads with Taser and Baton.

teenage kicks – Catriona Cook

April 2021:


Name: Catriona Macintyre (Macintyre-Beon, Cook)

Where did you live: Monreith Ave, Kilmardinny Cres – Bearsden;
Kings Park Rd – Kings Park, Glasgow

Secondary school: Bearsden Academy, Kingspark Secondary

Best mates at school: Sandra McGregor, Fiona McLeod

Funniest memory from school: The school going on fire and being off for several weeks.

First holiday with your mates: 1982, Palma Nova with Wendy a fellow nurse from my year group. I met Phil from Birmingham (who was my boyfriend for a couple of years), first time on a moped, lots of alcohol.

First job: Cut n Dried hairdressers Sauchiehall Street (Saturday job), NHS nurse, midwife, neonatal intensive care.


Musical hero in 70s: Bay City Rollers, David Cassidy, Leif Garret, Pink Floyd.

Favourite single: If you Leave Me Now – Chicago (reminds me of discos at Westerton Tennis Club)

Favourite album: Parallel lines – Blondie

First gig: Blondie or The Police at The Apollo

Most Disappointing Gig: Whitney Houston at SECC (Sound was terrible)

Favourite 70s movie:  Carrie (sneaked in aged 9) RIO cinema, Bearsden.
(Admin – Wow 😳 )

Rio Picture House, Canniesburn Toll, Bearsden

Who was on your wall in 70s: Bay City Rollers, Leif Garrett, David Cassidy

What do you miss most from the 70s: My big brother Graham

What advice would you give your 14yr old self: Go girl have some fun!

Fantasy 70s pub session: Centre Court in Glasgow with Pat Cash, Debbie Harry, Marc Bolan & David Bowie. 

No description available.
That’s me in the blue wellies

court in the act (part 2)

George Cheyne: Glasgow, March 2021

She was going to have her day in court, there was no question about that.

Dressed up to the nines, her hair piled high and her heels even higher, Linda McCaffrey click-clacked her way across the wooden floor to the witness box at Clydebank District Court.

She looked a nailed-on cert to win any Bet Lynch-lookalike contest – right down to the leopard-print jacket that the Coronation Street star used to wear.

Mrs McCaffrey, looking slightly miffed her big moment was taking place in front of an audience of less than ten, promised to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

She was in court – which sat in Clydebank Town Hall – to give her account of the night her husband was arrested for some street rammy or other.

And what an account…she delivered her lines to perfection during a gentle interrogation by her husband’s solicitor. But guess what? Her version didn’t tally with what the police officers had said previously.

Step forward the procurator fiscal – no stranger to a bit of showboating himself – and he went after her like a man possessed.

But Mrs McCaffrey refused to buckle under the pressure and stuck resolutely to her story.

Time for a bit of gamesmanship.
“So, Mrs McCaffrey, it’s your evidence that your husband was merely making his way home and had absolutely nothing to do with the disturbance?”

“Aye, that’s how I remember it, love.”

“And you don’t recall seeing your husband having an altercation with the police officers?”

“Aye, that’s right, love.”

“Mrs McCaffrey…I’m not in love with you, I never have been in love with you and I have no intention of ever being in love with you, so don’t call me love. Is that clear?”

“Yes, love.”

“Your honour, I must ask you to warn this witness about her conduct here today.”

At this point the Justice of the Peace looked up sternly from the bench to say: “Mrs McCaffrey, you have to be mindful that this is a court of law and behave accordingly.”

“Right you are, doll…”

This was the kind of exchange that brightened up the dull tedium of covering district court cases in the late 1970s for The Clydebank Press.

I had a ringside seat to see justice dispensed at the fag end of Scotland’s legal system – a window into the small-potato court cases which are the lifeblood of any local newspaper.

And if you had characters like Mrs McCaffrey in court, then it made sifting through the minutiae that little bit more enjoyable.

If not, you played courtroom bingo. This involved certain words or phrases to be mentally ticked off during a police officer’s evidence.


You were looking for all the usual contenders – “locus”, “proceeded”, “disorderly manner”, “fear and alarm”, “refused to desist” and “arrested”.

Sometimes you could get a full house without the officer pausing for breath.

That was the thing about police evidence, the officers always seemed so well prepped and gave their version of events using exactly the same phrases.
Funny that, eh?

However, I was there once when two policemen went completely off script.
Or, more accurately, one of them did.

PC 1 regaled us with a tale of how he and PC 2 were on patrol when they saw the accused acting in a disorderly manner (tick) and then hurl a bottle towards two youths and challenge them to fight. He identified the accused in the dock by pointing at him.

Bang to rights, I’d say. The defending solicitor poked around a bit, trying to spot any weakness, before asking PC 1 if he remembers what arm the accused used to chuck the bottle.

The officer doesn’t miss a beat before saying: “His right.”

The solicitor was obviously hoping to plant a seed of doubt in the prosecution case if somehow PC 2 answered differently.
In the end, he got far more than he could have hoped for.

Up stepped PC 2, who also identified the accused, to tell us how he was on patrol with PC 1 when he saw the accused at the locus (tick) arguing with a woman, pushing her onto the road before punching her on the face.

Eh?
The fiscal tried to pass it off as a mix-up and asked PC 2 if he’d like to refer to his notebook – code for you’ve made a boo-boo – but the defence lawyer was all over it and immediately asked the Justice of the Peace to acquit his client on the grounds that PC 2’s evidence clearly couldn’t be trusted.

The sitting JP agreed. He threw the case out, told the accused he was free to go and gave PC 2 a withering look before saying, rather caustically: “Maybe you’ll learn your lines a bit better next time.”

I suppose that’s what the court was – a stage for performers like police officers, fiscals, JPs, witnesses and the accused to strut their stuff as they delivered their lines.

And, believe me, there was a lot of over-acting going on.

I remember one fiscal used to ham it up big time when he was questioning police officers, making sure the JPs knew their evidence was sacrosanct.

To labour the point, he would invariably ask the officer if they were on duty that day, knowing full well they weren’t. And he’d follow up the inevitable reply with: “Ah, the court thanks you for coming here on your day off.”

The implication being that the officer was clearly the most credible of witnesses, if he was willing to give up his own precious free time just to be there.

This little act was repeated time after time and, as an unwritten rule, remained unchallenged by the defence lawyers – until one of them finally cracked.

Standing before an officer who had just been thanked for coming there that day, he told him: “So it’s your day off..well, in that case, you’ll be getting paid overtime. Maybe you should be thanking us.”

Lawyer exits stage left with a satisfied grin on his face.