‘Hitler’ in the Garngad

During the mid-1930s the arrival of a new police constable caused consternation in Glasgow’s Garngad district. At six feet two, and sixteen stone, P.C. James Robertson was a giant compared to most of the people he encountered on the beat. He stood out in other ways too. Within weeks of his posting he had cultivated a reputation both for brutality and for bigotry towards Catholics. Locals quickly dubbed him ‘Hitler’. You can read why here (no subscription required): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03071022.2019.1545363

P.C. Robertson’s conduct led to notable increase in friction between the police and the people of the Garngad, culminating in large-scale disturbances during the spring and summer of 1934 that led to dozens of ‘rioters’ appearing at Glasgow Sheriff Court. Police officers testified that they had been subjected to terrifying violence by crowds hundreds-strong. Local people told a different story. They alleged that police had goaded them, inflicted random beatings and then falsified evidence so that the victims of police violence were branded ‘gangsters’, rioters and looters.

Garngad residents were treated with contempt in court. Sheriffs mocked them, and pronounced the district so wild and dangerous that police officers risked their lives every time they set foot in the place. These judicial outbursts were amplified by Glasgow’s evening newspapers, which ran lurid headlines proclaiming ‘MOB VIOLENCE IN GARNGAD’.

Among those jailed following these disturbances were five women convicted of perjury. They included twenty-six-year-old Mary Kelly, an expectant mother. Local people mounted a vigorous campaign for their release, calling for an inquiry into police conduct and insisting that the Garngad prisoners were not rioters or perjurers but the victims of police violence and judicial bias. If you’re interested in their story, have a read of the longer account via the link above. Let me know what you think of it by posting a reply here or send me an email – you’ll find my address in the contact page on this site.

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