Another adventure from the Broons family.
Hibernian Football Club (/hɪˈbɜːrniən/), commonly known as Hibs, is a professional football club based in the Leith area of Edinburgh, Scotland. The club plays in the Scottish Premiership, the top tier of the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL). The club was founded in 1875 by members of Edinburgh’s Irish community, and named after the Roman word for Ireland. Nowadays, while the Irish heritage of Hibernian is still reflected in the name, colours and badge, support for the club is now based more on geography than ethnicity or religion. Their local rivals are Heart of Midlothian, with whom they contest the Edinburgh derby.
Home matches are played at Easter Road, which has been in use since 1893, when the club joined the Scottish Football League. The name of the club is regularly shortened to Hibs, with the team also being known as The Hibees (pronounced /ˈhaɪbiːz/) and supporters known as Hibbies. Another nickname is The Cabbage, derived from the shortened rhyming slang for Hibs (“Cabbage and Ribs”).
Hibernian have won the Scottish league championship four times, most recently in 1952. Three of those four championships were won between 1948 and 1952, when the club had the services of The Famous Five, a notable forward line. The club have won the Scottish Cup three times, in 1887, 1902, and 2016, with the latter victory ending a notorious drought. Hibs have also won the Scottish League Cup three times, in 1972, 1991, and 2007. Hibernian reached the semi-final of the first ever European Cup in 1955–56, becoming the first British side to participate in European competition; they reached the same stage of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1960–61.
Main article: History of Hibernian F.C.
See also: List of Hibernian F.C. seasons
Foundation and early history (1875–1939).
The Cowgate, where Hibs were formed in 1875.
The club was founded in 1875 by Irishmen living in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh. The name Hibernian (deriving from Hibernia, an ancient name for Ireland), the colour green, the Gaelic harp and the Irish language phrase Erin Go Bragh (meaning Ireland Forever) were adopted as symbols early on.Founder Fr. Edward Joseph Hannan was the first president of the club and Michael Whelahan its first team captain. James Connolly, the famous socialist and Irish Republican leader, was a Hibs fan, while the club were “closely identified” with the Irish Home Rule Movement during the 1880s. There was some sectarian resistance initially to an Irish club participating in Scottish football, but Hibs established themselves as a force in Scottish football in the 1880s. Hibs were the first club from the east coast of Scotland to win a major trophy, the 1887 Scottish Cup. They went on to defeat Preston North End, who had reached the semi-finals of the 1887 FA Cup, in a friendly match described as the Association Football Championship of the World Decider.
Mismanagement over the next few years led to Hibs becoming homeless and the club temporarily ceased operating in 1891. A lease on the Easter Road site was acquired in late 1892 and Hibs played its first match at Easter Road on 4 February 1893. Despite this interruption, the club today views the period since 1875 as one continued history and therefore counts the honours won between 1875 and 1891, including the 1887 Scottish Cup. The club were admitted to the Scottish Football League in 1893, although they had to win the Second Division twice before being elected into the First Division in 1895.
A significant change at this time was that players were no longer required to be members of the Catholic Young Men’s Society. Hibs are not seen today as being an Irish or Roman Catholic institution, as it was in the early years of its history. For instance, the Irish harp was only re-introduced to the club badge when it was last re-designed in 2000. This design reflects the three pillars of the club’s identity: Ireland, Edinburgh (the castle) and Leith (the ship). Geography rather than ethnicity or religion is now seen as the primary reason for supporting Hibs, who draw most of their support from the north and east of Edinburgh.
Hibs had some success after being reformed, winning the 1902 Scottish Cup and their first league championship a year later. After this, however, the club endured a long barren spell. The club lost its placing in the league, and were relegated for the first time in 1931, although they were promoted back to the top division two years later. The notorious Scottish Cup drought began as they reached three cup finals, two in consecutive years, but lost each of them.
The Famous Five (1939–1959).
Picture depicting the Famous Five at Easter Road stadium.
Hibs’ most successful era was in the decade following the end of the Second World War, when it was “among the foremost clubs in Britain”. The forward line of Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond, collectively known as the Famous Five, was “regarded as the finest ever seen in Scottish football”. Each of the Famous Five scored more than 100 goals for Hibs. The north stand at Easter Road is now named in their honour. Smith was signed by Hibs in 1941, while Ormond, Turnbull, Reilly and Johnstone were all signed during 1946. Of the five, only Ormond cost Hibs a transfer fee, £1200 from Stenhousemuir. Reilly, Johnstone, Smith and Turnbull were all signed from youth or junior leagues.
In the first season of competitive football after the Second World War, Hibs reached the 1947 Scottish Cup Final. They took an early lead in the match, but went on to lose 2–1 to Aberdeen. With Reilly added to the first team in 1947–48, Hibs won the Scottish league championship for the first time since 1903. This was achieved despite the death of team manager Willie McCartney in January 1948. McCartney was succeeded by Hugh Shaw, who added Johnstone to the first team during 1948. Hibs finished third in the league in 1948–49. In a friendly match against Nithsdale Wanderers on 21 April 1949, Hibs included all of the famous five players in the same team for the first time. They then made their collective competitive debut on 15 October 1949, in a 2–0 win against Queen of the South. They improved on their season from the year before, by finishing second in the league to Rangers by one point.
1950–51 was the high point of the Famous Five era. With other internationalists such as Tommy Younger and Bobby Combe, Hibs won the league by 10 points (when two points were awarded for each win). They reached the 1950 Scottish League Cup Final. Turnbull had scored a hattrick in the semi-final but was unavailable for the final. Jimmy Bradley started at left wing with Ormond moved to inside left. Motherwell beat them 3–0. Hibs retained the league championship in 1951–52, this time winning by four points. Hibs were narrowly denied a third consecutive title in 1952–53 on the last day of the season. A late Rangers equaliser against Queen of the South took the title to Ibrox on goal average. The Famous Five forward line remained in place until March 1955, when Johnstone was sold to Manchester City.
See also: Hibernian F.C. in European football and 1955–56 European Cup
Despite only finishing fifth in the Scottish League in 1955, Hibs were invited to participate in the first season of the European Cup, which was not strictly based on league positions at that time. Eighteen clubs who were thought would generate interest across Europe and who also had the floodlights necessary to play games at night, were invited to participate. Floodlights had been used at Easter Road for the first time in a friendly match against Hearts on 18 October 1954. Hibs became the first British club in Europe because the Football League secretary Alan Hardaker persuaded Chelsea, the English champions, not to enter.
Hibs played their first tie against Rot-Weiss Essen, winning 4–0 in the Georg-Melches-Stadion and drawing 1–1 at Easter Road. They defeated Djurgårdens IF to reach the semi-final, but in that tie they were defeated 3–0 on aggregate by Stade Reims, who had the famous France international player Raymond Kopa in their side. Reims lost 4–3 to Real Madrid in the final.
Turnbull’s Tornadoes (1960–1989).
Hibs frequently participated in the Fairs Cup during the 1960s, winning ties against Barcelona and Napoli. However, the club achieved little domestically until former player Eddie Turnbull was persuaded to return to Easter Road as manager in 1971. The team, popularly known as Turnbull’s Tornadoes, finished second in the league in 1974 and 1975, and won the League Cup in 1972. The club also won the Drybrough Cup in 1972 and 1973, and recorded a 7–0 win over Edinburgh derby rivals Hearts at Tynecastle on 1 January 1973.
Performances went into decline after the mid-1970s, as Hibs were replaced by the New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United as the main challengers to the Old Firm. Turnbull resigned as manager and Hibs were relegated, for the second time in their history, in 1980. They were immediately promoted back to the Scottish Premier Division in 1981, but the club struggled during the 1980s, failing to qualify for European competition until 1989.
1990s: Attempted takeover by Hearts.
After mismanagement during the late 1980s, Hibs were on the brink of financial ruin in 1990. Wallace Mercer, the chairman of Hearts, proposed a merger of the two clubs, but the Hibs fans believed that the proposal was more like a hostile takeover. They formed the Hands off Hibs group to campaign for the continued existence of the club. This succeeded when a prominent local businessman, Kwik-Fit owner Sir Tom Farmer, acquired a controlling interest in Hibs. The fans were able to persuade Farmer to take control despite the fact that he had no great interest in football. Farmer was persuaded in part by the fact that a relative of his had been involved in the rescue of Hibs from financial ruin in the early 1890s. After the attempted takeover by Mercer, Hibs had a few good years in the early 1990s, winning the 1991 Scottish League Cup Final and finishing in the top five in the league in 1993, 1994 and 1995. Soon after Alex McLeish was appointed as manager in 1998, Hibs were relegated to the First Division, but immediately won promotion back to the SPL in 1999.
Recent history (2000–present).
Hibs enjoyed a good season in 2000–01 as they finished third in the league and reached the 2001 Scottish Cup Final, which was lost 3–0 to Celtic. Manager Alex McLeish departed for Rangers in December 2001; team captain Franck Sauzée was appointed as the new manager, despite the fact that he had no previous coaching experience. A terrible run of form followed and Sauzée was fired after being in charge for 69 days.
Kilmarnock manager Bobby Williamson was then hired, but he proved to be unpopular with Hibs supporters. However, a string of exciting young players emerged, including Garry O’Connor, Derek Riordan, Kevin Thomson and Scott Brown. These players featured heavily as Hibs eliminated both halves of the Old Firm to reach the 2004 Scottish League Cup Final, only to lose 2–0 to Livingston. Williamson departed near the end of that season to manage Plymouth Argyle and was replaced by Tony Mowbray. Mowbray promised fast-flowing, passing football, with which Hibs finished third in his first season as manager, while Mowbray won the SFWA Manager of the Year award.
The Scottish League Cup is paraded in March 2007.
Mowbray left Hibs in October 2006 to manage West Bromwich Albion, and was replaced by former player John Collins. The team won the 2007 Scottish League Cup Final under his management, but the club sold Kevin Thomson, Scott Brown and Steven Whittaker for fees totalling more than £8 million. Collins resigned later that year, frustrated by the lack of funds provided to sign new players. Former Hibs player Mixu Paatelainen was hired to replace Collins, but he left after the end of his first full season.
Another former Hibernian player, John Hughes, was soon appointed in place of Paatelainen.Hughes, who made high-profile signings such as Anthony Stokes and Liam Miller, led Hibs to a good start to the 2009–10 season. Hibs finished fourth and qualified for the 2010–11 UEFA Europa League. A poor start to the following season, including first round exits in Europe and the League Cup, led to Hughes leaving the club by mutual consent. Hughes was replaced by Colin Calderwood, who was himself sacked on 6 November 2011.
Pat Fenlon was appointed to replace Calderwood. The club avoided relegation in 2011–12 and reached the 2012 Scottish Cup Final, but this was lost 5–1 to Hearts. Fenlon largely rebuilt the team after this defeat. This resulted in an improved league position in 2012–13 and the team reaching the 2013 Scottish Cup Final, which was lost 3–0 to league champions Celtic. Hibs qualified for the 2013–14 UEFA Europa League, but they suffered a Scottish record defeat in European competition (9–0 on aggregate against Malmö). Fenlon resigned on 1 November and was replaced by Terry Butcher. A run of 13 games without a win to finish the 2013–14 Scottish Premiership season meant that Hibs fell into a relegation play-off, which was lost after a penalty shootout against Hamilton Academical.
Butcher was sacked in June and was replaced by Alan Stubbs. He was unable to lead the team to promotion, but the 2015–16 season saw considerable cup success. The team reached the League Cup final, which was lost to Ross County. This was followed by victory in the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1902, culminating in a cup final win against Rangers. Soon after the cup win, Stubbs resigned as Hibs manager to take charge at Rotherham United and was replaced by Neil Lennon, who led the team to promotion by winning the 2016–17 Scottish Championship. In their first season back in the top flight, Hibs finished fourth in the Premiership and qualified for the Europa League. Lennon left the club in January 2019 and was replaced by Paul Heckingbottom.
Heckingbottom was sacked in November 2019 and replaced by Jack Ross. Hibs finished seventh in a 2019–20 league season that was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the following season they finished third in the league and reached the 2021 Scottish Cup Final, but this was lost 1–0 to St Johnstone. Ross guided Hibs to the League Cup final later that year, but was sacked 10 days before the final after a run of seven defeats in nine league games.
Colours and badge.
The predominant club colours are green and white, which have been used since the formation of the club in 1875. The strip typically has a green body, white sleeves, and a white collar. The shorts are normally white, although green has been used in recent seasons. The socks are green, usually with some white detail. Hibs have used yellow, purple, black, white, and a dark green in recent seasons for their alternate kits. In 1977, Hibs became the first club in Scotland to bear sponsorship on their shirts. This arrangement prompted television companies to threaten a boycott of Hibs games if they used the sponsored kit, which resulted in the club using an alternate kit for the first time.
Hibs wore green and white hooped shirts during the 1870s, which was the inspiration for the style later adopted by Celtic. Hibs then wore all-green shirts from 1879 until 1938, when white sleeves were added to the shirts. This was similar in style to Arsenal, who had added white sleeves to their red shirts earlier in the 1930s. The colour of the shorts was changed to a green which matched the shirts in 2004, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of a friendly win in October 1964 against Real Madrid. Green shorts were used in that match to avoid a colour clash with the all-white colours of Real Madrid. Hibs also used green shorts in the 2006–07, 2007–08 and 2008–09 seasons. For the 2012–13 season, Hibs changed the primary colour of the shirts to a darker “bottle” green, instead of the normal emerald green. A darker green had been used until the 1930s. For the 2014–15 season, Hibs removed the traditional white sleeves from their home kit, as they changed to a darker green shirt in commemoration of the Famous Five forward line.
The badge used to identify the club has changed frequently over the years, which has reflected an ongoing debate about its identity. This debate has centred on whether its Irish heritage should be proudly displayed, or ignored for fear of being accused of sectarianism. The Irish harp was first removed in the 1950s, then re-introduced to the club badge when it was last re-designed in 2000. Scottish Football Museum director Ged O’Brien said in 2001, that the current design shows that Hibs “are comfortable with all the strands of their tradition – it has Leith, Edinburgh and Ireland in it.” As well as the harp representing Ireland, the present badge includes a ship (for the port of Leith) and a castle (as in Edinburgh Castle).
Main articles: Easter Road and Hibernian Park
Easter Road in 2010.
Hibs played on The Meadows for the first two years of their history, before moving to grounds in Newington (Mayfield Park) and Bonnington Road, Leith (Powderhall), in different spells between 1877 and 1879. After the lease on Mayfield Park expired, Hibs moved to a ground known as Hibernian Park, on what is now Bothwell Street in Leith. Hibs failed to secure the ground lease and a builder started constructing houses on the site in 1890. Hibs obtained a lease on a site that is now known as Easter Road in 1892 and have played their home matches there since February 1893.
Before the Taylor Report demanded that the stadium be all-seated, Easter Road had vast banks of terracing on three sides, which meant that it could hold crowds in excess of 60,000. The record attendance of 65,860, which is also a record for a football match played in Edinburgh, was set by an Edinburgh derby played on 2 January 1950. Such vast crowds were drawn by the success of the Famous Five.
The pitch was noted for its pronounced slope, but this was removed in 2000. The ground is currently all-seated and has a capacity of 20,421. Easter Road is a modern stadium, with all four of its stands having been built since 1995. The most recent redevelopment was the construction of a new East Stand in 2010.
Scotland have played seven of their home matches at Easter Road, between 1998 and 2017. Scotland women played their first match at Easter Road in August 2019, a Euro 2021 qualifying match against Cyprus. The ground has hosted one international not involving the Scotland teams, a friendly played between Ghana and South Korea preceding the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Easter Road has also sometimes been used as a neutral venue for Scottish League Cup semi-final matches and once hosted a Scottish Challenge Cup final.
Rob Jones scores a goal for Hibs against Hearts in 2006.
Main article: Edinburgh derby
See also: East of Scotland Shield, Festival Cup, Rosebery Charity Cup, and Wilson Cup (football)
Hibs have a traditional local rivalry in Edinburgh with Hearts; the derby match between the two clubs is one of the oldest rivalries in world football. Graham Spiers has described it as “one of the jewels of the Scottish game”. The clubs first met on Christmas Day 1875, when Hearts won 1–0 in the first match ever contested by Hibs. The two clubs became distinguished in Edinburgh after a five-game struggle for the Edinburgh Football Association Cup in 1878, which Hearts finally won with a 3–2 victory after four successive draws. The clubs have met each other in two Scottish Cup finals, in 1896 and 2012, both of which were won by Hearts. The 1896 match is also notable for being the only Scottish Cup Final to be played outside Glasgow.
Both clubs have been champions of Scotland four times, although Hearts have the better record in derby matches. Hibs recorded the biggest derby win in a competitive match when they won 7–0 at Tynecastle on New Year’s Day 1973. While it has been noted that religious background lies behind the rivalry, that aspect is “muted” and is a “pale reflection” of the sectarianism in Glasgow. Although the clubs are inescapable rivals, the rivalry is mainly “good-natured” and has had beneficial effects.
Supporters and culture.
View of Easter Road with Leith in the distance.
Hibernian are one of only two full-time professional football clubs in Edinburgh, which is the capital of and second largest city in Scotland. The club had the fourth largest average attendance in the Scottish leagues during the 2019–20 season (16,728). In the period after the Second World War, Hibs attracted average attendances in excess of 20,000, peaking at 31,567 in the 1951–52 season. Since Easter Road was redeveloped into an all-seater stadium in the mid-1990s, average attendance has varied between a high of 18,124 in 2017–18 and a low of 9,150 in 2003–04. There has been a significant increase in recent seasons, inspired by the Scottish Cup victory in 2016 and promotion in 2017. In the 1980s and 1990s, a minority of the club’s supporters had a reputation as one of Britain’s most prominent casuals groups, known as the Capital City Service.
From slum clearance to high-rise demolition: why Glasgow’s Red Road flats could never live up to expectations.
Intended to be the solution to Glasgow‘s 20th-century slum crisis, the Red Road flats instead came to represent the failings of modern high-rise housing.
While some former residents have fond memories of the community that grew up around Red Road, others remember the poor living conditions and rapid decline of the development.
An iconic part of the Glasgow skyline for many years, the troubled Red Road flats were finally condemned in 2008.
By the mid-20th century, much of central Glasgow had become overcrowded, and traditional tenements had turned into unsanitary and unsafe slums.
As part of the post-war Bruce Report (drawn up by the Glasgow Corporation in 1946), certain inner-city districts were named as Comprehensive Development Areas.
Essentially, this meant that the council believed areas like the Gorbals, Townhead and Anderston were beyond saving – residents would be moved elsewhere and the slums would be flattened.
Areas on the outskirts of the city were earmarked for new developments, which would provide modern, safe and spacious living conditions for those leaving the urban slums.
A new beginning
The Red Road flats are arguably the most famous of these new developments.
Construction on the green belt area at Barlornock started in 1964, and the first residents had moved in by 1966.
At the time they were built, the eight Red Road tower blocks were the tallest residential high-rises in Europe, at 28 and 31 storeys.
The flats cost an estimated £6 million to build and were intended to house 4,700 people to ease overcrowding in the inner-city.
On top of brand new housing, improved living conditions, and high levels of community spirit, residents could also enjoy spectacular views of Glasgow and the surrounding countryside, even being able to see as far as the Isle of Arran on a clear day.
Plagued with problems
Despite the promising start, the Red Road flats soon came under criticism.
Built with a steel frame (rather than pre-fabricated concrete panels like other tower blocks in the city), the flats had to be fire-proofed with asbestos.
The architects responsible for the project argued that using asbestos was the safest way to ensure the flats were fire-proof, but by the 1980s it was widely known that asbestos could cause severe illness and even death.
Some asbestos was removed in the early 1980s, but the majority of it remained until the Red Road flats were eventually demolished.
The tower blocks soon began to deteriorate. Lifts frequently broke down, leaks were common, and the flats even swayed in high winds.
Crime, drugs, and social issues.
It wasn’t just structural problems that affected the Red Road flats.
They quickly gained a reputation for anti-social behavior and crime, ranging from youth gangs causing mischief to burglaries, assaults, and drug dealing.
One of the most infamous incidents happened in 1977 when vandals started a fire in an empty flat.
The blaze caused serious structural damage and also resulted in the death of a 12-year-old boy.
After residents were evacuated, many refused to return to their homes because of safety issues.
Shortly after, in 1980, authorities declared two of the blocks as unfit for family accommodation and were instead let to students and the YMCA.
Around this time, measures were also introduced to reduce crime in the Red Road flats.
Access to communal spaces was made more secure with the installation of intercoms and electronic keys, and 24-hour concierge facilities were also added.
Crime did drop significantly following these measures, but Red Road’s reputation would never recover.
It was seen (especially by outsiders) as a grim and desolate place. As some of Glasgow’s tallest buildings, the complex also became a hotspot for suicides.
The end of the Red Road.
By the beginning of the 21st century, repairs were costing more than rent, and by 2008 the decision had been made to demolish the Red Road flats.
Phased demolition was planned to begin in 2010, despite the fact that asylum seekers were still living in the flats.
The first block was demolished in June 2012 and took just six seconds to fall after a series of controlled explosions. The second one followed in May 2013.
A controversial plan was then announced which would see five of the remaining blocks demolished as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
Those who opposed the plan said it would be insensitive to demolish the flats as a form of entertainment. They felt the demolition should instead be done with dignity, as a mark of respect to the people who had called Red Road home.
There were also safety concerns, as the sixth block (not yet planned for demolition) was still inhabited by a large number of asylum seekers.
The Commonwealth Games ‘spectacle’ was called off, but the flats were demolished anyway during the following year.
Since the demolition, Glasgow Life and Glasgow Housing Association have partnered up to create the Red Road: Past, Present, and Future project, which collects stories, photos, and recollections from those who lived in the flats.
Just like the slums, they were built to replace, the Red Road flats have now disappeared from Glasgow’s landscape.
Air chief marshal (Air Chf Mshl or ACM) GBE, KCB, AFC (24 February 1895 – 17 December 1977) was a British aviator and Royal Air Force officer, perhaps best known for his role in Operation Chastise, the famous “Dambusters” raid.
Early RAF career.
Ralph Cochrane was born on 24 February 1895, the youngest son of Thomas Cochrane, 1st Baron Cochrane of Cults, in the Scottish village of Springfield, Fife. To qualify as a naval officer, he must have joined the Royal Naval College, Osborne, in 1908, and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, two years later. On 15 September 1912, he was commissioned into the Royal Navy as a midshipman.
During the First World War, Cochrane served in the Royal Naval Air Service piloting airships. He also completed a tour as a staff officer in the Admiralty’s Airship Department.
In January 1920, he was removed from the Navy List and granted a commission in the Royal Air Force. Between the wars, Cochrane served in various staff positions and commanded No. 3 Squadron from 1924 before attending the RAF Staff College and commanding No. 8 Squadron from 1929. He attended the Imperial Defence College in 1935.
At the request of Group Captain T. M. Wilkes, New Zealand Director of Air Services, in 1936 Cochrane was sent to New Zealand to assist with the establishment of the Royal New Zealand Air Force as an independent service from the army. On 1 April 1937, Cochrane was appointed Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, King George VI and Group Captain John Whitworth discussing the Dambusters Raid in May 1943.
Second World War and the post-war years.
During the Second World War, Cochrane commanded No. 7 Group from July 1940, No. 3 Group from September 1942 and No. 5 Group from February 1943; all these Groups were in RAF Bomber Command. 5 Group became the most efficient and elite Main Force bomber group undertaking spectacular raids. Cochrane commanded the Dam-Busters raid. There was intense, sometimes openly hostile, rivalry between Cochrane and Air Vice Marshal Don Bennett, who saw Cochrane’s experimentation with low-level target marking through 617 Squadron in 1944 as a direct threat to his own specialist squadrons’ reputation.
In February 1945, Cochrane became Air Officer Commanding at RAF Transport Command, a position he held until 1947 when he became Air Officer Commanding at RAF Flying Training Command. During this time he managed the Berlin Airlift. In 1950 Cochrane was appointed Vice-Chief of the Air Staff. Ralph Cochrane retired from the service in 1952. Following his retirement, Cochrane entered the business world notably as director of Rolls-Royce. He was also chairman of RJM exports which manufactured scientific models and is now known as Cochranes of Oxford.
Honours and awards.
In the 1939 New Year Honours, Cochrane was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Military Division). In the New Year Honours 1943 Cochrane was invested as a Companion of the Order of the Bath (Military Division). In the 1945 New Years Honour list he was invested as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In the 1948 King’s Birthday Honours he was invested as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. In the 1950 King’s Birthday Honours, he was invested as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.
Dates of rank.
|Acting group captain||1937||On secondment to RNZAF|
|Air commodore (temporary)||1940|
|Air marshal (acting)||1945|
|Air chief marshal||1949|
The Missing Library Of Iona
In A.D. 563, missionary St. Columba and his followers landed on the Scottish island of Iona. It was there that he founded a monastery, which became a capital of knowledge during the Dark Ages. Kings were buried there, and people made pilgrimages to benefit from the wisdom of the monks. The monastery there was filled with the best writings of the age—most of which have vanished.
The only known survivor is The Book of Kells, which is preserved at Trinity College in Dublin. Many believe the rest were destroyed by Viking raiders who attacked in the ninth century, but some historians believe the books may have survived. They suggest that the books may have been taken to Ireland or buried nearby to keep them safe.
While archaeological digs on nearby islands in the 1950s proved fruitless, there’s a chance that the missing knowledge could still be nearby. After all, the Dead Sea Scrolls are centuries older, and a shepherd simply stumbled upon them in a cave. An immense written record may exist from a time period that gets its name from the lack of such a thing, but we simply don’t know where it is.
Can you see our world? From a different light When its war enticed And doesn’t look bright. Is the good Lord above? Watching our foes Choosing our enemies to see how it goes? Were we ever designed? To be battle ready Lifting our hands Becoming unsteady? Are we destined to be? Hungry and cold When some are rich With means untold? Does the moon ever fade? Tarnish or die Is the sun gonna shine In a bright clear sky? Are butterflies colours? Black and white Are oceans bottomless? Avast of delight. Is love just a word Meaningless and dull Is a bond not your word? Carved in your skull. Do you help your neighbour when he is in plight? can you sit around watching while others fight? Would you ignore your brother if his skin was brown can you stand and watch another human drown? Could you ignore a person who cannot communicate? having learning difficulties that they did not create? These are questions I cannot answer but we live in hope like a cure for cancer!!
John Maxwell, 9th Lord Maxwell (c. 1583 – 21 May 1613) was a Scottish Catholic nobleman. He escaped from Edinburgh Castle in 1607, and in 1608 shot the Laird of Johnstone. For these crimes he was executed and his titles were forfeit.
The noble house of Maxwell had held the castle of Caerlaverock near Dumfries since the 13th century, and by the mid 16th century were the most powerful family in south-west Scotland. John Maxwell was the first son of John Maxwell, 8th Lord Maxwell (died 1593) and his wife Elizabeth Douglas (d.1637), daughter of the 7th Earl of Angus.
His father was killed in a fight with the Johnstones of Annandale, and he continued the feud – killing several Johnstones at Dalfeble in 1602 – until 1605 when he made peace with the Laird of Johnstone. His father had also been created Earl of Morton in 1581, and continued to be so styled, despite Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus (1555–1588), being confirmed as 5th Earl of Morton in 1586. John Maxwell subsequently quarrelled with the 7th Earl of Morton, and he was barred by the Privy Council from attending Parliament in 1607. Despite this, he appeared in Parliament and challenged the Earl of Morton, for which he was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle. He escaped in October and fled to Dumfriesshire, where he arranged to meet the Laird of Johnstone in April 1608. During the meeting, at which both parties had given their word of truce, Johnstone was shot in the back and killed by Maxwell. He fled to France, but was convicted in his absence of treason, as well as of other killings and the escape from Edinburgh Castle. He was sentenced to death and his titles forfeit. On his return to Scotland in 1612 he was arrested, and attempted to make peace with the Johnstones by proposing a marriage between the two families. This was unsuccessful and he was beheaded at Edinburgh on 21 May 1613. The traditional ballad “Lord Maxwell’s Last Goodnight” is based on his actions.
In 1597 he married Margaret Hamilton, daughter of John Hamilton, 1st Marquess of Hamilton and Margaret Lyon. The couple quarrelled and had no surviving children. His brother Robert was restored as 10th Lord Maxwell in 1617, and was created Earl of Nithsdale in 1620.
This touching mystery has the distinction of having finally been solved. In 1949, a woman living in Kirkwall, a town on the Orkney Islands, found a letter behind her fireplace. She had no idea how it had ended up there, but it looked very old and was addressed to Wales. When she opened it, she saw that it was dated 1916. The author had signed simply as “Bluejacket Boy.”
The letter seemed to be a general update on family life. The author wrote about a toddler named Ethel, and the description suggests she was his niece. Bluejacket Boy also referenced a sister named Hannah. The addressee was a man named John Phillips. In November 2013, historians from the Orkney Archive made a public request for help in the Welsh town the letter was intended to reach.
Internet sleuths were able to track down a woman named Mary Hodge, who turned out to be the granddaughter of the Bluejacket Boy. His name was David John Phillips, and he’d been stationed on Orkney with the navy during World War I. He married a local woman, whose family lived on the street where the letter was found, before the two of them moved to Wales to start a family. In 2014, 98 years later, the letter was finally delivered.
Alan hopes that we’ll find a series of books around Iona that reveal the language of the Picts and that the stones explain what happened to the Ninth Legion. He recommends visiting Edinburgh around Christmas.
Famous Scots. Tony Blair.
Tony Blair is a British politician who served as Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007. He was the leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. After being elected Labour leader, he set the party on a path of modernisation, ditching left-wing policies and making the party more electable. He was elected Prime Minister in 1997 on a tide of optimism – ending 18 years of Conservative rule. However, after a successful first term, his leadership became increasingly controversial as he supported the American led invasion of Iraq. Opposition to the Iraq war was a big factor in Blair later retiring from Parliament and handing over the Prime Minister’s job to Gordon Brown. Since his retirement from politics, he has served as a special envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the EU, US and Russia.
Short Bio Tony Blair.
Tony Blair was educated at St John’s College, Oxford University where he studied Law. It is said at University he took little interest in politics and did not get involved in the Labour Party. However, it was at university he became influenced by Peter Thomson a left-wing Christian. These views shaped Tony Blair’s political views throughout his career.
Tony Blair was elected MP in the 1983 general election, despite a Conservative landslide. The Conservatives under Mrs Thatcher had just won the Falklands War, and many felt the Labour Party, under Michael Foot, were too left-wing. The policy of Labour in 1983 included:
- Leaving the EEC
- Nationalisation of key industries
- Nuclear disarmament
- Redistribution of income and wealth.
In his maiden speech to the House of Commons, Tony Blair expressed his commitment to Socialism saying:
“I am a socialist not through reading a textbook that has caught my intellectual fancy, nor through unthinking tradition, but because I believe that, at its best, socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral. It stands for cooperation, not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear. It stands for equality”.
After Labour’s loss in 1983, Neil Kinnock became the leader, and he fought a long campaign to move the Labour party towards the centre. However, despite modernisation and centralisation, Labour still lost the 1992 election, despite the fact the Conservative party had led the country into a recession.
After the election, Neil Kinnock resigned to be replaced by John Smith. However, John Smith died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1994. Making a pact with Gordon Brown, Tony Blair successfully became the leader of the Labour party and led them to victory in 1997.
“We must transform Labour from a party of protest to a party of government.” (1994)
The 1997 election was a landslide for the Labour party and represented an important shift in British politics. The Conservatives had lost after 18 years in power. But, Labour had also changed, successfully rebranding itself as New Labour. Tony Blair had changed the constitution of the Labour party – ditching the Clause IV commitment to nationalisation. It was a highly symbolic change and meant the New Labour party of 1997 was virtually unrecognisable to the Labour party of 1983.
As Prime Minister, he introduced many social reforms. These included increased spending on the National Health Service, a National Minimum Wage and Civil Partnerships for gay couples. He also sought to raise the issue of global warming – arguing the issue could not be ignored and more needed to be done.
The late 1990s were a good time for Britain, the economy did well, and New Labour became associated with ‘cool Britannia’ – the idea of rebirth in British politics and society. With a strong economy, Labour easily regained power in the 2001 election.
Tony Blair and the Iraq War
Following the 9/11 attacks in the US, Tony Blair made a strong commitment to Britain’s alliance with the US. When George Bush was pushing for the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair remained steadfast in his support. This was in contrast to many European leaders who were reluctant to engage in a pre-emptive invasion of a country that seemed to pose little threat.
The invasion of Iraq was very divisive within the UK, large rallies were held against the war and many in the Labour party rebelled. However, Blair led Britain into the war. As the situation in Iraq deteriorated, Tony Blair became increasingly unpopular and isolated. His unwavering support for George Bush meant he became associated with American policies in Guantanamo Bay and alleged uses of torture. With his popularity plummeting he announced his retirement, allowing Gordon Brown to take over leadership of the Labour party and become PM. Tony Blair formally resigned on 27 June 2007.
While criticised for the war in Iraq, Tony Blair has received many acknowledgements for his role in helping move Northern Ireland to a peaceful resolution after three decades of conflict.
In 2016, Tony Blair made a partial return to British politics to speak against Britain leaving the EU, in the EU referendum. However, his widespread unpopularity meant he had little influence in preventing a Vote to Leave. Shortly after the EU referendum, the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War was highly critical of Blair’s decision to go to war in 2003. It stated the legal basis for war was “far from satisfactory”, and that a war in 2003 was unnecessary. Furthermore, the United Kingdom and the United States had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council.
After the 2019 election, where Labour lost for a third consecutive election, he was very critical of Jeremy Corbyn and the leftward shift of the Labour Party. He argued if the Labour Party is to survive and become electable, it needs to moderate its left-wing policies and elect a leader who has the credibility and competence to appeal to a broad church of voters.
Prime Minister Tony Blair poses May 2, 1997 with his family, wife Cherie, and children (l to r) Nicky, Kathryn and Euan, before taking up residence at No10 Downing Street, following Labour’s landslide victory in the General Election.
Tony Blair married Cherie Blair in 1980; the couple has four children. Tony Blair has stated his Christian faith is important to his values and way of life. In recent years, he has moved towards the Catholic Church, the same religion as his wife. On 30 May 2008, Tony Blair launched the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as a vehicle for encouraging different faiths to join together in promoting respect and understanding.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Tony Blair Biography”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net. Published 11th Feb 2010. Updated 3 January 2020.
COLD CASE FILES.
Contains senitive information.
Emma Caldwell, May 2005. She and six other women who were sex workers on the streets of Glasgow were murdered over a decade. There was speculation the murders were the work of a serial killer. Police dismissed the claim.
Billy Sibbald, October 2002. Sibbald vanished after telling his wife he was meeting business associates. His decomposing body was found three months later in woodland near Mussleburgh.
Alex Blue, June 2002. Blue was found outside his home in Glasgow’s west end with head injuries, and died in hospital. He ran a lucrative taxi firm. He told friends he was viewing a house on the day he was attacked. It later emerged the home was never on the market.
Frank McPhee, May 2000. McPhee, a Glasgow gangland figure, died from a single shot to the head from a sniper in Maryhill. Police investigated links to Irish terrorism, drugs and dog-fighting. McPhee had twice been cleared of murder himself.
Caroline Glachan, August 1996. The 14-year-old left her home in the Vale of Leven to meet friends. Her battered body was found the next day, the victim of a seemingly motiveless attack. There had been no sexual assault.
Ann Ballantine, November 1986. The 20-year-old was found in a canal in Edinburgh, wrapped in a carpet. She had been raped and strangled by her attacker. It is believed that her murderer kept her somewhere before dumping her body.
Amlaíb mac Illuilb (died 977) was a tenth-century King of Alba. He was one of three sons of Illulb mac Custantín, King of Alba, and a member of Clann Áeda meic Cináeda, a branch of the Alpínid dynasty. Amlaíb’s paternal grandfather possessed strong connections with the Scandinavian dynasty of Dublin, and there is evidence to suggest that Illulb and Amlaíb bore names of Old Norse origin. If Amlaíb’s name indeed represents a Gaelicised Scandinavian name, it could indicate that his mother was a member of the Uí Ímair, and possibly a granddaughter of Amlaíb Cúarán or Amlaíb mac Gofraid.
Following Illulb’s death in 962, the kingship of Alba was taken up by Dub mac Maíl Coluim, a member of Clann Custantín meic Cináeda, a rival branch of the Alpínid dynasty. This king soon faced opposition from Amlaíb’s brother, Cuilén, before the latter secured the kingship for himself in 966. Cuilén and another son of Illulb were slain in 971, after which the kingship was taken up by Dub’s brother, Cináed mac Maíl Choluim. According to Irish sources, the latter slew Amlaíb in 977. The fact that these sources style Amlaíb as a king, and fail to accord a royal title to Cináed, suggests that Amlaíb was successful in seizing the kingship from his rival. Amlaíb’s short reign appears to date to 971/976–977.
Parentage and personal names.
The name of Illulb mac Custantín as it appears on 29v of Paris Bibliothèque Nationale MS Latin 4126 (the Poppleton manuscript): “Indolf filius Constantini“.
Amlaíb was one of three sons of Illulb mac Custantín, King of Alba (died 962). Amlaíb’s paternal grandfather was Custantín mac Áeda, King of Alba (died 952), a man who possessed strong connections with the Scandinavian dynasty of Dublin. There is evidence to suggest that some of Custantín’s descendants bore Scandinavian names. For instance, Illulb’s name could be a Gaelicised form of the Old English personal name Eadwulf, or else a Gaelicised form of the Old Norse personal name Hildulfr.
A hogback grave slab on display in Glasgow. Such stones may be indicative of Scandinavian settlement in Perthshire and Fife. The evidence of Scandinavian influence upon Amlaíb’s immediate family could indicate that his kindred was involved with such immigration.
Evidence of Scandinavian influence on the Scottish court may be a possible epithet accorded to Amlaíb’s brother, Cuilén (died 971), by the ninth–twelfth-century Chronicle of the Kings of Alba. In one instance, this source records Cuilén’s name as “Culenrīg“. The bar above the letter “i” in this word appears to indicate that rīg should be expanded to “ring“. Whilst it is possible that this word represents the Old Norse hringr, meaning “ring” or “ring-giver”, the name may be corrupted from a scribal error, and the word itself might refer to something else.
Amlaíb’s name as it appears on 15r of Oxford Bodleian Library MS Rawlinson B 488 (the Annals of Tigernach): “Amlaim mac Illuilb“.
Other possible evidence of Scandinavian influence upon Custantín’s family may be Amlaíb’s own name. Although his name may represent a ‘modernised’ form of the Gaelic personal name Amalgaid, a name often confused with Amlaíb in mediaeval sources, the latter name usually represents a Gaelicised form of the Old Norse personal name Óláfr. In fact, Amlaíb’s name could indicate that his mother was a member of a Scandinavian kindred—perhaps the Uí Ímair—and conceivably a descendant of Amlaíb Cúarán (died 980/981) or Amlaíb mac Gofraid (died 941). Certainly, members of Gaelic dynasties were accorded Scandinavian names by the end of the century, just as members of insular Scandinavian dynasties began to bear Gaelic names. If Amlaíb’s name is indeed Scandinavian in origin, he would be one of the first figures to bear such a cross-ethnic personal name.
Kin-strife amongst the Alpínids
Amlaíb and his immediate family were members of the ruling Alpínid dynasty, the patrilineal descendants of Cináed mac Ailpín, King of the Picts (died 858). The root of this kindred’s remarkable early success laid in its ability to successfully rotate the royal succession amongst its members. For example, Illulb’s father—a member of the Clann Áeda meic Cináeda branch of the dynasty—succeeded Domnall mac Causantín (died 900)—a member of the Clann Custantín meic Cináeda branch—and following a remarkable reign of forty years resigned the kingship to this man’s son, Máel Coluim mac Domnaill (died 954). Amlaíb’s father succeeded to the kingship following Máel Coluim’s demise, and ruled as king until his own death in 962. The record of Illulb’s fall at the hands of an invading Scandinavian host is the last time Irish and Scottish sources note Viking encroachment into the kingdom. The Scandinavian Kingdom of York had collapsed by the 950s, and the warbands of the kings of Dublin seem to have ceased their overseas adventures during this period as well. Unlike English monarchs who had to endure Viking depredations from the 980s to the 1010s, the kings of Alba were left in relative peace from about the time of Illulb’s fall. Free from such outside threats, however, the Alpínids seem to have struggled amongst themselves.
There is some uncertainty regarding the succession after Illulb’s demise. On one hand, he may well have been succeeded by Máel Coluim’s son, Dub (died 966/967). On the other hand, there is reason to suspect that the kingship was temporarily shared by Dub and Cuilén, and that neither man had been strong enough to displace the other in the immediate aftermath of Illulb’s passing. Although the Alpínid branches represented by Illulb and Dub seem to have maintained peace throughout Illulb’s reign, inter-dynastic conflict clearly erupted in the years that followed. Dub appears to have spent much of his reign contending with Cuilén, Certainly, the two battled each other in 965. Dub was expelled from the kingship in the following year, and is recorded to have been slain in 966/967. Cuilén’s undisputed reign seems to have spanned from 966 to 971. As far as surviving sources record, Cuilén’s reign appears to have been relatively uneventful. His death in 971 is noted by several sources. According to the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, Cuilén and his brother, Eochaid (died 971), were killed by Britons. There is reason to suspect that Cuilén’s killer, a certain Rhydderch ap Dyfnwal (fl. 971), was a son of Dyfnwal ab Owain, King of Strathclyde (died 975).
Reign and death
Although the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba reports that Dub’s brother, Cináed mac Maíl Choluim (died 995), was the next King of Alba, Irish sources—such as royal genealogies, the fourteenth-century Annals of Tigernach and the fifteenth–sixteenth-century Annals of Ulster—appear to reveal that Amlaíb possessed the kingship before his death at Cináed’s hands. Whilst Cináed may well have initially succeeded to the kingship, it seems that Amlaíb was able to mount a successful—if only temporary—bid for the throne. Certainly, the aforesaid annal-entries style Amlaíb a king and accord Cináed a mere patronymic name. Although there is no specific evidence that Amlaíb and Cináed had constantly fought after Cuilén’s demise, the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba ends its account at about 973, and the twelfth-century Prophecy of Berchán—an important source for the hostilities between Dub and Cuilén—suffers from a lacuna in its account of Cináed’s reign. One possibility is that the kingship had been shared between Amlaíb and Cináed until the former’s elimination.
An early twentieth-century depiction of Edgar, King of the English being rowed down the River Dee by eight kings. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Edgar met six kings at Chester. By the twelfth century, chroniclers alleged that eight kings rowed Edgar down the river in an act of submission. The assembly itself took place in 975, when Amlaíb may have reigned as king.
Amlaíb’s reign is not attested by any Scottish king-list, and it would appear that his regime was indeed brief, perhaps dating from 971/976–977. In the midst of this interval, the ninth–twelfth-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reveals that Edgar, King of the English (died 975) assembled a massive naval force and met with six kings at Chester in 975. Although later sources corroborate the event, the reliability of the names accorded to the assembled kings is less certain. Two of the named kings appear to be the aforesaid Dyfnwal and Cináed. Considering the fact that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle numbers the kings at six, if Cináed was indeed present, it is unlikely that Amlaíb was in attendance as well.Although the chronology concerning the reigns of Cináed and Amlaíb is uncertain—with Cináed’s reign perhaps dating from 971/977–995—the part played by the particular King of Alba at the assembly could well have concerned the frontier of his realm. One of the other named kings seems to have been Maccus mac Arailt (fl. 974), whilst another could have been this man’s brother, Gofraid (died 989). These two Islesmen may have been regarded as threats by the Scots and Cumbrians. Maccus and Gofraid are recorded to have devastated Anglesey at the beginning of the decade,which could indicate that Edgar’s assembly was undertaken as a means to counter the menace posed by these energetic siblings. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that, as a consequence of the assembly at Chester, the brothers may have turned their attention from the British mainland westwards towards Ireland, and that Gofraid ceased his operations in Wales until the next decade. Whatever the case, within two years both Dyfnwal and Edgar were dead. Contemporary English sources described the period after Edgar’s demise as a time of “dissension”, “trouble”, “sedition”, and “most unhappy times”. In fact, the upheaval caused by the deaths of these men may well have contributed to Cináed’s elimination of Amlaíb.
According to the twelfth-century De primo Saxonum adventu, at some point Edgar granted Lothian to Cináed in return for his recognition of English overlordship. If correct, one possibility is that the transaction dates to the 960s/970s, and was intended to assist Cináed’s opposition against Amlaíb.The revolving succession within the Alpínid dynasty reveals that the inter-dynastic struggle between Cuilén and Dub was continued by their respective brothers. As for Cuilén’s other brother, Eochaid, this man’s death with Cuilén seems to be evidence of his prominent position within the kingdom. The fact that Amlaíb reigned after his brother’s death likewise appears to indicate that he too played an important part in Cuilén’s regime. One of Cináed’s first acts as king was evidently an invasion of the kingdom of the Cumbrians. Although this campaign may well have been a retaliatory response to Cuilén’s killing, it may be more likely that Cináed carried out this enterprise in the context of crushing a British affront to Scottish authority rather than as a means of avenging the death of his kinsman. In any event, Cináed’s invasion ended in defeat, a fact which coupled with Cuilén’s killing reveals that the Kingdom of Strathclyde was indeed a power to be reckoned with.
Aberdeen Football Club is a Scottish professional football club based in Aberdeen, Scotland. They compete in the Scottish Premiership and have never been relegated from the top division of the Scottish football league system since they were promoted in 1905. Aberdeen have won four Scottish league titles, seven Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups. They are also the only Scottish team to have won two European trophies, having won the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the European Super Cup in 1983.
Formed in 1903 as a result of the amalgamation of three clubs from Aberdeen, they rarely challenged for honours until the post war decade, when they won each of the major Scottish trophies under manager Dave Halliday. This level of success was surpassed in the 1980s, when, under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson, they won three league titles, four Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup, alongside the two European trophies. Aberdeen were the last club outside the Old Firm to win a league title, in 1984–85, and also the last Scottish team to win a European trophy. The team has enjoyed less success since this golden era, though a 19-year wait for a major trophy was ended by winning the 2013–14 Scottish League Cup, followed up by multiple second-place finishes behind Celtic in the league during the 2010s.
Aberdeen have played at Pittodrie Stadium since their inception. The ground currently has a capacity of 20,866 and was the first all-seated and all-covered stadium in the United Kingdom. Pittodrie was also the first football stadium to feature a dug-out, an invention of player and coach Donald Colman.
The club’s colours have been primarily red and white since 1939; before this, they played in black and gold vertical stripes. In modern times, Aberdeen have almost exclusively played with all-red strips with white detailing. Aberdeen attract support from the city and surrounding areas, as they have no geographically close rivals. Lacking a local competitor, Aberdeen have instead developed rivalries with more distant opponents such as Dundee United (collectively known as the “New Firm” in the 1980s) and Rangers.
Formation and early years (1903–1939)
League history of Aberdeen from their first league appearance in 1904
The current Aberdeen F.C. was formed following the merger of three clubs based in the city—Aberdeen, Victoria United and Orion—in 1903. The new club played its first match on 15 August 1903: a 1–1 draw with Stenhousemuir. That first season produced a win in the Aberdeenshire Cup, but only a third-place finish in the Northern League. The club applied for membership of the Scottish League for the following season, and were elected to the Second Division.
In 1904, the club were managed by Jimmy Philip. At the end of its first season, despite having finished seventh out of twelve teams, Aberdeen were elected to the new, expanded First Division. They have remained in the top tier of Scottish football ever since. From 1906, the club made steady progress, with a Scottish Cup semi-final appearance in 1908 and another in 1911. In that season of 1910–11, Aberdeen recorded their first victories over the Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers, and led the league for a time, but finished the season in second place.
Wartime affected the club as much as any other; despite spending cuts and other economies, by 1917 the situation became untenable. Aberdeen dropped out of competitive football, along with Dundee and Raith Rovers. Senior football returned on 16 August 1919, and Aberdeen resumed with a fixture against Albion Rovers. Philip was still in charge, and continued to oversee a team capable of isolated good results, but never quite able to sustain a challenge long enough to win a trophy. In 1923, Aberdeen were drawn against Peterhead in the Scottish Cup, and posted their record score—a 13–0 victory. Philip retired a year later, and was replaced as manager by Paddy Travers. He presided over the team’s first Scottish Cup final in 1937.
Travers’ “trainer”—first team coach in modern parlance—was former player Donald Colman. Colman conceived the dug-out, a covered area set slightly below the level of the playing surface to better aid his observations. Everton visited Pittodrie soon after its introduction, and exported the idea to the English leagues, from where it spread throughout the football-playing world.Travers left to become manager of Clyde in 1939.
Halliday to McNeill (1939–1978)
Travers was replaced by former Yeovil Town manager Dave Halliday, one of more than a hundred applicants for the role, and the club moved from their black and gold strip to red and white. Halliday had barely begun his work when World War II halted competitive football in the United Kingdom. For these six years, the club was temporarily taken over by then-directors Charles B Forbes and George Anderson while Halliday served in the war.
Halliday’s place in the Aberdeen Hall of Fame was secured after the war when he became the first manager to bring national trophies to Pittodrie. Aberdeen won the Southern League Cup in the 1945–46 season, defeating Rangers 3–2 at Hampden. They then reached the 1947 Scottish Cup final, defeating Hibernian 2–1 with George Hamilton, signed from Halliday’s former club Queen of the South, scoring to gain the club’s first major trophy. From this early success, Halliday’s side reached two more Scottish Cup finals, in 1953 and 1954, though they lost both. Halliday’s team were not to be denied, however, and the following season, 1954–55, Aberdeen won their first Scottish League title. Though league winners, the club did not participate in the first European Cup competition—Scotland’s place was awarded to Hibernian, who took part by special invitation.
Halliday and Hamilton left at the end of that championship-winning season, and Halliday was replaced by Davie Shaw. Aberdeen won the League Cup under his guidance, beating St Mirren in 1955–56, and reached another Scottish Cup final in 1959. However, Shaw stepped aside for another former favourite player, Tommy Pearson, in 1959. Pearson’s time in charge coincided with a high turnover of players, and yielded no trophies. He retired in 1965, making way for Eddie Turnbull.
Turnbull led Aberdeen to the 1967 Scottish Cup final, where the side was ultimately defeated by Celtic. Despite this loss, Aberdeen qualified for the European Cup Winner’s Cup in the following season thanks to their appearance in this final, the first time the club had competed in European competition. Their first tie was a 14–1 aggregate victory over KR Reykjavik, although they lost the second round tie with Standard Liège 3–2 on aggregate. Two years later, Derek “Cup-tie” McKay recorded the only four goals of his Aberdeen career to help his team to the 1969–70 Scottish Cup, scoring the winning goals in the quarter- and semi final, and two in the final itself. As Scottish Cup holders, Aberdeen once again qualified for the same competition, but were eliminated in the first round following a 4–4 aggregate tie with Honvéd. This tie, level after extra time and also level on away goals, was decided by the first penalty shoot-out in UEFA competition history, Honvéd winning the shootout 5–4 in Budapest.
The Aberdeen side of the 1970s regularly challenged for domestic honours. However, they rarely won trophies, with the exception of the Drybrough Cup in 1971 under Jimmy Bonthrone and the League Cup in 1976, under Ally MacLeod. During this decade, Aberdeen had five managers: Eddie Turnbull, Jimmy Bonthrone, Ally MacLeod, Billy McNeill and Alex Ferguson. They reached two more national cup finals—the Scottish Cup in 1978 under Billy McNeill and the League Cup in the following season under the new manager Alex Ferguson.
Alex Ferguson era (1978–1986)
Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager of Aberdeen, pictured at his last club Manchester United
Under Ferguson’s guidance, the club won three league championships, four Scottish Cups, one League Cup, the European Cup Winner’s Cup, the European Super Cup and a Drybrough Cup—all in the space of seven years. Players such as Jim Leighton, Willie Miller, Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan became the backbone of the team. Aberdeen’s second League title was won in 1979–80, and this initial success was built upon, with Scottish Cup wins in three successive seasons from 1982 to 1984, and two more league titles in 1983–84 and 1984–85.
A commemorative pennant from 1980
During the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983, Aberdeen beat FC Sion, Dinamo Tirana and Lech Poznań to face the German Cup winners Bayern Munich. This game was won 3–2 at Pittodrie after a goalless draw in Germany, John Hewitt with the winning goal. They then faced now-defunct Belgian club Waterschei in the semi-final. Aberdeen beat them 5–1 at home, and lost for the first time in the tournament, 1–0 away, resulting in an aggregate victory which sent Aberdeen to the final. On 11 May 1983, Aberdeen beat Real Madrid 2–1 after extra time to win the cup and become only the third Scottish side to win a European trophy. The club released a song, “European Song”, to coincide with the appearance in the final. This was followed up with the capture of the European Super Cup in December, when Hamburger SV were beaten over two legs.
Aberdeen reached the semi-finals of the 1983–84 European Cup Winners’ Cup, before losing to Porto 2–0 on aggregate. In the first round of the 1984–85 European Champion Club’s Cup Aberdeen lost to East Berlin side BFC Dynamo in a penalty shoot-out 4–5, following a 3–3 on aggregate in regular times. Today, both clubs enjoy friendly relations.
After Ferguson moved south of the border to manage Manchester United in November 1986, Aberdeen struggled to compete with Celtic and a resurgent Rangers.
Aberdeen signed new co-managers in 1989, pairing Alex Smith and Jocky Scott. A number of foreign players were signed, including Dutch internationals Theo Snelders and Hans Gillhaus. In the 1989–90 season, the club won both the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup. In 1991, they lost the last game of the season, and the league title, to Rangers. Former player Willie Miller took over in 1992 and presided over two seasons where Aberdeen came close to winning the title. However, the club ended the 1994–95 season second-bottom, and had to rely on a play-off victory over Dunfermline Athletic to retain their Premier Division status. Miller was sacked in February 1995, and replaced by Roy Aitken. Despite a Scottish League Cup success in 1995, the club continued to struggle. Alex Miller and Paul Hegarty had spells in charge in the late 1990s, but with the financial burden of a new stand putting the club into debt for the first time in its history, the directors turned to Stewart Milne, a local businessman whose firm had built the stand, hiring him as the club’s chairman.
Skovdahl to Brown (1999–2013).
A display by Aberdeen fans in the Richard Donald Stand
Aberdeen’s first and only foreign manager, Ebbe Skovdahl, was appointed in 1999 and his time in charge coincided with some of the heaviest defeats in the club’s history. The low point of the club’s history came in the 1999–2000 season, where they finished bottom of the table. As the Scottish Premier League (SPL) was being expanded to twelve teams, Aberdeen were due to take part in a three team play-off with the teams that finished second and third in the First Division. The play-off never happened though, as one of those clubs (Falkirk) did not meet SPL stadium requirements, and Aberdeen retained their top flight status.This was followed by an early-season defeat to Irish club Bohemians on the away goals rule in the next season’s UEFA Cup.
Steve Paterson was appointed to replace Skovdahl following his resignation in 2002, but lasted only two seasons. Paterson’s tenure with Aberdeen was marred by his addiction to alcohol. In March 2003 he failed to attend a home game against Dundee due to being too hungover after a night of drinking prior to the match.
Jimmy Calderwood took over in 2004 and Aberdeen posted more consistent results than in previous seasons. In the 2006–07 season, the club finished in third place in the league and entered the final qualifying round for the 2007–08 UEFA Cup. Aberdeen defeated Dnipro on the away goals rule to progress (the first time Aberdeen had won on away goals in European football for 40 years), They went on to beat F.C. Copenhagen 4–0, which was the biggest margin of victory and one of Pittodrie’s biggest crowds since the 1980s. This set up a meeting with German giants Bayern Munich, which they lost 7–3 on aggregate after a 2–2 draw which saw Aberdeen lead twice in the first leg. Calderwood was sacked by Aberdeen on 24 May 2009, hours after he took the club to a fourth-place finish and back into Europe. Poor domestic cup performances were thought to be the reason for Calderwood’s dismissal.
Mark McGhee of Motherwell was appointed as Calderwood’s replacement in June 2009. McGhee controversially dismissed Aberdeen legend and goalkeeping coach Jim Leighton in August 2009 and replaced him with Colin Meldrum. Aberdeen suffered a 9–0 defeat to Celtic on 6 November 2010, their heaviest ever defeat. McGhee and his assistants were eventually sacked in December of that year.
Aberdeen approached Craig Brown, who was working without a contract at Motherwell, to replace McGhee. Brown initially rebuffed an offer, but after further discussions with the club Brown resigned as manager at Motherwell to be announced as the next manager at Aberdeen two days later. The first act of the new management team of Brown and Archie Knox was to re-instate Leighton. Aberdeen failed to produce better results under Craig Brown’s tenure, and in March 2013 he announced his retirement to take up a non-executive director role on the club’s board.
Aberdeen collecting their first trophy in 19 years in 2014
Recent years (2013–present).
Derek McInnes was announced as the successor to Craig Brown in March 2013. In McInnes’ first season as manager, Aberdeen won the 2013–14 Scottish League Cup after defeating Inverness 4–2 on penalties, their first trophy in 19 years. Aberdeen finished third in the Scottish Premiership, and began the next season by coming through the early rounds of the Europa League, beating Dutch club FC Groningen before eventually being eliminated by Spanish side Real Sociedad. The club ended the season in second place—their best league position since 1993–94—in 2015, 2016, and 2017. In recent seasons’ Europa League competitions, they were defeated in the third qualifying round four times: In 2015–16 by FC Kairat, in 2016–17 by NK Maribor, in 2017–18 by Apollon Limassol, and in 2019–20 by HNK Rijeka.
Aberdeen were league runners-up once more in 2016–17 and reached both cup finals, but were beaten 3–0 by Celtic in the League Cup and 2–1 by the same opponents in the Scottish Cup, echoing the outcome in 1992–93 when Aberdeen had finished second to Rangers in all competitions. They were again second the following season, earning a first league win against Celtic away from home for fourteen years in the final game of the season. This qualified them for the 2018–19 UEFA Europa League, where they were defeated after extra time by Premier League side Burnley in the second qualifying round.
In November 2019, Major League Soccer side Atlanta United FC acquired a less than 10 percent stake in Aberdeen for £2 million (US$2.57 million) as part of a strategic alliance between the two clubs. As part of this deal, vice-chairman Dave Cormack became chairman of the club, replacing Stewart Milne. Atlanta United president Darren Eales also took a seat on Aberdeen’s board of directors. McInnes left the post of manager in March 2021 after almost 8 years in charge, and was replaced by Atlanta United 2 manager and former Aberdeen player Stephen Glass. Glass was dismissed in February 2021, and replaced by St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin.
Colours and crest.
For the first season of the club’s existence, the team played in a predominantly white strip. This is variously reported as all-white, or as white shirts with blue shorts and socks. This colour scheme was the direct descendant of the colours worn by the precursor Aberdeen club, but lasted only one season before being replaced.
For the 1904–05 season, Aberdeen adopted a black and gold striped shirt, which led to the team being nicknamed “the Wasps”. This strip, with only minor variations, was worn until just before the start of the Second World War. The blue shorts lasted until 1911, and then were replaced with white ones. Socks were black with gold trim, either as stripes or as a solid bar at the turndown.
A representative post-war Aberdeen strip. These colours were worn for all the trophy-winning seasons of the 1950s.
In March 1939, Aberdeen changed the black and gold colours to red and white, reflecting the silver and red colours of the official City of Aberdeen arms. The first red strips were worn with white shorts, with either red or white socks from 1939 until the 1965–66 season. In 1966, Aberdeen adopted red shorts, making the official kit all-red, similar to that of Liverpool, who made a similar change at around the same time. This arrangement has continued to the present day, with several variations in design, in common with most senior clubs as the replica shirt market has expanded. In the late 1970s an Admiral strip featured five vertical white stripes on the left side of the shirt and shorts, and the early 1980s shirts—as worn at the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup final—featured white vertical pinstripes. Later design changes included significant amounts of blue, and a one-season reversion to white shorts, although the all-red scheme returned in 1997.
Shirt sponsorship began in 1987, and the initial shirt sponsor was JVC. Since then, with the club making fewer appearances on the international stage, shirt sponsors have tended to be local to Aberdeen—they have included one of the local commercial radio stations, Northsound, as well as several Aberdeen-based oil service companies. As of 2020, the current shirt sponsor is Saltire Energy.
Away colours have tended to be either white—often with black shorts—or a combination of yellow and black, referring back to the black and gold strips of the pre-war era, although for a time in the 1970s, Aberdeen sported an all-blue change strip with white socks. For the 2007–08 season, the change strip was all-white, with a third kit of yellow and black halves available if needed for European games, or in the event of a clash involving both red and white.
The club did not have an official crest before 1972, but several variations on the letters AFC had from time to time featured on the shirt, usually in some kind of cursive font. In November 1972, the club unveiled an official crest or logo, designed by Aberdonian graphic designer Donald Addison. The design represented a capital letter A as the side view of a football goal, with a ball forming the crossbar of the letter. This ball was crosshatched in such a way as to depict it as being inside the net, signifying the scoring of a goal. The logo was completed by the letters FC in smaller type at a level with the ball element. This badge was used on the shirts from around 1978, with no significant alterations until the mid-1980s when the words “Aberdeen Football Club” were added in a circular border, and the date of the club’s founding, 1903, was added under the goal element. The current version of the crest, which retains these elements in a unified design, was introduced at the start of the 1997–98 season. Two stars signifying the winning of the two European trophies in 1983 were introduced over the badge in the 2005–06 season.
Pittodrie Stadium’s granite facade viewed from outside the Merkland Road stand
Main article: Pittodrie Stadium
Aberdeen have played throughout their existence at Pittodrie Stadium, the name of which comes from the Pictish for “place of manure”. The ground was first used by the original Aberdeen F.C. in 1899, in a 7–1 win over Dumbarton; when they merged with two other teams in 1903, the new club took over the old Aberdeen ground. On 15 August 1903, 8,000 spectators turned up to watch the new Aberdeen draw 1–1 against Stenhousemuir, the first game played at Pittodrie by its amalgamated tenants. The club initially rented the ground, but subsequently bought it in 1920. The stadium currently seats 20,866. The record attendance is 45,061, during a Scottish Cup match between Aberdeen and Hearts on 13 March 1954.
The stadium consists of four stands: the Main Stand, which also houses the club offices and players facilities; the Merkland Road Family Stand; the South Stand, which is opposite the main stand and holds the largest number of spectators; and the Richard Donald stand to the east, which was completed in 1993, contains hospitality suites, and is named after former chairman Dick Donald. A quarter of the South Stand is used to accommodate travelling supporters. In 1978, Pittodrie became the first all covered, all-seater stadium in Britain.
Aberdeen train at Cormack Park, which was opened on 31 October 2019 by former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who described the development as “up there with the best” that he had seen. As well as being a training centre for the first team, the complex is also home to the Bobby Clark Football Academy and the AFC Community Trust, as well as acting as a community sports hub. The training facilities are named after chairman Dave Cormack, due to the significant financial investment he made to realise the completion of the project.
The complex is made up of a training pavilion, groundsman’s accommodation, three full-sized training pitches, two floodlit 3G pitches and two grass pitches. There is also flexible outdoor and indoor space that can be used for sporting or recreational purposes. All the pitches are named after club legends, chosen by the fans via an online poll.
Prior to the opening of Cormack Park, the first team trained in a variety of locations around the city, including the local Gordon Barracks, beach, Seaton Park, Aberdeen Sports Village and Countesswells, the playing fields of Robert Gordon’s College.
New Aberdeen Stadium.
Main article: Proposed Aberdeen stadium
Since 2009, Aberdeen have been examining a move to a new stadium. Plans for a new stadium began when the club indicated that further development of Pittodrie Stadium was not possible due to the age of the ground and the restrictions from surrounding land. Aberdeen City Council approved an initial project in May 2009, to be situated near Loirston Loch in the south of the city, subject to planning permission. In August 2010, a planning application for the new stadium was submitted to the council, which was approved the following February.
The move was delayed by a year in May 2012 due to problems with land ownership, and suffered a serious setback the following August, when the council rejected a joint application by Aberdeen and Cove Rangers to build a community sports centre at nearby Calder Park. Aberdeen announced in November 2014 new plans to instead build training facilities at Balgownie, on land owned by the University of Aberdeen, but the project was ultimately scrapped in the following July.
Plans to develop a new stadium and training facilities near Westhill, close to the newly developed Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, were announced in May 2016. The new stadium is expected to have a similar capacity to Pittodrie Stadium. Although the project overcame legal challenges from local residents, progress stalled due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. Alternative designs at the city’s beachfront close to Pittodrie were released in August 2021.
Supporters and nicknames
Fans display “1903”, the year of the club’s establishment, before the 2014 Scottish League Cup Final
Aberdeen’s supporters, known as the Red Army, are listed in the team squad list as wearing the number 12 shirt. In 1999, a group of supporters founded the Red Ultras group with the express aim of improving the atmosphere at Pittodrie. However, it was decided that this particular group was to disband at the beginning of 2010. Organised chants and choreography still take place in ‘centre block’ of the top tier of the Richard Donald Stand and Aberdeen fans still do choreographies at home and away games.
Aberdeen are the only full-time team in the third largest city in Scotland, a city which is relatively remote, geographically, from other large population centres, and as a result have a large catchment area of potential supporters. The average attendance in the 2018–19 Scottish Premiership was 14,924.
In the 1980s, a minority of the club’s supporters had a reputation as one of Britain’s most prominent casuals groups, the Aberdeen Soccer Casuals. The rise of the Aberdeen Casuals coincided with the most successful period in the club’s history, and has been chronicled in more than one published account. Whilst numbers have steadily declined with the introduction of Football Banning Orders preventing hooligans from travelling to games, the Aberdeen Casuals still appear at big fixtures often away from home and in the UEFA Europa League. There were clashes at both fixtures against FC Groningen in 2014, as well as 13 arrests after violent clashes with Dundee United fans at a game in December 2015.
Aberdeen have rarely played in the same division as their geographically closest neighbours (Cove Rangers, Peterhead, Brechin City, Montrose, Arbroath, Elgin City, and Forfar Athletic), so rivalries have tended to come from further afield. Cove Rangers from the same city entered the professional leagues for the first time in 2019, although the Aberdeen derby is yet to occur in a league meeting.
In the early 1980s, owing to the success both domestically and in Europe of Aberdeen and Dundee United, the pair were known as the New Firm. However, Dundee United have their city neighbours Dundee as close rivals, and the antagonism was not always reciprocated to the same degree.
The same situation applies to Aberdeen’s rivalry with Rangers, in that Rangers have their own much older and well-known Old Firm rivalry with Celtic. Aberdeen’s rivalry with Rangers arose after a number of incidents in matches between the two clubs in the 1980s, namely Willie Johnston’s stamp on John McMaster’s neck in the Scottish League Cup and Neil Simpson’s tackle on Ian Durrant in 1988, as well as Aberdeen’s dominance in Scottish football throughout the decade. There are still often violent clashes between both sets of supporters within and outwith the stadium to this day
Aberdeen developed a minor rivalry with Inverness Caledonian Thistle since Inverness were first promoted to the SPL in 2004. It is known as the North derby due to the fact that Aberdeen and Inverness are the two largest settlements in the north of Scotland.
Aberdeen’s re-emerged as one of the top teams in Scotland during the 2010s, which increased the rivalry with Celtic both competitively and between supporters. There have been minor incidents at games, mainly relating to political disturbances by Celtic supporters at games between the clubs, including the disruption of minute’s silences and the display of banners showing support for the 1981 Irish hunger strike.
Aberdeen are known as “The Dons”, a name that has been in use since at least 1913. The origin of this nickname is unclear. One theory is that it derives from the word “don” meaning “teacher”, given Aberdeen’s history as a university town. It may also be a reference to the nearby River Don, or a contraction of “Aberdonians”. Before the popular adoption of “The Dons”, the team were variously known as “The Wasps” or “The Black and Golds”, both names a reference to the yellow and black striped shirts of the time. As with many teams that play in red, Aberdeen may also be called “The Reds”, and are referred to by some supporters as “The Dandy Dons” or “The Dandies”.
Rival clubs occasionally refer to Aberdeen as “The Sheep” and their supporters as “The Sheep Shaggers”. The term was eventually accepted by the club’s supporters, and fans began chanting “the sheep are on fire” at games. The song was originally sung by away fans poking fun at an Aberdeen fan set on fire on a train while wearing a homemade sheep costume. This in turn led to specialised merchandise being sold by the club and local businesses.
Chants and songs include “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen” and “Stand Free”, the latter of which is set to the tune of “Lord of the Dance”.
Mount Stuart is a 19th century country manor house with extensive gardens on the Isle of Bute.
The spectacular Gothic house was the ancestral home of the Marquess of Bute. Mount Stuart is an award-winning attraction featuring magnificent Victorian Gothic architecture and design together with contemporary craftsmanship, surrounded by 300 acres of gloriously maintained grounds and gardens.
Mount Stuart is accessible just 70 minutes from Glasgow Airport and 20 minutes from Argyll mainland.
St. Andrews is well-known as one of the world’s top golf destination. Golfers from around the globe make the pilgrimage to St. Andrews’ seven classic links courses, drawn by the prestige of playing the world’s oldest golf course – the par-72 Old Course – and the chance to play where so many golf greats have teed off before them.
It’s also one of the most dramatic courses, its spectacular scenery including a stretch of rugged coastline and the attractive old Clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Founded in 1754, it’s the world’s oldest golf club, and its popularity as a golf mecca means you should try to reserve your tee time at least six months in advance to avoid disappointment.
Be sure to also visit the nearby British Golf Museum. This modern facility is something of a shrine to the greats who’ve played the St. Andrews’ courses, as well as detailing the history of the sport over the centuries.
Fortunately for the rest of us, there are plenty of other fun things to do in St. Andrews, too. St. Andrews is also famous as a university town. Be sure to spend time exploring the many fine old buildings associated with the University of St. Andrews.
One of the top free things to do in St. Andrews is to simply wander the university grounds, admiring the well-preserved medieval architecture; and if time permits, be sure to check out on-site attractions such as its natural history museum and art galleries. The ruins of St. Andrews Castle and the town’s old cathedral are also worth exploring.
Siren Song by Margaret Atwood This is the one song everyone would like to learn: the song that is irresistible: the song that forces men to leap overboard in squadrons even though they see the beached skulls the song nobody knows because anyone who has heard it is dead, and the others can't remember. Shall I tell you the secret and if I do, will you get me out of this bird suit? I don'y enjoy it here squatting on this island looking picturesque and mythical with these two faethery maniacs, I don't enjoy singing this trio, fatal and valuable. I will tell the secret to you, to you, only to you. Come closer. This song is a cry for help: Help me! Only you, only you can, you are unique at last. Alas it is a boring song but it works every time.
Eric Liddell Biography.
Eric Liddell (1902 – 1945) was a Scottish Olympic champion at 400 m and a famous Christian missionary; his inspirational life was captured in the film ‘Chariots of Fire‘
Although his parents were Scottish, Eric Liddell was both born and died in China. He was born on 16 January 1902 in the city of Tientsin (now Tianjin) in north-eastern China.
He was sent to Eltham College, a Christian boarding school for 12 years. In 1921, he moved to Edinburgh University where he studied Pure Science. From his school days, he was an outstanding sportsman excelling in short distance running, rugby union and cricket. In 1922 and 1923 he played rugby union for Scotland in the Five Nations. However, it was at running that he really excelled, and after setting a new British record in the 1923 100 yards sprint, he was considered a great prospect for the Olympics in 1924.
Eric Liddell was a committed Protestant Christian. During the Paris Olympics – because the heats of the 100m sprint were held on Sunday, he withdrew from the race – a race considered to be his strongest. Instead, he concentrated on the 400 metres as the race schedule didn’t involve a Sunday.
Liddell was considered to be a strong favourite for the race. Before the final, the US Olympic masseur slipped a piece of paper into his hand. It included the words from the Bible 1 Samuel 2:30 “Those who honour me I will honour”.
Sprinting from the start, Liddell created a significant gap to the other runners and held onto win gold and set a new Olympic record time of 47.6 seconds. He described his race plan:
“The secret of my success over the 400m is that I run the first 200m as fast as I can. Then, for the second 200m, with God’s help I run faster.” (BBC link)
He also won bronze in the 200m. In this race, he also beat Harold Abrahams a British rival and team-mate.
Liddell’s running style was unorthodox. Towards the end of the race, he would fling his head back, with mouth wide open appearing to gasp for breath.
Life as a Christian Missionary
In 1925, Liddell returned to northern China to serve as a missionary like his parents. In China, he remained fit but only competed sporadically.
Liddell married Florence Mackenzie a Canadian missionary. They had three daughters Patricia, Heather and Maureen.
In 1941, the advancing Japanese army pressed Liddell and his family to flee to a rural mission station. Liddell was kept very busy dealing with the stream of locals who came to the station for medical treatment and food.
In 1943, the Japanese reached the mission statement and Liddell was interned. Aggravated by the shortage of food and medical treatment, Liddell developed a brain tumour and suffered severe ill-health.
Many camp internees attest to the strong moral character of Liddell. He was seen as a great unifying force and helped to ease tensions through his selflessness and impartiality.
In “The Courtyard of the Happy Way“, Norman Cliff, wrote Liddell:
“the finest Christian gentleman it has been my pleasure to meet. In all the time in the camp, I never heard him say a bad word about anybody”.
A fellow internee, Stephen Metcalfe, later wrote of Liddell: “He gave me two things. One was his worn out running shoes, but the best thing he gave me was his baton of forgiveness. He taught me to love my enemies, the Japanese, and to pray for them.”
Eric Liddell died on 21 February 1945, five months before liberation. He died from his inoperable brain tumour – through overwork and malnutrition undoubtedly hastened his death. It was revealed after the war that Liddell had turned down an opportunity to leave the camp (as part of a prisoner exchange program), preferring instead to give his place to a pregnant woman. His death left a profound vacuum within the camp – such was the strength of his personality and character.
The 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire chronicled and contrasted the lives of Eric Liddell and British-Jewish athlete Harold Abrahams.
Hi friends, A tradition in Scotland when I was a lad in the sixties, was called a “poor-oot”
The Royal wedding in April was a thoroughly elegant affair, but there was one thing missing from all the splendour. This was no scatter, scrammle or poor-oot, as it is variously known in Scots – a distribution of coins or sweets to the watching children. Sometimes this is done on the way to the church and sometimes on leaving it. It might be the responsibility of the father of the bride, the groom or the guests. As the Scots Magazine (April 1894) relates: “A marriage was about to take place in a private house in Bristo Street, Edinburgh. Crowds of children round the door assailed the guests as they arrived with the well-known cry of ‘Poor oot!’”
This custom is still observed in some places but is becoming increasingly rare. A reason is to be found in one of the quotations in the Dictionary of the Scots Language illustrating the word scatter. The Church Notes (Nov. 5 1967) for St. George’s West, a church right in the heart of Edinburgh, comments: “The increasing volume of traffic today makes the traditional ‘poor oot’ or ‘scatter’ a hair-raising experience”. Many a wedding party had only pennies and halfpennies to spare but they weren’t mean with them. A lively example comes from Edward Albert’s Herrin’ Jennie (1931): “‘Poor oot! Poor oot!’ yelled multitudes of ragged urchins…Jennie had thought of them…she had a big bag of coppers, and this she emptied with stupendous prodigality into the gutters”.
The better-off people gave according to their means. The Northern Scot (23 Oct 1915) attests “Fu’ mony a merchant I could name Has gien a splendid scatter”. At the other side of the country in Glasgow there is a moment of great excitement in John and Willy Maley’s From the Calton to Catalonia (1990): “Quick! There’s a scramble in Parnie Street! The wee yin there’s away wae a hauf-croon”. Before decimalisation, a half crown (one eighth of a pound) was a fortune to a child. Margaret Bennet’s invaluable book, Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave, adds that children would shout “rusty pockets! rusty pockets!” if they thought the wedding party wasn’t generous enough. Her informants tell us that the children would put a rope across the street to stop the bridal car, or tie up the gate to stop the newlyweds getting out of the churchyard.
There was a civil disturbance in 1558. An account of the Queen’s wedding has survived as a fragment in a book binding. It is reproduced in The Marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphin: a Scottish Printed Fragment, ed. Douglas Hamer, The Bibliographical Society, London, 1932 and the National Library of Scotland has put it online here. Here is a taste of the start of it:
[They scattered] gold and silver amang the pepill on every side of the scaffald within the kirke. Whar with qui potest capere capiat was sik yalping and yeoling, sik calling and crying as, as the like (I think) was never hard. Ther gentillmen tint their clokis, gentilwemen ther fartingales, merchantmen ther gownes, maisters in art ther hudis, studentis ther cornet cappis, and religious men had ther scapilliries violently riven fra ther shulders.
They scattered gold and silver amongst the people on every side of the platform within the kirk. Wherewith ‘who could seize, let him seize it’ there was such yelping and yowling, such calling and crying, as the like, I think, was never heard. There gentlemen lost their cloaks, ladies their farthingales, merchants their gowns, masters of arts their hoods, students their cornered caps and clerics had their scapularies violently torn from their shoulders.
Perhaps Prince William and his bride did the right thing in not having a scatter after all.
Stay with me share my desire envelope me within your cocoon passion runs inside of me like a helium filled balloon. I want to cross the threshold be with you for all time climb the fences jump the walls mask you in your prime. You are there I am here I cannot cross the line like being trapped in a cave or covered in a mine. It is the brightness that attracts me as your darkness engulfs my mind to me you are a treasure more loveliness I could not find. Why can't I escape this life? to join you as one soul lift the cup of poison it's out of my control. I guess I have to wait my time isn't over yet I feel your power surrounding me my destiny is set. Let your spirit stay within the boundaries of my dimension as long as you can feel me there will never be outer tension. I guess I can wait forever if need be as long as you are spiritually here time waits patiently for both of us there is nothing for us to fear. The love we shared will come back again as you watch over this shell with a soul I feel you watching over me we will fulfil our goal.
Isabella MacDuff Countess of Buchan (probably died c. 1314) was a significant figure in the Wars of Scottish Independence.
She was the daughter of Donnchadh III, Earl of Fife, and Johanna de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford. She was married to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan and thus was the Countess of Buchan. After Robert the Bruce killed John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, the Earl of Buchan joined the English side in the Scottish Wars of Independence. Isabella took the contrary view.
According to tradition, the ceremony of crowning the monarch was performed by a representative of Clan MacDuff, but Isabella arrived in Scone the day after the coronation of Robert the Bruce in March 1306. However, the Bruce agreed to be crowned for a second time the day after, as otherwise some would see the ceremony as irregular, not being performed by a MacDuff.
Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Methven in June 1306, so he sent Isabella and his female relatives north, but they were betrayed to the English by Uilleam II, Earl of Ross. Edward I of England ordered her sent to Berwick-upon-Tweed with these instructions: “Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers.”
She was imprisoned in this cage for four years, then moved to the Carmelite friary at Berwick. This was not necessarily a humanitarian move; it is suggested that by this stage Bruce was gaining support, his female relatives were potentially valuable hostages, and the English did not want them to die of ill-treatment. The last clear mention of her is being transferred again in 1313, her eventual fate is uncertain. Most of Bruce’s female relatives returned to Scotland in early 1315, when they were exchanged for English noblemen captured after the Battle of Bannockburn, but there is no mention of her in the records, so she had probably died by then.
Mary Bruce was treated in a similar fashion at Roxburgh Castle.
Greyfriars Bobby (May 4, 1855 – January 14, 1872) was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known in Scotland, through several books and films. A prominent commemorative statue and nearby graves are a tourist attraction.
A year later, the English philanthropist Lady Burdett-Coutts was charmed by the story and had a drinking fountain topped with Bobby’s statue (commissioned from the sculptor William Brodie) erected at the junction of George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row (opposite the entrance to the churchyard) to commemorate him.
Several books and films have since been based on Bobby’s life, including the novel Greyfriars Bobby (1912) by Eleanor Atkinson and the films Greyfriars Bobby (1961) and The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby (2006).
The accuracy of stories of Greyfriars Bobby has been challenged many times: for instance, in Forbes Macgregor’s Greyfriars Bobby: The Real Story, at Last, Jan Bondeson’s Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World, and Richard Brassey’s “Greyfriars Bobby The Most Famous Dog in Scotland”.
Questions about the story’s accuracy are not new. In a newspaper article in The Scotsman, “Greyfriars Bobby A Dog’s Devotion” (11 August 1934), Councillor Wilson McLaren responds to contemporary questions about the accuracy of the stories by describing his own conversation, in 1871, with “Mr Traill” of “Traill’s Coffee House” in relation to the dog he himself was then feeding, reassuring readers about the story Mr Traill had given him, and describing responses in 1889 to questions about the story’s accuracy. A sense of the difficulty of determining accuracy is gained from two opposing letters to The Scotsman newspaper on 8 February 1889 (part of the debate referred to by McLaren), both from people claiming close links to Greyfriars Kirk, both claiming to have known of the dog personally but with opposing views over the accuracy of stories.
A common discussion is over which of two people named John Gray was the real owner of Bobby (one being a night watchman and the other a farmer). In Councillor McLaren’s account, Mr Traill in 1871 had spoken about John Gray the farmer.
Jan Bondeson’s book advances the view that fundamental facts about the dog and its loyalty are wrong. Bondeson states as background that in 19th-century Europe, there are over 60 documented accounts of the graveyard or cemetery dogs. They were stray dogs, fed by visitors and curators to the point that the dogs made the graveyards their home. People began to believe that they were waiting by a grave and so the dog has looked after. Bondeson claims that after an article about Bobby appeared in The Scotsman, visitor numbers to the graveyard increased, which supposedly created a commercial benefit for the local community. Bondeson also speculates that in 1867, the original Bobby died and was replaced with a younger dog, and which explains Bobby’s supposed longevity.
Another adventure from the Scots lad.
These two look as though they should have come straight from the jungle but their origins are much closer to home – all the way along the coast from Bo’ness. A wide range of pottery was made at Bo’ness for over two hundred years. The pair of lions shown here are well over 100 years old.
The Great Mull Plane Mystery
There is very little that makes sense about the disappearance and death of Peter Gibb. On Christmas Eve 1975, just after he’d finished dinner and a bottle of claret in a hotel on the Isle of Mull, the former Royal Air Force flying ace announced he was going out for a flight in his Cessna plane. The staff and hotel guests suggested that it wasn’t such a good idea, to which he responded “I am not asking permission, I just thought it was courtesy to let you know. I don’t want a fuss.”
He left with his dining companion Felicity Granger, a former university lecturer. She later reported that Gibb had given her instructions to stand at one end of the runway with torches to guide his takeoff. Multiple witnesses claim two torches moved independently in ways that would require another person to be helping, though Granger claimed there was only her. Gibb took off, and shortly thereafter, a sleet storm rained down that would last for 72 hours. Gibb didn’t come back.
While his motives were baffling enough, the real mystery began four months later, when Gibb’s body was found on a nearby hillside. A pathologist ruled that he had died of exposure. There was a cut in Gibb’s leg but no other injuries. Tests also concluded that neither his body nor his clothes had been in contact with the sea, so he had definitely exited the plane on land, but no one could find the plane. Mull is not a large island—about the same land area as Dallas—so the disappearance of the craft was quite troubling. A light aircraft matching the description was found in 1986 in the sea between Mull and the mainland, but the doors were locked, and the plane had apparently crashed extremely hard. The wings were a significant distance away from the rest of the fuselage. It suggested the sort of impact that a person wouldn’t get out of without serious injury.
Two explanations have been suggested, neither of which sound likely. The first is that Gibb leaped from his plane while it was in midair above the hill. He landed on the hill without suffering anything worse than a cut leg, then lay down and died in the cold. The problem with that explanation is that the aircraft would have been left to fly itself into the sea while the doors somehow locked themselves. The other theory is that Gibb was working for MI5 and had to attend to an urgent mission in Northern Ireland. He was captured by terrorists, somehow killed without being injured in any way, and his body was planted back on Mull. The light aircraft found in the sea is left out of that theory. Then again, it doesn’t make much less sense than the alternative.
Rain falls softly against the window pane clouds coloured black as little light remains. Sun shadows peeking through netted white vales. Boats floating endlessly naked without sails. Trees moving gently leaves gliding down curled and lifeless aged and brown. Weed filled streets saturated with rain lifeless and waterlogged rushing down the drain. Lampposts dimly lit threatened with the dark Empty and forlorn are the avenues and park. Moments ago, this place was alive children playing, voices loud birds feeding to survive views from my window encourages my brain why it enchants me I cannot explain.
Arthur Furguson (1883–1938) was (or may have been) a Scottish con artist who allegedly became known for “selling” English national monuments and other government property to visiting American tourists during the 1920s.
It is claimed that in the 1920s, Furguson sold monuments such as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square (for the sum of £6,000), Big Ben (£1,000 for a down payment), and Buckingham Palace (£2,000 for a down payment) to American tourists. Furguson immigrated to the US in 1925. He sold the White House to a rancher on the instalment plan for yearly payments of $100,000 and tried to sell the Statue of Liberty to a visiting Australian, who went to the police. Furguson was imprisoned and was released in 1930. He continued to defraud people in Los Angeles until his death in 1938.
However, according to author Dane Love, who profiled Furguson in his book The Man Who Sold Nelson’s Column, the existence of Furguson himself may be a hoax. Love attempted to trace contemporary records which would confirm the story, but found “[t]here was nothing about his arrest, his trial or his time in jail in New York. There’s not even any trace of his grave in Los Angeles, where he supposedly died in 1938.” The earliest known reference to Furguson dates from as recently as the 1960s.
Another episode from the happless family.. In comic form.
David John Tennant (né McDonald; born 18 April 1971) is a Scottish actor. He rose to fame for his role as the tenth incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who (2005–2010). His other notable roles include Giacomo Casanova in the BBC comedy-drama serial Casanova (2005), Barty Crouch Jr. in the fantasy film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Peter Vincent in the horror remake Fright Night (2011), DI Alec Hardy in the ITV crime drama series Broadchurch (2013–2017), Kilgrave in the Netflix superhero series Jessica Jones (2015–2019), and Crowley in the Amazon Prime fantasy series Good Omens (2019-present).
Tennant has also worked extensively on stage, including a portrayal of the title character in a 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet, later filmed for television. He is also an accomplished voice actor, appearing in The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2011), Ferdinand (2017), Final Space (2018-2021), gen:LOCK (2019-present), the How to Train Your Dragon films (2010-2019), and as Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales (2017–2021), amongst others. In 2015, he received the National Television Award for Special Recognition.
Tennant was born David John McDonald in Bathgate, West Lothian on 18 April 1971, the son of Helen (née McLeod; 1940–2007) and Alexander “Sandy” McDonald (1937–2016), a minister who served as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He grew up with his brother Blair and sister Karen in Ralston, Renfrewshire, where his father was the local minister. Two of his maternal great-grandparents, William and Agnes Blair, were Northern Irish Protestants from County Londonderry who were among the signatories of the Ulster Covenant in 1912. William was also a member of the Orange Order. Tennant’s maternal grandfather, footballer Archie McLeod, met William and Agnes’ daughter Nellie while playing for Derry City FC. McLeod was descended from tenant farmers from the Isle of Mull.
At the age of three, Tennant told his parents that he wanted to become an actor because he was a fan of Doctor Who, but they encouraged him to aim for more conventional work. He later said that he was “absurdly single-minded” in pursuing an acting career. He watched almost every Doctor Who episode for years and once spoke to Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker at a book-signing event in Glasgow. He was educated at Ralston Primary School and Paisley Grammar School, and acted in various school productions. His talent was noticed by actress Edith MacArthur, who told his parents that she believed he would become a successful theatre actor after she saw him perform when he was 10 years old.
Tennant attended Saturday classes at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which was then known as the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. At age 16, he passed an audition for the Academy, becoming one of their youngest students and studying there between the ages of 17 and 20. After discovering that there was another David McDonald already represented by the actor’s union Equity, he took his stage name from Pet Shop Boys frontman Neil Tennant after reading a copy of Smash Hits magazine. He later had to legally change his surname to meet Screen Actors Guild rules.
Tennant made his professional acting debut while still in secondary school. When he was 16, he acted in an anti-smoking film made by the Glasgow Health Board which aired on television and was also screened in schools. The following year, he played a role in an episode of Dramarama. Tennant’s first professional role upon graduating from drama school was in a staging of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui co-starring Ashley Jensen; one of a few plays in which he performed as part of the agitprop 7:84 Theatre Company. He also made an early television appearance in the Scottish TV sitcom Rab C Nesbitt as a transgender barmaid called Davina. In the 1990s, he appeared in several plays at the Dundee Repertory Theatre.
Tennant was awarded his first major TV role as Campbell Bain in the BBC Scotland drama series Takin’ Over the Asylum (1994), after impressing director David Blair during filming of another drama – Strathblair (1992). As Tennant recalled from the audition, “they needed someone who could believably act 19 and bonkers”. During filming of Takin’ Over the Asylum he met comic actress and writer Arabella Weir. When he moved to London shortly afterwards, he lodged with Weir for five years and became godfather to her youngest child. He has subsequently appeared with Weir in many productions: as a guest in her spoof television series Posh Nosh, in the Doctor Who audio drama Exile (during which Weir played an alternative version of the Doctor), and as panellists on the West Wing Ultimate Quiz on More4 (Weir later guest-starred on Doctor Who itself after Tennant left the series). One of his earliest big-screen roles was in Jude (1996), in which he shared a scene with Christopher Eccleston, playing a drunken undergraduate who challenges Eccleston’s Jude to prove his intellect. Eccleston later portrayed the ninth regeneration of The Doctor, immediately preceding Tennant’s iteration of the role.
Tennant developed his career in the British theatre, frequently performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His first Shakespearean role for the RSC was in As You Like It (1996); having auditioned for the role of Orlando, the romantic lead, he was instead cast as the jester Touchstone, which he played in his natural Scottish accent. He subsequently specialised in comic roles, playing Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors and Captain Jack Absolute in The Rivals, although he also played the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. He also starred in the 2003 London production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.
Tennant contributed to several audio dramatisations of Shakespeare for the Arkangel Shakespeare series (1998). His roles include a reprisal of his Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors, as well as Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, Edgar in King Lear, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, all of which he performs in his natural accent. In 1995, Tennant appeared at the Royal National Theatre, London, playing the role of Nicholas Beckett in Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw. In television, he appeared in the first episode of Reeves and Mortimer’s revamped Randall and Hopkirk in 2000, playing an eccentric artist. During the Christmas season of 2002, he starred in a series of television advertisements for Boots the Chemists. In 2003 Tennant appeared in the film Bright Young Things. He was nominated for Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for his performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero. The UK première was staged at the Donmar Warehouse, in previews on April 4, opening April 10 and closing on May 4, 2002. The cast also included Charlotte Randle (Dawn), with Dominic Rowan (Bill), and Gary McDonald (William), and was again directed by Mark Brokaw. This production transferred to the New Ambassadors Theatre from June 26 (opening July 1) to August 10, 2002. He began to appear on television more prominently in 2004 and 2005, when he appeared in a dramatisation of He Knew He Was Right (2004), Blackpool (2004), Casanova (2005), and The Quatermass Experiment (2005). Later that same year, he appeared as Barty Crouch Jr. in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
See also: Tenth Doctor
Tennant with Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies (left), regular director Euros Lyn (centre right), and executive producer Julie Gardner (right) at San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2009
Doctor Who returned to British screens in March 2005, with Christopher Eccleston playing the role of the Ninth Doctor in the first series. Tennant replaced him as of the second series, making his first, brief appearance as the Tenth Doctor in the episode “The Parting of the Ways” (2005) at the end of the regeneration scene, and also appeared in a special 7-minute mini-episode shown as part of the 2005 Children in Need appeal, broadcast on 18 November 2005. He began filming the new series of Doctor Who in late July 2005. His first full-length outing as the Doctor was a 60-minute special, “The Christmas Invasion”, first broadcast on Christmas Day 2005. Tennant had been formally offered the role of the Doctor during rehearsals for The Quatermass Experiment. Although the casting was not officially announced until later in April, both castmates and crew became aware of the speculation surrounding Tennant; in the live broadcast Jason Flemyng (Quatermass) changed his first line to Tennant’s Dr. Briscoe from “Good to have you back, Gordon” to “Good to have you back, Doctor” as a deliberate reference.
Tennant has expressed enthusiasm about fulfilling his childhood dream. He remarked in a radio interview: “Who wouldn’t want to be the Doctor? I’ve even got my own TARDIS!” In 2006, readers of Doctor Who Magazine voted Tennant “Best Doctor” over perennial favourite Tom Baker. Writer Russell T Davies made the decision not to use Tennant’s own Scottish accent for the character as he did not want the Doctor’s accent “touring the regions”, using Estuary English instead. Tennant has gone on record as saying that, contrary to tabloids reports, he was not upset at not being able to play the role in his own accent and in fact had never wanted to. However, he was pleased to be able to use his own accent in one episode, when the Doctor briefly masquerades as “Dr. James McCrimmon” of Edinburgh in Tooth and Claw – a nod to the Second Doctor’s companion Jamie McCrimmon.
He previously had a small role in the BBC’s animated Doctor Who webcast Scream of the Shalka. Not originally cast in the production, Tennant was recording a radio play in a neighbouring studio, and when he discovered what was being recorded next door convinced the director to give him a small role. This personal enthusiasm for the series had also been expressed by his participation in several audio plays based on the Doctor Who television series which had been produced by Big Finish Productions, although he did not play the Doctor in any of these productions. His first such role was in the Seventh Doctor audio Colditz, where he played a Nazi lieutenant guard at Colditz Castle. In 2004 Tennant played a lead role in the Big Finish audio play series Dalek Empire III as Galanar, a young man who is given an assignment to discover the secrets of the Daleks. In 2005, he starred in UNIT: The Wasting for Big Finish, recreating his role of Brimmicombe-Wood from a Doctor Who Unbound play, Sympathy for the Devil. In both audio productions, he worked alongside Nicholas Courtney, who reprised the character of Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. He also played an unnamed Time Lord in another Doctor Who Unbound play Exile. UNIT: The Wasting, was recorded between Tennant getting the role of the Doctor and it being announced. He played the title role in Big Finish’s adaptation of Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright (2005). In 2006, he recorded abridged audio books of The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner, The Feast of the Drowned by Stephen Cole and The Resurrection Casket by Justin Richards, for BBC Worldwide.
He made his directorial debut on the Doctor Who Confidential episode that accompanies Steven Moffat’s episode “Blink”, entitled “Do You Remember The First Time?”, which aired on 9 June 2007. In 2007, Tennant’s Tenth Doctor appeared with Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor in a Doctor Who special for Children in Need, written by Steven Moffat and entitled “Time Crash”. He later performed alongside Davison’s daughter, Georgia Moffett (as “Jenny”) in the 2008 episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”. Georgia Moffett later became David Tennant’s wife.
Tennant featured as the Doctor in an animated version of Doctor Who for Totally Doctor Who, The Infinite Quest, which aired on CBBC. He also starred as the Doctor in another animated six-part Doctor Who series, Dreamland. Tennant guest starred as the Doctor in a two-part story in Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, broadcast in October 2009. He continued to play the Tenth Doctor into the revived programme’s fourth series in 2008. However, on 29 October 2008, he announced that he would be stepping down from the role after three full series. He played the Doctor in four special episodes in 2009, before his final episode aired on 1 January 2010, where he was replaced by the Eleventh Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith.
Tennant and Billie Piper returned to Doctor Who for the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor” broadcast on 23 November 2013, with then-stars Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman and guest star John Hurt. The same month, he also appeared in the one-off 50th anniversary comedy homage The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot directed by Peter Davison.
In October 2015, Big Finish Productions announced that Tennant would return to the role of the Tenth Doctor alongside Catherine Tate as his former companion Donna Noble in three new stories from Big Finish. The stories feature current and previous Doctor Who actors, including Strax actor Dan Starkey, former Davros actor Terry Molloy, and many veterans of Big Finish, including Niky Wardley, who portrayed Eighth Doctor companion Tamsin. The three stories were released in May 2016.
In November 2017, three new audio dramas were released by Big Finish Productions with Tennant once again starring as the Tenth Doctor, alongside Billie Piper as Rose Tyler. Tennant also returned to the role on 13 and 14 July 2018, as part of the live Muppets show The Muppets Take the O2 in London (in which the Tenth Doctor appeared onstage as part of a live Pigs in Space sketch).
In May 2022, in relation to the show’s 60th anniversary, it was announced that Tennant would once again return to the show as the Tenth Doctor, reuniting him with the also returning Tate who will reprise her role as Donna Noble.
Despite much of his work being television work, Tennant has described theatre work as his “default way of being”. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), to play Hamlet with Patrick Stewart and Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost in 2008. From August to November 2008 he appeared at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as Hamlet, playing that role in repertory with Berowne that October and November. Hamlet transferred to the Novello Theatre in London’s West End in December 2008, but Tennant suffered a prolapsed disc during previews and was unable to perform from 8 December 2008 until 2 January 2009, during which time the role was played by his understudy Edward Bennett. He returned to his role in the production on 3 January 2009, and appeared until the run ended on 10 January. Tennant’s performance of Hamlet was critically acclaimed. In 2009, he worked on a TV film version of the RSC’s 2008 Hamlet for BBC Two. On 12 April 2011, a photograph of Tennant as Hamlet featured on a stamp issued by the Royal Mail to mark the RSC’s fiftieth anniversary.
In January 2012, Tennant was appointed to the Royal Shakespeare Company board, to be on the selection committee interviewing and choosing the new artistic director. It was announced on 23 January 2013 that Tennant would return to the RSC for the company’s 2013 winter season, playing the title role in Richard II at Stratford-upon-Avon (from 10 October to 16 November) and transferring to the Barbican Centre in London (from 9 December to 25 January 2014). Tennant repeated his performance as Richard II in the RSC’s ‘King and Country’ cycle in 2016, starting at the Barbican Theatre in London before transferring to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.
In April 2022, he starred for the first time in the title role of a BBC Radio 4 production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
While playing the Doctor, Tennant was also in the early December 2005 ITV drama Secret Smile. His performance as Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger at the Theatre Royal, Bath, and Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, was recorded by the National Video Archive of Performance for the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre Collection. He revived this performance for the anniversary of the Royal Court Theatre in a rehearsed reading. In January 2006, he took a one-day break from shooting Doctor Who to play Richard Hoggart in a dramatisation of the 1960 Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial, The Chatterley Affair. The play was written by Andrew Davies and directed by Doctor Who‘s James Hawes for the digital television channel BBC Four. Hoggart’s son, Simon, praised Tennant’s performance in The Guardian newspaper.
On 25 February 2007, Tennant starred in Recovery, a 90-minute BBC One drama written by Tony Marchant. He played Alan, a self-made building site manager who attempted to rebuild his life after suffering a debilitating brain injury. His costar in the drama was friend Sarah Parish, with whom he had previously appeared in Blackpool and an episode of Doctor Who. She joked that “we’re like George and Mildred – in 20 years’ time we’ll probably be doing a ropey old sitcom in a terraced house in Preston”. Later that same year he starred in Learners, a BBC comedy drama written by and starring Jessica Hynes (another Doctor Who costar, in the episodes “Human Nature”, “The Family of Blood” and “The End of Time”), in which he played a Christian driving instructor who became the object of a student’s affection. Learners was broadcast on BBC One on 11 November 2007. Tennant had a cameo appearance as the Doctor in the 2007 finale episode of the BBC/HBO comedy series Extras with Ricky Gervais. In November 2008, Tennant played Sir Arthur Eddington in the BBC and HBO biographical film Einstein and Eddington, which was filmed in Cambridge and Hungary. Tennant was the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” on Top Gear in December 2007, where he claimed to have unsuccessfully auditioned for a role on Taggart 26 times. Tennant is the voice behind the 2007 advertising campaign for catalogue retailer Argos, and appeared in adverts for The Proclaimers’ 2007 album and learndirect in June 2008. Tennant also lent his voice to adverts for Tesco Mobile, Nintendo Wii, and American Express.
Tennant at San Diego Comic Con 2009
Tennant featured in an episode of Trick or Treat on Channel 4 in May 2008. The episode showed Tennant apparently predicting future events correctly by using automatic writing. In TV & Satellite Week (26 April – 2 May issue), the host of the show, Derren Brown, is quoted as saying: “One of the appeals of Doctor Who for David is time travel, so I wanted to give him that experience. He was open and up for it, and I got a good reaction. He’s a real screamer!”. Tennant also returned for the final episode of the series with the rest of the participants from the other episodes in the series to take part in one final experiment. Tennant appeared in the 2008 episode “Holofile 703: Us and Phlegm” of the radio series Nebulous (a parody of Doctor Who) in the role of Doctor Beep, using his Lothian accent. Also in 2008, he voiced the character of Hamish the Hunter in the 2008 English language DVD re-release of the 2006 animated Norwegian film, Free Jimmy, alongside Woody Harrelson. The English-language version of the film has dialogue written by Simon Pegg, who also starred in it as a main voice actor.
In early 2009, Tennant narrated the digital planetarium space dome film “We Are Astronomers” commissioned by the UK’s National Space Centre. On 13 March 2009, he presented Red Nose Day 2009 with Davina McCall. He joined Franz Ferdinand onstage to play the guitar on their song “No You Girls” on a special Comic Relief edition of Top of the Pops. In summer 2009, Tennant filmed St. Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold. The film was released in December 2009. From October 2009, he hosted the Masterpiece Contemporary programming strand on the American Public Broadcasting Service. In December 2009, he filmed the lead in an NBC pilot, Rex Is Not Your Lawyer, playing Rex, a Chicago lawyer who starts to coach clients to represent themselves when he starts suffering panic attacks. The pilot was not picked up and the project was shelved. In November 2009, he co-hosted the Absolute Radio Breakfast Show with Christian O’Connell for three consecutive days He returned to cohost the show for one day in October 2010. On 7 March 2010, he also appeared as George in a one-part BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Of Mice and Men in the Classic Serial strand. In October 2010 he starred as Dave, a man struggling to raise five children after the death of his partner, in the British drama Single Father. For this role he was nominated as Best Actor at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards 2010.
Tennant with Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter in 2015
In 2011, he starred in United, about the Manchester United “Busby Babes” team and the 1958 Munich air disaster, playing coach and assistant manager Jimmy Murphy. In September 2011, he appeared in a guest role in one episode of the comedy series This is Jinsy, and also started filming True Love, a semi-improvised BBC One drama series, on location in Margate, Kent; the series aired in June 2012. Later in September 2011, it was announced that Tennant would voice a character in the movie adaptation of Postman Pat named You Know You’re the One with a planned 3D theatrical release for spring 2013. In October 2011, Tennant started shooting the semi-improvised comedy film, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger in Coventry. He played dual roles: the main character, put-upon teacher Mr. Peterson, and his “golden boy” twin brother and rival.
In April 2012, Tennant played lead in a one-off drama The Minor Character for Sky Arts. Between April and June, he filmed Spies of Warsaw for BBC Four, in the lead role of Jean-François Mercier. This drama series shot in Poland is an adaptation of Alan Furst’s novel The Spies of Warsaw. Tennant auditioned for the role of Hannibal Lecter in NBC’s Hannibal; he was narrowly beaten for the part by Mads Mikkelsen. On 9 June 2012, he started filming the 3-part political drama series The Politician’s Husband for BBC Two, playing an ambitious cabinet minister who takes drastic action when his wife’s career starts to outshine his.Tennant also presented the new comedy quiz show Comedy World Cup, in 2012 which ran on Saturday nights for seven episodes.
Tennant at the 2017 Wizard World Columbus Comic Con
Tennant starred in the ITV detective series Broadchurch as DI Alec Hardy between 2013 and 2017. The first series was filmed in Clevedon, North Somerset, and Bridport, Dorset, between August and November 2012, and aired in March 2013. Tennant filmed the second series of Broadchurch during mid-2014, and the third between May and October 2016. Between January and May 2014, Tennant also filmed the US remake of Broadchurch, re-titled Gracepoint.
Between late January and March 2013, Tennant filmed The Escape Artist for BBC One in which he played a talented junior barrister who had yet to lose a case. The three-part series aired on BBC One in October and November 2013. Tennant starred opposite Rosamund Pike and Billy Connolly in What We Did on Our Holiday, a semi-improvised comedy film; shooting took place from 17 June to 30 July 2013 in Scotland. The film was released in September 2014.
In 2012 he appeared in a multi-million-pound campaign for Virgin Media, starring in three adverts. One advert was voluntarily withdrawn after a complaint lodged by BBC Worldwide, which believed that the advert broke the corporation’s guidelines by featuring references to Doctor Who that appeared to be a commercial endorsement of the service. He is the narrator on Xbox One video game Kinect Sports Rivals, released in 2014.
Tennant also portrayed the villainous Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, a television series from Marvel and Netflix. All 13 episodes were released on 20 November 2015.
On 9 February 2015, Tennant appeared on the Radio 4 panel show Just a Minute, becoming the show’s most successful debut contestant. He also voiced the Propaganda Minister in the 2015 Square Enix video game Just Cause 3. In autumn 2015, Tennant’s name was announced for Scottish feature film I Feel Fine, a thriller set in Glasgow in the 1980s. However, as of January 2016, the film has been postponed indefinitely. In February 2016, he began filming Mad to Be Normal (previously titled Metanoia), a biopic of the renowned Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing, produced by Gizmo Films.
Tennant at a Good Omens panel at New York Comic Con 2018
In 2017, Tennant appeared in writer/director Daisy Aitkens’ first feature film, You, Me and Him. The film is co-produced by Tennant’s wife, Georgia, and had originally been due to co-star his father-in-law, Peter Davison; however, Davison withdrew from the film in October 2016 due to a scheduling clash. Between March and June 2017 Tennant appeared in Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho at the Wyndham’s Theatre. Also in 2017, he became the voice of Scrooge McDuck for Disney XD’s DuckTales reboot, replacing the character’s longtime voice actor Alan Young, who died in May 2016.
Tennant plays psychopathic villain Cale Erendreich in the thriller film Bad Samaritan (2018), written by Brandon Boyce and directed by Dean Devlin. Tennant also plays Crowley in the miniseries Good Omens, which was released in full on Amazon Prime Video on 31 May 2019 and was released on BBC Two on 15 January 2020.
In February 2019, Tennant launched his own podcast, titled David Tennant Does a Podcast With… The podcast’s episodes feature Olivia Colman, Whoopi Goldberg, Jodie Whittaker, Ian McKellen, Jon Hamm, Gordon Brown, Jennifer Garner, Catherine Tate, Krysten Ritter, James Corden, Samantha Bee, Tina Fey, and Michael Sheen.
Tennant stars as a doctor suspected of murdering his family in Deadwater Fell, a Scottish true crime miniseries, which premiered in January 2020 on Channel 4. He also received his first credit as an executive producer for the series.
In September 2020, he portrayed Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen in Des, a three-part miniseries on ITV. For his performance, he won the International Emmy Award for Best Actor.
In 2020 and 2021 he starred in the TV series Staged, with Michael Sheen. Joel Golby of the Guardian described it: “David Tennant and Michael Sheen squabbled over Zoom as exaggerated, frustrated, hyper-thespian versions of themselves, in an actors-playing-actors miniseries with the exact same energy of a late-night Comic Relief sketch; 15-minute episodes where you got to see familiar actors with their off-duty haircuts saying words that seemed real. It was good, and it was smart, and it played perfectly with the boundaries of the format it was in.”
Tennant was named “Coolest Man on TV” of 2007 in a Radio Times survey. He won the National Television Awards award for Most Popular Actor in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. He was voted 16th Sexiest Man in the World by a 2008 Cosmopolitan survey.
In 2008, Tennant was voted “Greenest Star on the Planet” in an online vote held by Playhouse Disney as part of the Playing for the Planet Awards.
Tennant was ranked the 24th most influential person in the British media on 9 July 2007, according to MediaGuardian. He appeared in the paper’s annual media rankings in 2006. In December 2008, he was named as one of the most influential people in show business by British theatre and entertainment magazine The Stage, making him the fifth actor to achieve a ranking in the top 20 (in a list typically dominated by producers and directors). He was voted the third best dressed man in Britain in GQ reader’s poll for 2013. Tennant’s popularity has led to impersonations of him on various social networking sites, leading the BBC to issue a statement making it clear that Tennant does not use any of these sites and any account or message purporting to be from him is fake. In the expansion EverQuest: Seeds of Destruction for the game EverQuest, a character was introduced called Tavid Dennant, named after David Tennant. The character when interacted with makes a number of references to Doctor Who.
In December 2005, The Stage placed Tennant at No. 6 in its “Top Ten” list of the most influential British television artists of the year, citing his roles in Blackpool, Casanova, Secret Smile, and Doctor Who. In January 2006, readers of the British gay and lesbian newspaper The Pink Paper voted him the “Sexiest Man in the Universe”. In October 2006, he was named “Scotland’s most stylish male” in the Scottish Style Awards.
Tennant is an ambassador for Worldwide Cancer Research.
Tennant is a supporter of the Labour Party and appeared in a party political broadcast for them in 2005. He declared his support for then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2010, and labelled David Cameron a “terrifying prospect”. In April 2010, he lent his voice to a Labour election broadcast. In 2012, he introduced Labour Party leader Ed Miliband onstage at the Labour Party Conference. In 2015, he also lent his voice to a Labour Party General Election broadcast.
Tennant remained neutral on the issue of Scottish independence in the run-up to the 2014 referendum, stating that it was not his business as he no longer lived in Scotland. However, in the wake of Brexit, which he called “depressing”, he stated in 2017 that he would support an independent Scotland in the event of a second referendum.
Tennant rarely discusses his private life in interviews, citing his belief that “relationships are hard enough with the people you’re having them with, let alone talking about them in public”. He has said that he believes religion “must have” shaped his character, and revealed that he is an occasional churchgoer.
Tennant is married to actress Georgia Moffett, making him the son-in-law of actress Sandra Dickinson and Fifth Doctor actor Peter Davison. The couple met in 2008 during the filming of the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”, in which she played the genetically engineered daughter of Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. They married on 30 December 2011, and live in the Chiswick district of London. They have five children, including Ty, Moffett’s child from a previous relationship whom Tennant adopted. Ty has acted in the film Tolkien and the 2019 television adaptation of War of the Worlds. The couple’s daughter Olive was born on 29 March 2011. At the age of two, Olive had a cameo as John Barrowman’s daughter in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Later, at 10 years old, she made her film debut in Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. On 2 May 2013, Tennant and Moffett had a son named Wilfred. On 9 November 2015, Tennant announced that they had recently had a daughter named Doris. On 13 October 2019, they had another daughter named Birdie.
RENEE AND ANDREW MACREA
IT was a case which both scandalised and shocked the Scottish highlands in the 1970s – and has continued to baffle and obsess the nation ever since.
The story begins on Friday, November 12 1976, when Renee MacRae left her home in Inverness with her sons Gordon, 9, and Andrew, 3. Renee, who was 36, was separated but she left her oldest son with her husband Gordon, before travelling south on the A9 towards Perth – apparently to visit her sister. She and her son Andrew were never seen again.
Later that night, a train driver saw Renee’s car, a BMW, burning in a lay-by. Police were notified and when they got to the smouldering wreck, there was nothing to be found apart from a rug with a blood stain matching Renee.
A huge hunt was launched for Renee and her son Andrew – but to no avail. Witnesses reported seeing a man dragging something described as a dead sheep, not far from where the car had been found. On the night of her death, Renee was wearing a sheepskin coat. Witnesses also said they had seen a man with a pushchair near a local quarry.
Detectives soon discovered that Renee had a complicated private life. She had been having an affair with a man called Bill McDowell – he was marred with two children and worked for Renee’s husband Gordon. He was also the biological father of Andrew. The only person who knew about the affair was Renee’s best friend Valerie Steventon. She explained that Renee had in fact not been on the way to visit her sister on the night of her disappearance, but was going to meet MacDowell.
Renee was ‘besotted’ with MacDowell, according to Steventon. He had told her that he’d got a job with an oil firm in Shetland and found a house for them all to live together. Stevenson said, however, that this was a ‘pack of lies’. MacDowell has vehemently denied any involvement in the case.
How the case was investigated became as bizarre as the disappearances. Officers searching Dalmagarry quarry came across a strong smell. Digging began but was stopped when police ran out of funds for the hire of a bulldozer.
Digging restarted in 2004. Some 20,000 tonnes of earth were removed at a cost of £122,000 however all that was found were some crisp packets, men’s clothing and rabbit bones.
Police have also followed lines of inquiry that the bodies may be buried under the A9 – the road was getting a major upgrade at the time. An 80-year-old farmer even used divining rods to search for the bodies. He marked a spot on the A9 which he believed to be a grave.
Just this week, officers said they were searching for the brown suitcase Renee had with her on the night she vanished, and described it as a ‘significant’ piece of evidence. Last month, on what would have been Andrew’s 45th birthday, cold case detectives appealed for information on the whereabouts of his pushchair.
Beautiful pipe band folks, enjoy..
I see you in my dreams you liven up my day your'e the very heart and soul of me what more can I say? your smile is like a sunbeam but much greater than the sun itself your value to me is priceless than fame or any wealth. I'd be lonely and empty without you my life would be sad and dull like trees without their leaves or a head without a skull. Bees would no longer buzz birds would be unable to sing flowers would lose their scent church bells wouldn't ring. you are the North star in the sky the apple of my eye and together we will never say goodbye my love goodbye.
CRAIGELLACHIE BRIDGE RIVER SPEY, MORAY
Best viewpoint: From the river bank adjacent to the bridge, or from the modern bridge over the A941 to the east.
How to get there: The bridge is located north of Aberlour, just off the A941 and the A95 and can be reached by public transport.
History: The Craigellachie Bridge opened in 1815 and is the oldest surviving cast iron bridge in Scotland. Designed by Thomas Telford, one of the most famous engineers of his time, it has mock-medieval towers that flank the bridge on either side which give it a regal air.
Wee fact: It is one of only a few engineering projects in Scotland that has been recognised as a landmark of importance by both the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers.
The Glasgow Effect
The people of Scotland have one of the lowest average life expectancies in all of Europe. This average is heavily skewed by the people of Glasgow, where life expectancy can be as low as 54 years in some areas. Poverty is a partial explanation, but there are plenty of cities in the UK that are just as deprived and experience a much lower rate of premature death. The usual candidates of smoking, alcohol, and drugs are also significant factors, but Glasgow’s life expectancy is inexplicably low, even when all of that is taken into account.
This phenomenon has been called the Glasgow effect, but no one knows what causes it. There are numerous competing theories, blaming everything from the weather to the local culture to political scheming from both sides of the spectrum. It’s not just Glasgow—the figures for Scotland as a whole don’t look great. Life expectancy has been increasing more slowly than in many places, as other countries that used to lag behind Scotland’s rate shoot ahead. The reasons are no better understood than those behind the Glasgow effect itself.
Coatbridge (Scots: Cotbrig or Coatbrig, Scottish Gaelic: Drochaid a’ Chòta) is a town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, about 8.5 miles (13.5 km) east of Glasgow city centre, set in the central Lowlands. While the earliest known settlement of the area dates back to the Stone Age era, the founding of the town can be traced to the 12th century, when a Royal Charter was granted to the monks of Newbattle Abbey by King Malcolm IV. Along with neighbouring town Airdrie, Coatbridge forms the area known as the Monklands (population approximately 90,000 including outlying settlements), often considered to be part of the Greater Glasgow urban area – although officially they have not been included in population figures since 2016 due to small gaps between the Monklands and Glasgow built-up areas.
In the last years of the 18th century, the area developed from a loose collection of hamlets into the town of Coatbridge. The town’s development and growth have been intimately connected with the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution, and in particular with the hot blast process. Coatbridge was a major Scottish centre for iron works and coal mining during the 19th century and was then described as ‘the industrial heartland of Scotland’ and the ‘Iron Burgh’.
Coatbridge also had a notorious reputation for air pollution and the worst excesses of industry. However, by the 1920s, coal seams were exhausted and the iron industry in Coatbridge was in rapid decline. After the Great Depression, the Gartsherrie ironwork was the last remaining iron works in the town. One publication has commented that in modern-day Coatbridge ‘coal, iron and steel have all been consigned to the heritage scrap heap’.
Main article: History of Coatbridge
Coatbridge owes its name to a bridge that carried the old Edinburgh-Glasgow road over the Gartsherrie Burn, at what is now Coatbridge Cross. This first appears on Roy’s survey of 1755 as Cottbrig, one of a number of places on the wider Coats estate. The name Coats most likely comes from the Scots word cot(t), meaning “cottage”,although an alternative theory links it to the name of the Colt family, who owned land here as early as the 13th century.
Early history: from Bronze Age to Middle Ages.
Settlement of the Coatbridge area dates back 3000 years to the Mesolithic Age. A circle of Bronze Age stone coffins was found on the Drumpellier estate in 1852. A number of other Bronze Age urns and relics have been found in Coatbridge. An Iron Age wood and thatch crannog dwelling was sited in the loch at the present day Drumpellier Country Park. Dependent upon the water level in the loch, the remains can still be seen.
Roman coins have been unearthed in Coatbridge, and there are the remains of a Roman road on the fringes of the town near the M8 motorway.
Middle Ages to late 18th century
Pont’s “Nether Warde of Clyds-dail” map c. 1654 which depicts the hamlets of Kirkwood, Dunpelder, Wheatflet, Dunbath, Gartshary in the modern day Coatbridge area
Map of the Coatbridge area dated 1858
The Monklands area inherited its name after the area was granted to the Cistercian monks of Newbattle Abbey by King Malcolm IV in 1162. In 1323, the Monklands name appeared for the first time on Stewards’ charter. The Monks mined coal and farmed the land until the time of the reformation when the land was taken from them and given to private landowners. In 1641, the parish of Monklands was divided between New Monkland (present day Airdrie) and Old Monkland (present day Coatbridge). In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army seized Coatbridge from government troops on their march to Edinburgh in an action described as the “Canter of Coatbridge”. Coatbridge was described in the 1799 Statistical Account as an “immense garden” with “extensive orchards” and “luxurious crops”, where “rivers abound with salmon”.
The Monkland Canal was constructed at the end of the 18th century initially to transport coal to Glasgow from the rich local deposits. The invention of the hot blast furnace process in 1828 meant that Coatbridge’s ironstone deposits could be exploited to the maximum by the canal link and hot blast process. The new advances meant that iron could be produced with two-thirds less fuel. Summerlee Iron Works was one of the first iron works to use this technology. By the mid 19th century there were numerous hot blast furnaces in operation in Coatbridge.
The prosperous industry which had sprung up around the new iron industry required vast numbers of largely unskilled workers to mine ironstone and work in the blast furnace plants. Coatbridge therefore became a popular destination for vast numbers of Irish (especially from County Donegal in Ulster) arriving in Scotland. The iron bars and plates produced in Coatbridge iron works were the raw materials needed throughout the British Empire for railways, construction, bridge building and shipbuilding. One example of uses Coatbridge iron was put to included armour plating for British ships fighting in the Crimean War.
Over the course of the following forty years, the population of Coatbridge grew by 600%. The character of the Coatbridge area changed from a rural, Presbyterian landscape of small hamlets and farmhouses into a crowded, polluted, Irish Catholic industrial town. In 1840, Rev William Park wrote that:
‘The population of this parish is at present advancing at an amazing rate, and this propensity is entirely owing to the local coal and iron trade, stimulated by the discovery of the black band of ironstone and the method of fusing iron by hot blast. New villages are springing up almost every month, and it is impossible to keep place with the march of prosperity and the increase of the population.’
One contemporary observer at this time noted that Coatbridge is “not famous for its sylvan beauties of its charming scenery” and “offers the visitor no inducements to loiter long”. However, “a visit to the large Gartsherrie works is one of the sights of a lifetime”.
Most of the town’s population lived in tight rows of terraced houses built under the shadow of the iron works. These homes were often owned by their employers. Living conditions for most were appalling and tuberculosis was rife.
For a fortunate few though, fortunes could be won “with a rapidity only equalled by the princely gains of some of the adventurers who accompanied Pizarro to Peru”, noted one observer. Among the most notable success stories were the six sons of Coatbridge farmer Alexander Baird. The Baird family had become involved in coal mining but opened an iron foundry in order to exploit the new hot blast process of iron smelting invented by James Beaumont Neilson. The Bairds subsequently constructed numerous iron foundries in Coatbridge including the famous Gartsherrie iron works. The waste heap or ‘bing’ from the Baird’s Gartsherrie works was said to be as large as the great pyramid in Egypt. One son, James Baird, was responsible for erecting 16 blast-furnaces in Coatbridge between 1830 and 1842. Each of the six sons of Alexander Baird was reputed to have become a millionaire.
The town was vividly described by Robert Baird in 1845:
“There is no worse place out of hell than that neighbourhood. At night the groups of blast furnaces on all sides might be imagined to be blazing volcanoes at most of which smelting is continued on Sundays and weekdays, day and night, without intermission. From the town comes a continual row of heavy machinery: this and the pounding of many steam hammers seemed to make even the very ground vibrate under ones feet. Fire, smoke and soot with the roar and rattle of machinery are its leading characteristics; the flames of its furnaces cast on the midnight sky a glow as if of some vast conflagration. Dense clouds of black smoke roll over it incessantly and impart to all buildings a peculiarly dingy aspect. A coat of black dust overlies everything.”
Summerlee blast furnaces at the start of the 20th century Coatbridge. The present day Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life is sited here.
In the 19th century, the Baird family wielded a pervasive influence over Coatbridge. They were responsible for the design of the lay out of present-day Coatbridge town centre. The land for the Town Hall and the land which later came to form Dunbeth Park was given to the town by the Bairds. Gartsherrie church was built by the Baird family, the oldest and most significant landmark in the town. Despite being Protestant, the Bairds donated the site on the Main Street for the erection of St Patrick’s Catholic Church.
The Whitelaw Fountain in Coatbridge during the 1930s.
Daniel (Dane) Sinclair, an engineer with the National Telephone Company, based in Glasgow, patented the automatic telephone switchboard. This system was installed in Coatbridge in 1886 and became the world’s first automatic telephone exchange.
By 1885, the once plentiful Monklands ironstone deposits had been largely exhausted. It became increasingly expensive to produce iron in Coatbridge as raw materials had to be imported from as far afield as Spain. The growth of the steel industry (in nearby Motherwell) had also led to a start of a decline in demand for the pig iron Coatbridge produced. Living conditions remained grim. In the 1920s, Lloyd George’s “Coal and Power” report described the living conditions in the Rosehall area of Coatbridge:
“…on the outskirts of Coatbridge, I found nearly the worst of all. In each of these single rooms lives a miner’s family. There is no pantry. The coal is kept under the bed. Water has to be obtained from a standpipe outside, used by a number of houses. Conspicuously huddled together in the yards are filthy huts for sanitary purposes.”
George Orwell’s book The Road to Wigan Pier was illustrated by a photograph of homes in the Rosehall area of Coatbridge. In 1934, there was an exodus to Corby in England when the local Union Plant relocated. This had the effect of a hammer blow impact on the town’s iron industry and ushered in the end of serious iron production. The decline of the Clydeside shipbuilding industry in the 1950s meant the demand for iron finally collapsed. A legacy of ‘devastating’ unemployment, appalling housing conditions and some of the worst overcrowding in Scotland left its stamp on the Coatbridge of the early 1930s. As late as 1936, Coatbridge was the most overcrowded place in Scotland.
In the 1930s and 1950s, however, massive state-sponsored programmes saw thousands of new homes built in Coatbridge and some of the worst examples of slum housing were cleared away. By the early 1980s, 85% of homes in Coatbridge were part of local authority housing stock.
The last of the blast furnaces, William Baird’s famous Gartsherrie works, closed in 1967.
Since the 1970s, there have been various initiatives to attempt to regenerate Coatbridge. Urban Aid grants, European Union grants and, more recently, Social Inclusion Partnerships have attempted to breathe new life into Coatbridge. Despite these efforts the town’s population has continued to fall and, in recent years, the town has been dubbed the “most dismal in Scotland”.
At 55°51′44″N 4°1′46″W (55.861°, -4.047°), Coatbridge is situated in Scotland’s Central Lowlands. The town lies 88 metres (288 ft) above sea level, 9 miles (14.5 km) east of Glasgow, 6 miles (10 km) south of Cumbernauld and 2 miles (3 km) west of Airdrie. Although Coatbridge has no major river running through it, the North Calder Water runs east–west to the south and the now defunct Monkland Canal used to run straight through the centre of the town toward Glasgow. The canal route through Coatbridge can still be seen today. Several smaller burns run through Coatbridge, most of which drain into the North Calder Water. Coatbridge has four significant public parks: Dunbeth Park, West End Park, Whifflet park and Drumpellier Country Park. Lochend Loch (locally known as Drumpellier Loch) and Woodend Loch are situated on the north-west edge of Coatbridge.
The topography of Coatbridge was an important feature in the town’s development during the industrial revolution. Coatbridge rests 60 metres below the “Slamannan plateau” and neighbouring Airdrie sits on its edge. The low-lying flat ground of Coatbridge was a vital factor in the siting of the town’s blast furnaces and the Monkland Canal route. Although Airdrie was an already established town and had local supplies of ironstone, the Monkland Canal link did not extend into Airdrie because of its higher elevation. The Clyde Valley plan of 1949 described Coatbridge as ‘situated over a flooded coalfield’. Tenement buildings in Coatbridge were not built to the same level as Glasgow tenements due to danger of local subsidence from centuries of local mining.
Dunbeth Hill where the present local authority municipal buildings stand is a wedge of rock which was probably squeezed upwards by the force of two (now-extinct) fault lines. There are the remains of spreads of glacial sands along the crest of Drumpellier, the west bank of Gartsherrie Burn and along modern day Bank Street. Kirkwood, Kirkshaws and Shawhead sit on a sandstone capped ridge looking south over the Clyde Valley. The vital Coatbridge black band coal field extended from Langloan to beyond the eastern edge of the town.
View of Coatbridge from the east. Landmarks from left to right are: Gartsherrie Academy, Gartsherrie Church, Coatbridge Library, Canal Bridge, High Coats & Dunbeth Court flats. Whitelaw Fountain can just be glimpsed under the Canal Bridge. It was noted in the early 20th century that “The cross at Coatbridge ranks among the most unique…one may pass through it in any form of locomotion. One can not only walk, ride or drive past it, but may train over it or sail under it by means of the canal.”
Like much of the British Isles, Coatbridge experiences a temperate maritime climate with relatively cool summers and mild winters. The prevailing wind is from the west. Regular but generally light precipitation occurs throughout the year.
Coatbridge is the home of one of Scotland’s most visited museums, Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, which contains an insight into the lives of working people in the West of Scotland. A miners’ row of 1900s–1980s houses, a working tramway and a reconstruction coal mine can all be experienced on site. The museum is situated on the remains of one of Coatbridge’s historic blast furnaces, now a Scheduled Monument.
Literature, theatre and film
Janet Hamilton, the nineteenth century poet and essayist, died in Langloan in 1873. Present-day writers Anne Donovan (Orange prize winner), Brian Conaghan (the author of three novels ‘The Boy Who Made it Rain’ (2011) ‘When Mr Dog Bites’ (2014) and ‘The Bombs That Brought Us Together’ (2016)) and award-winning author Des Dillon are all from Coatbridge. Coatbridge has regularly featured in Des Dillon’s work. Two of his books about Coatbridge have been turned into plays.
Mark Millar is a Coatbridge comic book writer whose Wanted comic book series has been translated into a feature film starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, as well as the highly successful graphic novel Kickass which was adapted into the successful film of the same name in 2010. Coatbridge-born Dame Laurentia McLachlan was the Benedictine abbess of the Stanbrook Community whose correspondence with George Bernard Shaw and Sydney Cockerell was the subject of the film The Best of Friends.
Coatbridge is also home to the annual Deep Fried Film Festival. Local filmmakers Duncan and Wilma Finnigan have been described by The List as ‘the John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands of Coatbridge’.
Thomas McAleese (alias Dean Ford) was the lead singer of The Marmalade who had a UK number one single in 1969 with a cover of The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and co-wrote “Reflections of My Life”, Marmalade’s biggest worldwide success. Coatbridge brothers Greg Kane and Pat Kane are the band Hue and Cry. Coatbridge born Alan Frew is the ex-pat lead singer of Canadian group Glass Tiger. Cha Burns (deceased), Jimme O’Neill and JJ Gilmour of The Silencers are from Coatbridge. Coatbridge sisters Fran and Anna were a famous duo on the Scottish traditional music scene. Cousins Ted and Hugh McKenna, of Tear Gas and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and Hugh’s sister, Mae McKenna, a folk singer and renowned session singer, came from the Kirkshaws area of Coatbridge.
Coatbridge and Ireland
See also: Coatbridge Irish
St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Coatbridge, 2009
Coatbridge is especially noted for its historical links with Ireland. This is largely due to large scale immigration into the town from Ulster (especially from County Donegal) in the 19th century and throughout most of the 20th century. Indeed, the town has been called “little Ireland”.
The most obvious manifestation of these links can be seen in the annual St Patrick’s Day Festival. The festival is sponsored by the Irish Government and Guinness. The festival runs for over a fortnight and includes lectures, film shows, dance/Gaelic football competitions and music performances. The festival is the largest Irish celebration in Scotland.
The Coatbridge accent has been categorised as making less use of the Scots tongue and exhibiting a tendency to stress the “a” vowel differently from general Scots usage. Examples of this are seen in the pronunciation of the words stair (“sterr”), hair (“herr”), fair (“ferr”) and chair (“cherr”). This different enunciation has been attributed to the impact of successive influxes of Ulster Catholic immigrants into Coatbridge. However, the distinctiveness of the Coatbridge accent and pronunciation has diminished as the various surrounding populations (especially Glasgow) have mingled with that of Coatbridge.
Cliftonhill, home of Albion Rovers
Coatbridge’s local football team is Albion Rovers. Albion Rovers play in Scottish League Two, and Cliftonhill is where they play their home games. The “Wee Rovers” were founded in 1882 when two local Coatbridge clubs, Rovers and Albion, amalgamated to form the club bearing the name.
Coatbridge CC a local amateur club founded in 1976 became Scottish Champions in 1986 and again in 1988.
Drumpellier Cricket Club has been in continuous existence for over 150 years and the club has a ground in the Drumpellier area.
Greyhound and speedway racing also took part in the town, using the Albion Rovers FC ground. Greyhound Racing began on 11 December 1931 and lasted until 1986. The Edinburgh Monarchs rode there in 1968–69 (as the Coatbridge Monarchs) after losing their track at Meadowbank Stadium to the developers for the 1970 Commonwealth Games. Glasgow Tigers moved from Hampden Park to Coatbridge in 1973, and stayed there until June 1977, when they were forced out by the greyhound racing.
The Coatbridge Indoor bowling club hosted the World Indoor Bowls Championships from 1979 until 1987.
Coatbridge was the home of former boxer Bert Gilroy, Scotland’s longest-reigning champion. Coatbridge is also home to the former WBO Super-featherweight, lightweight and light-welterweight world champion Ricky Burns. Walter Donaldson, former World Snooker champion, also hailed from Coatbridge.
There are two golf courses: the municipal course bordering Drumpellier Country Park and the nearby private member’s club Drumpellier Golf Course. Clare Queen, Scotland’s number one female golfer on the women’s European tour, is from Coatbridge.
Coat of arms
The coat of arms of Coatbridge
Coatbridge was given burgh status in 1885, and was granted a coat of arms by the Lord Lyon in 1892. The arms have a black field and on it a flaming tower to represent a blast furnace and Coatbridge’s industrial tradition. The crest is a monk holding a stone in his left hand. The stone relates to the old parish of Monklands and the legend of the “aul’ kirk stane”. The legend of the “aul’ kirk stane” is that a pilgrim undertaking a penance from Glasgow carried a stone in the direction of Monklands. When he could carry the stone no further (or in another version of the legend, when an angel spoke to him) he laid the stone down. It was where the stone came to rest that he was to build a church. The church is the present-day Old Monkland Kirk, at which the alleged stone can still be seen.
The Latin motto Laborare est orare translates as “to work is to pray”, which originated in the writings of St Benedict and is commonly associated with the Cistercian Order, whose monks came to Monklands in the 12th century.
Lying awake, staring at the clock alone in your own silent space tick tock tick tock is all you hear no sign of sleep, not a trace. Lay on your head hope to drop off but still you fight to shut down the brain is ticking the mind is roaring like a saddened unhappy clown. Get up again, drink some water then try to battle once more throwing the duvet over your head after watching the shadows on the door. Nothing you do can make any difference your more awake now than you were read a book, do a puzzle unwind all the tension in there. Try with the light dimmed, close your eyes sleep will eventually come try to unwind, close your mind eventually your body will succumb. Lying here still alert will this nightmare end? watch tv, drink more fluids your driving to a dead end. Hours go by and still no sleep its just another one of those nights even your medication fails losing the war and the fights. Morning arrives, two hours kip not enough when you have to work now I want to sleep forever and feel like a right bloody burke. Insomnia is a Horrible disease It strikes when you least expect it.
The Disappearing Ninth Legion
The Roman army’s Ninth Legion successfully conquered England in A.D. 43 and—with the exception of the odd rebellion—kept control of the bottom half of Britain for the next 74 years. Then, from A.D. 117 onward, the entire legion suddenly vanished from the historical record. Today, no one has any idea what happened to them.
One of the most popular theories is that they marched north into Scotland to fight an uprising of the Picts. This story has gained traction in fiction as the basis of several books and films, but some historians believe the legion simply left to go fight elsewhere. It’s also been speculated they were defeated in a battle against Rome’s nemesis, the Parthians, in Iran. Another possibility is that they lost against a Jewish uprising in A.D. 132.
One clue suggests that things had started to go wrong for the Ninth even before that time. When Emperor Hadrian turned up in A.D. 122, he brought another legion with him, the Sixth. He proceeded to build a wall across the north of England, then called Britannia, to keep out the people north of the border. If they had recently wiped out a renowned arm of his military, that would have beeen a very good reason to erect such a structure.
18th century Scottish carved oak brass face grandfather clock
Rare 18th cent Scottish carved oak brass faced grandfather clock from Stirling, by Thomas Pringle St Ninians. Completely original and now with a truly impressive patina. Illustrated in the rare book, Stirling clocks by Charles Allan. We have a copy that goes with the clock, according to which he only made four clocks. This very rare clock is in near pristine condition, first delivered in a horse and cart. Now 250 years later and just 5 miles away from where it was made, now in our showroom In superb original condition.
Working order. The case is profusely carved with a superb Scottish thistle carved upon the base panel. Swan neck pediment with brass bulbous finials. Brass face with silvered dial. Nice slim balanced features. Highly collectable original and very rare Stirling clock. We have found the swan neck pediment central brass finial now, Osprey, We will update the hood image with the original finial in the next days. We also have a copy of the original book titled Stirling Clocks, with this clock depicted.
The provenance of this clock with 250+ years of local ownership
A testament to its charm and quality. A truly 1 off opportunity to own this superb piece of local history. I’ve kept it cheap as possible in the hope that it remains in the area of central Scotland for many more generations. 18th-century gunsmiths and clockmakers once flourished in Stirling, guns and clocks, of fine collectors quality. As a fine furniture maker myself, after this period leading into Victorian times, the clock shapes lack the balance of the 18th-century craftsmanship. Stirling was a centre of excellent craftsmen and women in this period. This clock has the perfect balanced proportions of any clock made for two centuries since. And in keeping with its style, its height further adds to its charm.
Why does it matter if we are black or white do we really care and do we have to fight? underneath our skin we all bleed red were brought up as humans and were breast fed. Just because we are different doesn't give us the right to suppress the vulnerable with all our might. Abuse our Power think we are better than you treat you with contempt and murder you. Why do we think racialism is cool when in Gods eyes you are a fool. The World is crumbling and Humanity is in a mess its all our own doing we must confess. Now we are protesting the bullets will fly and at the end of the day we all will die.
Constantine, son of Áed (Medieval Gaelic: Causantín mac Áeda; Modern Gaelic: Còiseam mac Aoidh, known in most modern regnal lists as Constantine II; born no later than 879; died 952) was an early King of Scotland, known then by the Gaelic name Alba. The Kingdom of Alba, a name which first appears in Constantine’s lifetime, was situated in modern-day Scotland.
The core of the kingdom was formed by the lands around the River Tay. Its southern limit was the River Forth, northwards it extended towards the Moray Firth and perhaps to Caithness, while its western limits are uncertain. Constantine’s grandfather Kenneth I of Scotland (Cináed mac Ailpín, died 858) was the first of the family recorded as a king, but as king of the Picts. This change of title, from king of the Picts to king of Alba, is part of a broader transformation of Pictland and the origins of the Kingdom of Alba are traced to Constantine’s lifetime.
His reign, like those of his predecessors, was dominated by the actions of Viking rulers in the British Isles, particularly the Uí Ímair (“the grandsons of Ímar”, or Ivar the Boneless). During Constantine’s reign the rulers of the southern kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, later the Kingdom of England, extended their authority northwards into the disputed kingdoms of Northumbria. At first, the southern rulers allied with him against the Vikings, but in 934 Æthelstan, unprovoked, invaded Scotland both by sea and land with a huge retinue that included four Welsh Kings. He ravaged southern Alba but there is no record of any battles. He had withdrawn by September. Three years later in 937, probably in retaliation for the invasion of Alba, King Constantine allied with Olaf Guthfrithson, King of Dublin, and Owain, King of Strathclyde, but they were defeated at the battle of Brunanburh. In 943 Constantine abdicated the throne and retired to the Céli Dé (Culdee) monastery of St Andrews where he died in 952. He was succeeded by his predecessor’s son Malcolm I (Máel Coluim mac Domnaill).
Constantine’s reign of 43 years, exceeded in Scotland only by that of King William the Lion before the Union of the Crowns in 1603, is believed to have played a defining part in the gaelicisation of Pictland, in which his patronage of the Irish Céli Dé monastic reformers was a significant factor. During his reign, the words “Scots” and “Scotland” (Old English: Scottas, Scotland) are first used to mean part of what is now Scotland. The earliest evidence for the ecclesiastical and administrative institutions which would last until the Davidian Revolution also appears at this time.
Compared to neighbouring Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England, few records of 9th- and 10th-century events in Scotland survive. The main local source from the period is the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, a list of kings from Kenneth MacAlpin (died 858) to Kenneth II (Cináed mac Maíl Coluim, died 995). The list survives in the Poppleton Manuscript, a 13th-century compilation. Originally simply a list of kings with reign lengths, the other details contained in the Poppleton Manuscript version were added in the 10th and 12th centuries. In addition to this, later king lists survive.The earliest genealogical records of the descendants of Kenneth MacAlpin may date from the end of the 10th century, but their value lies more in their context, and the information they provide about the interests of those for whom they were compiled, than in the unreliable claims they contain.
For narrative history the principal sources are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Irish annals. The evidence from charters created in the Kingdom of England provides occasional insight into events in Scotland. While Scandinavian sagas describe events in 10th-century Britain, their value as sources of historical narrative, rather than documents of social history, is disputed. Mainland European sources rarely concern themselves with affairs in any part of the British Isles, and even less commonly with events in Scotland, but the life of Saint Cathróe of Metz, a work of hagiography written in Germany at the end of the 10th century, provides plausible details of the saint’s early life in north Britain.
While the sources for north-eastern Britain, the lands of the kingdom of Northumbria and the former Pictland, are limited and late, those for the areas on the Irish Sea and Atlantic coasts—the modern regions of north-west England and all of northern and western Scotland—are non-existent, and archaeology and toponymy are of primary importance.
Pictland from Constantín mac Fergusa to Constantine 1
The dominant kingdom in eastern Scotland before the Viking Age was the northern Pictish kingdom of Fortriu on the shores of the Moray Firth. By the 9th century, the Gaels of Dál Riata (Dalriada) were subject to the kings of Fortriu of the family of Constantín mac Fergusa (Constantine son of Fergus). Constantín’s family dominated Fortriu after 789 and perhaps, if Constantín was a kinsman of Óengus I of the Picts (Óengus son of Fergus), from around 730. The dominance of Fortriu came to an end in 839 with a defeat by Viking armies reported by the Annals of Ulster in which King Uen of Fortriu and his brother Bran, Constantín’s nephews, together with the king of Dál Riata, Áed mac Boanta, “and others almost innumerable” were killed. These deaths led to a period of instability lasting a decade as several families attempted to establish their dominance in Pictland. By around 848 Kenneth MacAlpin had emerged as the winner.
Later national myth made Kenneth MacAlpin the creator of the kingdom of Scotland, the founding of which was dated from 843, the year in which he was said to have destroyed the Picts and inaugurated a new era. The historical record for 9th-century Scotland is meagre, but the Irish annals and the 10th-century Chronicle of the Kings of Alba agree that Kenneth was a Pictish king, and call him “king of the Picts” at his death. The same style is used of Kenneth’s brother Donald I (Domnall mac Ailpín) and sons Constantine I (Constantín mac Cináeda) and Áed (Áed mac Cináeda).
The kingdom ruled by Kenneth’s descendants—older works used the name House of Alpin to describe them but descent from Kenneth was the defining factor, Irish sources referring to Clann Cináeda meic Ailpín (“the Clan of Kenneth MacAlpin”)—lay to the south of the previously dominant kingdom of Fortriu, centred in the lands around the River Tay. The extent of Kenneth’s nameless kingdom is uncertain, but it certainly extended from the Firth of Forth in the south to the Mounth in the north. Whether it extended beyond the mountainous spine of north Britain—Druim Alban—is unclear. The core of the kingdom was similar to the old counties of Mearns, Forfar, Perth, Fife, and Kinross. Among the chief ecclesiastical centres named in the records are Dunkeld, probably seat of the bishop of the kingdom, and Cell Rígmonaid (modern St Andrews).
Kenneth’s son Constantine died in 876, probably killed fighting against a Viking army that had come north from Northumbria in 874. According to the king lists, he was counted as the 70th and last king of the Picts in later times.
Britain and Ireland at the end of the 9th century
Some locations in northern Britain, late 9th and early 10th centuries. The dotted line marked A represents the southern boundary of the Kingdom of Alba, c. 890–950. The dotted line marked B represents the southern boundary of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, c. 925–945.
In 899 Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, died leaving his son Edward the Elder as ruler of England south of the River Thames and his daughter Æthelflæd and son-in-law Æthelred ruling the western, English part of Mercia. The situation in the Danish kingdoms of eastern England is less clear. King Eohric was probably ruling in East Anglia, but no dates can reliably be assigned to the successors of Guthfrith of York in Northumbria. It is known that Guthfrith was succeeded by Sigurd and Cnut, although whether these men ruled jointly or one after the other is uncertain. Northumbria may have been divided by this time between the Viking kings in York and the local rulers, perhaps represented by Eadulf, based at Bamburgh who controlled the lands from the River Tyne or River Tees to the Forth in the north.
In Ireland, Flann Sinna, married to Constantine’s aunt Máel Muire, was dominant. The years around 900 represented a period of weakness among the Vikings and Norse-Gaels of Dublin. They are reported to have been divided between two rival leaders. In 894 one group left Dublin, perhaps settling on the Irish Sea coast of Britain between the River Mersey and the Firth of Clyde. The remaining Dubliners were expelled in 902 by Flann Sinna’s son-in-law Cerball mac Muirecáin, and soon afterwards appeared in western and northern Britain.
To the southwest of Constantine’s lands lay the kingdom of Strathclyde. This extended north into the Lennox, east to the River Forth, and south into the Southern Uplands. In 900 it was probably ruled by King Dyfnwal.
The situation of the Gaelic kingdoms of Dál Riata in western Scotland is uncertain. No kings are known by name after Áed mac Boanta. The Frankish Annales Bertiniani may record the conquest of the Inner Hebrides, the seaward part of Dál Riata, by Northmen in 849. In addition to these, the arrival of new groups of Vikings from northern and western Europe was still commonplace. Whether there were Viking or Norse-Gael kingdoms in the Western Isles or the Northern Isles at this time is debated.
Áed, Constantine’s father, succeeded Constantine’s uncle and namesake Constantine I in 876 but was killed in 878. Áed’s short reign is glossed as being of no importance by most king lists. Although the date of his birth is nowhere recorded, Constantine II cannot have been born any later than the year after his father’s death, i.e., 879. His name may suggest that he was born a few years earlier, during the reign of his uncle Constantine I.
After Áed’s death, there is a two-decade gap until the death of Donald II (Domnall mac Constantín) in 900 during which nothing is reported in the Irish annals. The entry for the reign between Áed and Donald II is corrupt in the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, and in this case, the Chronicle is at variance with every other king list. According to the Chronicle, Áed was followed by Eochaid, a grandson of Kenneth MacAlpin, who is somehow connected with Giric, but all other lists say that Giric ruled after Áed and make great claims for him. Giric is not known to have been a kinsman of Kenneth’s, although it has been suggested that he was related to him by marriage. The major changes in Pictland which began at about this time have been associated by Alex Woolf and Archie Duncan with Giric’s reign.
Woolf suggests that Constantine and his younger brother Donald may have passed Giric’s reign in exile in Ireland where their aunt Máel Muire was wife of two successive High Kings of Ireland, Áed Findliath and Flann Sinna. Giric died in 889. If he had been in exile, Constantine may have returned to Pictland where his cousin Donald II became king. Donald’s reputation is suggested by the epithet dasachtach, a word used of violent madmen and mad bulls, attached to him in the 11th-century writings of Flann Mainistrech, echoed by his description in the Prophecy of Berchan as “the rough one who will think relics and psalms of little worth”. Wars with the Viking kings in Britain and Ireland continued during Donald’s reign and he was probably killed fighting yet more Vikings at Dunnottar in the Mearns in 900. Constantine succeeded him as king.
Vikings and bishops
The cult of Saint Columba and its relics were associated with victory in battle. The Cathbuaid, Columba’s crozier or staff, has been lost but the 8th-century Breccbennach or Monymusk Reliquary shown here, which held relics of Columba, is known to have been carried into battle from the reign of King William the Lion onwards.
The earliest event recorded in the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba in Constantine’s reign is an attack by Vikings and the plundering of Dunkeld “and all Albania” in his third year. This is the first use of the word Albania, the Latin form of the Old Irish Alba, in the Chronicle which until then describes the lands ruled by the descendants of Cináed as Pictavia.
These Norsemen could have been some of those who were driven out of Dublin in 902, or were the same group who had defeated Domnall in 900. The Chronicle states that the Northmen were killed in Srath Erenn, which is confirmed by the Annals of Ulster which records the death of Ímar grandson of Ímar and many others at the hands of the men of Fortriu in 904. This Ímar was the first of the Uí Ímair, the grandsons of Ímar, to be reported; three more grandsons of Ímar appear later in Constantín’s reign. The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland contain an account of the battle, and this attributes the defeat of the Norsemen to the intercession of Saint Columba following fasting and prayer. An entry in the Chronicon Scotorum under the year 904 may possibly contain a corrupted reference to this battle.
The next event reported by the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba is dated to 906. This records that:
King Constantine and Bishop Cellach met at the Hill of Belief near the royal city of Scone and pledged themselves that the laws and disciplines of the faith, and the laws of churches and gospels, should be kept pariter cum Scottis.
The meaning of this entry, and its significance, have been the subject of debate.
The moot hill at Scone, perhaps the Hill of Belief of 906
The phrase pariter cum Scottis in the Latin text of the Chronicle has been translated in several ways. William Forbes Skene and Alan Orr Anderson proposed that it should be read as “in conformity with the customs of the Gaels”, relating it to the claims in the king lists that Giric liberated the church from secular oppression and adopted Irish customs. It has been read as “together with the Gaels”, suggesting either public participation or the presence of Gaels from the western coasts as well as the people of the east coast. Finally, it is suggested that it was the ceremony that followed “the custom of the Gaels” and not the agreements.
The idea that this gathering agreed to uphold Irish laws governing the church has suggested that it was an important step in the gaelicisation of the lands east of Druim Alban. Others have proposed that the ceremony in some way endorsed Constantine’s kingship, prefiguring later royal inaugurations at Scone. Alternatively, if Bishop Cellach was appointed by Giric, it may be that the gathering was intended to heal a rift between king and church.
Return of the Uí Ímair.
Following the events at Scone, there is little of substance reported for a decade. A story in the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, perhaps referring to events sometime after 911, claims that Queen Æthelflæd, who ruled in Mercia, allied with the Irish and northern rulers against the Norsemen on the Irish sea coasts of Northumbria. The Annals of Ulster record the defeat of an Irish fleet from the kingdom of Ulaid by Vikings “on the coast of England” at about this time.
In this period the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba reports the death of Cormac mac Cuilennáin, king of Munster, in the eighth year of Constantine’s reign. This is followed by an undated entry which was formerly read as “In his time Domnall [i.e. Dyfnwal], king of the [Strathclyde] Britons died, and Domnall son of Áed was elected”. This was thought to record the election of a brother of Constantine named Domnall to the kingship of the Britons of Strathclyde and was seen as early evidence of the domination of Strathclyde by the kings of Alba. The entry in question is now read as “…Dyfnwal… and Domnall son Áed king of Ailech died”, this Domnall being a son of Áed Findliath who died on 21 March 915. Finally, the deaths of Flann Sinna and Niall Glúndub are recorded.
There are more reports of Viking fleets in the Irish Sea from 914 onwards. By 916 fleets under Sihtric Cáech and Ragnall, said to be grandsons of Ímar (that is, they belonged to the same Uí Ímair kindred as the Ímar who was killed in 904), were very active in Ireland. Sihtric inflicted a heavy defeat on the armies of Leinster and retook Dublin in 917. The following year Ragnall appears to have returned across the Irish sea intent on establishing himself as king at York. The only precisely dated event in the summer of 918 is the death of Queen Æthelflæd on 12 June 918 at Tamworth, Staffordshire. Æthelflæd had been negotiating with the Northumbrians to obtain their submission, but her death put an end to this and her successor, her brother Edward the Elder, was occupied with securing control of Mercia.
The northern part of Northumbria, and perhaps the whole kingdom, had probably been ruled by Ealdred son of Eadulf since 913. Faced with Ragnall’s invasion, Ealdred came north seeking assistance from Constantine. The two advanced south to face Ragnall, and this led to a battle somewhere on the banks of the River Tyne, probably at Corbridge where Dere Street crosses the river. The Battle of Corbridge appears to have been indecisive; the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba is alone in giving Constantine the victory.
The report of the battle in the Annals of Ulster says that none of the kings or mormaers among the men of Alba were killed. This is the first surviving use of the word mormaer; other than the knowledge that Constantine’s kingdom had its own bishop or bishops and royal villas, this is the only hint to the institutions of the kingdom.
After Corbridge, Ragnall enjoyed only a short respite. In the south, Alfred’s son Edward had rapidly secured control of Mercia and had a burh constructed at Bakewell in the Peak District from which his armies could easily strike north. An army from Dublin led by Ragnall’s kinsman Sihtric struck at north-western Mercia in 919, but in 920 or 921 Edward met with Ragnall and other kings. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that these kings “chose Edward as father and lord”. Among the other kings present were Constantine, Ealdred son of Eadwulf, and the king of Strathclyde, Owain ap Dyfnwal. Here, again, a new term appears in the record, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the first time using the word scottas, from which Scots derives, to describe the inhabitants of Constantine’s kingdom in its report of these events.
Edward died in 924. His realms appear to have been divided with the West Saxons recognising Ælfweard while the Mercians chose Æthelstan who had been raised at Æthelflæd’s court. Ælfweard died within weeks of his father and Æthelstan was inaugurated as king of all of Edward’s lands in 925.
See also: Æthelstan’s invasion of Scotland
By 926 Sihtric had evidently acknowledged Æthelstan as overlord, adopting Christianity and marrying a sister of Æthelstan at Tamworth. Within the year he appears to have forsaken his new faith and repudiated his wife, but before Æthelstan could respond, Sihtric died suddenly in 927. His kinsman, perhaps brother, Gofraid, who had remained as his deputy in Dublin, came from Ireland to take power in York, but failed. Æthelstan moved quickly, seizing much of Northumbria. In less than a decade, the kingdom of the English had become by far the greatest power in Britain and Ireland, perhaps stretching as far north as the Firth of Forth.
John of Worcester’s chronicle suggests that Æthelstan faced opposition from Constantine, Owain, and the Welsh kings. William of Malmesbury writes that Gofraid, together with Sihtric’s young son Olaf Cuaran fled north and received refuge from Constantine, which led to war with Æthelstan. A meeting at Eamont Bridge on 12 July 927 was sealed by an agreement that Constantine, Owain, Hywel Dda, and Ealdred would “renounce all idolatry”: that is, they would not ally with the Viking kings. William states that Æthelstan stood godfather to a son of Constantine, probably Indulf (Ildulb mac Constantín), during the conference.
Æthelstan followed up his advances in the north by securing the recognition of the Welsh kings. For the next seven years, the record of events in the north is blank. Æthelstan’s court was attended by the Welsh kings, but not by Constantine or Owain. This absence of record means that Æthelstan’s reasons for marching north against Constantine in 934 are unclear.
Æthelstan’s invasion is reported in brief by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and later chroniclers such as John of Worcester, William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, and Symeon of Durham add detail to that bald account. Æthelstan’s army began gathering at Winchester by 28 May 934, and travelled north to Nottingham by 7 June. He was accompanied by many leaders, including the Welsh kings Hywel Dda, Idwal Foel, and Morgan ab Owain. From Mercia the army continued to Chester-le-Street, before resuming the march accompanied by a fleet of ships. Owain was defeated and Symeon states that the army went as far north as Dunnottar and Fortriu, while the fleet is said to have raided Caithness, by which a much larger area, including Sutherland, is probably intended. It is unlikely that Constantine’s personal authority extended so far north, so the attacks were probably directed at his allies, comprising simple looting expeditions.
The Annals of Clonmacnoise state that “the Scottish men compelled [Æthelstan] to return without any great victory”, while Henry of Huntingdon claims that the English faced no opposition. A negotiated settlement might have ended matters: according to John of Worcester, a son of Constantine was given as a hostage to Æthelstan and Constantine himself accompanied the English king on his return south. He witnessed a charter with Æthelstan at Buckingham on 13 September 934 in which he is described as subregulus, i.e., a king acknowledging Æthelstan’s overlordship, the only place there is any record of such a description. However, there is no record of Constantine having ever submitted to Æthelstan’s overlordship or that he considered himself such. The following year, Constantine was again in England at Æthelstan’s court, this time at Cirencester where he appears as a witness, as the first of several kings, followed by Owain and Hywel Dda, who subscribed to the diploma. At Christmas of 935, Owain was once more at Æthelstan’s court along with the Welsh kings, but Constantine was not. His return to England less than two years later would be in very different circumstances.
Brunanburh and after
Following his departure from Æthelstan’s court after 935, there is no further report of Constantine until 937. In that year, together with Owain and Olaf Guthfrithson of Dublin, Constantine invaded England. The resulting battle of Brunanburh—Dún Brunde—is reported in the Annals of Ulster as follows:
a great battle, lamentable and terrible was cruelly fought… in which fell uncounted thousands of the Northmen. …And on the other side, a multitude of Saxons fell; but Æthelstan, the king of the Saxons, obtained a great victory.
The battle was remembered in England a generation later as “the Great Battle”. When reporting the battle, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle abandons its usual terse style in favour of a heroic poem vaunting the great victory. In this, the “hoary” Constantine, by now around 60 years of age, is said to have lost a son in the battle, a claim which the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba confirms. The Annals of Clonmacnoise give his name as Cellach. For all its fame, the site of the battle is uncertain and several sites have been advanced, with Bromborough on the Wirral the most favoured location.
Brunanburh, for all that it had been a famous and bloody battle, settled nothing. On 27 October 939 Æthelstan, the “pillar of the dignity of the western world” in the words of the Annals of Ulster, died at Malmesbury. He was succeeded by his brother Edmund, then aged 18. Æthelstan’s realm, seemingly made safe by the victory of Brunanburh, collapsed in little more than a year from his death when Amlaíb returned from Ireland and seized Northumbria and the Mercian Danelaw. Edmund spent the remainder of Constantín’s reign rebuilding his kingdom.
For Constantine’s last years as king, there is only the meagre record of the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba. The death of Æthelstan is reported, as are two others. The first of these, in 938, is that of Dubacan, mormaer of Angus or son of the mormaer. Unlike the report of 918, on this occasion, the title mormaer is attached to a geographical area, but it is unknown whether the Angus of 938 was in any way similar to the later mormaerdom or earldom. The second death, entered with that of Æthelstan, is that of Eochaid mac Ailpín, who might, from his name, have been a kinsman of Constantín.
Abdication and posterity
By the early 940s Constantine was an old man in his late sixties or seventies. The kingdom of Alba was too new to be said to have a customary rule of succession, but Pictish and Irish precedents favoured an adult successor descended from Kenneth MacAlpin. Constantine’s surviving son Indulf, probably baptised in 927, would have been too young to be a serious candidate for the kingship in the early 940s, and the obvious heir was Constantine’s nephew, Malcolm I. As Malcolm was born no later than 901, by the 940s he was no longer a young man, and may have been impatient. Willingly or not—the 11th-century Prophecy of Berchán, a verse history in the form of a supposed prophecy, states that it was not a voluntary decision—Constantine abdicated in 943 and entered a monastery, leaving the kingdom to Malcolm.
Although his retirement might have been involuntary, the Life of Cathróe of Metz and the Prophecy of Berchán portray Constantine as a devout king. The monastery to which Constantine retired, and where he is said to have been abbot, was probably that of St Andrews. This had been refounded in his reign and given to the reforming Céli Dé (Culdee) movement. The Céli Dé were subsequently to be entrusted with many monasteries throughout the kingdom of Alba until replaced in the 12th century by new orders imported from France.
Seven years later the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba says:
[Malcolm I] plundered the English as far as the river Tees, and he seized a multitude of people and many herds of cattle: and the Scots called this the raid of Albidosorum, that is, Nainndisi. But others say that Constantine made this raid, asking of the king, Malcolm, that the kingship should be given to him for a week’s time so that he could visit the English. In fact, it was Malcolm who made the raid, but Constantine incited him, as I have said.
Woolf suggests that the association of Constantine with the raid is a late addition, one derived from a now-lost saga or poem.
Constantine’s death in 952 is recorded by the Irish annals, who enter it among ecclesiastics. His son Indulf would become king on Malcolm’s death. The last of Constantine’s certain descendants to be king in Alba was a great-grandson, Constantine III (Constantín mac Cuiléin). Another son had died at Brunanburh, and, according to John of Worcester, Amlaíb mac Gofraid was married to a daughter of Constantine. It is possible that Constantine had other children, but like the name of his wife, or wives, this has not been recorded.
The form of kingdom which appeared in Constantine’s reign continued in much the same way until the Davidian Revolution in the 12th century. As with his ecclesiastical reforms, his political legacy was the creation of a new form of Scottish kingship that lasted for two centuries after his death.
The name of Constantine’s wife is not known, however, they are known to have had at least 3 children:
- Ildulb mac Causantín (Indulf or Indulph)(died 962), king of Alba 954–962.
- Cellach, died in 937 in the Battle of Brunanburh.
- A daughter, name not recorded, married Amlaíb mac Gofraid.
CONTAINS SENSITIVE MATERIAL.
Dennis Andrew Nilsen (23 November 1945 – 12 May 2018) was a Scottish serial killer and necrophile who murdered at least twelve young men and boys between 1978 and 1983 in London. Convicted at the Old Bailey of six counts of murder and two of attempted murder, Nilsen was sentenced to life imprisonment on 4 November 1983, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of twenty-five years. This recommendation was later changed to a whole life tariff in December 1994. In his later years, Nilsen was imprisoned at Full Sutton maximum security prison.
All of Nilsen’s murders were committed at the two North London addresses where he lived between 1978 and 1983. His victims would be lured to these addresses through deception and killed by strangulation, sometimes accompanied by drowning. Following each murder, Nilsen would observe a ritual in which he bathed and dressed the victim’s body, which he retained for extended periods of time, before dissecting and disposing of the remains by burning them in a bonfire or flushing them down a toilet
Nilsen became known as the Muswell Hill Murderer, as he committed his later murders in the Muswell Hill district of North London. He died at York Hospital on 12 May 2018 of a pulmonary embolism and a retroperitoneal haemorrhage, which occurred following surgery to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Dennis Nilsen was born on 23 November 1945 in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, the second of three children born to Elizabeth Duthie Whyte and Olav Magnus Moksheim (who had adopted the surname Nilsen). Nilsen’s father was a Norwegian soldier who had travelled to Scotland in 1940 as part of the Free Norwegian Forces following the German occupation of Norway. After a brief courtship he married Nilsen’s mother in May 1942, and the newlyweds moved into her parents’ house.
The marriage between Nilsen’s parents was difficult. Olav Nilsen did not view married life with any seriousness, being preoccupied with his duties with the Free Norwegian Forces, and making little attempt to spend much time with or find a new home for his wife. After the birth of her third child, Nilsen’s mother concluded she had “rushed into marriage without thinking”. The couple divorced in 1948. All three of the couple’s children—Olav Jr., Dennis and Sylvia—had been conceived on their father’s brief visits to their mother’s household. Her parents, Andrew and Lily (née Duthie) Whyte—who had never approved of their daughter’s choice of husband—were supportive of their daughter following her divorce and considerate of their grandchildren.
Nilsen was a quiet yet adventurous child. His earliest childhood memories were of family picnics in the Scottish countryside with his mother and siblings, of his grandparents’ pious lifestyle (which he later described as “cold and dour”), and of being taken on long countryside walks carried on the shoulders of his maternal grandfather, to whom he was particularly close. Olav Jr. and Sylvia occasionally accompanied Dennis and his grandfather on these walks. Despite only being five years old, Nilsen vividly recalled these walks as being “very long … along the harbour, across the wide stretch of beach, up to the sand-dunes, which rise thirty feet behind the beach … and on to Inverallochy”. He later described this stage of his childhood as one of contentment, and his grandfather being his “great hero and protector”, adding that whenever his grandfather (who was a fisherman) was at sea, “Life would be empty [for me] until he returned”.
By 1951, Nilsen’s grandfather’s health was in decline, but he continued to work. On 31 October 1951, while fishing in the North Sea, he died of a heart attack at the age of 62. His body was brought ashore and returned to the Whyte family home prior to burial. In what Nilsen later described as his most vivid childhood recollection, his mother, weeping, asked him whether he wanted to see his grandfather. When he replied that he did, he was taken into the room where his grandfather lay in an open coffin. As Nilsen gazed upon the body, his mother told him his grandfather was sleeping, adding that he had “gone to a better place”.
In the years following the death of his grandfather, Nilsen became more quiet and withdrawn, often standing alone at the harbour watching the herring boats. At home, he seldom participated in family activities and retreated from any attempts by adult family members to demonstrate any affection towards him. Nilsen grew to resent what he saw as the unfair amount of attention his mother, grandmother and later, stepfather displayed towards his older brother and younger sister. Nilsen envied Olav Jr.’s popularity. He often talked to or played games with his younger sister, Sylvia, to whom he was closer than any other family member.
On one of his solo excursions to the beach at Inverallochy, in 1954 or 1955, Nilsen became submerged beneath the water and was almost dragged out to sea. He initially panicked, flailing his arms and shouting. As he “gasped for air which wasn’t there” he recalled believing that his grandfather was about to arrive and pull him out, before experiencing a sense of tranquility. His life was saved by another youth who dragged him ashore. Shortly after this incident, Nilsen’s mother moved out of his grandparents’ home and into a flat with her three children. She later married a builder named Andrew Scott, with whom she had four more children in as many years. Although Nilsen initially resented his stepfather (whom he viewed as an unfair disciplinarian) he gradually came to grudgingly respect him. The family moved to Strichen in 1955.
At the onset of puberty, Nilsen discovered he was gay, which initially confused and shamed him. He kept his sexuality hidden from his family and his few friends. Because many of the boys to whom he was attracted had facial features similar to those of his younger sister, Sylvia, on one occasion he sexually fondled her, believing that his attraction towards boys might be a manifestation of the care he felt for her. Nilsen made no efforts to seek sexual contact with any of the peers to whom he was sexually attracted, although he later said he had been fondled by an older youth and did not find the experience unpleasant. On one occasion, he also caressed and fondled the body of his older brother as he slept. As a result of this, Olav Jr. began to suspect his brother was gay and regularly belittled him in public—referring to Dennis as “hen” (Scottish dialect for “girl”). Nilsen initially believed that his fondling of his sister may have been evidence that he was bisexual.
As Nilsen progressed into adolescence, he found life in Strichen increasingly stifling, with limited entertainment amenities or career opportunities. He respected his parents’ efforts to provide and care for their children, but began to resent the fact that his family was poorer than most of his peers, with his mother and stepfather making no effort to better their lifestyles; thus, Nilsen seldom invited his friends to the family home. At the age of 14, he joined the Army Cadet Force, viewing the British Army as a potential avenue for escaping his rural origins.
Nilsen’s scholastic record was above average. He displayed a flair for history and art, but shunned sports. He finished his schooling in 1961 and briefly worked in a canning factory as he considered which career path he should choose. After three weeks at the factory, Nilsen informed his mother that he intended to join the army, where he intended to train as a chef. Nilsen passed the entrance examinations and received official notification he was to enlist for nine years’ service in September 1961, commencing his training with the Army Catering Corps at St. Omer Barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire. Within weeks, Nilsen began to excel in his army duties; he later described his three years of training at Aldershot as “the happiest of my life”. He relished the travel opportunities afforded him in his training, and recalled as a highlight his regiment taking part in a ceremonial parade attended by both the Queen and Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein.
While stationed at Aldershot, Nilsen’s latent feelings began to stir, but he kept his sexual orientation well hidden from his colleagues. Nilsen never showered in the company of his fellow soldiers for fear of developing an erection in their presence; instead opting to bathe alone in the bathroom, which also afforded him the privacy to masturbate without discovery.
In mid-1964, Nilsen passed his initial catering exam and was officially assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers in Osnabrück, West Germany, where he served as a private. In this deployment, Nilsen began to increase his intake of alcohol. He described himself and his colleagues as a “hard-working, boozy lot”; his colleagues recalled he often drank to excess in order to ease his shyness. On one occasion, Nilsen and a German youth drank themselves into a stupor. When Nilsen awoke, he found himself on the floor of the German youth’s flat. No sexual activity had occurred, but this incident fuelled Nilsen’s sexual fantasies, which initially involved his sexual partner—invariably a young, slender male—being completely passive. These fantasies gradually evolved into his partner being unconscious or dead. On several occasions, Nilsen also made tentative efforts to have his own prone body sexually interfered with by one of his colleagues. In these instances, whenever he and his colleagues drank to excess, Nilsen would pretend he was inebriated in the hope one of his colleagues would make sexual use of his supposedly unconscious body.
Following two years of service in Osnabrück, Nilsen returned to Aldershot, where he passed his official catering exam before being deployed to serve as a cook for the British Army in Norway. In 1967, he was deployed to the State of Aden (formerly Aden Colony), where he again served as a cook at the Al Mansoura Prison. This posting was more dangerous than his previous postings in West Germany or Norway, and Nilsen later recalled his regiment losing several men, often in ambushes en route to the army barracks. Nilsen was kidnapped by an Arab taxi driver, who beat him unconscious and placed him in the boot of his car. Upon being dragged out of the boot of the taxi, Nilsen grabbed a jack-handle and knocked the taxi driver to the floor before beating him unconscious. He then locked the man in the boot of the taxi.
Unlike his previous postings, Nilsen had his own room while stationed in Aden. This afforded him the privacy to masturbate without discovery. His developed fantasies of sex with an unresistant or deceased partner unfulfilled, Nilsen compensated by imagining sexual encounters with an unconscious body as he masturbated while looking at his own prone, nude body in a mirror. On one occasion, Nilsen discovered that, by using a free-standing mirror, he could create an effect whereby if positioning the mirror so his head was out of view, he could visualise himself engaged in a sexual act with another man. To Nilsen, this ruse created the ideal circumstance in which he could visually “split” his personality: in these masturbatory fantasies, Nilsen alternately envisaged himself as being both the domineering and the passive partner. These fantasies gradually evolved to incorporate his own near-death experience with the Arab taxi driver, the dead bodies he had seen in Aden, and imagery within a 19th-century oil painting entitled The Raft of the Medusa, which depicts an old man holding the limp, nude body of a dead youth as he sits aside the dismembered body of another young male. In Nilsen’s most vividly recalled fantasy, a slender, attractive young blond soldier who had been recently killed in battle is dominated by a faceless “dirty, grey-haired old man” who washed this body before engaging in intercourse with the spreadeagled corpse.
When Nilsen completed his deployment in Aden he returned to the UK and was assigned to serve with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Seaton Barracks in Plymouth, Devon. Throughout his service with this regiment, he was required to cook for thirty soldiers and two officers on a daily basis. Nilsen served at these barracks for one year before being transferred with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to Cyprus in 1969. Months later, the regiment was transferred to West Berlin, where, the same year, Nilsen had his first sexual experience with a female: a prostitute whose services he solicited. He bragged of this sexual encounter to his colleagues, but later stated he found intercourse with a female both “over-rated” and “depressing”.
Following a brief period with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Inverness, Nilsen was selected to cook for the Queen’s Royal Guard before, in January 1971, being reassigned to serve as a cook for a different regiment in the Shetland Islands, where he ended his 11-year military career at the rank of corporal in October 1972.
Between October and December 1972, Nilsen lived with his family as he considered his next career move. On more than one occasion in the three months Nilsen lived in Strichen, his mother voiced her opinion as to her being more concerned with his lack of female companionship than his career path, and of her desire to see him marry and start a family. On one occasion, Nilsen joined his older brother Olav Jr., his sister-in-law, and another couple to watch a documentary about gay men. All present viewed the topic with derision, except Nilsen, who ardently spoke in defence of gay rights. A fight ensued, after which Olav Jr. informed his mother that Dennis was gay Nilsen never spoke to his older brother again, and maintained only sporadic written contact with his mother, stepfather and younger siblings. He decided to join the Metropolitan Police, and moved to London in December to begin the training course.
In April 1973, Nilsen completed his training and was posted to Willesden Green. Still a cadet and junior constable, he performed several arrests but never had to physically subdue a member of the public. Nilsen enjoyed the work, but missed the comradeship of the army. He began to drink alone in the evenings. During the summer and autumn of 1973, Nilsen began frequenting gay pubs and engaged in several casual liaisons with men. He viewed these encounters as “soul-destroying” liaisons in which he “would only lend” his partner his body in a “vain search for inner peace” as he sought a lasting relationship. In August, following a failed relationship, Nilsen came to the conclusion that his personal lifestyle was at odds with his job. His birth father died the same month, leaving each of his three children £1,000. In December, Nilsen resigned from the police.
Between December 1973 and May 1974, Nilsen worked as a security guard. The work was intermittent, and he resolved to find more stable, secure employment. He found work as a civil servant in May 1974 He was initially posted to a jobcentre in Denmark Street, where his primary role was to find employment for unskilled labourers. At his workplace, Nilsen was known to be a quiet, conscientious employee who was active in the trade union movement. His attendance record was mediocre, although he frequently volunteered to work overtime. In 1979, Nilsen was appointed acting executive officer. He was officially promoted to the position of executive officer, with additional supervisory responsibilities, in June 1982, and transferred to another Jobcentre in Kentish Town continuing in this job until his arrest.
In November 1975, Nilsen encountered a 20-year-old man named David Gallichan being threatened outside a pub by two other men. Nilsen intervened in the altercation and took Gallichan to his room at 80 Teignmouth Road in the Cricklewood district of North London. The two men spent the evening drinking and talking; Nilsen learned that Gallichan had recently moved to London from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was gay, unemployed, and residing in a hostel. The following morning, both men agreed to live together in a larger residence and Nilsen—using part of the inheritance bequeathed to him by his father—immediately resolved to find a larger property. Several days later, the pair viewed a vacant ground floor flat at 195 Melrose Avenue, also in Cricklewood, and they decided to move into the property. Prior to moving into Melrose Avenue, Nilsen negotiated a deal with the landlord whereby he and Gallichan had exclusive use of the garden at the rear of the property.
The flat was supposed to be furnished, but upon moving in, the pair found it to be largely threadbare.Over the following months, the couple redecorated and furnished the entire flat. Much of this work was performed by Gallichan, as Nilsen—having discovered Gallichan’s lack of employment ambitions—began to view himself as the breadwinner in their relationship. Nilsen later recollected that he was sexually attracted to Gallichan, but the pair seldom had intercourse.
Initially, Nilsen experienced domestic contentment with Gallichan, but within a year of their moving to Melrose Avenue, the superficial relationship between the two men began to show signs of strain. They slept in separate beds, and both began to bring home casual sexual partners. Gallichan later insisted Nilsen had never been violent towards him, but that he did engage in verbal abuse, and the pair had begun arguing with increasing frequency by early 1976. Nilsen later stated that, following a heated argument in May 1977, he demanded Gallichan leave the residence. (Gallichan later informed investigators that he had chosen to end the relationship.)
Nilsen formed brief relationships with several other young men over the following eighteen months; none of these relationships lasted more than a few weeks, and none of the men expressed any intention of living with him on a permanent basis.
By late 1978, Nilsen was living a solitary existence; he had experienced at least three failed relationships in the previous eighteen months, and he later confessed to having developed an increasing conviction that he was unfit to live with. Throughout 1978, he devoted an ever-increasing amount of his time, effort and assiduity to his work,and most evenings he spent consuming spirits and/or lager as he listened to music.
Between 1978 and 1983, Nilsen is known to have killed a minimum of twelve men and boys, and to have attempted to kill seven others (he initially confessed in 1983 to having killed about sixteen victims). The majority of Nilsen’s victims were homeless or gay men; others were heterosexual people he typically met in bars, on public transport or—on one occasion—outside his own home. All of Nilsen’s murders were committed inside the two North London addresses where he resided in the years he is known to have killed. His victims were lured to these addresses through guile—typically the offer of alcohol and/or shelter.
Inside Nilsen’s home, the victims were usually given food and alcohol, then strangled—typically with a ligature—either to death or until they had become unconscious. If the victim had been strangled into unconsciousness, Nilsen then drowned him in his bathtub, his sink or a bucket of water before observing a ritual in which he bathed, clothed and retained the bodies inside his residences for several weeks or, occasionally, months before he dismembered them. Each victim killed between 1978 and 1981 at his Cricklewood residence was disposed of via burning upon a bonfire. Prior to their dissection, Nilsen removed their internal organs, which he disposed of either beside a fence behind his flat, or close to Gladstone Park. The victims killed in 1982 and 1983 at his Muswell Hill residence were retained at his flat, with their flesh and smaller bones flushed down the lavatory.
Nilsen admitted to engaging in masturbation as he viewed the nude bodies of several of his victims, and to have engaged in sexual acts with six of his victims’ bodies, but was adamant that he had never penetrated any of his victims.
195 Melrose Avenue.
Nilsen killed his first victim, 14-year-old Stephen Holmes, on 30 December 1978. Holmes encountered Nilsen in the Cricklewood Arms pub, where Holmes had unsuccessfully attempted to purchase alcohol. According to Nilsen, he had been drinking heavily alone on the day he met Holmes before deciding in the evening that he must “at all costs” leave his flat and seek company. Nilsen invited Holmes to his house with the promise of the two drinking alcohol and listening to music, believing him to be approximately 17 years old. At Nilsen’s home, both he and Holmes drank heavily before they fell asleep. The following morning, Nilsen awoke to find the sleeping Holmes beside him on his bed. In his subsequent written confessions, Nilsen stated he was “afraid to wake him in case he left me”. After caressing the sleeping youth, Nilsen decided Holmes was to “stay with me over the New Year whether he wanted to or not”. Reaching for a necktie, Nilsen straddled Holmes as he strangled him into unconsciousness, before drowning the teenager in a bucket filled with water. Nilsen then washed the body in his bathtub before placing Holmes on his bed and caressing his body. He twice masturbated over the body, before awaiting the passing of rigor mortis to enable him to stow the corpse beneath his floorboards. Holmes’ bound corpse remained beneath the floorboards for almost eight months, before Nilsen built a bonfire in the garden behind his flat and burned the body on 11 August 1979.
I eased him into his new bed [beneath the floorboards] … A week later, I wondered whether his body had changed at all or had started to decompose. I disinterred him and pulled the dirt-stained youth up onto the floor. His skin was very dirty. I stripped myself naked and carried him into the bathroom and washed the body. There was practically no discoloration and his skin was pale white. His limbs were more relaxed than when I had put him down there.
Nilsen’s written recollections of the ritual he observed after the murder of his first victim.
I eased him into his new bed [beneath the floorboards] … A week later, I wondered whether his body had changed at all or had started to decompose. I disinterred him and pulled the dirt-stained youth up onto the floor. His skin was very dirty. I stripped myself naked and carried him into the bathroom and washed the body. There was practically no discoloration and his skin was pale white. His limbs were more relaxed than when I had put him down there.
Reflecting on his killing spree in 1983, Nilsen stated that, having killed Holmes: “I caused dreams which caused death … this is my crime,” adding that he had “started down the avenue of death and possession of a new kind of flatmate”
On 11 October 1979, Nilsen attempted to murder a student from Hong Kong named Andrew Ho, whom he had met in a St Martin’s Lane pub and lured to his flat on the promise of sex. Nilsen attempted to strangle Ho, who managed to flee from his flat and reported the incident to police. Nilsen was questioned in relation to the incident, but Ho decided not to press charges.
Two months after the attempted murder of Ho, on 3 December 1979, Nilsen encountered a 23-year-old Canadian student named Kenneth Ockenden, who had been on a tour of England visiting relatives. Nilsen encountered Ockenden as they both drank in a West End pub. Upon learning the young man was a tourist, Nilsen offered to show Ockenden several London landmarks, an offer which Ockenden accepted. Nilsen then invited the student to his house on the promise of a meal and further drinks. The pair stopped at an off licence en route to Nilsen’s residence and purchased whisky, rum, and beer, with Ockenden insisting on sharing the bill. Nilsen was adamant he could not recall the precise moment he strangled Ockenden, but recalled that he strangled the young man with the cord of his (Nilsen’s) headphones as Ockenden listened to music. He also recalled dragging Ockenden across his floor with the wire wrapped around his neck as he strangled him, before pouring himself half a glass of rum and continuing to listen to music on the headphones with which he had strangled Ockenden.
The following day, Nilsen purchased a Polaroid camera and photographed Ockenden’s body in various suggestive positions. He then laid Ockenden’s corpse spreadeagled above him on his bed as he watched television for several hours before wrapping the body in plastic bags and stowing the corpse beneath the floorboards. On approximately four occasions over the following fortnight, Nilsen disinterred Ockenden’s body from beneath his floorboards and seated the body upon his armchair alongside him as he himself watched television and drank alcohol.
Nilsen killed his third victim, 16-year-old Martyn Duffey, on 17 May 1980. Duffey was a catering student from Birkenhead, Merseyside, who had hitchhiked to London without his parents’ knowledge on 13 May after being questioned by the British Transport Police for evading his train fare. For four days, Duffey had slept rough near Euston railway station before Nilsen encountered the youth as he returned from a union conference in Southport. Duffey, Nilsen recollected, was both exhausted and hungry, and happily accepted Nilsen’s offer of a meal and a bed for the evening. After the youth had fallen asleep in Nilsen’s bed, Nilsen fashioned a ligature around his neck, then simultaneously sat on Duffey’s chest and tightened the ligature with a “great force”. Nilsen held this grip until Duffey became unconscious; he then dragged the youth into his kitchen and drowned him in his sink before bathing with the body—which he recollected as being “the youngest-looking I had ever seen.”
Duffey’s body was first placed upon a kitchen chair, then upon the bed on which he had been strangled. The body was repeatedly kissed, complimented and caressed by Nilsen, both before and after he had masturbated while sitting upon the stomach of the corpse. For two days, Duffey’s body was stowed in a cupboard, before Nilsen noted signs of bloating; therefore, “he went straight under the floorboards”.
Following Duffey’s murder, Nilsen began to kill with increasing frequency. Before the end of 1980, he killed a further five victims and attempted to murder one other; only one of these victims whom Nilsen murdered, 26-year-old William Sutherland, has ever been identified. Nilsen’s recollections of the unidentified victims were vague, but he graphically recalled how each victim had been murdered and just how long the body had been retained before dissection. One unidentified victim killed in November had moved his legs in a cycling motion as he was strangled (Nilsen is known to have absented himself from work between 11 and 18 November, likely due to this particular murder); another unidentified victim Nilsen had unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate, before sinking to his knees and sobbing, before standing to expressly spit at his own image as he looked at himself in the mirror. On another occasion, he had lain in bed alongside the body of an unidentified victim as he listened to the classical theme Fanfare for the Common Man before bursting into tears.
Inevitably, the accumulated bodies beneath Nilsen’s floorboards attracted insects and created a foul odour—particularly throughout summer months. On occasions when Nilsen disinterred victims from beneath the floorboards, he noted that the bodies were covered with pupae and infested with maggots; some victims’ heads had maggots crawling out of eye sockets and mouths. He placed deodorants beneath the floorboards and sprayed insecticide about the flat twice daily, but the odour of decay and the presence of flies remained.
In late 1980, Nilsen removed and dissected the bodies of each victim killed since December 1979 and burned them upon a communal bonfire he had constructed on waste ground behind his flat.To disguise the smell of the burning flesh of the six dissected bodies placed upon this pyre, Nilsen crowned the bonfire with an old car tyre. Three neighbourhood children stood to watch this particular bonfire, and Nilsen later wrote in his memoirs that he felt it would have seemed “in order” if he had seen these three children “dancing around a mass funeral pyre”. When the bonfire had been reduced to ashes and cinders, Nilsen used a rake to search the debris for any recognisable bones. Noting a skull was still intact, he smashed it to pieces with his rake.
I could only relate to a dead image of the person I could love. The image of my dead grandfather would be the model of him at his most striking in my mind. It seems necessary for them to have been dead in order that I could express those feelings which were the feelings I held sacred for my grandfather … it was a pseudo-sexual, infantile love which had not yet developed and matured. The sight of them [my victims] brought me a bitter sweetness and a temporary peace and fulfilment.
Extract from Nilsen’s prison journals, written while on remand, April 1983.
I could only relate to a dead image of the person I could love. The image of my dead grandfather would be the model of him at his most striking in my mind. It seems necessary for them to have been dead in order that I could express those feelings which were the feelings I held sacred for my grandfather … it was a pseudo-sexual, infantile love which had not yet developed and matured. The sight of them [my victims] brought me a bitter sweetness and a temporary peace and fulfilment.
On or about 4 January 1981, Nilsen encountered an unidentified man whom he described for investigators as an “18-year-old, blue-eyed” young Scot at the Golden Lion pub in Soho; he was lured to Melrose Avenue upon the promise of partaking in a drinking contest. After Nilsen and this victim had consumed several beverages, Nilsen strangled him with a tie and subsequently placed the body beneath the floorboards. Nilsen is known to have informed his employers he was ill and unable to attend work on 12 January in order that he could dissect both this victim and another unidentified victim he had killed approximately one month earlier. By April, Nilsen had killed two further unidentified victims: one of whom he described as an English skinhead whom he had met in Leicester Square; the other he described as “Belfast boy”; a man in his early 20s, approximately 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) height, whom he had murdered sometime in February. In relation to the first of these three unidentified victims, he later casually reflected: “End of the day, end of the drink, end of a person … floorboards back, carpet replaced, and back to work at Denmark Street The following month, Nilsen removed the internal organs of several victims stowed beneath his floorboards. He discarded these innards both upon the waste ground behind his flat, and in his household rubbish
The final victim to be murdered at Melrose Avenue was 23-year-old Malcolm Barlow, whom Nilsen discovered slumped against a wall outside his home on 17 September 1981. When Nilsen enquired as to Barlow’s welfare, he was informed the medication Barlow was prescribed for his epilepsy had caused his legs to weaken. Nilsen suggested that Barlow should be in hospital and, supporting him, walked him into his residence before phoning for an ambulance. The following day, Barlow was released from hospital and returned to Nilsen’s home, apparently to thank him. He was invited in and, after eating a meal, began drinking rum and coke before falling asleep on the sofa. Nilsen manually strangled Barlow as he slept, before stowing his body beneath his kitchen sink the following morning.
In mid-1981, Nilsen’s landlord decided to renovate 195 Melrose Avenue, and asked Nilsen to vacate the property. Nilsen was initially resistant to the proposal, but accepted an offer of £1,000 from the landlord to vacate the residence. He moved into an attic flat at 23D Cranley Gardens in the Muswell Hill district of North London on 5 October 1981 The day before he vacated the property, Nilsen burned the dissected bodies of the last five victims he had killed at this address upon a third and final bonfire he constructed in the garden behind his flat. Again, Nilsen ensured the bonfire was crowned with an old car tyre to disguise the smell of burning flesh (Nilsen had already dissected the bodies of four of these victims in January and August, and needed only to complete the dissection of Barlow for this third bonfire).
23 Cranley Gardens.
At 23 Cranley Gardens, Nilsen had no access to a garden, and as he resided in an attic flat, he was unable to stow any bodies beneath his floorboards. For almost two months, any acquaintances Nilsen encountered and lured to his flat were not assaulted in any manner, although he did attempt to strangle a 19-year-old student named Paul Nobbs on 23 November 1981, but stopped himself from completing the act.
In March 1982, Nilsen encountered 23-year-old John Howlett while drinking in a pub near Leicester Square. Howlett was lured to Nilsen’s flat on the promise of continuing drinking with Nilsen. There, both Nilsen and Howlett drank as they watched a film, before Howlett walked into Nilsen’s front room and fell asleep in his bed (which was located in the front room at this time). One hour later, Nilsen unsuccessfully attempted to rouse Howlett, then sat on the edge of the bed drinking rum as he stared at Howlett before deciding to kill him. Following a ferocious struggle (in which Howlett himself attempted to strangle his attacker), Nilsen strangled Howlett into unconsciousness with an upholstery strap before returning to his living room, shaking from the “stress of the struggle” in which he had believed he would be overpowered. On three occasions over the following ten minutes, Nilsen unsuccessfully attempted to kill this victim after noting he had resumed breathing, before deciding to fill his bathtub with water and drown him. For over a week following Howlett’s murder, Nilsen’s own neck bore the victim’s finger impressions.
Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill. Nilsen occupied an attic flat. His practice of flushing dissected body parts down the lavatory led to his arrest.
In May 1982, Nilsen encountered Carl Stottor, a 21-year-old gay man, as the young man drank at the Black Cap pub in Camden. Nilsen engaged Stottor in conversation, discovering he was depressed following a failed relationship. After plying him with alcohol, Nilsen invited Stottor to his flat, assuring his guest he had no intention of sexual activity. At the flat, Stottor consumed further alcohol before falling asleep upon an open sleeping bag; he later awoke to find himself being strangled with Nilsen loudly whispering, “Stay still”.
In his subsequent testimony at Nilsen’s trial, Stottor stated he initially believed Nilsen was trying to free him from the zip of the sleeping bag, before he returned to a state of unconsciousness. He then vaguely recalled hearing “water running” before realising he was immersed in the water and that Nilsen was attempting to drown him. After briefly succeeding in raising his head above the water, Stottor gasped the words, “No more, please! No more!” before Nilsen again submerged Stottor’s head beneath the water. Believing he had killed Stottor, Nilsen seated the youth in his armchair, then noted his mongrel dog, Bleep, licking Stottor’s face. Nilsen realised the tiniest thread of life still clung in the youth: he rubbed Stottor’s limbs and heart to increase circulation, covered the youth’s body in blankets, then laid him upon his bed. When Stottor regained consciousness, Nilsen embraced him; he then explained to Stottor he had almost strangled himself on the zip of the sleeping bag, and that he had resuscitated him. Over the following two days, Stottor repeatedly lapsed in and out of consciousness. When Stottor had regained enough strength to question Nilsen as to his recollections of being strangled and immersed in cold water, Nilsen explained he had become caught in the zip of the sleeping bag following a nightmare, and that he had placed him in cold water as “you were in shock”. Nilsen then led Stottor to a nearby railway station, where he informed the young man he hoped they might meet again before he bade him farewell.
Three months after Nilsen’s June 1982 promotion to the position of executive officer in his employment, he encountered a 27-year-old named Graham Allen attempting to hail a taxi in Shaftesbury Avenue. Allen accepted Nilsen’s offer to accompany him to Cranley Gardens for a meal. As had been the case with several previous victims, Nilsen stated he could not recall the precise moment he had strangled Allen, but recalled approaching him as he sat eating an omelette with the full intention of murdering him. Allen’s body was retained in the bathtub for a total of three days before Nilsen began the task of dissecting his body upon the kitchen floor. Nilsen is again known to have informed his employers he was ill and unable to attend work on 9 October 1982—likely in order that he could complete the dissection of Allen’s body.
On 26 January 1983, Nilsen killed his final victim, 20-year-old Stephen Sinclair. Sinclair was last seen by acquaintances in the company of Nilsen, walking in the direction of a tube station. At Nilsen’s flat, Sinclair fell asleep in a drug- and alcohol-induced stupor in an armchair as Nilsen sat listening to the rock opera Tommy. Nilsen approached Sinclair, knelt before him and said to himself, “Oh Stephen, here I go again”, before strangling Sinclair with a ligature constructed with a necktie and a rope. Noting crepe bandages upon each of Sinclair’s wrists, Nilsen removed these to discover several deep slash marks from where Sinclair had recently tried to kill himself.
Following his usual ritual of bathing the body, Nilsen laid Sinclair’s body upon his bed, applied talcum powder to the body, then arranged three mirrors around the bed before himself lying naked alongside the dead youth. Several hours later, he turned Stephen’s head towards him, before kissing the youth’s body on the forehead and saying, “Goodnight, Stephen”. Nilsen then fell asleep alongside the body. As had been the case with both Howlett and Allen, Sinclair’s body was subsequently dissected, with various dismembered parts wrapped in plastic bags and stored in either a wardrobe, a tea chest or within a drawer located beneath the bathtub. The bags used to seal Sinclair’s remains were sealed with the same crepe bandages Nilsen had found upon Sinclair’s wrists. Nilsen attempted to dispose of the flesh, internal organs and smaller bones of all three victims killed at Cranley Gardens by flushing their dissected remains down his toilet. In a practice which he had conducted upon several victims killed at Melrose Avenue, he also boiled the heads, hands and feet to remove the flesh off these sections of the victims’ bodies.
On 4 February 1983, Nilsen wrote a letter of complaint to estate agents complaining that the drains at Cranley Gardens were blocked, and that the situation for both himself and the other tenants at the property was intolerable. The following day, he refused to allow an acquaintance to enter his property, the reason being he had begun to dismember Sinclair’s body on the floor of his kitchen.
Nilsen’s murders were first discovered by a Dyno-Rod employee, Michael Cattran, who responded to the plumbing complaints made by both Nilsen and other tenants of Cranley Gardens on 8 February 1983. Opening a drain cover at the side of the house, Cattran discovered the drain was packed with a flesh-like substance and numerous small bones of unknown origin. Cattran reported his suspicions to his supervisor, Gary Wheeler. As Cattran had arrived at the property at dusk, he and Wheeler agreed to postpone further investigation into the blockage until the following morning. Prior to leaving the property, Nilsen and fellow tenant Jim Allcock convened with Cattran to discuss the source of the substance. Upon hearing Cattran exclaim how similar the substance was in appearance to human flesh, Nilsen replied: “It looks to me like someone has been flushing down their Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
At 7:30 a.m. the following day, Cattran and Wheeler returned to Cranley Gardens, by which time the drain had been cleared. This aroused the suspicions of both men. Cattran discovered some scraps of flesh and four bones in a pipe leading from the drain which linked to the top flat of the house. To both Cattran and Wheeler, the bones looked as if they originated from a human hand. Both men immediately called the police who, upon closer inspection, discovered further small bones and scraps of what looked to the naked eye like either human or animal flesh in the same pipe. These remains were taken to the mortuary at Hornsey, where pathologist David Bowen advised police that the remains were human, and that one particular piece of flesh he concluded had been from a human neck bore a ligature mark.
Upon learning from fellow tenants that the top floor flat from where the human remains had been flushed belonged to Nilsen, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and two colleagues opted to wait outside the house until Nilsen returned home from work. When Nilsen returned home, DCI Jay introduced himself and his colleagues, explaining they had come to enquire about the blockage in the drains from his flat. Nilsen asked why the police were interested in his drains and also whether or not the two officers present with Jay were health inspectors. In response, Jay informed Nilsen that the other two were also police officers, and requested access to his flat to discuss the matter further.
The three officers followed Nilsen into his flat, where they immediately noted the odour of rotting flesh. Nilsen questioned further as to why the police were interested in his drains, to which he was informed the blockage had been caused by human remains. Nilsen feigned shock and bewilderment, stating, “Good grief, how awful!” In response, Jay replied: “Don’t mess about, where’s the rest of the body?” Nilsen responded calmly, admitting that the remainder of the body could be found in two plastic bags in a nearby wardrobe, from which DCI Jay and his colleagues noted the overpowering smell of decomposition emanated. The officers did not open the cupboard, but asked Nilsen whether there were any other body parts to be found, to which Nilsen replied: “It’s a long story; it goes back a long time. I’ll tell you everything. I want to get it off my chest. Not here—at the police station.” He was then arrested and cautioned on suspicion of murder before being taken to Hornsey police station. While en route to the police station, Nilsen was asked whether the remains in his flat belonged to one person or two. Staring out of the window of the police car, he replied, “Fifteen or sixteen, since 1978.”
That evening, Detective Superintendent Chambers accompanied DCI Jay and Bowen to Cranley Gardens, where the plastic bags were removed from the wardrobe and taken to Hornsey mortuary. One bag was found to contain two dissected torsos, one of which had been vertically dissected, and a shopping bag containing various internal organs. The second bag contained a human skull almost completely devoid of flesh, a severed head, and a torso with arms attached, but hands missing. Both heads were found to have been subjected to moist heat.
In an interview conducted on 10 February, Nilsen confessed there were further human remains stowed in a tea chest in his living room, with other remains inside an upturned drawer in his bathroom. The dismembered body parts were the bodies of three men, all of whom he had killed by strangulation—usually with a necktie. One victim he could not name; another he knew only as “John the Guardsman”, and the third he identified as Stephen Sinclair. He also stated that, beginning in December 1978, he had killed “twelve or thirteen” men at his former address, 195 Melrose Avenue. Nilsen also admitted to having unsuccessfully attempted to kill approximately seven other people, who had either escaped or, on one occasion, had been at the brink of death but had been revived and allowed to leave his residence.
A further search for additional remains at Cranley Gardens on 10 February revealed the lower section of a torso and two legs stowed in a bag in the bathroom, and a skull, a section of a torso, and various bones in the tea chest.[The same day, Nilsen accompanied police to Melrose Avenue, where he indicated the three locations in the rear garden where he had burned the remains of his victims.
Cattran contacted the Daily Mirror on 10 February, informing the newspaper of the ongoing search for human remains at Cranley Gardens, leading the newspaper to break the story and spark intense national media interest. By 11 February, reporters from the Mirror had obtained photographs from Nilsen’s mother in Aberdeenshire, which appeared on their front page the following day.
The 12 February 1983 front page of the Daily Mirror, describing Nilsen having been formally charged with the murder of his last victim, Stephen Sinclair
Under English law, the police had forty-eight hours in which to charge Nilsen or release him. Assembling the remains of the victims killed at Cranley Gardens on the floor of Hornsey mortuary, Professor Bowen was able to confirm the fingerprints on one body matched those on police files of Sinclair. At 5:40 pm on 11 February, Nilsen was charged with Sinclair’s murder, and a statement revealing this was released to the press. Formal questioning of Nilsen began the same evening, with Nilsen agreeing to be represented by a solicitor (a facility he had earlier declined). Police interviewed Nilsen on sixteen separate occasions over the following days, in interviews which totalled over thirty hours.
Nilsen was adamant that he was uncertain as to why he had killed, simply saying, “I’m hoping you will tell me that” when asked his motive for the murders. He was adamant that the decision to kill was not made until moments before the act of murder. Most victims had died by strangulation; on several occasions, he had drowned the victims once they had been strangled into unconsciousness. Once the victim had been killed, he typically bathed the victim’s body, shaved any hair from the torso to conform it to his physical ideal, then applied makeup to any obvious blemishes upon the skin. The body was usually dressed in socks and underpants, before Nilsen draped the victims around him as he talked to the corpse. With most victims, Nilsen masturbated as he stood alongside or knelt above the body, and Nilsen confessed to having occasionally engaged in intercrural sex with his victims’ bodies, but repeatedly stressed to investigators he had never actually penetrated his victims—explaining that his victims were “too perfect and beautiful for the pathetic ritual of commonplace sex”.
All the victims’ personal possessions were destroyed following the ritual of bathing their bodies in an effort to obliterate their identity prior to their murder and their now becoming what Nilsen described as a “prop” in his fantasies. In several instances, he talked to the victim’s body as it remained seated in a chair or prone on his bed and he recalled being emotional as he marvelled at the beauty of their bodies. With reference to one victim, Kenneth Ockenden, Nilsen noted that Ockenden’s “body and skin were very beautiful”, adding the sight “almost brought me to tears”. Another, unidentified victim had been so emaciated that he had simply been discarded under the floorboards.
The bodies of the victims killed at his previous address were kept for as long as decomposition would allow: upon noting any major signs of decomposition in a body, Nilsen stowed it beneath his floorboards. If a body did not display any signs of decomposition, he occasionally alternately stowed it beneath the floorboards and retrieved it before again masturbating as he stood over or lay alongside the body. Make-up was again applied to “enhance its appearance” and to obscure blemishes.
When questioned as to why the heads found at Cranley Gardens had been subjected to moist heat, Nilsen stated that he had frequently boiled the heads of his victims in a large cooking pot on his stove so that the internal contents evaporated, thus removing the need to dispose of the brain and flesh. The torsos and limbs of the three victims killed at this address were dissected within about one week of their murder before being wrapped in plastic bags and stowed in the three locations he had indicated to police; the internal organs and smaller bones he flushed down the toilet. This practice—which had led to his arrest—had been the only method he could consider to dispose of the internal organs and soft tissue as, unlike at Melrose Avenue, he had no exclusive use of the garden of the property.
At Melrose Avenue, Nilsen typically retained the victims’ bodies for a much longer period before disposing of the remains. He kept “three or four” bodies stowed beneath the floorboards before he dissected the remains, which he would wrap inside plastic bags and either return under the floorboards or, in two instances, place inside suitcases which had been left at the property by a previous tenant. The remains stowed inside suitcases—those of Ockenden and Duffey—were placed inside a shed in the rear garden, and were disposed of upon the second bonfire Nilsen had constructed at Melrose Avenue. Other dissected remains—minus the internal organs—were returned beneath the floorboards or placed upon a bonfire he had constructed in the garden.
Nilsen confirmed that on four occasions, he had removed the accumulated bodies from beneath his floorboards and dissected the remains, and on three of these occasions, he had then disposed of the accumulated remains upon an assembled bonfire. On more than one occasion, he had removed the internal organs from the victims’ bodies and placed them in bags, which he then typically dumped behind a fence to be eaten by wildlife. All the bodies of the victims killed at Melrose Avenue were dismembered after several weeks or months of internment beneath the floorboards. Nilsen recalled that the putrefaction of these victims’ bodies made this task exceedingly vile; he recalled having to fortify his nerves with whisky and having to grab handfuls of salt with which to brush aside maggots from the remains. Often, he vomited as he dissected the bodies, before wrapping the dismembered limbs inside plastic bags and carrying the remains to the bonfires. Nonetheless, immediately prior to his dissecting the victims’ bodies, Nilsen masturbated as he knelt or sat alongside the corpse This, he stated, was his symbolic gesture of saying goodbye to his victims.
When questioned as to whether he had any remorse for his crimes, Nilsen replied: “I wished I could stop, but I couldn’t. I had no other thrill or happiness”. He also emphasised that he took no pleasure from the act of killing, but “worshipped the art and the act of death”.
On 11 February 1983, Nilsen was officially charged with the murder of Stephen Sinclair. He was transferred to HMP Brixton to be held on remand until his trial.
According to Nilsen, upon being transferred to Brixton Prison to await trial, his mood was one of “resignation and relief”, with his belief being that he would be viewed, in accordance with law, as innocent until proven guilty. He objected to wearing a prison uniform while on remand. In protest at having to wear a prison uniform and what he interpreted to be breaches of prison rules, Nilsen threatened to protest against his remand conditions by refusing to wear any clothes; as a result of this threat, he was not allowed to leave his cell. On 1 August, Nilsen threw the contents of his chamber pot out of his cell, hitting several prison officers. This incident resulted in Nilsen being found guilty on 9 August of assaulting prison officers and subsequently spending fifty-six days in solitary confinement.
On 26 May, Nilsen was committed to stand trial at the Old Bailey on five counts of murder and two of attempted murder (a sixth murder charge was later added). Throughout this committal hearing, he was represented by a solicitor named Ronald Moss, whom he had previously dismissed as his legal representative on 21 April, before Moss was reappointed to the role after Nilsen had complained to magistrates he had been afforded no facilities with which he could mount his own defence. Moss was to remain Nilsen’s legal representative until July 1983, when Nilsen—again expressing his intention to defend himself—discharged him, until 5 August when Nilsen once again reappointed Moss.
Initially, Nilsen intended to plead guilty to each charge of murder at his upcoming trial. With Nilsen’s full consent, Moss had fully prepared his defence; five weeks before his trial, Nilsen again dismissed Moss, and opted instead to be represented by Ralph Haeems, upon whose advice Nilsen agreed to plead not guilty by diminished responsibility.
Trial and sentence.
Nilsen was brought to trial on 24 October 1983, charged with six counts of murder and two of attempted murder. He was tried at the Old Bailey before Mr Justice Croom-Johnson and pleaded not guilty on all charges.
The primary dispute between the prosecuting and defence counsel was not whether Nilsen had killed the victims, but his state of mind before and during the killings. The prosecuting counsel, Allan Green QC, argued that Nilsen was sane, in full control of his actions, and had killed with premeditation. The defence counsel, Ivan Lawrence QC, argued that Nilsen suffered from diminished responsibility, rendering him incapable of forming the intention to commit murder, and should therefore be convicted only of manslaughter.
The prosecution counsel opened the case for the Crown by describing the events of February 1983 leading to the identification of human remains in the drains at Cranley Gardens and Nilsen’s subsequent arrest, the discovery of three dismembered bodies in his property, his detailed confession, his leading investigators to the charred bone fragments of twelve further victims killed at Melrose Avenue, and the efforts he had taken to conceal his crimes. In a tactful reference to the primary dispute between opposing counsel at the trial, Green closed his opening speech with an answer Nilsen had given to police in response to a question as to whether he needed to kill: “At the precise moment of the act [of murder], I believe I am right in doing the act”. To counteract this argument, Green added: “The Crown says that even if there was mental abnormality, that was not sufficient to diminish substantially his responsibility for these killings”.
The first witness to testify for the prosecution was Douglas Stewart, who testified that in November 1980, he had fallen asleep in a chair in Nilsen’s flat only to wake to find his ankles bound to a chair and Nilsen strangling him with a tie as he pressed his knee to his (Stewart’s) chest. Successfully overpowering Nilsen, Stewart testified that Nilsen had then shouted, “Take my money!” This, the prosecution attested, reflected Nilsen’s rational, cool presence of mind in that he hoped to be overheard by other tenants. Upon leaving Nilsen’s residence, Stewart had reported the attack to police, who in turn questioned Nilsen. Noting conflicting details in accounts given by both men, police had dismissed the incident as a lovers’ quarrel. Upon cross-examination, the defence counsel sought to undermine Stewart’s credibility, pointing to minor inconsistencies in the testimony, the fact he had consumed much alcohol on the night in question, and suggesting his memory had been selectively magnified as he had previously sold his story to the press.
On 25 October the court heard testimony from two further men who had survived attempts by Nilsen to strangle them. The first of these, Paul Nobbs, provided testimony which the prosecution asserted was evidence of Nilsen’s self-control and ability to refrain from homicidal impulses. A university student, Nobbs testified that he accompanied Nilsen to Cranley Gardens for alcohol and sex and woke in the early hours of the morning with “a terrible headache”. Upon washing his face in Nilsen’s bathroom, as Nobbs noted his eyes were bloodshot and his face completely red, Nilsen had exclaimed, “God! You look bloody awful!” Nilsen then advised the youth to see a doctor. Nobbs had not reported the attack to police for fear of his sexuality being discovered. Contrary to the prosecution claims, the defence counsel asserted that Nobbs’ testimony reflected Nilsen’s rational self being unable to control his impulses. The fact Nilsen had selected a university student as a potential victim was at odds with the prosecution’s claim that Nilsen intentionally selected rootless males whose disappearance was unlikely to be noted.
Immediately after the testimony of Nobbs had concluded, Carl Stottor took the stand to recount how, in May 1982, Nilsen had attempted to strangle and drown him, before bringing him “back to life”. Stottor’s voice frequently quavered with emotion as he recounted how Nilsen had repeatedly attempted to drown him in his bathtub as he pleaded in vain for his life to be spared, and how he later awoke to find Nilsen’s mongrel dog licking his face; on several occasions, the judge had to allow Stottor time to regain his composure. (The evidence provided by Stottor was not included as part of the indictment against Nilsen as his whereabouts were not known until after the indictment had been completed.)
“When under pressure of work and extreme pain of social loneliness and utter misery, I am drawn compulsively to a means of temporary escape from reality. This is achieved by taking increased amounts of alcohol and plugging into stereo music which mentally removes me to a high plane of ecstasy, joy and tears. This is a totally emotional experience … I relive experiences from childhood to present, taking out the bad bits. When I take alcohol, I see myself drawn along and moved out of my isolated, prison flat. I bring [with me] people who are not always allowed to leave because I want them to share my experiences and high feeling.”
Written statement made by Nilsen to DCI Peter Jay, February 1983.
“When under pressure of work and extreme pain of social loneliness and utter misery, I am drawn compulsively to a means of temporary escape from reality. This is achieved by taking increased amounts of alcohol and plugging into stereo music which mentally removes me to a high plane of ecstasy, joy and tears. This is a totally emotional experience … I relive experiences from childhood to present, taking out the bad bits. When I take alcohol, I see myself drawn along and moved out of my isolated, prison flat. I bring [with me] people who are not always allowed to leave because I want them to share my experiences and high feeling.”
DCI Jay then recounted the circumstances of Nilsen’s arrest and his “calm, matter-of-fact” confessions, before reading to the court several statements volunteered by Nilsen following his arrest. In one of these statements, Nilsen had said: “I have no tears for my victims; I have no tears for myself, nor those bereaved by my actions”. Jay admitted it was unusual for anyone accused of such horrific crimes to be so forthcoming in providing information, and conceded upon questioning by defence counsel that Nilsen not only provided most of the evidence against himself, but also encouraged the discovery of evidence which could contradict his own version of events. Following Jay’s testimony, DS Chambers recited Nilsen’s formal confession to the court. This testimony included graphic descriptions of the ritualistic and sexual acts Nilsen performed with his victims’ bodies, his various methods of storage of bodies and body parts, dismemberment and disposal, and the problems decomposition—particularly regarding colonies of maggots—afforded him. Several jurors were visibly shaken throughout this testimony; others looked at Nilsen with incredulous expressions on their faces as Nilsen listened to the testimony with apparent indifference. This testimony lasted until the following morning, when the prosecution included several exhibits into evidence. This included the cooking pot in which Nilsen had boiled the heads of the three victims killed at Cranley Gardens, the cutting board he had used to dissect John Howlett, and several rusted catering knives which had formerly belonged to victim Martyn Duffey.
Two psychiatrists testified on behalf of the defence. The first of these, James MacKeith, began his testimony on 26 October. MacKeith testified as to how, through a lack of emotional development, Nilsen experienced difficulty expressing any emotion other than anger, and his tendency to treat other human beings as components of his fantasies. The psychiatrist also described Nilsen’s association between unconscious bodies and sexual arousal; stating that Nilsen possessed narcissistic traits, an impaired sense of identity, and was able to depersonalise other people. He stated his conclusions that Nilsen displayed many signs of maladaptive behaviour, the combination of which, in one man, was lethal.These factors could be attributed to an unspecified personality disorder from which MacKeith believed Nilsen suffered. In response to prosecution contention that, in attributing an unspecified disorder to Nilsen, MacKeith was undecided in his conclusions, MacKeith contended that this unspecified personality disorder was severe enough to substantially reduce Nilsen’s responsibility.
The second psychiatrist to testify for the defence, Patrick Gallwey, diagnosed Nilsen with a “borderline, false-self as if pseudo-normal, narcissistic personality disorder”, with occasional outbreaks of schizoid disturbances that Nilsen managed most of the time to keep at bay; Gallwey stated that, in episodic breakdowns, Nilsen became predominantly schizoid—acting in an impulsive, violent and sudden manner. Gallwey further added that someone suffering from these episodic breakdowns is most likely to disintegrate under circumstances of social isolation. In effect, Nilsen was not guilty of “malice aforethought”. Upon cross-examination, Green largely focused upon the degree of awareness shown by Nilsen and his ability to make decisions. Gallwey conceded that Nilsen was intellectually aware of his actions, but stressed that, due to his personality disorder, Nilsen did not appreciate the criminal nature of what he had done.
On 31 October, the prosecution called Paul Bowden to testify in rebuttal of the psychiatrists who had testified for the defence. Prior to Nilsen’s trial, Bowden had interviewed the defendant on sixteen separate occasions in interviews totalling over fourteen hours. Over two days, Bowden testified that, although he found Nilsen to be abnormal in a colloquial sense, he had concluded Nilsen to be a manipulative person who had been capable of forming relationships, but had forced himself to objectify people. Refuting the testimony of MacKeith and Gallwey, Bowden further testified he had found no evidence of maladaptive behaviour, and that Nilsen suffered from no disorder of the mind.
Following the closing arguments of both prosecution and defence, the jury retired to consider their verdict on 3 November 1983. The following day, the jury returned with a majority verdict of guilty upon six counts of murder and one of attempted murder, with a unanimous verdict of guilty in relation to the attempted murder of Nobbs. Croom-Johnson sentenced Nilsen to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 25 years’ imprisonment.
Following his conviction, Nilsen was transferred to HMP Wormwood Scrubs to begin his sentence. As a Category A prisoner, he was assigned his own cell and could mix freely with other inmates. Nilsen did not lodge an appeal, accepting that the Crown’s case—that he had had the capacity to control his actions and that he had killed with premeditation—was essentially correct. He further elaborated on the day of his conviction that he took an enormous thrill from the “social seduction; the getting the ‘friend’ back; the decision to kill; the body and its disposal”. Nilsen also claimed drunkenness was the sole reason at least two of his attempted murders were unsuccessful.
In December 1983, Nilsen was cut on the face and chest with a razor blade by an inmate named Albert Moffatt, resulting in injuries requiring eighty-nine stitches. Afterward, he was briefly transferred to HMP Parkhurst, before being transferred to HMP Wakefield, where he remained until 1990. In 1991, Nilsen was transferred to a vulnerable-prisoner unit at HMP Full Sutton upon concerns for his safety. He remained there until 1993, when he was transferred to HMP Whitemoor, again as a Category A prisoner, and with increased segregation from other inmates.
The minimum term of 25 years imprisonment to which Nilsen was sentenced in 1983 was replaced by a whole-life tariff by Home Secretary Michael Howard in December 1994. This ruling ensured Nilsen would never be released from prison, a punishment he accepted.
In 2003, Nilsen was again transferred to HMP Full Sutton, where he remained incarcerated as a Category A prisoner. In the prison workshop, Nilsen translated books into braille. He spent much of his free time reading and writing, and was allowed to paint and compose music upon a keyboard. He also exchanged letters with numerous people who sought his correspondence. Nilsen remained at HMP Full Sutton until his death on 12 May 2018.
Dennis Nilsen in 1992, in an interview with Central Television as part of the series Viewpoint 1993 – Murder In Mind
In September 1992, Central Television conducted an interview with Nilsen as part of the programme Viewpoint 1993 – Murder In Mind, which focused upon offender profiling. A four-minute section of this interview, in which Nilsen frankly discussed his crimes, was initially scheduled to be broadcast on 19 January 1993; the Home Office sought to ban the interview from being broadcast on the grounds that they had not granted permission for Central Television to conduct interviews with Nilsen which were later broadcast to the public, and claimed ownership of copyrighted material. Central Television challenged the Home Office ruling in court, citing sections of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and that full permission to conduct an interview with Nilsen had been granted in advance. On 26 January 1993 Judge William Aldous ruled in Central’s favour, and the same day, three appeal court judges, Sir Thomas Bingham, Master of the Rolls; Lord Justice McCowan; and Lord Justice Hirst upheld his decision. The interview was screened in full that evening.
Nilsen repeatedly sought legal avenues to challenge real and perceived abuses of prison rules by prison officers—regularly petitioning the Home Office and, later, the European Court of Human Rights with complaints. As a result, he was an unpopular inmate with successive governors at the various prisons in which he was incarcerated. In October 2001, Nilsen brought a judicial review against the prison service, citing that the gay softcore pornography magazines Vulcan and Him, to which he subscribed regularly, had some images and articles of a more explicit nature removed before the magazine reached him. The legal case he brought against the prison service was dismissed because he could not establish that any breach of his human rights had occurred.
In the years following his incarceration, Nilsen composed an unpublished, 400-page autobiography, entitled The History of a Drowning Boy (the title being a reference to his concepts of the tranquility of death following his grandfather’s death and his own near-fatal drowning in 1954). In his autobiography, Nilsen states that, beginning with his service in the army, he constantly lived two separate lives: his “real life” and his “fantasy life”. He writes: “When I was with people, I was in the ‘real’ world, and in my private life, I snapped instantly into my fantasy life. I could oscillate between the two with instant ease.” With reference to his murders, Nilsen claimed that his emotional state upon the dates of the murders, in conjunction with the amount of alcohol he had consumed, were both core factors in his decision to kill. He further emphasised that, when feeling low, seizing an opportunity to satisfy the sexual fantasies he had developed in which the victim is the young, attractive and passive partner, and he the older active partner, temporarily relieved him of a general feeling of inadequacy.
Nilsen’s first murder victim was identified in 2006 as 14-year-old Stephen Holmes. Formal identification was confirmed via a combination of circumstantial evidence and by Nilsen identifying a photograph of the youth shown to him by police (all bone fragments found at Melrose Avenue had been destroyed). He was not charged with this murder as the Crown Prosecution Service decided that a prosecution would not be in the public interest, and would not contribute to his current sentence.
At least four victims killed between 1980 and 1981 at Melrose Avenue remain unidentified. A forensics expert testified at Nilsen’s 1983 trial that “at least eight bodies” had been incinerated at Melrose Avenue, academically confirming he had murdered at least eleven victims. Several items confiscated from Nilsen’s Cranley Gardens address—some of which had been introduced as evidence at Nilsen’s trial—are on display at New Scotland Yard’s Crime Museum. These exhibits include the stove upon which Nilsen had boiled the heads of his final three victims; the knives he had used to dissect several of his victims’ bodies; the headphones Nilsen had used to strangle Ockenden; the ligature he had fashioned to strangle his last victim; and the bath from his Cranley Gardens address in which he had drowned Howlett and retained the body of Allen prior to dissection.
In January 2021, a former confidant of Nilsen’s named Mark Austin revealed that an edited version of The History of a Drowning Boy was to be posthumously published by RedDoor Press. The autobiography, based upon the 6,000 pages of typewritten notes Nilsen authored while incarcerated, examines his life and crimes, and is edited by Austin, who became a pen pal of Nilsen’s in the years prior to his death and who exchanged more than 800 letters with him. This autobiography was published on 21 January 2021.
On 10 May 2018, Nilsen was taken from HMP Full Sutton to York Hospital after complaining of severe stomach pains. He was found to have a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, which was repaired, although he subsequently suffered a blood clot as a complication of the surgery. Nilsen died on 12 May. A subsequent post-mortem examination revealed that the immediate cause of Nilsen’s death was pulmonary embolism and retroperitoneal haemorrhage.
Nilsen’s body was cremated in June 2018. This service was held with only five mourners present, including three prison officers and the individual with whom Nilsen had corresponded while in prison. No family members were present at the service. In line with Ministry of Justice policy, HMP Full Sutton paid £3,323 towards the cost of Nilsen’s funeral. His ashes were later handed to his family.
Nilsen is known to have killed twelve young men and boys between 1978 and 1983; it is suspected that the true number of victims may be fifteen. At least nine victims had been killed at 195 Melrose Avenue, with his final three victims being killed at 23 Cranley Gardens. Of Nilsen’s eight identified victims, only three—Stephen Holmes, Kenneth Ockenden and Graham Allen—had a permanent address at the time of their murder, with the remaining victims largely (though not exclusively) consisting of vagrants, runaways and male prostitutes.
In 1992, Nilsen claimed the true total of victims he killed was twelve, and that he had fabricated the three additional victims he initially confessed to having killed at Melrose Avenue, both in response to pressure as he was being interviewed as well as to simply “stick with the figure” of approximately fifteen victims he had provided investigators with as he was initially escorted to Hornsey police station. Nilsen said that three unidentified victims he had initially confessed to killing—an Irishman in September 1980; a “long-haired hippy” in November or December 1980, and an English skinhead in April 1981—had been invented to simply “complement the continuity of evidence”. DCI Jay dismisses Nilsen’s claims to have killed only twelve victims, stating that in the more than thirty hours of interviews police had conducted with Nilsen, when discussing the fifteen victims he had initially confessed to killing, he had never provided any inconsistencies in the physical characteristics, the date or place of encounter, the act of murder, or the ritual he observed with the body of any of the fifteen victims.
- 30 December: Stephen Dean Holmes, 14. Last seen on his way home from a rock concert; Holmes encountered Nilsen in the Cricklewood Arms on the evening of 29 December before accepting an offer to drink alcohol with him at Melrose Avenue. The following morning, Nilsen strangled Holmes with a necktie until he was unconscious, before drowning him in a bucket of water. His body was to remain beneath Nilsen’s floorboards for over seven months before being disposed of upon a bonfire, and Holmes was the only victim not to have been dissected before disposal. Investigators announced his identification in November 2006.
- 3 December: Kenneth James Ockenden, 23. A Canadian student on a tour of the UK; Ockenden encountered Nilsen in the Princess Louise pub in Holborn on 3 December 1979. He was escorted on a tour of London, before agreeing to accompany Nilsen to his flat for a meal and further drinks. One of the few murder victims who was widely reported as a missing person, Ockenden was strangled with the cord of Nilsen’s headphones as he listened to a record.
- 17 May: Martyn Brandon Duffey, 16. Duffey was a 16-year-old runaway from Birkenhead. On 17 May 1980, Nilsen encountered the youth at a London railway station as he himself returned from a union conference in Southport. Nilsen strangled Duffey and subsequently drowned him in the kitchen sink before bathing with the body. Two days later, Duffey’s body was placed beneath the floorboards.
- c. 20 August: William David Sutherland, 26. A 26-year-old father-of-one originally from Edinburgh, who occasionally worked as a male prostitute. Sutherland met Nilsen in a pub near Piccadilly Circus in August 1980. Nilsen could not recall precisely how he had murdered Sutherland, other than that he had strangled Sutherland as he himself stood or knelt in front of this victim and, in the morning, there was “another dead body”.
- September: Unidentified. All that Nilsen could remember about his fifth victim was that he was a tall Irish labourer with rough hands, who wore an old suit and jacket, and whose age he estimated to be between 27 and 30 years old. He had met this victim in the Cricklewood Arms in late 1980. Nilsen later claimed to have fabricated this victim.
- October: Unidentified. Nilsen’s sixth victim was described by his murderer as a slender male prostitute, approximately 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) in height, who was aged between 20 and 30, and of either Filipino or Mexican descent. To Nilsen, this victim had gypsy-like features. Nilsen met this victim in the Salisbury Arms in October 1980.
- November: Unidentified. This victim was described by Nilsen as being an English vagrant in his 20s, whom he encountered sleeping in a doorway at the top of Charing Cross Road. He was emaciated, with a pale complexion and had several missing teeth. Nilsen and the youth took a taxi to Melrose Avenue; that evening, the victim was strangled to death as he slept, with his legs moving in a cycling motion as he was strangled. Nilsen later stated he believed this victim’s life had been “one of long suffering”, and that the act of killing this victim had been “as easy as taking candy from a baby”.
- November–December: Unidentified. The last victim to be killed by Nilsen in 1980 was an English “long-haired hippy”, aged between 25 and 30, whom he had met in the West End after the pubs had closed in November or December 1980. This victim’s body was retained beneath the floorboards of the flat until Nilsen removed the corpse, cut it into three pieces, then replaced the dissected remains beneath the floorboards. He burned the corpse one year later. Nilsen later claimed to have fabricated this victim.
- c. 4 January: Unidentified. The ninth victim was described by Nilsen as an “18-year-old, blue-eyed Scot” with blond hair and who wore a green tracksuit top and trainers. Nilsen met this victim in the Golden Lion pub in Soho in early January 1981. Killed after partaking in a drinking contest with Nilsen at Melrose Avenue, the body of this victim was dissected on 12 January.
- February: Unidentified. Murdered sometime in February 1981. Nilsen recalled little about this victim, other than the fact he was originally from Belfast; was slim, dark haired, aged in his early 20s, and approximately 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) tall. He had encountered this victim somewhere in the West End after the pubs had closed. He was strangled with a necktie and his body subsequently placed beneath the floorboards.
- April: Unidentified. Nilsen encountered his eleventh victim, a muscular young English skinhead aged approximately 20, at a food stall in Leicester Square in April 1981. He was lured to Nilsen’s home with the promise of a meal and alcohol. Nilsen recalled this victim wore a black leather jacket and had a tattoo around his neck, simply reading “cut here”, and that he had boasted about how tough he was and how he liked to fight. Nilsen hung this victim’s naked torso in his bedroom for 24 hours, before placing the body beneath the floorboards. Nilsen later claimed to have fabricated this victim.
- 18 September: Malcolm Stanley Barlow, 23. The final victim to be murdered at Melrose Avenue, Barlow was an epileptic orphan who had spent much of his life in care homes. He was murdered after returning to Nilsen’s home to thank him for having ensured he received medical attention the previous day. Prior to dissection, Barlow’s body was stowed in a kitchen cupboard as Nilsen had no further room beneath his floorboards by this time.
- March: John Peter Howlett, 23. Originally from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Howlett was known to Nilsen as “John the Guardsman”. He was the first victim to be murdered at Cranley Gardens. Howlett was strangled as he slept in Nilsen’s bed, with Nilsen shouting, “It’s about time you went” as Howlett awoke to find himself being strangled. Eventually, Nilsen drowned Howlett by holding his head under water in a bathtub for five minutes. Nilsen subsequently dismembered Howlett’s body, flushed portions of flesh and internal organs down the toilet, and placed various “large bones out with the rubbish”.
- September: Archibald Graham Allen, 27. Allen was a 27-year-old father-of-one, originally from Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, whom Nilsen encountered in Shaftesbury Avenue as Allen attempted to hail a taxi in September 1982. Allen was strangled with a ligature as he sat eating an omelette Nilsen had cooked for him. His body was identified from dental records and healed fractures to his jawbone. Dissected portions of flesh and small bones from the body of Allen subsequently blocked the drains at Cranley Gardens.
- 26 January: Stephen Neil Sinclair, 20. Nilsen’s final victim. Sinclair was originally from Perth; at the time he encountered Nilsen, he was a heroin addict who suffered from the habit of self-harming. Nilsen encountered Sinclair in Oxford Street, where he first bought the youth a hamburger before suggesting that Sinclair accompany him to Cranley Gardens. After Sinclair had consumed alcohol and injected heroin at Nilsen’s flat, Nilsen strangled him to death with a ligature. The head, upper torso and arms of Sinclair were stowed in the tea chest in Nilsen’s living room; Sinclair’s lower torso and legs were stowed beneath Nilsen’s bathtub.
Considering this world is real, Where people live, and often feel Environments are in danger of dying, Do we want our children sad and crying? When forests, fields and living things, Are void of life, and no bird sings? Lets all be happy we have a chance, To listen, learn and truly enhance. The beauty, life, and creation of glory, To educate ourselves, continue the story, Keep our planet alive and well, Stop the axe man about to fell. A glorious tree of beauty and Grace, Make humanity stop and face, A consequential act of destruction, Build it up, try reconstruction. Let this lonely world of ours, Rise and grow, and seed the flowers, Let the animals live in peace, Extinction is a sorrowful lease. They too have a right to live, And breathe the air, our planet gives, Stop pollution, nuclear waste, Give us all a chance to taste. Clean fresh air our right of act, Try with some diplomacy and tact To overcome our state of affairs, Please god answer our needy prayers.