Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Tartan Army
Chapter 12

[the channel of despair; the sound of Jura]

Gerry wondered if he was being followed. He soon had proof. Having left Fort William and crossed over the new bridge at Bail' a' Chaolais, he entered into Glen Cro, [glen coe]. Just before the Scottish National Trust's information centre a white Renault car with Irish Republic license plates overtook him with two men sitting in it. McGuigan knew that another car would pick him up from the Trust's car park. After all the police didn't want to give Gerry the impression that he was being watched and followed around the country. The road divides at Tigh an Druim, [Tyndrum], East to Oban and West to Stirling. At Crith an Larach it again divides, South to Glasgow and West to Stirling and so on. McGuigan looked for but couldn't define any other cars that might be following him, but later, friendly cops would confirm that he was monitored all the way. He arrived at Donald's house in Menstrie at 5 p. m. and they had meal and a chat and Gerry told him of his plans for the demonstration outside the embassy and that he was going through to Rosewell South of Edinburgh to get his bumper. He also told Donald of the games in Fort William. Donald said that he had not noticed anything untoward around his neck of the woods. They set off for Edinburgh in the car and whilst going through the town of Alloa they suspected that the police car at their rear was following them. Just before a roundabout at the bus station they stopped off and Gerry went into a shop and got a packet of five cigars. The police car carried on but when it got to the roundabout it went back the way it had come. They reached Princes street Edinburgh and stopped at a public toilet in West Register Street near the main post office. What they didn't know was that this was haunt of homosexuals, or "poofs" as they later heard the police call them. They then carried on up to Calton Terrace to have a look at the French Consulate which was part of a row of houses built in the classic sort of Georgian style. It so happened that the only place that they could find to park was immediately outside the consulate and they did just that. It was about  8. 45 p. m and the street was quite busy.  Gerry and Donald walked around the streets and returned to the car and whilst stopping in front of the consulate Gerry patted a black cat which was standing on the steps of the consulate. As they started to get in the car they heard a loud voice call out "Are you fucking poofs?" Gerry,  who was nearest to the voice,  never dreamed at first that it was a cop,  such was the bad language,  and turned braced to fight. Donald came round from his side and they faced the man who now seemed to be joined by others.  Gerry replied "No, are you?" Whether the man was asking if they were just poofs or whether they were in the act of having carnal relations with those light on their feet wasn't quiet clear but the man with the vulgar tones backed off a bit and then announced that they were cops. However they seemed a bit wary. They then said that they were arresting them.  Gerry asked them why. They didn't seem to know why at first but eventually said that they weren't satisfied as to what the two were up to. They then searched the car and removed Gerry's brief case. It still had the sandwiches in it and the soft drinks. 

By this time a crowd had gathered as the bar along the road was emptying,  as they did in those days at 9. 30 p. m. Don and Gerry looked at each other as if to say this is it. They automatically fell into their plan for such an event and said nothing. At around 10. 30 p. m. a crowd of police came into Gerry's cell and likewise Donald's. One of them read out a charge, predicating his words with "Ye're no poofs onyway", which said that they were attempting to burn down the French Consulate. He and the lads with him obviously didn't believe a word of it since they had been watching Don and Gerry all the time. Their faces betrayed a mixture of amusement and disbelief.  During the evidence given by the police at the trial, it came out that these Edinburgh policemen were not told why they should follow Don and Gerry, only to follow them.  They radioed in from Regent's Terrace to their controller saying that they feared they were about to be recognised. They were told to go in and make an arrest. Don and Gerry were then asked if they wished to make a statement. Thy didn't of course. Strangely, although this charge was dropped, it got a lot of publicity and to this day many people believe that The Tartan Army was in fact so charged. Everybody except those on duty went to sleep. 

Meanwhile back in Fort William and Menstrie houses were broken into by the police,  ransacked and searched.  Gerry hadn't forgotten that he had half a bag of sodium chlorate and a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. The police of course would have all been briefed for quiet a few years as to what the bombs were made of and would be on the alert to look for,  among other things, sodium chlorate. The police never did produce the sodium chlorate from Gerry's house. MacLeod the psycho lead the frenetic charge at Fort William and he was reprimanded by his subordinates for his viciousness. There was obviously one cop there that night who having found the sodium chlorate, "lost" it. However when the trial came round the Crown,  and their fellow conspirators the police,  produced something else to make up for the lack of evidence. MacLeod failed in his job and so forced the Edinburgh police and the Crown to plant evidence, as will be seen from the story of the trial, to get a conviction.  In the morning a cop came in. His name was Johnstone, and he was head of the flying squad.  McGuigan immediately recognized him as the man who used to strut around Stirling full of his own self importance during the Bannockburn Day Rallies. Gerry, startled, also recognized his assistant. He was the "drunk" that they had seen in the bar in Stirling nearly four years ago in September 1972. This particular cop was withdrawn from the investigation almost immediately and it was rumored he was disciplined for lack of enthusiasm. 

Gerry was asked what he had in the brief case which was found in his car. Johnstone seemed puzzled. When Gerry told him that he had sandwiches and lemonade, Johnstone looked angry. He then produced a newspaper and asked Gerry if he would be willing to give a sample of his handwriting by copying a phrase or two in longhand from the paper. Gerry made no objection and wrote. Gerry was  then asked if he had ever visited Hendon, a district of North London. Gerry, a Londoner born and bred, couldn't actually at that point having ever been in Hendon. London is a big city. However he then told Johnstone that he had suddenly remembered being in Hendon, once as a schoolboy footballer when his team, Tottenham Schools had played Hendon Schools in the English Schools' Cup and that they had lost 1 to 0 on a very controversial decision and again when he had attended a week-end conference of the youth section of the United Nations Association. Johnstone seemed very annoyed and Gerry would later on find out why. It turned out that the police had a letter which they had taken to Gerry's brother in London and asked him if he knew anything about it, which he didn't, but the letter had been posted in Hendon.  The handwriting given to Johnstone would never be used in the ensuing trial.  Johnstone left and was followed by the two cops from Northumbria who asked Gerry to spell out Tartan Army in Gaelic.  Gerry obliged with the exact wording of a note which was supposed to have been found at one of the blasts. That is according to the note which had been put through his door. The note which was incal English Gaelic, ungrammatical and not Feinian/Army/Lawyers' Gaelic. Gerry and Donald, who was similarly quizzed,  were never after that point asked any questions by the police.  Only on two occasions were they asked if they wished to make a statement; which they didn't. There never were any bare bright lights shining down on them in darkened rooms; no third degree; nothing. One other cop came in who seemed to be there only out of curiosity. He told McGuigan they believed he and Donald were very small cogs in a very big wheel. Good thought Don and Gerry. Keep on thinking that; and they did for some time so that Don and Gerry almost walked out free men. 

Don and Gerry were taken to court,  charged with attempting to burn down the French Consulate,  and then,  bail being refused they were sent to Saughton jail in Edinburgh where they were divested of their property, not least two cigars. It was almost four years to the day when they had taken the Wallace Sword. Saughton jail proved to be o very interesting experience. They were, surprisingly,  put in the same cell in the untried prisoners' wing, but they had a companion. His name was David Canale, a professional thief. Canale was highly intelligent and had a brother in the signals corp of the army who worked in Northern Ireland with the S. A. S. He was obviously a spy. 

There is an unwritten rule in jails that prisoners never discuss their crimes with each other and all that Canale knew was that Don and Gerry were on a charge of attempting to burn down the French consulate. Don and Gerry told him nothing, but one day after they had been in jail for two months Canale told Gerry to be very carefull of a certain friend. Canale could only have known of this from the police. He was also telling Gerry by implication that he was a spy. He would eventually go for trial on a charge of car theft and be put on probation. A very surprising result. Since Don and Gerry never told him that they were the Tartan Army, he was of no use to the police but after two months in jail he let Gerry know that someone had talked. The police had no need of his help. In 1971 there had been a huge explosion at Edinburgh castle. The police said that probably 1000 pounds of gelignite had been used. The gelignite had been placed within the bowels of the castle and the bomb had gone off during the military tatoo one evening of the Edinburgh Festival. Now you cannot just walk into the castle with 1000 pounds of gelignite, detonators and charges. You cannot walk into Woolworths and buy this kind of stuff. Edinburgh Castle is the H. Q. of Scottish Command and the only way in through the military guard is to drive up to the guards and show a pass so that they will let you through the gates at the head of the esplanade;  and then you would have to go down into the vaults and plant your gelignite. 1000 pounds of gelly cannot be cocealed up your jumper. Or you might scale the dangerous towering heights of the rock in the dead of the night; an unlikely scenario in the extreme.  

Experience has shown that no fundamentalist group in Scotland can lay their hands on 1000 pounds of gelly.  Who in their right mind would do this during the military tatoo unless they were deliberately trying to "divert the cause of Scottish Nationalism to futility"? The answer is obviously the dirty tricks brigade of the British Government. This job required expertise and the ability to get 1000 pounds of gelly into the castle.  Those in charge of the castle,  Scottish Command,  allowed some workmen in to do a top secret job. Some men charged with armed bank robbery appeared in the untried prisoners' wing of the jail. Their leader approached Gerry and told him that he was a keen nationalist and had his "own team" as he put it and if Gerry needed any help, just say the  word. He went on to say that they had broken into Edinburgh Castle [he didn't say when], and were in a hair's breadth of getting the Scottish crown jewels. The authorities would not want Government agents to get caught nor to take money out of public funds to pay criminals to do the job, so perhaps,  figured Don and Gerry,  they had held out the prize of the crown jewels. The perpetrators of such a friendship plan would either have to be bold beyond belief or they had the full backing of the authorities. Although the Crown would eventually make two ridiculous charges against Don and Gerry that they had attempted to cause explosions at Glen Douglas and Crieff, charges which would be dismissed by Lord Stott because there was no evidence, the Crown made no attempt to hang the castle job on them. The whole story died a mysterious death even although this was an outrage that could have killed hundreds of people. Were these then the people who had blasted Edinburgh Castle? Don and Gerry reckoned that the answer to this was yes.  

One day a prisoner arrived in the jail. He was from Glasgow but was being charged with a crime commited in Edinburgh. He approached Don and Gerry and asked them if they were the Tartan Army. They said that that was the rumour. He then told them that whilst he was in the police office in Glasgow, two cops had come from Edinburgh to pick him up and he heard one of them by name of MacRae tell the Glasgow police that they had caught the Tartan Army and were going to fit them up and make sure that they went down for a long time as they had caused them a lot of trouble. One would have thought that that was what a cop was supposed to do; deal with a loy of trouble. Anyway this tale would prove to be prophetic as it turned out. It also told Don and Gerry that if the police had to pervert the cause of justice by telling lies and planting evidence, [which is what "fitting up" means], then the police still didn't have any means to convict them legally. At about this same time their lawyer,  who hadn't visited them since they had been arrested, told them that the charge of attempting to burn down the French consulate had been dropped. What then, they asked, were they now charged with. The lawyer didn't know and when they asked him when they would be released, he didn't know the answer to that one either. Curry and McGuigan were now being held prisoner without any charge! Gerry dismissed the lawyer but Donald kept him. 

Time was a getting on. They had been in jail for six weeks without charge and there was a 110 day rule to be observed. It looked as though they would be getting bail, even although they didn't have a charge against them. Prison warders asked them what they were charged with and expressed great surprise when the duo told them the story of the charged being dropped without any other in its place. The warders told them that they should be released. You cannot keep a man in a Scottish jail without charge. But then they heard that two Menstrie people had been picked up; Patterson and Lisle.  Sweeney also was being questioned but not in jail. Significantly another Menstrie man had been quizzed by the police; a young university student called MacDonald whom Don and Gerry realised suspected them of being the Tartan Army but he had never been remotely involved. Someone had talked and it must have been someone living in Menstrie. Gerry knew that there were rough waters ahead and recalled Canale's warning. Canale had by this time appeared in court only to be released on bail provided that he attended a psychiatrist. This was incredible. If Canale was some kind of a nut case then Don and Gerry must be raving lunatics. Seven weeks after being arrested, Don and Gerry were in the exercise yard when Henderson and Anderson appeared. "What the heck are you two doing here"? asked the bewildered Don and Gerry. They said they didn't know but asked if Don and Gerry had talked. "No" was the reply and anyway what was there to talk about. Henderson and Anderson had never been involved in anything that was worth talking about. Henderson,  the dashing kilted leadr of the Craigton Commandos,  would spend his time in jail, alternating between writing poetry and crying. 

In late August they heard that Sharkey had been taken from Barlinnie prison in Glasgow and was to appear as a witness for the Crown, but what he was supposed to have witnessed no one knew, other than the Wallace Sword affair and his chauffering at Wamphray; and this meant that the bubble had burst. The four were then put to-gether in one large cell.  They were congratualating themselves that young MacPherson had not been picked up but that too was a big disappointment. The radio announced that he had. A week or so later he appeared in the jail and showed them his copy of a two page foolscap typed statement that he had made to the police. Gerry read it and said to Eoin, "You never wrote this did you? Eoin smiled and said "No, the police wrote it for me and made me sign it". The statement was remarkable indeed. Apart from Eoin having said that they paid a visit to Crieff one day, he had confessed to nothing. The long rambling verbiage had obviously been written by police sympathetic to Eoin if not the Tartan Army.  The Crieff visit was of no significance as they had only gone for a look around but the Crown would seize on this to lay a charge that they had attempted to cause an explosion in Crieff. There seemed to be something strange about Crieff and they would soon find out. Gerry's parents told him that letters from his relations in Canada were being diverted to Crieff, opened and re-posted with the Crieff postmark on them and no attempt at secrecy. This place was the home of The White Army an underground organization set up in world war two to fight the Germans should they overrun Britain. 

In early September 1976, Gerry was called to the desk in his cell block and handed a charge sheet. There were 17 charges, and it said they had about 200 witnesses and 300 pieces of evidence. To the  astonishment of the prison guard, Gerry nearly fell over laughing. 200 witnesses had watched him? He had left behind 300 clues? The guard was thunderstruck to realize that Gerry was after all the Tartan Army and he asked why he should find the charge sheet so funny. Gerry told him. It was a lot of rubbish. Similarly Donald was given a sheet listing 16 charges, Eoin had 4 charges and Anderson and Henderson 4 charges. The big question on all their lips was who was the informer and they were beginning to have a very good guess. It was September the first 1976. 

Previous Page | Return to Tartan Army Index page | Next Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus