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The Tartan Army
Chapter 13

[By an unjust trial]

The Tartan Army trial in the High Court in Edinburgh was a farce. Had John Lloyd Weber and Cameron MacKintosh been around at the time they could have put it to music and run it up the West End of London for years. No need to write Cats, Sunset Boulevard or the rest.

     When the five accused entered the court, McGuigan nodded to Mr.McCluskey the senior law official in Scotland who was the chief prosecutor for the Crown. A most unusual arrangement. The Lord Advocate never appears in Court. He looked very unsure of himself and he had reason to be. He smiled weakly at McGuigan. There was talk of police cars at every road junction on the way to the court with sharpshooters on the roof tops. The law was on red alert.

     When the charges had been read out, McGuigan's council jumped to his feet and drew Lord Stott's attention to the first charge against McGuigan which said that a fire extinguisher had been found in his house. Mr.Robertson, Gerry's council, pointed out that it was in full view in the kitchen. Lord Stott stared at Mr. McCluskey and remarked that if the police visited his house then he might well find himself in court. "A titter ran round the court". Embarrassed, McCluskey rose to his feet and said "I must confess my Lord that this is the low water mark in our case against Mr.McGuigan." "And some very murky water indeed Mr.McCluskey", responded Lord Stott. You could hear the court freeze. Whereupon the Lord Advocate said that they would drop the charge. And what about half a bag of sodium chlorate sitting in the cupboard above the fire extinguisher, thought Gerry. He would find out. Of the 18 charges against Mcguigan,13 were either dropped or dismissed by Lord Stott for lack of evidence, including all of the Tartan Army bombing charges.

     All of the bombing charges against McGuigan failed to be maintained except one. McGuigan was found not proven. This was true since it was an experiment by the commandos at a time when McGuigan had never even met them. Lord Stott directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts on all of the bombing charges except that one. Ironically on  the charge which was allowed to stand McGuigan was innocent. The Craigton Commandos had experimented on a farm  at Carrbridge South of Inverness. The farmer, Ian Grant, a brilliant exponent of the Highland Bagpipe for which he had won the gold medal at the Inverness Meeting, put the year of the experiment as 1970,whilst the Commando had said it was 1971. Grant could not remember Gerry being there. When Mr. McCluskey for the Crown asked, [significantly you might think], who lit the fuse, the Commando  said what he had obviously been told to say by the police. "Mr.McGuigan" he said looking McGuigan straight in the face. The jury returned a verdict of Not Proven, which means that they thought he was guilty but it could not be proven. McGuigan and Currie never met the commandos until 1973. All the bombing charges against Currie were dismissed except Crook of Devon and Kinfauns. Sweeney and Cathy Lisle told the court that they had helped Donald at Kinfauns and Lord Stott directed the jury that they could take Cathy Lile's corroborated evidence by Sweeney for Kinfauns as corroboration for Crook of Devon. In her evidence she placed Gerry at Crook of Devon but that could not be corroborated by anything else and so Lord Stott directed the jury to return a not guilty verdict against Gerry.

     Again, ironically, the one charge which was perhaps the most clear cut of all for a guilty verdict was the theft of the Sword. Monaghan told the Court how she had helped to take it. Sharkey told the Court that Don and Gerry had told him that they took it and he had replaced it. Kathy Alston told the Court that she had received the Sword from them and had hidden it. However Lord Stott told the jury to ignore Monaghan's testimony as she was a very unreliable witness and to ignore Sharkey's evidence as he was a convicted murderer doing a ten year jail sentence. This left the jury without any corroboration. Why Lord Stott didn't tell the jury to return a not guilty verdict is a mystery. But then compared to the other charges the Sword was only at the level of a students' prank. The people who spoke for the Crown all had things in common. Each one was threatened by the police that if they did not appear for the Crown then they would be charged with conspiracy which carried a twenty year sentence. The police wrote out statements for them and made them sign them. When Kathy Alston was asked whether or not it was true that, as one statement by a commando said, that Don and Gerry had blindfolded her and tied her to a chair, she replied laughingly, "That's ridiculous." This was symptomatic of the total lack of evidence that the police had and their desperation to go to any illegal lengths to get a conviction. The only one who stood up to them was the Englishman Patterson who had made a statement to the police that he had driven the team to Kinfauns on that fateful night. However when he got in the witness box he seemed to be suffering from a touch of the Ronald Regans. Even although he was not yet thirty he seemed to be an advanced case of Alzheimers disease and could hardly remember what day of the week his name was. When challenged about his statement to the police he replied that he had a very vivid imagination and anyway it was dark and he never really knew where he was. The Crown did not press him further. Lord Stott would remark "I don't want to know what you said to the police, I want to know what you are saying to the Court".All the Scots "witnesses collapsed in the face of the police. Only the Englishman "stood against them".

     Sweeney and Lisle who had pestered Donald incessantly to allow them to join, were not prepared to spend one day in jail for Scottish independence and they made sure that their "friend" Donald would do their time for them. The brave Donald took it on the chin like a man,but not like a Scotchman. Netty Provan had said 4 years previously, that it would be very difficult to find amongst Scotsmen a man with Donald's courage. His friends didn't hesitate to stab him in the back.

     Sharkey's tale was a long ramble about the commandos games. He could say nothing about the Tartan Army except that he had driven them one night to Wamphray where he understood that a bomb had been placed. He had not  been at the scene when the bomb was placed and had witnessed nothing. A month later after this event in November 1972 he was arrested on a murder charge and so took no part in anything. It seems that he did name the commandos to the police, but as he himself had been betrayed, why should he risk another twenty years for a bunch of doity rats. At that time he had only served 3 years of his sentence. He was no fool and told Don and Gerry later that he knew, as a convicted murderer, that his evidence, such as it was, would be worthless. What he didn't know was that the commandos had been named by someone else and as he was one of them, he had got caught in the net.

     The Crown's evidence, apart from Sweeney and Lisle, was nothing but  accounts of how the commandos had experimented with a bomb and surveyed possible targets, none of which had the slightest connection  with the Tartan Army. Only some twenty of the Crown's listed 200 witnesses appeared in the box and only a hat was produced out of a list of 300 pieces of evidence. The rest was either hidden, in the case of the letter and the sodium chlorate alleged to have been found in Calton Terrace, or was never produced. They were neither witnesses nor evidence, only window dressing to persuade the Procurator Fiscal, Mr. Smith that there was a case to be answered

     The one charge in which the police had been involved was that Don and Gerry had been found in a car "outside the French consulate" and that the police had found an explosive substance, sodium chlorate in their car. During the evidence about the bombings, it was stated by the Crown's expert witness from London that sodium chlorate had been used. Everybody knew this anyway. When he was asked about the sodium chlorate which the police alleged was in McGuigan's car, he said that it was a type that could not be bought across the counter and was totally inert. It could not be set on fire and could not be detonated. In fact it was completely harmless. Up to this point Gerry had thought that the police had got hold of the half bag of sodium chlorate which had been in his kitchen and which could burn and could be used as a bomb and had put it in his car. The Crown was saying that after four years of bombing, Don and Gerry had got by some means or another a totally harmless material, put it in a car, had driven up to the French consulate, and parked it outside. The Crown  had decided that this was a criminal offence. Even if it had been Woolworth's sodium chlorate, this was still not a criminal offence otherwise the jails would be full of gardeners or anyone else who wanted to weed their lawn. The police had obviously planted the sodium chlorate. No mention was made at all of the sodium chlorate in Gerry's kitchen. Obviously a cop, [friendly variety], had found it and planted it somewhere else. Probably weeded his own garden with it. When the woman in the shop at Fort William heard about the expert's evidence, she sent word to McGuigan's council that she was willing to come down to Edinburgh and give evidence that she had only that same week sold sodium chlorate to McGuigan that could burn and explode but Gerry's council refused because they didn't want the words sodium chlorate and McGuigan to be connected. It was a mistake for which McGuigan would pay. But there was more to come. The police witness said that there were 8 kilograms in five envelopes. Now the average of the jury was about 45 and as such none of them had gone metric and would think in pounds and ounces. Gerry's council was probably in his fifties and would also think in imperial terms and not metric. But if the witness had said that there was 17 pounds  in five envelopes, that would have raised a few eyebrows. How can you get 17 pounds of sodium chlorate into five envelopes? And yet there was  still more to come. A police officer ,the one who had wondered whether or not Don and Gerry were "fucking poofs", said that McGuigan had mounted the steps of the consulate. When Mr. McCluskey for the Crown asked him why Gerry should do such a thing, he replied that it was in order to find out whether or not it was in fact the French consulate. He was either lying or blind. At the foot of the steps to the consulate was a plate  which said that this is the French consulate; or maybe he thought Gerry was half blind as well. What he didn't know was that Gerry had been at a reception in the consulate in 1953 when he went from London to Edinburgh to attend the Annual General Meeting of the United Nations Association of which he was a member. Gerry already knew that it was the French consulate without having to mount the steps. Other police had said in evidence that Don and Gerry were arrested at 9.30 p.m. and charged at 5 a.m. A police officer then appeared in the dock. His name was MacRae, the same man it seems who told his colleagues in Glasgow that they were going to divert the course of justice and put the Tartan Army away for a long time. He did the opposite you might think. He said that the accused  were charged at 10 p.m. Mr. McCluskey angrily asked him to repeat himself. The cop froze, tightly gripping the handrail of the witness box. Lord Stott angrily ordered him to speak. He stuck to his story. Somewhere along the line he had decided to have no part in the conspiracy and was prepared to contradict his colleagues so that hopefully the accused would go free. The police could have said that the car was parked near the new Parliament building, or opposite St. Andrew's house the H.Q. of the Scottish Civil Service, [it had been targeted before by other nationalists], or by the  railway line to London. Why the  French consulate was named is a mystery particularly as the Crown never claimed that Don and Gerry had done anything at all. The Crown never explained why these two men who had been hunted for four years should suddenly do such a stupid thing as to have a perfectly harmless substance in their car and expect it to be explosive; but they were found guilty of that very "offence". To this day people believe that Don and Gerry were caught trying to burn down the  consulate. Although a hat had been produced during the trial, neither the sodium chlorate nor the envelopes were produced as evidence. In his summing up to the jury, Mr. McCluskey said "Although matches were found in the car and tissues no cigarettes or cigars were found". He might have mentioned Donald's pipe tobacco. When Gerry was released from jail he was handed back his cigars.

     Gerry was solely charged with writing a letter and got a year's sentence passed on him after being found guilty. An 80 year old man had received a letter posted in Hendon, London, which urged him to make a bomb. The police had unsuccessfully tried to pin this one on the A.P.G. On his first morning in jail, Gerry had given the police a sample of his handwriting. The police had also taken samples, of which there were many, from his house. In his wallet when he was arrested was a shopping list given to him by the lady across the street. A few things she asked him to buy whilst he was at the shops. A police handwriting expert said that the letter was in McGuigan's hand and so also was the note left in Northumberland but he couldn't say about that one for sure as it was printed. McGuigan was found guilty. The police expert however used the shopping list of the lady across the road and said that her handwriting was the same as the letter. Of course he didn't know that the shopping list was not Gerry's handwriting. He was just lying. Sentencing McGuigan, Lord Stott said "It SEEMS Mr.McGuigan that you wrote the letter." Older readers may recall the late Bernard Braden T.V. show. He had written six letters in a disguised hand and had given them to a handwriting expert to get the character of these six "different" people. The expert was completely fooled and was unable to tell that Bernard had written all the letters and in effect told Bernard that he was split down the middle six ways. Although Gerry's council missed all this, his lawyer, the late much beloved Bernard Heslin, did not and but for the fact that Gerry only did four more months in the slammer, he would have appealed. Alan Heusaf the Breton editor of Carn magazine had heard that Gerry  was charged with attempting to burn down the French consulate, [the charge was dropped], and rushed to put pen to paper and post it to the Scotsman newspaper. He denied any suggestion that McGuigan had asked him to help in the project, [which he hadn't], and assumed that Gerry had confessed, [as "Britain's Secret War" claims]. Gerry had confessed to nothing  and if he had then the question must be asked why the Crown dropped the charge? Alan's problem was not with Gerry but with the government of the Irish Republic and most importantly the French government. As a young man he had sided with the Germans, hoping that they would give home rule to Brittany and as a result had had to flee to Ireland and live in exile. Heusaf was guilty of treason and was frightened that if he was involved in any trouble in the republic then the Irish would send him home for a possible "blind" date with a certain lady called Madame Guillotine.
     At the end of one day's hearing the foreman of the jury was heard to say "This is a farce". Donald remarked, "At least he has got it right."

     The piece de resistance was  Eoin MacPherson's mother. She got up in the box and in a long wail explained that her wee boy, [all 6 feet and 250 pounds of him], was always backward and  really didn't know what it was all about and  had confessed everything to her. The court came to a grinding halt. Eoin's council asked for a recess and on return, entered a plea of guilty. Lord Stott looked sick and was very reluctant to accept the form of words written by the Crown. A brilliant performance by Eoin's mother. Gerry nearly leapt to his feet to call for encores He had in his time watched quite a few operatic performances up the West End and his father and mother had both earned a living as actors. It worked. Lord Stott allowed one of the "most wanted men in Britain" to walk out free from the court on probation. The Crown had taken a long time to stitch a case together and there was now a danger that Don and Gerry would walk out free under the 110 day rule, so the Crown then announced that they were allowing them, but not the others to go free from prison. After some uproar from the other accuseds' council the court shut down for the day and Don and Gerry went home each accompanied by eight bodyguards, who stuck with them 24 hours a day. Gerry and Don got on great with these young men who did their job with reluctance. The cops were frightened that Don and Gerry would be assassinated by the S.N.P. still thinking that they were only the tip of the iceberg, the other two thirds being the S.N.P. On the second last day of the trial, Gerry's lawyer took him to the North British Hotel where the B.B.C. had a camera crew  and they asked him what it was all about. Of course Gerry had to be very careful and he spoke of things in the third term as though he had been only an onlooker. The Scotsman newspaper reported that Gerry had confessed to everything on television and expressed regret. The Scotsman is regarded as a quality newspaper. He was on prime time the next night and would hear his voice on the T.V. The next day there were questions in the House. Some members were furious." I find this man very disturbing said Margaret Thatcher." The Tartan Army got the last word.

     After Don and Gerry were allowed out of prison so that the 100 day rule could be circumvented, the police decided that everyone entering the court should be searched. This meant that even the officer in charge of the investigation had to be frisked before he went in to court. For some unknown reason neither Don or Gerry were searched and they would both walk past the queue and into the court with a cheery good morning to the police who were doing the searching. Suddenly one morning the sergeant in charge stopped Don and Gerry and pointed out that if anyone should be searched then it must be them; and so the two most wanted men in Britain were finally given the same treatment as their pursuers. At the same time the sergeant told Gerry that he was going to have a charge laid against him. When Gerry asked him what the charge was, the policeman replied that he didn't know.

     If the fire extinguisher in McGuigan's kitchen was the " low water mark " in the Crown's case then the conspiracy charge must have been the dregs of the barrel. The Crown, in drawing up the charge forgot to say what the accused were conspiring copyright about, whether to steal ladies' underwear from washing lines or blow up the Queen; they never said. They were  asking the jury to return a verdict of guilty against the accused for planning to do nothing. All of the accuseds' council and Lord Stott referred to this lapse. It was seemingly incredible that men who had passed exams at the universities and having had weeks to draw up charges should fail so abysmally in their duty. The jury of course finding themselves unable to find people guilty of doing nothing, were forced to find them not guilty of doing nothing. 

     Mr. McCluskey would end as he began; in confusion. In summing up to the jury, he sarcastically said that Henderson had said in his evidence that he had gone mountaineering on the day of the Wamphray affair, then gone to the karate classes and then gone all the way down to Wamphray. This was unbelievable said Mr.McCluskey. Henderson had in fact said that he had missed the karate class but neither he nor his council had noticed Mr.McCluskey's error. Gerry did notice and reached along the bench to tell Henderson who in turn attracted his council. Mr.McCluskey had by this time come to a stuttering halt. His error pointed out he withdrew. Henderson and Anderson whose case was tied to Henderson's walked free. Britain's Secret War states that Lord Stott described the accused as having indulged in an uncivilized campaign. In fact it was Mr.McCluskey who said this. Lord Stott couldn't say that; he would have been telling the jury to return guilty verdicts if he had. 
     From the outset of the trial there had been what seemed to be a deliberate attempt on the part of the Crown to trivialize the whole scene, probably because they were not only embarrassed by the almost total lack of evidence but also because they were suspicious of the veracity of the evidence handed to them by the police. Although they had allowed Don and Gerry to go free from prison to avoid the 110 day rule saving them from a sentence, they now seemed to want to spin things out. They had already been warned by Don and Gerry's council that they would be put in the witness box. The inevitable outcome of such a ruse would be that the trial would overrun the 110 days and the pair would walk free. Suddenly on the last day of the trial, the Crown produced a surprise "witness". He was a student of the Free Kirk College in Edinburgh. The accuseds' astonishment and puzzlement were rewarded when Mr. McCluskey for the Crown engaged the student in a long discussion of the Gaelic language and its spelling. He wanted to know why McGuigan had spelled his name in a letter to Alan Heusaf with two n's in its Gaelic style, [Mac Eochagainn]. The student couldn't explain this. Lord Stott joined in and the student agreed with my Lord that spelling in Gaelic was not an exact science. Mr. McCluskey then went on to ask the student what the word "Drogheda" meant. Heusaf lived in a street in Dublin called Drogheda. The student couldn't answer this either, although as a native speaker he should have known that this was the Irish Gaelic version of the Scots Gaelic Drochaid; bridge in English. Mr. McCluskey then revealed that he himself knew the meaning of Drogheda anyway. He probably found this out, if he hadn't known before, by going, [literally], next door the National Library and looking up the Gaelic dictionary. The student then left the witness box and those in the court who had not fallen asleep were able to follow the next move. There could have been only one explanation for this remarkable display by the Crown. They were wasting time in order that Don and Gerry could go free. They were frightened of the "evidence" which they had been forced to accept on orders from London and were using the 110 day rule to get out of their predicament.

     Lord Stott in his summing up to the jury contradicted Mr. McCluskey's claim that "there was an avalanche of evidence" and agreed with Mr.Stirling, [representing Henderson], that if there was a conspiracy then it was by the Crown to imprison as many people as possible. "X" of the C.I.A. had warned Gerry 3 years previously that those were the orders of the  Cabinet.

     During the course of the trial, Mr. Lamb, head of Strathtay police force told the accused the name of the informant.

    Donald Currie had 17 charges leveled against him of which 10 were dismissed for lack of evidence The charges for the bombings at Crook of Devon and Kinfauns were allowed to stand and it was for these that he would be found guilty, get a five year sentence and would spend three years in jail. Gerard McGuigan got two one year  sentences to run concurrently and, with allowance for the time already spent in custody and after good conduct allowance, would only spend 4 months in prison. They had done what they set out to do. Wendy Wood and the Tartan Army had won the White Paper, the referendum and the new Parliament building. Not bad work you might think for the three "amateurs" and an old lady. The Crown got the wooden spoon. The work was finished. When Don and Gerry returned to Saughton Jail that evening, someone spotted them and started to sing "The Flower O' Scotland". The other prisoners sitting in their cells took up the song and hundreds of voices rent the air. It was worth the bother after all. Wallace lived on.

    And what happened to the Tartan Army, where are they now? Eoin MacPherson left the court a free man and returned to his home in Clackmannanshire; Donald Currie served 3 years in the open prison and then returned to his home and work. Gerard McGuigan got out of jail in January 1977 and spent the next 20 years in the Middle East and Pakistan. He was in Kuwait on the morning of the Iraqi invasion and escaped from his work at 6.30 a.m. under a hail of bullets from the Iraqi troops. They missed. He then went into hiding, dodging from house to house disguised as an Arab. He taught the Kuwaiti resistance fighters how to make sodium chlorate bombs, molotov cocktails and miniature flame throwers. He was hidden by Kuwaitis, Filipinos and other Arabs, most of whom had never met him until the invasion. The penalty for hiding a Westerner was death by hanging. Gerry thanked his  stars that he didn't have to rely on Scotch Nationalists. Now crippled by  arthritis, he lives in semi-retirement, spending his time between Dundee and an island in the South China Sea where he grows rice and tobacco and from time to time working on Far East construction projects.

     The original Tartan Army,The Black Watch, lowered the flag in Hong Kong, but it was not the Union Jack. It was the oldest flag in Europe, the flag of the oldest nation in Europe; Scotland. They lowered the Saltire flag of Scotland. Fitting you might think since it is said that the British Empire was built with England's cunning and Scotland's strength. Perhaps the day is not far off when the Black Watch will redeem its disgrace at Culloden and lower the Union Jack at Edinburgh Castle. Perhaps they will give it as a memento to Wendy Wood's Scottish Patriots.  Alba Gu Brath, [Scotland for ever].

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