- Helmsdale Village History
- History of Helmsdale Harbour
- Helmsdale Station
- Helmsdale Buses
- Helmsdale Old School
- Helmsdale Families
- Helmsdale Friends
- The Pope Hospital
- Helmsdale Old Stories
- Helmsdale Police History
- Helmsdale Football History
- Flower Show History
- The Ord
- The Town of Gold
- The Clearances
- The Emigrants Statue
- Scattered Helmies
- Liberator-V- BZ724
THE POLICE IN HELMSDALE
The office of "Constable" has existed in Scottish Law as a law enforcement official since at least the time of King James VI (and I of the United Kingdom). The term 'Police Officer' is however a much more recent innovation, and it is fascinating to find it in use in the County of Sutherland as early as the 1820's.
It is recorded in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Commissioners of Supply for the County at their annual meeting on 30 April 1828 that: "The Meeting continue ... the salary of Twenty Five Pounds Sterling to James Stewart Police Officer for the year from Whitsunday 1828 to Whitsunday 1829."
Unfortunately the previous volume of the Commissioners' Minutes is missing, so it is not known when 'Police Officer' was first used in Sutherland, nor how long Mr Stewart had been in office.
Parish Returns (required in terms of Statute) for Males resident in the Parish who were between 18 and 45 years of age and thus liable for Militia Service (unless they claimed exemption). The Loth Parish (1826) return was completed by the Schoolmaster and Constable together. Both should then go to Golspie and swear on oath before a Justice of the Peace that it was a true account and that a copy had been posted on the door of the parish church the previous Sunday.
Loth Parish (including Helmsdale) list was compiled by, and sworn to, by the Loth schoolmaster and James Matheson (who does not feature on the list) so it appear that Mr Matheson was over 45 and Parish Constable for Helmsdale/Loth.
Meanwhile, back in Dornoch, the aforesaid Mr Stewart continued in post, and at the same wage, through until 1841. At their meeting on 30 April that year it was recorded by the Commissioners that: "As the services of James Stewart as Police Officer terminate this day, and there has been another engaged from Whitsunday first, in his place, the Meeting agree that he shall be paid a yearly salary of Fifty Pounds Sterling and be furnished a House Rent Free”
The replacement, "Philip Mackay, Police Officer" was retained for a further year at the same salary. This, it will be noted, was £50, exactly double the sum paid to his predecessor. One wonders why the massive increase for the new man.
Philip Mackay was in subsequent accounts sometimes shown as Police Officer and at other times as "Messenger". Various people around the county also submitted accounts, presumably for Criminal work, and they were always referred to as "Sheriff Officer".
In the 1843 Accounts however there appeared for the first time the word "Constable", in respect of Peter Mackay and George Mackay, Tongue and also "Donald Gunn, Constable, Strathhalladale".
Each year, at its Annual Meeting, the Commissioners minuted the re-hiring of the Police Officer - and also of the Keeper of the Mound - and these persons appear to have been the only employees of the County, other than the Jailer. In 1844, at the meeting on 30 April, however things began to change.
After confirming the retention for another year of "Philip Mackay, Police Officer" (and George Bell, the Keeper of the Mound), Mr Gunn of Meikle Swordale, who was Factor to the Duke of Sutherland, appeared before the Commissioners. He produced what must have been a most convincing argument as the Commissioners accepted: "the necessity of appointing a local Police Officer to reside in Helmsdale".
As a result the Meeting unanimously approved the history-making submission. The powers-that-be had obviously done their homework in advance, as it was immediately decided to appoint John Sutherland, Sheriff Officer, Helmsdale, as Police Officer for the Helmsdale District for one year. Mr Sutherland was to be paid Fifteen Pounds per annum, payable half-yearly. This amount was a great deal less than Philip Mackay received, and it can only be surmised that Sutherland's duties were to be of a part-time nature, to be performed along with his 'day job' as a self-employed Sheriff Officer.
The Accounts for 1844 show the following personnel submitted claims:
Philip Mackay, Messenger, Dornoch £30.17/ 3d
Charles Fraser, Messenger, Bonar £ 1.17/ 4d
Serjeant MacLeod, Messenger, Dornoch £ 2. 0/ 6d
James Grant, Sheriff's Officer, Rogart £ 0.15/ -d
John Sutherland, Sheriff's Officer, Helmsdale £ 3. 5/11d
John Strachan, Messenger, Tain £ 0.16/ 6d
Alexander Fraser, Sheriff's Officer, Strathy £ 3.11/ 6d
No mention was made of the 'Constables' previously referred to. Perhaps there had simply been no criminal work to be done in Strathhalladale and Tongue in the period of the accounts? The 'Serjeant MacLeod' may well have been the Dornoch Burgh Officer, as municipal authorities tended to apply the title of Serjeant to their Council Officers, who usually had some local law enforcement responsibilities in addition to their other Council duties.
At the 1845 annual meeting, again held on 30 April, the meeting re-appointed Philip Mackay and John Sutherland as Police Officers for the current year with the same salaries as the previous year.
The Sheriff obviously had his ear to the ground and could see that there was the potential for piece-meal policing in the County rather than a properly organised (and commanded) Police Force. He therefore put pen to paper on the subject to the Commissioners, which resulted in the following minute:
"The meeting thereafter took into their consideration a communication from Mr Sheriff Lumsden dated the 3rd January last on the subject of establishing a Constabulary Force in the County - and the Chairman having submitted to the Meeting the draught of an answer which he conceived would embody the sentiments of the Meeting, the same was approved of and he was requested to address Mr Lumsden accordingly."
So what WAS the Chairman's response? Very likely it was a case of "thanks, but no thanks" - something along the lines of paying lip service to the proposal but saying that the Commissioners did not see the need at the present time for such a course of action. Of course they would have reserved the right, if the situation should change, to reconsider the matter.
When the 1846 meeting convened, yet again on the last day of April, it: "reappointed Philip Mackay and John Sutherland as Police Officers". These two men apparently continued to be one-man Forces for their own Districts, responsible only to the Courts and the Commissioners. They appear to have been effective in their posts however as word had obviously spread around the County.
"Thereafter the meeting, considering that it would be expedient to grant an allowance towards the expenses of maintaining a Constable to reside at Golspie for the protection of the Peace in that district and for the suppression of vagrancy, allow the sum of Ten Pounds for that purpose and understanding that John Macdonald presently residing at Lairg would be a suitable person and willing to act, authorise Mr Gunn to employ Macdonald, whom failing any other person he may consider suitable accordingly at the above allowance for one year from this date."
George Gunn, Esq., of Meikle Swordale, reported back to an adjourned meeting held on 15 June 1846 that he had indeed employed John Macdonald from 30th April. The Commissioners duly rubber-stamped this course of action, and also directed that Macdonald be paid quarterly.
So now the County had three Police Officers, each apparently operating independently, in the three major centres of population. The man in Dornoch was on a salary of £50 per annum, the Helmsdale officer was on £25 and the Golspie one was receiving only £10.
Although it was not minuted at that stage, someone obviously felt that there was a need to establish a form of pecking order or rank structure to reflect that the officer within Dornoch was on a salary FIVE times greater than his counterpart based in Golspie. Accordingly, Mr Philip Mackay was re-titled Superintendent. This fact comes to light at the 1847 Annual Meeting when the Commissioners decided that Philip Mackay be "re-appointed as Superintendent of Police". That term was the normal title (within both Burghs and Counties) throughout Scotland at that time for the post of the Officer-in-Charge of a Police force. ("Chief Constable" would come later, by a law of 1857).
There was also recorded a considerable amount of activity on the Policing front. A Committee had been appointed - The County's first Police Committee perhaps? - consisting of Mr Sheriff Gordon, and Messrs Gunn and Fraser, and they had been given a remit of: "selecting & stationing a properly qualified Police Constable at Bonar Bridge". This was the first occasion where the word "Constable" had been used, which leaves no doubt that was to be a proper Police appointment.
Sheriff Gordon reported that the services of an efficient man had been secured in December 1846 at an annual salary of £30. He was from the Aberdeenshire Police, but he had remained in the post for only three months. The Committee had however swiftly identified a replacement, namely Robert Elder, a pensioner from the 42nd Regiment, and he was performing his duties in a satisfactory manner. The Commissioners approved and confirmed his appointment, and also decided to continue John Macdonald as the officer at Golspie for a further year. Indeed his performance appears to have been very satisfactory in the opinion of the local gentry, as it was agreed that his wage be raised to "£25 per annum, along with a suit of clothes." (One wonders as to whether this a REAL Police uniform, or simply a suit of ordinary clothes so as he would not have to wear his own Sunday best and run the risk of having it dirtied or damaged in the execution of his duties?)
Meanwhile John Sutherland, referred to as "the Constable at Helmsdale", had, in the opinion of the Commissioners, become "too old and infirm for discharging efficiently the duties of Constable in that District". Poor old John had been summoned to attend and was summarily informed by the Chairman that his services were no longer required. He would have got only one day's notice. The (Police) Committee was tasked: "to look out for another officer to be placed at Helmsdale at an annual salary of Twenty Five Pounds with a suit of clothes".
The Commissioners next considered the matter of policing, on 1st May 1848, when the rank structure was clearly set out, as they: "re-appointed Philip Mackay as Superintendent of Police, and Robert Elder and John Macdonald, Police Officers, for the ensuing year with the same salaries as last year, the two Policemen to be made equal". (Quite HOW they hoped to achieve equality - when PC Elder was on FIVE POUNDS a year MORE than PC Macdonald - is not made clear!)
So what about Helmsdale's new officer? Well, there seemed to have been no progress on that front to date. Mr Sutherland, Sheriff Officer and lately Police Constable, continued to feature in the accounts. While no longer deemed suitable to perform duty as a policeman, he was obviously still capable of acting as Sheriff Officer! Despite his no longer holding the office of Constable, the locals in Helmsdale and District probably still regarded him as their local 'law man'.
His post of “Sheriff Officer" would still authorise him to carry out much of his former duties, such as serving legal documents upon people (e.g. accused persons and witnesses in criminal cases, as well as on pursuers and defenders in civil cases such as debt recovery) - but he would no longer be doing any guarding, watching or patrolling. Any arrest he might make would be doubtless done in daylight with plenty of support and authorised by Warrant issued by a Court. No longer would he be expected to do, what he had doubtless had to do during his "Policeman" time - arresting two or more fighting drunks late at night, on his own!
The accounts detailed in the 1848 Annual Meeting show a major change from previous years - no ranks or titles are listed, merely the names of those who submitted accounts. The exception was William Mackay, Merchant, Dornoch who claimed £2:19/9d 'for Bonar Policemen'. This would presumably have been for providing the officers with uniforms, rather than the actual recruiting of the officers!
The 1849 Annual Meeting resolved to appoint Philip Mackay for a further year as 'Superintendent of Police' and the appointments of Robert Elder (Bonar) and John Macdonald (Golspie) were also confirmed for a further year, all at the previous rate of pay.
While still no mention of replacing PC Sutherland at Helmsdale, for some reason a second man was appointed at Golspie: "on the motion of Mr Gunn the meeting appoint . . . (note: in the Minute the first name is left blank) MacLeod residing in Golspie as an additional Constable for that district with the same salary as other Constables have and subject to the same rules and regulations."
PC MacLeod does not appear to have lasted long, as on 30 April 1850: "the meeting re-appointed Philip Mackay as Superintendent of Police and Robert Elder, John Macdonald and William Cuthbert as Police Constables for the ensuing year with the same salaries as formerly." It can only be assumed that PC Cuthbert replaced MacLeod, but one is left wondering why Golspie required TWO men while such as busier places as Brora and Lairg had NO Police at all. It may be that Macdonald had been temporarily posted to Helmsdale to fill the vacancy there until such time as someone more local was found. It will be recalled that PC Macdonald was from Lairg himself and had willingly gone to Golspie on appointment and thus showed himself prepared to move about the county.
At the 1851 Annual Meeting it was reported that Joseph Gilchrist had been taken on to replace PC Robert Elder who had died. PC Gilchrist's appointment was confirmed and the meeting also renewed for a further year the appointment of Philip Mackay as Superintendent of Police and of Constables John Macdonald and William Cuthbert.
There then followed an interesting little snippet in the Annual Accounts: " for Police Constabulary for year 1851 and 1852: £160 "
My earlier theory that John Macdonald had been transferred to Helmsdale seems to be borne out by events at the Meeting on 30 April 1852. It was agreed that Superintendent Mackay and Constables Macdonald & Gilchrist would be re-appointed for a further year. PC Cuthbert (who we must presume replaced PC MacLeod at Golspie) is however not mentioned.
Further the Committee appointed one George Battens (or Batters?): "as Constable to the vacant station at Helmsdale". It is extremely unlikely that the Commissioners would have allowed the village of Helmsdale - then probably the busiest place in the county – to remain devoid of Police for the five years since John Sutherland's services were dispensed with in 1847. Hence it certainly seems as though John Macdonald had done a stint in the 'Dale, but was presumably now keen to return from whence he came. This would then account for the recruitment of PC Batters.
There then follows a paragraph of particular importance - especially to the rate-payers of Sutherland - but which confused me for a considerable period, as it was totally unpunctuated. I have now applied commas at the points where I consider they make most sense. (I trust that it gets across the message which the original clerk intended!) The Meeting:-
"... are happy to observe that, owing to the great diminution of crime which the Fiscal has taken place, to a reduction in expenditure as compared to the former year of £150, as well as to an improved system to be adopted by the Police Force for the suppression of vagrancy, find that it will only be necessary to assess for £400 for this year, being £260 less than the previous year."
A reduction of well over one third of the rates (termed the 'Rogue Money Assessment') would certainly have been well received by the local landed gentry who were the rate-payers. Unfortunately exactly what the "improved system" which the Police had adopted is not divulged, more's the pity! It could well be that the officer at Helmsdale made a point of patrolling the roads coming over the Ord of Caithness and down the Strath of Kildonan, in order to intercept any vagrants coming from Caithness, and turned them back around again.
The officer at Bonar would have likely done the same at the Bridge of Bonar, preventing entry of undesirables from Ross-shire. The Golspie man, probably in liaison with George Bell, Keeper of the Mound, would have ensured anyone coming down Strath Fleet would be directed (if not actually physically escorted) towards Dornoch, from whence the Superintendent would ensure their return to Ross-shire.
An account was received from William Mackay, Merchant in the sum of £9:16/6d "for Policemen's clothes". Meanwhile the name of John Sutherland, Helmsdale, continued to feature in the accounts, so he was still able to perform duty as a Sheriff's Officer in the public service.
When next the Commissioners of Supply met, on 30 April 1853, it became obvious that the business had already been decided before the meeting. Matters to be discussed later in the meeting meant that (if approved) there was going to be an increase in the Police establishment. So when, at the outset, the Meeting set the Annual Assessment, they took account of such increase, finding: "that in consequence of an increase in the Police Force £210 will be necessary for the salaries etc of Superintendent and Constables, and £260 to meet other salaries."
Re-appointment of Superintendent of police (still Philip Mackay) followed, and:- "They also continue the Police Constables for the districts attached to Bonar Bridge, Golspie and Helmsdale subject to the powers of removal and dismissal contained in the engagements originally made with them on their appointments."
This meeting was almost a Police Committee meeting, as there was so much business discussed which related specifically to Policing. Indeed it almost took over the meeting as major subject, from prisons and roads. The men at Dornoch, Helmsdale, Golspie and Bonar were obviously doing a good job, and people from throughout the County would encounter the Policemen, either at the County Town or when entering the County. While the officers were providing a good service to the more populated East Coast of the County, however, word would quickly spread among the vagrant community. So most of the itinerants were likely to be bypassing that area and heading over to the north and west coasts. Crime, disease and nuisance was simply being displaced, and the folk of the North West had obviously had enough.
"There was laid before the Meeting a Petition from the Resident Magistrates, Clergy and principal Tenantry in the Parishes of Assynt, Eddrachilles and Durness to His Grace the Duke of Sutherland praying for the protection of a permanent Police Officer in that wide district of the County." The Duke had passed on the letter to the Convenor of the Commissioners of Supply, recommending the petition receive favourable consideration. With such a powerful request and the full backing of His Grace, the only thing the Commissioners could do was agree, and they did very eloquently: "The Meeting, fully concurring in the justice and expediency of affording to the inhabitants of the West and north Coasts of the County the same benefits and protection that those on the East Coast are deriving from the Rural Police, unanimously agree to place an efficient officer on the strength of the establishment for the Scourie District at a salary of Forty Pounds per annum, and they authorise the Procurator Fiscal to engage a proper and qualified man for the purpose."
It was interesting that this time it was the Fiscal who was to organise the appointment. It must surely have been his turn!! Previous appointments had been delegated to Commissioners, and once to a Sub Committee chaired by the Sheriff Substitute. Sadly the Minutes do not state who was given the post as Constable for Scourie, but an appointment was definitely made.
The Commissioners then felt it necessary to put the Police officers in their place. Presumably subsistence-type allowances must have been paid without any particular checking, but now that the Annual Assessment was rising every year, it seems that the time was ripe to remind the officers that their entitlement was only in the following circumstances:
"The Meeting further desire it to be intimated to all the Police Constables that the extra pay of two shillings per day shall only be payable for the time employed by them after they leave their own districts when conducting prisoners to Dornoch and during the time they are on duty out of their respective districts, and that it will not apply for services of any description performed by them within the limits of their own beats which are already sufficiently defined."
In other words, assuming the beats (the first time that the word 'beat' as a Policing term had been mentioned in Sutherland) were much as they are today, the Constable at Helmsdale would not be entitled to any extra remuneration for going to Kinbrace or beyond, even although he would undoubtedly incur expense in terms of feeding or lodging on such a trip which could take several days to complete. He was after all within his own 'patch', and not being called upon to do anything outwith his contract of employment. Similarly the officer at Scourie, in visiting Durness or Elphin, would also be somewhat out of pocket but not entitled to any extra cash.
The question of funding - even at this early stage in the history of policing - had already arisen, with one Mr MacLeod of Cadboll recommending that the Convenor make: "an application to Parliament to relieve the Scottish Counties of the expense of maintaining the Rural Constabulary - to assimilate the Irish Police and to pay them out of the Consolidated Fund."
At this stage in proceedings it should be recalled that no Government grant was payable to Police Forces in Scotland at that point in time. As the matter of provision of policing was a VOLUNTARY one - there was no requirement but if a County felt it had need of a Constabulary Force it could go ahead and set one up by using powers already on the Statute Book - so there was NO funding provided by Central Government. (There were however certain pieces of legislation - some dating back to the time of the Jacobite rebellions, such as Rogue Money - which yielded some finances with which to support the police organisation of the counties).
This would change with the advent of the 1857 Police (Scotland) Act, which provided for an Exchequer grant of 25 per cent of the cost of wages and uniform costs - provided that the Force was judged efficient in the opinion of the Government Inspector, and he would prove to be a hard man to satisfy.
Mr MacLeod may however have failed to grasp the main reason why the Royal Irish Constabulary was funded by Central Government - it was a National Force, with no County or other local government input. It was also paramilitary, and thus armed. Throughout the years Scottish local government has always sought to keep their police local, and has so far been successful in resisting any attempt to make a National Police Service.
If Sutherland had to apply to Edinburgh (or London, as there was then no Scottish Office other than in Whitehall) to have an extra bobby in Scourie, then it would take a long time, if ever, to achieve - assuming the Whitehall Mandarins ever managed to establish where the Parish of Eddrachilles was!
In any event the Meeting decided that there was no need for any steps in the matter as they were aware that a Committee of the House of Commons had just been appointed on that subject. The end result would be the 1857 Police Act.
The establishment of Sutherland Constabulary in 1853 thus comprised 5 men
It does seem as though, despite the fact that Philip Mackay was in nominal charge of the Force, there was very little in the way of a proper organisation in existence. Rather, the men seemed to be operating independently in separate units, with their only things in common being to keep vagrants out of the County (or out of their own district!) and to take arrested persons to Dornoch.
Another addition to the manpower of the Force came about in 1854 as a result of a further petition produced at the Annual Meeting - this time from the Tongue area on the North Coast. With the East Coast well-policed, and the West Coast and North West corner now served by the man at Scourie, the only 'open door' was from Caithness along the north Coast.
It was also probably still possible for vagrants to enter Sutherland unseen from the south by sneaking up the south west bank of the Kyle of Sutherland. Since there was no policeman at Lairg, it was therefore an easy matter to penetrate into the centre of the county. From there it would then simply be over The Crask to Altnaharra before moving on to the more fertile area in the Parish of Tongue. As a result the Meeting agreed, with a resolution almost identical to that of the previous year, to provide a Constable for the Tongue area. The financial aspect was covered too:
"In consequence of a contemplated increase to the Police Force, £258 will be necessary to pay the salaries of the Superintendent and 5 Constables, including one suit of clothing for the latter."
It is interesting to note that, while the Constables were being given an annual issue of uniform, the Superintendent was not. This seems to have been a tradition which continues to this date that Chief Officers of a Police force are not provided with uniform free. It does seem therefore that Philip Mackay had by this time become recognised as a proper Chief Officer, although he was still expected to do the work of an ordinary Constable as well as his administrative functions as head of the Force.
The request from the North Coast public for a police officer had been submitted by Mr Horsburgh on behalf of all the resident Justices of the Peace in that District. Sadly his precise reasons for seeking a policemen were not reproduced in the Minutes of the Meeting. Again the Meeting authorised and tasked the Procurator Fiscal to: "engage a properly qualified man for the purpose" at £40 per annum.
The new man for the North Coast was based at Farr, and he was continued in post at the Annual Meeting on 30 April 1855. Philip Mackay also had his contract as Superintendent renewed for a further 12 months, while the other constables attached to Helmsdale, Golspie, Bonar Bridge and Scourie were similarly retained on the Establishment.
A year later, all the staff were continued in post for a further term. One account rendered for payment at that meeting, on 30 April 1856, was described as being "included in the Report of the Committee for Policemen's uniform" and came to £36:6:0d. Also listed as being in receipt of expenses were:
Philip Mackay; George Batters, Helmsdale; William Fraser, PC, Scourie;
and David Ross, Bar Officer.
One presumes that the last named had been taken on as Court Officer at Dornoch, in order that Philip Mackay could concentrate upon his Police responsibilities.
On 14 January 1857 a Special Meeting of the Commissioners was convened, and James Campbell, Sheriff Substitute, explained that it had been called: "to consider the position of the County with reference to the rural Police force which appeared to him to be unsatisfactory as regarded the efficiency of some of the Officers on the Establishment."
Now whether this was a form of 'witch-hunt', or just a case of a 'new broom' seeking to brush clean, is unclear. In any event the meeting then discussed the matter 'anxiously and deliberately', before coming to the unanimous decision that: "it would be expedient to dispense with the services of Philip Mackay at the end of his engagement on 30th April next and likewise with those of Donald Clark at Golspie and John Macdonald at Bonar, and the Clerk was instructed to intimate to them this resolution accordingly."
The Clerk was also directed to insert a Notice in the North British Advertiser newspaper for a Superintendent of Police for the County at an annual salary of £60, the same sum as Philip Mackay was currently receiving. It was also left to the Clerk to look for other men 'of some experience' to fill the vacancies caused by the paying-off of Clark and Macdonald.
When next the Sutherland Commissioners of Supply convened, at their Annual Meeting on 4 May 1857, Philip Mackay had already completed his contract and the Force - if such it could be termed - was without a leader. Somewhat belatedly the Meeting resolved to confirm their earlier decisions concerning dispensing with the services of Mackay and the two Constables.
The clerk intimated that 'several Candidates of tried experience' had applied for the post of Superintendent. These applications had been passed on to Sheriff Lumsden, Principal Sheriff of the County, who had recommended Mr Peter Ewan of Aberdeen as appearing the most suitable. There had obviously already been some communication on the matter, as it was reported to the Meeting that Mr Ewan was prepared to accept the post at an annual salary of £70, to include an allowance for House Rent.
Despite the fact that he was looking for more money than had been originally set, Mr Ewan's offer was accepted by the Commissioners. It would seem that they felt they were getting a good man, who would be worth the extra cash. Possibly the other suitable candidates also intimated that the salary as advertised was insufficient. Ewan would also be a 'proper' Chief Officer, with previous experience, probably in the Aberdeen City Police or the Aberdeenshire Constabulary.
So it was that Peter Ewan was appointed Superintendent with immediate effect, and was to be so informed with the request that he would “enter on his duties on or before the 15th day of May” - only eleven days hence.
The meeting also resolved to continue the Constables for the five districts, subject to the usual powers. Although it does not say, one must assume that the two Constables singled out to be dispensed with were indeed paid off. It was remitted to the Sheriff Substitute and Procurator Fiscal "to make such changes as may be considered expedient by them." Presumably this meant the hiring and firing of manpower as necessary, more particularly to fill the two vacancies at Bonar and Golspie.
Of particular interest is the fact that the Meeting saw fit to state that: "The salaries for the officers at Scourie and Farr to be at the rate of £40 per annum and for those at the other Stations £35 per annum." Quite why two men on the west side of the County should be singled out for extra remuneration is not made clear, but it may be simply because of the vast area they had to cover in comparison to their brother officers on the East County. It will be recalled that there had earlier been the vexed question of 'out of pocket' expenses, and it may be that this resolution was designed to even things up, so that the two West men were in effect receiving travelling and lodging expenses which were necessarily incurred in perambulating their immense beats.
Among the accounts this year were those of:
George Batters, PC, Helmsdale;
William Fraser, PC, Scourie; and
William Mackay, PC, Farr.
There was also a bill from William Mackay, Merchant at Dornoch in the sum of £20:13:01d which was "for Policemen's uniforms".
On 17 October 1857 two special meetings were convened. The first, at which all the powers-that-be attended (including the Duke of Sutherland himself), was to mark the retiral - after 31 years in office - of Sheriff Lumsden. He was away back to his Aberdeenshire farm. Perhaps this connection explained the appointment of Peter Ewan - had Mr Ewan been the Sheriff's local bobby in Aberdeenshire? Doubtless the Sheriff returned to Aberdeenshire frequently and so would keep abreast of local policing matters and methods thereabouts, as well as checking up on his agricultural interests!
The second meeting, which significantly the High and Mighty did NOT attend, had been: "called by advertisement in the Edinburgh Gazette of 18th September and Inverness Courier of 17th September both last to meet time and place above mentioned in pursuance of the 1st Section of the Act 20 & 21 Victoria Cap. 72 entitled 'An Act to render more effectual the Police in Counties and Burghs in Scotland'.
The County Convenor, George Dempster of Skibo, produced the advertisements, the Police (Scotland) Act itself and a letter dated 23 September addressed to him by Colonel John Kinloch, who was termed 'Her Majesty's Inspector of Police for Scotland'. Colonel Kinloch had a statutory duty to inspect and report upon the efficiency of each Police Force in Scotland, and it was apparent that he was giving the County of Sutherland notice to expect his arrival. This letter would strike panic in more than one local authority in Scotland, and caused more than a little heart flutter in a good many others, including Sutherland it would seem!
Mr Dempster went on to give an interesting statement of fact as regards the Constabulary in Sutherland at the time. This minute was as much for Kinloch's benefit as anyone at the meeting. "The Convenor then stated that the existing Police Force maintained by the County consisted of one Superintendent at a salary of £70 who in addition thereto as principal Criminal Officer draws the usual fees from Exchequer and County for all business performed by him; two Constables at salaries of £40 each, and three at £35 per annum; that besides their salaries these Constables receive one Uniform Coat, Trousers and Cap every year at a cost of £5:10/- each, making the total annual expense to the County £272:10/- for salaries and clothing, but this was not all the expense borne by the County as he, the Convenor, found that fees were paid to these Constables for the suppression of vagrancy and for Criminal Business not repaid by Exchequer which averaged £25 per annum more."
The Convenor then reported that he had been doing his own detective work as to what was likely to be regarded as an adequate Force to meet the provisions of the Act, 'so as to afford due protection to the whole populace'. He therefore proposed that as from 16 March 1858 - the date on which the new Act took effect - the Sutherland Police Force should comprise:
One Chief Constable at a salary including the
keep of a Horse and House Rent.................. £150: 0:0
One Superintendent at .................... £ 45: 0:0
Three Constables at £40 each .................... £120: 0:0
Four Constables at £36:8:0 each ................. £145:12:0
He proposed that these salaries should be inclusive of maintenance and lodging, but excluding uniform clothing and footwear. Each man should receive one complete suit of uniform and a greatcoat in the first year, and another suit of uniform each year thereafter with a greatcoat to be supplied every alternate year. In addition the sum of one guinea (£1:1:0d) should be paid, in lieu of footwear being provided. It should be noted that this was slightly less than was the norm in other Highland county Forces at that time, where 6d was the average allowance (£2:6:0d per annum).
Having then heard the views of the Sheriff Substitute, Procurator Fiscal and Superintendent Ewan, the Meeting thereafter resolved that they were: "perfectly satisfied that the number of men and salaries and allowances suggested are sufficient to meet all the wants of this County and do therefore approve and adopt the same."
It was then directed that copies of that Minute should be sent to the Home Secretary and to Colonel Kinloch. That would make those gentlemen sit up and take notice, to see that County of Sutherland was so organised in advance of the 'go-live' date of the legislation.
As for Superintendent Ewan, he must have thought that it was Christmas!! He had been taken on for more money than the job originally carried, and now here he was - assuming he was to get the new job as Chief Constable - in line for the new top job at more than double his present salary. Not only that - but he was going to be provided with a proper Deputy as well, whereas at present he was the only 'boss' (indeed the only supervisor) in the organisation.
The Meeting concluded its deliberations for this most eventful (and very constructive!) day by appointing a Police Committee - as required by Section 2 of the Act - which would remain in office until the next Annual Meeting of the Commissioners on 30 April 1858. The Committee, which would have the Sheriff or Sheriff Substitute as its convenor, would comprise:
The Lord Lieutenant
The Sheriff of the County or (in his absence), the Sheriff Substitute
The Marquis of Stafford
George Dempster of Skibo
George Loch of Kirtomy
Daniel Gilchrist of Ospisdale and
George Gunn of Meikle Swordale
However, the best laid plans can of course go wrong! The Secretary of State had NOT after all turned the expected cart-wheels on learning of Sutherland being so organised. There was to be NO rubber-stamping of the Sutherland proposals, and this very clearly upset the Commissioners of Supply a great deal.
When they met on 10 November 1857, it was to be told that the Secretary of State had certainly received their Resolutions, but that he had seen fit to draw their attention to: "the portions of the said Rules which relate to the pay and clothing of the future police of this County".
George Loch of Kirtomy, who chaired the meeting, launched into a quite considerable oration on the subject. Loch and his colleagues were obviously not used to having their decisions questioned. Perhaps they simply did not realise that they were in a period of major change for the whole country, where standards were being set. Individuality, where one County was remote from its brothers and could do as it liked, was being phased out. All would henceforth play the same game, on the same pitch, to the same rules.
These rules would be made by the Government, hitherto a relatively remote - and perhaps even almost mythical - type of authority, but which (as the rest of rural Scotland was already finding out) was now becoming a very real and effective power, and able to enforce its edicts by sending its Inspectorate
out to even the remotest location via the ever-improving transport networks.
These Inspectors also had power, in that they reported back without fear or favour to the Scottish (Scotch!) Office and if the report was not a positive one, financial sanctions could - and would - be imposed. In the case of the Police, no Government grant towards upkeep of the Force would be forthcoming.
Loch stated that: "the Meeting must be well aware of the Great Gains bestowed by the Commissioners in instituting the fullest enquiries before coming to those Resolutions which they were now called upon to reconsider". He went to stress that "it was the opinion of all the Law officials, and of the present Superintendent of Police" that the scale of salaries set at the previous meeting was sufficient to ensure that it would attract men who were suitably qualified for the job and able to discharge their duties very well." He continued that, while higher salaries might be acceptable in other Counties which were "differently circumstanced from Sutherland", it had been decided not to set the rates of pay higher than what was considered as "fair and adequate" for what was expected of the men.
The intention was, rather than have fewer men at higher wages, to have a larger force than other neighbouring Counties might have for a similar population. "Smaller districts or beats would so far render the duties of the men easier and less irksome and be of greater advantage to them than if the number of Constables were reduced and their pay enlarged."
In another time this man could have sold fridges to Eskimos, but could he sell this strategy to a man based in Rhiconich whose beat was the size of some of the smaller European countries?
Turning to the salary of the Chief Constable, Loch pointed out that the minimum amount set by the Government was £250. Now it will be recalled that Mr Ewan had been on a salary of £70 per annum before the new Act took effect, and he was now to get more than double that - £150. He would not complain at that increase!
There was however always the danger from Mr Ewan's viewpoint that, if the job was pitched at a much higher salary, then there would be lots more interest (and a higher calibre of applicant!!) from the larger Forces in the South. The chances were that raising the salary to £250 would lose him the job. Loch had a different reason for objecting to the £250 minimum. It would, he maintained, "be entirely disproportioned to his (Chief Constable's) social status in the County". The fact was that such a sum was more than the Fiscal or Sheriff Clerk received, and thus they would be up in arms - and of course be seeking a raise too! Inflation was obviously a concern then, as now.
Other matters raised by the Secretary of State were rather more trifling. The Government Rules laid down that one more pair of trousers were to be supplied than stipulated by the County. (The Committee gave in on this one!)
The rank of Superintendent (the second in Command) was swiftly down-graded by the Committee to that of Sergeant - which is what it should have been at the outset (so they said, anyway!). As a result the salary could be pitched at 19 shillings per week, which worked out at £49:8:0d per annum. This was actually £4:8:0d (£4.40p) a year MORE than originally intended for the Superintendent!!
The Secretary of State had also taken exception to the plan for two different pay rates in respect of Constables. It had been intended to have THREE Constables at £40 each per annum and FOUR at £36.8/-. Now they agreed to standardise the salaries at 15 shillings (75p) each per week. (£39 per annum) This would mean a saving of £10:8:0d (£10.40p) overall, so this more than evened things up from the grudging increase to be given to the Sergeant. Indeed it would also have covered the cost of the extra pair of trousers too! So, if the Government approved, everybody would win ! - except the men of course, but what else is new?
Unfortunately the bulk of business involving the Force thereafter appears to have been recorded in the Police Committee Minute Book, which has not been located. Only occasionally were matters referred to the full Committee of Commissioners of Supply. There is thus no record of who was appointed to the new Force, other than Peter Ewan of course.
The Force's surviving 'Personal Record and Defaulter' Book was not commenced until the mid-1860's, so that similarly does not enlighten us any as to the original compliment of the Force. What IS known is that the County was divided into eight Districts, each of which would have had one Constable - except perhaps Dornoch (or Helmsdale) which would have had a Sergeant instead. These Districts were:
There is no mention of any further problems with Whitehall, so one supposes that the Government accepted the revised proposals. Meanwhile, across the Firth in Nairnshire the fledgling Police Committee was having similar dialogue with the powers-that-be. Nairnshire (excluding the Burgh of Nairn) had proposed a force of four, comprising a Chief Officer and three Ordinary Constables. The annual salary for the commanding officer was to be £70, and needless to say this was not acceptable to the Secretary of State.
Plans were then laid by Nairnshire to unite with another County - but then amended Rules were issued by Whitehall, and all-of-a-sudden Nairnshire WAS permitted to have its own Force - with a Chief Constable on a salary of £100 per year. An allowance for transport was to be an extra. Obviously the goal posts had moved in the interim, perhaps because smaller Counties (in terms of Police manpower) were not overly keen to merge, and the minimum salary of £250 for the Chief was so very 'over the top'. Interestingly, Nairnshire's 'Ordinary Constables' were also to be paid the self-same sum of 15 shillings per week.
These smaller Counties, insignificant on the map to the far-off Mandarins at Whitehall, did however have some clout - in that the landed gentry who owned much of the Counties frequented, and usually had one (or more) home in, the London and Home Counties area, and would have a seat in the House of Lords. Thus they were able to put across, into the most appropriate and influential ear, the concerns of local Police Committees. Such 'words to the wise' were undoubtedly effective, and the original proposals for policing were somewhat 'watered down' by the time the Act finally took effect.
So, on 15 March 1858, the new Sutherlandshire Constabulary came into being, under the command of Mr Ewan. It was evident that not all of the Constables had been re-hired for the new Force. When the Commissioners of Supply duly met for the first Annual Meeting - on 30th April 1858 - it was reported that:
"there was laid before the Meeting an application from four of the late Police Constables who, on account of their ages being above 40 and other circumstances, were not engaged by the Chief Constable to form part of the new force, claiming allowances to carry them and their families from their Stations to their former
residencies and in consideration of being thrown out of employment." One wonders if George Batters was one of these men, as there is every likelihood of him still having been at Helmsdale. (There is a George Batters buried at Dornoch, who died in 1877 aged 69 so that may well have been him, still in the prime of life at 49 but deemed too old for the new force)
In a rather generous (guilty?) gesture, it was agreed that each of these men would be given £5 "in full of all claims upon the County."
The Meeting now had to levy two different rates in respect of Law Enforcement, namely the 'Rogue Money and County Assessment', and also that in respect of the cost of running the Police. It was reckoned that the Rogue Money costs would be £220. As regards the "Police Assessment": "The Meeting having carefully examined the various sections and provisions of said Act (the Police Act of 1857), with an estimate prepared by the chief (Note: NO capital 'C' at 'chief') Constable of the probable sum that may be required to defray the expense of pay, clothing and contingencies of the Police Force of this County for the period of 14 months from the 15th of March last to the 15th of May 1859 find that it will be necessary to provide a fund of £798 to meet these in terms of section 29 although one fourth thereof will hereafter be reimbursed by Government." The plan was obviously to build up a surplus, for emergencies as, in future, the sum calculated was AFTER deduction of the one-quarter Exchequer grant.
Colonel Kinloch conducted his first annual inspection of the Sutherland Force during 1858, and reported that the County had a force of EIGHT men to police 25,793 people and a land area of 1,207,188 acres. He seemed to be quite satisfied with things. It is interesting that there was a shortfall of one man from the intended establishment of a Chief, a Sergeant and SEVEN Constables. It is very likely that the post of Sergeant (and Deputy Chief Constable) had simply not been filled by that stage (or that the Sergeant was also doing a Constable’s job).
On 30 April 1859 the Commissioners of Supply met again to set the annual assessments. Rogue Money (excluding Police) was set at £180. The Police assessment for the period 15/3/1859 - 15/3/1860 was fixed at £306. In the accounts it can be seen that the former Superintendent, Philip Mackay, was still active as Sheriff Officer and claimed for £2:2:6d. Chief Constable Peter Ewan lodged claims for a total of £12:9:7d in expenses.
One of the requirements of the 1857 Act was for the Chief Constable to produce a book of Rules and Instructions for the government of the Force. Peter Ewan produced such a document on 24 October 1859, which was approved by George Dingwall Fordyce, Sheriff of Sutherland and Caithness, four days later. Though similar, in many parts, to those issued by other Forces of the period, some localised items were included.
In addition to the fairly standard issue of uniform, each Constable would be issued with the following 'articles of equipment':
1 Baton; 1 Pair Handcuffs; 1 Lantern;
1 Belt; 1 Tape Measuring Line; and 1 Pair Compasses.
To ensure that all information circulated was timeously received: "25. Constables residing at a distance from headquarters must either call or send to the post-office at every delivery of letters - if practicable, Sunday included."
Normally these booklets forbade a Constable entering a public house on duty unless in course of that duty.
Mr Ewan appreciated the distances involved and the communications problems, and so he gave permission for any constable to do so for refreshment or meals, if authorised by his superior. The next portion (in the copy of the book which the author has in his possession) has been underlined by the officer to whom the book was first issued: "In the country, when the authority of a superior officer cannot be had, he may take refreshment in a public-house; but in all cases he must not remain longer than is absolutely necessary."
That effectively cover their rears - but the next paragraph totally prohibited any taking of alcohol at, or from the keeper of, such premises, and promised dismissal as the only punishment. Indeed any member of the force BEING IN THE HABIT OF drinking, or being drunk, on duty would result in immediate dismissal.
It does seem however as though the 'odd' wee nip just might possibly be excusable! A reviver after a night's trudging through a blizzard in Strathullie, where the wind cuts you to the bone, would seem to be covered!
Having a friendly dram with a supervisor would however be no excuse, since:
"29. Any Serjeant or other superior officer known to drink with or take drink from a constable when either is on duty will be reduced in grade, and he and the constable will be liable to be dismissed." Note the 'possibility' only in the foregoing. It was not going to be mandatory, and rightly so since bosses felt the cold too. The subtle hint here is obviously the "known to" bit - so keep it to yourselves, chaps!
Constables were to take their visiting books with them, for signature by all those respectable members of the community who he should make a point of calling upon on his daily patrol. They would be expected to call on all Commissioners of Supply and Justices of the Peace, who would be able to give them instructions (and the benefit of their local knowledge), and also on:
"Proprietors, Factors, Ministers, and respectable Farmers and Teachers, who will be asked to sign the book and to note the date and hour of the call, and they will also be requested to set forth therein any complaints or remarks they may have to make respecting the police, etc."
The considerable amount of sheep in the county merits particular attention in respect of enquiries into sheep-stealing. Among other lines of enquiry, the officer is exhorted to search the dung-heap. (I've done a few in my time)
The mention of the rank of Sergeant, and the requirement for there to be an officer designated as Deputy Chief Constable, tends to indicate that there was already a Sergeant in post, which would infer that one of the Beats - probably on the West side of the County or perhaps Dornoch - had not been filled as yet.
Colonel Kinloch's next Annual Report - covering the period March 1859 to March 1860 - noted that the Force had now grown to NINE. All districts must by then have been manned. There were also proposals to build a police station in the County Town of Dornoch. Presumably the Force Headquarters at that time was merely a spare room (or two) within the Sheriff Courthouse, or in the old Court building. Either would have been much less than satisfactory, being without any suitable accommodation in which to lodge prisoners - brought in from all parts of the county for Court appearance before the Sheriff.
It is very possible that the increase - by one - in the establishment was on account of the appointment of a new Sergeant (and Deputy Chief Constable). Such appointment would have been an Alexander McHardy - of whom much more later. McHardy, who had served 16 months in the Aberdeenshire Constabulary, was
obviously blessed with tremendous potential - as would be seen later in his Police career - and certainly at that time talented officers tended to climb the promotion ladder very, very quickly!
The salary of Chief Constable Ewan in 1859 is recorded by Colonel Kinloch as £200, which as we know included an allowance of £50 for the keep of a horse. By way of comparison, the Chief Constable of Caithness was at that time in receipt of £150 (plus £25 for the keep of a horse), while Ross-shire's Chief received £200 per annum, plus an additional £5 (yes, five!) for a horse.
Kinloch took a special interest in the village of Helmsdale, which he observed was also scheduled to receive a police office, and which he reported with interest was: "attracting many boats' crews of herring fishermen in the autumn". The need for a police station in the 'Dale, and more particularly the need for a cell or two, is best indicated by events on the Island of Lewis as recounted in Kinloch's report on the Ross-shire Police for the same year: "Trouble broke out among the herring people at Stornoway; three officers had to cope without lock-up facilities. The police detained the rioters in the street and took them to their own private lodgings until a magistrate's warrant was produced to put them in prison."
New lodgings would doubtless have had to be sought after that event! The thought of noisy drunks ponging of fish and liquor, handcuffed to the bed in the spare room, would not have endeared the bobbies to their landladies.
It has long been a source of pride in the Scottish legal system that a person may not be put in prison until appearing before a Sheriff or Magistrate. Any person detained in custody must be brought before a court on the next lawful day, or released to be summonsed later. Such is the reason for police cells being needed, to keep malefactors pending court appearance. It would be too easy to simply lodge someone straight in jail and then forget about bringing them to court.
Kinloch warned of the early existence of what we now call "Travelling Criminals", and Sutherland in particular was going to have problems from these persons. We tend to think that travel was difficult in those days, before the coming of the railway, but Mr Kinloch's observations are very enlightening on that score: "There are 'gangs' or 'tribes' of tinkers who live principally in Caithness-shire, but make periodic tours through different parts of Scotland. A gang of these people, with horses and carts, after passing through Argyle and Perthshire a few months ago, were detected by the police in Forfarshire, where they were carrying on their depredations; in the carts were found some of their plunder from Perthshire and elsewhere; two of them were convicted of various acts of theft; and they are known at Aberdeen and Wick as 'habit and repute' common thieves. Another gang from Caithness-shire has lately been passed out of the same county by the police."
That itinerary is substantial and seems to have been down the west coast, as far as Oban, and then across to the East coast and back up via Aberdeen. The route would cross a good number of county boundaries and would have kept the local bobbies on their toes throughout. Mr Ewan's Rules had covered this, by carefully warning his men that they: "ought to be zealous and attentive in preventing intrusion into their districts of vagabonds, sorners, sturdy beggars, vagabonds living idle and fleeing labour, gypsies, and those whose object is to plunder and impose upon the public, and who are suspicious or in the company of improper characters. They ought to watch the different roads by which such persons are most likely to approach their districts, and they must keep a sharp look-out for Thimblers, Cardsharpers, and Gamblers of all kinds, and do all in their power to prevent such parties from imposing upon or defrauding the public by unlawful games or deceptive procedure or acting."
(I can just visualise "Proud Mary" the Mississippi paddle-steamer chugging down Strathullie, with Card Sharks & Riverboat Gamblers aboard! "Big Wheels keep on turning!" Sorry, a wee bit of regression to my rock & roll youth there)
Action to be taken in respect of these types of persons was, simply, to watch them like a hawk, night and day, and: 'follow them about closely, either until they act so as to warrant apprehension, or till they leave the county.' If that course of action, which today would result in complaints of harassment, did not work? Then it seems Mr Ewan would take charge himself:
"If such persons, notwithstanding the constable's remonstrances, persist in remaining within the county, in a state of idleness and without the means of honest livelihood, so long as to make it plain that they must be gaining a subsistence either by thieving or by common begging, the constable should report to the Chief Constable for directions."
The 1860 Annual Meeting set Rogue Money Assessment at £340, while the Police Assessment was to be £570. A Dr Soutar presented an account in the sum of £5 'for Policeman'. This is likely to have been a medical examination for the extra man recruited, as noted by Kinloch.
Mr Ewan also produced accounts in the sum of £16:3:6d and: "A Report by the Chief Constable Mr Ewan on the state of crime within the County for the year ended 31 March last was then read, showing a decrease since the year preceding of Trials and Convictions." This report was a requirement of the Act, and the wording of the minute is rather intriguing. Did it mean that crime had fallen - which was to be hoped for, since that was the primary purpose of the 'new Police' - or did it mean that there had simply been fewer detections ?
The Commissioners met again on 30 April 1861, when a further increase in the Rogue Money assessment was set, this year being £200. The sum of £350 was to be required as the Police assessment for the year to 15/3/62, to cover the cost of salaries, uniforms and other matters. "The meeting do further assess a sum of £400 towards the expense of erecting a Police Station in Dornoch ... in terms of a pledge given (to) Colonel Kinloch, Her Majesty's Inspector of the Constabulary force in Scotland, as the condition under which he reported the police force of this County efficient, entitling them to draw the Government allowance of 25 per cent, but this sum was not to be collected before the first day of October next."
The plans of the Station, and all matters relating to it, along with the contracts involved, were delegated to the Police Committee with full powers to take the matter forward to completion. Mr Ewan also produced his Annual Report on the state of crime, and the Report was found to be satisfactory.
Alexander McHardy would have left the Sutherland force around May 1861, transferring to the Fife Constabulary as a Sergeant. He would be promoted down there to Inspector within 6 months, and only a further 3 months on he was made up to Superintendent and Deputy Chief Constable. He would return to Dornoch in due course - to succeed Ewan as Chief Constable.
In Kinloch's 1861 report (produced in April 1862), it was noted that plans were well advanced for the new Headquarters at Dornoch. He doubtless gave a wee chuckle at what really amounted to blackmail having paid off. It was no easy job he was doing, and inspection was only a part of it. Trying to make the thrifty men of local government see the benefits to be gained from an effective and efficient Police force was hard work.
Kinloch also intimated that the tinkers previously referred to were causing problems in the county. Obviously well versed in the art of removing anything which was not nailed down, they would doubtless be able to effect removal of property from Sutherland before the owner had even realised it had gone.
In the face of such adversity, the Force continued to receive a good report, although the nine men - including of course the Chief Constable, who would be expected to do all the administration AND still perform the duties of a Constable too - had a massive area to cover.
The Rogue Money assessment took another upwards hike at the Annual Meeting held on 30/4/1862. Now it was to be £250. As regards the Police Assessment: "The Commissioners do therefore assess ... in the sum of £380, with a further sum of £300 to complete the Police Station now in the course of erection in the Burgh of Dornoch." Mr Ewan's Annual Report presented to the Meeting was again 'satisfactory'.
The next (March 1862 - March 1863) Inspection Report by Colonel Kinloch saw mention of new buildings for Bettyhill, Lochinver and Rhiconich, presumably due largely to the boom in herring fishing, although there was no mention of extra manpower being provided in this respect. By way of comparison, the neighbouring Force of Ross-shire at that time had a number of supernumerary constables employed for 'herring fishery protection'.
As an indication of the itinerant population of the time (from which most of the crime emanated), Kinloch noted that there were 62,278 vagrants found in Scotland during 1862/63. By comparison, he recorded that there were 2,560 police officers in Scotland at that time. Three of that number were the poor bobbies in Stornoway whose landlady problems would have continued, as there was still no provision of police cells in Lewis.
Of interest is the fact that the mainland portion of Ross-shire had only eleven policemen at the time of Kinloch's 1862/63 Report, including the Chief Constable. In addition, the Burgh of Dingwall 'boasted' a Police force of TWO men, and the Black Isle (alias Cromartyshire) had two forces - the County one and one
for the Burgh of Cromarty. The Burgh of Cromarty had only ONE police constable - but at least that was one more than the County !
Mr Kinloch must have been glad to reach Sutherland, where at least there was a proper and organised Force, because Ross and Cromarty had him tearing his hair. He had plenty problems too in Caithness, where he would generate reams about Pulteneytown, which insisted on retaining its own little Police Force
separate from the rest of the County. (It was able to do that - and also to hold out against being "railroaded" into submission - because of its unique position in law, having been set up as a new harbour-community entity by the British Fisheries Society, complete with its own Act of Parliament.)
On 31 March 1862, there joined the Sutherland Force a man who would go on to be one of its longest and greatest servants. Formerly a Farm Servant, George Bridgeford had served 4 years in the Aberdeenshire Constabulary, when he transferred - apparently in the rank of Sergeant - to Sutherland. Whether he held such rank before his transfer is unknown, but he certainly appears to have held that rank from the time he started in Sutherland.
Aged only 27 years upon his arrival in Sutherland, he was also appointed Deputy Chief Constable. He would go on to serve no less than 42 years in the Sutherland Constabulary, finally retiring in November 1904 - when he reached the age of 70. In that time he would see off three Chief Constables.
When the Annual Meeting of the Commissioners of Supply convened on 30 April 1863, those who would be called upon to pay the assessments would have been bracing themselves for yet another shock to the system. They were not to be disappointed! The Rogue Money was set at £300, while the Police Assessment came to: "£850 including a balance due to the Bank disbursed on account of erecting the new Police Station." Value for money was important, and value the people of Sutherland got! That building (in Dornoch) would be used as a Police Station for nearly 120 years.
Mr Ewan had submitted accounts totalling £22:2:0d. All were accepted without question except for one in the sum of £5:4:6d, charged for 'Mail Gigs'. It would seem that he had availed himself of the 19th century equivalent of the post-bus to get around the North and West of his command area. The Meeting was (not surprisingly) unimpressed, since: "those charges are supposed to be provided for in his allowance of £50 per annum in raise of a horse to cover expenses for travelling to remote parts of the county." Rather than have a shouting match however, it was decided to refer the matter to the Principal Sheriff, and to accept his opinion. As it was not mentioned thereafter, the outcome is not clear.
At the time, there certainly was a boom in the herring fishing industry, which was keeping Police officers busy in all the Highland Counties. Big money meant big shots - of whisky - being consumed. For example, Kinloch reported that Lewis had had 205 arrests during 1863, while Sutherland continued to receive a good - if brief - report from him.
Wastage in the service in the early days was considerable. Of the men who were in the Sutherland Force upon its reorganisation in March 1858, only one lasted through to 1863. He was Constable Donald Stuart, a native of Banffshire, who had previously served 2 years and 7 months in Aberdeen City Police. He went on to retire on pension in 1891 after 36 years service.
It would seem that George Bridgeford was the man who instituted the Police Personal Record and Defaulter Book, probably at the behest of Colonel Kinloch. The book appears to have been taken into use during 1864 or 1865 and records details (some briefer than others) of each officer who served in the force thereafter. The Book makes fascinating reading, and has enabled compilation of a database in order to establish (with some educated guesses in respect of missing entries) the establishment and location of members of the force throughout the years.
Unfortunately there is no mention in the book of who was stationed at Helmsdale between 1858 and 1863. One must conclude from that the officer(s) in question had left the Force by the time the book was made up in 1864/65. It is however recorded that Alexander Anderson was stationed there as from 1863 – but his date of transfer out again is not recorded. PC Anderson joined the force on 3rd August 1863, presumably to replace someone who had left, and as he was immediately put to Helmsdale, that is where the vacancy would have been. He came ready-made, so to speak, having served two years in the Morayshire Railway Police, where he would have been responsible for peace-keeping at railway construction between Rothes and Elgin which finally concluded in 1863. With his experience of hard-working, hard-drinking railway navvies, he would have been invaluable at Helmsdale with the herring fishery in full swing. He would remain at Helmsdale until 1866/67.
The 1864 Annual Meeting produced the usual accounts but surprisingly the name of Peter Ewan did not feature. Instead accounts were submitted by Sergeant Bridgeford (for 29/3d) and PC James Alexander, Bonar (for 2/6d). PC Alexander does not feature in the Personal Record Book so his period of service must have been brief.
So - why does Mr Ewan not get a mention? It does seem rather strange that his subordinates should submit accounts and yet he does not. Perhaps he had deliberately not incurred ANY outlay after his 'Mail Gig' bill the year before. Maybe too his health took a turn for the worse. In any event it was minuted that the Report on the state of crime was produced by the Chief Constable, as per usual. It is likely that this document could have been delegated to Sgt Bridgeford to produce.
Rogue Money Assessment dropped somewhat, back down to £250, while the cost of maintaining the Police force was to be £572 (of which £5:6/11d was due to be paid by the Burgh of Dornoch).
The Police in Sutherland, in common with all Scottish Counties bar Ross and Argyll, were issued with leather leggings during 1864. Kinloch obviously was deliberate in his mentioning the forces who did NOT provide such items, no doubt in an effort to shame them into so doing. Undoubtedly these accessories would have been well received. Worn over boots, no rain or mud or snow would get inside the footwear. There were no wellington boots or nylon over-trousers then! With diseases of farm animals being rife - largely due to the travelling vagrants who if they could, would sleep in a barn or hay store - it was necessary to disinfect the footwear of visitors at farms. Wearing these leather leggings made it a lot easier, and less uncomfortable, for the Police as they went from farm to farm in their travels.
Kinloch noted that the year also saw Scottish forces begin to adopt 'new uniform and head-dress' of the London Metropolitan Police - helmets instead of top hats, tunics in lieu of swallow-tail coats. Identity numbers, formerly embroidered on the coat breast and thus difficult to make out, were replaced by metal numerals of the high-neck collar of the new tunic.
The rank of Sergeant (originally 'Serjeant') was now denoted by three chevrons on the tunic sleeve, in place of a former practice which varied between forces and was not always easily seen. Interestingly the only garments upon which the chevrons were so worn were the tunic and the greatcoat. Both have nowadays gone to the great Clothing Store in the sky. Sergeants now wear metal chevrons on the epaulettes on ALL types of uniform. Thus history repeats itself, as the rank insignia is not always easily seen. (Note: Although these chevrons are not in themselves heavy, they are actually a considerable weight on one’s shoulders!!)
By the time of the 1865 Annual Meeting, held on 1 May, savings were beginning to be made, with the Rogue Money coming down to £2490 and the Police Assessment also down considerably, now set at £460. Again the Report on the state of crime was produced by the Chief Constable, and no police officer featured in the accounts. It is likely that all such matters of a minor nature were being passed by the Police Committee.
The passing of the Trespass Act in 1865 had apparently quickly begun to have the desired effect upon the vagrant population, whose lodging uninvited in farm buildings had caused Cattle Plague, in particular, to spread. Kinloch, who it is believed was instrumental in convincing the powers-that-be of the need for such legislation, was obviously delighted to report that "since the passing of the Act, several tribes of tinkers who used to infect that County (Sutherland) are believed to have emigrated to America". The Police in Sutherland would not have been broken-hearted either!
Cattle Plague was causing a great deal of concern and extra men were being employed as Constables on a weekly basis to supervise cattle movement and to ensure quarantine regulations were observed.
Kinloch noted that Helmsdale had one extra policeman for the 1865 fishing season. Whether this was an extra man is unclear – there is no mention in the Force records, but perhaps if of a temporary nature, the information was recorded elsewhere? He also observed that Constables in Sutherland had to provide their own lodgings, in other words no houses were provided for the policemen. The proposed Police Office and Lock-up in Helmsdale had still not gone ahead.
An additional meeting of the Commissioners of Supply was held on 23 March 1866. The matter of Weights and Measures was one of the main reasons for the meeting, and members sought to re-negotiate the contract of the Chief Constable accordingly. There seems to have been more to just making Mr Ewan responsible for this, as one of the conditions was simply that he should have to visit each district of the Force on a regular basis. Perhaps he had not being doing so. It was not as if he should have to take the Weights & Measures with him, as another condition was that these should be sent around the County.
The Commissioners of Supply met again on 25 August 1866 to consider the minutes of various meetings of the Police Committee. It was reported that it had been decided to dispense with Mr Ewan's services with effect from 1 May 1866. He had been advised that if he were to resign then he would receive a gratuity of half a year's salary. Having clearly seen that much was to be gained by jumping, rather than waiting to be pushed, Ewan resigned on 1 May.
Sergeant Bridgeford took charge of the force between 16 June and 7 August 1866, pending the appointment of a new Chief Constable. The Commissioners were however concerned that the appointment of the new Chief Constable had perhaps been procedurally flawed and the matter was remitted to Counsel to consider.
In any event, the man who on 8 August 1866 took over the top job in Dornoch was Alexander McHardy, who was no more than 25 years of age, having been born on 9 June 1939 near Braemar in Aberdeenshire. Prior to his appointment in Sutherland, McHardy had been a member of the Fife Constabulary for 5 years and 2 months, and before that he had served in the Sutherland force for 22 months between 1859 and 1861. It is believed that his previous service in Sutherland had been at Sergeant rank, and that he would have served as Deputy to the Chief Constable, being eventually replaced by George Bridgeford when McHardy had moved south to further his career.
Who was appointed to replace McHardy in the Sutherlandshire Constabulary as Sergeant (& Deputy Chief Constable) is not known. Certainly if there was an immediate appointment in the summer of 1861, it was not a long-term one. The nine month gap between McHardy's departure and Bridgeford's arrival could mean another officer tried - and failed? - to fill McHardy's shoes, or that the powers-that-be in Sutherland were not immediately convinced at the need for the Chief Constable to have an official Deputy. Doubtless H.M. Inspector would have soon put them right on that score!
McHardy's Police career had apparently begun in the Aberdeenshire Constabulary where he served for 16 months, 'having joined the latter force on 22nd March 1858 at age of 19 3/12 years.' Before joining the Police he had worked as a gardener on Invercauld Estate, near Braemar.
Two of his brothers were also policemen, William (born 1836) becoming an Inspector in Aberdeenshire. His younger brother Charles (born 23.7.1844) had joined the Dunbartonshire Constabulary in 1863, rising through the ranks to become Chief Constable of that Force in 1884 until his death in 1914.
The force at the time of Mr McHardy's appointment would have comprised:
|Rank||Surname||Forenames||Appt||1866 Station||When Left + Reason|
|Cons||CRAIGHEAD||James||1864||WEST COAST?||1891 Retired|
N.B.: Also 3 blank Records - probably men employed temporarily for Railway construction policing.
The 1866 Annual Report produced by Kinloch reported that new rates of pay had been applied for all ranks, along with free housing. It must be supposed therefore that the new broom was sweeping clean.
The Government Inspector also noted that, with the development of the railway to Golspie, three extra Constables were employed. This would account for three blank entries in the Force's Personal Record Book. These men would have been based at Portnalick, which was the navvies' camp at Culrain. There
would be a considerable change-over of the temporary Police personnel, as it would not be everybody's cup of tea. In addition these temporary posts were a way of gaining some police experience while waiting for acceptance into the 'regular' Force of one of the Counties or Burghs.
The 'railway' Police would be paid for by the contractor who was constructing the line, to ensure that the navvies on the line behaved themselves and did not run amok in the district when they drank their wages.
Other duties would include guarding the pay-roll, and supervision of tools and equipment to prevent pilferage or even sabotage. Although the bill for these officers' services was not met by the ratepayers, these 'additional' constables were part of the Force, recruited by and at all times responsible to the Chief Constable of the County.
In his 1867 Report, Kinloch reported with pleasure on the provision of new Police Stations - at Golspie (Main Street), Helmsdale (Sutherland Street, now named “Valhalla”) and Bonar Bridge. He also intimated that the Sergeant (which would have been George Bridgeford), who was the only supervisory officer in the Force at the time, was paid £15 for his Acting Chief Constableship. The force of nine regular officers appeared a happy one. Three supernumerary officers continued to do duty on the railway construction.
On 12th July 1867, another new officer was put to Helmsdale. PC Donald Murray, from Strathhalladale, had previously served in Edinburgh City Police. Other that that snippet of information, however, his record is blank, and it would seem he did not remain in Helmsdale (or indeed in the Force) very long. He probably lasted 12 months (which may have been a probationary period), as the record shows that on 10th July 1868 a John Ross was appointed to the force and put to Helmsdale. He had previous service in the Sutherland Railway Police and would likely have been one of the three supernumerary officers previously mentioned. Chances are that he was something of a stop-gap as he was moved to Golspie a couple of months later, and it is recorded his services were dispensed with later that year –albeit he was taken again on the following year to serve at Lairg but again it seems he did not remain long.
Pay featured prominently in the 1868 Report, and Kinloch explained that Constables throughout Scotland were now divided into classes, dependant upon their length of service and conduct. A new recruit received 17/6d (87p) weekly and the first class Constable from 20/- (£1) to 21/- (£1.05p).
Whereas no permanent addition to staff on account of the fishing was apparently deemed necessary in Sutherland, (which speaks volumes for the men on the West Coast and at Helmsdale) Ross-shire had increased their Stornoway contingent to six.
While no major problems with tinkers had arisen recently in Sutherland, to the north in Caithness there were difficulties aplenty. It was reported that some tinkers had taken occupancy of caves on the sea coast. Because these caves were not 'enclosed places', the Police could not take any action under the Trespass Act. The Helmsdale officer would paying particular attention to The Ord, no doubt, for fear of the cave dwellers spreading into his patch.
The 'silver darlings ' - the herring off Helmsdale - soon began to play second fiddle to another precious metal locally. There had arisen a potentially more lucrative industry in panning for gold in the Strath of
Kildonan. Such was the number of prospectors flooding into the area that it was necessary to increase the Police strength in Helmsdale by one (but there is no information in the Personnel Register, unless it was the John Ross mentioned above). Further: "In consequence of the great number of persons digging for gold, three extra constables are to be appointed under the Sergeant at Helmsdale and paid for by the Duke of Sutherland."
It rather looks as if Chief Constable McHardy had dispatched George Bridgeford up to Helmsdale to take personal charge of the situation. It was estimated that there were upwards of 500 prospectors in the Strath
at the height of the Sutherland Klondike. There is no mention in the Force Personal Record & Defaulters Register of any other officer being promoted to Sergeant around that time, or indeed for many years to come - until George Murray in 1895. Having said that, the Register appears to have been 'overlooked' on many
occasions, and it is known that there was at least one promotion which was somehow never recorded.
The three extra men appointed for duty at Kildonan were:
DONALD SUTHERLAND: a 28 year old labourer from Lairg, who commenced duty on 27 March 1869. He had earlier served 3 years in Glasgow City Police and had just completed a stint as an additional Constable on the Sutherland Railway.
GEORGE KEMP: aged 30, a Farm Worker from Evanton in Ross-shire who had 7 years previous service in the Ross-shire Constabulary. He started at Kildonan on 9 April 1869.
JOHN MATHESON: a Dyker aged 31 years from Skelbo, Sutherland, who was also appointed on 9 April 1869. Of the three he was the only one with no previous Police experience. Despite that (or perhaps rather BECAUSE of that) he was the only one of the three who was kept on in the regular Force after the Gold Rush ended. He went on to serve around the County, finally retiring while stationed at Rhiconich on 10 May 1900 after 31 years service. He received an annual pension of £38:15:7d.
In that same period an officer was posted to Lairg to coincide with the opening of the railway line. The railway made the village even more important as the 'hub' of the County, being the rail-head for all points
north and west. The line from Bonar to Golspie opened for public traffic on 13 April 1868 and, from the Force records, it would appear that William Gordon was Lairg's first bobby. He had been taken on in May 1867 as an additional Constable for duty at the railway construction, based at Portnalick, and then moved to Kildonan when gold fever arrived.
It is likely that McHardy decided to send PC Gordon to Lairg for the first few months, in view of his experience and knowledge of the area, rather than install a new recruit there. The fact that PC Gordon was relatively local, being from Skelbo near Dornoch, would also have been in his favour. He was also one of the few officers taken on as additional Constable who was retained on the force strength - most men moved on or were dispensed with after only a short time.
Sending raw recruits out with no training or experience was something that Colonel Kinloch had a bit of a hobby-horse about, and had made considerable mention of the fact in his Reports. This was not something that the Sutherland Force was particularly guilty of, but other Forces were rather prone to such a course of action. Mr McHardy seemed to concur with that sentiment, and only rarely thereafter - normally only with an experienced officer transferring in from another force - was a new recruit posted direct to a Station without spending some time at Headquarters in Dornoch to 'learn the ropes'.
The Duke of Sutherland called a halt to the gold prospecting at the beginning of 1870 and in his Report for the year up to the end of March 1870, Kinloch commented upon the quiet that had returned to Helmsdale and the district. The Police had however to continue to give attention to the diggings long after the Duke's decree, as there were obviously some people who would not take 'no' for answer and still tried to make their fortune.
It is recorded that the strength of the Force in 1870 was 12, comprising: Chief Constable; Inspector; Sergeant; 9 Constables
It can only be assumed that George Bridgeford had been promoted to Inspector, and that a Constable had been made up to Sergeant in his stead. The Personnel Records give us no information on the matter, but we shall speculate on the subject, later on.
By the 1870/71 Report however the need for 'additional' Police was no longer there, and Kinloch recommended that their services could be dispensed with. It was unlikely that the His Grace the Duke would continue to pay out good money for the wages of additional Constables unless there was still a valid
need for their services. There undoubtedly was, as the Duke was himself financing the extension of the railway from Golspie to Helmsdale.
The line would open as far as West Helmsdale (Greenpark) in June 1871, and authority had been given to extend it up the Strath of Kildonan to Forsinard and then over into Caithness. Problems were however being experienced in actually getting the line into Helmsdale, and the cutting from Couper Park to Marrel was taking a lot of effort - hence the temporary terminus on the seaside plain short of the village. One extra man (another PC Donald Sutherland) was taken on to the regular force for duty in Helmsdale.
Meanwhile Kinloch was reporting that the combined effects of the 1870 Pedlars Act and the severe weather had made great inroads into removing the problem of vagrants. The Act required that persons selling from door to door required to be licensed by the Police. Failure to obtain such a licence involved severe penalties. This legislation was intended to prevent householders being pestered by itinerants begging or selling trinkets round the doors, sometimes merely as a front to allow them to scout out the lay of the land for future housebreaking, or to sneak in and steal from the house while the occupant's attention was diverted.
Lairg was growing due to the railway, but there was still no Police Office, which Kinloch had maintained was essential. Agreement had finally been given to build one, and H.M. Inspector also pointed out the need for proper Police buildings at Bonar Bridge and Tongue too.
Colonel Kinloch presented his final Report in April 1872, and his 15 years in the post had drained him. He had much to look back on, and his successes were many. He had kept at local Police Committees to ensure that proposals - especially for buildings - did not remain simply empty promises. He had found little to complain about in the County of Sutherland, and in comparison to other neighbouring Counties it seems to have been almost a pleasure to inspect. No small credit for that must go to Chief Constable McHardy, and Sergeant (Inspector?) Bridgeford, for running a tidy ship.
One of Kinloch's final mentions was that there had been an amendment to the Pedlars Act. The price of the Certificate (Licence) had been increased by 900 per cent, from 6d (2.5p) to 5/-(25p). Presumably the Police had been swamped with applications, and the increase was designed to separate the wheat from the chaff. Surprisingly it did not increase in price again for a further 96 years, when in 1968 it would rise to £1.25p.
During the course of 1872, Colonel Kinloch was succeeded by Charles Carnegie as H.M. Inspector of Constabulary, but Kinloch had conducted the inspection of the Sutherland Force before being replaced. His final report on the Force was a favourable one. He was pleased to note that "those in charge of stations with cells receive £16 a year for fire and light".
He also highlighted that the Chief Constable and other officers were engaged in the usual extra duties - fairly standard across Scotland - such as procurator fiscal, sanitary inspector and being charge of salmon fishings.
These duties attracted payment over and above the Police wages.
In Carnegie's first solo Report, produced in April 1874, he made mention of the lack of any pension provision for police officers in most Scottish Forces. Only in the case of officers incapacitated was there any allowance
for a gratuity. There were many instances of officers having to work until a very advanced age before being simply paid off as no longer able to perform their duties to a satisfactory standard. England had established a superannuation fund - so why not Scotland?
The arrangements whereby salmon fisheries were policed by officers from the regular strength in several counties - including Sutherland - never seemed to trouble his predecessor. Carnegie however took umbrage at the fact that these officers were being partially paid for by public money - via the 25 per cent Government grant - to provide policing services for private organisations. He considered that these men should be removed from the strength of the force and fully employed by the fisheries board, as was now being done more and more elsewhere.
He cited the case of Bonar Bridge where the Sergeant was in charge of the Kyle of Sutherland salmon fishing, for which the police authority received £52 per annum. Now the County Police Personal Record Book makes no mention of another Sergeant on the strength, other than George Bridgeford. Enquiry has revealed however that it was NOT George Bridgeford who was the 'fishery' man. Alexander Anderson (vide Personnel Record no. 3 who had been at Helmsdale from 1863 to 1866) - with NO promotion record whatsoever on his sheet - was that Sergeant at Bonar. His Station Occurrence Book, now held in the Highland Council Archives, covers the period from 11 June 1873 to 10 June 1875 while he was the (obviously 'extra') Sergeant based at what he himself termed : 'INVERSHIN (BONAR FISHERY STATION)'.
It would appear - although there is nothing in writing to bear this out - that Bridgeford must have been elevated to Inspector when the need arose for a 'fisheries' Sergeant. After all, it would not be very clever to have the Deputy Chief Constable of the same rank as a man who was in charge of fisheries. Who would outrank who, indeed? The Deputy Chief Constable, as 2nd in command of a Police force, has always been the disciplinarian, and to do that effectively he must outrank all others - save for the Chief Constable. To solve that awkward situation, it would thus have been necessary for the Chief Constable to promote Mr Bridgeford. Mr McHardy would not have had any difficulty in taking that decision. He would be taking plenty more in his career; he it was who was Chief Constable of Inverness-shire at the time of The Battle of The Braes on the Island of Skye. (but that's another story)
Mr Carnegie raised the matter of fisheries again in his next Report. He made it abundantly clear that the Sergeant at Bonar Bridge had NO police duties other than taking charge of the fisheries on the Kyle of Sutherland.
The Sheriff, Police Authority, Chief Constable, and indeed Colonel Kinloch, had all approved of the arrangement, but Carnegie was not pleased that the man should be paid from the Government grant. His rumblings had however fallen on stony ground, and he indicated that locally the water had been muddied, if you will pardon the pun: 'owing to the precipitate action of the sheriff-substitute other questions were imported into the controversy which have had the effect of delaying any possible settlement.'
As stated above, some of the questions do seem to be answered by Station Occurrence Books of the Force, which recently were catalogued by the very helpful people in the Highland Council Archive Service. There is only the one Book - covering the period 1873-1875 - pertaining to "Invershin" (entitled 'Bonar Fisheries Station'). The officer whose duties are recorded in that Book was one SERGEANT A. ANDERSON. This would have been, as stated above, Alexander Anderson, Register. At the time of compilation (it seems to have been retrospective - so there was clearly 'back record conversion' then too!) of the Record Book, he was the third longest serving member of the Force.
Although there is nothing on his personal record, he very obviously was made Sergeant for that job protecting the salmon fishery. What then became of him for some years is unclear, and it is very possible that eventually Mr Carnegie got his way and the job at Invershin was 'civilianised'. (Funny how some things never change!) It is not known for certain whether Sergeant Anderson immediately reverted to being a Constable, but since there was no longer a Sergeant's post on the establishment, this is the likely outcome. Such was not uncommon in smaller Forces, where an officer assumed a temporary rank for the duration, and then reverted back to his original rank to await his substantive promotion in his turn, in what was affectionately known as the 'dead man's shoes' principle.
It is however possible that the force carried on for a while with a supernumerary (or even simply unofficial and undocumented) Sergeant rank - especially if Bridgeford remained Inspector, which he undoubtedly did.
Probably the personal rank was retained by Anderson, even although he would have had to refer to himself in official documents as a Constable. His name (as PC A. Anderson) pops up again in the Occurrence Books for Brora (1881-1882, and 1884-1889) but also during that same period for Golspie (1887-1889). His personal record does record that on 20 June 1890 he moved from Golspie to Helmsdale. At some point, possibly on 15/11/1891, he was restored to Sergeant. The very fact that the Record makes no mention of promotion is intriguing in itself, and does tend to imply that rules were being bent somewhat. But we digress.
Carnegie also did a survey of uniform expenditure for the year 1874/75 and listed the lowest and highest prices of each of the staple items. Sutherland does not feature in either list so its equipment must lie somewhere in between the quite considerably different prices. Cost variations reflects the fact that the quality standards must have differed astonishingly.
Item Highest Lowest
Helmet 11/6d (57p) 6/- (30p)
Coat 48/- (£2.40p) 25/6d (£1.27p)
Trousers 24/4d (£1.21p) 13/4d (66p)
Greatcoat 50/3d (£2.51p) 27/9d (£1.39p)
Cape 30/- (£1.50p) 8/3d (41p)
The prices quoted were in respect of COUNTY Forces. There were even greater variations in municipal Forces. Of particular interest is that the 'Burgh' of Pulteneytown, now a suburb of Wick, maintained a small Force which throughout its long life was always reported as inefficient, largely because of its steadfast refusal to unite with anyone else. Yet it provided its men with the most expensive coats and greatcoats of any Force in Scotland, namely 50/- (£2.50p) and 52/6d (£2.62p) respectively.
The County of Sutherland continued to receive a good 'efficient' report from Carnegie and his successors, and reflected great credit on the men themselves and on Chief Constable McHardy.
On 11th November 1872 George DICK, a farm servant from Morayshire joined the Force and his first posting was to Helmsdale. He resigned from the force on 20th July 20/7/1874. No transfer information is listed. Possibly to replace him, PC Alexander SANDIESON moved from Melvich, and sometime between 1878 and 1880 PC George ROBERTSON was transferred in from Brora. His replacement seems to have been PC John MACKENZIE who in turn appears to have been removed to Bonar by 1883. Constable William GORDON who had joined in 1867 at Kildonan also features twice (both undated) in respect of moves to Helmsdale before being relocated to Golspie in 1890. Alexander WILL joined the force in 1880, initially placed at Bonar but subsequently moved to Helmsdale (possibly 1881 or 1882) where he remained until moving to Brora in 1890.
In October 1882, Mr William Murray intimated his intention to retire after 25 years as the Chief Constable of Inverness-shire, the largest police area in the United Kingdom. The County (excluding the Burgh of Inverness, which had its own Force) boasted no less than 42 men of all ranks. At the time Sutherland had only 16 officers, including Sergeant Bridgeford and the Chief Constable. There follows a list of the men in the Sutherland force at that time, together with details of where they were stationed. In many cases their 'current' station is an educated guess as, as you will have gathered from earlier remarks, the Personal Records were not always kept with the meticulous care of later times.
SUTHERLANDSHIRE CONSTABULARY - STAFF : 1882
Alexander McHardy was successful in his application for the Inverness-shire post, and left the Sutherland Force on 2 December 1882. George Bridgeford would again have taken over control of the force in the interim. The Police Authority set about their search for his successor immediately, and at the end of January 1883, one of the applicants called for interview was Inspector Archibald Matheson of the Inverness-shire Constabulary, stationed at Fort William.
Inverness-shire Constabulary records - updated by Chief Constable McHardy himself - show that Inspector Matheson was absent from his Station at Fort William from 23 to 29 January 1883: 'to go to Dornoch - having applied for the office of Chief Constable there'. Incidentally, Archibald Matheson was NOT apparently of Sutherland ancestry - his Inverness-shire Personnel Record states that he was a native of Lochalsh in Ross-shire, and that he had previously served for 3 years and 6 months in Ayrshire Constabulary before moving to the Inverness-shire force in 1866. His quest was unsuccessful.
The post was awarded (eventually) to Superintendent Roderick MacLean of the Ross-shire Constabulary.
The new Chief Constable was a native of Kiltarlity, a rural area near Beauly in Inverness-shire, and had also previously served in Ayrshire Constabulary (for 4 years and 2 months), before moving to Ross-shire, where he rose to be Superintendent and Deputy Chief Constable. He was 40 years of age when he took over the reins as Chief Constable of Sutherland to succeed McHardy. It was six months after McHardy's departure before Mr MacLean finally took up his duties in Dornoch on 8 June 1883, and a young local lad named George Murray started as a Constable in Dornoch six days later. George Murray would go on to rise through the ranks to become Inspector and Deputy Chief Constable of Sutherland in due course. George Murray was born on 20 August 1858 at the farm of Achley, on the outskirts of the Sutherland County Town of Dornoch. It is likely that his father worked the farm, and young George followed in his father's footsteps.
At the age of 24 however he joined the Sutherland Constabulary where his first wage as a probationary Constable was 19 shillings (95 pence) a week. Given the starting dates, and the fact that PC Murray would have probably been 'tied' to a farmer for an agreed period, he would in fact have been recruited by Chief Constable McHardy before he left.
The young Constable Murray was posted initially to Helmsdale. By that time the village had peaked as a fishing centre, and the Strath of Kildonan Gold Rush was just a distant memory. Nonetheless the 'Dale was still a busy place, having a bustling harbour for the fishing fleet, and it was also an important railway post with its locomotive shed providing motive power to support trains carrying goods and passenger traffic up to the Caithness Boundary. George was obviously making satisfactory progress as on 2 August 1883 he was
advanced to 4th class Constable, with a wage of 21 shillings (£1.05p) per week. A further wage upgrade came on 3 August 1885 when he moved up to 3rd class, receiving 22/2d (£1.11) weekly.
Chief Constable MacLean's tenure did not last very long. Still a young man, he died in Edinburgh on 8 April 1887 at the age of 44. It is interesting to note that during Mr MacLean's three years in post only three men were taken on, so the Force must have been in a very stable state. Out of those 'new' three, two of them - George Murray and John Polson - would in due course be promoted (indeed the next two promotions in the force - apart from that of Alexander Allan) but these would be some years away. ('Dead man's shoes' has
already been mentioned, in such small Forces where promotion was slow!)
While a successor was being found, Sergeant (and Deputy Chief Constable) George Bridgeford, seemingly then the only officer higher than Constable in the Force, took command yet again. He had done this duty before, between the demise of the first Chief, Peter Ewan, and McHardy's appointment in 1866. He appears to have been in charge for a good long while, as Mr MacLean seems to have been unwell for some time before his death. Inspector Matheson at Fort William would seem not to have bothered applying this time around - or if he did so, he did not reach the Interview stage. He would die in service in 1892, still at Fort William, aged 53.
Meantime, Mr Bridgeford had decided that, after four years in Helmsdale, PC George Murray was to move to Clashurn in the Assynt area on the West Coast. This transfer duly took effect on 20 June 1887.
This time it took only two months to select and install a new Chief Constable. On 7 June 1887, Malcolm Macdonald, then an Inspector in the Inverness-shire Constabulary, stationed at Portree on the Isle of Skye, was appointed as the new Chief Constable of Sutherland. He had joined the Inverness-shire Constabulary as a 3rd Class Constable on 2 December 1874 at the age of 26 years. Previously a farm servant, he had also served 2 years in the City of Glasgow Police before joining Inverness-shire. A native of the Island of Skye, Chief Constable Macdonald stood 6'1'' in height, had grey eyes and fresh complexion with dark and curly hair. He was a big man in all senses, with a considerable presence. Macdonald had not received any promotion from McHardy - his promotion to Inspector came from the previous Chief Constable, William Murray, six months before McHardy went to Inverness-shire Constabulary from Dornoch.
In fact his advancement to Inspector had come quickly, only 13 months after being made up to Sergeant at Beauly with only 9 years Police Service, some 7 of them in Inverness-shire. Such a rapid (at least in terms of promotions in Inverness-shire) ascent would likely not have pleased some of his colleagues as it was upsetting the established order (the 'dead man's shoes' again!) That feeling of resentment would not apply however if his colleagues had identified, as they probably did in this case, that he was what was (and still is) termed a 'flier' (accelerated promotion - such flight being both 'upwards' and 'away'), and would be off to another force in a promoted rank soon enough, so that the previous order would resume with no harm done.
The new Chief, aged 39 on appointment, was awarded an initial salary of £200 per annum. He appeared to settle in very well in Sutherland, a land very similar in terrain and attitude to his own home Island. That he made a lasting impression on the local population is not in dispute. Sadly his wife died during his period in Dornoch, leaving the Chief to raise his family of six, three boys and three girls.
PC Murray had his wage upgraded again on 20 December 1887, when he was made Constable, 2nd class. Now his pay was 23/4d (£1.17p) each week. A further increment came on 17 January 1889 when he reached First Class Constable rate of 24/6d (£1.22p) per week. After two and a half years in Assynt, George Murray was on the move again, on the second last day of 1889. This time he was posted to Rosehall, a
strategic location in Central Sutherland, being one point of the triangle formed with Lairg and Bonar Bridge, through which all traffic for the west and north of the county had to pass.
After 18 months in Rosehall, PC Murray was off again - this time back to Helmsdale on 24 May 1891. This was only a relief posting however, perhaps to assist the resident officer in the fishing season. Possibly he went to perform a period of 'acting up' as the Sergeant at Helmsdale, where PC (or Sergeant?) Alexander Allan, had been stationed since June 1890. On 26 June 1891 Murray was transferred yet again, this time to Lairg - the 'hub' of Sutherland.
In November 1891 George Bridgeford, still Deputy Chief Constable, had his salary increased to £100 per annum. He would also receive an additional £7:10/- every five years thereafter. Although it is not stated in his Personal Record, it would seem that his rank was upgraded to Inspector at the same time. (Rather it would have been officially ratified, having been a 'personal' rank for a good while prior to that).
At the same time Alexander Anderson (yes, the one-time Sergeant of Invershin fishery duties which so irked Mr Carnegie), and by then at Helmsdale, also had his wage increased. The rise, from 29/- (£1.45p) to 30/10d (£1.54p) per week, was undoubtedly a Sergeant's wages, but, whether Sergeant Anderson was
actually officially promoted in 1891 at the same time as Mr Bridgeford seems to have been 'made up', or whether both pay increases referred to previously awarded promotion is unknown. In any case there does not appear to have been a Sergeant at Helmsdale prior to Mr Anderson, and it is likely that Mr Bridgeford had been up there in earlier times when H.M. Inspector had made mention in his Annual report about 'the Sergeant at Helmsdale'.
In November 1892 Mr Macdonald received a ten per cent rise in his salary, going up to £220, having served 5 years in the Force. The 15th of November seems to have been either the start or mid point of the Force's financial year. Almost all amalgamations of Forces occurred on 16 May or 16 November. While at Lairg, PC Murray was (on 12 April 1893) promoted to Merit Class Constable, taking his weekly pay up to 26/3d (£1.31p). Merit Class was an additional level of pay, intended to reward the officers who were most
conscientious and well-behaved, in an effort to avoid losing them to other occupations.
On 14 November 1895 George Murray transferred yet again, returning to Helmsdale. The following day he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and saw his wage rise accordingly, but only by the small sum of 1/2d (6p), to 27/5d (£1.37p) per week. On that same day Alexander Allan, stationed at Helmsdale, retired from the Force on pension. Although it does not say so on his record, Allan was by that time a Sergeant, and it would seem that he had been promoted to that rank on 15 November 1891 when he had his pay raised.
Meanwhile in 1889, 6 Constables were paid off - forced to “resign by order of the Police Committee” as the “force was being diminished”. Of these, one William MOWAT went in August while stationed at Helmsdale. The other five, one of whom was Alexander MacBEATH who was also by this time at Helmsdale, went in November. The establishment of the force had been increased considerably to cope with numerous incidents of land agitation across the County (and indeed across the Highlands) and now it was back to relative peace and quiet the County simply could not afford these extra men as winter drew in and the problem had receded.
After two years as the Sergeant - the third most senior rank in the force - Mr Murray's weekly pay increased to 28/7d (£1.43p). It was however to be a further three years before his next increment, going up to 29/9d (£1.49p). George Murray was made subsequently promoted to "Sub-Inspector" in 1903 - on 19 August this time! This curious non-standard rank appears to have been created especially for him, to prepare him for 'high office' when he would replace George Bridgeford as Inspector (and Deputy Chief) in November 1904.
Sorry but it was NOT the 15th this time - it was the 22nd in fact.
On 17 January Sub-Inspector Murray saw his wages increase to 30/11d (£1.54p), which tends to suggest that Sub Inspector was more of an appointment as 'Inspector Designate' than a promotion as such. There was a promotion made to Sergeant on 19.08.1903 - the date on which Mr Murray became 'Sub Inspector' - with Constable John Polson, (a native of Helmsdale, and a Joiner to trade) who had joined the Force in 1886, being given his 'tapes' while apparently continuing to serve at Lochinver.
As stated George Bridgeford finally retired on 22 November 1904, when he reached the age of 70. He could not be permitted to stay on any longer. Was 22 November his birthday? There is no other reason springs to mind for his retiral on that date, unless it was the anniversary of his first joining the Police back in Aberdeenshire. Normally pension is calculated on the number of complete years served, but Inspector Bridgeford would have had at least 46 (42 in Sutherland, plus 4 more in Aberdeenshire),so it would be simply academic, since he had well exceeded the number of years - and the age - for entitlement to the maximum pension.
Perhaps, and here I do hope I am not doing him a dis-service, he simply did not wish to give up. He would not be alone in that. It is a quantum change from being in a position of power (and knowledge and respect) to being just plain 'Mister'! George Bridgeford died in 1907.
George Murray was transferred to Dornoch, promoted Inspector and appointed Deputy Chief Constable in his stead, receiving the same wage (£100 p.a.) as George Bridgeford had when upgraded to Inspector way back in 1891. He would also receive an increment of £7:10/- (£7.50p) each five years. Also on 22 November 1904 Sergeant Polson moved from Lochinver - but to Brora and not to Helmsdale. Two years later, Sgt Polson moved again, to Golspie, which indicates how the relative importance of the three towns of the East
Coast Section was changing. Golspie had long been the administrative capital of the County, while Helmsdale's place as the main centre of fishing was well on the wane. Brora's role as the industrial centre continued, but with improved transportation it was Golspie which remained the focal point.
The last man appointed to the Force before George Bridgeford retired was Alexander Ross, a Carpenter from Lairg. He joined the Force on 18 July 1904 when 20 years of age. After initial training at Headquarters in Dornoch he was posted to Embo in August 1904. In March 1905 he moved to Helmsdale and while there he passed his St Andrew's Ambulance Certificate in first aid. After 13 months in the 'Dale, he was off again - this time to Rogart. Following six months there, he was transferred to Durness, before moving again, in April 1908, to Melvich on the north coast. While there, his son Kenneth was born, on 14 January 1912. We will hear more of Kenneth Ross later, which will explain why his father's career is detailed herein.
Attaining 5 years in the rank of Inspector, Murray received an increase of £7.10/- (£7.50p) - exactly the same sum as his predecessor had been awarded after the same period of time in the rank. On 15 May 1913 Sgt Polson was moved to Headquarters, and after 10 years as Inspector, Mr Murray had his salary increased by a further £7.10/- (£7.50p) to £115, in exactly the same way as Mr Bridgeford had had after he had been 10 years an Inspector.
After 3 years at Dornoch, Sgt Polson was transferred to Bonar Bridge, and on 16 February 1917 Mr Murray received his final pay rise, a quantum leap indeed, to £135 per annum. It would seem that George Murray's health was suspect as he retired the following year, on 15 February 1918. Normally an officer - and particularly a senior officer - would not have been allowed to retire in war-time but ill-health was the one reason acceptable. He provided a Medical Certificate to provide for his 'early' retirement, having served 34 years and was by then 59 years of age. He was awarded an annual pension of £81.2/2d (£81.11p) but did not have the opportunity to enjoy his retirement, as he died seven weeks later on 5 April 1918.
In May 1913 PC Alexander Ross had moved along the coast to Tongue, before removing to Helmsdale in April 1920. That was to be his final posting, retiring from the service there on 3 August 1937 after 33 years service. We have however run on a bit ahead of ourselves, in order to detail these 3 officers' careers. Let us now return to the early part of 1906, and learn of an event which affected the Force considerably.
Chief Constable Macdonald died suddenly at his home in Dornoch on the afternoon of Thursday 15 February 1906 and a sense of shock was experienced all around the County. Until a successor was found, Inspector George Murray acted as Chief Constable.
The Inverness-shire connection did not end with Macdonald's passing, however. While Malcolm Macdonald was in charge of the Skye Division of Inverness-shire, he received a young recruit, Constable Hugh Chisholm. Born on 2 August 1862 in the Glenurquhart area of the County of Inverness, PC Chisholm joined Inverness-shire Constabulary on 9 January 1883, and his first station was Staffin in the north of Skye. One year later he was posted to the other end of Skye to fill the vacancy at Isleornsay. Eighteen months later Chisholm moved again, this time going back to the north of Skye, to take over the station at Uig.
Macdonald would have come to know the young Chisholm quite well, and would not have been greatly surprised to see him rise to Sergeant at Inverness in 1892. Six years later, missing out the rank of Inspector, Chisholm was promoted straight to the rank of Superintendent and was also appointed Deputy Chief Constable of Inverness-shire.
So, upon Mr Macdonald's death in 1906, the Police Authority for the County of Sutherland again turned to McHardy's force for a new Chief. Hugh Chisholm was appointed Chief Constable of Sutherland on 26 April 1906, and took up his new duties in Dornoch on 1 May. Aged 43, he had served 23 years in Inverness-shire. Whether he had remained single, or was a widower, is unknown but in June 1911 - at age 49 - he married Phil Mackintosh Innes, who was 18 years his junior. They had one daughter, Catherine, three years later.
In 1912 the Force had a strength of 17 officers. The recruitment criteria - on the rare occasions when vacancies might arise - was for men not over 25 years of age and not less that 5 feet 11 inches in height. The population of the County then stood at 20,180 and the Force area extended to 1,207,188 acres. The force had stations at:
Bettyhill Bonar Bridge (Sgt) Brora (Sgt)
Dornoch (Sgt) Durness Golspie
Helmsdale Lairg Lochinver (Sgt)
Melvich Rhiconich Rosehall
Stoer Assynt and Tongue
By way of comparison, corresponding details for the other Police Forces in the Highlands are given below:-
Inverness-shire (63 men) pop: 65,054 (2,722,686 acres)(excludes Burgh)
Inverness Burgh (26) 24,000 (2,400 acres)
Ross & Cromarty (52) 77,353 (2,009,558 acres)
Caithness-shire (24) 37,177 (455,708 acres)
(Source: Police & Constabulary Almanac 1912)
As mentioned earlier, when detailing the careers of the 2 promoted officers, George Murray was Inspector for 14 years until he retired in 1918, while Polson was Sergeant for no less than 18 years until his retiral in 1921. Although both retired within three years of each other, the Sergeant got a whole lot more of a pension that the Inspector. This was because in 1919 the Desborough Enquiry into the British Police Service (which arose from the Police Strike, following serious unrest in the Service) recommended a considerable rise in police wages, and as a result pension amounts rose by corresponding amounts. Hence George Murray's
pension, based on his salary of £135 when he retired in 1918, was only £81:2:2d. Sergeant Polson, despite having only attained a lower rank, retired in 1921 with an annual pension of £195.
By 1925 the establishment of the Sutherland Force had risen by one to 18. To illustrate the fluctuations in manpower in those austere days, those of the other highland Forces follow, indicating the difference compared to 13 years earlier.
Caithness-shire 23 (down 1)
Inverness Burgh 32 (up 6)
Inverness-shire 60 (down 3)
Ross & Cromarty 49 (down 3)
Source : Police Mutual Assurance Society (PMAS) Almanac & Diary 1925
It is interesting to note that the total of additions (7) to Sutherland and Inverness Burgh exactly match the reductions in the other Counties.
Chief Constable Chisholm was the first Chief Officer of Sutherland to retire on pension, which he did on 15 May 1933, at the age of 70 years. He had been Chief Constable for 27 of his 50 years Police Service. His departure must have been flagged well in advance, as the Police Committee were able to have his successor appointed prior to his retiral.
Douglas George Ross was the man chosen to lead the Sutherland Constabulary. Despite his Scottish name, he had been born in England, at Ramsgate in Kent on 6 April 1897. After active service with the Royal Scots between 1915 and 1919, he had been appointed to City of Manchester Police in 1920. He then transferred to Edinburgh City Police in 1922, and there rose through the ranks to Superintendent. So, aged 37 years and with 13 years Police Service, he took over at Dornoch on 5th May 1933. His starting salary was £400 per annum, which rose by £20 every second year until 1939.
Mr Ross's family appear to have set some kind of a record in that three members of his family were Chief Constables at the same time. Roderick Ross, Chief Constable of the City of Edinburgh, from 1900 to 1935, was Douglas Ross's father. Douglas's brother was Donald Ross, who was Chief Constable of Argyll from 1927 to 1961. It has been suggested that Roderick Ross, who incidentally bore a remarkable resemblance to King Edward VII, may have been born in Helmsdale.
Note: There is NO known relationship between this family of Rosses and that of Kenneth (son of PC A. Ross referred to earlier). That assurance came from Kenneth Ross's sister, who it was who also informed the author that Roderick, the Edinburgh Chief Constable, was reputed to have been born in Helmsdale. Any information to confirm or deny that suggestion would be gratefully received by this author.
By 1940 the population of the County had dropped by 4,000 to 16,100 in 28 years, although the land area had apparently grown by about 90,000 acres to 1,297,908.
Police Stations which were operational in that year comprised:
Bettyhill Bonar Bridge Brora (Sgt) Dornoch
Golspie Helmsdale Lairg Lochinver
Melvich Rhiconich Rogart and Tongue
The Stations at Durness, Rosehall and Stoer Assynt had closed in the period between the wars, while Rogart had opened. Police establishment remained at its 1935 level of 18.
In 1940 the authorised strength for neighbouring forces stood at:
Caithness-shire 24 (up 3 from 1935, to return to its 1912 level)
Ross & Cromarty 55 (up 6, and now 2 above its 1912 level)
Inverness Burgh 34 (up 2 from 1935 - total increase of 30% since 1912)
Inverness-shire 63 (up 3 from 1935, to return to its 1912 level)
Inspector James Adamson Thom was now the Deputy Chief Constable. A native of Findhorn in Morayshire, and an electrician to trade, he had joined the force on 14 September 1936 aged 24. His record shows no transfers (not necessarily conclusive proof of permanency at Dornoch, given the history of omissions in
the Record book!) He was promoted to Sergeant, apparently at Headquarters on 5 January 1938 and then to Inspector on 8 June 1939. As Sergeant he received a wage of £5 per week, and when made Inspector (and DCC) he merited a salary of £300 per annum. That was an increase of only £40 - or less than £1 extra
per week for all the added responsibility.
Telephone numbers were now being quoted, the Force Headquarters Office being "Dornoch 23". Bettyhill and Lochinver seemed not to be 'on line' but Bonar Bridge (222) Brora 222), Golspie (41), Helmsdale (30), Lairg (19), Melvich (205), Rhiconich (203), Rogart (13), and Tongue (222) were.
Source: Police & Constabulary Almanac 1940
Douglas Ross continued as Chief Constable for 29 years, when he retired and took his pension on 5th April 1962, the day before his 65th birthday. Plans were already afoot to merge the Sutherland Constabulary with its neighbouring Force, Ross-shire, to form the Ross & Sutherland Constabulary. Despite that, recruitment of a replacement Chief Constable went ahead.
Where other such instances have arisen in recent times, such a situation has not have been permitted, and ad interim the Deputy Chief Constable would be appointed Acting Chief Constable for the period up until amalgamation. This could not happen in Sutherland, since Inspector (and DCC) Thom would retire on 1 November 1962, on reaching the age of 60.
The County of Sutherland appointed Kenneth Ross, BL, as its last Chief Constable, and he took up his appointment with effect from 6 April 1962. He went on to be the first (and only) Chief Constable of the Ross & Sutherland Constabulary, when that new force was formed on 16 May 1963.
When that Force in turn was merged with its neighbours on 16 May 1975 to form the present Northern Constabulary, Mr Ross became Assistant Chief Constable of the new Force until his retiral. Mr Ross, who had served in Renfrew & Bute Constabulary where he reached the rank of Detective Chief Inspector, was 'coming home' when he moved to Dornoch as Chief Constable. A 'son of the nick', his father was Alexander
Ross, who had served as a Constable in Sutherland between 1904 and 1937, and whose career is detailed above. Kenneth Ross studied law while working in the County Council Offices in Golspie as a young man, before going to Renfrewshire to join the Police. He completed his studies in his own time, but chose to remain in the Police service rather than accept a call to the bar.
Sutherland's Constabulary had grown considerably from its original piecemeal set-up which saw the one officer in Dornoch added to, one by one, to make a 'force' of six local, almost autonomous, Constables in the villages and parishes around the County.
From the eight men who made up the new Sutherlandshire Constabulary on 16 March 1858, the Force had grown in just over a century to an authorised strength in March 1963 of 35 officers:
1 Chief Constable;
2 Inspectors (including one to be Deputy Chief Constable)
7 Sergeants (including 1 seconded to Civil Defence)
24 Constables (male); and
In addition the Force was authorised to employ:
2 Police Cadets;
1 one female typist; and
1 part-time cleaner.
The force in 1963 was divided into eleven beats, namely:
Dornoch Golspie Brora Helmsdale
Melvich Bettyhill Tongue Bonar
Lairg Lochinver Rhiconich
The establishment listed above was authorised early in 1963, and is a marked increase compared to the actual disposition of the Force as at 31 December 1962. Then there was only a total of 25 officers of all ranks (all male). The Chief Constable, the one Inspector (DCC), 2 Sergeants, 1 Detective Constable, and 1 Constable, were based at HEADQUARTERS in Dornoch, as were the TRAFFIC UNIT of 1 Sergeant and 3 Constables. The only other Sergeant was stationed at BONAR BRIDGE (where he was the only police officer).
DORNOCH BURGH, BRORA, GOLSPIE and HELMSDALE each had TWO operational Constables, while the remaining six stations were staffed by ONE Constable each.
After comparing the size of the Force in 1858 and 1963, it would be appropriate to consider the difference in population in the same period. While the strength of the force had grown considerably, the total number of
inhabitants of the county had dropped by around half, from 25,793 to 13,442.
Also in the year of 1962 the sum total of Pedlars Certificates issued within the County was THREE - changed days from the 1860's indeed.
Shank's pony was the order of the day in the early days until Superintendent Peter Ewan was granted an allowance to keep a horse on which he could get around the County. In 1962 the Force had fifteen motor vehicles, albeit that ten of these were B.S.A. 350 c.c. motor cycles. The remainder were:
1 Wolseley 6/110 saloon for traffic patrol,
1 Land Rover and
3 Morris Mini vans.
The intention was to gradually replace the motor cycles with Mini vans, but none of these vehicles would be very much use for the transportation of anything less than the most docile custody. Mind you, neither would a motor bike - or Peter Ewan's cuddy!!
Only the patrol car and the Land Rover were equipped with VHF radio, by which means they could keep in contact with Headquarters. This tends to show how different life was, even so recently (and of course the cost of the equipment so much more expensive) compared with nowadays. Radio equipment then was also huge, cumbersome to operate, used considerable battery power, and temperamental in the extreme.
Today each police car needs to be fitted with radio for prompt attendance to calls for Police assistance - or at least as promptly as is practical given the distances involved. Plans were in hand to provide a new transmitter at Bonar to enlarge the coverage area, and to provide more vehicles with sets.
Crime, even in 1962, was rare. There had been one assault against an officer of the law, 20 housebreakings (6 cleared up), 33 thefts (20 detected) and 6 frauds (all but one leading to charges). The most prevalent offence was reckless or careless driving - 55 cases in all, but only 32 of the 35 people proceeded against were convicted. Most of these cases would have occurred on the treacherous A9 road (now thankfully much improved, shortened via the Dornoch Bridge, and partially re-aligned but by no means finished) which
then went from Bonar Bridge to the Ord of Caithness.
The cases of housebreaking related to 11 storage premises, five shops and four dwelling-houses. One of these cases also involved a safe-breaking. The most common non-traffic offence was salmon poaching, with 23 cases made known, of which 16 were detected. Of these proceedings were taken in 14 cases, but only 10 accused persons were subsequently convicted. Surprisingly perhaps there were no deer poaching offences made known in 1962, as compared to three cases in 1961.
Out of the total of 322 crimes and offences made known, proceedings were taken in 227 cases. Of these, in only three instances were the accused persons female.
Extra duties which took up a great deal of manpower were the escorting of abnormal loads through the County, and duty at public events such as sheep and cattle sales. Stray dogs did not take up time - only one lost pooch was handed in to police during the year, and it was soon claimed by its owner.
In addition to 2 Registered Clubs, there were 60 premises (47 hotels, 5 public houses and 8 off-sales) in the County licensed for the sale of exciseable liquor, which the 1962 Annual Report stated gave an average of
one such premises to every 228 members of the population of the County.
Looking to the future, Mr Ross intimated in what was his first - and Sutherland's last - Chief Constable's Annual Report, that approval had been obtained for the building of a new police station and house at Tongue, and a police station and two houses at Brora, all to be constructed in 1963/64.
Mr Ross also intimated his plans to revise the policing methods of the County, made possible by the increased number of Sergeants in the Establishment. He intended dividing the force area into four Sections, each under the supervision of a Sergeant. They in turn would be responsible to an Inspector based at Dornoch, who would have immediate responsibility for the general supervision of the area.
The Sergeants' Section Stations were to be at Dornoch, Bonar Bridge, Brora and Lairg. As Mr Ross explained in the Annual Report: 'This will give an improved standard of supervision which hitherto
has not been possible'. (George Bridgeford would have agreed with that!)
The Policewoman would be stationed at Headquarters, but available for duty anywhere in the force area as required. The Cadets would also be based at Dornoch, where they would perform office and telephone duties, but would also receive training along with beat and traffic officers.
So on 16 May 1963 the Sutherland Constabulary became part of the new Ross & Sutherland Constabulary, with its Headquarters in Dingwall. Sutherland was not greatly affected by the merger, remaining intact as a Sub Division of the new Force. Needless to say Mr Ross kept a close interest in the County.
Again by way of comparison, although figures for 1963 are not available, the 1966 authorised establishment of neighbouring forces bears looking at.
CAITHNESS: still alone and resisting proposed mergers, now had 54 officers, and 2 Cadets
(It would eventually join with Orkney & Shetland)
INVERNESS BURGH: now had 64 officers, including a chief Inspector as DCC and 3 Inspectors,
plus one police Cadet (Population: 29,773). (It would merge with Inverness-shire in 1968)
INVERNESS-SHIRE: had 121 officers, including 9 policewomen, plus 3 cadets
ROSS & SUTHERLAND: 134 officers plus 6 cadets. (1966 population of Sutherland quoted as : 13,507)
The listing for Sutherland Sub Division comprised:
Sub Divisional Officer: Insp D Fraser, Dornoch
Traffic Dept: Sgt Alex Glidden, Dornoch
Dornoch Section: Sgts Duncan Matheson and Allan M MacLeod
Stns: Dornoch (Tel 222)
Brora Section: Sgt Andrew Lister
Stns: Brora (Tel 222), Helmsdale (Tel 222),
Melvich (Tel 222)
Bonar Bridge Section: Sgt Alexander Wilkie
Stns: Bonar Bridge (Tel 222),
Lochinver (Tel 222), Golspie (Tel 222)
Lairg Section: Sgt Donald E MacLean
Stns: Bettyhill (Tel 222), Lairg (Tel 19),
Rhiconich (Tel 222), Tongue (Tel 222)
(Source: Police & Constabulary Almanac 1966)
Again the amalgamation in 1975, to form the new Northern Constabulary, made little difference to Sutherland at the outset. It remained a Sub Division of the new Force, with its Central Division which - on the mainland at least - virtually equated to the former Ross & Sutherland force area. Supervisory staff in the county were based at Dornoch (Chief Inspector, Inspector, and 2 Sergeants), with one Sergeant each at Bonar Bridge and Brora. Golspie and Brora each had three Constables, with Helmsdale and Bonar Bridge
allocated two each.
The Sergeant at Bonar Bridge (whose 'patch' now also included Ardgay, which previous to then had been in Ross-shire) was responsible for supervision of the single-officer Stations at Lairg, Lochinver and Rhiconich.
The Brora Sergeant had responsibility for the Golspie officers (whose Beat included Rogart) and Helmsdale Beat which extended to the Ord of Caithness (and well beyond it sometimes!!) and to Kinbrace and Garvault, and almost as far as Forsinard and Syre.
Helmsdale, which it was envisaged could become an oil-rig supply base, received a superb Police Station in the early 1970's. Big enough to support a Sergeant and 6 Constables, and with far more space and better facilities than the Section Station at Brora - and the 3-officer Station at Golspie - it was to be one of the few instances where a Police Office was built too big rather than too small. It was never more than a two-officer Station.
The original (1867) Helmsdale police house, in Sutherland Street at junction with Lilleshall Street (which is now a private house named 'Valhalla') had been replaced as the village police station in the 1950's by a new build of 'County Council house' style in Trentham Street. It in turn was replaced by the new facility (station, plus two houses and garages) off Glebe Terrace/ Rockview Place in the 1970's, which has itself since been sold off.
PC Donald MacKay, who had been stationed in Helmsdale since 1963, remained at Helmsdale until he retired in 1978, and he was the last officer to occupy the second police station. Sadly Donald passed away in December 2009.
When in 1993 the Northern Constabulary was re-organised to remove its Divisional structure, the opportunity was taken to realign Command Units to share the same boundaries as Parliamentary Constituencies. This was done as local Government was also being revised to remove the two-tier (Region and District) structure, alongside which Police Sub Divisions had been designed, and Districts (usually former Counties, or parts of) would be swept away. As a result Sutherland parted company with Ross-shire and became part of the Caithness & Sutherland Command Area
Sutherlandshire Constabulary - officers at HELMSDALE
1844 - 1847 John SUTHERLAND also Sheriff Officer before and after
1847 - 1852 John MACDONALD believed 'temporarily' from Golspie
1852 - 1858 George BATTERS may have remained until re-organisation 1858
1858 - 1863 --- unknown -------
1863 - 1866 Alexander ANDERSON (as PC) (unknown date of moving out; back again 1890)
1867 - 1868 Donald MURRAY (appears to have left in '68)
1868 - 1868 John ROSS
1868 - 1869 George BRIDGEFORD (as Sgt & Deputy Chief)
1871 - 1872? Donald SUTHERLAND Moved to Melvich but date unknown (pre 1875)
1872 - 1874 George DICK (entire service in Helmsdale)
1874?- 188? Alexander SANDIESON (not all dates recorded)
1878 - 1880? George ROBERTSON (Brora + 'Dale during period)
1880 - 1883 John MACKENZIE
1883 - 1886 George MURRAY (as new PC - first of 3 stints)
1887 - 1887 Robert MACKAY (possibly on relief)
1880?- 1890 Alexander WILL
1888 - 1888 Alexander MUNRO (Jan/Feb 1888) (also in June 1891)
1889 - 1889 Alexander MACBEATH (paid off - Force reduced)
1889 - 1889 William MOWAT (paid off - Force reduced)(he was later re-hired and back at Helmsdale 1895)
188? - 1890 William GORDON (Joined 1867; Portnalick; Kildonan then ‘Dale twice pre-1890)
1890 - 1895 Alexander ANDERSON (as Sgt)
1891 - 1891 George MURRAY (as PC, 2nd stint)(back in '95)
1891 - 189? Alexander MUNRO (6/91 to Helmsdale; then Embo; left 1897)
1891 - 1893 John ROSS (7/91 – 2/93)
1893 - 1894 John POLSON (Feb '93 - Nov '94)
1893 - 1895 John MACKINTOSH (sometime in '93 to Jul '95)
1894 - 1895 John MACRAE (Jul '94 - Nov '95)
1895 - 1895 William MOWAT (short period in Jul '95)
1895 - 1904 George MURRAY (Nov '95 promoted to Dale as Sgt)
1896 - 1897 Alexander MACKAY (Jan '96 - Sep '97)
1897 - 1897 Duncan CAMPBELL (Sep '97 to probably Nov'97)
1897 - 1901 Donald MACDONALD (Nov '97 - Apr 1901)
1901 - 1903 Duncan CAMPBELL (2nd time)(Apr'01, left '03)
1904 - 1904 John A MATHESON (Jan'04 - Nov '04)
1904 - 1904? John MACKINNON (possibly relief duty)
1904 - 1913 Kenneth MACKAY (Nov '04 - Sep '13)
1905 - 1906 Alexander ROSS (Mar '05 - Jun '06, back 1920)
1913 - 1920 Ronald MACBAIN (Sep '13 - Apr '20)
1920 - 1937 Alexander ROSS (2nd stint, retired there 1937)
1930 - 1934 Hugh MACDONALD (Jun '30 until retiral in '34)
1935 - 1948 Robert OLIVER (Jan '35 to retiral in 1948 ??)
1947 - 19?? Hugh MACDONALD (no more info)
1948 - 1963? Alexander WILKIE (Apr '48)(prom Sgt May '57)
1950 - 1952 Norman MACKENZIE
1956 - 19?? William CORMACK (no more info)
1963 onwards Donald MACKAY (retired in Helmsdale 1978)
NOTE: This list is not necessarily complete as records incomplete.
It also does NOT include officers stationed at KILDONAN Gold Diggings nor at Railway construction camps
- - - - o 0 o - - - -
COPYRIGHT (c) DAVID C B CONNER, 1980, 1982,
Main Sutherland History
major revision 1997, updated 2004,2005,2010 fairly major revision 2006
This (Helmsdale) version
- fairly major revision 2010 to try to condense !!