Britain’s Underworld TV - Hugh Collins - Walter Norville - Daily Record - Gangs of Britain TV - Nick Wallis - Trial & Error: The Glasgow Ice Cream Wars TV - Sweet Sixteen 2002 - The Wee Man 2013 - A Sense of Freedom 1979 - That Sinking Feeling 1979 -
This is Arthur Thompson. Better known as the Godfather of Glasgow. And this is the day he buried his son. Five weeks earlier that son was gunned down aged 31, triggering the collapse of Glasgow’s most infamous crime empire. Britain’s Underworld s1e1: Glasgow, National Geographic 2010
The press dubbed the city Scotland’s Chicago. ibid.
Arthur Thompson and Walter Norville – Walter Norville would become Glasgow’s first Godfather. His life of crime started in the late 1930s ... After his old world was torn down, he started again in the new housing schemes. He recruited young hard men and turned them into a gang of hard robbers. ibid.
Arthur Thompson – by the 1960s he was the model of an ambitious modern business man. But Thompson’s business-like activity was a front for criminal activity. He diversified into money lending, ran illegal casinos and became involved in legitimate businesses too like scrap-yards and pubs ... Norville’s heyday with the XYY gang was coming to an end. ibid.
The city ranked among the world’s most violent. And in 1969 a succession of shocking incidents reinforced the view that Glasgow spelt violence. There was Bible John – a serial killer who murdered three young women after nights out at a Glasgow dance hall. He would never be caught. There was the elderly Rachael Ross beaten to death by masked burglars in front of a terrified husband. And then there was James Griffiths: a suspect in the Ross murder who went berserk when police tried to arrest him at this flat. Armed to the teeth he fired shots at his arresting officers. Then took pot-shots at neighbours and passers-by. Next, Griffiths took off on a mad shooting spree across Glasgow. ibid.
For two years Blink and Ferris went on a robbery rampage. And in 1982 the partnership came to an abrupt end thanks to Arthur Thompson’s son young Arthur. ibid.
Some canny ice-cream van drivers started selling bread and cigarettes alongside the lollies. By the ’80s the vans were everywhere; criminals were muscling in. ibid.
We always carried knives ... We were a nasty wee crew. Hugh Collins
Kill somebody you get less than taking their money. That’s the way the law is nowadays. Don’t take off the rich. Murder the poor and you’re all right. Walter Norville
The XYY Men! 7 guilty in ‘no names’ trial. Daily Record headline
Scotland’s gangsters have been slammed as fake hardmen – by the crime boss who ruled Glasgow more than 30 years ago.
Walter Norval, now 81 and fighting cancer, says today’s kings of the underworld are pale imitations of the men he ran with, and fought with, in the ’60s and ’70s.
The retired Godfather has nothing but contempt for the modern-day thugs who send minions to do their dirty work.
And he claims that while he and his rivals always tried to protect innocent bystanders, their 21st century successors don't care who gets hurt in their violence.
Speaking exclusively to the Record, Norval said: ‘Women and children were never bothered in my day.
‘Gangsters were hard men. They fought in the streets, they fought in the pubs and they made names for themselves – but it was amongst themselves.
‘If a gangster had a grudge against another, it would be sorted out between them. If you were beaten, you got up and had a go again.
‘But nowadays, the people who call themselves gangsters don’t do any hard work themselves. They just pay someone a couple of grand to go and hurt people for them.
‘Junkies are paid small sums to go and attack or kill other people. It is totally changed these days.’
Norval, the former boss of Glasgow’s infamous XYY Gang, was shocked last week when gangland attackers pistol-whipped the fiancee of a man they had just shot on his doorstep.
Sharon MacPherson was brutally beaten when she tried to help lover Eddie Boyd, brother of dead drug baron Stewart ‘Specky’ Boyd.
Boyd, who was left bleeding outside his home in Pollok, Glasgow, survived the attack ... Norval ran errands as a boy for some of Glasgow’s most feared crooks. And after learning the trade, he moved into protection rackets, the pub and club trade, bookmaking and armed robbery.
He ran his empire with military precision and used a network of paid informers to stay ahead of the police.
The XYY gang – named because so many of them were only identified by letters in court when they were finally put on trial – carried out scores of raids on banks, security vans and businesses.
The crooks once held a woman at gunpoint in a wages raid at Ruchill Hospital in Glasgow, and shots were fired during several of their other robberies.
But Norval insists none of his victims were ever hurt. He once said: ‘We used to shout and bawl to scare people – that was enough.’
Norval was finally jailed for 14 years in 1977, despite a bomb attack on the court before the trial which was believed to be a bid to destroy paperwork in the case.
He served nine years in Peterhead, where he enjoyed taking part in amateur dramatics with his fellow cons.
Norval says much of the cash he stole went to hard-up neighbours struggling to pay the rent or electricity bill.
But his claims do not impress top cop Graeme Pearson, who helped snare Norval in 1977 and now runs the elite Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency.
Pearson describes Norval’s gang as ‘violent men, prepared to shoot, assault and threaten ordinary people going about their everyday business.’
Norval himself has admitted: ‘I’ve stabbed guys, hurt guys and hit guys with hammers.’
He served time for attempted murder in the 1960s. And his gang built an arsenal including sawn-off shotguns, revolvers, axes, hammers and knives. Daily Record article 29th September 2009, ‘Exclusive: Modern gangsters are fake hardmen, says former Glasgow godfather Walter Norval’
Glasgow is a city divided, cut in half by one lethal weapon – the blade. Knife crimes and razor gangs have been a presence on the streets of Glasgow for nearly two hundred years. Gangs of Britain, CI 2013
In the 1920s ... six times as many gangs in Glasgow than even London. ibid.
Bridgetown – the Billy Boys ... The Billy Boys saw themselves as patriotic defenders of the nation ... They were organised and dressed as an army. ibid.
There’s over a hundred other gangs in this part of Glasgow. ibid.
Gangs wear scars like badges. ibid.
1935: Police v Billy Boys. ibid.
I want to discover why so many young men here are arming themselves with knives. Nick Wallis, Glasgow’s Killing Streets, Channel 5 2015
Reputation: one of extreme violence. It’s a reputation that’s backed up by some staggering statistics. ibid.
A murder rate double the national average. And the weapon of choice is often a knife. ibid.
The gang violence escalated significantly after the introduction of drugs on the streets ... An even greater effect on those that take it – alcohol. ibid.
This new joined-up approach to tackling Glasgow's knife-crime seems to be having a positive effect. ibid.
If the judges think they’ve closed the files on the Ice Cream wars they’re wrong. For six years we’ve been uncovering the full extent of a conviction that disgraces Scottish justice. And now at last we can reveal it: it began one winter’s evening 14 years ago in the bleak outer suburbs of Glasgow. Trial & Error: The Glasgow Ice Cream Wars, Channel 4 2014
There was a war on: In Easter week 1984 he [Doyle] was murdered, so were five other members of the Doyle family … We believe that those responsible have never been brought to justice, and that two men innocent of it have already spent a decade behind bars. ibid.
The travelling vans provide a necessary service: there’s money in a van round. ibid.