The Life & Times of Detective Superintendent James Hendry
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES HENDRY (LANARKSHIRE CONSTABULARY)
Article by Joe McIvor BEM
When it comes to officers who have done the police force proud, one name that mustn’t be forgotten is James Bruce Hendry.
Starting out as a Constable in the 1920s he served Lanarkshire Constabulary for more than three decades, during which he climbed the ranks to Superintendent in charge of CID.
He investigated some of the county’s highest profile murder cases including two of the notorious Peter Manuel killings, made history in the arena of footprint evidence and bounced back from serious injury to see out the final years of his shining career.
Here we take a look at his life story.
James Hendry was born in Ibrox, Glasgow, on 31 January 1898 and was educated at Bellahouston Academy until 1913 when, aged 15, he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman.
After the outbreak of the First World War he served as a telegraphist, sending and receiving Morse code at speeds in excess of 25 words per minute. He went on to serve with distinction during the Dardanelles Campaign and at the Battle of Jutland, and attained the rank of Petty Officer, later being drafted to submariner duties until the conclusion of hostilities. Amongst his war medals is the 1914-15 Star – a campaign medal of the British Empire.
After nine years’ service he left the Navy, taking up a new career in civy street as a taxi proprietor in 1922. At this time his parents lived in Baillieston and it was here he met Mary Johnstone MacDowell, a cashier at Meiklejohn Licenced Grocers on Shettleston Road, whom he would marry in 1924.
His taxi venture involved ferrying clients from Baillieston to Hamilton and vice versa, but the enterprise was relatively short-lived as the tramcar grew popular and hindered business. But this turn of events ultimately paved the way for a distinguished career in Lanarkshire Constabulary.
Finding his calling
The following year, in 1925, James applied for jobs with both the police and civil service – and by coincidence, received acceptance letters from both on the same day. He chose to join Lanarkshire Constabulary – his police adventure had begun.
That same year, after training, he was posted as a Constable to Hallside at Halfway, Cambuslang, and was allocated a police house at Low Patrick Street in Hamilton. Here he served for five years and during this time celebrated the birth of son Bruce and daughter Irene.
PC James Hendry back row far left
In 1930, just six weeks after Irene was born, he was appointed to a role in CID and moved to Rutherglen. Here he occupied the top floor flat of a tenement at 57 Main Street, a wonderful example of red sandstone Victoriana which still stands today.
Detective James Hendry far left sporting a ‘Bowler’
He remained in the role for six years before leaving in 1936, promoted and posted to Lanark where he carried out duties for the next five years.
Climbing the ranks
On 12 March 1941, the night before the first raid and blitz on Clydebank, the Hendry family again found themselves on the road – this time posted to Cambuslang where he was officer in charge of both the fire brigade and the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS).
Further promotion followed later that year when he was appointed to the rank of Inspector as well as Fireguard Officer for the County of Lanark. After nine months at Cambuslang, he was transferred in December 1941 to Larkhall where he served for 18 months.
During his time there, the county held a mock invasion exercise – an exercise not easily forgotten after a colleague, Constable George McCrae, crashed his motorcycle and sustained serious leg injuries which saw him unable to perform patrol duty and subsequently confined to office work.
In June 1943 James achieved the rank of Detective Inspector and was transferred to Blantyre. This posting lasted just five months, with a transfer in November that year to Lanarkshire Constabulary Headquarters at Beckford Street, Hamilton.
When the new rank of Lieutenant was created in 1943 James became a prime candidate. Therefore it was not surprising that, in 1944, he was promoted to Detective Lieutenant in charge of Lanarkshire CID (this rank was changed to Chief Detective Inspector in 1948).
Detective Lieutenant James Hendry front row left
It was in 1944 that James was forced to put his career on hold following a car accident. On a journey to Dumfries with a colleague, on a rainy day with poor visibility, his colleague’s car went into an uncontrollable skid while driving behind a long motor lorry.
It rolled over three times, ultimately colliding with the lorry, and both James and his colleague were taken by ambulance to Lockerbie Hospital. Here he was treated for facial injuries, including a fracture of the orbital rim region and a zygomatic fracture of the lower aspect of the rim as well as a number of broken ribs, and later received further treatment at Dumfries Royal.
On his release from hospital he took up temporary residence in the constabulary holiday cottage in Thankerton for a period of convalescence, accompanied by his family. But such was his dedication that he soon resumed his duties upon recovery.
His final promotion came in 1950 to the rank of Superintendent still in charge of the CID, stationed at the headquarters of Lanarkshire Constabulary in Beckford Street, Hamilton – a position he held for longer than any of his predecessors.
His illustrious career in CID gained great respect from both public and peers.
High profile investigations
From 1945 onwards James led investigations into more than a dozen murders across Lanarkshire including:
- The Killing of an 18-month-old boy at Hamilton Barracks in 1950 –
- The ‘Circus Murder’ at Hamilton, when an elderly man was kicked to death while the big top was being dismantled –
- The ‘Old Mick’ murder at Lanark in August 1952 when 80-year-old Michael Connolly was found dead in a dilapidated hut at Huntley Gate Farm a week after being killed
During the 1950s he was in charge of four notable murder enquiries including:
- The discovery of the body of 17-year-old Anne Knielands on the fifth tee of East Kilbride Golf Course on 3 January 1956 (committed by serial killer Peter Manuel)
- The May 1956 murder of an elderly woman, killed in her Bargeddie council house by her husband, followed by the unrelated murder of a woman in Bellshill
- The triple murder, on 17 September 1956, at the Watt’s house in Fensbank Avenue, Burnside (also carried out by Peter Manuel)
Det. Superintendent Hendry at the Watts house
During this period he also oversaw another notable case, a football bribery scandal.
Evidence and historic breakthrough
James made history in the annals of crime detection in June 1952 following a break-in at a bakery in Bellshill by William Gourley. A toe print lifted from flour on a bakery surface was admitted in evidence for the first time ever. The jury accepted the evidence and a guilty verdict was returned.
And this was not his only case involving footprint evidence. Just six months later, in December 1952, James Walker Adams was convicted of a housebreaking at a warehouse in Glasgow. The evidence of a footprint through a hole in his sock proved crucial and a conviction was secured.
The last case he investigated was that of the death of 72-year-old Janet Dykes near her home at Pepperhills Farm, Caldercruix.
Towards the end of his police career James received a chilling letter from killer Peter Manuel who, at that point, remained at large. The post-script read: “Seasonal greetings urge me to wish you a merry Xmas and a prosperous New Year, but honesty compels me to admit that I won’t lose a great deal of sleep if you don’t see another one.”
Two years later, on the eve of James’s retirement, Manuel struck once more, and would continue to evade justice until his ultimate conviction of seven murders in 1958. He was hanged at Barlinnie Prison later that year.
James completed his police service in 1957, retiring after 32 years. He officially stepped down on 28 December 1957, just three days before his good friend John Wilson MBE took over the duties of Chief Constable on the succession of Mr Thomas Renfrew CBE.
The family moved out of their police house at Beckford Street, Hamilton, and into a new home at nearby Montrose Crescent.
Unaccustomed to the inactivity of retirement, it took just three months for James to return to the world of work and he sought new employment.
He secured the position of security officer/enquiry clerk at the offices of the South of Scotland Electricity Board close to his home. He remained in post for a further nine years before he ultimately retired from work altogether in March 1967.
On Sunday, 17 March 1968, James Bruce Hendry attended the Sunday morning service at the West Church in Hamilton and it was to be the last service he attended – that evening he passed away following a massive heart attack.
About the man
James Hendry will not only be remembered for his sterling police career – he will also be fondly remembered for his many other successes and the roles he carried out in his community.
In sport, James – a keen supporter of Glasgow Rangers – was renowned for his athletic prowess. He participated in most sports associated with the constabulary and, most notably, was a member of the Lanarkshire Constabulary football team that reached the final of the Scottish Police Cup four times and won it in both 1928 and 1929.
He was also a member and one-time club president of the Caledonian Bowling Club of Hamilton where he acquitted himself well in both roles.
Active in the church, he was also a member of the Caledonian Male Voice Choir of Hamilton, and was a Deacon of the West Church in Hamilton for many years.
A lasting legacy
James ensured that his considerable skills and experience would inspire the next generation of police officers by becoming a well-known participant in the lecture circuit. He made frequent visits to students and courses at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan Castle in Kincardine on Forth.
The contribution of James Bruce Hendry to Lanarkshire Constabulary cannot be overestimated.
He wore his police uniform with pride, just as he had worn his Royal Navy uniform. He was a credit to his force and family and his memory will live on in the history of Lanarkshire police forever.
Note from the author:
I am indebted to Irene MacDonald, daughter of James Bruce Hendry, without whose help, memory and provision of facts this article would never have been written. The assistance of 88-year-old Irene, who was born at a police house in Hallside, made it possible to tell the life story of James Hendry as she kindly supplied photographs, dates and family information to me trustfully.
James’s success in the police didn’t come without a price. Irene attended six different schools while growing up – four primary schools and two academies. The price police children often have to pay. And despite this, she told me her story with great joy and enthusiasm – I don’t think she would swap a minute of her life as a policeman’s daughter.
Irene (Hendry) MacDonald