The sterling career of Inspector Joseph Anderson – Lanarkshire Constabulary
A ‘BOYS OWN’ ADVENTURE
The sterling career of Inspector Joseph Anderson – Lanarkshire Constabulary
Article and research by Joe McIvor BEM
The first half of ‘the 20th century was a turbulent time – a time of revolution, poverty and war, when men were wrenched from the bosom of their families and propelled unceremoniously into wars they didn’t start.
Inevitably such times produced a fair share of brave men and women who went above and beyond the call of duty and achieved well deserved hero status – such a man was Joseph Anderson.
Born in Portadown, Northern Ireland, in 1878 he was destined to become both a war hero and a principal figure in the establishment of Lanarkshire Constabulary as one of the finest and most disciplined police/fire services in the country.
Early years – school, apprenticeship and the Boer War
Joseph’s childhood years are lost in the mists of time, however in 1893, when he left school to take up an stonemasonry apprenticeship, his amazing story begins to unfold.
He worked hard, mostly outdoors, sometimes in freezing temperatures and produced craft of a high standard which gained him enthusiastic approval from his employers.
In 1895, aged just 17, Joseph enlisted in the army. With a love of horses, he joined the 17th Lancers Regiment (made famous by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem The Charge of the Light Brigade) and was posted for training to the regiment’s barracks in the town of Ballincollig in Cork, Ireland.
In 1900 Joseph married his childhood sweetheart Mary in the town of Whiterock. That same year, the outbreak of the 2nd Boer War saw his regiment set sail from Tilbury to Cape Town aboard the troop ship Victorian.
He went on to do battle in several engagements including Grootfontein, Diamond Hill, Lindley and the infamous battle of Moddersfontein Pass where his squadron was almost wiped out and had to surrender – but not until every one of their bullets had been spent. He was decorated for his part in the battle.
In 1902 he was demobbed from the army having attained the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.
A Police Career Interrupted By Another War
The following year Joseph joined Lanarkshire Constabulary where his skill as a horseman and ability to lead men would stand him in good stead.
He was posted to various stations in the county, as his many children can attest.
Daughter Lily was born at the Police Station, Kirk St in Stonehouse in 1904; son William was born in 1905 in the Stonehouse Police Station but died aged 4 months in the police station having suffered from Whooping Cough and Bronchitis; and in 1906 they had another son, also named William, born in Bellshill Police Station. William would later follow his father’s footsteps and join Lanarkshire Constabulary, where he attained the rank of Inspector and served with distinction.
In 1909 the residents of Bargeddie presented Joseph with a swagger stick enscribed ‘From Your Friends in Bargeddie’. While the exact reason for the presentation is not known it is clear the Constable was held in high regard in the communities in which he served.
In 1912 son Albert was born at Biggar Police Station and in 1914 daughter Jane was born at 10 Clydeford Road, Cambuslang (near to the Police Barracks), just before a turn of events which would have a dramatic effect on the life of Joseph Anderson. That year saw the outbreak of the 1st World War when Great Britain went to war with Germany.
Joseph was a fully trained cavalry and infantryman, an ex-serviceman – the kind of person the army was much in need of. The roll of the drums, the thundering of hooves and the smell of cordite proved too seductive a mistress for him to resist, and so he resigned from the police and enlisted in the Army. It is believed the regiment he joined was the Military Mounted Police.
His regiment was in battle at Suvla Bay in Gallipoli. It had such a profound effect on him that, later in life when he bought his first house, he named it Suvla so that he would never forget all he had witnessed there.
He also fought in the Balkans, Egypt and Palestine and, by the grace of God, survived the war and its many battles. The five medals worn proudly on his chest were testament to his courage and bravery.
Returning to the Police
In 1918 he re-joined Lanarkshire Constabulary, posted to Cambuslang where he worked until 1921 when he was promoted to sergeant and posted to Motherwell.
He moved on to Rutherglen in 1922 were he served as officer in charge of the Fire Brigade. This was during a period of policing in Lanarkshire when the police performed the dual role of policing and firefighting.
In December of 1926 Joseph returned to Motherwell and this would prove a pivotal year for him. He took up a new role – one in which he was well trained and would relish – when he was appointed Sergeant Drill Instructor to the Force and Instructor to the Fire Brigade.
Just weeks later, events took an unexpected twist, with the introduction of new by-laws relating to the regulation of bus traffic. This led to the creation of the Motor Bus Section, administered from within the Constabulary headquarters at Hamilton. He was chosen to lead as officer in charge of the section and promoted to the rank of Inspector – a truly momentous year for Joseph and his family.
In 1929 he took up duty as officer in charge at Uddingston. His final move came in 1931 when he was transferred to County Police Headquarters at Beckford Street, Hamilton, where he was appointed Chief Officer of the Lanark County Fire Brigade. He held this position until his retirement in 1933, aged 55, having completed 30 years’ police service.
On his retirement, the Sunday Post described him as the most bemedaled officer in the Constabulary, with five military medals and a police medal. (Queens South Africa Medal/Kings South Africa Medal/King Edward VII Police (Scotland) Medal 1903/1914-15 Star/British War Medal/Allied Victory Medal)
After his retirement Joseph bought a house at 50 Richmond Drive, Rutherglen, naming it ‘Suvla’.
It was situated at the bottom of a steep incline. Given his lifelong love of horses, it was no surprise that whenever he saw a horse with cart struggling to climb the hill, he would go into the street with a set of chains and blocks to assist the horse and carter to ascend safely.
He took his skills with him into retirement and secured a prestigious job with the fledgling Pyrene Fire Extinguisher Company of Delaware. By coincidence, that year – 1933 – his company secured the job of fitting the liner Queen Mary with a newly developed foam blanket method of fire safety.
The company was also famous for the brass Pyrene fire extinguishers fitted to public transport and goods vehicles, and it was Joseph’s job to sell the product.
Joseph & Mary Enjoying their retirement
A Proud Legacy
In a Motherwell Times article published on 5 May 1933 to mark his retirement, it was said of him: “He enjoys the confidence of his superiors and the respect of his subordinates, among whom he is known to be strict but fair.”
After the death of his wife, Joseph went to live with relatives, finally residing in Tottenham, London. He died in 1958.
Inspector Joseph Anderson was a credit to the profession and a man whose knowledge and expertise enhanced the police force in which he so proudly served.
With sincere thanks from the writer to Mary McGill, granddaughter of Inspector Joseph Anderson, daughter of Inspector William,Anderson and wife of retired Traffic Officer David McGill.