Inverness Image Library

Police Funeral Inverness 1937
The Inverness Archive
Police Funeral Inverness 1937

I have a couple of photos of police funerals which I have identified were taken within the Town of Inverness but so far I have not been able to establish beyond reasonable doubt whose they were.

I thought this photograph would be another to add to the list, when I received it recently from a lady in Inverness-shire. (Thanks, Alison)

Within seconds however I was able to figure it out, and even put a precise date on it. How?

Well, there's a contingent of Inverness Burgh Police officers (wearing hats with diced bands) at the front, but the man in charge, leading the parade, is an Inverness-shire constabulary senior officer (no diced band) whose identity I know (see below), and the hearse is flanked by officers of the Inverness-shire Constabulary – all (apart from one - explained below) NOT wearing diced bands. All are however wearing the Scottish National (“Semper Vigilo”) cap badge.

So that places it in the 1930s. The Semper Vigilo badge was adopted by both forces (and in most Scottish forces) in the early 1930s.

The Inverness Burgh force got a new Chief at the beginning of 1936 when John MacNaughton (aged 70) finally retired after 27 years in the post. I suspect that the new Chief, Alexander Neville (who came from Kilmarnock Burgh Police) quickly adopted the diced hat band. The Burgh force was not that large, and being all based in the one place, it would be quick and easy to equip all staff in one fell swoop.

His opposite number in the County force, Major MacLean had been in post precisely 25 years when he retired on 2nd June 1936 – also aged 70.

Inverness was the largest County in Scotland - covering most of the Hebridean Islands as well as a substantial chunk of the Mainland Highlands - and also was the largest police force in the Highlands & Islands. From Aviemore in the east to the Isle of Barra in the West, and from Beauly (north of Inverness) to Kinlochmore on the border with Argyll. And most stations were staffed by one Constable - so the force was very spread out.

It would seem that new-fangled changes to uniforms were not something that long-serving Chief Constables were over-keen to adopt. Major MacLean’s retiral, though expected, did not result in a seamless transition, as Superintendent Ewen MacDonald (Deputy Chief constable) had to “take charge of the shop” until the Major’s successor, William Fraser moved up from Dunbartonshire Constabulary to take over the post on 1st December 1936.

Major Alexander Colin MacLean had a very short retirement, dying in a Nursing Home in Edinburgh on 31st January 1937.

He had served in the Black Watch (1887-1897) and Queens Own Cameron Highlanders (1897-1906) before retiring from the Army at age 40 years. What he did for the next few years I am not sure, but five years later he would take up the post of Chief Constable of Inverness-shire. In the light of a mention in the Times in June 1911 would seem that his predecessor, Alexander McHardy had perhaps chosen his own successor in MacLean, who had no previous police experience. “Major A. C. McLean, late of the Cameron Highlanders, has been appointed Chief Constable of Inverness-shire in succession to the late Mr Alexander McHardy, under whom he studied police admini-stration.”

Chief Constable Fraser would not really had much of a chance to impose his own ideas on the Inverness-shire force in the two months between his taking up the job and the Major’s death. So he was presented with the need for a Police funeral, presumably before all his men had been issued with new caps with diced bands. Hence my immediate strong suspicion that this photograph was that of Major MacLean’s funeral.

This is strengthened by such a large presence of Police (both forces), in three contingents, and the Military piper following directly behind the honour guard and in front of the hearse. Then, there is a contingent of kilted military behind the third (County) Police contingent.

The first contingent (ahead of the hearse) is, as stated, an Honour Guard composed of Inverness BURGH men (the funeral and burial in Tomnahurich Cemetery took place within the Burgh boundaries so it was incumbent upon the Burgh Force to provide the leading escort), with Supt (Deputy Chief Constable) Ewen MacDonald of the COUNTY Force leading it – no diced band - and Inspector Alex MacKenzie (Burgh) as Commander, behind, in front of the piper.

The second contingent – alongside the hearse, is made up of COUNTY men (Inspector Alex Campbell who was the officer in charge of the Inverness Landward Division, 2 Sergeants, and 2 Acting Sergeants) plus I think Chief Constable Neville of the BURGH Police (diced band).

The third contingent, behind the hearse, is composed entirely of COUNTY personnel, with at the head I suspect (Left-Right) Lochiel (Convenor of Inverness County Council), the Sheriff Substitute (Col. Grant) and Chief Constable Fraser. Yes, but surely he cannot be COUNTY – he has a diced band on his hat?

Well, Chief constables had to buy their own uniforms, and he would have ordered a new hat as soon as he got the job, and of course would have stipulated a diced band - whereas his men would have to wait until the next financial year to get a new cap each with diced band thereon. Mr Fraser would not have had any other hat to wear, which explains why he alone of the COUNTY officers on parade had the diced hat band.

Thankfully, Major MacLean was very well known in high places, having mixed closely with Royalty on their visits to the Highlands, and having given evidence to the Desborough Commission on the Police. As a result, his funeral which was held in Inverness on Thursday 4th February 1937 was reported in the London Times two days later (Saturday, 6th Feb).

“The funeral of Major A. C. McLean took place on Thursday at Inverness. The service in the High Church was conducted by the Rev. Donald MacLeod.”
(This would have likely been the OLD High Church in Church Street – so the cortege would then have gone along the length of Church Street, to the Town Hall, and turned right, then straight down Bridge Street. If they had come along Bank Street – to left of photo – that bus would have been in the way of the rest of the cortege, and the wifie with her washing out in full view in Bank Street would have been rather embarrassed! )

“The service was attended by detachments from the County Constabulary under Chief Constable William Fraser and Superintendent Ewen MacDonald, and from Inverness Burgh Police under Chief Constable Alex Neville and Deputy Chief Constable William Dalgleish. Officers and men of The Depot, The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, paraded under Major I. C. Cameron (Officer Commanding), and a Cameron piper played a lament.”

I do not know where Mr Dalgleish (Inspector and Deputy Chief constable of Inverness Burgh) is – I believe the Burgh Inspector, who is Honour Guard Commander, is Alex MacKenzie. It may be that Inspector Dalgleish has gone on ahead to the Cemetery to take charge of arrangements there.

Anyhow, it was 2,40 p.m. when this photograph was taken (so it says on the Steeple clock) and I presume it was taken from the top floor of the building on the corner of Young Street and Ness Walk. The procession will either head straight out Young Street, and then Tomnahurich Street - or more likely (to free up traffic) will turn left into Ness Walk, and then via Ardross Street, possibly crossing the main road (Glenurquhart Road) and to the Cemetery via what is nowadays known as the Bruce Gardens entrance.

The location is the beautiful and sadly now-gone Suspension Bridge over the River Ness below the Castle. It matched the Castle in colour and castellation, having been built at a cost of £26,000 (about12.5m in modern money), in 1879 (30 years after the Castle was fully completed).

The bridge was demolished in 1959 as it was too narrow and too weak for modern traffic, and a replacement bridge (the Ness Bridge) was opened in 1961, complete with wide pavements and four road-lanes, two in each direction. For the duration of the construction a temporary bridge was in use, just upstream.

Again sadly, the entire south side of Bridge Street (including the Burgh Police Office at Castle Wynd) was demolished to make way for road-widening associated with the new, wider, bridge, and part of the north side of the street was also re-developed. Regrettably the modern structures do nothing for the view with their boxy appearance.

Even in 1936 the Suspension Bridge was subject to weight and speed restrictions, with a 15 miles per hour limit in place, and traffic lights on the exit of the bridge as the aperture was too narrow for two-way traffic.

The identity of the original photographer is unknown
Picture added on 30 October 2012 at 19:07
Thank you for this memory, I was 8 years old when they demolished the bridge but I remember it still well. A great story
Bob true Invernessian , now in New Zealand
Added by Bob Wallace on 29 January 2016
Please add your comments about this picture using the form below.


Your Name

Your email address - this will be shown on the page and will allow the system to notify you of further comments added to this picture.

Bridges over the Ness

Inverness at NightLast section of the Kessock BridgeWorkers on Kessock BridgeInfirmary Bridge and Castle Hill from Ness WalkRiver Ness c1900Inverness from Ardross StreetView from the CastleCastle and Bridge, InvernessGreig Street, Suspension BridgeInverness from Castle Hill