Archived police records give fascinating glimpse into Lochaber’s past

Police records at Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F12 archive article 01
Police records at Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F12 archive article 01

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Amongst the items housed at the Lochaber Archive Centre, there are a great many police records belonging to the Northern Constabulary.

The Lochaber Archive Centre is housed in the Alexander Ross Building in Fort William. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F01 Lochaber Archive building
The Lochaber Archive Centre is housed in the Alexander Ross Building in Fort William. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre.
NO F01 Lochaber Archive building

Although these volumes are subject to strict closure periods – 75 years after their creation – police records classified as ‘open’ are freely available to be viewed in the public search room.

The once-highly-confidential information held is at once interesting, insightful, sad, and even humorous.

The first police force to be established in the Highlands was the Inverness-shire
Constabulary in 1840, followed by Inverness Burgh Police in 1847.

Inverness-shire Constabulary and Inverness Burgh Police were merged in 1968 to form Inverness Constabulary.

This new constabulary was split into the divisions of Inverness, Badenoch and Strathspey, Skye, Harris, and Lochaber.

Stations within the Lochaber Division include Fort William, Spean Bridge, Mallaig and Ballachulish.

Also established in 1840 was the Argyllshire Constabulary (until 1975), with stations
in Glencoe, Kinlochleven, Kinlochmore, Ardgour, Salen, and Strontian.

Given the area covered by both the Lochaber Division of the Inverness-shire Constabulary, and the Argyllshire Constabulary, we house records from both at the Lochaber Archive Centre.

High Life Highland.

The term ‘Police Records’ could refer to letter books, station logs and daily
occurrence books, charge books, personnel records, police station maintenance files and many others.

Some of the most interesting items to read are the daily occurrence books, written by whoever was in charge of a particular station.

Each entry is a summary of what happened during his shift, including where he went on his rounds, any visitors to the station, how many miles he travelled, and how many hours he was on duty.

They also contain detailed descriptions of any crimes committed and how they were handled.

An interesting extract from the Fort William Daily Occurrence Book, dated May 1941
during the Second World War, reads: ‘Reported for Duty at 1pm and proceed to Grange Road… from there I proceed to Ben View at Victoria Belford Road to do Duty in the vicinity of an unexploded bomb.’ (R91/D/C/5/3/79)

 Extract from Burgh of Fort William Police Detention Book, local man arrested for ‘Attempted rescue of a prisoner in custody.’ 1929. (R91/D/C/5/3/14). NO F12 archive article 02
Extract from Burgh of Fort William Police Detention Book, local man arrested for
‘Attempted rescue of a prisoner in custody.’ 1929. (R91/D/C/5/3/14).
NO F12 archive article 02

Another extract, from the Kinlochmoidart Daily Occurrence Book, dated July 1888,
reads: ‘Thursday: At 8am called at the Post Office … to Smirisary called at the house of
Alexander MacDonald Crofter there and father of Allan MacDonald who is a member of the Inverness Shire Militia and failed to appear at the Muir of Ord along with the Regiment on first June last. Was informed that the said Allan MacDonald is not at home … he sailed to Australia on 10th October 1887.’ (R91/D/C/5/15/1)

Whilst being interesting, fun, sometimes sad and shocking, police records give us
information that would have previously been kept from the public, and first-hand account of life during significant periods in history.

They are a valuable resource for all manner of research, and always good for a nosey through.