An Airdrie police officer who emigrated to Canada and was murdered on duty a century ago is being honoured by members of Lanarkshire police historical society (LPHS).
Constable James Archibald was shot as he tried to arrest two suspected burglars in Vancouver in May 1913.
Volunteers from the group, who research the stories of local police officers, now plan to buy a special plaque commemorating PC Archibald, which will be placed near the Scottish police memorial at the force’s Tulliallan training centre.
One of eight siblings, PC Archibald was born and grew up in Longriggend and Caldercruix, and worked as a coal miner before joining the police force.
He married Margaret Liddle Campbell at Caldercruix in 1908, and the couple had two children, John and Maggie.
James emigrated to Vancouver with his family in June 1911, joining the city’s police department as a beat patrol officer.
Aged just 27, he was killed on duty when he was shot after stopping two suspects while carrying out a solo night-time patrol of a commercial area which had suffered a spate of burglaries.
LPHS chair and researcher George Barnsley said: “Constable Archibald’s funeral was one of the largest seen in Vancouver with more than 600 police officers and almost 6000 members of the public lining the streets.
“The parade mustered at the same point where five days earlier, Constable Archibald had paraded outside the force headquarters on Cambie Street to honour fellow officers’ brave conduct throughout the previous year and present medals to them.”
He added: “We will be purchasing a small plaque to commemorate PC Archibald – the names on the police memorial wall at Tulliallan are only for officers who died on duty in Scotland, but the plaque will be placed on a wall at the entrance to the memorial, where similar ones are located.”
PC Archibald had stopped two men who had just left the side door of an office in the early hours of May 28, 1913 – his attention having been attracted by the light as one of them lit a cigarette – and detained them after becoming suspicious about their explanation that they were looking for a place to sleep in the bushes.
The officer put his revolver back in its holster to search the men, and quickly found a pry-bar hidden in the pocket of first suspect Herman Clark; later found to have escaped from a prison sentence for burglary.
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LPHS researchers said of his story: “Constable Archibald reached for his revolver to arrest them, however Clark and his partner in crime, Frank Davis, were both also armed.
“Clark drew first, shooting the constable three times from point-blank range, killing him instantly.
“They fled, but then quickly returned to hide the evidence. They hid Constable Archibald’s body in some nearby bushes, and tossed his revolver and flashlight, along with their burglary tools, into a mud-hole.
“When Constable Archibald failed to return to the station after his shift, a search was launched, and his fellow officers found his body the next morning.”
Clark and Davis had left behind a black cloth mask, with that evidence leading to their arrest the same day at a waterfront hideout. They were found guilty of PC Archibald’s murder at a trial in November 1913; and were hanged in the provincial jail in New Westminster six months later.
It includes the lines: ‘A wreath for James Archibald – hero of peace
‘Who answered when duty did call.
‘For a moment the tumult of Vancouver cease
‘As in silence we follow his pall.’
LPHS members shared the story of the former local officer as they also marked the anniversary of the merger of Lanarkshire’s four historic burgh police forces into one single county constabulary, on August 16 1967.
George added: “The burgh forces of Airdrie, Coatbridge, Motherwell & Wishaw and Hamilton all ceased to exist on August 16 1967 as they merged into one single Lanarkshire Constabulary.
“This was a big event in Lanarkshire policing, bringing to an end the small-town policing that had existed for over 100 years.”