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Dumfries County Police 1839 - 1948

Dumfries County Police

Chief Constable William Gordon OBE, KPM

 

Introduction

William Gordon was born in Forgue in the County of Aberdeen on 4 July 1853. His father was William Gordon and his mother, Margaret Murray or Gordon. He was baptised at Drumblade in the County of Aberdeen on 29 January 1854. His parents were married at Drumblade on 25 August 1855. 

 

William Gordon was a Farm Labourer before joining the police in Lancashire after his 18th birthday in 1871. He later served in Cumberland before joining Lanarkshire Constabulary in 1876.

 

Later that year, whilst stationed at Lanark, William married Jane Sey, a Domestic Servant at Causewayend, Huntly in the County of Aberdeen.

 

William made rapid progress through the ranks of Lanarkshire Constabulary gaining experience in industrial disputes, sectarian disorder and mining accidents.  He served at Lanark, Carnwath, Blantyre, Hamilton and Wishaw and was appointed Superintendent and Deputy Chief Constable of Lanarkshire by 1886.

 

In 1891, he applied for the role of Chief Constable of Dumfries County Police. He was successful and served in that role until his retirement in 1932.

 

He served almost 60 years in the police with 41 of those years as Chief Constable.

 

During that time, he was made an Officer of the Most Noble Order of the British Empire, (OBE), awarded the King’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service, (1 January 1926), and the King George V Coronation (Scottish Police) Medal, 1911 for ‘Long and Meritorious Service’.

 

According to the Motherwell Times of Friday 3 June 1932, William Gordon’s  three brothers, ‘Andrew’ (sic)  (Alexander), George and James were also police officers. All three began their police service with Lanarkshire Constabulary. James and George Gordon completed their service with the force and retired at the rank of Sergeant. ‘Andrew’ moved to the South African Police and retired with the rank of Inspector. 

 

(Author’s Note: I have found no record of a brother ‘Andrew Gordon’, being born in Forgue between 1853 and 1861 and it is possible that the Motherwell Times use of ‘Andrew’ is a typo. Alexander Gordon was born in Forgue on 29 October 1855.) 

Chief Constable William Gordon KPM

The Early Years

After his birth, the first record I found of William was in the Census of Scotland 1861 when he, his mother, his three brothers and half-brother, were living with his maternal grandparents at Monelly in the Parish of Forgue, Aberdeenshire. There is no mention of his father, William Gordon being present.

 

Census of Scotland 1861

 

Name & Age

Occupation

Place & County of Birth

William Murray, (68)

Farmer of 8 acres

Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire

Janet Murray, (67)

Farmer’s Wife

Boharm, Banffshire

Elspet Murray, (31)

Daughter, General servant

Drumblade, Aberdeenshire

Margaret Gordon, (29)

Daughter, Ploughman’s Wife

Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire

William Gordon, (7)

Grandson, Scholar

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Alexander Gordon, (5)

Grandson, Scholar

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

George Gordon, (2)

Grandson

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

James Gordon, (9 months)

Grandson

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

William Sandison, (11),

Grandson, Scholar

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

 

Census of Scotland 1871

By the Census of Scotland 1871, William Gordon, (18) was working and living as a Farm Servant at Largue in the Parish of Forgue, Aberdeenshire. His employer was George Ferguson, (62), a ‘Farmer of 253 acres, employing 6 men’.

An image of the medals awarded to Chief Constable William Gordon, OBE, KPM whilst serving with Dumfries County Constabulary.

Lancashire Constabulary

It is likely that he joined the police in Lancashire within the following two years.

 

Register of Marriages in the Parish of Huntly in the County of Aberdeen 1876

On 7 June 1876, at Causewayend, Huntly, after Banns according to the forms of the Church of Scotland, William Gordon, (22), a Police Constable of the Police Station, Lanark, married Jane Sey, (26), a Domestic servant of Causewayend, Huntly.

 

His parents were listed as William Gordon, a Day Labourer and Margaret Murray or Gordon. Her parents were James Sey, a Day Labourer and Elizabeth Adam, a Dressmaker, (Deceased). The ceremony was performed by the Reverend Alexander Rainy, Minister of the Parish of Drumblade and the witnesses were James Reid and William Longman.

 

Census of Scotland 1881

On the night of the Census 1881, William and Jane were living at 30 Beckford Street, Hamilton, Lanarkshire. Those living at the address that night were:

 

Name & Age

Occupation

Place & County of Birth

William Gordon, (27)

Sub-Inspector of Police

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Jane Gordon, (32)

Wife of Sub-Inspector of Police

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Jane Gordon, (9) *

Daughter

Insch, Aberdeenshire

William Gordon, (4)

Son

Lanark, Lanarkshire

Lizzie** Adam Gordon, (2)

Daughter

Carnwath, Lanarkshire

George Gordon, (1)

Son

Blantyre, Lanarkshire

? Gordon, (1 month)

Daughter

Hamilton, Lanarkshire

 

*Jane Gordon was born on 31 January 1872 at Insch, Aberdeenshire. Her mother was Jane Sey and her father, William Gordon.

 

**’Lizzie’s’ full name is Elizabeth Adam Gordon.

 

The couple’s youngest child, Maggie (Margaret), a daughter born in 1881, had not been named by the date of the Census that year.

 

Census of Scotland 1891

In the Census of Scotland 1891, William, Jane and their family were living at 120 Kirk Road, Wishaw, Lanarkshire.

 

Name & Age

Occupation

Place & County of Birth

William Gordon, (37)

Superintendent of Police

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Jane S. Gordon, (41)

Wife 

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Jane Gordon, (19) 

Daughter

Insch, Aberdeenshire

William Gordon, (14)

Son, Scholar

Lanark, Lanarkshire

Lizzie Gordon, (12)

Daughter, Scholar

Carnwath, Lanarkshire

George Gordon, (11)

Son, Scholar

Blantyre, Lanarkshire

Maggie Gordon, (10)

Daughter, Scholar

Hamilton, Lanarkshire

James Gordon, (6)

Son, Scholar

Hamilton, Lanarkshire

 

Census of Scotland 1901

 

In the Census of Scotland 1901, William, Jane and their family were now living at 20 Catherine Street, Dumfries and he was the Chief Constable of Dumfries County Police.

 

Name & Age

Occupation

Place & County of Birth

William Gordon, (47)

Chief Constable

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Jane S. Gordon, (51)

Wife 

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Jeanie Gordon, (29) 

Daughter

Insch, Aberdeenshire

Lizzie Gordon, (23)

Daughter

Carnwath, Lanarkshire

James Gordon, (16)

Son, Scholar

Hamilton, Lanarkshire

 

Census of Scotland 1911

 

In the Census of Scotland 1911, William, Jane and Margaret were living at ‘Lauriston’, Maxwelltown, Kirkcudbrightshire. His occupation was ‘Chief Constable, Dumfries County Council’.

 

Name & Age

Occupation

Place & County of Birth

William Gordon, (58)

Chief Constable

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Jane S. Gordon, (62)

Wife 

Forgue, Aberdeenshire

Margaret Gordon, (30)

Daughter

Hamilton, Lanarkshire

 

The 1911 Census was the first to require married women to state how long they had been married, how many live births they had experienced and how many of those children were still alive at the date of the Census. It was a controversial requirement and many Suffragists and Suffragettes refused to complete the Census data.

 

Jane Gordon recorded that she had been married for ‘40 years, had given birth to six children, four of whom were still alive in 1911’. 

The End of the Story

William Gordon (Junior) died in South Africa on 19 February 1904 aged 26 years. 

 

His brother James Gordon, (27), died in Arica, South America on 1 November 1911.

 

Jane Sey, (82), 'beloved wife of William Gordon, Chief Constable of County Police', died 27 August 1931 at ‘Lauriston’, Victoria Road, Dumfries. Her husband William registered her death. 

 

The Motherwell Times Friday 3 June 1932

The following is the full article taken from the ‘Motherwell Times’ of Friday 3 June 1932:

 

A remarkable family record is recalled by the retirement on Saturday of Mr William Gordon after 41 years’ service as Chief Constable of the County of Dumfries.

 

Four brothers of this family were all police officers, and all are now retired from the service.

 

Each of them began police duty with the Lanarkshire Constabulary, and two of them, Mr James Gordon and Mr George Gordon, completed their full term of service in the county, retiring with the rank of Sergeant. 

 

Mr Andrew (sic) Gordon went to South Africa some years ago and retired from the police force there while he was holding the post of Inspector. He is home now and living in this district.

 

Mr William Gordon, who has just retired, was the ‘Father” of the Chief Constables of Scotland, his total service extending to almost 60 years. 

 

It is of interest to note that it was Mr James Gordon who 43 years ago, captured at Ferniegair, John Watson Laurie, the Goatfell Murderer, whose death in Perth Penitentiary occurred in October 1930.”

 

William Gordon OBE, KPM, (82), retired Chief Constable, died on 21 December 1935 at ‘Lauriston’, Victoria Road, Dumfries. His daughter, Jean Thomson, registered his death.

 

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Adam Gordon MBE died on 7 July 1953 aged 75 years.

 

Jean Gordon or Thomson, (82), died on 13 October 1954 at 91 Queen Street, Dumfries.

 

The youngest daughter, Margaret Murray Gordon died on 22 March 1974 aged 92 years.

 

William (Senior), Jane, Lizzie and Maggie are buried in section A, Plot 74 of Troqueer New Burial Ground, Dumfries. Jeanie is buried along with her husband, Robert Thomson, in St Michael's Cemetery, Dumfries. I have not yet found a record of George or Alexander Gordon’s deaths.

 

The medals awarded to William Gordon, OBE, KPM, can be seen at the Dumfries and Galloway Police Museum in Dumfries. A selection of Dumfriesshire Constabulary insignia can be seen below courtesy of the late John C. Green's book, 'Scottish Insignia, as used by old Police Forces'.

 

Thank you to Joe Craig, the Curator of the Dumfries and Galloway Police Museum for his assistance in compiling the above information on Chief Constable William Gordon, OBE, KPM, and his family.

Dumfriesshire Constabulary helmet with Victorian helmet plate.
This is the type of Victorian helmet plate on the helmet above.
A different Victorian Dumfriesshire Constabulary helmet plate.
Dumfriesshire Constabulary kepi badge, Victorian crown.
Dumfriesshire Constabulary belt clasp.

STOP PRESS See one of only two 'Visit to Scotland' 1903 medals issued to a Metropolitan Police Officer - DS David Liddle

Completely New Metropolitan Police Medals from WW2

Completely Updated

Accurate Medal Roll for all 120 Royal Parks 1911 Police Coronation Medals

News: New roll of all Scottish officers awarded KPM 1909 - 1954 (From Ian Hall) 

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