Lanarkshire police officer killed in tragic road accident over 80 years ago remembered in poignant service

A poignant memorial service has been held for a Lanarkshire police officer who died in the line of duty over 80 years ago.

It was only last year that the Lanarkshire Police Historical Society learned of former cop Arthur Malcolmson who tragically died at the young age of 23 during a road collision in Bellshill in 1940.

He reported for duty in Hamilton and was instructed to uplift equipment from various fire stations along with two firefighters – Cornelius McGuire, 29, from Hamilton, and John Bishop, 26, from Carluke – who were also killed in the crash.

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Traveling in an Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) vehicle, the three men were heading towards Bothwellpark Cemetery.

They were driving behind a lorry before suddenly colliding with a bus head-on on New Edinburgh Road during terribly poor weather conditions with wet roads and fog.

The collision was severe. The wheel of the bus cut through the vehicle, embedding itself in the center of the car.

A newspaper report at the time of accident described the saloon car as being “smashed almost beyond recognition” and that it was “completely sandwiched between the bus and a low stone wall at the side of the road”.

Arthur’s memorial was well attended on Tuesday

The smashed car was pushed against the low wall of the cemetery. The front of the car had been pushed and twisted so far round that it was facing the rear.

One of the firemen was thrown from the car into the cemetery and was killed instantly.

The conductress, passengers of the bus, and others nearby tried desperately to remove Arthur and his colleague; however, they were trapped in the wreckage.

Those at the scene were left in shock at what happened.

An ambulance and fire crews were called to the accident. And the Chief Constable at the time, on receiving news of the incident immediately attended and took charge of the recovery.

The car had to be practically cut in two to remove the two casualties inside.

They were placed in an ambulance which made its way to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, however sadly on the way the second fireman died, and Arthur died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

The Chief Constable personally attended the homes of all three, making their next of kin aware of the tragedy.

The local communities were devastated by the loss of the three young men who were all given service funerals.

Thousands lined the streets from Crossgates through Bellshill Cross to Bothwellpark Cemetery where Arthur was laid to rest.

The Lanarkshire Police Historical Society have this week led the tributes to Arthur 82 years on from his untimely death.

During their research into Arthur’s story, the Society found that a headstone was never placed at Arthur’s grave and remains unmarked. Instead, there is a small flowerpot with the name Malcolmson inscribed nearby.

However, members have kindly donated £2300 to purchase a proper memorial for Arthur’s grave and hope that others can be identified in the future..

The constable’s name is also not on the Scottish Police Memorial due to the circumstances of his death were not known until recently. But the Society have advised they have contacted the relevant people to hopefully have this rectified soon.

In memory of Arthur, George Barnsley of the Lanarkshire Police Historical Society told Lanarkshire Live of the life of Arthur.

He was an only child born on January 11, 197 and joined the 1st Bellshill Boys Brigade Company in 1928 and eventually went on to become a Lieutenant there.

Arthur was a very popular individual who was always pleasant and willing to help in any way he could.

In 1938 he achieved his dream by becoming a policeman and joined the Lanarkshire Constabulary in Hamilton.

At his funeral, the cortege was led by the Boys Brigade Pipe Band and had over 400 members of local BB companies marching behind the coffin.

In addition, there were over 200 members of Lanarkshire Constabulary, AFS and ARP in the procession, led by the Chief Constable, Superintendents and Inspectors.

Arthur was remembered for many great attributes including his willingness to oblige. He did not seem to be able to say ‘no’ to anyone.

All the children who lived near him adored him and listened to his every word. They called him ‘Big Hearted Arthur’.

The Reverend Arthur conducting his funeral beautifully summed up the constable by saying: “He was clean living, clean mouthed, a kind and happy fellow who will be remembered fondly by all who came in contact with him.”

A Fatal Accident Inquiry was held at Hamilton Sheriff Court on February 26, 1940 and a formal verdict was returned.

Within two years of his death, both Arthur’s mother and father sadly died of cancer and it is unknown if he is currently survived by generations of other relatives.

However the Lanarkshire Police Historical Society is appealing to locals with any information to get in touch with George by email at [email protected] – where you can also be provided of details on how to donate to future memorials of Lanarkshire service men and women.

Tuesday’s service was well attended as lovely tributes were paid to Arthur.

In attendance were members of the Lanarkshire Police Historical Society, Police Scotland and Federation Piper Chris Norton, current Police Superintendent Lex Baillie, and Police Scotland Chaplain Rev. Neil Galbraith.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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