GOVANHILL gang member John Lyon features in the latest of our special series on Barlinnie: The men who were hanged and their crimes.

A total of 10 judicial executions by hanging took place at HMP Barlinnie between 1946 and 1960, replacing the gallows at Duke Street Prison. This was before the death penalty was abolished in the UK in 1969. All the executions took place at 8am. The public executioners during that time were Thomas Pierrepoint, Albert Pierrepoint and Harry Allen. The remains of all executed prisoners were the property of the state. They were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of the prison. During renovations at the prison in 1997, Barlinnie's gallows cell, which was built into D-hall, was finally demolished and the remains of all the executed prisoners were exhumed for reburial elsewhere on the grounds. This is the story of John Lyon who was executed by Thomas Pierrepoint on February 8, 1946.

IN 1945 Glasgow, gang violence was a major problem in the city, and it is the reason for John Lyon becoming the first man to be hanged at Barlinnie prison at just 21 years old.

Lyon was one of three men who had been sentenced to death for the murder of Royal Navy sailor John Thomas Brady, who was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A jury at the High Court in Glasgow also found his brother-in-law Alexander Crosbie, 18, and John Alexander Lennie, 25, guilty for the murder of Brady, who was just 19 years old when he was stabbed to death in a gang fight with bayonets and other weapons.

His other brother-in-law Hugh Crosbie, 29, was the fourth man who appeared in the dock at Glasgow's High Court but the jury delivered a not proven verdict.

The trial had lasted five days, and Lord Mackay ordered that the three men were to be executed at Barlinnie Prison on January 5, 1946.

Evening Times:

Barlinnie Prison

Mr Brady, of Anderston's Carrick Street, was killed the previous year on October 20 while he was waiting on discharge on medical grounds from the Royal Navy.

The city was rife with gang violence and prior to the murder of Brady, a young man by the name of Smyth almost fell into the clutches of the Crosbie gang.

The Evening Times reported: "About 10.30 on Saturday night, a youth named Smyth was standing with two girls at the corner of Argyle Street and Douglas Street saw a group of about eight youths cross Argyle Street towards them, and one of the group called out, 'Where are the Dougie Boys?

"Smyth was admittedly one of the 'Dougie Boys' and he took of his heels and reached the safety of his own home."

Evening Times:

Washington Street today

It didn't take long, however, for that gang of youths - including Lyon - to stumbled across Brady who was on Washington Street looking for his brother Joseph.

The Evening Times reported at the time, "It was there in Washington street that the young man John Thomas Brady was brutally attacked, struck many blows and his body pierced so many times causing his almost immediate death."

Prior to his incarceration and hanging, Lyon resided in Glasgow with his 20-year-old wife at the Crosbie family home in Govanhill's Jamieson Street.

His wife and other family members fought hard to reverse the death penalty decision.

Appeals were lodged for the three men, and after several days of argument in the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, these were dismissed and their executions were expected to take place.

Petitions were then organised by the relatives and signed by thousands of people in Glasgow and other Scottish towns.

They were presented on behalf of all three men to the Secretary of State for Scotland Mr Joseph Westwood.

Two of the men, Crosbie and Lennie, were reprieved in the run up to the hanging. Last minute efforts were made for a reprieve for Lyon with his brother Robert even sending a telegram to the King but the due course of the law ran and he was condemned to death.

Evening Times:

In previous years, a black flag was hoisted to show a hanging had taken place at the Duke Street Prison. This, however, did not happen when Lyon was given the death penalty on February 8, 1946.

A crowd of 70 people turn up for the execution and stood on a private roadway 100 yards outside the gates of Barlinnie while two warders pinned up the death notice. The group including 12 women were then allowed to approach to read the notice. Among them was the young brother of Lyon, his sister-in-law, who wept silently, and his father-in-law Robert Crosbie.

The Evening Times reported: "That notice and the sobbing cry of an elderly woman - 'It's his young wife who is left' - as she read it were the only signs to the outer world that Lyon was dead."

After a final visit to his cell, Lyon's father carried away a sheet of prison notepaper on which the condemned man had written.

He said: "Everything is all right. Don't worry yourselves. I don't want you to hold a grudge against the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr Westwood. He is just doing his job and it happens to be me."

And with those final words Lyon went down in history as the first man to be hanged in Barlinnie. His execution came 17 years after the previous city hanging when George Reynolds was executed at Duke Street Prison on August 3, 1928 for killing a bakehouse fireman.

See tomorrow's Evening Times for the story of Patrick Carracher, the 'fiend' of the Gorbals