DANCEFLOOR killer James Smith 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 eventually 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 James Smith who was executed by Albert Pierrepoint on April 12, 1952, several years after the three death penalty sentences given to John Lyon, Patrick Carraher and John Caldwell in 1946. Smith's death was two years after Paul Christopher Harris and James Robertson who were both executed in 1950.

IT was murder on the dancefloor, quite literally, in the case of James Smith.

The 21-year-old didn't go to the dancehall to meet his sweetheart or show off his moves. A visit to a dance gave Smith the opportunity to fight.

On November 17, 1951, the Evening Times reported on Smith's arrest, which happened hours after he killed a father-of-two.

Martin Malone was among the 500 people who had poured into the Ancient Order of Hibernians at Royston Road to boogie the night away on November 16, 1951.

Evening Times:

The 35-year-old was at the dance with his wife, above. He had been working on board a ship at Ardrossan and arrived at his home in Acrehill Street, Blackhill, hours before the dance.

His wife gave him a ticket for the dance and went ahead as she was ready. Malone joined her later and his encounter with Smith forced the couple apart forever.

Evening Times:

Smith is escorted from his court hearing

The day after the dance Smith was arrested at around 5am at a house in Blackhill in connection with the murder.

The Evening Times described him as a dark haired man, dressed in a grey suit, white shirt with no tie and brown shoes.

The court proceedings last around one minute and the charges against Smith were read out in court.

He was firstly accused of assaulting a man named William Loudon, of Moodiesburn Street, Glasgow. He stabbed him on the body with a bayonet or similar sharp instrument to his severe injury.

The second charge was that he assaulted Malone. He struck him on the head and stabbed him on the body with a bayonet or similar sharp instrument whereby he sustained injuries from which he died shortly afterwards and he did thus murder him.

The Evening Times reported that the other victim Loudon was seriously ill in the Royal Infirmary. He remained in hospital until November 22 and was an out-patient afterwards.

Later, more details of the dance hall terror emerged during the court case.

Evening Times:

Smith, above, himself in evidence claimed Loudon had been threatening to "do" him which is why he lodged a plea of not guilty and a special plea of self defence.

He said he tackled him to "call his bluff". He approached Loudon who seemed to make a "breenge" at him, and he struck with a dagger slipped to him by another dancer.

He heard footsteps, half turned, and saw Malone running at him with a knife.

Smith said: "With the force of his running, he could not seem to pull up, so when I grappled with him the two of us fell." He had the dagger in his hand at that time but was not conscious of doing anything to Malone.

He continued: "We were struggling about on the floor and people seemed to be kicking us."

The next thing he remembered was someone picking him up and putting him on a seat.

Evening Times:

Hibernian Hall dancers leave after being questioned by police

Couples continued to dance unaware that Malone was lying dying on the dancefloor, as reported in the Evening Times. It was during this time that Smith made his escape from the dancehall.

Sergeant Peter Peebles told the High Court during Smith's trial that in spite of the fact Malone was lying wounded on the floor, the band was still playing when he arrived in the hall and about half a dozen couples were dancing.

There was around 200 people in the hall at that time and the sergeant had to order the band to stop playing. Those people were kept in the dance hall to well after midnight.

The Sergeant even confessed that he wasn't too sure that people were not aware of what had happened.

He told the court: "It was quite obvious that there had been a considerable upset, but some of the people did not seem greatly concerned."

Another police officer Constable Denis Joyce told the court that the dagger used in the murder was handed over to him by a dancer at the venue. She told him it had been found on the floor.

Following the trial, it took a jury one hour and 40 minutes to find Smith guilty of the two charges on February 27, 1952. A subsequent appeal which last five days was refused.

Frank McKue, who was death watch officers at Barlinnie, previously told The Evening Times of his final moments with Smith.

He said: "“The night before, I went to the condemned cell to ask if the death watch officers wanted anything before we went off duty.

“There were two prison officers and three death watch men sitting with the prisoner,

playing dominoes. There was a big brown enamel tea-pot on the table.

“Smith looked up at the door – he knew my voice because I’d been with him for four months.

“He said, ‘Is that you,Mr McKue? Are you not coming in to say cheerio to me?’

“I said I couldn’t, as I’d already handed my keys in. In fact, I still had them in

my pocket, but I didn’t want to go in. He said, ‘cheerio then’, and I said, ‘cheerio, Smith’.

“The next morning, I was in D Hall and I heard the trapdoors going, and I thought,

‘that’s it’.”

Only a handful of people walked up the hill at Barlinnie to read the notice that Smith had been executed. It was pinned to the main door at exactly 8.15am on April 12, 1952.

Those people included around 40 men and women, and a seven-year-old girl who was clutching onto her mother's hand.

  • Next Friday, the Govan labourer who killed the mother of his five children.

In case you missed it:

Hanged at Barlinnie: Bloody history of Glasgow's killers who walked to the gallows

Hanged at Barlinnie: The men who were executed and their crimes: Govanhill 'Crosbie' gang member John Lyon​

Barlinnie: The men who were hanged and their crimes: the 'Fiend of the Gorbals' Patrick Carraher

Barlinnie: The men who were hanged and their crimes: Carntyne cop killer John Caldwell​

Hanged at Barlinnie: Govan man took the fall for murder, saving his brother​