Glasgow Bravery and Merit Awards

Glasgow Magistrates’ Bravery Medal – 1871

Constable John Kerr
‘A’ Division

About 4.45am on 23rd November, 1871, Constable John Kerr, No. 210 of ‘A’ Division, Glasgow Police, on beat patrol, entered  Old  Wynd,  off  Trongate, and saw  some  bricks  falling  from  an  old tenement bulding.   Using  his lamp, he saw a dangerously large crack in the four storey building.  He immediately ran upstairs, knocking  on the doors to waken the 68 occupants.  They had all just left the building when the  south  gable  collapsed,  throwing Constable Kerr from the third to the first floor, thankfully without injury. (The Glasgow Daily HeraldFriday, November 24, 1871)

JOHN KERR had been employed as a Fireman in Lochwinnoch,  Renfrewshire,  and  joined  the  Glasgow Police on 14 November 1870.   He was a married man with four children. He was posted to ‘A’ or Central Division as a 5th. Class Constable and progressed to 1st. Class Constable by 1872.

His heroism in 1871 attracted the interest of  newspapers and readers  contributed  £30  to reward him.  The Lord Provost also instructed that  the  silver  medal  (right)  be  struck  and presented to the constable early in 1872.

By 1875 he had six children and it appears that he resigned on 27 August of that year as a result of a dispute with his senior officers over his occupancy of a house which was outside the Glasgow boundary.    

This medal is believed to be Britain’s First Police Bravery Medal and was awarded on only this one occasion.  It is on display in The Glasgow Police Museum  (c) GPHS 2020


City of Glasgow Municipal Merit Medal – 1884

 On 20 January 1883, members of an Irish anarchist movement, ‘The Ribbon Society’ set three bombs in Glasgow. The first one blew up a gasometer at the Tradeston Gasworks on the south-side. The second exploded in a shed at Buchanan Railway station and the third was placed on the Possil Aquaduct, but that one did not explode. A reward of £500 was offered and after extensive enquiries, six men were arrested and all got life imprisonment.

Glasgow Municipal Merit Medal
(Detective Officer Donald Sutherland)

Such was the appreciation of the City that the ‘City of Glasgow Municipal Merit Medal was struck in gold and silver for presentation to the principal Glasgow Police officers who had successfully investigated the crimes.

On 20 April 1885, The Lord Provost (Mayor) of Glasgow presented three senior Glasgow Police officers with GOLD Municipal Merit Medals and £50 each:

  • Chief Constable Alexander McCall
  • Detective Superintendent John Boyd
  • Superintendent Donald of the Southern Division, Glasgow Police

On 4 September 1885, Chief Constable Alexander McCall presented SILVER medals and £20 each to:

  •  Detective Sub-Inspector Archibald Carmichael
  • Detective Officer Donald Sutherland (Illustrated)
  • Inspector A. Wilson of the St. Rollox Division, Glasgow Police

 It was expected that this medal would continued to be awarded for future meritorious conduct, but this was the only occasion on which the medals were awarded.  (c) GPHS 2020


City of Glasgow Police ‘Certificate of Merit’   

During the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th century, successive Chief Constables rewarded police officers with a ‘Certificate of Merit’ for meritorious service or acts of extreme bravery. This was very rarely awarded and only two occasions are currently known.Commendation Certificates’, accompanied by a cash rewards, were more commonly awarded for diligent police work and stopping runaway horses.

Detective Superintendent John Ord was awarded a ‘Certificate of Merit’ for his work investigating the Murder of Marion Gilchrist (1908) and the conviction of Oscar Slater for the murder. Ironically, Oscar Slater was later pardoned in 1928 and it is regarded as a miscarriage of Justice.

In 1923, Constable James Sparks of the ‘L’ (Partick) Division was awarded a ‘Certificate of Merit’ for pursuing a man armed with a gun who had shot another man and was firing indiscriminately. When the gunman was about to be arrested he committed suicide by shooting himself.

Constable Sparks was later awarded the King’s Police Medal for Gallantry (1923) and the first Corporation of Glasgow Bravery Medal (1925).

Certificate of Merit Awarded to Constable James Sparks 1923


The Corporation of Glasgow Medal for Bravery – 1924 – 75

Instituted in 1924, the Corporation of Glasgow Medal for Bravery was awarded to Glasgow Police Officers on 292 occasions plus additional bars were awarded for subsequent acts of bravery viz; ten first bars and three second bars. The rank, name and date of the incident were engraved on the rear of each medal. The medal was also awarded posthumously six times and to firemen and other civilians for acts of bravery. The medal was additionally awarded to recipients of national gallantry awards.

The first Corporation of Glasgow Medal for Bravery was awarded to Constable James Sparks of Partick Division in 1925 (see above) and the last medal was awarded to Constable James Connelly of ‘A’ Division in 1975.

Click Here to see a list of Glasgow Police officers awarded the medal.