Peterhead Prison uncovered

An armed prison warder keeps a watchful eye on prisoners breaking rocks in the Stirlinghill Quarry on the outskirts of Peterhead
An armed prison warder keeps a watchful eye on prisoners breaking rocks in the Stirlinghill Quarry on the outskirts of Peterhead

As Peterhead Prison prepares to close its doors with the arrival of the new HMP Grampian facility, a new book is delving into its remarkable history.

Peterhead has housed some of the most notorious criminals in Scottish penal history.

Down the years it earned the nickname The Hate Factory and made headline news decade after decade with dramatic escapes, hostage taking and rooftop riots.

It also held wrongly convicted men for long years, such as Oscar Slater, Paddy Meehan, TC Campbell and Joe Steele.

And it made history when the SAS was called in to dramatically rescue a hostage.

Now Robert Jeffrey, author of the bestselling Barlinnie Story and other true crime books, tells the remarkable story of the infamous Peterhead Prison in Scotland’s far north-east.

‘Peterhead – The Inside Story of Scotland’s Toughest Prison’ tells the remarkable inside story of a truly grim institution with a fearsome reputation.

It was built in the 1880s as part of an ambitious humanitarian plan to build a Harbour of Refuge that would provide a safe haven for the fishing fleet and other shipping caught in the wild North Sea gales.

It took decades to complete, and a grim and forbidding prison was built to house the convict labour needed to break stone in the quarries and work on building the huge breakwaters.

In the early days, convicts were controlled by men as hard as their charges. The wardens carried swords and were quick to use them if necessary.

And when convict labour was used to build the harbour, they worked with rifles trained on them at all times. It became a brutal, cold and windswept home for such as the Arran murderer John Watson Laurie, safebreaker and war hero Johnny Ramensky, Jimmy Boyle, Glasgow godfathers Walter Norval and Arthur Thompson and wrongdoers from all parts of Scotland.

Robert Jeffrey is a long-serving Glasgow journalist and the former managing editor of the Herald group of newspapers. His many bestsellers include Glasgow’s Hard Men, Blood on the Streets, Glasgow’s Godfather and Gentle Johnny Ramensky.