Chapter 4

Events in the life of Thomas Hamilton



Introduction

4.1    The events of 13 March 1996 should be seen against the background of certain events in Thomas Hamilton's life and in particular the last 23 years. In this chapter, which of necessity is somewhat protracted, I will endeavour to set out the main events which appear to have a bearing on the outcome, leaving the events of the last 6 months of his life to Chapter 5. After dealing with his family, education and livelihood I will go on to his relationship with the Scouts, his long-standing operation of boys clubs and the circumstances in which he came into contention with local authorities and the police. Finally I will examine his alleged conduct in regard to firearms.

Family, education and livelihood

4.2    Thomas Hamilton was born in Glasgow on 10 May 1952. He was the son of Thomas Watt and Agnes Graham Hamilton or Watt. He was named Thomas Watt. Shortly after his birth his parents separated and in 1955 they were divorced. He and his mother moved to the home of his maternal grandparents in Cranhill, Glasgow. On 26 March 1956 he was adopted by them and his name was changed to Thomas Watt Hamilton. In 1963 he accompanied his adoptive parents when they moved to 11 Upper Bridge Street, Stirling. He grew up in the belief that his natural mother was his sister. In 1985 she moved to live in a house of her own. In 1987 Thomas Hamilton and his adoptive parents moved to 7 Kent Road, where he continued to live until 13 March 1996. In August 1987 his adoptive mother died; and 5 years later his adoptive father moved into sheltered housing, so leaving Thomas Hamilton in sole occupation. He remained in contact with his natural mother, visiting her about twice a week.

4.3    After a primary education in Cranhill and Stirling Thomas Hamilton attended Riverside Secondary School, Stirling and Falkirk Technical College, obtaining a number of O Grades in 1968. In that year he became an apprentice draughtsman in the County Architect's Office in Stirling. In 1972 he opened a shop at 49 Cowane Street, Stirling known as "Woodcraft", which specialised in the sale of DIY goods and supplies, ironmongery, and latterly the sale of fitted kitchens. After about 13 years he gave up the shop and registered as unemployed. He received state benefits until November 1993. However, at the same time he carried on the activity of buying and selling cameras and camera equipment and carrying out some free-lance photography.

Thomas Hamilton's involvement with the Scouts

4.4    In July 1973 Thomas Hamilton, who was then a Venture Scout, was appointed as Assistant Scout Leader of the 4th/6th Stirling Troop. This followed the normal checks into an appointee's suitability. He seemed very keen and willing and did not present any problems. On one occasion he volunteered to take some boys on his boat on Loch Lomond for their proficiency badge work but this was not permitted as the boat had insufficient lifejackets and no distress flares or oars, and he had inadequate knowledge of the waters. In the autumn of 1973 he was seconded to be leader of the 24th Stirlingshire troop which was to be revived at Bannockburn.

4.5    A number of complaints were made about his leadership, the most serious of which were concerned with two occasions when the boys who were in his charge were forced to sleep overnight in his company in a van during very cold weather at Aviemore. His excuse on the first occasion was that the intended accommodation had been double-booked and he was warned of the need to double-check such arrangements. On the latter occasion it was found that no booking had been made by him on either of these occasions. The County Commissioner, Mr Brian D Fairgrieve had a discussion with the District Commissioner, Mr R C H Deuchars, in which they agreed that Thomas Hamilton should be asked to resign. Thereafter Mr Fairgrieve had a meeting with him. He did not think that Thomas Hamilton was a particularly stable person. He said in evidence "I formed the impression that he had a persecution complex, that he had delusions of grandeur and I felt his actions were almost paranoia". He was doubtful about his moral intention towards boys. Thomas Hamilton was informed that in view of his lack of qualities in leadership his warrant was being withdrawn. On 13 May 1974 Mr Deuchars wrote to him requiring that he return his warrant book. Despite repeated requests he did not do so for some months.

4.6    Mr Fairgrieve wrote to the Scottish Scout Headquarters in order to give them his views about Thomas Hamilton as he considered that he should not be a member of the Scout movement. In this letter dated 29 June 1974 he wrote:

      "While unable to give concrete evidence against this man I feel that too many 'incidents' relate to him such that I am far from happy about his having any association with Scouts. He has displayed irresponsible acts on outdoor activities by taking young 'favourite' Scouts for weekends during the winter and sleeping in his van, the excuse for these outings being hill-walking expeditions. The lack of precautions for such outdoor activities displays either irresponsibility or an ulterior motive for sleeping with the boys...... His personality displays evidence of a persecution complex coupled with rather grandiose delusions of his own abilities. As a doctor, and with my clinical acumen only, I am suspicious of his moral intentions towards boys".

Mr Deuchars also submitted a form to Scout Headquarters to the effect that Thomas Hamilton was not considered to be a suitable applicant due to his immaturity and irresponsibility. This resulted in his name being entered on the "blacklist" which is intended to ensure that unsuitable applicants are denied an appointment in the Scout Association. Such a record is also consulted on occasions when an outside enquiry is made as to whether a former Scout leader has provided satisfactory service. In the case of Thomas Hamilton it was effective in preventing him in his attempt to become a Scout leader in Clackmannanshire.

4.7    During the Inquiry reference was made to a copy of what purported to be a letter written by Thomas Hamilton, dated 28 April 1974 and addressed to Mr Deuchars. In that letter he tendered his resignation as Scout leader of the 24th Stirlingshire troop, criticised the conduct of Mr Deuchars and stated his intention to transfer to another district. Mr Deuchars had no recollection of receiving the letter and there is no record of it on the Scout files. The copy was retrieved from the records of Central Regional Council. I am satisfied that Thomas Hamilton did not write or send the letter on the date which it bears and that it was written by him in order to create a false impression that through his own resignation he had anticipated the withdrawal of his warrant.

4.8    In February 1977 after making a number of attempts to return to Scouting Thomas Hamilton requested the Scout Association to hold a Committee of Inquiry into his complaint that he had been victimised. This request was denied. After some correspondence he stated in April 1977 that he was discontinuing the thought of holding a warrant "as I do not want my good name to be part of this so-called organisation in this district". However, his letters of complaint continued. The response of the Scout Association was that the warrant had been withdrawn on the basis of lack of preparation and planning for his adventure activities at Aviemore. In 1978 he approached Mr David Vass, the District Commissioner for the Trossachs, offering his services as a Scout Leader. After consulting with Mr Fairgrieve Mr Vass responded that they were unable to make use of his services. Thomas Hamilton persistently maintained that the Scouts had not only ruined his reputation by terminating his appointment but that they were linked with the actions taken by other organisations, and in particular the police. In para 4.23 I narrate his later approaches to Scout officials.

Thomas Hamilton's boys clubs

4.9    After the withdrawal of his warrant Thomas Hamilton became increasingly involved in the setting up and running of boys clubs. It is not clear when he began this activity but it appears that in the late 1970s he was running the "Dunblane Rovers" in the Duckburn Centre in Dunblane. He also ran a Rovers Group in Bannockburn. There was some evidence that at this time he was permitted to use school premises. In any event it is clear that during the period from November 1981 until his death he organised and operated 15 boys clubs for various periods and that these clubs used school premises in Central, Lothian, Fife and Strathclyde Regions. The clubs, the periods within which they were active and their locations are set out in the accompanying table.


CLUBS OPERATED BY THOMAS HAMILTON BETWEEN NOVEMBER 1981 AND MARCH 1996

Club

Period Active

Location
Dunblane Rovers Group*Nov.1981-Oct 1983Dunblane H.S.
Dunblane Boys Club*Oct 1985-March 1996Dunblane H.S.
Bannockburn Boys Club*May 1983-March 1996
(No information Oct 1983-1992)
Bannockburn H.S.
Lynburn Gymnastics Club/Lynburn
Boys Club*
Feb.1985-Feb.1986Woodmill Centre and
Dunfermline Centre
Dunfermline Boys Sports Club*May 1987-Aug 1992Woodmill Centre &
Queen Anne H.S.
Falkirk Boys Club*May 1987-March 1966
(Intemittent)
Graeme H.S. & Falkirk H.S.
Linlithgow Boys ClubApril 1988-May 1989Linlithgow Academy
Menstrie, Alva & Tillicoultry
Boys Club
March 1989-March 1995Alva Academy
Stirling Boys ClubMay 1989-June 1993Wallace H.S. & Stirling H.S.
Alloa Boys Club*Nov.1992-June 1994Alloa Academy
Lornshill Boys ClubOct. 1992-June 1994Lornshill Academy
Denny Boys ClubOct. 1992-Jan 1994Denny H.S.
Balfron Boys ClubApril 1993-June 1993Balfron H.S.
Callander Boys ClubMarch 1995-April 1995McLaren H.S.
Bishopbriggs Boys Club*Sept.1995-March 1996Thomas Muir H.S.

The symbol * indicates clubs in respect of which there is evidence of others assisting him to some extent.


4.10   The typical way in which Thomas Hamilton sought to obtain support for such clubs was to send leaflets to houses and primary schools in the area which the club was intended to serve. In general head teachers, who had a discretion as to whether leaflets from voluntary organisations should be allowed to be distributed through their schools, endeavoured to prevent their schools being used in this way. The clubs were aimed mainly at boys between the ages of 7 and 11. The club activities consisted of games, such as football, along with an element of gymnastics. Thomas Hamilton held a Grade 5 certificate from the British Amateur Gymnastics Association which qualified him to provide coaching in gymnastics, subject to being supervised by someone who held a higher qualification. He was occasionally assisted by persons with sporting qualifications who had responded to an advertisement; or by volunteer helpers, including parents, but this was not regularly the case. In general Thomas Hamilton ran each of the clubs entirely on his own. In a few instances he represented that there was a club committee. In these cases it appears that a few individuals gave him temporary assistance but there was no satisfactory evidence that the members of the committee controlled or managed anything. From about 1989 he used the title "Boys' Clubs Sports Group Committee", so creating the impression that others were participating in the running of the clubs. In reality this was a title for his own activities. From the running of the clubs he obtained a modest income which in the early days enabled him to finance his trading in cameras. Boys were initially charged 20p or 30p per night but these charges rose to £1 or £1.50. Most of the clubs were initially extremely popular, attracting as many as 70 boys. However, over the lifetime of a club the numbers dropped, typically to less than a dozen. In the early days Thomas Hamilton put this down to lack of patience or determination on the part of the boys. However, it is more likely that this was due to the accumulated effect of reactions to his behaviour and the rumours which it generated.

4.11   Thomas Hamilton's explanation of his objectives was that he wanted to give the boys something to do and keep them off the streets, and that the discipline was a useful preparation for life. He said that he put his boys through fitness schemes; that he hated fat children and blamed parents for allowing them to eat junk food. However, his style of running the clubs attracted the comment from parents and helpers that it was over-regimented and even militaristic. Witnesses described him as tending to be domineering. There was too much use of shouting. It suggested to some that he was getting something out of dominating the boys. His approach was in any event not in line with modern methods. The evidence also indicated that the exercises which the boys were asked to perform were over-strenuous for their age. Parents were also concerned that he was running the clubs without any apparent adult help. He said that he was authorised to be in sole charge of up to 30 boys but this was known to be untrue.


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Prepared 16 October 1996