Seen wielding a knife in a Glasgow dance-hall fight on NOVEMBER 16th, 1951, James Smith was in big trouble. One man had been stabbed to death, another had received a stab wound, and Smith, a 20-year-old Glasgow labourer, was arrested the next day and charged with murder.

At his trial three months later he admitted assaulting William Loudon, 38, but denied murdering Loudon’s friend Martin Malone, 34. A Glasgow housewife testified that after Loudon was stabbed she saw Malone go to try to pick him up. She said that Smith then turned on Malone, jabbing at him with a knife, and Malone collapsed to the floor. Another witness said that after the fight he saw Smith throw the knife away, and a third witness said he saw Smith kneeling on Malone on the floor.

But the jury then heard that the police had discovered a second discarded knife in the dance-hall. Smith claimed that a friend had warned him that Loudon was threatening to “do” him. Then another man had handed him a dagger, saying, “You had better take this. He’s got a knife.” Smith said that with the dagger in his hand, he went over to Loudon and said, “What’s all this about you going to ‘do’ me?”

“Loudon seemed to make a lunge at me,” Smith continued.

“Did you do anything then?” asked his counsel.

“I struck him with the knife.”

“Had you lost your head at this time?”

“Yes, sir.”

Smith said he then heard footsteps behind him, and he turned and saw Malone running at him with a knife held low. He was knocked off his feet and they both fell to the floor.

“At that time did you have the dagger in your hand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Were you conscious of doing anything to Malone?”


Smith said that Malone fell on top of him, and he tried to get him off. Malone must have received his two stab wounds by accident as they fell together, both holding knives.

The judge asked, “Do you say you do not know which weapon it was that caused injury to Malone’s body – whether it was your dagger or the weapon which you say he was carrying?”


Smith claimed he had acted in self-defence, and in his summing-up the judge said that if this were not accepted, the jury might nevertheless find that there was an element of provocation. “This might induce you to regard the crime in relation to Malone as one not of murder but of culpable homicide.”

But the jury unanimously found Smith guilty on both counts. He was sentenced to death, there was no reprieve, and he was hanged at Barlinnie Prison on April 12th, 1952.