License: Creative Commons - Attribution Author: Dave Conner
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In December 1998, to mark the Centenary of the Murder in line of duty of Constable Thomas KIng, at Northern Constabulary Headquarters, a new memorial plaque for Constable King was unveiled by Dr John Mann, great great grandson of PC King, and Councillor Major Nigel Graham, Chairman of the Northern Joint Police Committee.
Pictured here (L-R) are Northern Constabulary Historian (then Constable) David Conner, Major Graham, and Constable Malcolm Taylor, Boat of Garten (dressed in turn-of-the-century uniform of Inverness-shire Constabulary ).
There follows a report on the event produced by me at the time:-
Abernethy Cemetery is a lonely but peaceful place, lying in beautiful Strathspey - the wide valley of the famous River Spey, one of Scotland's most renowned salmon rivers. Abernethy is a rural parish including the village of Nethybridge, some four miles from the Victorian resort of Grantown on Spey.
On Sunday 20 December 1998 a group of serving and retired police officers, and elected members, from around the Highlands of Scotland gathered in the snow-clad churchyard to remember an event which, though long before and of very much less national consequence than Lockerbie, probably had a similar effect upon the local population in 1898.
One hundred years before, to the day, Constable Thomas King a 46-year old police officer who was the resident beat officer from the village of Nethybridge had gone to the rural Tulloch area to effect the area on a Sheriff Court warrant of one Allan MacCallum. The wanted man, residing with a mother and her daughter in a small but-and-ben two roomed cottage in the woodland of Tulloch, was wanted to appear before the court on a charge of poaching.
MacCallum, well known to the officer as a rebel, was a man who considered that any game running free on the hills and moors of the Cairngorm foothills was as much his as of the landowner. In fact MacCallum's father had been a gamekeeper in the area for many years before his death.
MacCallum was violent and unstable, as the officer well knew. nonetheless there appeared to have been an element of mutual respect between the two. For that reason, while Constable King was doubtless apprehensive of the work to be done, he would not show his concern to the junior officer, John MacNiven of Boat of Garten, who accompanied him to make the arrest.
After many hours of search and 'cat and mouse' the unarmed officers closed on the cottage in which MacCallum had taken lodgings. The wanted man was within, and King went into the small building followed by MacNiven. A shot rang out and Alan MacCallum ran from the house.
PC MacNiven groped around the darkened building and found his colleague, lying dead of a gunshot would to the chest. He tired to revive his fallen comrade but to no avail. Death was instantaneous.
Constable King left a widow and a sizeable young family, who emigrated to Australia to start a new life.One of his sons, in his twilight years, made a pilgrimage back to Scotland to trace his heritage in the 1960's. When Thomas King (junior) died, his ashes were flown back to Scotland and interred in the grave of his father in Abernethy Churchyard.
Twenty years before PC King was shot, and four miles distant in Grantown on Spey, which was then in another Police force's area, another officer had paid the supreme sacrifice.
Constable James Fraser of the Elginshire (later Morayshire) Constabulary went to a hotel in the town to deal with a disturbance and received severe knife wounds from which he died two days later.
These two tragedies remain the only two instances where police officers in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland have died from violence in the line of duty.
So it was that last Sunday the little group gathered in that small churchyard to remember these sacrifices and to give thanks that it had been one hundred years since an officer had been murdered on duty.
A brief but poignant service, led by the local Church of Scotland Minister, heard details of events of that fateful day exactly one century before. The local Member of Parliament, Mr David Stewart, spoke of the sacrifice and the debt of gratitude which the community owed to the Police Service. Retired Superintendent Alan Moir spoke on behalf of the Northern Constabulary branch of the Retired Police Police Officers Association, and three descendants of Constable King were also present.
Constable David Conner, Force Historian, produced a uniform of the period, which had unfortunately shrunk in the interim(!), preventing him from wearing it. Constable Malcolm Taylor, Boat of Garten, whose beat now covers the area of Tulloch where Constable King fell, kindly deputised and wore the uniform with pride. The gravestone was rededicated, complete with added wording to the effect that the officer had been killed in the execution of his duty.
The force was represented by Deputy Chief Constable Keith Cullen, and local officers were also present. The two surviving officers - now long retired - who had been present when Thomas King Junior's ashes were interrred - also braved the elements to attend the service.
Ex-Superintendent Jimmy MacIntyre - now a spritely 85 years young - and ex-Constable Bobby Owen reflected upon the previous service in 1977.
A booklet written by PC Conner, telling the story of Constable King's career, death and family, was distributed at the service. Retired Inspector Sandy Mackenzie, an accomplished piper, played a lament at the graveside, including that haunting melody 'Flowers of the Forest', which would be held across the world the next day from memorial services for the dead of the Lockerbie Disaster.
The group then moved to Inverness, where at Northern Constabulary Headquarters, a new memorial plaque for Constable King was unveiled by Dr John Mann, great great grandson of PC King, and Councillor Major Nigel Graham, Chairman of the Northern Joint Police Committee.
Major Graham paid tribute the work of Constable Conner in his research and the quality of the commemorative booklet he had produced. He also lauded the Police Service of the Highlands and Islands for their commitment and dedication over the years, and gave thanks for the fact that it had been 100 years since an officer had been murdered on duty in the Force's Area.