The love story that ended behind bars for Glasgow’s most prolific criminal

Half a century ago, one of Glasgow’s most prolific criminals was preparing to go behind bars.

Sammy “Dandy” McKay was a prominent figure in Glasgow’s crime scene, known for his smart clothes and flashy cars.

He ran two gambling dens, the Gordon Bridge Club and the Cuba Club – often visited by gangsters.

Sammy’s clothes and immaculate appearance earned him the nickname Dandy, and his reputation earned him frequent newspaper coverage.

While awaiting trial for a £40,000 bank raid in Shettleston, he managed to saw through the bars of his cell with a hacksaw blade he had managed to smuggle in.

While in Barlinnie Prison in July 1959, he used knotted sheets to scale a wall and escaped to jump into a waiting getaway car.

A snapshot of Dandy was published in the Daily Record as he awaited trial.

Dandy didn’t stop there, escaping to London before sailing first class to New York.

It took nearly a year before he was finally found and tried again, and began a 10-year sentence; no escape this time.

He had started a life of crime rising out of poverty in Gorbal, but his street smarts and tough exterior helped him on his way.

Starting to work at the Gordon Club, he soon met his future wife Mary Boyle and worked his way up to manager before becoming part owner.

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Now swimming in money, Dandy often traveled to London where his contacts in the capital could have false papers made.

These came in handy when he was on the run.

Glasgow police thought they had found him when an anonymous letter was sent containing a photo of Dandy on Fifth Avenue in New York.

It turns out that the criminal had sent the letter himself and fled to Ireland.

After 11 months, with what looked like normal life in Killiney, the police finally got hold of him.

At the trial in Glasgow High Court, the public lined up for front row seats in the sensational showdown.

When asked why he escaped from prison, Dandy claimed his wife was under threat and he was worried about his children Jacqueline and Linda – and denied any involvement in the robbery.

Dandy McKay with his wife Mary and their eldest daughter Linda (Image: Daily Record)
Dandy McKay with his wife Mary and their eldest daughter Linda

Speaking to the Daily Record at the time, Dandy told them: ‘I have to admit I felt a bit uncomfortable sawing through the window bar with my little hacksaw.

“My only problem was that the blade broke – I got by with the half blade.

“The only thing that really bothered me was running through the turnip field barefoot and in my pajamas.

“Just so the screws would know what happened, I left them a cartoon that I cut out of the Record.

“My only disguise was a slouch hat and plain glass goggles – it was a great trip.

“All you need on the run is money, life was expensive but we could have afforded it.”

Dandy had nine previous convictions before the robbery, including a four-year sentence for theft with explosives.

Dandy’s wife, Mary, was supposed to go on vacation alongside her criminal husband, but decided she couldn’t take their children on the run.

Another disappointed woman in Dandy’s life was his mother, although she remained faithful to her boy.

She said on the night of her sentencing: “Sammy has brought me a lot of worry and heartache but has always been my favourite.

“I raised 10 kids in one bedroom and one kitchen, he was the black sheep.

“I could never bring myself to believe the things he was accused of because he could be so kind and good at times.

“Borstal, jail, what a boy.”

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