HM Prison Barlinnie

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HMP Barlinnie
HMP Barlinnie.jpg
LocationRiddrie, Glasgow
Population1600 (approx)
Managed byScottish Prison Service
GovernorMichael Stoney

HM Prison Barlinnie is the largest prison in Scotland. It is operated by the Scottish Prison Service and is located in the residential suburb of Riddrie, in the north east of Glasgow, Scotland. It is informally known locally as The Big Hoose and Bar-L.[1][2] In 2018, plans for its closure were announced.


Barlinnie was designed by Major General Thomas Bernard Collinson, architect and engineer to the Scottish Prison Department, and it was built in the then rural area of Riddrie adjacent to the Monkland Canal (now the route of the M8 Motorway), first opening with the commissioning of A hall in July 1882.

Aerial view of the prison (2018) showing its proximity to Smithycroft Secondary School and housing

Barlinnie prison's five accommodation halls: A, B, C, D and E, were built in stages between 1882 and 1897, with each holding approximately 69 inmates.

There was a major extension to the perimeter in 1967 to create an industrial compound. From 1973 till 1994, the world-famous "Special Unit" placed emphasis on rehabilitation, the best known success story being that of reformed Glasgow gangster Jimmy Boyle. Cultural output associated with the Special Unit included Boyle's autobiography, A Sense of Freedom (1977); The Hardman (1977), the play Boyle wrote with Tom McGrath; a body of sculpture; and The Silent Scream (1979), a book of prose and poems by Larry Winters, who committed suicide in 1977.[3]

Capital punishment[edit]

A total of 10 judicial executions by hanging took place at HMP Barlinnie between 1947 and 1960, replacing the gallows at Duke Street Prison before the final abolition of capital punishment in the United Kingdom for murder in 1969:[4]

Date Name Age (years) Executioner
8 February 1946 John Lyon 21 Thomas Pierrepoint
6 April 1946 Patrick Carraher 39 Thomas Pierrepoint
10 August 1946 John Caldwell 20 Albert Pierrepoint
30 October 1950 Christopher Harris 28 Albert Pierrepoint
16 December 1950 James Robertson 33 Albert Pierrepoint
12 April 1952 James Smith 22 Albert Pierrepoint
29 May 1952 Patrick Gallagher Deveney 42 Albert Pierrepoint
26 January 1953 George Francis Shaw 25 Albert Pierrepoint
11 July 1958 Peter Manuel 31 Harry Allen
22 December 1960 Anthony Miller 19 Harry Allen

Each of the condemned men had been convicted of murder. All the executions took place at 8.00 am. As was the custom, the remains of all executed prisoners were the property of the state, and were therefore buried in unmarked graves within the walls of the prison. During the D hall renovations of 1997, the prison gallows cell (built into D-hall) was finally demolished and the remains of all the executed prisoners were exhumed for reburial elsewhere. The first man to escape from Barlinnie was John Dobbie, three days after being sentenced to 15 years for a violent robbery in 1985. Dobbie escaped inside a laundry van, he was captured by armed police 5 days later and was sentenced to a further 5 years.[5]

Current use[edit]

Today Barlinnie is the largest prison in Scotland, holding well over 1,000 prisoners although it has a design capacity of 987.[6] The prison currently receives prisoners from the courts in the West of Scotland as well as retaining male remand prisoners and prisoners serving less than 4-year sentences. It also allocates suitable prisoners from its convicted population to lower security prisons, including HMP Low Moss and HMP Greenock, as well as holding long-term prisoners in the initial phase of their sentence prior to transfer to long-term prisons such as HMP Glenochil, HMP Shotts, HMP Kilmarnock or HMP Grampian.

Barlinnie prison still consists of five accommodation halls with each holding approximately 200 inmates and an additional National Top End Facility (Letham Hall) housing long term prisoners nearing the end of their incarceration. All five accommodation halls were refurbished between 1997 and 2004. There is also a hospital unit with accommodation for 18 prisoners, which includes eight cells specially designed for suicide supervision. A new administration and visiting block was completed in 1999.

The in-cell bucket-as-toilet routine known as slopping out was still in practice there as late as 2003. Since 2001, refurbishment has taken place after critical reports by the Scottish Chief Inspector of Prisons.[7]

In October 2018, it was announced that HMP Barlinnie is to be sold and replaced with a new superjail within Glasgow or its outskirts.[8]

In 2019, local MP Paul Sweeney proposed that the historic prison buildings be saved from demolition and converted into a prison museum after it is decommissioned.[9]

In January 2020, the Prison Service announced that the proposed site for the replacement prison was a 22-hectare (54-acre) site adjacent to the nearby Provan Gas Works.[6]

Notable former inmates[edit]


  1. ^ Wollaston, Sam (3 November 2017). "Ross Kemp Behind Bars: Inside Barlinnie review – Ross gets the inmate experience, minus the strip-search". the Guardian.
  2. ^ "Memories: Barlinnie, Glasgow's big hoose on the hill in 1958". Evening Times.
  3. ^ Ross, Anthony (1979), The Silent Scream, in Bold, Christine (ed.), Cencrastus No1, Autumn 1979, pp. 7 & 8
  4. ^ "Executions in Scottish prisons".
  5. ^ "Dangerous prisoner in second escape". HeraldScotland.
  6. ^ a b "Site purchased to replace Glasgow's Barlinnie prison". BBC News Online. 9 January 2020. Archived from the original on 22 August 2020. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  7. ^ "Slopping out 'must end'". BBC News. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  8. ^ "'New Barlinnie' prison set to be built on site near Glasgow gangsters' old stomping ground". Daily Record. 10 February 2019. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  9. ^ "Barlinnie jail could be Scotland's new Alcatraz as MPs plan tourist attraction". Daily Record. 18 October 2019. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  10. ^ The Ferris Conspiracy, pp. 86–91.
  11. ^ A Sense of Freedom, pp. 85–89.
  13. ^ Gunn, David. "Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi treated for 'advanced cancer'". The Scotsman. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
  14. ^ Carrell, Severin (26 January 2011). "Tommy Sheridan sentenced to three years in prison". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 August 2012.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°52′10″N 4°10′55″W / 55.86944°N 4.18194°W / 55.86944; -4.18194