I have still not reported the British picture The Wee Man set in Scotland but filmed in the East End of London, in part I understand because of the resentment of Strathclyde Police about the way there were to be depicted. In fact there are scenes in which a particular view of the police is provided.
The subject of the film. The Wee Man Paul Ferris reformed professional criminal is shown as a boy in his bed room witnessing several police beatings a man to pulp inside a van and then in the road before moving away in the vehicle. Who the man was and why they took the action was never explained. I am not aware Strathclyde police have issued a statement denying that such an incident could never have taken place.
In the second incident a police officer is seen advising the Glasgow crime boss Arthur Thompson that he needs to offer up a scapegoat after a murder and other acts of violence and crime. Someone comments that the officer is on the take and one of Thompson’s men. Finally Ferris and his pregnant wife is set up by Thompson’s son according to the film when they accept a hideaway offer in Scottish Loch countryside and the fully armed police squad attempt to fit him up with drugs in which subsequently became the longest murder trial in Scottish legal history but where despite the army of witnesses (300) attempting to frame Ferris he is acquitted.
My original understanding of Glasgow came from the book No Mean City published and set in the years between the two World was and which I purchased soon after I left school in the mid 1950’s. I was to stay in Glasgow for a month in 1961 first on an outer city estate and then in the centre at the Iona community house in Sauchiehall Street, and then from the mid 1970’s I passed through the City on my way to various parts of west and central Scotland as well as once staying in the city for a conference although I have not visited for well over a decade and I am well aware that the city has been transformed and will be on parade for the Commonwealth games to staged next Summer. I never saw anything to suggest the level of crime about which there has been significant publicity although I was aware of areas of significant deprivation, especially in estates on the outskirts of the city.
In the film and in his autobiography on which the film is partly based, Paul grows up in the Blackhill district of Glasgow a community created to replace the inner slums but with a substantial part recreating tenements with the poorest quality of building although there were some better standard homes with gardens. The estate is located near the infamous Scottish prison Barlinnie and a gas works and a distillery. In his childhood and as a teenager with two other school friends, Paul was terrorised by a notorious local crime family who commenced with bullying, sexual assaults and rape graduating into a family competing with the Thompson’s.
Paul’s mother is portrayed as sensible and long suffering with a weak but kind father who liked his bevy and who offered the advice of see and say nothing and avoid trouble and all local villains. Early on however Ferris sees Thompson and his men shoot someone and the boy takes money from the dead man’s wallet which he shows and shares with his boyhood friends. Parents find the money and the police advised and confiscate the cash with an official warning. His father is upset that the money has been handed to the police who he suspects will keep for themselves and is pleased when the boy reveals that he has kept some of back. This catholic Family were Celtic supporters hating Rangers fans and an elder brother went to prison twice after stabbing a man to death in a pub and then a 15 year old boy.
In the film things come to a head as I understand in real life they also did when following a party Paul could no longer stand by as one of the Welsh brothers was raping a girl, having pushed him out of where he had been enjoying the party with a girl friend. In the film his father had persuaded him to throw away a knife he was carrying which he later retrieved and commenced a series of knife assaults on the gang. He is shown in the film to have changed from this experience for which he was arrested and charged when aged 17 and involved in various court appearances and sentencing to young offenders institutions and a remand centre. One of the brothers is found hanged in his cell with the implication that somehow Ferris was instrumental if not directly involved.
Upon release his wife expresses concerns at this way of life while because of his successful attacks on the Welsh family he is offered a job by Thompson who has a drug taking weak bully of a son called Fatboy and a wife who enjoys and parades the power obtained via her husbands extensive crime interests and who in common parlance is portrayed in the film as a nasty bit of work.
Thompson commenced his criminality as a money lender crucifying those who defaulted nailing them to floor and doors. After earning up to £100000 a week from loan sharking he said to have branched out into the usual range of criminal and front enterprises with his son concentrating on drugs which is reported to have managed via Blackpool or at least it was this operation which led to his arrest and imprisonment
Thompson escaped one bomb attack which killed his mother in law and was believed to have come from the Welsh family so it is said he was behind the killing of a family member and another when their vehicles was forced off the road. Although charged with murder the case was dropped although others were imprisoned. Thompson’s wife then stabbed the widow of killed man for which she was sentenced to three years although this is not covered in the film.
At this point the film concentrates on the role of another crime gang leader played in the film by the more well known of actors John Hannah who became familiar to me in that extraordinary crude, sexually explicit and visually comic book horror series on TV Sparticus where he plays a calculating and unscrupulous Gladiator school owner egged on by his even more calculating and unscrupulous wife. In The Wee Man he plays Tom McGraw known as the Licensee whose substantial wealth came from extortion and drug trafficking with the latter to run over £14 million and to own business properties including security companies and taxi firms, pubs and clubs selling drugs which the police had captures in raids
He is shown to have played a double game plotting with Fatboy to seize power from Thompson senior and getting rid of Ferris. Following his acquittal Ferris is shown warning McGraw that he will pursue him as he knows the part played in the attempt top frame him and the subsequently torture and murder of his boy friends and associates. Not in the film as there was a previous film McGraw is said to have also been behind the notorious Ice Cream Wars in Glasgow when his associates used extremely violence to eliminate competition in one instance (The Doyle family) setting fire and killing an 18 month baby. Mc Graw was arrested at least once in relation to drugs but not convicted while associates were and eh survived one major attack from wearing a bullet proof vest.
Protected by body guards imported from Ireland and under surveillance by the police he was heavily protected but is said to have paid Ferris between £1.5 and £2 million pounds to keep the peace and avoid revenge action. When Ferris was released from his last sentence McGraw is said to have spent the last years of his life in his villa abroad with his henchmen which ties in to the last shots in the film. He died of a suspected heart attack in 2007, 5 years after the attack on his life in 2002.
Fatboy was murdered outside the home of his parents when on weekend release from prison and Arthur Thompson and his wife blamed Ferris because their known antipathy and because they overheard his name being called by the getaway car and in the film this is presented as a set up by McGraw who Ferris believed had done the actual killing and who was then part of the trap to capture, torture and kill his childhood friends whose bodies were placed in a vehicles along the route of the funeral and which appears to have upset and angered Ferris as much as the attempt to convince him of the murder which he strongly denied and that his friends and associates were also involved
And what of the Thompson family? He spared no effort to get a conviction of Ferris with 300 witnesses at the trial but the death and subsequent attacks appear to have help shorten his own life together with the death of his daughter from a drug overdose in 1989 and another son was also stabbed close to his home but survived and was then recently sent to prison for two and half years reduced on appeal to 18 months. Thompson died in 1993 aged 61 of a heart attack.
In an article written in 2000 in the Guardian newspaper headed “Glasgow’s gang Lords wage war to the last man the paper stated that a war was taking place to control the drug market in the city said to be worth £300 million a year and that the relatives of Thompson were finding their previous absolute power being challenged by others, including two Chinese triads and also involved a man on the run from the FBI also wanted in connection with Drugs deals some £10 million with the Hells Angels of Canada. I have been unable to gain an update although it is known that there are over 150 street gangs throughout Glasgow alone that Mafia style criminal organisations from Italy, Central Europe and Russia have successfully rooted in parts of the UK despite the Serious crime Police making concentrated efforts to tackle the problems in relation to Drugs and People trafficking on the UK mainland. A feature of the greater mobility open to young people has been to explore the tendency to go into Europe and other cities and resorts world wide for drugs, as well as for excessive drinking for which the 18-30 British have become notorious.
At the end of the film Ferris attempts to leave the crime world behind but his wife states she has had enough an no longer loves him. It is known that they separated. Ferris has written several books based on his experiences.