The Square Mile

The Mitchell Library, 1911.

The Square Mile of Murder is built of four murders, which as the name tells us occurred within one square mile of each other. This area is located in Glasgow’s West-End, look to Sauchiehall Street, Blythswood Square, and Charing Cross or simply look to the Mitchell Library of Glasgow which sits almost central between the murder sites. The Mitchell has been known to hold events regarding the Square Mile and its staff are quite knowledgeable on the topic.

Jack House, otherwise known as ‘Mr Glasgow’

Jack House (1906 – 1991), a Scottish Journalist first coined the term ‘The Square Mile’ when writing the book. His book consists of an introduction explaining the area of the square mile followed by the story of each of the murders. Written in 1961, Jack had acknowledged the proximity of four murders which at first appear dissimilar other than the fact they each occurred within that one square mile.

When you dig into the murders you begin to see similarities, for example, they all included the upper-middle-class. All four murders also include what appears to be an injustice. During Madeleine Smith’s trial, many believed her to be guilty. Madeleine appears to some only to have received a not proven due to her family’s wealth and position within society. Jessie McLachlan a former servant in the eyes of many was innocent, only being condemned to keep ‘Ole Fleming’ a wealthy elderly “gentleman” from the noose. Edward William Pritchard a doctor, many believe he had killed before he murdered his wife and his mother-in-law. A fire occurred in 1863 at Edwards’s home of 11 Berkley Terrance within which his servant Elizabeth McGrain’s room was engulfed in flames. At the time the fire was viewed as having occurred under suspicious circumstances, however, it was never thoroughly investigated. The last murder which occurred as part of the Square Mile was said to have been commited by Oscar Slater, the main question which is asked in regard to this case has been as to whether or not Oscar was set up by members of the Glasgow police force. Public interest is a blanket theme, each murder being mysterious caught the attention of the public at large. Plenty of money was to be made if you owned a newspaper at the time of the murders.

Ole’Fleming and Jessie M’Lachlan, Cartoon by Sunday Illustrated 1923

The murder dates, locations and victims are as follows:

Madeleine Smith: 1857, Blythswood Square: The murder of Pierre Emile L’Angelier

Jessie McLachlan: 1862, Sandyford Place: The murder of Jessie McPherson or Richards.

Edward William Pritchard: 1865, Sauchihall Street: The murder of both his wife Mary Jane Taylor and his mother-in-law Jane Taylor

Oscar Slater or Leschziner: 1908, West Princes Street: The murder of Marion Gilchrist

Although the characters of the square mile create quite a number of gruesome tales they all make for a fascinating mystery. Countless people have pondered over the mystery of these four cases and hopefully many will continue to do so in the future. These characters of Glasgow are fascinating indeed and I hope that the Square Mile cases inspire you to delve down deep into the wonderful and rich history of Glasgow for it is indeed worth the time.