Teenager Anthony Joseph Miller’s last words could scarcely have been more gut-wrenching.

Just 19-years-old, baby-faced and with plans to finish his apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker, he came from a respectable, hard-working family living on the southside of Glasgow.

He had never been in trouble before: there was little in his background to hint at the awful sequence of events to come, or the unfortunate position in criminal history that he would eventually assume.

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But three days before Christmas, 1960, and Miller would become the last teenager to be executed in the United Kingdom and the last inmate to be led to the gallows at Barlinnie’s dreaded ‘Hanging Shed’.

HeraldScotland: Anthony Joseph Miller was the last teen to hang in the UKAnthony Joseph Miller was the last teen to hang in the UK (Image: Newsquest)

There, at 8am, his limbs secured with leather straps and with a trapdoor beneath his feet, Britain’s Chief Execution Harry Allen covered the frightened teen’s head, slipped the noose over and gripped the lever that would open the door and send him plunging to his death.

“Please, mister,” uttered Miller in a final, hopeless plea…

Miller’s remains lie in an unmarked grave within HMP Barlinnie’s grounds. Somewhere close by lies serial killer Peter Manuel, convicted of murdering seven before his arrest in January 1958, and thought to have killed two more.

Cool, calm, controlling to the last, he ordered a last supper of fish, chips and tomatoes, drained a slug of brandy then turned to the hangman with a final request: “Turn up the radio,” he ordered, “and I’ll go quietly.”

HeraldScotland: Serial killer Peter Manuel was hanged at BarlinnieSerial killer Peter Manuel was hanged at Barlinnie (Image: Newsquest)

As the trapdoor opened, the gentle strains of Tea for Two are said to have echoed around the room.

One a terrified teen whose rash stupidity cost him his life, the other a gallus career criminal so bold as to sack his lawyers and conduct his own defence, they are forever entwined in death; two of the ten prisoners who would go to their deaths at HMP Barlinnie’s infamous ‘Hanging Shed’.

For generations of Glaswegians, the ‘Bar-L’, with its formidable exterior walls and gruesome reputation has probably done more to deter them from a life of crime than any laws, rules and regulations.

Through its towering gates, designed as tall as possible to intimidate those unfortunate enough to enter, have passed countless accused men and convicted prisoners, from the worst serial killers and gangland kingpins such as Arthur Thompson to sex offenders, petty criminals and, even, in the case of 11-year-old James Donaghy, one of Barlinnie’s first inmates, extremely young offenders.

They have included prisoner 55725 Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who arrived by helicopter with two armed escorts more than a year after his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing and given a secure ‘cage’ within the prison.

HeraldScotland: Nelson Mandela made a visit to Barlinnie in 2002Nelson Mandela made a visit to Barlinnie in 2002 (Image: Newsquest)

In June 2002, he received perhaps the prison’s most unlikely visitor, when Nelson Mandela - no stranger to the brutality of prison life – arrived to call for him to be allowed to live the remainder of his life in a Muslim country.

Some inmates, such as Manuel, oozed evil. Socialist Guy Aldred was far less of a risk. The last man prosecuted for sedition in Scotland in 1921, he had fallen foul with authorities for with his free-thinking and involvement in books which offered advice on family planning advice.

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Political activist Tommy Sheridan, former Rangers striker Duncan Ferguson, ex-world boxing champion Scott Harrison and Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne have all spent time within Barlinnie’s walls.

Now the Victorian prison has almost done its time: last month the masterplan for the new HMP Glasgow on the site of Provan Gas Works, off Royston Road, was submitted to Glasgow City Council.

Expected to cost at least £100 million and due to open in three years’ time, while detailed designs for the 1200 capacity replacement prison remain under wraps, it’s certain it will be a world away from the notoriously grim and gritty Victorian ‘Big Hoose’.

HeraldScotland: The Victorian jail is no longer fit for purposeThe Victorian jail is no longer fit for purpose (Image: Newsquest)

Indeed, the plans have already been tweaked from original designs in light of the pandemic and to reflect the latest research on prison accommodation, leading to a reduction in the sizes of prison blocks from housing 30 cells to 20.

Instead of three large blocks, there will be five smaller ones.

Whereas Victorian prison authorities fretted over whether sewage from the new Barlinnie should be disposed of in local burns, today’s focus is on a net carbon facility, heat pumps for heating and cooling, and passive ventilation reliant on natural forces.

Said by the Scottish Prison Service to be “more in common with a school or college than with a traditional Victorian prison”, within its walls will be the latest smart technology including an automated prisoner movement systems that tracks inmates.

HeraldScotland: Barlinnie jail will be replacedBarlinnie jail will be replaced

Inside may well adopt elements from Britain’s first ‘smart prison’, Category C HMP Five Wells in Northamptonshire, which opened last March. There are no bars on its windows, and instead cells have ultra-secure glass with calming views over the landscaped grounds and designed to prevent drones delivering drugs, phones and weapons through open windows.

Inmates have the use of almost indestructible in-cell tablets to access to classes, make phone calls, text, carry out banking and shop using wages earned at one of the 24 workshops offering engineering, catering and carpentry courses.

While at Zaanstad Judicial Complex in The Netherlands, technology means doing ‘time’ is even more relaxed: inmates there can open their own cell doors thanks to a radio-frequency identification (RFID) system.

Yet even that sounds tough compared to low-security Bastoy prison in Norway, where prisoners live in shared homes, have access to a beach and pine forest and, because of it island location, prison warders leave at night and return next day.

One prisoner who did attempt an escape on a paddleboard, was quickly captured.

All of that may be a step too far for the new HMP Glasgow. However, Michael Stoney, governor of HMP Barlinnie has said work with a range of partners had resulted in “a bold vision which will provide the maximum possible benefit to those who live and work there, and our surrounding communities.”

HeraldScotland: Barlinnie jail will be replaced in the next few yearsBarlinnie jail will be replaced in the next few years (Image: Newsquest)

Which is, perhaps, not so far from Victorian authorities’ vision when they set out to improve upon the dreadful overcrowding and squalor at the city’s existing jails, North Prison at Duke Street and South Prison at Glasgow Green.

Robert Jeffrey, a regular visitor to HMP Barlinnie as a journalist and to research his book, The Barlinnie Story, says: “It started out as a humanitarian enterprise – the good people of Glasgow were aware of the need for better prison accommodation.

“But almost immediately it was overcrowded. Right from day one people were appalled by the conditions.”

Almost 33 acres of ground at Barlinnie Farm Estate, close to Monklands canal – now the route of the M8 - were bought for the new prison, at the cost of £300 per acre.

Early A Hall inmates were put to work baking, building, making shoes and mattresses. Less cushy for some was the task of breaking stone in the quarry outside to be used in the construction of B, C and D Halls.
But the prison had a huge catchment area, and soon all four halls were crammed, with dire conditions that fuelled violence, protest, riots and bids for freedom.

In July 1888, three inmates broke free. “They were working outside the walls under proper surveillance when they suddenly dropped their barrows and reached the canal bank with the warders in full pursuit,” according to newspaper reports from the time.

“Without a moment’s hesitation they jumped into the water and gained the opposite bank where they stripped themselves of everything except their shirts and, thus attired, made for the city.”

An additional block, E hall, in 1896, increased the capacity to around 1,000 but even that was woefully inadequate: at times up to 1700 inmates were squashed inside.

In such a simmering cauldron, small things could easily spark trouble.

“There was the Tobacco Riot in December 1934,” recalls Robert. “Convicted prisoners at that time were not allowed a tobacco break from work, but untried prisoners were allowed to smoke.

“A number broke out of the yard where they were working and overwhelmed the officers who were holding a box containing the untried prisoners’ tobacco.

“They smoked all the tobacco before eventually giving up their weapons.”

It would take until 1939 for a gym to be built, while in 1952 football in the yards was banned indefinitely after 11 convicts escaped during matches.

In a gritty history spanning around 140 years, there would be many flashpoints, including the five-day siege in 1987 when rioting inmates seized control of an entire wing, occupied  the rooftop and taking several officers hostage.

And there was always controversy: the Special Unit – dubbed the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ - offered long-term prisoners such as Hugh Collins and Jimmy Boyle a creative outlet but was scorned as too soft and ignited ill-feeling and accusations of special treatment among the general prison population.

While D Hall’s ‘Hanging Shed’ gallows, built in the 1940s, cast a long shadow over the prison: ten inmates, including Miller and Manuel would face the hangman’s noose before outcry over Miller’s execution and a shift in thinking saw capital punishment scrapped.

Dealing with their remains is just one element of a mammoth task facing prison bosses as Barlinnie winds down.

Branded unfit for purpose in an 2020 inspection, Barlinnie has lost none of its notoriety, while its name may well linger long after its grim cell blocks have been razed to the ground.

“Other prisons may well have had harsher conditions, but Barlinnie – mostly down to  Glasgow and its gangs - captured the imagination,” says Robert.

“It’s one of the most famous places of incarceration in the world.”

The Barlinnie Story by Robert Jeffrey, is published by Black & White Publishing.