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Thurso illustrated talk on Ripper detective


By Gordon Calder

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A CAITHNESS detective who worked on a number of famous Victorian cases – including the Jack the Ripper murders – will be the subject of an illustrated talk in Thurso on Friday.

It will be given by Adam Wood, who has carried out extensive research into the life and times of Donald Swanson for his biography of the detective.

Mr Wood will speak about Swanson's early life in Thurso, his move to London in 1867 and his distinguished police career. The talk will also feature a number of local images from the Swanson family collection.

It is being hosted by the Thurso Heritage Society and will take place at the town's Royal British Legion club, starting at 7.30pm.

Detective Donald Swanson who was born in Thurso.
Detective Donald Swanson who was born in Thurso.

The author travelled the length and breadth of the country while researching his book and had exclusive access to the private family archive which includes Swanson’s documents and photographs, including local views. Many have not been seen by the public before.

The book is the first biography about Swanson, who had humble beginnings in Caithness but rose to become the top detective in the country. He headed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Swanson played a key role in the Ripper murders which so horrified London and the wider world in the 19th century. He was also involved in some other high-profile cases such as the arrest of the railway murderer, Percy Lefroy Mapleton, and the recovery of a famous painting of the Duchess of Devonshire.

Swanson also investigated the Fenian dynamite campaign orchestrated by Irish republicans in the 1880s and body-snatching in Aberdeen.

Alan McIvor, chairman of Thurso Heritage Society, said: "We are delighted not only to be hosting this event but welcoming Adam back to Thurso, and his wife Sue for her first visit."

The couple are touring the north of Scotland as part of their honeymoon.

Mr McIvor, who assisted the author with his research in the far north, said: "Adam has put an incredible amount of work into this book.

"He has made several discoveries that have been previously unknown or long forgotten. These include archive photographs of Thurso that I have never seen before."

He added: "In most cases, the names of the criminals live on but those who worked on the investigation are forgotten. Swanson is a prime example, but Adam’s work will certainly reverse that."

A limited-edition book published to accompany the talk will be on sale on the night, and also the following day at Thurso Library for a signing by the author.

"I am grateful to the Royal British Legion and Susan Taylor and her staff at Thurso Library who have been most helpful and welcoming," Mr McIvor said.

The full biography on Swanson will be published later in the year.




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